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The Rise of Christianity. Objectives: Know the basic path of Jesus’s life. Also, for what reasons he was executed. Know the importance of Paul to the.

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Presentation on theme: "The Rise of Christianity. Objectives: Know the basic path of Jesus’s life. Also, for what reasons he was executed. Know the importance of Paul to the."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Rise of Christianity

2 Objectives: Know the basic path of Jesus’s life. Also, for what reasons he was executed. Know the importance of Paul to the spread of Christianity (and what he did that was so important to the spread). Know what factors helped the faith spread (both logistical, like the Pax Romana, and why the faith was appealing to people). Know why Christians were persecuted for their faith. Know the importance of Constantine to the rise of Christianity and the effects of what he did. Also, what led him to legalize it. What were the downsides of Constantine?

3 By 63 BC, Rome rules Palestine. By around BC 6 – AD 6, Caesar Augustus is emperor and this is the world into Jesus is born.

4 Regardless of one’s belief in Jesus’s divinity, it’s hard to deny that he was probably the most influential person to have lived. He lived just 33 years and his main ministry lasted only 3 years. Yet he had a mind boggling effect on world history.

5 For somebody so important, we don’t have any contemporary accounts of his appearance. He certainly wasn’t the Caucasian-looking fellow that gets portrayed a lot in Western culture.

6 Being a Semitic man from the 1 st century, he likely had a tawny skin tone, dark hair and eyes. These are facial reconstructions from a skull from that time period. Bear in mind that this is just a random skull the face is based on. You can’t say this is Jesus any more than if you took George Bush’s skull and came up with my face.

7 This is based on the image from the Shroud of Turin


9 Interestingly, just as the West portrays Jesus as white, other cultures portray him in their own ethnicity: Arab, African, etc.

10 Anyway… Jesus was born in Bethlehem anywhere from 6 BC to AD 6. There’s disagreement about when it was based on astronomical events, King Herod’s death, and other factors. The AD 1 year mark is based on a system devised by a 6 th century monk named Dionysius Exiguus. He miscalculated. Raised in Nazareth, he didn’t begin his public preaching until he was 30. Then he shook the world. Preached a message of forgiveness (divine and interpersonal), a personal relationship with God, and love. Became rather popular with the hoi polloi and was hailed as the Messiah… Israel’s savior.

11 Neither the Romans nor the Jewish authorities were too comfortable with Jesus’s popularity. The Romans didn’t like the idea of somebody gaining power and prestige. They were a potential threat.

12 It didn’t help that people were thinking of him as the messiah. The Christian conception of that term is different from the Jewish conception at the time. For 1 st century Judaism, the messiah would be a political and military leader – a new king that would reunite Israel and defeat its enemies (specifically the Romans). Naturally, the Romans didn’t like such talk.

13 The Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, saw him as a threat because he was continually preaching against them. Thus, both major powers wanted him out of the picture.

14 Accordingly, Jesus is crucified due to trumped up charges. Crucifixion was actually a uniquely painful way to die.

15 Different theories as the actual cause of death: asphyxiation from being stretched out, embolisms from blood clots, dehydration, and others. It was definitely painful, however. Hence ‘excruciating.’ And “Crucio!” The cruciatus curse.


17 After his death, his apostles carry on his mission. Primary spreader of the faith was Saul of Tarsus, aka the Apostle Paul.

18 Was originally a persecutor of Christians, but then became its main supporter after a conversion experience.

19 Paul visited a number of locations, starting churches in different cities.

20 He would also write letters to many of these churches supporting them and giving advice. Many of these letters are now books of the New Testament. They have the names of the cities or people to which/whom they were address, e.g. Galatians was to the church in Galatia, Ephesians was to the church in Ephesus, 1 and 2 Timothy are to a disciple named Timothy, etc.

21 Paul even visits the acropolis in Athens and argues with some Stoic and Epicurean philosophers.

22 He’s eventually executed in Rome, beheaded around 64-67 by the Emperor Nero.


24 Persecution Christianity slowly started spreading around the empire. Aided by the Pax Romana and the fact that Romans tended to be tolerant and accepting of other religions. They wanted to make sure they weren’t missing any gods after all.

25 The Roman tolerance, though, was that you could worship your own gods, but you had to recognize Roman ones too, including worshiping Caesar. This wasn’t too big a deal for most polytheistic religions. For the monotheistic Christians, it was a non-starter.

