Christianity[note 1] is a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament.
Depending on the specific denomination of Christianity, practices may include baptism, Eucharist (Holy Communion or the Lord's Supper), prayer (including the Lord's Prayer), confession, confirmation, burial rites, marriage rites and the religious education of children. Most denominations have ordained clergy and hold regular group worship services.
Christianity developed during the 1st century CE as a Jewish Christian sect of Second Temple Judaism. It soon also attracted Gentile God-fearers, which lead to a departure from Jewish customs, and the establishment of Christianity as an independent religion. During the first centuries of its existence Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, and also to Ethiopia, Transcaucasia, and some parts of Asia.
Constantine the Great converted to Christianity and decriminalized it via the Edict of Milan (313). The First Council of Nicaea (325) established a uniform set of beliefs across the Roman Empire. By 380, the Roman Empire designated Christianity as the state religion. The period of the first seven ecumenical councils is sometimes referred to as the Great Church, the united full communion of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Oriental Orthodoxy, before their schisms.
Oriental Orthodoxy split after the Council of Chalcedon (451) over differences in Christology. The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church separated in the East–West Schism (1054), especially over the authority of the Pope. Similarly, in 1521, Protestants were excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church in the Protestant Reformation over Papal primacy, the nature of salvation, whether it was permissible to burn heretics, and other ecclesiological and theological disputes.
There are 2.3 billion Christians in the world, or 31.4% of the global population. Today, the four largest branches of Christianity are the Catholic Church (1.3 billion), Protestantism (920 million), the Eastern Orthodox Church (260 million) and Oriental Orthodoxy (86 million).
The term "Christian" (Greek: Χριστιανός) was first used in reference to Jesus's disciples in the city of Antioch[Acts 11:26] about 44 AD, meaning "followers of Christ". The name was given by the non-Jewish inhabitants of Antioch to the disciples of Jesus. In the New Testament, the names by which the disciples were known among themselves were "brethren", "the faithful", "elect", "saints" and "believers". The earliest recorded use of the term "Christianity" (Greek: Χριστιανισμός) was by Ignatius of Antioch, in around 100 AD.
Concise doctrinal statements or confessions of religious beliefs are known as creeds. They began as baptismal formulae and were later expanded during the Christological controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries to become statements of faith.
The Apostles' Creed is the most widely accepted statement of the articles of Christian faith. It is used by a number of Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes, most visibly by liturgical churches of Western Christian tradition, including the Latin Church of the Catholic Church, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and Western Rite Orthodoxy. It is also used by Presbyterians, Methodists, and Congregationalists. This particular creed was developed between the 2nd and 9th centuries. Its central doctrines are those of the Trinity and God the Creator. Each of the doctrines found in this creed can be traced to statements current in the apostolic period. The creed was apparently used as a summary of Christian doctrine for baptismal candidates in the churches of Rome. Its main points include:
The Nicene Creed was formulated, largely in response to Arianism, at the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople in 325 and 381 respectively, and ratified as the universal creed of Christendom by the First Council of Ephesus in 431.
The Chalcedonian Definition, or Creed of Chalcedon, developed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, though rejected by the Oriental Orthodox churches, taught Christ "to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably": one divine and one human, and that both natures, while perfect in themselves, are nevertheless also perfectly united into one person.
The Athanasian Creed, received in the Western Church as having the same status as the Nicene and Chalcedonian, says: "We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance."
Many evangelical Protestants reject creeds as definitive statements of faith, even while agreeing with some or all of the substance of the creeds. Most Baptists do not use creeds "in that they have not sought to establish binding authoritative confessions of faith on one another.":111 Also rejecting creeds are groups with roots in the Restoration Movement, such as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada, and the Churches of Christ.:14–15:123
The central tenet of Christianity is the belief in Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah (Christ). Christians believe that Jesus, as the Messiah, was anointed by God as savior of humanity and hold that Jesus' coming was the fulfillment of messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The Christian concept of the Messiah differs significantly from the contemporary Jewish concept. The core Christian belief is that through belief in and acceptance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, sinful humans can be reconciled to God, and thereby are offered salvation and the promise of eternal life.
While there have been many theological disputes over the nature of Jesus over the earliest centuries of Christian history, generally, Christians believe that Jesus is God incarnate and "true God and true man" (or both fully divine and fully human). Jesus, having become fully human, suffered the pains and temptations of a mortal man, but did not sin. As fully God, he rose to life again. According to the New Testament, he rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will ultimately return[Acts 1:9–11] to fulfill the rest of the Messianic prophecy, including the resurrection of the dead, the Last Judgment, and the final establishment of the Kingdom of God.
