Article of the month: October

History of Early Christianity in the 1st Century

Article of the month

Icon of James the Just, Jesus' brother. James and other members of Jesus' family played an important role in the life of the Christian movement during first decades.

Christianity begins with the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Church history begins on the Day of Pentecost. These Jewish Christians adopt a messianic theology and continue to follow the Law of Moses. Hellenistic Jews from all over the Roman empire were among the initial converts - conflict soon surfaced between the Palestinian Jews and the Hellenstic Jews. This represented the beginning of the church's struggle to reach out beyond it's original culture.

The Hellenized Jews failed to take the gospel to the Gentiles in any appreciable way. It took a special man, Saul of Tarsus, a Hellenized Jew, to aggressively take the gospel to the Gentiles. Saul becomes "the apostle Paul" and is attacked on every side: the Jews attack him, the followers of James attack him, and the Romans arrest him.

In the early 60's, under Nero, the Roman government begins orchestrated persecution of Christians. By the 60's the Christian sect, especially under Paul, had separated from Judaism. In 62 AD both Peter and Paul are executed in Rome. Roman persecution will sporadically occur throughout the second, third, and the beginning of the fourth centuries.

In the late 60's Jewish Zealots in Jerusalem rise up in rebellion against the Romans. Titus, son of the emperor Vespasian, commands more than 60,000 Roman troops to wipe out these Zealots. The Jewish Temple is burned to the ground in 70 AD. This event marks a critical point in the development of Christianity – the struggle of the Church against Judaism almost completely disappears. From 70 AD forward Christianity becomes mainly a Gentile dominated movement.

Early gospel accounts had already begun to be circulated by 70 AD. Mark's gospel was probably written first, followed soon by the accounts of Matthew and Luke. Paul's various letters (written mainly from around 50–60 AD) were also beginning to be circulated. Post apostolic writings that eventually do NOT become part of the New Testament canon attest to a growing negative attitude towards Judaism after 70 AD. By the close of the first century all the documents which are now contained in the New Testament had been written. The first century ended with the persecution under Emperor Domitian (81–96 AD). This is the historical backdrop for John's Revelation, the last book of New Testament.

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