Many aspects of religious belief, practice and organization were involved in the change.
The rise of monotheism had a huge impact on culture, social life, and government in the regions where it took hold.
It was the greatest change since the dawn of civilization.
After 1200 b.c., monotheism became the religion of a single people, the Jews.
Monotheism's spread in the new form of Christianity made it the main religion of the peoples of the Roman Empire.
Christianity began as a group within Judaism at a time of division and uncertainty among the Jews after their encounter with Greece and Rome.
Although he lived and taught as a Jew, Jesus set his own unique stamp on the Jewish teachings of his time.
After Jesus' death, the believers in him as the promised Savior turned away from Judaism and towards the Greco-Roman world, seeking converts among all peoples of the empire.
As Christianity grew, it was often divided by disagreements over the nature of the one God and his relationship to Jesus, as well as occasional persecution by the Roman authorities.
By a.d. 300, Christians were to be found in every city of the empire, but well organized in the Catholic Church, with a powerful guiding structure of priests and bishops.
The emperor Constantine accepted the Christian God and Savior as the true power of the empire.
The worship of the traditional gods and goddesses had been banned because of the claim of monotheism to be the one truth about the one God.
The change did not save the Roman Empire.
The Church's message was made more convincing by this.
The idea of the Church as a community of believers who were predestined by God for salvation, regardless of the fate of any empire was developed by the Christian thinker.
Christian men and women began to live a life of close to God and freedom from the world as monks and nuns, providing the Church with a new elite that would give it inspiration and leadership in difficult times.
The barbarian invaders adopted the Catholic beliefs of the peoples they conquered.
Christianity had the strength to survive its next great trial, the loss of countless Middle Eastern and North African believers to the new rival monotheism of Islam, and also to seize its next great opportunity.
It incorporated various practices of contemporary mystery religions and ways of thinking that were inspired by Greek philosophy as it grew.
Christianity as a monotheistic religion was the product of many centuries of Jewish experience in the Middle East, as well as their more recent experiences under the power of Greece and Rome.
The development of the specifically Jewish type of monotheism, which has continued to flourish, and to influence Western civilization, down to the present day, was also.
The answers the Jews already had stood the test of time.
It seemed that God wanted the Jews to live under the rule of powerful peoples from Egypt to Palestine, all the way to Syria and Babylonia.
He would protect his Chosen People as long as they obeyed his Law and worshiped him in his Temple in Jerusalem.
The Assyrian and Persian universal empires were defeated by the Jews, who prospered under the rule of the Greek kingdoms.
At the time of Jesus, there were between five and six million of them, as many Jews as Egyptians or Italians, though less than a million lived in Palestine.
The Jews did not go out of their way to make converts, but it was not unusual for the gentiles to follow their way of life without circumcision.
In their scattered communities, leaders of prayer and study held unquestioned authority.
The Temple in Jerusalem, with its long-lived dynasties of priests and its endless round of sacrifice to the God of Israel, was one of the world's most magnificent shrines.
The place of the Jews in the world seemed assured.
The world had begun to change again during the second century b.c., and the old answers seemed less certain.
The Greeks lost their position as rulers of the civilized world.
There was a power vacuum in the Middle East for a hundred years before the Romans replaced them.
The rise of the new state began when a king of Syria banned the practice of Judaism in his territories and set up an image of Zeus in the Temple.
The revolt was led by the priestly family of the Maccabees.
The Temple was regained and purified, the Greek forces were driven out, and Judaea became independent under Maccabean rule.
The descendants of the Maccabees conquered more territory than David did.
Jerusalem was captured by the Romans in 63 b.c.
as a result of family disputes.
This was not the end of the second Jewish kingdom.
Its most famous ruler, Herod the Great, ruled for more than thirty years until the beginning of the Christian era.
The new kingdom produced discontent and division among the Jews.
The Jewish kings were influenced by the Hellenistic culture of the international world in which they were so respected.
The Temple was rebuilt to be more splendid than ever before, but Herod used a Greek style of architecture for the shrine.
The priestly aristocracy was manipulated by most of the kings in order to bolster their power.
They made the peasants pay for their wars and building projects.
