These people found comfort in his message of love, as well as in Christian teachings about equality and a better life beyond the grave.

As they did their work, Christian missionaries like Paul added ideas from Plato, the Stoics, and other Greek thinkers to explain Jesus' message. Educated Romans, in particular, were attracted to a religion that incorporated the discipline and moderation of Greek philosophy.

The unity of the Roman empire also eased the work of missionaries. Christians traveled along Roman roads and across the Mediterranean Sea, which was protected by Roman fleets. Early Christian documents were usually written in Greek or Latin, languages that many people across the empire understood.

Even persecution brought new converts. People who witnessed the willingness of Christians to die for their religion were impressed by the strength of their beliefs. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the [Christian] Church,” noted one Christian.

Painting of soldiers in armor at a campsite, looking at the sky where cherubs are carrying a cross.

Renaissance painter Raphael depicts the cross in the sky that Constantine saw before a battle. After his victory, Constantine ended the persecution of Christians.

Rome Embraces Christianity

The persecution of Christians finally ended in A.D. 313, when the emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan. It granted freedom of worship to all citizens of the Roman empire. By the end of the century, the emperor Theodosius (thee uh DOH shus) had made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire and repressed the practice of other faiths. Gradually, the Christian Church emerged as a well-organized, powerful force in the Roman world, sending missionaries to distant lands to win more converts to the faith.

The Growth of the Christian Church

Early Christian communities shared a common faith in the teachings of Jesus and a common way of worship. Only gradually did these scattered communities come together under the authority of a well-organized Christian Church.

Photo of basin on a pedestal in an area of ancient ruins.

This baptismal font survives among the ruins of the Church of St. Mary in Ephesus, Turkey.

Early Christian Communities

To join the Christian community, a person had to be baptized, or blessed with holy water. Baptism at first signified acceptance of Christian teachings along with purification, or the forgiveness of sins. Members of the community were considered equals, and they addressed each other as “brother” or “sister.”


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments