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Foundation of the Christian Church

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Christian Church began in Palestine in the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, At first it seemed to be one of the many movements of religious renewal within Judaism, distinguished by its belief that Jesus of Nazareth, who had recently died and risen again, was the expected Messiah (or divine deliverer of Israel) and would shortly return to complete His work. This Jewish Christianity contributed much to the Church's heritage: its memories of Jesus, methods of worship, communal organization, and moreal seriousness.

Jewish Christianity did not, however, become the dominant influence in the new movement, which was quickly taken up by the Greek-speaking Jews of the Dispersion. (The "Dispersion" is the name given to the scattering of the Jews after the Exile in Babylon). The whole character of the movement was being changed by this extension of memebership in God's people to the Gentile world. Their attempt to mould the spreading Church to their own pattern was resisted by the apostle Paul, himself a Jew of the Dispersion; and their hope of success was ended by the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. From then onwards Jewish Christianity survived in forms which played only a minor role in the Church's history.

The Christian faith was taken to the Gentile word by innumerable travelers, traders, and officials as well as by the apostles and their helpers. By the middle of the first century there were Christians in Rome and a string of local churches in Greece, Asia Minor, Syria and Cyprus. When Paul was arrested, he was confidently pressing on with plans to visit Spain. There were already well-establishes Churches in Gaul and north Africa in the latter half of the 2nd centrury. Beyond the Roman empire the faith spread to Persia and America.


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