The rulers and the Temple priests were distrusted by many of the leaders of prayer and study.
The heart of Jewish religion has always been study of and adherence to the Law.
They stood apart from both the rulers and the people, though they usually called on the people to obey them.
Other groups set up communities in which they lived lives of obsessive ritual purity and separated themselves from the rulers.
The belief of these groups was that the Messiah would sweep away the Greeks, Romans, Jewish kings, and even the majority of the Jews who did not follow their rules so that they would live forever in blessedness.
Some believers in the Messiah's advent preached their ideas to peasants who were overburdened by unrest, banditry, and violence.
The Jewish kingdom was broken up by the Romans and made a province of the empire.
Rome respected Jewish religion as the Greeks and Persians had done, and most of the Jewish leaders of prayer and study preached to the emperors as the latest instruments of God's almighty power.
Rome's taxation was heavy and its governors were corrupt, inspiring hatred among the peasants and hope among those who expected that these troubles would lead to the advent of the Messiah.
The result was two massive uprisings that were at the same time revolts against Rome, social revolutions, ethnic and religious wars, and civil wars among the Jews themselves.
Both uprisings resulted in religious disaster.
The first ended with the destruction of the Temple and the second with Jerusalem becoming a Roman city.
The traditional Temple worship, with its daily offerings and sacrifice to God, had come to an end.
The period of conflict and dispute leading up to the revolt of a.d. 70 was when Jesus lived and taught.
Most Jews did not join the dissidents.
Instead, they continued the rich life of prayer, praise, and disobedience to the Law that had grown up alongside the Temple worship and which now completely replaced it as the heart of Jewish religion.
The leaders of prayer and study in Palestine had opposed both revolts and insisted that there was no way of knowing if the Messiah would come soon or in the distant future.
Favored and respected by the Romans, who continued to tolerate Jewish religion even while they crushed the hopes of independence, the leaders of prayer and study became more than ever an elite among the Jews.
Two huge works explaining and expanding the Mishnah were created by this.
The original Law was extended into every detail of Jewish life, while also preserving many nonlegal customs, beliefs, and stories.
Judaism as a monotheistic religion was based on the Torah and the works that explained it, rather than on the Temple worship, and the Jews as a people were now led by rabbis.
The basic pattern of Judaism down to the present day has remained the new "rabbinic" form of belief and practice.
The Jews were scattered among the nations and eventually became a minority in Palestine.
The practice of conversion to Christianity and Islam was stopped because the rabbis did not want to offend the Roman authorities.
In the course of its own development, Judaism had originated or transmitted beliefs and practices concerning God, his dealings with humans, and how he was to be worshiped that were to become the common inheritance of both Christian and Muslim monotheism.
The religions grew out of myths about a god who died in the winter and was resurrected in the spring.
The worshiper might win eternal life through initiation and secret rituals.
If not in this life, then in the next, they provided a promise of better things.
Christianity was influenced by these religions for several centuries.
Mithraism mingled the Zoroas trian beliefs of Persia.
After the first century b.c., it was Carried west from Asia Minor.
The divine Mithra was believed to be a lieutenant of the Persian supreme god Ahura Mazda, but he attracted worshipers in his own right.
According to legend, he was born of a rock and attended by shepherds.
Mithra's followers marked Sunday as his day of worship because he was associated with the sun.
Only men were admitted to this faith, and they had to undergo terrifying rituals to test their will.
A sacred meal of bread and wine was partaken of during the milder ceremonies.
The converts were reborn in Mithra.
As the new faith began to expand beyond Palestine into Hellenized lands, Greek philosophy had an effect on Christianity.
The impact of Plato's thought on Christianity was immense, as evidenced by the continued training of scholars by Plato's Academy.
Plato was the first to state that an eternal "soul" was distinct from the body.
He spoke of an eternal spiritual order of perfection presided over by the Idea of Goodness.
Christianity had a strong influence on schooism.
Belief in a cosmos ruled by Providence, emphasis on universal love, and the virtues of justice, compassion, and restraint were all central to its teachings.
The Roman Empire's educated classes helped to prepare the way for the new faith by parallels with Christianity.
