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Christianity in the Roman Empire and Its Spread Factors Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 8th, 2021

Introduction

Several factors could be attributed to the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire. The beginning of the Christianity movement can be traced to the late first century AD under a Nazarene teacher and his disciples. Towards the end of the first century, Christianity had spread in the Roman Empire to the extent that the government officials’ attention was drawn by this new religion. At the end of the fourth century, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. This paper examines the factors that contributed to the spread of Christianity.

Factors Attributed to the Spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire

The Peace of Rome

The Roman Empire had a powerful military that was able to keep pace in the entire region. This means that members of Christian movements were in a position to spread wide and far within Rome in search of new converts without the fear of actual physical harm. Moreover, due to the peaceful Roman Empire environment, there were no information blackouts or curfews that could have limited the movement of the Christians.[1] Therefore, early Christians took advantage of the peaceful Roman-pax Romana to quickly recruit more members to the new faith.

Rome’s Good Infrastructure

The Roman Empire was characterized by advancements in technology as early as the first century, especially in road construction. The government of the day built well-connected, reliable, and widespread road networks throughout the empire. As a result, a renowned subscriber to Christianity, such as the Apostle Paul, was able to utilize these roads to reach potential converts and spread the gospel message. Due to better road network connectivity, Paul established many churches throughout the Roman Empire.[2] Moreover, the road networks made it easy for Christianity believers to quickly spread Paul’s letters and teaching throughout Rome and Beyond.

Common Language

The Roman Empire has two main languages, that is, Greek in the east and Latin in the west. However, the main interaction or standard language was called Koine Greek. The New Testament and Paul’s letters were written in this language. Thus, the language of the main Christianity reference book was similar to the common language. As a result, the gospel message could reach more than 70% of the Roman Empire population because there was no language barrier.[3] Virtually, the entire empire conversed in the same language as Christian letters or scriptures.

Christian Charity and Aid

The foundation of the Christianity movement teaching was that everyone is equal before God. The followers of Christianity in Rome integrated this teaching into practice by giving food, clothing, and shelter to the poor for free, irrespective of race. The Roman Empire government did not have social institutions to take care of the vulnerable members of the society. This means that the poor found a safe haven among the Christian families in Rome. For instance, the slaves and other poor members of the society had few options other than joining Christianity.[4] The ability to embrace the poor and even non-Christians made this religion spread evenly across the entire empire. Moreover, the early Christian community in Rome established hospices and hospital centers to care for the dying or sick for free. Although limited in medical knowledge, these centers helped greatly, especially during infectious plagues and natural disasters. In addition, early Christians established orphanages to take care of abandoned orphans, which was a common occurrence in the early centuries. These orphans were then converted to Christianity. Such acts of charity influenced many non-Christians, and they were drawn to the new philosophical way of life of caring for everyone who needed help.[5]

Freedom from Class Distinctions

Unlike other Roman cultures that easily divided communities according to class, race, and gender, the teachings of Christianity embraced and treated everyone as equals. It was common to hear preachers in the streets proclaiming the message of everyone belonging to Christ in a similar manner. In the early Christian movement, the believers set aside racial, class, and gender distinctions. As a result, the unity found among the Christians as brothers and sisters appealed to diverse groups in Rome.[6] Moreover, the declaration of Jesus as God gave many converts an opportunity to abandon the Roman Empire’s cultural norms perceived as discriminating. For instance, slaves and women were the first largest groups to join this new religion in mass as a safe haven from discriminative cultural laws of the Roman Empire.

Courageous Martyrs and Increased Interest in Monotheism

The courageous persecution of many early Christian martyrs had a positive impact on the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Many people were actually attracted to this new faith with the belief that the resurrected body of Jesus would give them the courage to face any form of death. The stories of martyrs were evenly spread in Rome, and those who believed joined the bandwagon of fearless Christians. If the converts and martyrs had doubts about the resurrection of Jesus, they would not have put their lives in the line of harm.[7]

In the middle of the first century, polytheism was the order of the day in the Greco-Roman region, as confirmed by prominent buildings such as the Pantheon, which was dedicated to many gods. At the time when Christianity reached Rome, there was a growing interest among the population in monotheism, which is a belief in a single all-powerful supernatural being. At the end of the first century, monotheism was generally viewed as trendy and religiously different from polytheism.[8] The affirmation of a trinity God by Christians created a unique monotheism, which appeals to many societies in the Roman Empire.

Gracious Salvation and a Loving God

The Christianity proclamation that the atonement of sin for mankind was done by Jesus Christ through Roman crucifixion appealed to many people in ancient times. For instance, the view of salvation as a special gift from a gracious God, irrespective of social status, race, or sin, was different from other philosophies and religions in the Roman Empire. Since the majority of the early converts were slaves and women, they easily embraced this message of the God who cares for the disadvantaged and poor.[9] This teaching became a magnet for the society that had been taught to appease and fear the numerous Greco-Roman gods.

Conclusion

Several factors have been highlighted as responsible for the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire. These factors include peace in Rome, common language, good road networks, charity, and freedom from discriminating cultural norms. Moreover, the growing interest in monotheism and the loving nature of the Christian God attracted hordes to Christianity.

Bibliography

Davis, Leo. The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787): Their History and Theology. New York: Liturgical Press, 2017.

Dohrmann, Natalie, and Annette Reed, eds. Jews, Christians, and the Roman Empire. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

Lee, Donald. From Rome to Byzantium AD 363 to 565. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013.

Wendt, Heidi. At the Temple Gates: The Religion Experts in the Roman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Foonotes

  1. Donald Lee, From Rome to Byzantium AD 363 to 565 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), 45.
  2. Heidi Wendt, At the Temple Gates: The Religion Experts in the Roman Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 28.
  3. Davis, The First Seven Ecumenical Councils, 37.
  4. Leo Davis, The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787): Their History and Theology (New York: Liturgical Press, 2017), 31.
  5. Lee, From Rome to Byzantium, 49.
  6. Wendt, At the Temple Gates, 33.
  7. Lee, From Rome to Byzantium, 63.
  8. Davis, The First Seven Ecumenical Councils, 37.
  9. Lee, From Rome to Byzantium, 63.
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IvyPanda. 2021. "Christianity in the Roman Empire and Its Spread Factors." September 8, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/christianity-in-the-roman-empire-and-its-spread-factors/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Christianity in the Roman Empire and Its Spread Factors'. 8 September.

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