The Christian Church Grew Because of the Resurrection Message
The early Christian Church grew because of the resurrection message, not at the end of the sword. The church faced severe persecution, but in only 300 years became so prevalent that the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity.
Early Christianity spread from city to city throughout the Roman Empire and beyond into East Africa and South Asia, as shown by the graphic below. The Apostles established churches in major cities and regions throughout the Roman Empire. Over 40 church communities were founded by the year 100. By the end of the 1st century, Christianity had already spread to Greece and Italy, some say as far as India. By 301 AD, the Kingdom of Armenia became the first to declare Christianity as its state religion.1
Christianity spread despite persecution and certainly not by the sword.
There began the persecution under Emperor Nero in 64–68 AD. In 64 AD, a great fire broke out in Rome, destroying portions of the city and economically devastating the Roman population. Nero himself was suspected as the arsonist by Suetonius, claiming he played the lyre and sang the ‘Sack of Ilium’ during the fires. In his Annals, Tacitus, stated that ‘to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace’ (Tacit. Annals XV). Suetonius, does not mention any persecution after the fire, but in a previous paragraph unrelated to the fire, mentions punishments inflicted on Christians, defined as men following a new and malefic superstition.” 2
The persecutions continued with Emperors Diocletian and Galerius in the late 200s AD and early 300s AD.
The Great Persecution is considered the largest. Beginning with a series of four edicts banning Christian practices and ordering the imprisonment of Christian clergy, the persecution intensified until all Christians in the empire were commanded to sacrifice to the gods or face immediate execution. Over 20,000 Christians are thought to have died during Diocletian’s reign. However, as Diocletian zealously persecuted Christians in the Eastern part of the empire, his co-emperors in the West did not follow the edicts and so Christians in Gaul, Spain, and Britannia were virtually unmolested.3
This persecution lasted, until Constantine I came to power in 313 and legalized Christianity. Constantine I was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337 AD. According to Christian writers, Constantine was over 40 when he declared himself a Christian. How could Christianity grow so fast and result in a Roman Emperor converting within 300 years? The message of the Gospel and the Resurrection!
- History of early Christianity, (Wikipedia) Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_early_Christianity#Spread_of_Christianity (November 21, 2012)
- Persecution of Christians, (Wikipedia) Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians#Persecution_of_early_Christians_in_the_Roman_Empire (November 21, 2012)
- Diocletianic Persecution, (Wikipedia) Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diocletian_Persecution (November 21, 2012)
Twelve Known Resurrection Facts Believed By Harshest Critics of Christianity
- Jesus died from crucifixion
- Jesus was buried in a tomb.
- Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
- Quiz on Week 1 Lessons.
- The tomb was discovered to be empty three days later.
- The disciples believed they encountered the risen Jesus..
- The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
- Quiz on Week 2 Lessons.
- The resurrection message was the center point of preaching in the early church.
- The resurrection message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and buried.
- The church grew because of the resurrection message.
- The primary day of worship was changed to Sunday, the day of resurrection.
- James, a skeptic, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.
- Paul, an opponent, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.
Six Common Objections Refuted By 12 Known Resurrection Facts:
- The Unknown Tomb theory
- The Wrong Tomb theory
- The Legend theory
- The Disciples Stole Body theory
- The Authorities Hid Body theory
- The Swoon theory