We must recognize Christianity as a religion with its own integrity and power after we have looked at all the historical influences.
Unlike Mithra, Jesus is a person who lived and taught in Roman times.
His life, character, and message are what make the Christian faith unique.
Jesus did not leave any writings of his own.
His career is contained in four New Testament Gospels.
The books were written by true believers, so they were obviously written by them.
Scholars agree that Mark's Gospel was the first to be written, and that it was used as a source by another book.
John's account shows a more developed theology with emphasis on the divine nature of Jesus and his immortality.
There are gaps in this biography.
The Gospels focus on the birth of Jesus, the brief years of his ministry, and his death and resurrection; the disciples felt no need to set down all the details of his life.
The true God in human form would later be accepted as the Christ by Faithful converts.
It's hard to understand the nature of the historical Jesus when you're behind the Jesus of the Gospels.
It is possible that the accounts of Jesus in the Gospels were influenced by beliefs that had already arisen among Christians.
The Gospels differ in their depictions of Jesus' personality and identity.
Jesus speaks of God as the Father of all who love him, even though some of the Gospels say this.
The historical Jesus is open to many interpretations.
The final answer cannot be drawn from the available sources.
The best-remembered quotes, stories, and moral advice of Jesus can be found in the Gospel of Matthew.
In the context of his own place and time, Jesus answered these questions directly.
The first great revolt against the Romans was planned in Palestine during the years of Jesus' ministry.
He was not the only one to answer the questions, but he gave his own answers.
He obeyed the law, visited the Temple, and called for acceptance of Roman rule while standing apart from the priestly aristocracy and condemning the exploitation that had grown up around the Temple worship.
The law was extended to cover every detail of life, which he saw as hypocritical and pedantic.
He was not preaching a war of liberation that would eliminate the sufferings of the poor and overthrow the Romans, but he was expecting the end of time to come very soon.
He spoke directly to the people he came into contact with, expressing his views as a Jewish teacher.
Blessed are the meek, the peacemakers, and the pure in heart.
He told his audience to turn away from the warrior ideal exemplified by Alexander and Caesar since they were more precious in God's sight than worldly success and honor.
His moral demands were based on the traditional ethics of Judaism, but he carried them beyond ordinary human reach.
Obeying the law wasn't enough.
The code of conduct demands a lot from the human spirit.
There is no clear answer to this question.
Christians see Jesus' teachings as an ideal toward which all should strive, but which no one can attain.
All may be saved by repentance and God's mercy.
The Temple priests who wielded con siderable power under Roman rule were challenged by Jesus.
According to the Gospels, the priestly authorities seized him and handed him over to the Romans, who crucified him for posing as king of the Jews.
The twelve closest disciples failed him.
The ten others abandoned him in terror and despair after Judas betrayed him to the temple priests.
According to the Gospels, the crucified Jesus rose from the tomb and showed himself several times to his disciples before ascending to heaven.
His reappearance renewed the faith of his followers that he was truly the Christ, the son of the living God, come to save the world from evil and death.
They believed that Jesus would fulfill the role that Jewish tradition had given to the Messiah.
The dead would rise from their graves, be judged worthy to live with him in his kingdom forever, or be condemned to eternal fire at his Second Coming.
"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation, so as to gather in the harvest of converts to await his coming," was Jesus' last instruction.
They were a simple and uneducated group of Jews.
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" was Jesus' promise.
The Book of Acts states that the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples.
The gifts of wisdom, languages, and healing were given to them by the spirit and they were prepared for their task.
The mission was not easy.
According to the scriptures, three thousand people werebaptized in the faith of Pentecost.
Peter was the first person to follow Jesus.
He was taught by a vision that he had made a mistake.
Gentile converts were not bound by the Jewish Law according to a council of apostles and elders at Jerusalem.
Peter continued to hold that those who were born to the Law should hold onto it, but the trend moved away from the law by Christians.
Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Christ, displaced the Jewish Passover, which commemorates the freeing of the ancient Israelites from Egyptian bondage.
The Jewish Sabbath was replaced by a day of rest and worship on the first day of the week according to the Gospels.
The destruction of the Temple was an important moment in the history of the two religions.
