Spiritual guidance for anyone seeking a path to God. explorefaith.org


Explore God's Love Explore Your Faith Explore the Church Explore Who We Are  

> What Do Our Neighbors Believe? > Beginnings: Christianity


Join our mailing list
Join our mailing list
Send this page to a friend

Support explorefaith.org

Give us your feedback


Perspectives from Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism

Christianity FAQ


  What Do Our Neighbors Believe?  

CHRISTIANITY Islam | Judaism
When, where, and how did the religion begin?
by Kendra Hotz

Christianity began early in the first century of the common era when Jesus of Nazareth began his ministry of preaching and healing in the Roman-ruled region of Palestine known as Galilee.

Jesus was raised in a Jewish family and when he began his public ministry at about the age of 30, he did so in the custom of a rabbi, or teacher of Torah. He gathered disciples and taught them and the crowds who gathered around them wherever they traveled. He healed the diseased, called sinners to repentance, and offered forgiveness for sins.

While upholding the importance of the Law of Moses as an expression of the will of God, he also challenged conventional ways of interpreting it, especially when that interpretation marginalized social outcasts and those without power. While never directly challenging the authority of the Roman Empire, he called people to remember that their ultimate loyalty rested with the Kingdom of God. He healed those who were diseased and raised others from the dead. He ate and conversed with the intellectuals and social elites of his day, but also with those deemed unworthy of his attention such as women, tax collectors, and sinners.

The Gospel According to Mark, one of the oldest written accounts of the birth of Christianity, says simply that “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news’” (Mark 1:14-15 NRSV).

Toward the end of his short public life, Jesus and his disciples traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. While there, Jesus challenged the religious authorities and came to the attention of the civil authorities, probably because of his teachings about a “kingdom” other than that of the Roman Empire. This attention from the Romans eventually led to his execution by crucifixion.

Though Christians have long blamed the Jewish leaders for the death of Jesus, in fact, he was executed for a political crime, sedition. The charge against him, posted on a placard over his head on the cross, read “King of the Jews.” The early Christian community, eager to deflect negative attention from the Romans, muted the political nature of Jesus’ crime and thereby contributed to what has become a long, horrible history of blaming the Jews for the death of Jesus and of persecuting them because of it.

On the third day after his death, Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his followers: first to the women, then to the twelve disciples, and finally to the crowds. After a time, he ascended bodily into the heavens.

The life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus form the founding narrative of the Christian faith. The earliest followers of Jesus proclaimed his message of good news and proclaimed Jesus himself as the content of that good news when they affirmed that he was more than a wandering rabbi and healer. For Christians, Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ or Messiah, which means “the anointed one.” Jesus came to be understood as the Son of God, as God Incarnate, as God-in-our-midst.

The Nicene Creed, an early Christian affirmation of faith declares that Jesus is “very God of very God.” His mighty works point to the presence of the Kingdom of God and to Jesus as the one who initiates it. The “good news” that the Gospels present is that through Christ, humanity can be reconciled to God.

The early Christians gathered in private homes on the first day of the week, Sunday, the day of the resurrection, to share a meal commemorating the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, to read and proclaim scripture, and to prepare themselves for Christ’s return. They baptized new members into their fellowship, spread word of the gospel, and made provisions to care for the widows in their midst.

After the Romans crushed a Jewish rebellion in the year 70 and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, Christianity along with Judaism lost its status as a tolerated religion within the Roman Empire. Christians became subject to sporadic persecution that made it necessary to meet in secret and dangerous to proclaim their faith publicly.

In the early fourth century, however, the emperor Constantine had a vision of the cross and heard a voice saying “in this sign conquer.” Under the banner of the cross he won a decisive battle to become the sole Roman emperor and soon after issued an edict of religious tolerance that ended persecution of the Christian church. He later made Christianity the favored religion of the empire.

The faith that began as a small, persecuted sect became the religion of the powerful. One result of this dramatic change in status has been that Christians have always struggled to understand and articulate how their faith ought to be related to culture.

Copyright ©2007 Kendra Hotz

Kendra G. Hotz serves as Adjunct Professor of Theology at Memphis Theological Seminary. She formerly taught at Calvin College. Hotz is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and coauthor (with Matthew T. Mathews) of Shaping the Christian Life: Worship and the Religious Affections (2006) and coauthor of Transforming Care: A Christian Vision of Nursing Practice (2005).

What Do Our Neighbors Believe?
This excerpt from What Do Our Neighbors Believe?: Questions and Answers on Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Howard Greenstein, Kendra Hotz, and John Kaltner is used with permission from Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky.
To purchase a copy of WHAT DO OUR NEIGHBORS BELIEVE? visit amazon.com. This link is provided as a service to explorefaith visitors and registered users.



(Return to Top)


Send this article to a friend.

Home | Explore God's Love | Explore Your Faith | Explore the Church | Who We Are
Reflections | Stepping Stones | Oasis | Lifelines | Bulletin Board | Search |Contact Us |
Copyright ©1999-2007 explorefaith.org