Constantine’s Conversion to Christianity

Although Constantine is acclaimed as the first emperor to embrace Christianity, he was not technically the first to legalize it. Introduction Constantine I (Flavius Valerius Constantinus) was Roman emperor from 306-337 CE and is known to history as Constantine the Great for his conversion to Christianity in 312 CE and his subsequent Christianization of the Roman Empire. His conversion was motivated in part[…]

A History of the Christian Gospels

The gospels were produced from c.70 CE to perhaps 100 CE. Introduction The New Testament contains four gospels attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The four gospels are not biographies of Jesus, nor are they history as we define it. What each gospel attempted to do was write a theological explanation for the events[…]

The Missionary Expansion of Christianity in the Early Modern World

The history of how European Christians spread their message, using key texts from around the world. Introduction Christianity is not a western religion. It originated on the Western fringe of Asia – what we tend to call the ‘Middle East’. However, for many centuries the expansion of Christianity was directed from Europe and became entangled[…]

The Early Medieval Hiberno-Scottish Missions

Since the 8th and 9th centuries, these early missions were called ‘Celtic Christianity’. Introduction The Hiberno-Scottish mission was a series of missions and expeditions initiated by various Irish clerics and cleric-scholars who, for the most part, are not known to have acted in concert.[1] There was no overall coordinated mission, but there were nevertheless sporadic[…]

Missionaries and Manuscripts in the Early Latin West

Tangible evidence about Christianity’s spread from Rome to Canterbury and from Ireland to the Court of Charlemagne. Introduction As a religion of the book, Christianity established its roots and spread its message through texts. Manuscripts were as mobile as the missionaries who converted the pagan people in the name – and with the Word –[…]

The First Christian Missionaries in the Ancient World

It was initially a Jewish message and so the followers of Jesus took his teachings to the synagogues first. Introduction According to Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, the last thing Jesus did before he bodily ascended to heaven was to commission the disciples to ‘witness’ to his teachings. ‘Disciple’ meant ‘student’ and was derived from the various schools[…]

The Legend of Arius’ Death: Imagination, Space and Filth in Ancient Historiography

The significance of Constantinople as the place of the imagined event of the death of Arius. Introduction In the last forty years, research in the history of early Christianity has broadened considerably in scope. Whereas an earlier generation of historians focused its attention on those figures deemed foundational, even ‘orthodox’, by later Christian tradition, in[…]

Historical Problems in the Trial(s) and Crucifixion in the Gospels

Reading the gospels as history without the criteria we apply to the reading of all ancient history remains problematic. Introduction The story of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ is reenacted every year by Christians all over the world in the Easter liturgy. The story has become an essential article of faith and is rarely questioned by New Testament scholars[…]

Religion in 18th-Century America and the Emergence of Evangelicism

The Great Awakening swept the English-speaking world, as religious energy vibrated between the U.K. and the American colonies. Introduction Against a prevailing view that eighteenth-century Americans had not perpetuated the first settlers’ passionate commitment to their faith, scholars now identify a high level of religious energy in colonies after 1700. According to one expert, religion[…]

The Development of the Church in Medieval Christianity

Christianity had developed as a religious idea in Roman Palestine and slowly spread throughout the Empire. By Fr. Chad J. Stumph, D.D. Christianity transformed from a persecuted, unorganized group of believers into a hierarchical, dominating Church over the course of seven centuries, developing alongside the changing political environment of post-Roman Europe. The development of the[…]

A Brief History of Messianic Judaism

Young Jews praying at the Kotel, the Western Wall, in Jerusalem (Image © Bigstock/kirill4mula) There are approximately 175,000 to 250,000 messianic Jews in the U.S, and 350,000 worldwide. By Dr. Ingrid Anderson / 11.13.2018 Associate Director of Jewish Studies Lecturer, Arts and Sciences Writing Program Boston University Introduction Messianic Jews consider themselves Jewish Christians. Specifically they believe, as[…]

Christian Persecution in Ancient Rome – On Again Off Again

Was persecution a consistent imperial policy, and what types of punishments were inflicted on Christians? The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883)/Wikimedia Commons The image of cowering Christians being thrown to the lions by Roman emperors is a grisly staple of popular culture. But how accurate is it?    By Dr. Shushma Malik and Dr. Caillan Davenport / 11.21.2016 Malik: Lecturer in[…]

Second Temple Judaism, Christianity, and the Emergence of Anti-Semitism

Modern reconstruction of what the Second Temple would have looked like after its renovation during the reign of Herod I / Photo by Juan R. Cuadra, Wikimedia Commons Exploring Judaism from 515 BCE to the destruction of the Second Temple and the following rise of anti-semitism in early Christianity. Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 10.28.2018 Public Historian[…]

Centuries of Inaccurate Christian Depictions of the Historical Jesus

Mosaic of the vault of the chapel of San Zeno (IX century) / Photo by Livioandronico2013, Wikimedia Commons The Jesus we’ve inherited from centuries of Christian art is not accurate. By Dr. Joan Taylor / 02.08.2018 Professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism King’s College London Over the past few decades, the question of[…]

The Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire

There were alternate systems of belief for those dissatisfied with the chaotic traditional religious forms. By Dr. Lynn Harry Nelson Emeritus Professor of Medieval History The University of Kansas Introduction Christianity first arose historically as a reform movement within Judaism. The apostle Paul forced it open to non-Jews and gave it the Greek flavor that[…]

