Christianity is the largest religion in the world with about 2.4 billion followers. It appeared thanks to the teachings of Jesus Christ, who lived 2000 years ago.
Christianity appeared in Palestine among the Jewish population in the 1st century AD against the backdrop of Jewish messianic movements. Armenian-speaking Jews were his first converts. Within a couple of decades, both the Syrian Greeks and the Romans, and a little later, some other ethnic groups adopted Christian beliefs.
The original adherents of this religion came from the city of Antioch and were the first to use the term “Christians”. In 301, Christianity became the main religion in Armenia, and twelve years later it was adopted at the state level in Rome. Over the next four centuries, Christianity spread within the geographic boundaries of the Roman Empire. By the 14th century, it had reached the Slavic and Germanic peoples and consequently spread to the Baltic and Finnish local populations.
Modern history tells us that Christianity spread beyond Europe through colonial expansion and missionaries.
Jesus was the main Christian preacher who started his ministry approximately at the age of 30. He healed the sick, preached love to God and neighbours, related parables and taught God’s commandments:
Jesus had twelve disciples (apostles) who he recruited to follow and help him.
The authorities had a negative attitude towards Jesus’ teaching and considered him a rebel and a trouble-maker. As a result, Jesus Christ was sentenced to death by the head of the Roman administration, Pontius Pilate, on the charge of the attempting to mount a coup d’état.
On the third day after the death of Jesus, his followers found his tomb empty and understood that he had been resurrected. Christians believe that the agonising sacrifice of Jesus at his crucifixion shows how much God loves His people. Jesus paid for the sins of humans with his death.
Christians believe that by resurrecting Jesus from the dead, God showed that Christ’s message of love and forgiveness was more powerful than death. He illustrated that faith in Jesus and following the example of his life and teaching will lead to eternal life after death. Resurrection from the dead is a sign of God’s salvation which is offered to all people.
After Jesus Christ’s death, his followers distributed his teaching all over the world, having created a Christian church and continuing the development of Christianity.
Scientists have explained the rapid spreading of Christianity with five factors:
As with any other extensive group, Christianity had multiple interpretations, disagreements and struggles for power over many centuries. In 1054, there was a schism in Christianity. This resulted in the appearance of various branches that interpreted Christ’s life, death, and resurrection in different ways:
Currently, the number of Catholics is the largest – about 1.2 billion people. Protestants number about 800 million; and the number of orthodox Christians is estimated to be about 280 million.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ was God’s Son, and that through faith in Him and following his teaching they can inherit eternal life. Christians believe that Jesus died for the sake of humankind, that God resurrected Him from the dead, and that Jesus will return at the end of time. In addition, Christians believe in the Trinity or three parts of God: God the Father (Creator), the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit (Redeemer).
The Bible is the basis of Christian beliefs and is the main book of Christians. According to the Bible, there is only one God, whom Christians call the Father, as Jesus Christ taught them. They consider Jesus to be God’s Son sent to save people from death and sin.
Here are some more facts determining the essence of Christianity:
Christian culture includes prayers which are the means of talking to God. They are used in almost all situations in life: prayers for health, rest of one’s soul, gratitude, repenting, and so on.
There are various rituals, sacraments and traditions aimed at unity with God. These include baptism, last rites, and marriage. Important events in life are accompanied by religious ceremonies.
Ordinary people can achieve the title of patron saint in the Orthodox religion if they sincerely believe in God. People can become holy through the process of sanctification. This is called canonization and is carried out by authorized bodies (synods, churches…). Typically, a person is consecrated after his/her death.
The cross is a universal Christian symbol. It symbolizes both suffering and triumph (salvation). Also, the cross is considered a symbol of healing, sacrifice, reconciliation, hope and love.