Byzantine Empire is Cradle of Christian History and Civilization
Christianity begins roughly two thousand years ago with Jesus and his apostles, or disciples, in present-day Israel. At this time Israel was under the rule of Rome which directly conflicted with the Christian practices that were beginning to spawn. Despite facing religious persecution for straying from the ideologies of Israel under Roman rule, Christians that believed in the arrival of the Messiah remained resolute in their faith. Christianity has since evolved in a myriad of ways in our contemporary world as we adapt to an ever-changing social and political climate, but it was the efforts of early Christians that propelled Christianity to become the world’s current most followed religion in what is regarded by historians as one of the most successful spiritual missions of our time.
Christianity has maintained its status as one of the most influential religions and its teaching and texts have withstood the test of time. The Bible is often regarded as one of the pivotal texts of Western Civilization and is of course still studied to this day. The life of Jesus, which is recounted in the New Testament of the Bible, recounts the events within his life, many of which possess valuable lessons and teachings that are integral aspects of Christianity even in present times. Through the use of parables, Jesus provided moral and spiritual lessons primarily aimed at urging followers to subscribe to Christian ideologies such as worshipping God, acting without violence, and caring for the elderly and impoverished members of their society. Although these teachings seem practical, they were controversial in Jesus’s lifetime as they directly challenged the practices of the Roman empire which boasted violence, polygamy, and polytheism. Ultimately, Jesus was persecuted for his ideas and was crucified around 30AD. Jesus’s apostle and early follower Saint Peter carried the core values of Christianity through the oppressive reign of the Roman Empire and initiated the spread of the religion in both the empire and beyond its borders. Despite still experiencing silencing and persecution from authorities, Christianity was able to garner international attention as trade and missionary pursuits facilitated the spread to other territories; the religion subsequently experienced a substantial gain in follower quantity and influence as its values resonated with many individuals. Christianity experienced unprecedented appeal due to its unique values and ethics in a time in which faith was the only source of hope for many.
Constantine the Great, ruler of the Roman Empire between 306 and 337 AD was a pivotal figure in the spread of Christianity and allowed for the once persecuted religion to rise to become the Roman Empire’s state religion. As soon as Christianity achieved social and financial backing from the state its wealth was accelerated. The era following Constantine’s reign in which the Byzantine Empire (continuation of the Roman Empire) ruled, is regarded as one of the peaks in the advancement of Christian history and civilization. Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire founded by Constantine, was the epicenter of the Christian diaspora and lead the Christian world in size and wealth. Art and other cultural traditions emerged from the Byzantine Empire through increased acceptance of Christianity and the empire experienced a substantial increase in the production of literary works. As a result of increased literary output, Byzantine art and literature flourished providing a major cultural impact on the West and creating an extensive period of significant cultural enrichment.
Following the fall and decline of the Roman, and later Byzantine Empire, the Catholic Church, and the Pope ultimately became the leading political leader of the West. The once budding Catholic movement that existed within the Byzantine Empire rose substantially in power due to a long period of missionary efforts resulting in a major expansion. During the Middle Ages, Monasticism became a powerful force in Europe which launched countless monasteries as well as a system of regulations for them, giving rise to many early religious learning sites. Monasticism involves renouncing worldly desires to devote oneself to their faith and spiritual work. Monastic life involves removing oneself from the secular world and living in a monastery, this structure thrived in the climate of the Catholic Church.
The Renaissance of the 15th century also revolutionized the movement of Christianity as civilizations were beginning to transition from the Middle Ages to Modernity. As a result of this period, ideologies were shifting in response to advancements in all facets of life from culture to technology. Protestantism emerged as a movement in which its followers questioned and challenged problems they deemed as errors of the Roman Empire. Catholic teachings and monasteries’ motives were questioned, Protestantism repudiated the papacy, and many essential doctrines and practices. England begin to split from the once largely influential force of the Roman Catholic Church and the papacy initiating the Reformation in England which began in 1534. King Henry VIII declared himself the head of the Church of England and disbanded monasteries throughout England and neighboring territories marking the start of his effort of undoing existing Catholic ideologies.
