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Origin of Christianity
When Did Christianity Start
A very nice woman, seemingly intelligent and educated, wrote to me recently to dispute some things I had said about the Life of Jesus.
She said her husband was a genius and a scientist; and that she had learned from him that Christianity was not "invented" until 300 years after Jesus lived, so no one could possibly know anything about Him.
History of Christianity
The story of Jesus and His followers is an amazing story.
How could a person who was obscure during His lifetime became the most famous person of all time?
Two Billion people on Earth today believe Jesus was the Son of Father God, the Creator of the Universe.
The central belief of Christians is that Jesus was resurrected from the dead after His crucifixion, around 30 AD.
When Did Christianity Begin
The first Christians were the Jewish followers of Jesus.
It is worth noting that by following Jesus, they were kicked out of the Synagogue—essentially banned from their entire community and shunned by their society.
This is not a path anyone would choose without strong convictions about Jesus.
By 40 AD, the Believers in Antioch, Syria, were calling themselves Christians because Christ was the Greek word for Messiah.
Acts of the Apostles
Jesus had an inner circle of 12 Apostles; one of whom betrayed Him and was later replaced. These Apostles were given a commission to spread the Word about Jesus and His message to all the world. They were joined by many other Believers, especially St. Paul, and the story of Jesus' life, message, and resurrection began to spread throughout the Greco-Roman world.
Something about these few men and women, and the stories they told about Jesus, would eventually convince millions and then billions of persons that it was the Truth.
The Acts of the Apostles tells about the beginnings of this mission, ending about 60 AD. Over the next 20 years or so the books that comprise the New Testament were written. Much has been made of this delay by critics but in those times papyrus for writing was very expensive and there were not many books around of any kind, and most people couldn't read. As a result, people were much better at remembering and speaking stories word-for-word than we are today.
All of the 12 Apostles of Jesus were murdered for their beliefs except St. John. I will write a Hub about these Apostles at a later date, because their story is too incredible to be given justice here. I want to move on to the history of Christianity from 60 AD to 300 AD in this Hub.
The Roman historian Tacitus mentions Christians as existing in Rome in 64 AD, when they were wrongly blamed by the insane Emperor Nero for starting the "great fire" of that year.
Nero was typical of persecutors of Christians through the ages. He murdered his own mother and his wife and his mistress.
Thus began the persecutions and executions of hundreds of thousands of Christians that was to go on for 250 years. When St. Peter said to "respect the King" (1 Peter 2:17) he was referring to Nero. The tortures of Christians included being torn apart by wild dogs and set ablaze as human torches. Nero killed St. Paul and St. Peter. Nero eventually ended his own life in suicide.
Origin of Christianity
By the year 100, Christianity had in place a form of Sunday worship service; certain people designated as deacons, priests, and bishops; and written Scriptures (sacred writings).
Fully in place by this time was the Eucharist (communion) taught by Jesus at the Last Supper; and Penance (contrition and a vow to change our ways) for our sins.
The spiritual leaders of this era used the word catholic (from the Greek word meaning universal) to describe Christians, out of their desire to have Unity among believers, as Jesus commanded. This is not the same thing as Catholic, as in Roman Catholic, which was developed much later.
The earliest "Church Fathers" were Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp. The big shift by then was that none of them were Jews. However, the Torah (sometimes called the Hebrew Bible but now called the Old Testament) was included as sacred Scripture by the earliest Church fathers.
Clement was the Bishop of Rome until approximately 99 AD and his extant writings quote both the Old and New Testaments of the modern day Bible.
Ignatius was the Bishop of Antioch and had studied directly under the Apostle John. He was martyred in 110 AD. A quote from Ignatius: "The prince of this world is eager to tear me to pieces, to weaken my will that is fixed on God. Let none of you who are watching abet him. Do not let your lips be for Jesus Christ and your heart for the world."
Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna and was martyred in 155 AD at 86 years old. His last words before being murdered by the Romans were: "How can I blaspheme my King and Savior [Jesus]?"
The assembling of the New Testament was not a conspiracy as the popular book (and film) the Da Vinci Code would have you believe.
The writings that appear in the New Testament today were the same writings used before 100 AD.
In the 2nd Century new "books" were being written and declared to be sacred by some people; and new books were supposedly "found" that had been lost (though that was not true). It was in reaction to these first heresies (unorthodox teachings) that a movement ignited for the holiest men who could be found to come together and declare which books were to be used by Christians.
The most important heretical movement was that of the Gnostics—people who claimed "special knowledge" apart from Scripture. Gnosticism persists to this day and its adherents are referred to as "New Agers."