The Jews were punished by God for refusing to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
It confirmed the belief that the coming of the Messiah was still in the future and made strict adherence to the Law more important than ever.
Some Christians went over to Judaism despite the complaints of early Church leaders.
Christianity and Judaism both believed in the same God, but each accused the other of lying about him and disobeying his will.
He didn't expect to be in that role in his early life.
He was a Jew who was born in the city of Tarsus in Asia Minor.
He claimed to be from a well-to-do, educated family.
As a Pharisee, he shared the hope that the God of the Jews would one day be accepted by all humankind, and he was trained in both Hebrew and Greek.
After the death of Jesus, Paul came to know of Christianity.
He was against the new sect until he had a change of heart.
According to the Bible, the risen Jesus struck Paul blind, reproached him for his persecution, and then cured him and announced that he had become a "chosen vessel" to bear the name of Christ to the gentiles.
Paul undertook the religious conquest of the non-Jewish world after becoming a Christian.
The enthusiasm and skill he brought to his missionary task is reflected in the letters of Paul in the New Testament.
He was convinced that Christ was the fulfillment of historical Judaism, but a Judaism made pure and universal.
He said that the Law had been superseded by the Gospel.
The Law can only bring people to an understanding of their dependence on Christ and no one can be saved by it.
The true religion could now be carried to the Gentile world with the removal of the law and the good news of Jesus as the Messiah.
Paul founded numerous Christian congregations in Asia Minor and Greece and made hard journeys by land and sea.
The existence of the Pax Romana and the imperial roads made it easier for him to do his job.
His fearless devotion to the cause of Christ saved these means from being worthless.
Paul became an interpreter of the new faith because Jesus had left few stated doctrines.
Many of the questions that Paul was met with were recorded in his letters.
He explained that he spoke as the Lord gave him power.
The manner in which Paul formulated his interpretations is shown in the First Epistle to the Corinthians.
The doctrines that Paul set forth in his answers to these and many other questions would last through the centuries.
His support for the tradition of male supremacy in both worldly and spiritual matters and his acceptance of the practice of slavery were among them.
Slaves, be obedient to your masters.
Paul was the bringer of the "good news" to the gentiles.
Individuals have faith in Christ as their Savior.
Paul believed that faith was a gift of God and that it was confirmed by his own experience.
Paul felt that the only answer was in God's will.
"So then he has mercy upon whoever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whoever he wills," said Paul in his letter to the Romans.
The doctrine of "predestination" was to become a source of controversy within the Church.
The idea that some human souls are excluded from all hope of salvation has not been accepted by many Christians.
By the end of the first century, there were about fifty Christian churches.
There was a congregation in Rome, but most of them were in Palestine and western Asia Minor.
Most of the places where Christianity had spread were home to communities of Jews who used Greek as their common language.
Some Jews seem to have accepted the Christian claim that God was punishing them for holding to the Law rather than the teachings of Jesus, following the destruction of the Temple in a.d. 70.
Some people in the east wanted to worship the same God as the Jews, but they didn't understand why he had to do so much.
Christianity was a compelling faith for some people.
Trust in one God of justice and mercy, taught compassion and love, and promised life everlasting in a better world is what it did.
It demanded faith in Jesus as the Savior from evil and death instead of the traditional gods and goddesses.
The new religion contained elements that were familiar to Judaism, and as it developed, it also acquired features of the popular mystery religions and absorbed many ideas from the revered philosophy of the Greeks.
Christianity accepted the differences between Roman and non-Romans as God-given and preached equality in the eyes of Christ.
The Christian minority was able to bridge the differences better than the polytheist majority in the early Church.
The Council of Nicaea was the region where Christianity was the main religion in 600, and areas outside the empire to which Christianity had spread by that date.
Christianity spread slowly during the Pax Romana down to 200, much faster in the troubled times of the third century, and fastest of all during the era of imperial favor and barbarian invasions down to 600.
Middle-class and poor people joined the Christian community from the beginning.
The very first Christian converts, who were looking forward to the Second Coming, sold their possessions and gave the money to their congregation.
The teaching and practice of charity is the same, especially caring for the sick within the Christian communities.
