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Home > History of religion > Christianity
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With an approximately 1.7 billion people world wide, Christianity is arguably the largest religion in the world today. Started at around 30 AD, Christianity is based on the teachings and life of Jesus Christ. Christianity was founded in the first century in Palestine by the disciples of Jesus. ChristianityMany missionaries spread it, despite heavy persecution, throughout the Roman Empire. Perhaps the most notable missionary was Paul. The various books written by Jesus` followers after his death called the New Testament, along with the Old Testament makes up the Christian Bible. The Bible holds all the teachings of Jesus on how all Christians should live out their lives.

Christianity, stemming out of Judaism and developing primarily in the West, has become the largest religion of the world even though, except for Islam, it is the youngest major world religion. Approximately one in every three persons on earth is identified with Christianity.

A religion practiced by so many people naturally encompasses a wide variety of beliefs and practices. In general Christians share a common belief in the uniqueness of Jesus of Nazareth as a truly divine and truly human incarnate Son of God who is the savior of mankind. They believe each individual by their faith and life determine their eternal destiny--either in heaven or in hell.

Scholars believe that Jesus, the founder of Christianity, was born between 4 and 7 B. C. at Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth of Galilee. His contemporaries regarded him as the eldest son of Joseph, a carpenter, and his wife, Mary; but Matthew and Luke report that Jesus was born of a virgin. He grew up in a family of at least six other children. Roman Catholics maintain these were children of Joseph by an earlier marriage.

Since Jesus` parents were common people, it is assumed he attended the local synagogue school and was trained as a carpenter. The story of his discussion with the teachers of the law in Jerusalem when he was twelve suggests that he had an unusual interest and knowledge in religious matters. The next eighteen years are often called the silent years. Since Joseph drops out of the records at this point, it is assumed that he died during this period and that Jesus took over the management of the carpenter business along with the help of his brothers.

ChristianityWhen Jesus was about thirty he began his ministry. The first public act was his baptism by his cousin, John the Baptist, in the Jordan river. Following his baptism, Jesus spent forty days in the Judean wilderness pondering the nature of his ministry. When he returned Jesus selected twelve apostles and spent three years preaching and teaching in Galilee, Judea, and Perea. His ministry was a balanced portrayal of the nature of God and service to man. Many were benefited by his miracles of healing. Peter described his life succinctly: "He went about doing good."

Both the form and content of Jesus` teachings are recognized and respected as outstanding among the great religious pioneers and innovators of the world. Jesus believed he was sent by God and accepted Peter`s description of him as "the Christ" (Messiah). The basic teaching of Jesus was the love of God and the love of man. The fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man is the essence of his gospel. This fellowship of the sons and daughters of God with each other and with their Heavenly Father Jesus referred to as the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. We see in his life and teachings the centrality of the religious point of view. His primary concern was that he and all mankind should be completely dedicated to doing the will of God. Jesus saw the Kingdom of God as a progressive growth of the individual and society--a mustard seed phenomenon.

Jesus emphasized the worth of human personality. Evil was to be opposed with vigor but persons must be loved unendingly. Ethically Jesus taught principles rather than rules. The spirit, the motivation, is the heart of behavior; external action or appearances are secondary. He saw body, mind, and spirit as a functional whole which is essentially good and capable of growth and improvement, striving toward the perfection of the Heavenly Father. Much of Jesus` most profound teaching is given in parables. Through his life and teachings he achieved a new synthesis of religious insights which has attracted people of all religions and has resulted in more books being written about him than about any person who has ever lived on our planet.

The Bible, made up of the Old Testament and the New Testament, is the scripture of Christianity. The New Testament began in the early Christian Church as a series of papers and letters written by numerous people. Over the years there was much discussion about which books should be officially recognized. In 367 Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in an Easter letter discusses the books he considered canonical. This is the first list which includes all of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament as we now have it. Various church councils in the years that followed adopted this list.

The early Christian Church was not a highly organized body with an established creed; therefore, it encompassed a wide variety of beliefs. The most famous heresy of the early church centered around a widespread and diverse group known as Gnostics. They believed the spirit was good and that flesh was evil. Consequently, they denied that Christ could have been truly human. Jesus was not really born of the flesh and there was no resurrection of the flesh. The Gnostics also regarded Jehovah as an inferior being and rejected the Old Testament. Gnosticism was a syncretistic movement which incorporated beliefs of many Middle East religions and philosophies.

The Christians consider the 10 commandments to be God`s message to humanity. And they try to follow it in their daily lives.
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