26 So the problem wasn’t that Christians had their own god, it’s that they didn’t recognize or worship the Roman gods. This was viewed as undermining Roman authority. It was also seen as dangerous that people weren’t worshipping the Roman gods because then the gods could turn their backs on Rome. As Roman society started frowning on Christians, the Christians started meeting in secret: in catacombs, sewers, caves, etc. This only increased the misconceptions of Christians: rumors swirled that they engaged in depraved acts: sexual depravity, child sacrifice, even cannibalism due to misunderstanding communion.

27 So the Romans were naturally suspicious of these strange folks. The first big persecution comes after the great fire in Rome in AD 64. Emperor Nero blames it on the Christians (they were good scapegoats). Nero proceeds to round up and execute some Christians. The succeeding emperors such as Vespasian and Trajan don’t worry themselves too much about the Christians, though the Romans still didn’t like them.


29 As the Roman Empire starts its decline, persecution steps up as Romans blame the Christians for their woes. Some were crucified, others burned alive, still more killed in the arena. Christians disapproved of the arena and gladiatorial sport in general… it was too easy to get hooked on the bloodsport.

30 When put in the arena, a popular method was for them to be killed by wild animals. A problem the Romans faced is that the Christians welcomed death and the chance to be martyred. They took joy in death… which the Romans found unfathomably bizarre. They would even taunt the crowd to kill them. St. Ignatius

31 Case of Saints Perpetua and Felicity






37 Some Christians went to extreme lengths to avoid persecution, such as at Cappadocia. This was a labyrinth of caves Christians carved into a mountain and down into the ground. It was 18 stories deep and had miles of tunnels. The complex housed around 20,000 people who rarely left the underground system. Was complete with living quarters, grape juicing rooms, churches, ventilation shafts, and wells. Was complete with secret doorways that closed tight from the inside.





42 Despite the Roman attempts to use brute force to stamp out the Christians, the religion continued to spread.

43 Spread due to 5 main factors as put in the book: 1.Embraced all people – men, women, slaves, poor, nobles. 2.Gave hope to the powerless 3.Appealed to those who were repelled by Roman extravagance. 4.Offered personal relationship with a loving God. 5.Promised eternal life after death.

44 As the faith spreads, it takes on an organizational hierarchy. There are local priests and then regional bishops. Eventually, the bishop of Rome becomes the pope.

45 Official Religion In 313, Emperor Constantine (the same guy who moved the capital to Byzantium/Constantinople) ended all persecution and legalized Christianity in the Edict of Milan. His mother was actually a Christian and he credited God with helping win a major battle.

46 The Labarum: chi rho: Used the first two letters of xristos. Christos. Accompanied by the words, Εν τούτω Νίκα. “With this, you win.” Or “In this sign, conquer.”

47 Constantine

48 Also replaced crucifixion with hanging. Kept some aspects of paganism and doesn’t actually officially convert until shortly before his death. Speculation that the only reason he converted to Christianity is because it was the only religion that would offer him forgiveness for his grievous sins (although late life baptism wasn’t uncommon). Sins such as having his eldest son tried and executed because of rumors he was having an affair with his second wife Fausta. Then he had Fausta executed because she was the apparent source of the rumors. Marks a pivotal joining of church and state, although it doesn’t become the state religion until 390 under Emperor Theodosius.

49 To his great discredit, Constantine also starts persecuting the Jews. Put restrictions on them, makes it illegal to convert to Judaism. Unfortunate considering the recent treatment of Christians. “ It was, in the first place, declared improper to follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this holy festival, because, their hands having been stained with crime, the minds of these wretched men are necessarily blinded.... Let us, then, have nothing in common with the Jews, who are our adversaries.... avoiding all contact with that evil way.... who, after having compassed the death of the Lord, being out of their minds, are guided not by sound reason, but by an unrestrained passion, wherever their innate madness carries them.... a people so utterly depraved.... Therefore, this irregularity must be corrected, in order that we may no more have any thing in common with those parricides and the murderers of our Lord.... no single point in common with the perjury of the Jews.” Starts a tragic trend in Western culture towards Jews.

50 Constantine also called the Council of Nicaea Sought to settle some religious disputes and provide some standard Christian doctrines. There were all sorts at the time. Upside is that Christianity starts getting some standardization. Downside is that pagans and heretical Christians start being persecuted. Persecution of the Jews, pagans, and heretical sects was much greater than anything the Romans forced on the early Christians.


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