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Article Info
published: 3/17/04
updated: 5/13/13

History of Christianity

What is the story of the Christian faith?

Alpha and Omega

History is important to the Christian religion. Some of its most cherished literature, like the four Gospels and the book of Acts, tell historical stories that serve as the foundation for Christianity.

Yet stories of people like the Apostles Paul and Peter aren't the end of its history, but merely the beginning. This faith, founded by Jesus Christ, is filled with men and women who lived out their faith in amazing ways.

The following articles provide an overview of some of the most important events and periods in Christian history. After reading the overview description of the time periods, please click on the links provided for more in-depth articles.

The Christian religion: past and present

Brief Overview of Christian History

Learn the highlights of 2,000 years of Christian history in a one-page summary.

Conversion of Constantine

In 312 AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, a monumental event for the church.

Context of Christianity

Christianity arose in the 1st century in the region of Palestine. It grew out of Judaism, but also came in contact with pagan mystery religions, Greek philosophy, and the cult of the Roman state.

The Council of Nicea

In 325, Constantine called the Council of Nicea in the hopes that Christian leaders could work out their differences over Arianism, a controversial belief about Christ's relation to God.

Jesus of Nazareth

Christianity was founded by Jesus Christ. Christians believe, and most scholars agree, that Jesus was an actual historical figure and a quite intriguing person.

The Apostles

Within 20 years of Jesus' death, his followers had spread the Christian faith as far as Rome. Most of the original 12 disciples of Jesus met violent deaths.

Persecution of the Church

In its first three centuries, the Christian church endured persistent and often severe persecution at the hands of the Roman authorities. This would have significant historical and theological consequences for the developing faith.

The Church Fathers

The time between Christ and Constantine was an especially fertile period of doctrinal development. Some of the most learned minds in Christianity set out to explain the faith to outsiders, develop it for believers, and distinguish "orthodoxy" from "heresy."

Rise of Christian Monasticism

When being a Christian became easier under Constantine, personal sacrifice and commitment were found in caves and monasteries.

Rise of the Papacy

The preeminence of the bishop of Rome over the entire Catholic church, an institution known as "the papacy," took centuries to develop, but has its roots in early Christianity. (Also see an index of Catholic Popes)

The Crusades

The Crusades were expeditions of Christian Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries for the recovery of the Holy Land from the Muslim Turks.

Feature: The Salem Witchcraft Trials

Read about when Salem Village was overtaken by hysteria about the devil.

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