Judaism: Origins and Development

Christianity: Origins and Development

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Christianity: Origins and Development

The New Testament tells that Jesus was executed by the Romans, who ruled the province of Judea where Jesus lived. He was put to death by crucifixion, a method of execution the Romans commonly used. Because of Jesus' death on the cross, the cross has become an important Christian symbol.

The second world religion to emerge in the Middle East was Christianity. The birthplace of Christianity was a territory at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Romans called it Judea. It had once been a part of the ancient Kingdom of Israel. The first Christians were Jews and maintained many Jewish beliefs. They worshiped one God, valued taking care of the needy, recognized Abraham as a prophet, and believed the Hebrew Bible was holy. But Christianity soon developed its own doctrine and a much larger following.

The origins of Christianity lay in the life and teachings of Jesus, considered by Christians to be the Son of God. The story of Jesus is based largely on accounts in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Born in the Roman province of Judea about 6 B.C.E., Jesus was a Jewish teacher. When he was around 30 years old, he left home to travel across Judea and teach the word of God.

Jesus taught that God was merciful and loving and that people should love God and their neighbors. He said that those who lived according to God’s will would be forgiven their sins and relieved of suffering. The Christian Bible says that Jesus healed the sick and performed other miracles. In the process, he gained many followers. Among them were twelve special disciples known as the apostles [apostles: the twelve followers of Jesus, designated to spread his message], who were given the task of spreading Jesus’ message.

Soon, some people began calling Jesus the Messiah, or “anointed one,” chosen by God to save humankind. He later became known as Christ, the Greek term for Messiah. The Roman authorities who ruled Judea saw Jesus as a troublemaker, however. They feared that he might spark a rebellion among the Jews. They arrested him and sentenced him to death.

The New Testament of the Christian Bible tells that around 30 C.E. Jesus was put to death by crucifixion, a common form of execution used by the Romans. According to the New Testament, friends placed his body in tomb. The New Testament says that three days later Jesus rose from the dead and then appeared to his disciples. Christians call this event the Resurrection [Resurrection: in Christian belief, Jesus' rise from the dead].

For Christians, the Resurrection proved that Jesus was a holy savior. They said that anyone who recognized him as the Messiah would enter the Kingdom of God. Although the Romans often persecuted Christians, Christianity gradually spread throughout the empire. Paul, who was named an apostle after Jesus' death, played a key role by bringing non-Jews into the faith.

Eventually Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Over time, the Roman Catholic Church became rich and powerful. The Christian faith later divided into Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant branches. But Christianity as a whole continued to expand.

One of the central beliefs of Christianity is that Jesus rose from the dead. To Christians, this is a miracle known as the Resurrection. According to Christian belief, Jesus ascended to heaven 40 days after he was resurrected. This fresco depicts the resurrected Jesus ascending to heaven as his disciples look on.

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