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The Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity


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Title: The Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity

The Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity
Religion in Ancient Rome
  • Important role in peoples lives
  • Worship was impersonal-little emotion
  • observed rituals
  • Sacrifice
  • Public gods/goddesses
  • Whole family worshipped household lares (gods)
    every day

Emperor Marcus Aurelius offering a sacrifice
Religion in Ancient Rome
  • Temples
  • Family alters/shrines

The Pantheon
Religious Diversity in Ancient Rome
  • Diverse tolerant
  • Required to honor Roman gods
  • acknowledge divine spirit of emperor
  • Most conquered people were polytheistic

Temple Sacrifice of Animals
Mystery Religions - Emphasized secret rituals and
promised special rewards
Mithra- Persian god who championed good over evil
and offered life after death. Favored by Roman
Cult of Isis-Very popular w/ women Originated in
Judea Birthplace of Christianity
  • Remote east end of Mediterranean Sea
  • Once been kingdom of Israel (King David Solomon)

Judea, 4 BCE
  • Rome appointed military governor
  • Judea forced to pay tribute
  • Left local affairs to the Jews
  • Peaceful period, but Jews hated Romans

Divisions in Judea
  • During Hellenistic age, many Jews had absorbed
    Greek customs ideas
  • Many Jewish conservatives rejected these
    influences - called for strict obedience to
    Jewish laws traditions

Who were the Zealots?
  • Jews who believed a Messiah, a savior, would be
    sent as king to lead Jewish people to freedom
  • frequent revolts destruction of Temple of
    Solomon DIASPORA (dispersal) of the Jews in the
    2nd century

How did Rome deal with Jews?
  • Jews were monotheistic
  • Roman battle standards and shields were offensive
    to them
  • displayed Caesar as emperor-god
  • Jews protested
  • Romans repressive
  • Diaspora-dispersed Jews into exile after revolt

What sources provide information about
  • Jesus life was reconstructed from events as seen
    through a lens of faith
  • At his death, Jesus followers thought the end of
    world was imminent
  • when it didnt happen, they had to reconstruct
    his life
  • Accounts vary
  • These writings are the New Testament of the
    Christian Bible
  • Four gospels (good news) written in Greek

The Gospels (Good News)
  • Oral and Written sources 30 -70 years after
    Jesus death
  • Worked miracles
  • Message to love one another

  • Born in about 7 BCE in Judea
  • Began his teachings at about age 33
  • Believed to be a Messiah foretold in Jewish
  • Challenged religious civil authorities
  • Tried and executed
  • Teachings spread by his disciples, especially
  • Challenged the Roman Empire

Jesus Birth
  • Difficult to pinpoint exact time
  • Not until middle of 6th century that Christians
    began to use Christs birth as reference point
  • Thought to be about 4 BCE, in Bethlehem

Birth of Jesus
  • And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the
    city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David,
    which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the
    house of lineage of David, to be enrolled with
    Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And
    while they were there, the time came for her to
    be delivered. And she gave birth to her
    first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling
    cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there
    was not place for them in the inn. (Luke 24-7)

Jesus Teachings
  • Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountains,
    and when he sat down his disciples came to him.
    And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying
    Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is
    the kingdom of heaven.
  • (Matthew 51-3)

The Crucifixion and Resurrection
  • So they took Jesus, and he went our, bearing
    his own cross, to the place called the place of
    the skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.
    There they crucified him, and with him two
    others, one on either side, with Jesus between
    them. Pilate also wrote a title and put it on
    the cross it read, Jesus of Nazareth, the King
    of the Jews.
  • (John 1917-19)

Missionary Work of Paul
  • And he lived there two whole years in his own
    hired dwelling, and welcomed all who came to him,
    preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching about
    the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and
  • (Acts 2830-31)

Pauls Missionary Journeys
Persecutions of the Christians
  • Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous
    for what is right? But even if you do suffer for
    righteousness sake, you will be blessed. Have
    no fear of them, nor be troubles, but in your
    hearts reverence Christ as Lord.
  • (1 Peter 313-15)

Why was Christianity so appealing?
  • Jesus welcomed all people esp. humble, poor,
  • Message of love, equality, human dignity, promise
    of a better life after death
  • Paul included ideas from Plato, Stoics, etc.
  • Educated Romans attracted by discipline and

How did Christianity Spread?
  • Missionaries traveled all over the empire
  • Provided unity to the weakening empire
  • Early writings were in Greek or Latin
  • Persecution and martyrs brought new converts

Emperor Constantine I(280-337 CE)
  • He had a powerful religious experience- converted
    in 312 CE
  • gave primacy of church rule over the west

Edict of Milan
  • Constantine
  • Declaration issued in 313 CE
  • Christianity an approved religion
  • Theodoscius - 395 CE made Christianity official
    state religion of Roman Empire

How did Christianity become the official religion
of Imperial Rome?
  • Despite brutal persecutions, Christianity
    continued to spread
  • By 300 CE, 5 million Christian followers
  • Adopted by lower economic classes
  • Offered community salvation
  • Over time, all classes converted
  • Many tired of continual warfare- sought peace and

The Early Christian Church
  • Common faith in the teachings of Jesus
  • Common way of worship
  • Baptism offered forgiveness of sin
  • Members were equals-brother sister
  • Sunday-gathered for ceremony of thanksgiving to
  • Ate bread and drank wine in sacred supper

What was the role of women?
  • attracted by the message of equality
  • Teachers administrators
  • Worked to win converts

Structure of the Church
  • Each community had its own priest
  • Only men
  • Bishop a Church official responsible for all
    Christians in an area called a diocese
  • Bishops traced their authority back to the
    original apostles and then back to Jesus
  • Bishops of the important cities called patriarch
    most were in the east
  • Developed into a hierarchy with officials
    arranged according to rank

Church Divisions
  • Rivalry among the patriarchs
  • Latin-speaking popes claimed greater authority
  • Greek-speaking patriarchs believed that spiritual
    authority should be shared
  • Heresies beliefs contrary to official Church
  • Councils were formed to resolve disputes
  • Missionaries sent out to convert beyond the Roman

What are the Central Beliefs of Christianity?
  • Jesus is the Son of God and came to earth to
    teach love fellowship and to redeem the sins of
  • Model for all Christians
  • Bible is the teachings and expectations for
  • 39 books from the Old Testament and 27 books of
    the New Testament
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