From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Early Christianity is commonly defined as the Christianity of the three centuries between the Crucifixion of Jesus (c. 30) and the First Council of Nicaea (325). The term is sometimes used in a narrower sense, referring only to the very first disciples (students) of Jesus of Nazareth and the faith as preached and practiced by the Twelve Apostles, their contemporaries, and their immediate successors as bishops, a sub-period generally called the Apostolic Age.
Early Christianity, which began within first-century Judaism, became clearly distinct from Rabbinic Judaism. It continued to revere the Hebrew Bible, generally using the Septuagint translation that was in general use among Greek-speaking Jews and Gentile Godfearers, or the Targums in use among Aramaic speakers, and added to it the writings that would become the New Testament, thus developing the first Christian Biblical canons. It defended Christian beliefs against criticism by non-Christian Jews and followers of other Roman religions, survived various persecutions, consisted of divisions that accused each other of heresy, and developed church hierarchy. What started as a religious movement within Second Temple Judaism became, by the end of this period, the favored religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine the Great (leading later to the rise of Christendom), and a significant religion also outside of the empire. According to Will Durant, the Christian Church prevailed because it offered an attractive doctrine and because the church leaders addressed human needs better than their rivals. The First Council of Nicaea marks the end of this era and the beginning of the period of the first seven Ecumenical Councils (325 - 787).
According to the Acts of the Apostles, the church was first centered in Jerusalem. Jesus' brother James was martyred, the Temple was destroyed, and Jews were banned from the city after the Bar Kokhba revolt, weakening the Jerusalem Church. Churches of the eastern part of the empire, notably in Alexandria and Antioch, used Greek and developed Hellenistic theologies. Churches of the western part of the empire eventually took to using Latin and excelled at the Roman virtues of discipline and rule.
- Ante-Nicene Fathers
- Christianity in the 1st century
- Christianity in the 2nd century
- Christianity in the 3rd century
- Christian Torah-submission
- Constantine I and Christianity
- Constantinian shift
- Council of Jerusalem
- Early centers of Christianity
- Early Christian art and architecture
- History of Christianity
- Christian primitivism
- Society for the Study of Early Christianity
- Split of early Christianity and Judaism
- State church of the Roman Empire