With all that has been written about the beginnings and growth of Christianity, it has been said that the history of Christianity’s origin could appear to be nothing more than a fairytale. Many people feel that it is too implausible that the story – for that is what it is to all intent and purposes, of Jesus Christ, his followers and all that surrounded his birth, death and resurrection – actually took place.
Yet the Christian faith, unlike any other religion, is formed through historical events, including the pivotal fact of Jesus’ resurrection. Were this historical fact not made valid through reported evidence of key witnesses, then Jesus Christ’s claims of being the Son of God would be continuously questioned.
Christianity is the world’s largest religion. It began to spread from Jerusalem, through to the Near East, to Armenia by 301, Ethiopia in 325, Georgia in 337 and to the State Church of the Roman Empire in 380. Early Christianity was split into two periods: firstly, the apostolic period stemming from a faithful group of men who began to follow Jesus, calling him teacher and becoming his disciples and learning that mankind had lost its relationship with God due to sin. Jesus taught them that a “new covenant” would restore love and forgiveness with God and Jesus paid the price of humanity’s sins by being crucified upon a Roman Cross before rising back to life three days later, having conquered death and creating the possibility of everlasting life.
The apostolic period was then followed by the post-apostolic period, under which the Episcopal structure was developed, led by the Bishops and supported by the deacons who took on the role of looking after the poor and sick. This was a time when intense persecution of the Christians took place by the Romans, and it was not until AD 313 under the reign of Constantine the Great that such persecution finally came to an end.
Constantine played an important role in the leadership of the Church, issuing the Nicene Creed in 325 which first introduced the idea of “One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church”. Yet this period of respite from unrest was once more challenged when Julian, Constantine’s son, became Emperor and chose to renounce Christianity and chose instead to embrace a mystical form of Paganism, which shocked the Christian leaders – such contrast in religions is explored in Denny Bradbury’s soon to be released novel, Borvo.
Whilst in charge, Julian began to re-open the Pagan temples, working to re-introduce the prestige of the old Pagan beliefs by carefully modifying them so they would resemble Christian traditions.
Such battles between Paganism and the emergence and strengthening of Christianity continued throughout the 1st Century. Converting Pagan Saxons to Christianity became the task of both the Celtic Church in Scotland to reform the North and the Roman Church led by missionaries from Rome to convert the South. Counties such as Northumbria converted to Christianity under the rule and baptism of King Edwin of Northumbria, but upon his death many reverted back to Paganism before being converted all over again by Celtic monks.
Although by the end of the 7th Century all of England was largely Christian, many people continued to secretly worship the Pagan gods as late as the 8th Century. Denny Bradbury explores such religious divisions in Borvo, with a young pagan healer determined to continue to practise his healing powers in a country dominated by King Alfred’s fervent belief in Christianity.
Yet when Christianity began, what it did was to initially create a religion that was independent of man’s political loyalties – establishing order amongst local rites, pagan myths and what was originally seen as the cult of the Emperor.
In Part II we shall discuss how the beginning of the Christian faith led to the relevance of Christianity in our world today.
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