Iconoclasm across Cultures from Antiquity to Modernity

Desecrated Christian icons in Turkey / Photo by Georges Jansoone JoJan, Göreme Valley Open Air Museum, Cappadocia, Wikimedia Commons Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons or monuments, usually for religious or political motives.  In common parlance, an iconoclast is a person who challenges cherished beliefs or traditional institutions as being based on error[…]

The Strange, Short Career of Judeo-Christianity

FDR / Library of Congress By Dr. Gene Zubovich / 03.22.2016 Visiting Lecturer in History University of California, Berkeley President Barack Obama insists that the United States defines itself by civic principles rather than by religious affiliation. In an otherwise unremarkable press conference in Turkey in 2009, he said: ‘[A]lthough… we have a very large Christian population,[…]

Virgin (Theotokos) and Child between Saints Theodore and George in Byzantine Art

Virgin (Theotokos) and Child between Saints Theodore and George, sixth or early seventh century, encaustic on wood, 2′ 3″ x 1′ 7 3/8″ (St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt) By Dr. William Allen Professor of Art History Arkansas State University At Mount Sinai Monastery One of thousands of important Byzantine images, books, and documents preserved at[…]

Archaeology is Revealing New Truths about the Origins of British Christianity

Centre for the Study for Christianity and Culture, University of York., Author provided New archaeological research on Glastonbury Abbey pushes back the date for the earliest settlement of the site by 200 years – and reopens debate on Glastonbury’s origin myths. By Dr. Roberta Gilchrist / 03.23.2018 Professor of Archaeology University of Reading New archaeological research on Glastonbury Abbey pushes back the date for[…]

The Ancient Greek Lament: From Paganism to Christianity

The Homeric Multitext, Creative Commons By Dr. Margaret Alexiou George Seferis Professor of Modern Greek Studies Professor of Comparative Literature Emerita Harvard University Introduction The function and purpose of the lament changed in accordance with the historical developments of antiquity. What was the impact of the economic, social and religious upheavals which accompanied the decline of[…]

The Evolving Judeo-Christian Concept of “Hell” from the Ancient World to Today

The abyss of hell. Sandro Botticelli The meaning of hell might have changed over the centuries, but for devout Christians it remains a core part of their faith. By Dr. Joanne M. Pierce / 04.18.2018 Professor of Religious Studies College of the Holy Cross The recent dispute over whether Pope Francis denied the existence of hell[…]

Volcano Eruption Influenced Medieval Iceland’s Conversion to Christianity

Memories of the largest lava flood in the history of Iceland, recorded in an apocalyptic medieval poem, were used to drive the island’s conversion to Christianity, new research suggests. 03.19.2018 A team of scientists and medieval historians, led by the University of Cambridge, has used information contained within ice cores and tree rings to accurately[…]

Edom Divided: Jews and Christian Anti-Judaism in the Reformation

Jews in the Syngagoue by Rembrandt / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Lars Fischer / 10.27.2017 Honorary Research Associate, Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies University College London “The Reformation” is really an umbrella term that covers a whole range of partly distinct, partly overlapping reformations that emerged and unfolded (even narrowly conceived) over the best[…]

When Americans Tried – and Failed – to Reunite Christianity

LeventeGyori/Shutterstock.com By Dr. David Mislin / 11.08.2017 Assistant Professor, Intellectual Heritage Program Temple University Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther, a German monk, initiated a split in Christianity that came to be known as the Protestant Reformation. After the Reformation, deep divisions between Protestants and Catholics contributed to wars, hostility and violence in Europe and America. For centuries, each side[…]

Ritual Landscapes in Pagan and Early Christian England

   By Dr. Austin Mason and Dr. Tom Williamson Mason: Assistant Professor of History, Carleton College Williamson: Professor of Landscape History, University of East Anglia Abstract This article explores some of the complex relationships which existed between topographic patterns and social organization in early medieval England. It argues that group identities were not entirely elective[…]

Did Financial Exigency Drive the Roman Empire to Embrace Christianity?

Detail of a Tapestry depicting Constantine’s Victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge designed by Peter Paul Rubens  1623-1625 CE. Photographed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Mary Harrsch © 2011 By Mary Harrsch / 12.20.2017 Historian Writing sometime between AD 307 and AD 310, an anonymous Gallic panegyrist recorded that Constantine witnessed a pagan theophany of Apollo accompanied by Victory, offering him laurel wreaths.[…]

Theodoret and Early Christian Growth in the Greek East

By Dr. Ioannis Papadogiannakis Lecturer in Patristics King’s College London Earth and sea are freed from their ancient ignorance; the error of idols is no longer to be seen; the darkness of ignorance has been dispersed, and the light of knowledge fills with its rays the whole inhabited world. Greeks, Romans, and Barbarians recognize the[…]

Early Modern Islam-Christian Transfers of Military Technology, 1730-1918

Château de Coussac-Bonneval / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Virginia H. Aksan / 01.14.2011 Professor Emeritus of History McMaster University Introduction Contained after 1700, the Ottoman threat to Europe evolved into an Austro-Russian-Ottoman struggle for hegemony over the remaining frontiers of the Danube, the Crimea and the Caucasus. The era from 1700 to 1900 is generally[…]