The spread of Christianity began at the source: with Jesus Himself. He gathered His disciples and explained the gospel to them. They went on after His resurrection to tell others and grow the church. Some, like Peter and Paul, traveled far and wide to spread this important message to more people.
As a history minor and longtime nerd, I had to ask: what was the rest of the world up to when Jesus walked the earth? Think about it, the Creator of the Universe wrapped Himself in flesh and came down to earth to live as a man for about 30 years – and most of the world had no idea.
It’s rare throughout history to find something that impacts the whole world. Even world wars and catastrophic plagues didn’t impact everyone, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a good event that does so.
In 313, a mere 300 years after Jesus’ birth, Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. It spread through the Roman-occupied world, and missionaries would eventually take it to the corners of the globe. This process wasn’t always done gracefully or in a loving way, but God always has a plan, and throughout history He always has God-fearing men and women in the field, telling others about Him.
Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection was meant for all mankind. So even if these ancient peoples didn’t know (or necessarily care) what was happening in Jerusalem in the first century, it was still done for them.
We’ll be looking at roughly 1-100 AD. According to Britannica, Jesus was born between 4 and 6 AD, and died in 30 AD, which about matches up with what most biblical scholars believe. But when looking at the ancient world, it is hard to stick to that small of a timeframe. Some of the nations I researched were in power for 1000 years, and scholars can break that up into chunks, but it’s just impossible to know what was happening in say, exactly 22 AD. Most ancient artifacts are dated for a timeframe, not an exact date.
So we’ll look at what was going on roughly around the time Jesus was alive.
You’ll also see two different ways of marking time in this article. I prefer the terms BC (before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, the year of our Lord). But many historians have switched to different terms: BCE (before the common era) and CE (common era). It’s a secular term that removes God, but the two are interchangeable otherwise. BC = BCE. AD = CE.
Finally, I am not a professional historian, but I did my best researching this article! I’ve studied history and historiography in college, so I do have some experience with this. But if you see anything that’s incorrect, please let me know and I’ll be happy to change it!
Ok, let’s dive in.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Adolfo Félix