According to the canonical gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born from the Virgin Mary. Little of Jesus' childhood is recorded in the canonical gospels, although infancy gospels were popular in antiquity. In comparison, his adulthood, especially the week before his death, is well documented in the gospels contained within the New Testament, because that part of his life is believed to be most important. The biblical accounts of Jesus' ministry include: his baptism, miracles, preaching, teaching, and deeds.
Christians consider the resurrection of Jesus to be the cornerstone of their faith (see 1 Corinthians 15) and the most important event in history. Among Christian beliefs, the death and resurrection of Jesus are two core events on which much of Christian doctrine and theology is based. According to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified, died a physical death, was buried within a tomb, and rose from the dead three days later.[Jn. 19:30–31] [Mk. 16:1] [16:6]
The New Testament mentions several resurrection appearances of Jesus on different occasions to his twelve apostles and disciples, including "more than five hundred brethren at once",[1Cor 15:6] before Jesus' Ascension to heaven. Jesus' death and resurrection are commemorated by Christians in all worship services, with special emphasis during Holy Week, which includes Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
The death and resurrection of Jesus are usually considered the most important events in Christian theology, partly because they demonstrate that Jesus has power over life and death and therefore has the authority and power to give people eternal life.
Christian churches accept and teach the New Testament account of the resurrection of Jesus with very few exceptions. Some modern scholars use the belief of Jesus' followers in the resurrection as a point of departure for establishing the continuity of the historical Jesus and the proclamation of the early church. Some liberal Christians do not accept a literal bodily resurrection, seeing the story as richly symbolic and spiritually nourishing myth. Arguments over death and resurrection claims occur at many religious debates and interfaith dialogues. Paul the Apostle, an early Christian convert and missionary, wrote, "If Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless."[1Cor 15:14] 
Paul the Apostle, like Jews and Roman pagans of his time, believed that sacrifice can bring about new kinship ties, purity, and eternal life. For Paul, the necessary sacrifice was the death of Jesus: Gentiles who are "Christ's" are, like Israel, descendants of Abraham and "heirs according to the promise".[Gal. 3:29]  The God who raised Jesus from the dead would also give new life to the "mortal bodies" of Gentile Christians, who had become with Israel, the "children of God", and were therefore no longer "in the flesh".[Rom. 8:9,11,16] 
Modern Christian churches tend to be much more concerned with how humanity can be saved from a universal condition of sin and death than the question of how both Jews and Gentiles can be in God's family. According to Eastern Orthodox theology, based upon their understanding of the atonement as put forward by Irenaeus' recapitulation theory, Jesus' death is a ransom. This restores the relation with God, who is loving and reaches out to humanity, and offers the possibility of theosis c.q. divinization, becoming the kind of humans God wants humanity to be. According to Catholic doctrine, Jesus' death satisfies the wrath of God, aroused by the offense to God's honour caused by human's sinfulness. The Catholic Church teaches that salvation does not occur without faithfulness on the part of Christians; converts must live in accordance with principles of love and ordinarily must be baptized. In Protestant theology, Jesus' death is regarded as a substitionary penalty carried by Jesus, for the debt that has to be paid by humankind when it broke God's moral law. Martin Luther taught that baptism was necessary for salvation, but modern Lutherans and other Protestants tend to teach that salvation is a gift that comes to an individual by God's grace, sometimes defined as "unmerited favor", even apart from baptism.
Christians differ in their views on the extent to which individuals' salvation is pre-ordained by God. Reformed theology places distinctive emphasis on grace by teaching that individuals are completely incapable of self-redemption, but that sanctifying grace is irresistible. In contrast Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Arminian Protestants believe that the exercise of free will is necessary to have faith in Jesus.
Trinity refers to the teaching that the one God comprises three distinct, eternally co-existing persons: the Father, the Son (incarnate in Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Together, these three persons are sometimes called the Godhead, although there is no single term in use in Scripture to denote the unified Godhead. In the words of the Athanasian Creed, an early statement of Christian belief, "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God". They are distinct from another: the Father has no source, the Son is begotten of the Father, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father. Though distinct, the three persons cannot be divided from one another in being or in operation. While some Christians also believe that God appeared as the Father in the Old Testament, it is agreed that he appeared as the Son in the New Testament, and will still continue to manifest as the Holy Spirit in the present. But still, God still existed as three persons in each of these times. However, traditionally there is a belief that it was the Son who appeared in the Old Testament because, for example, when the Trinity is depicted in art, the Son typically has the distinctive appearance, a cruciform halo identifying Christ, and in depictions of the Garden of Eden, this looks forward to an Incarnation yet to occur. In some Early Christian sarcophagi the Logos is distinguished with a beard, "which allows him to appear ancient, even pre-existent."
