CHRISTIANITY Christianity  is  the  religion  stemming  from  belief  in  the  life,  teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The name “Christ” means Messiah. The  followers  of  Christ  received  the  name  “Christians.”  In  the  broadest sense Christianity embraces all who believe in Christ as the Son of God and try  to  follow  His  example.  Among  the  world  religions,  Christianity  is  the most widespread. Almost one of every three persons on earth is a Christian. HISTORICAL   BACKGROUND Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of humble parentage. His early years were  uneventful  as  He  trained  to  be  a  carpenter.  When  He  was  about 30 years old, He began to share His message, revealing Himself as a man of simple speech and profound wisdom, as well as a person of compassion and love.  Jesus  began  His  career  in  Palestine,  preaching  to  people  about  the Kingdom  of  God.  He  traveled  around  the  country  with  a  group  of  followers called  disciples.  He  chose  twelve  disciples,  called  apostles,  to  preach  His doctrine.   Like   the   Old   Testament   prophets,   Jesus   insisted   upon   justice toward men and humility toward God. He also preached mercy and brother- hood,  and  told  of  the  love  of  God  for  all  creatures. The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ time did not accept His claim that He was the Messiah, or the promised deliverer of the Jews. They considered this claim to be blasphemy. Roman authorities feared that He meant to lead an  uprising  against  Roman  rule  in  Palestine.  He  was  tried,  condemned  to death,  and  crucified. The  cross  has  become  a  symbol  of  Christianity.  The  church  pennant displays  the  cross.  The  83rd  Congress  authorized  the  use  of  the  church pennant  above  the  national  ensign  “during   church   services   conducted   by naval  chaplains  at  sea.  .  .  .”’  (See  figure  2-12.) After  the  death  of  Jesus,  His  followers  scattered  in  fear  but  soon reassembled. One after another, beginning on the first Easter morning, they reported that they had seen Jesus alive. This rising from the dead is called the Resurrection,   and   is   one   of   the   basic   doctrines   of   the   Christian   faith. Christians believe that Jesus Christ remained on earth for 40 days after His resurrection,  and  then  ascended  into  heaven. The first believers in Christ were Jews by birth and training, and, at first, were  considered  a  sect  of  Judaism.  But  gradually  the  followers  of  Christ came  to  think  of  themselves  as  belonging  to  an  independent  religion.  They were   first   called   “Christians”   at  Antioch,  Syria,  where  one  of  the  first Christian  communities  outside  of  Palestine  was  established. Due  to  the  work  of  St.  Paul  and  other  apostles,  Christianity  spread rapidly  throughout  the  Mediterranean  world.  The  Romans  persecuted  the Christians for many years. Diocletian became emperor of Rome in A.D. 284, and  instituted  the  most  terrible  of  all  the  persecutions  of  Christians.  In A.D.  305,  Diocletian  gave  up  his  effort  to  destroy  the  young  religion  and abdicated his throne to Constantine. Constantine, who was not a Christian, needed some strong cultural cement to hold together his vast, multicultured empire,  and  believed  he  could  find  that  binding  element  in  Christianity.  In the  Edict  of  Milan  (A.D.  313),  Constantine  extended  complete  tolerance  to 2-11


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