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.
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