Christianity was traditionally understood to be founded by
Jesus of Nazareth. Paul of Tarsus, after his conversion on
the road to Damascus, worked tirelessly to establish
Christianity among both Jews and God-fearing Gentiles of the
Diaspora. Clues in the New Testament indicate that there was
a significant rift between Paul and the Jewish leadership
early in the history of the Church. It is primarily Paul\'s
writings which has most influenced the Church today.
Christians span the globe and are present on all the
inhabited continents and in most of the world\'s societies.
As Christianity is a universalizing religion, it embraces
all nations and peoples.
Major Teachings:
Most Christian denominations and sects teach that man is
sinful and can never inherit eternal life in the presence of
God as a result of the sins of our first parents, Adam and
Eve,as well as our own personal sin. It thus became
necessary for God to become man in the person of Jesus
Christ who as the Son of God was sinless and unblemished.
His purpose was to suffer and die in atonement for the sins
of all who accept his sacrifice for sin. Individual
salvation is dependent upon the acceptance of this
atonement. The Church is the Bride of Christ whose purpose
is to spread this message, the Gospel, to all people
before Christ\'s return to the earth to rule all nations as
the heir to the throne of David. This is primary message of
most Christians. Other sects will have variations on this
message, and may include many other doctrines they find
necessary to their own message or purpose.
Scriptures and Other Significant Writings:
The New Testament together with the Jewish Bible make up the
canon of Christianity. The Roman Catholic and the Eastern
Orthodox branches of Christianity also include books in
their canons that many Protestants do not, called the
Apocrypha or the Deuterocanonicals. Also important are
the writings of the early church fathers and early church
councils, which established much of the doctrine now
considered dogma in the Church today. As of 1986, at least
one book of the Christian Bible has been translated into
1,848 languages of the world. A book has been compiled by
the United Bible Societies which lists languages
alphabetically, chronologically, and geographically Of the
present missionary efforts by many of Christianity\'s sects,
biblical translation is just one of many.
Symbols: The most well known symbol of Christianity is
the cross, or crucifix, symbol of the death and resurrection
of Jesus Christ. An ancient symbol of Christianity is the
fish formed by two intersecting arcs. Often the Greek word
for fish, IXTHYS, appears within being an acronym for Jesus
Christ God\'s Son.
Major Divisions:
The three major branches of Christianity are Roman
Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. There
are, arguably, other sects such as Mormonism claiming this
distinction due to major departures from orthodox doctrines.
Major Holy Days:
Although the differing divisions and sects of Christianity
may celebrate differing holidays, place emphasis on certain
holidays rather than others, or may use a differing
calendar, the major holy days of Christianity are: Lent,
Easter, Advent, and Christmas
The Details about Christianity:
Christianity arose as an obscure Jewish sect, and through
the dedicated missionary efforts of such persons as the
Apostle Paul was distributed throughout the Mediterranean
basin. Church tradition suggests that each of the remaining
Apostles of Jesus taught in such diverse places as the
British Isles and India. After years of official persecution
by the Roman Empire, Christianity was embraced as the state
religion by Emperor Constantine.Several important church
councils were held during this time period to decide on
controversies over doctrine. Eventually, the decisions of
these councils provided guidelines to determine orthodoxy or
heresy. The many divisions and sects now found in
Christianity today has been the result of opinions which
differed from the established doctrine.
The Geography of Christianity:
Christianity has greatly influenced the geography of
medieval Europe, and later, the rest of the world
due to colonization and missionary efforts. Perhaps the most
significant contribution of Christianity was the
reorganization of Europe from pagan bands and villages into
the centrally organized holds of feudal Europe. This
reorganization was patterned after the ecclesiastical
hierarchy envisioned by the Church and set the stage for all
that was to come in the future. Monasteries were set up
throughout Europe as either destinations or as
waystations for pilgrimages. Monasteries became the
repositories of civilization, learning, and often wealth.
The Church provided sanction and divine recognition for
governments of the day in the form of Divine Right.
The Church was responsible for the ordination of kings and
often arbitrated disputes over territory. Until the
Reformation, the Church was a power to be