The followers of Jesus called him Christ, a Greek word that means “chosen one," because they believed Jesus was chosen by God to be his messenger. In time, the followers of Jesus became known as Christians who taught that people’s sins would be forgiven if they became Christian. Pagans across the Roman Empire converted.
Early believers spread the message of Jesus throughout the Roman Empire. A Greek-speaking Jew named Saul of Tarsus, known to Christians as Saint Paul had a vision in which Jesus spoke to him from heaven. Paul spent the rest of his life writing about Christianity and winning converts. Small Christian communities developed throughout the Roman Empire.
The first Christians believed that Jesus would quickly return to earth, so they did not create written records of his life. About fifty years after the death of Jesus, Christians combined the stories of the life and wisdom of Jesus into four books known as Gospels (which means “good news").
Christians consider the Bible as the holy book, including both the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament was written long before the time of Jesus. It contains the sacred writings of the Jewish people. The New Testament includes the Gospels, along with letters written by Paul and other Christians.
At first, the Romans ignored the Christians, since they were a small group. The Emperor Nero began persecuting Christians in 64 AD after blaming them for causing a great fire that destroyed much of Rome. When barbarian warriors attacked the empire, many Romans suggested that the bad times were because a growing group of Christians did not worship the Roman gods.
Roman emperors became increasingly intolerant of Christianity. In 202 AD, Emperor Septimius Severus banned Roman citizens from converting to Christianity or Judaism. Those who disobeyed the emperor were tortured or forced to fight wild animals at sporting events. Despite the persecutions, Christianity continued to grow.
Emperor Constantine seized power in 306 AD and ended persecution of Christians. A legend says that on the eve of a battle, Constantine saw a Christian symbol in the sky with the words “By this sign you shall conquer." Constantine legalized Christianity and encouraged its growth.
Source: The Birth of Christianity
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