The doctrine of equality in Christ made a difference to the position of women in early Christian churches.
The practice of infanticide, in which girl babies are usually the victims of adultery, was denounced by Christianity.
Paul took it for granted that women should be deaconesses.
Despite its spirit of charity and relative equality, the new religion did not have widespread appeal.
It was not only disliked by the majority of Jews but also by the other people.
The main reason for people to convert to Christianity was that they had to make a radical change in their lives.
An underground Christian cemetery was built near Rome about 300 years ago.
After the persecutions had ended, most Catacombs were built, possibly to continue the tradition of earlier, "underground" times.
The Christians were exposed to prejudiced accusations and igno rants.
They were sometimes victims of mob violence.
Most of what the majority had against the Christians was true.
The public baths and the combat arenas were condemned by Christians because they were popular with non Christians.
They spoke out against the practice of venerating the emperor as a god and refused to take part in religious rites before the imperial images.
They said that the empire was doomed to destruction when Jesus came back to replace it with his kingdom.
They claimed that the gods and goddesses were not real, but that they were actually evil.
The Jews would not treat the emperor as a god.
The Jews gave up making converts more or less than the Christians, but they were still able to gather in the harvest.
During the second century, when the empire was strong and stable, the gods and goddesses seemed powerful and kindly, and the emperors ruled with godlike justice.
They preferred ancient polytheistic traditions or newer mystery religions that accepted the order.
Following the destruction of the Temple, the Jews had to make painful adjustments to their beliefs and practices, but the majority followed the call of the rabbis for strict adherence to the law.
Christianity spread very slowly because of this.
In the western half of the empire, there were only a few small churches in cities with large communities of Greek-speaking immigrants.
Greek was the main language of the Christian congregation in Rome.
Christianity's message came to seem more convincing as the empire began to suffer from endless struggles over the succession to imperial power, devastating epidemics, and seemingly unstoppable barbarian attacks.
Many people began to look for certainty, hope, and peace in other places, such as the Christian Church, which took care of the sick, or the Second, which offered love and mercy.
The number of converts increased.
Christianity was spread through Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Asia Minor by the early fourth century.
The pagan majority disliked and distrusted Christianity the more it spread.
Christianity was taken seriously enough by the pagan philosophers to write books attacking it.
To patriotic Roman citizens and earnest pagan believers who felt that the way to solve Rome's problems was to repair its relationship with the traditional deities, the Christians no longer seemed just an objectionable fringe group, but a real danger to the empire.
They were deniers of the gods and goddesses who provoked divine anger against the community that allowed them.
The imperial government had long banned Christianity but had rarely bothered to enforce it.
People suspected of being Christians were ordered to prove their loyalty by sacrificing their lives to the emperor or be executed.
From time to time, campaigns of denunciation and coercion against Christians spread across the whole region.
Several of the most energetic and conscientious emperors carried out such campaigns throughout the empire, and these efforts culminated in seven years of vicious persecution under Diocletian from 304 to 311.
It was the first time a government had ever planned to destroy a religious movement.
The emperors had too many other problems to carry out the kind of persis tent that could have killed the new religion.
Long periods of toleration or neglect followed the persecution.
Christians who had fled persecution could come back or rebuild their congregation in the open.
Those who sacrificed their lives to the emperor could once again be Christians.
All who survived were inspired by the memory of those who had died.
The Christian congregation became larger and more numerous as a result of the persecution.
Christianity was still a religion in the fourth century.
There were still many areas, especially in the West.
The peasants were content with their ancient cults, away from the complex life of the towns.
There is no way of knowing how many of them there were, but it is likely that they made up about the same proportion as the Jews.
The Christians could survive and even prosper in spite of the emperors' persecutions, but they would need the emperors to support them consistently.
The first Christian congregation usually met in private homes or halls.
They accepted one another as brothers and sisters and took part in simple rituals.
The ceremonies were performed by every congregation.
In keeping with the story of Jesus' last supper with his disciples, one of the things that was done was the purification of Christian initiation, and the other was the consumption of bread and wine.
The Latin service as the Mass and the Greek service as the Eucharist came to be known as the second ritual.