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Christianity- The first 400 Years (1 OF 3)
by "The Legacy"
Ital333, Prof. Barbara Nucci, March 1999  

    As surely as Jerusalem is the undisputed birthplace of Christianity, Rome is certainly the cradle where the fledgling promises were molded into the dogma, hope, and despair of today.  Italy, perhaps more than any other area, gave rise to the incredibly powerful works of art that so beautifully express Christian faith.

A Chronology of
Events in Italy

60,000 BC - 1300 AD

1300 AD - 1998 AD

  Can anything else compare to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or Michelangelo’s Pieta?  How did the life and death of a simple Jewish carpenter change the face of a world forever?  Perhaps the truly amazing thing is that this incredible gift to mankind, in the planning since the beginning of creation, (Nelson, Genesis 3:15) is that it overcame so many obstacles in only 400 years!  Though God entrusted His plan to mortals, weak, prone to self-aggrandizement, and all too often, with minds that cannot conceive of life beyond death, His gift was eternal and could not be destroyed. 

        The outpouring of the Holy Spirit baptism after Jesus’ ascension ensured the gospel reached far regions quickly.  Jews from many parts of the world were visiting Jerusalem for a series of holy feasts which included the Passover and the Pentecost.   We can assume that the Jews who had traveled from far countries for this time of celebration were likely to have been devout and earnest worshippers of their God, Jehovah, as travel was not a simple undertaking in those days.

  Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion and the Pentecostal experience, most Jews who lived outside the country, paid the new sect little attention.  While they had probably heard of the "prophet" Jesus and the uproar that was being caused by His teachings, most of them, steeped in Mosaic laws and regulations, could not see the long-awaited Messiah in this poverty-stricken carpenter.   Now, however, when they returned to their homelands, empowered by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they carried the news of the miracles they had seen.

       The majority of the Romans in Palestine were there by governmental decree, whether soldiers or in a governing position, and were even less interested in Jesus than the Jews.  Rome had already become a virtual melting pot of religions, beliefs, and art styles due to its rapid conquest and absorption of many other peoples, including much of Europe, Africa, and Asia. (Hearder, 30) The Romans believed that their many gods had joined together to make their country great and that anyone who refused to pay homage to those gods might be an enemy of the state. (bowie, 40)  Therefore, they viewed both the Jewish and Christian religions as anti-social and divisive since they refused obeisance to any god but the one true God.  Although Jesus was crucified by the Roman governor, Pilate, it is plain that Pilate found Jesus innocent of all seditious charges but gave into pressure from the Jewish priests to prevent an uprising. (Nelson, John 19:8-16)  The Romans’ concern, at that time, was purely political and rested in their desire to protect the Roman empire.

       Although  there were firmly established groups of Christians throughout Europe and Asia Minor, from Jerusalem to Rome, little note was taken of the Christians in the Roman empire until 64 AD when they became a convenient scapegoat for Nero.  He diverted blame from himself for the great fire in Rome to the Christians and entertained at the Coliseum by using Christians as human torches. (Chadwick, 25)   The worst persecution of Christians came at the hand of Diocletian in 303-305.  Even his own wife and daughter were murdered or forced to sacrifice themselves. (Lintner, 50)  His excesses, which included burning an entire city in Asia Minor along with its Christian population, resulted in Christians meeting in secret to worship in places such as the catacombs.  The trials and subsequent martyrs only strengthened the determination of Christians. (Bowie, 43)
 

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