Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Geographic Expansion of Christianity (AD 33-100)

In AD 33, the geographic extent of Christianity was limited to one large room in Jerusalem.

By AD 100, Christianity had spread north and south from Jerusalem to other cities located mostly in eastern Olympia. Some were near the eastern Mediterranean coast. Other cities lay southwest in Egypt and northwest in Anatolia, Hellas, and finally Italia. In spreading, Christianity jumped from one city to another along coastal trade routes rather than moving from one city to the towns and villages surrounding it.

The church in Jerusalem lost its central role in Christianity after the council of Christian leaders held in that city in AD 52. By 70, the church in Jerusalem had moved to Pella to escape troubles in Jerusalem caused by the Jewish rebellion against Rome which began in 66. The church’s move to geographic marginality was paralleled theologically. The church in Pella remained Jewish. Following the impact of Paul’s preaching, members of other churches were increasingly people who had not been Jewish before they became Christians and who did not become Jewish afterward.

By 100, Anatolia had the greatest number of churches. The most important churches, however, were located in the cities of Antioch (Syria), Alexandria (Egypt), and Rome (Italia). Strange that, aside from Antioch, churches we hear much about in the New Testament—Jerusalem, Corinth, Thessalonica—did not remain important to the movement as a whole.