The Trinity is an essential doctrine of mainstream Christianity. From earlier than the times of the Nicene Creed (325) Christianity advocated the triune mystery-nature of God as a normative profession of faith. According to Roger E. Olson and Christopher Hall, through prayer, meditation, study and practice, the Christian community concluded "that God must exist as both a unity and trinity", codifying this in ecumenical council at the end of the 4th century.
According to this doctrine, God is not divided in the sense that each person has a third of the whole; rather, each person is considered to be fully God (see Perichoresis). The distinction lies in their relations, the Father being unbegotten; the Son being begotten of the Father; and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and (in Western Christian theology) from the Son. Regardless of this apparent difference, the three "persons" are each eternal and omnipotent. Other Christian religions including Unitarian Universalism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormonism, do not share those views on the Trinity.
The Greek word trias[note 2] is first seen in this sense in the works of Theophilus of Antioch; his text reads: "of the Trinity, of God, and of His Word, and of His Wisdom". The term may have been in use before this time; its Latin equivalent,[note 2] trinitas, appears afterwards with an explicit reference to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in Tertullian. In the following century, the word was in general use. It is found in many passages of Origen.
Trinitarianism denotes Christians who believe in the concept of the Trinity. Almost all Christian denominations and churches hold Trinitarian beliefs. Although the words "Trinity" and "Triune" do not appear in the Bible, theologians, beginning in the 3rd century, developed the term and concept to facilitate comprehension of the New Testament teachings of God as being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since that time, Christian theologians have been careful to emphasize that Trinity does not imply that there are three gods (the antitrinitarian heresy of Tritheism), nor that each hypostasis of the Trinity is one-third of an infinite God (partialism), nor that the Son and the Holy Spirit are beings created by and subordinate to the Father (Arianism). Rather, the Trinity is defined as one God in three Persons.
Nontrinitarianism (or antitrinitarianism) refers to theology that rejects the doctrine of the Trinity. Various nontrinitarian views, such as adoptionism or modalism, existed in early Christianity, leading to the disputes about Christology. Nontrinitarianism later appeared again in the Gnosticism of the Cathars between the 11th and 13th centuries, among groups with Unitarian theology in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, in the 18th-century Enlightenment, and in some groups arising during the Second Great Awakening of the 19th century.
The end of things, whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, or the end of the world, broadly speaking, is Christian eschatology; the study of the destiny of humans as it is revealed in the Bible. The major issues in Christian eschatology are the Tribulation, death and the afterlife, the Rapture, the Second Coming of Jesus, Resurrection of the Dead, Heaven and Hell, Millennialism, the Last Judgment, the end of the world, and the New Heavens and New Earth.
Christians believe that the second coming of Christ will occur at the end of time, after a period of severe persecution (the Great Tribulation). All who have died will be resurrected bodily from the dead for the Last Judgment. Jesus will fully establish the Kingdom of God in fulfillment of scriptural prophecies.
Most Christians believe that human beings experience divine judgment and are rewarded either with eternal life or eternal damnation. This includes the general judgement at the resurrection of the dead as well as the belief (held by Catholics, Orthodox and most Protestants) in a judgment particular to the individual soul upon physical death.
In Catholicism, those who die in a state of grace, i.e., without any mortal sin separating them from God, but are still imperfectly purified from the effects of sin, undergo purification through the intermediate state of purgatory to achieve the holiness necessary for entrance into God's presence. Those who have attained this goal are called saints (Latin sanctus, "holy").
Some Christian groups, such as Seventh-day Adventists, hold to mortalism, the belief that the human soul is not naturally immortal, and is unconscious during the intermediate state between bodily death and resurrection. These Christians also hold to Annihilationism, the belief that subsequent to the final judgement, the wicked will cease to exist rather than suffer everlasting torment. Jehovah's Witnesses hold to a similar view.
Justin Martyr described 2nd-century Christian liturgy in his First Apology (c. 150) to Emperor Antoninus Pius, and his description remains relevant to the basic structure of Christian liturgical worship:
And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.
