history of early christianity

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History of early ChristianityFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is a historical overview of early Christianity; for a description of early Christianity itself, see Early Christianity.

Funerary stele of Licinia Amias on marble. One of the earliest Christian inscriptions found, it is from the early 3rdcentury Vatican necropolisarea, Rome.

Main article: History of Christianity See also: History of late ancient Christianity The history of early Christianity covers Christianity before the First Council of Nicaea in 325. The first part of the period, during the lifetimes of the Twelve Apostles, is traditionally believed to have been initiated by the Great Commission of Jesus (though some scholars dispute its historicity), and is called the Apostolic Age. The earliest followers of Jesus composed an apocalyptic, Second Temple Jewish sect, which historians refer to as Jewish Christianity. Though Paul's influence on Christian thinking is said to be more significant than any other New Testament author,[1] the relationship of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism is still disputed today. Early Christianity gradually grew apart from Judaism during the first two centuries and established itself as a predominantly gentile religion in the Roman Empire. In the Ante-Nicene Period (literally before the First Council of Nicaea in 325), following the Apostolic Age, both incredible diversity and unifying characteristics lacking in the apostolic period emerged simultaneously. Part of the unifying trend was an increasingly harsh rejection of Judaism and Jewish practices. By the beginning of the Nicene period, the Christian faith had spread throughout Western Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, and to North Africa and the East, seeEarly centers of Christianity. The First Council of Nicaea in 325 and the promotion of Christianity by Emperor Constantine I in the Roman Empire are commonly used to mark the end of early Christianity, beginning the era of the first seven Ecumenical Councils.


1 Appellation

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1.1 Christian 1.2 Other names

2 Origins

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2.1 Background 2.2 Ministry of Jesus 2.3 Apostolic Age

2.3.1 Judaism and Christianity

3 Post-apostolic period 4 Spread of Christianity 5 See also 6 Footnotes 7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links

[edit]Appellation This section may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. Please consider splitting content into sub-articles and/or condensing it. (June 2010) [edit]ChristianThe term "Christians" (Greek ) occurs three times in the New Testament. The disciples were first called "Christians" in Antioch (as related in Acts 11:26). The term also appears in Acts 26:28, used by Herod Agrippa II. In the final New Testament usage, the First Epistle of Peter tells believers not to be distraught if they suffer because the name was applied to them (1Peter 4:14-16). Ignatius of Antioch was the first Christian to use the label in self-reference and made the earliest recorded use of the term Christianity (Greek ), around 100 AD.[2] "Christ" is a modified transcription of the Greek word christos, meaning "anointed one". The form of the Greek term (Christianoi) indicates it was a transcription of a Latin word. Some scholars hold that it was most likely coined by a Roman official in Antioch, which was the seat of Roman administration in the eastern Mediterranean,[3] but in the view of others this surmise goes beyond the evidence and the more common view among scholars is that the name arose among the general populace as a means of designating the members of the new religious group.[4] The suffix (Latin -iani, Greek -ianoi) means, among other things,[5] "belonging to the party of", much like the suffixes -er and -ite are used in modern English.[6] It (-iani, -ianoi) was a standard wording used for

followers of a particular person (such as Pompeiani, Caesariani, Herodiani,[7] etc.). It was this "follower" wording that led Claudius to blame "Chrestus" for the disputes among Roman Jews that led to their expulsion from Rome in c. 49.[8] Suetonius's report that it was on account of "Chrestus" that the Jews were expelled from Rome in 49 was due to the use by some pagans (for whom "Christ" was an unusual and meaningless name, while "Chrestos" was a common name) of "Chrestians" in place of the term "Christians".[9] According to the account by Tacitus in his Annals, "Christians" were a group which was punished for the Great Fire of Rome, in order to divert blame from Nero. The original text of the earliest extant manuscript, from which the other existing manuscripts probably are derived, suggests that Tacitus wrote "Chrestianos", which was a vulgar form of the name "Christianos", likely derived from the most common name for slaves ("Chrestus", which means "useful"). In the same passage Tacitus used the name "Christus", not "Chrestus", to refer to the founder of the "Chrestianos", noting that he was a Jew executed as a criminal under Pontius Pilate.[10] Accordingly, "Christians" (with the variant "Chrestians") was by 49 already a familiar term in the Latinspeaking capital of the Roman Empire. As the church spread throughout Greek-speaking Gentile lands, the appellation took prominence and eventually became the standard reference for followers of the faith. James Tabor suggests that Christian (in essence meaning a "Messianist") was an attempt to approximate Nazarene in Greek.[11] Modern historians debate whether or not the Roman government distinguished between Christians and Jews prior to Nerva's modification of the Fiscus Judaicus in 96. From then on, practising Jews paid the tax, Christians did not.[12]