In response to the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church responded by initiating its own reform process known as the Counter-Reformation. The Catholic Church aimed to uphold its values by asserting Catholic doctrine and practices, Catholicism and Protestantism heavily feuded during this time due to a myriad of conflicting views mostly revolving around the politics of European territories. During this period of Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Protestants achieved major advancements in its spread due to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. As England aimed to extend its dominion over a new region, Protestantism quickly infiltrated the Americas through missionary efforts. As tensions caused by the period of Reformation rose, the establishment of separate state churches emerged giving way for other Christian denominations to form. Branches of Christianity such as Lutheranism and Presbyterianism spread through various parts of Europe intensifying and complicating the existing conflicts between Protestants and the Catholic Church.
By the 18th and 19th Centuries, Europe and many developed nations had reached advancements and discoveries in science, mathematics, and astronomy that challenged former notions of how the universe came to be. The formation of new political ideologies like Marxism and socialism also challenged religious ideas, Christianity was being faced with skepticism from people on a scale that never existed in times of Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The separation of church and state emerged in many nations that emphasized democratic practices as a means to smooth potential conflict between religious-affiliated organizations and the demands of the state. For the first time since its spawn, Christianity and other religions were on a steadfast path towards being able to somewhat harmoniously exist without severe persecution and objection from the government or other entities.
Christianity’s tumultuous and often bleak journey beginning from over two thousand years ago seems almost entirely plagued by hardship and oppression; however, Christianity provided many contributions to Western culture by acting as the foundation for many institutions that are present in our modern world. As the power of the Roman Empire began to dwindle during the middle and later period of the Middle Ages, it was the Catholic Church that maintained its dominance over Western Europe. The cultural practices of Christians quickly and significantly contributed as well as guided the evolution of literature, art, and sciences that we see today. The early Christians of the Roman Empire were apprehensive about engaging in the few educational and financial institutions that were present in the empire as they largely viewed them as corrupt. Christians had to develop their own institutions for conducting activities that were essential components of their faith such as spreading the messages of Christianity, caring for the sick and poor, and even using the institutions to evade persecution. Constantine strengthened the development of Christian institutions when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as the state religion, this aided in the production of such institutions as they now had financial backing and other resources from the state. Early Roman legal institutions were also integral in establishing the foundation for legal practices that would later influence many parts of Western and Central Europe and later the Americas. During this era in the Roman Empire also saw the development of institutions aimed at raising the voices of their people, parliaments and other representative institutions emerged as a result of Christianity’s influence. Although democracy was not present in the Roman Empire, some officials were appointed through elections. Officials also met in representative assemblies aimed at enacting policies and changing aspects of their government. In a region where such institutions were once viewed as threats to the aristocracy, these institutions served as the foundations for future legal systems of the West.
Christians in the Roman Empire also provided welfare to the impoverished and elderly members of their community as this type of relief was typically the responsibility of the church as state-endorsed welfare legislation was not yet imposed. Among other institutions that grow out of Christianity, the first hospitals were founded by religious authority. Christianity has also had a significant impact on educational institutions as it created the basis for Western academic systems. The first universities and schools in the Western world are outcomes of the spread of Christianity. Despite the tribulations of early Christian history, Christians have made prolific contributions to enhancing their communities in a broad array of fields.
The role of Christianity in forming the basis for the Western world is immense as it has provided a multitude of social services and other institutions from medical facilities to universities, as well as inspiring the art, music, and culture we see today. Despite being the source of many political and social conflicts the Catholic Church and Christians as a collective have vastly improved areas of life for its followers and others in which Christianity is the dominant religion. From as early as the Middle Ages Christianity has benefited the Western world from improving literacy rates in Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire to acting as Europe’s major unifying force during times of increased uncertainty. Christianity also boasts of establishing the earliest educational institutions as many universities emerged as a continuation of the existing monasteries of the Catholic Church. In many instances throughout the entirety of Christianity’s history, the primary objective of Christians has been to use their faith to improve the human condition of man. Although there have been obstacles that halted their efforts whether it was persecution from the state or skeptics, Christians were able to vastly contribute to the progress of humans by remaining resolute in times of hardship. Due to the vast array of contributions from Christians in a diverse variety of fields from science and technology to fine arts and architecture Christianity has showcased monumental resilience to external influence, allowing it to rise to become the world’s most-followed religion. The impact of Christianity will continue to strengthen as it is intertwined with that of the Western world; the role of Christianity will continue to impact people around the globe for centuries to come as the effects of its history still possess an irrefutable presence.
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- Simon, Edith. “The Reformation – Great Ages Of Man, A History Of The World’s Cultures.” The Reformation – Great Ages Of Man, A History Of The World’s Cultures, edited by Time-Life Books, Time-Life Books; First Edition Edition, 1966.
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