Thus, as Justin described, Christians assemble for communal worship on Sunday, the day of the resurrection, though other liturgical practices often occur outside this setting. Scripture readings are drawn from the Old and New Testaments, but especially the gospel accounts. Often these are arranged on an annual cycle, using a book called a lectionary. Instruction is given based on these readings, called a sermon, or homily. There are a variety of congregational prayers, including thanksgiving, confession, and intercession, which occur throughout the service and take a variety of forms including recited, responsive, silent, or sung. The Lord's Prayer, or Our Father, is regularly prayed.
Some groups depart from this traditional liturgical structure. A division is often made between "High" church services, characterized by greater solemnity and ritual, and "Low" services, but even within these two categories, there is great diversity in forms of worship. Seventh-day Adventists meet on Saturday, while others do not meet on a weekly basis. Charismatic or Pentecostal congregations may spontaneously feel led by the Holy Spirit to action rather than follow a formal order of service, including spontaneous prayer. Quakers sit quietly until moved by the Holy Spirit to speak.
Some evangelical services resemble concerts with rock and pop music, dancing and use of multimedia. For groups which do not recognize a priesthood distinct from ordinary believers, the services are generally led by a minister, preacher, or pastor. Still others may lack any formal leaders, either in principle or by local necessity. Some churches use only a cappella music, either on principle (for example, many Churches of Christ object to the use of instruments in worship) or by tradition (as in Orthodoxy).
Nearly all forms of churchmanship celebrate the Eucharist (Holy Communion), which consists of a consecrated meal. It is reenacted in accordance with Jesus' instruction at the Last Supper that his followers do in remembrance of him as when he gave his disciples bread, saying, "This is my body", and gave them wine saying, "This is my blood". Some Christian denominations practice closed communion. They offer communion to those who are already united in that denomination or sometimes individual church. Catholics restrict participation to their members who are not in a state of mortal sin. Most other churches practice open communion since they view communion as a means to unity, rather than an end, and invite all believing Christians to participate.
Worship can be varied for special events like baptisms or weddings in the service or significant feast days. In the early church, Christians and those yet to complete initiation would separate for the Eucharistic part of the worship. In many churches today, adults and children will separate for all or some of the service to receive age-appropriate teaching. Such children's worship is often called Sunday school or Sabbath school (Sunday schools are often held before rather than during services).
In Christian belief and practice, a sacrament is a rite, instituted by Christ, that confers grace, constituting a sacred mystery. The term is derived from the Latin word sacramentum, which was used to translate the Greek word for mystery. Views concerning both which rites are sacramental, and what it means for an act to be a sacrament, vary among Christian denominations and traditions.
The most conventional functional definition of a sacrament is that it is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, that conveys an inward, spiritual grace through Christ. The two most widely accepted sacraments are Baptism and the Eucharist (or Holy Communion), however, the majority of Christians also recognize five additional sacraments: Confirmation (Chrismation in the Orthodox tradition), Holy orders (ordination), Penance (or Confession), Anointing of the Sick, and Matrimony (see Christian views on marriage).
Taken together, these are the Seven Sacraments as recognized by churches in the High Church tradition—notably Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Independent Catholic, Old Catholic, many Anglicans, and some Lutherans. Most other denominations and traditions typically affirm only Baptism and Eucharist as sacraments, while some Protestant groups, such as the Quakers, reject sacramental theology. Christian denominations, such as Baptists, which believe these rites do not communicate grace, prefer to call Baptism and Holy Communion ordinances rather than sacraments.
In addition to this, the Church of the East has two additional sacraments in place of the traditional sacraments of Matrimony and the Anointing of the Sick. These include Holy Leaven (Melka) and the sign of the cross.
Catholics, Anglicans, Eastern Christians, and traditional Protestant communities frame worship around the liturgical year. The liturgical cycle divides the year into a series of seasons, each with their theological emphases, and modes of prayer, which can be signified by different ways of decorating churches, colours of paraments and vestments for clergy, scriptural readings, themes for preaching and even different traditions and practices often observed personally or in the home.
Western Christian liturgical calendars are based on the cycle of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, and Eastern Christians use analogous calendars based on the cycle of their respective rites. Calendars set aside holy days, such as solemnities which commemorate an event in the life of Jesus, Mary, or the saints, and periods of fasting, such as Lent and other pious events such as memoria, or lesser festivals commemorating saints. Christian groups that do not follow a liturgical tradition often retain certain celebrations, such as Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost: these are the celebrations of Christ's birth, resurrection, and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, respectively. A few denominations make no use of a liturgical calendar.
