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Archive for May 5th, 2012

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Spread of Christianity
outline: waves of diaspora create hubs to facilitate spread of new religion, merchants and missionaries, St. Paul-religion mixed with gentile ideas and worship

Christianity spread through the Roman empire. Via Appia made it easier. St. Paul as a Roman citizen( he was from Tarsus in South- Central Anatolia) was free to move freely through the extent of the Empire. The Roman Empire was then comparatively at peace, The wide sovereignty of Rome gave the apostles of Christ access to different nations, many of whom had become civilized under Roman influence.
Since emperor Theodosius I (379-395 AD) the official state religion of the Roman Empire was Christianity. Subsequently, former Roman territories became Christian states which exported their religion to other parts of the world, through colonization and missionaries.
We may need to look back even before the Jews were expelled from Jerusalem in 70 AD. Under the Assyrian and Babylonian empires saw diaspora of Jews and were many hubs of Hebrew faith with local synagogues. Each group carried traditions of their fathers. Early Jewish Christians carried the new religion to these congregation of Jews. These early Christians were merchants and others who had practical reasons for traveling to northern Africa, Asia Minor, Arabia, Greece, and other places. But in the missionary zeal and sustained effort to spread the gospel of good news none would match Paul. St. Paul was converted from his Hebrew belief and had set himself to be an Apostle for Christ. His success partly owed to the groundwork laid by others before him.

Antioch was a major centre of Hellenistic Greece then part of Syria province. It was here the sect were called Christians for the first time. Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons in the second century believed that Paul and Peter had been the founders the Church of Rome. Despite of persecutions under many Caesars the Christians thrived and during the reign of Constantine the Great Christianity became the state religion. Influence of Greece was already in the cities such as Alexandria, Antioch, Rome, Caesarea, Paphos and Anatolia. These in turn would serve as hubs of proselytism and pagan ideas in course of time will mingle with the new religion*. The earliest bishops of Rome were all Greek-speaking, the most notable of them being Pope Clement I. (* sun worship: prayers are offered while looking toward sunrise in the East” because the Orient represents the birth of light that “dispels the darkness of the night” and because of the orientation of “the ancient temples. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 7, 7, 43, GCS 3, 32. or Origen (c. AD 185-254) whose view was that the East symbolizes the soul looking to the source of light. Origen,67 De oratione 32, GCS 2, 400, 23.)
One of the Church fathers of Catholicism Augustine of Hyppo ( 354-430AD) was converted from Manichaeism that had its origins in the heavily Gnostic area of the Persian Empire.
Manichaean ways of thinking had an influence on the development of some of Augustine’s Christian ideas, such as the nature of good and evil, the idea of Hell, the separation of groups into Elect, Hearers, and Sinners, the hostility to the flesh and sexual activity, and so on. Spread of religion whether along the Silk Road or via Appia followed more or less a similar pattern. Unconsciously the venerable Church father while systemizing Christian philosophy would add his own intellectual coloring to Christian belief-system.
While Church of Rome was established in the West of the empire the converts from the pagan world would bring their own practices and add to the many rites and symbols of the pagan world. This we see even in our times. In Mexico or in India Christianity would be colored by the beliefs of people. These would be a point of controversy during the Reformation period.
benny

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