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Main Idea / Reading Focus

Christianity and Judaism

Jesus of Nazareth

The Spread of Christianity

Map: The Spread of Christianity

The Early Christian Church

The Rise of Christianity

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The Rise of Christianity

Main Idea

A new religion called Christianity developed within the Roman Empire and gradually spread throughout the Roman world.

  • Reading Focus

  • How was Christianity rooted in the teachings of Judaism?

  • What were the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth?

  • How did Christianity spread throughout the Roman world?

  • What was the early Christian Church like?

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Roman Compromise

Judaism in the Roman World

  • Jews had to pay tribute to Romans but unwilling to abandon religion for polytheistic religion of Romans

  • Roman leaders allowed Jews to practice religion as long as they paid tribute, maintained civic order

  • Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth developed into new religion—Christianity

  • Many of teachings rooted in beliefs, customs of Judaism

  • 63 BC, Romans conquered Judaea, chose new ruler for region, installed him as king

Christianity and Judaism

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Judaism in the Roman World

  • Reactions to Roman Rule

  • Judaism had different branches, varying ideas on cooperation with Romans

  • Zealots called on fellow Jews to drive Romans from Judaea, reestablish Kingdom of Israel

  • Zealots

  • Zealots formed pockets of resistance against Romans of Judaea

  • After mass uprising AD 66–70, Romans sacked Jerusalem, killed thousands of Jews, destroyed Second Temple

  • Messianic Prophecies

  • After revolt in 130s, all Jews banned from Jerusalem

  • Not all Jews willing to take up arms; others waited coming of Messiah— spiritual leader prophesied to restore ancient kingdom, bring peace to world

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Make Generalizations

What were two Jewish reactions to Roman rule?

Answer(s): refused to give up religion; Zealots wanted to rise up against Roman rule

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  • Nearly all knowledge of Jesus comes from Gospels—first four books of New Testament

  • New Testament and books of Hebrew Bible make up today’s Christian Bible

  • Jesus born in Bethlehem, near Jerusalem

  • Learned carpentry, studied writings of Jewish prophets

  • Jesus preached message of renewal and warning

  • Gathered group of disciples

  • Created excitement by performing miracles of healing; defending poor, oppressed

  • Instructed people to repent of sins, seek God’s forgiveness

  • Must love God above all, love others as much as self

Jesus of Nazareth

Against this background, a spiritual leader named Jesus of Nazareth emerged, teaching people to prepare for God’s Judgment Day.

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Jesus’s popularity, crowds alarmed authorities who feared political uprisings

Jesus arrested, tried, sentenced to death

According to New Testament, after crucifixion

Jesus rose from dead

Spent 40 days teaching disciples

Ascended into heaven

Followers believed Resurrection, Ascension revealed Jesus as the Messiah

Death and Resurrection

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Summarize political uprisings

What was the main message of Jesus’s teaching?

Answer(s): Followers must love God above all else, and love others as they loved themselves.

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Apostles political uprisings

Paul of Tarsus


  • Jesus’s 12 disciples worked to spread message

  • Earliest Christian missionaries

  • Apostles traveled widely, teaching mostly in Jewish communities

  • Paul, originally known as Saul, born in Tarsus, in Asia Minor

  • Had actively opposed those teaching that Jesus was the Messiah

  • Paul had conversion on way to Damascus, became Christian

  • If not for his work, Christianity might have remained a branch of Judaism

The Spread of Christianity

After Jesus’s death, his disciples began teaching that all people could achieve salvation—the forgiveness of sins and the promise of everlasting life.

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  • Converting the Gentiles political uprisings

  • Paul believed God sent him to convert non-Jews, or Gentiles

  • Paul helped make Christianity broader religion, attracted many new followers

  • Helped establish Christian churches throughout eastern Mediterranean

  • Paul’s epistles, or letters, to those churches later became part of the New Testament

  • Roman Christianity

  • Paul found some Jewish customs hindered missionary work among non-Jews, dispensed with those requirements for Christians

  • Paul emphasized new doctrines that helped distinguish Christianity from Judaism

  • Christianity spread; message of love, eternal life after death found appealing

  • By AD 300, some 10 percent of Roman people were Christian

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Persecution political uprisings

  • Results

  • As Christianity spread through Roman world, some local officials feared Christians conspiring against them; arrested, killed many Christians

  • Those killed seen by Christians as martyrs, people who die for their faith

  • Threat

  • Christians persecuted at local level, but large-scale persecution rare during first two centuries after Jesus’s life

  • Large-scale persecution by Romans grew as rulers saw Christianity as threat

  • Imperial Approval

  • Spread of Christianity hastened by conversion of emperor Constantine

  • AD 313, Constantine made Christianity legal within empire, Edict of Milan

  • By late 300s, polytheism gradually disappeared from empire

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Find the Main Idea political uprisings

What helped spread Christianity through the Roman world?

Answer(s): Paul of Tarsus and other disciples; Constantine’s conversion; outlawing of public non-Christian sacrifices by Theodosius

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The Early Christian Church political uprisings

  • Communities

  • Earliest Christian churches not only spiritual organizations but close-knit communities

  • Provided all kinds of support for members

  • Complex

  • Support included burial services, food, shelter

  • Christianity grew; organization became more complex

  • Deepening Faith

  • Ceremonies developed to inspire people’s faith, make them feel closer to Jesus

  • One ceremony was Eucharist

  • Ceremonies

  • During Eucharist, people eat bread, drink wine in memory of Jesus’s death, resurrection

  • With baptism, people are admitted to the faith

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Administrative Structure political uprisings

Peter the Apostle

  • Church expanded, developed administrative structure

  • Bishop oversaw church affairs, had authority over other priests

  • 300s, heads of oldest congregations, patriarchs, had authority over other bishops

  • Many believed Peter founded Roman Church, was first bishop

  • Later bishops of Rome, popes, Peter’s spiritual heirs

  • Gospel of Matthew: Jesus gives Peter keys to kingdom of heaven

  • Therefore future popes inherit keys

Expansion of the Church

By about 100, priests who were trained in these ceremonies became prominent within Christianity. The authority of the priests was based on the authority Jesus gave the Apostles. This spiritual authority distinguished the priests from the general congregation of the church.

Patriarchs did not recognize the popes’ supremacy claims at first, but over time popes gained more influence within the Christian Church.

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Summarize political uprisings

How did the Christian Church change as it grew?

Answer(s): Special ceremonies and rituals developed; priests became a special class within Christianity; bishops had authority over priests; the bishop of Rome became a pope.