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Christianity & the Roman Empire. Powerpoint presentation created by Robert L. Martinez Primary Content Source: Prentice Hall World History Images as cited.

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christianity the roman empire

Christianity & the Roman Empire

Powerpoint presentation created by Robert L. Martinez

Primary Content Source: Prentice Hall World History

Images as cited.


Within the culturally diverse Roman empire, a variety of religious beliefs and practices coexisted. Jupiter, Mars, Juno, and other traditional Roman gods remained important to some people.


A growing number of people were looking for other spiritual fulfillment. One of the most popular of these was the cult of Isis, which originated in Egypt and offered women equal status with men.


Others worshipped the Persian and Mithras, who championed good over evil and offered life after death. Mithraism was favored by Roman soldiers.


Generally, Rome tolerated the varied religious traditions. As long, as citizens showed loyalty by honoring Roman gods and acknowledging the emperor, they were allowed to worship other gods.

Because most people at the time were polytheistic, they were content to worship the Roman gods along with their own.


By 63 B.C.E., the Romans had conquered Judea. Jews were devoted to their monotheistic traditions. To avoid violating the Jewish belief in one god, the Romans excused Jews from worshipping Roman gods.

Some Jews believed that a messiah sent by God, would soon appear to lead the Jewish people to freedom.

In A.D. 66, discontent flared into rebellion. Roman forces crushed the rebels, captured Jerusalem, and destroyed the Jewish temple.


When revolts broke out again in the next century, Roman armies leveled Jerusalem. Thousands of Jews were killed in the fighting and many others were enslaved and transported to various parts of the Roman empire.


Due to the destruction, growing numbers of Jews decided to leave Judea. Jews would survive in scattered communities around the Mediterranean.


Over the centuries, Jewish rabbis preserved the religious laws, as set forth in the Talmud. Commitment to learning Jewish law and traditions enabled the Jewish religion to endure.

As turmoil engulfed the Jews in Palestine, a new religion, Christianity rose among them. Its founder was a Jew named Jesus.

Almost all that we know about the life of Jesus comes from the Gospel, the first four books of the New Testament of the Bible.


According to the Gospels, Jesus followed Jewish law, and at age 30 began preaching to villagers near the Sea of Galilee. To help him with his mission, he recruited twelve apostles.


Large crowds gathered to hear Jesus’ teachings, especially when word spread that he had performed miracles of healing. Jesus used parables, or short stories with simple moral lessons, to communicate his ideas.


After three years, he and his disciples, went to Jerusalem. Jesus believed in one God and accepted the Ten Commandments. He preached obedience to the laws of Moses and defended the teachings of the Jewish prophets.


Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Many people believed he was the messiah whose appearance Jews had long predicted. Jesus proclaimed that his mission was to bring spiritual salvation and eternal life to anyone who would believe in him.


Some Jews welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem. Others regarded his ideas dangerous. Jewish priests felt that he challenged their leadership. To the Roman authorities, Jesus was a revolutionary who might lead the Jews in a rebellion against the empire.


Arrested by the Romans, he was tried and condemned to be crucified. In crucifixion, a Roman method of execution, a person was nailed to or hung on a cross and left to die.


Rumors spread through Jerusalem that Jesus still lived. His followers, the Gospels say, saw and talked with Jesus, who had risen from the dead. They say Jesus commanded them to spread his teachings, and that he then ascended into heaven.


Following Jesus’ death, the apostles spread Jesus’ message and helped establish Christian communities. Jews that accepted the teachings of the messiah became the first Christians. For a time, Christianity remained a sect within Judaism.

Roman officials suspected Christians of disloyalty to Rome because they refused to honor the emperor or Roman gods.


In times of trouble, persecution of Christians increased. Roman rulers like Nero used Christians as scapegoats, blaming them for social and economic woes.


The persecutions of Christians ended in 313 C.E., when the emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan. It granted freedom of worship to all citizens of the Roman empire. 80 years later, Christianity would become the official religion of the Roman empire.