Christianity has not generally practiced aniconism, the avoidance or prohibition of devotional images, even if early Jewish Christians and some modern denominations, invoking the Decalogue's prohibition of idolatry, avoided figures in their symbols.
The cross, today one of the most widely recognized symbols, was used by Christians from the earliest times. Tertullian, in his book De Corona, tells how it was already a tradition for Christians to trace the sign of the cross on their foreheads. Although the cross was known to the early Christians, the crucifix did not appear in use until the 5th century.
Among the earliest Christian symbols, that of the fish or Ichthys seems to have ranked first in importance, as seen on monumental sources such as tombs from the first decades of the 2nd century. Its popularity seemingly arose from the Greek word ichthys (fish) forming an acronym for the Greek phrase Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter (Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ),[note 3] (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior), a concise summary of Christian faith.
Other major Christian symbols include the chi-rho monogram, the dove (symbolic of the Holy Spirit), the sacrificial lamb (representing Christ's sacrifice), the vine (symbolizing the connection of the Christian with Christ) and many others. These all derive from passages of the New Testament.
Baptism is the ritual act, with the use of water, by which a person is admitted to membership of the Church. Beliefs on baptism vary among denominations. Differences occur firstly on whether the act has any spiritual significance. Some, such as the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, as well as Lutherans and Anglicans, hold to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which affirms that baptism creates or strengthens a person's faith, and is intimately linked to salvation. Others view baptism as a purely symbolic act, an external public declaration of the inward change which has taken place in the person, but not as spiritually efficacious. Secondly, there are differences of opinion on the methodology of the act. These methods are: by immersion; if immersion is total, by submersion; by affusion (pouring); and by aspersion (sprinkling). Those who hold the first view may also adhere to the tradition of infant baptism; the Orthodox Churches all practice infant baptism and always baptize by total immersion repeated three times in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church also practices infant baptism, usually by affusion, and utilizing the Trinitarian formula.
Jesus' teaching on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount displays a distinct lack of interest in the external aspects of prayer. A concern with the techniques of prayer is condemned as "pagan", and instead a simple trust in God's fatherly goodness is encouraged.[Mat. 6:5–15] Elsewhere in the New Testament, this same freedom of access to God is also emphasized.[Phil. 4:6][Jam. 5:13–19] This confident position should be understood in light of Christian belief in the unique relationship between the believer and Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
In subsequent Christian traditions, certain physical gestures are emphasized, including medieval gestures such as genuflection or making the sign of the cross. Kneeling, bowing, and prostrations (see also poklon) are often practiced in more traditional branches of Christianity. Frequently in Western Christianity, the hands are placed palms together and forward as in the feudal commendation ceremony. At other times the older orans posture may be used, with palms up and elbows in.
Intercessory prayer is prayer offered for the benefit of other people. There are many intercessory prayers recorded in the Bible, including prayers of the Apostle Peter on behalf of sick persons[Acts 9:40] and by prophets of the Old Testament in favor of other people.[1Ki 17:19–22] In the Epistle of James, no distinction is made between the intercessory prayer offered by ordinary believers and the prominent Old Testament prophet Elijah.[Jam 5:16–18] The effectiveness of prayer in Christianity derives from the power of God rather than the status of the one praying.
The ancient church, in both Eastern and Western Christianity, developed a tradition of asking for the intercession of (deceased) saints, and this remains the practice of most Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, and some Anglican churches. Churches of the Protestant Reformation, however, rejected prayer to the saints, largely on the basis of the sole mediatorship of Christ. The reformer Huldrych Zwingli admitted that he had offered prayers to the saints until his reading of the Bible convinced him that this was idolatrous.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God." The Book of Common Prayer in the Anglican tradition is a guide which provides a set order for church services, containing set prayers, scripture readings, and hymns or sung Psalms.
Christianity, like other religions, has adherents whose beliefs and biblical interpretations vary. Christianity regards the biblical canon, the Old Testament and the New Testament, as the inspired word of God. The traditional view of inspiration is that God worked through human authors so that what they produced was what God wished to communicate. The Greek word referring to inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16 is theopneustos, which literally means "God-breathed".
Some believe that divine inspiration makes our present Bibles inerrant. Others claim inerrancy for the Bible in its original manuscripts, although none of those are extant. Still others maintain that only a particular translation is inerrant, such as the King James Version. Another closely related view is biblical infallibility or limited inerrancy, which affirms that the Bible is free of error as a guide to salvation, but may include errors on matters such as history, geography, or science.