There was never any question about the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the 13 Epistles (letters) by St. Paul. There was much debate about some others, particularly Hebrews and Revelation. Modern day Christians believe that God Himself settled these questions by revealing to the minds of His leading Believers of the day—through the Holy Spirit—what books He wanted in the final canon of His Words—the New Testament. The idea being, that since God created the universe, he could certainly reveal Himself in Words to and through humankind—and He could certainly make sure the correct Scriptures ended up in the New Testament.
One of the most frequent arguments of modern people, who some believe might be unwittingly serving Satan, is that Believers are just a bunch of blind, uneducated, ignorant idiots. That is patently false.
Many of the most brilliant human beings of all time have been Christians. Justin Martyr (100-165) is a good early example. He was a leading intellectual and philosopher of his times. He said that Christians were the philosophers of the Truth; the True worshippers of God founded their belief in the resurrection; that Jesus has revealed the True moral code for humanity; and that demonic forces would always work against these Truths.
Irenaeus (130-202) was the Bishop of France (Gaul) in Lyon. He was a student of Polycarp. We should note that all of these Church fathers were intimately connected to men who were intimately connected to Jesus Himself or His Apostles. There is a clear line of succession.
Irenaeus taught that God had intentionally made our world a difficult place so that we would be forced to make moral decisions, and so we could mature as moral agents. He taught that Jesus was God incarnate and lived the only sinless life in human history, thereby setting an example for all people to follow. In his own words: "Though it is not an easy thing for a soul under the influence of error to repent, yet, on the other hand, it is not altogether impossible to escape from error when the truth is brought alongside it."
Tertullian (160-220) was from Carthage. He coined the term "Trinity." He also taught the necessity for Christians to live a moral life.
Tertullian spoke about abortion all those years ago when he said: "We may not destroy even the fetus in the womb. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth."
By the year 200 Christianity existed throughout the Roman Empire—from Britain to Africa—despite the fact that being a Believer often was a death sentence.
303 was the year the killings of Christians reached its apex. The Emperor Diocletian ordered that all Christian Scripture be burned; all their churches be destroyed; their property confiscated; and any confessing Christians be killed or made into slaves. He had so many Christians arrested that he had to release thousands of real criminals because of prison overcrowding. All Christians had to do to escape these punishments was say that they did not believe Jesus was resurrected. But very few did. Most went to martyrdom peacefully.
It must be pointed out that this is in no way related to the current trend of Islamic martyrs who blow up buses full of women and children. These Christians had not killed or harmed anyone. They were willing to die gruesome deaths solely for believing Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. These martyrs in fact were a leading cause of the conversion of millions of people. Those who witnessed these public executions of Christians were moved to the core of their being by the countenance of these martyrs, willing to die rather than renounce Jesus.
Origen (185-254) was a scholar from Alexandria (Egypt), who said "I desire to be, and to be called, A Christian, in my works as in my thoughts."
Origen taught that history contains deep spiritual Truths; that Christian Scripture is not merely written by men but is divinely inspired; and that Christianity is a complete theory of the universe. He wrote that this temporal life exists alongside an eternal world of much greater significance.
Origen said that some people will only experience this world through their senses; but that it is possible for humankind to pierce this veil and perceive God and His plans for humanity.
Freedom of will was an important part of his theology—that God made us free to choose His way or the Highway to Hell. Origen taught that Jesus was God walking the Earth and that God would inhabit us, too, through His Holy Spirit, if we invited Him to do so.
Origen debated the Atheists of his day. Speaking of Creation he said: "I cannot understand how so many distinguished men have been of the opinion that matter was uncreated; thinking that so great a work as the universe could exist without an architect or an overseer."
Who Do You Say I Am?
By 300 AD, the basic Doctrines of Christianity were in place that still are believed today. Doctrine simply means what a follower of Jesus Christ believes, teaches, and confesses as the Word of God. Christian Traditions are the living Faith of the dead. These basic doctrines include that Jesus broke the power of demons and ushered in a new age of divine judgment, grace, and mercy; that adult Baptism was a powerful public sign that one was committed to the Faith; that renunciation of one's past sinful life was required to be "born again"; and that we must obey—and teach others—the commands of Jesus. Another central doctrine was and is that Believers will be resurrected from the dead after this life, and live forever with Jesus and His Father in Heaven. In other words, that Jesus offers Salvation and that He is the Savior of humanity, for all of those who perceive Him and follow Him. It is a Promise of forgiveness of our sins (the many times we have missed the mark).
People Just Like Us
Just think if YOU had an executioner's sword pressed against your neck and all you had to do was say you did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead to save yourself from death.
Let us not countenance those who today discount the convictions of these early Christians, who were, after all, people just like us.