Early Christianity - History

History

The earliest followers of Jesus composed an apocalyptic, Second Temple Jewish sect, which historians refer to as Jewish Christianity. The first part of the period, during the lifetimes of the Twelve Apostles, is called the Apostolic Age. In line with the Great Commission attributed to the resurrected Jesus, the missionary activity spread Christianity to cities throughout the Hellenistic world and even beyond the Roman Empire. Though Paul's influence on Christian thinking is said to be more significant than any other New Testament author, the relationship of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism is still disputed.

Early Christians suffered sporadic persecution because they refused to pay homage to the emperor as divine. Persecution was on the rise in Asia Minor towards the end of the 1st century, as well as in Rome in the aftermath of the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64.

During the Ante-Nicene period following the Apostolic Age, a great diversity of views emerged simultaneously with strong unifying characteristics lacking in the apostolic period. Part of the unifying trend was an increasingly harsh rejection of Judaism and Jewish practices. Early Christianity gradually grew apart from Judaism during the first two centuries and established itself as a predominantly gentile religion in the Roman Empire.

What started as a religious movement within 1st century Judaism became, a few decades after the end of this period, the state church of the Roman Empire, as well as a significant religion outside the empire. According to Will Durant, the Christian Church prevailed over Paganism because it offered a much more attractive doctrine and because the church leaders addressed human needs better than their rivals.

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