The books of the Bible accepted by the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches vary somewhat, with Jews accepting only the Hebrew Bible as canonical; however, there is substantial overlap. These variations are a reflection of the range of traditions, and of the councils that have convened on the subject. Every version of the Old Testament always includes the books of the Tanakh, the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Catholic and Orthodox canons, in addition to the Tanakh, also include the deuterocanonical books as part of the Old Testament. These books appear in the Septuagint, but are regarded by Protestants to be apocryphal. However, they are considered to be important historical documents which help to inform the understanding of words, grammar, and syntax used in the historical period of their conception. Some versions of the Bible include a separate Apocrypha section between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The New Testament, originally written in Koine Greek, contains 27 books which are agreed upon by all churches.
Modern scholarship has raised many issues with the Bible. While the Authorized King James Version is held to by many because of its striking English prose, in fact it was translated from the Erasmus Greek Bible, which in turn "was based on a single 12th Century manuscript that is one of the worst manuscripts we have available to us". Much scholarship in the past several hundred years has gone into comparing different manuscripts in order to reconstruct the original text. Another issue is that several books are considered to be forgeries. The injunction that women "be silent and submissive" in 1 Timothy 2 is thought by many to be a forgery by a follower of Paul, a similar phrase in 1 Corinthians 14, which is thought to be by Paul, appears in different places in different manuscripts and is thought to originally be a margin note by a copyist. Other verses in 1 Corinthians, such as 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 where women are instructed to wear a covering over their hair "when they pray or prophesies", contradict this verse.
A final issue with the Bible is the way in which books were selected for inclusion in the New Testament. Other gospels have now been recovered, such as those found near Nag Hammadi in 1945, and while some of these texts are quite different from what Christians have been used to, it should be understood that some of this newly recovered Gospel material is quite possibly contemporaneous with, or even earlier than, the New Testament Gospels. The core of the Gospel of Thomas, in particular, may date from as early as AD 50 (although some major scholars contest this early dating), and if so would provide an insight into the earliest gospel texts that underlie the canonical Gospels, texts that are mentioned in Luke 1:1–2. The Gospel of Thomas contains much that is familiar from the canonical Gospels—verse 113, for example ("The Father's Kingdom is spread out upon the earth, but people do not see it"), is reminiscent of Luke 17:20–21—and the Gospel of John, with a terminology and approach that is suggestive of what was later termed Gnosticism, has recently been seen as a possible response to the Gospel of Thomas, a text that is commonly labelled proto-Gnostic. Scholarship, then, is currently exploring the relationship in the Early Church between mystical speculation and experience on the one hand and the search for church order on the other, by analyzing new-found texts, by subjecting canonical texts to further scrutiny, and by an examination of the passage of New Testament texts to canonical status.
In antiquity, two schools of exegesis developed in Alexandria and Antioch. The Alexandrian interpretation, exemplified by Origen, tended to read Scripture allegorically, while the Antiochene interpretation adhered to the literal sense, holding that other meanings (called theoria) could only be accepted if based on the literal meaning.
The literal sense of understanding scripture is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture. The spiritual sense is further subdivided into:
Regarding exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation, Catholic theology holds:
Protestant Christians believe that the Bible is a self-sufficient revelation, the final authority on all Christian doctrine, and revealed all truth necessary for salvation. This concept is known as sola scriptura. Protestants characteristically believe that ordinary believers may reach an adequate understanding of Scripture because Scripture itself is clear in its meaning (or "perspicuous"). Martin Luther believed that without God's help, Scripture would be "enveloped in darkness". He advocated for "one definite and simple understanding of Scripture". John Calvin wrote, "all who refuse not to follow the Holy Spirit as their guide, find in the Scripture a clear light". Related to this is "efficacy", that Scripture is able to lead people to faith; and "sufficiency", that the Scriptures contain everything that one needs to know in order to obtain salvation and to live a Christian life.
Protestants stress the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture, the historical-grammatical method. The historical-grammatical method or grammatico-historical method is an effort in Biblical hermeneutics to find the intended original meaning in the text. This original intended meaning of the text is drawn out through examination of the passage in light of the grammatical and syntactical aspects, the historical background, the literary genre, as well as theological (canonical) considerations. The historical-grammatical method distinguishes between the one original meaning and the significance of the text. The significance of the text includes the ensuing use of the text or application. The original passage is seen as having only a single meaning or sense. As Milton S. Terry said: "A fundamental principle in grammatico-historical exposition is that the words and sentences can have but one significance in one and the same connection. The moment we neglect this principle we drift out upon a sea of uncertainty and conjecture." Technically speaking, the grammatical-historical method of interpretation is distinct from the determination of the passage's significance in light of that interpretation. Taken together, both define the term (Biblical) hermeneutics.