A common self-reference among the early Christians was "the disciples", meaning "the learners" or "the followers of a teaching". For example, "disciples" is the most common appellation used in the Acts of the Apostles.[13] The same book several times refers to the sect itself as "the Way" (Acts 9:2; 19:9; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14; 24:22). The terms "Nazarene" and "Galilean", were used as polemics by opponents of Christianity. "Nazarene" is one of early names for followers of Jesus, as evidenced in Acts 24:5. Tertullus, a lawyer for the Jewish high priest Ananias (as noted in Acts 24:1) called Paul "a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes". Jesus was called "the Nazarene", as mentioned in the biblical books of Matthew, John and Luke-Acts. According to Matthew 2:23, this is because of his relation with the town of Nazareth.[14] According to Philip Esler, the Jewish term Notzrim (Nazarenes) is the subject of considerable debate. Exactly how broadly the appellation applied to followers of Jesus, or when exactly it was adopted, is believed to be unknown. Esler states that it may or may not have referred to all Christians, but certainly referred to Jewish Christians.[15]


Main article: Origins of Christianity See also Jesus in the Talmud

[edit]BackgroundSee also: Cultural and historical background of Jesus Jewish messianism has its root in the apocalyptic literature of the 2nd century BC to 1st century BC, promising a future "anointed" leader or Messiah to resurrect the Israelite "Kingdom of God", in place of the foreign rulers of the time. This corresponded with the Maccabean Revolt directed against the Seleucids. Following the fall of the Hasmonean kingdom, it was directed against the Roman administration ofIudaea Province, which, according to Josephus, began with the formation of the Zealots during the Census of Quirinius of 6 AD, though full scale open revolt did not occur till the First JewishRoman War in 66 AD. Historian H. H. Ben-Sasson has proposed that the "Crisis under Caligula" (37-41) was the "first open break" between Rome and the Jews.[16] Judaism at this time was divided into antagonistic factions. The main camps were the Pharisees, Saducees, and Zealots, but also included other less influential sects. This led to further unrest, and the 1st century BC and 1st century AD saw a number of charismatic religious leaders, contributing to what would become the Mishnah of Rabbinic Judaism, including Yochanan ben Zakai and Hanina Ben Dosa.


of Jesus

Main article: Ministry of Jesus The Gospel accounts show the ministry of Jesus as falling into this pattern of sectarian preachers with devoted disciples. According to the Gospel writers, Jesus preached for a period of one to three years when he was in his early 30s, in the early 1st century AD. The gospels give Jesus' method of teaching as involving parables, metaphor, allegory, proverbs, and a small number of direct sermons such as theSermon on the Mount. His ministry of teaching, healing the sick and disabled and performing various miracles culminated in his execution at the hands of the Roman authorities in Jerusalem (but see alsoResponsibility for the death of Jesus). Shortly thereafter, a strong belief in Jesus' bodily resurrection spread rapidly through Jerusalem, beginning with his closest disciples, which led up to the traditional Day of Pentecost. This event provoked the Apostles to embark on a number of missionary campaigns to spread the "Good News", following the Great Commission handed down by Jesus.[citation needed] Most New Testament scholars agree that Peter had some sort of special position among the Twelve.



Main article: Apostolic Age

The Cenacle on Mount Zion, claimed to be the location of the Last Supper andPentecost. Bargil Pixner[17] claims the original Church of the Apostles is located under the current structure.

The Christian church sees "the Apostolic Age" as the foundation upon which its whole history is founded.[18] This period, roughly dated between the years 30 and 100 AD, produced writings traditionally attributed to the dire