Christianity took its root as a denomination in Judaism based on the teachings of Jesus, a young Jewish rabbi in Nazareth. Rooted in both Jewish and Greek ideas and practices, Christianity was also under the influence of Mithraism in the Roman Empire. After the death of Jesus, the disciples took charge of spreading it to the non-Jews in the Roman Empire. The government of the Roman Empire made a significant contribution towards the rise of Christianity as Eusebius maintains.(p368)
As years vanish away, people wonder why we do celebrate the end of one millennium and the beginning of another. Obviously the dating goes back, more or less to the birth of Jesus Christ. The rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire was marked with many evils such as prosecutions, persecutions, punishments amongst others ( Lunn-Rockliffe, 2009). Rodney Stark, a professor in the University of Washington has written a thought-provoking book that will challenge the assumptions of both the orthodox Christians and hardened skeptics as to the growth of Christianity.
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The rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire was boosted by several factors. The development of Judaism after the Babylonian Exile where a monotheistic Judaism began to take its root among the Jews in Jerusalem, the Jews believed that they had to keep their covenant with God alive and also the reading of the Bible was of great emphasis. This served as a springboard for the later development of the denomination of Judaism under Jesus of Nazareth. After the death of Jesus, He ascended into heaven to join His father. This paralleled the death and resurrection in the story of Osiris and especially Mithraism when Mithra (Persian god) came to earth to atone human sins, was executed and rose from dead. According to Dr. Stark, Christianity was not a movement of the dispossessed but rather was based in the middle and upper classes the solid citizens of the Roman Empire. This in no way diminishes the church’s historical, “preferential option to the poor” which is a continual disposition coming from Christ himself, that Christianity grew more rapidly in the populated cities while the poor peasants were largely concentrated on the outlying land. He further justifies this by adding that Antioch was the first city where Christians were called. Thus this fostered the rapid growth of Christian cemeteries and with time worship places developed.
There is also the conversion of Constantine which is as a result of a vision or a dream in which Christ instructed him to fight under Christian standards, and his victory apparently assured Constantine in his faith in a new god. Although he declares that Christians and Pagans should be allowed to worship freely, he restores all that he had confiscated during persecutions and punishments, and other lost privileges to the Christians (Lunn-Rockliffe, 2009). Constantine although previously a worshipper of the Sol Invictus, the Sun of God, took support on Christians with some zeal. He came up with the claim that his victory was all due to the God of the Christians and set about adopting an imperial policy to foresee the fulfillment of his mission. Claims have also been brought across that Constantine may have converted to Christianity simply for political means but even though they were raised his actions as an emperor would indicate some considerable devotion to the church. Dr. Stark underlines the fact that Christianity bought a new culture capable of making the life in Greco-Roman cities more tolerable, to cities filled with the homeless and desperate, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with new comers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis of attachment. To cities that has so many orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new meaning and value to the family. To cities torn in violent strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity and to cities faced with epidemics, fires and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services. That is how Christianity took its root and up to date, people still live and do according to the will of God.