Some Protestant interpreters make use of typology.
Christianity developed during the 1st century CE as a Jewish Christian sect of Second Temple Judaism. An early Jewish Christian community was founded in Jerusalem under the leadership of the Pillars of the Church, namely James the Just, the brother of the Lord, Saint Peter, and John. They had known Jesus, and, according to Paul, the arisen Christ had first appeared to James and Peter.
Jewish Christianity soon attracted Gentile God-fearers, posing a problem for its Jewish religious outlook, which insisted on close observance of the Jewish commands. Paul the Apostle solved this by insisting that salvation by faith in Christ, and participation in His death and resurrection, sufficed. At first he persecuted the early Christians, but after a conversion experience h preached to the gentiles, and is regarded as having had a formative effect on the emerging Christian identity as separate from Judaism. Eventually, his departure from Jewish customs would result in the establishment of Christianity as an independent religion.
This formative period was followed by the early bishops, whom Christians consider the successors of the Apostles. From the year 150, Christian teachers began to produce theological and apologetic works aimed at defending the faith. These authors are known as the Church Fathers, and the study of them is called patristics. Notable early Fathers include Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Origen.
According to the New Testament, Christians were from the beginning, subject to persecution by some Jewish and Roman religious authorities. This involved punishments, including death, for Christians such as Stephen[Acts 7:59] and James, son of Zebedee.[Acts 12:2] Further widespread persecution of the Church occurred under nine subsequent Roman emperors, most intensely under Decius and Diocletian.
The presence of Christianity in Africa began in the middle of the 1st century in Egypt and by the end of the 2nd century in the region around Carthage. Mark the Evangelist is claimed to have started the Church of Alexandria in about 43 CE; various later churches and denominations claim this as their own legacy, including the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Important Africans who influenced the early development of Christianity include Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen of Alexandria, Cyprian, Athanasius, and Augustine of Hippo. The later rise of Islam in North Africa reduced the size and numbers of Christian congregations, leaving in large numbers only the Coptic Church in Egypt, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in the Horn of Africa and the Nubian Church in the Sudan (Nobatia, Makuria and Alodia).
King Trdat IV made Christianity the state religion in Armenia between 301 and 314. It was not an entirely new religion in Armenia, having penetrated into the country from at least the third century, but it may have been present even earlier.
Under Emperor Constantine, state-sanctioned persecution of early Christians ended with the Edict of Toleration in 311 and the Edict of Milan in 313. At that point, Christianity was still a minority belief, comprising perhaps only five percent of the Roman population. Influenced by his adviser Mardonius, Constantine's nephew Julian unsuccessfully tried to suppress Christianity. On 27 February 380, Theodosius I, Gratian, and Valentinian II established Nicene Christianity as the state church of the Roman Empire. As soon as it became connected to the state, Christianity grew wealthy; the Church solicited donations from the rich and could now own land.
Constantine was also instrumental in the convocation of the First Council of Nicaea in 325, which sought to address Arianism and formulated the Nicene Creed, which is still used by the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglican Communion, and many Protestant churches. Nicaea was the first of a series of ecumenical councils, which formally defined critical elements of the theology of the Church, notably concerning Christology. The Assyrian Church of the East did not accept the third and following ecumenical councils and is still separate today.
In terms of prosperity and cultural life, the Byzantine Empire was one of the peaks in Christian history and Christian civilization, and Constantinople remained the leading city of the Christian world in size, wealth, and culture. There was a renewed interest in classical Greek philosophy, as well as an increase in literary output in vernacular Greek. Byzantine art and literature held a preeminent place in Europe, and the cultural impact of Byzantine art on the West during this period was enormous and of long-lasting significance.
With the decline and fall of the Roman Empire in the West, the papacy became a political player, first visible in Pope Leo's diplomatic dealings with Huns and Vandals. The church also entered into a long period of missionary activity and expansion among the various tribes. While Arianists instituted the death penalty for practicing pagans (see the Massacre of Verden, for example), what would later become Catholicism also spread among the Hungarians, the Germanic, the Celtic, the Baltic and some Slavic peoples.
