Christianity is one of the world's main religions. It is a monotheistic faith that developed its core concepts around the life and message of Jesus Christ. Practitioners are called Christians, the central holy scripture is the Bible, and the local house of worship is called a church. A common symbol of Christianity is the cross.
Christianity was formed after the ministry of a Jewish carpenter, Jesus, who preached around 30 AD in the lands around Jerusalem. Christians believe that Jesus was the fulfillment of Jewish predictions for a messiah and because his popular message was dangerous to the existing religious establishment, the local Jewish leaders turned him over to the Roman authorities for execution on a cross, but that he later resurrected and briefly appeared to his followers. His followers continued to spread his teachings, forming communities in the eastern Mediterranean world. Initially persecuted by the Roman Empire, the movement grew and eventually became the state religion of the Roman Empire. Some smaller communities of Christian, living outside the Roman world, eventually became isolated but endured for centuries.
During the Middle Ages, Christianity spread through most of Europe, and often adopted and co-opted local customs. Saints became important venerated figures in the religion, as holy people whose spirits could be called upon for intercession with God for miracles. The Christian church, headquartered in Rome became a vast hierarchy, developing political and economic power. A major split occurred in Christianity when the communities of the Byzantine world broke with the Roman-led church over issues of authority and theology. Eastern Christianity would become the Orthodox church, while Western Christianity would become the Roman Catholic Church. During the Middle Ages, Christianity played a main role in preserving the cultural tradition of the past, while much of civilization had descended in to barbarism and feudalism. Also in the Middle Ages, the church called for the Crusades, a series of wars to retake the Holy Land, which had fallen under the control of the emerging Islamic empire.
In the late Middle Ages and Renaissance period, the Roman Catholic Church was divided again as reformers, such as Martin Luther, sought changes in the worldly structure of the church. These elements formed the Protestant Reformation, breaking Christianity into many more denominations. The message of Christianity was spread to the rest of the world through the colonization by European powers, sometimes through the forced conversion of the indigenous peoples. By the twentieth century, Christianity had expanded from Europe to become the dominant religion in North America, South America and missionaries continued to spread the message in Africa and Asia.
Figures in Christianity
See also figures in Judaism
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