Birth of Christianity

By 30 C.E., the Roman empire had expanded to cover most lands adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea, including the Holy Land. The Romans expected the Jews to worship the emperor as a god, but the Jewish religion commanded the worship of one god: Yahweh. Their refusal to worship the Roman emperors infuriated Rome.

In 26 B.C.E., the Romans established direct rule over the Jews by appointing Pontius Pilate as governor of the territory. He had no respect for Jewish traditions. He even took money from their holy temple's treasury to build an aqueduct, causing the Jews to rebel. Many Jews lost their lives during the rebellion.

Many Jews awaited the establishment of God's everlasting kingdom by a messiah to deliver them from Roman rule and their earthly burdens. For some, this messiah was Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus taught in the Jewish tradition, preaching love and tolerance, and performing miracles. Jesus claimed that the kingdom of Yahweh would never be realized on earth, but in a life after death. Jesus taught to love one’s enemies. A small group of disciples believed he was the promised messiah who would bring an end to Roman rule.

Jesus' ideas were rejected by most of the Jews in Galilee in northern Israel. They viewed Jesus as a troublemaker who was violating Yahweh's sacredness.

Jesus went to Jerusalem to preach his word. The high priests of the Jewish Temple cooperated with the Romans. Jesus coordinated an attack on the trading activities of the Temple, which were a great source of wealth to the priests. The Roman authorities arrested him for sedition. On the night of the Passover Seder, known to Christians as the Last Supper, Jesus was arrested and brought before Pontius Pilate who condemned him to death. He was crucified. According to the gospel, three days after his death, his tomb was found empty. For the next 40 days, his disciples claim that they saw visions of Jesus having risen from the dead in the tradition of Moses.

Most Jews rejected the notion of Jesus as their messiah. In the years that followed Jesus' death, the Romans treated the early Christians as a small, Jewish sect. The Romans persecuted these Christians, who rejected Roman polytheism. Then Paul of Tarsus began to spread Christian ideas to non-Jews. He and his successors converted a large number of people to Christianity. After almost four centuries of existing on the margins, Christianity would become the state religion of the Roman Empire.

Source: Birth of Christianity
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