Christianity began at the time Jesus reached the age to teach. It was fully formed within a few decades after His public life, crucifixion and resurrection. Not only did Christianity grow to be part of the Jewish heritage, it was the Jewish heritage that Christianity grew as well as the other governmental and traditional cultures like the Roman Empire and Greek Hellenistic’s philosophy in the Middle East at that time.
The new faith-based religion (I distinguish here between religion and spirituality) spread from the Jewish synagogues to the Roman provincial locations. In times with less church buildings, the majority of Christianity teachings were done outdoors by the Apostles and then their followers. Communities of Christians formed local church groups (churches) and the spread of Christianity became an urban phenomenon that traveled along the roads in the Roman Empire and flourished in Roman population centers. In accordance with the New Testament, this period was called the apostolic age – when Jesus’s first disciples (students) who were now apostles (teachers) preached the news of Christ Salvation. It was the teaching of the New Covenant.
By the 2nd century, one of the local leaders named Ignathis used the word catholicity (Greek – katholikos meaning universal) to describe how Christianity was found universally within the Roman Empire at that time. This expansion of churches was not only in the Roman cities in the Mediterranean area but moved inland and northward into Europe proper. This spread caused Christianity to develop a strong Latin basis and began to be separated from the eastern Greek roots. This led to some linguistic difficulties in describing complex theological concepts, such as Jesus’ combined humanity and divinity, the virgin birth being the Son of God and His place in the Trinity.
The apostolic age taught the faith-based Christianity in quiet small places. This new faith-based religion was persecuted, illegal and required to be spoken about as an underground religion. The Roman Empire leadership considered Christianity and its followers to be atheists because they didn’t worship the Greco-Roman gods, and subversive traitors, because Roman religion was part of the state of Rome. Let’s stop here a moment and reflect back to the last chapter discussing bloodlines. It was through the bloodline of Ham (Phoenicians) and their Canaan religious beliefs that the Greco-Roman religion was formed.
Just like the Israelites were persecuted as God’s people from Abraham to today, so were the Christians (the Gentiles, converted from both Jewish faith and from the Satanic culture of the Roman Empire and Europe). Nero blamed Christians for the Roman fire that history tells us it was himself who instigated the fire in 64 C.E. Peter and Paul were killed in a city-wide persecution in the four years that followed. Christians were even tied to posts, lit on fire and used as light for Nero to walk his gardens.
It was the emperor Trojan, in the 2nd century, who instructed a provincial governor named Pliny the Younger that Christians were not to be hunted any longer and could only be tried in a court only with direct and open evidence. Late that century, Christianity had spread rapidly and particularly among women, slaves, the young and artisans. These were the lower and less privileged segments of the Roman Empire population. However, when Rome imperial control waned in the minds of its population, Christians were often scapegoated as atheists and killed. In fact, in 201 A.D., the Roman Empire declared that converting to Christianity or Judaism was considered a capital offense and, if found guilty, the penalty was death.
In the 3rd century, the Roman Empire created an empire-wide systematic persecution of Christians and Jews under the emperors of Decius and Valerius. It was the emperor Diocletian who ordered the worst and largest persecution in 303-305 A.D. At that time Christianity stood on the heels of being completely disbanded. Diocletian hunted out and dismissed within his empire Christians in imperial service, confiscated liturgical objects, burned scriptures and leveled meeting places. Sound familiar? We saw this same playbook used by Hitler in Nazi Germany and even today we see parts of this same playbook being used in our local, state and national levels.
It was Constantine, moving toward total domination, gained the victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 A.D. and attributed it to Jesus that things were set on another course. The year after this battle, Constantine made his Edict of Milan. This Edict permitted Christianity to be tolerated and even favored among other religions. Constantine set a course by giving the Church property, buildings and land to making the Church an imperial Church that looked like Roman in style and administration.
It was Theodosius, in 380 A.D., that finally declared Christianity to be the one and only religion permitted in the Roman Empire. This turned the tables on all religions, including the Greco-Roman system, by declaring them to be pagan, atheistic, illegal and traitorous. This move officially made the Roman version of Christianity a state sponsored religion. Wow! Just like then we have now. Today our churches, while they can preach the gospel to a point, are controlled by the state due to corporate and tax structures. In the next several blog posts this will all be laid out in a manner for understanding.
We should now have understood that from 312 A.D. forward the church became the religious arm of the in-power government. This is the start of molding the church away from Jesus primary doctrine to that of the government.