The Rise of Christianity and Islam in the Ancient World - Christianity Essay Example

The Rise of Christianity and Islam in the Ancient World

Before the rise of Christianity, the Roman Empire was the model of stability.  Jesus Christ, the central figure of the faith in question was born during an era of unprecedented peace—the Pax Romana—and Rome was very tolerant of the various and sundry religions that existed within the borders of the Empire.  So tolerant, in fact, that the Romans incorporated the Greek Gods into their pantheon after the Romans conquered Greece.  Yet, in the early history of the Church, the Christian religion was heavily persecuted and reviled by the status quo - The Rise of Christianity and Islam in the Ancient World introduction. At the beginning of the Imperial Era, the emperor was worshipped as a god among men.  As a monotheistic faith, Christianity did not allow for the recognition of any other gods save Jesus Christ and his father in heaven.  When the Christians refused to worship the emperor, their religion was outlawed.  To divert the people, officials would round up the latest enemies of the state and feed them to starving lions in a circus-like amphitheatre. The new cult was popular among mostly the poor and the slaves…people whose circumstances were usually unstable.  To them, the promise of eternal life was very attractive.  The persecution persisted for almost 300 years until Emperor Constantine legalized its practice. According to scholars, “New religions beliefs and philosophies rarely succeed in societies where existing conditions are stable or secure.”   Of course, this foothold was gained during a chaotic time.  In the third century C.E., the Empire was in turmoil.  Massive barbarian incursions into imperial territory were common, and many civil wars were fought over the line of succession.  In the “Crisis of the Third Century,” more than Rome had more than 25 emperors.  Almost all of them were murdered by rivals or died in battle.  In 285, Diocletian split the empire because circumstances were too chaotic to allow for a strong central government.  When Rome was stable and peaceful, Christianity was a bothersome cult to the ruling class.  After the split, the social turmoil that resulted opened minds to a new form of thought.  By the middle of the millennium, it had become the dominant religion of Europe.


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More Christianity, Islam Essay Topics.

Ancient Christian Time Line

27 B.C.E. – 180 C.E.  The Pax Romana (Period of relative peace)
4 B.C.E. –Birth of Christian Messiah Jesus Christ
54-68 C.E.  Reign of Nero, Christianity outlawed
235-284 C.E. Crisis of the Third Century
285 C.E.  Roman Empire is Split by Diocletian
313 C.E.  Constantine Legalizes Christianity
476 C.E.  Fall of the Roman Empir

When the doctrine of Islam was revealed to Mohammed in the 7th century C.E., the religious atmosphere of the Arabian peninsula was quite diverse.  Most were polytheistic, but there were some that followed Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism.  While the Christian religion needed a weakening of the “system” in order to come to power in Europe, Mohammed and his followers took political control of Mecca and spread their religion throughout the peninsula and beyond by conquest.  (Christianity became the dominant religion in the “New World” by similar means.)  In the lands ruled by the Arabs, non-Muslims were relegated to second-class status.  However, Christians and Jews were protected under Islamic Law as “People of the Book” but polytheists and Zoroastrians did not fare so well.  Islam was able to spread with little resistance because the regions conquered by the Arabs were either politically weak or strategically disorganized.

Muslim Time Line

570 C.E.  Mohammed is born
610 C.E.  Mohammed receives divine revelations
629 C.E.  Mohammed conquers Mecca
632 C.E.  Mohammed dies
636 C.E.  Muslims conquer Iraq and Syria
632-1171 C.E.  Arabs conquer much of the Middle East and Asia Minor.  In those regions, Islam becomes the dominant cultural force.

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