Around 500, St. Benedict set out his Monastic Rule, establishing a system of regulations for the foundation and running of monasteries. Monasticism became a powerful force throughout Europe, and gave rise to many early centers of learning, most famously in Ireland, Scotland, and Gaul, contributing to the Carolingian Renaissance of the 9th century.
In the 7th century, Muslims conquered Syria (including Jerusalem), North Africa, and Spain, converting some of the Christian population to Islam, and placing the rest under a separate legal status. Part of the Muslims' success was due to the exhaustion of the Byzantine Empire in its decades long conflict with Persia. Beginning in the 8th century, with the rise of Carolingian leaders, the Papacy sought greater political support in the Frankish Kingdom.
The Middle Ages brought about major changes within the church. Pope Gregory the Great dramatically reformed the ecclesiastical structure and administration. In the early 8th century, iconoclasm became a divisive issue, when it was sponsored by the Byzantine emperors. The Second Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (787) finally pronounced in favor of icons. In the early 10th century, Western Christian monasticism was further rejuvenated through the leadership of the great Benedictine monastery of Cluny.
In the West, from the 11th century onward, some older cathedral schools became universities (see, for example, University of Oxford, University of Paris and University of Bologna). Previously, higher education had been the domain of Christian cathedral schools or monastic schools (Scholae monasticae), led by monks and nuns. Evidence of such schools dates back to the 6th century CE. These new universities expanded the curriculum to include academic programs for clerics, lawyers, civil servants, and physicians.
Originally teaching only theology, universities steadily added subjects including medicine, philosophy, and law, becoming the direct ancestors of modern institutions of learning. The university is generally regarded as an institution that has its origin in the Medieval Christian setting.
Accompanying the rise of the "new towns" throughout Europe, mendicant orders were founded, bringing the consecrated religious life out of the monastery and into the new urban setting. The two principal mendicant movements were the Franciscans and the Dominicans, founded by St. Francis and St. Dominic, respectively. Both orders made significant contributions to the development of the great universities of Europe. Another new order was the Cistercians, whose large isolated monasteries spearheaded the settlement of former wilderness areas. In this period, church building and ecclesiastical architecture reached new heights, culminating in the orders of Romanesque and Gothic architecture and the building of the great European cathedrals.
From 1095 under the pontificate of Urban II, the Crusades were launched. These were a series of military campaigns in the Holy Land and elsewhere, initiated in response to pleas from the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I for aid against Turkish expansion. The Crusades ultimately failed to stifle Islamic aggression and even contributed to Christian enmity with the sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.
The Christian Church experienced internal conflict between the 7th and 13th centuries that resulted in a schism between the so-called Latin or Western Christian branch (the Catholic Church), and an Eastern, largely Greek, branch (the Eastern Orthodox Church). The two sides disagreed on a number of administrative, liturgical and doctrinal issues, most notably papal primacy of jurisdiction. The Second Council of Lyon (1274) and the Council of Florence (1439) attempted to reunite the churches, but in both cases, the Eastern Orthodox refused to implement the decisions, and the two principal churches remain in schism to the present day. However, the Catholic Church has achieved union with various smaller eastern churches.
In the thirteenth century, a new emphasis on Jesus' suffering, exemplified by the Franciscans' preaching, had the consequence of turning worshippers' attention towards Jews, on whom Christians had placed the blame for Jesus' death. Christianity's limited tolerance of Jews was not new—Augustine of Hippo said that Jews should not be allowed to enjoy the citizenship that Christians took for granted—but the growing antipathy towards Jews was a factor that led to the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290, the first of many such expulsions in Europe.
Beginning around 1184, following the crusade against Cathar heresy, various institutions, broadly referred to as the Inquisition, were established with the aim of suppressing heresy and securing religious and doctrinal unity within Christianity through conversion and prosecution.
The 15th-century Renaissance brought about a renewed interest in ancient and classical learning. During the Reformation, Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 against the sale of indulgences. Printed copies soon spread throughout Europe. In 1521, the Edict of Worms condemned and excommunicated Luther and his followers, resulting in the schism of the Western Christendom into several branches.
Other reformers like Zwingli, Oecolampadius, Calvin, Knox, and Arminius further criticized Catholic teaching and worship. These challenges developed into the movement called Protestantism, which repudiated the primacy of the pope, the role of tradition, the seven sacraments, and other doctrines and practices. The Reformation in England began in 1534, when King Henry VIII had himself declared head of the Church of England. Beginning in 1536, the monasteries throughout England, Wales and Ireland were dissolved.
Thomas Müntzer, Andreas Karlstadt and other theologians perceived both the Catholic Church and the confessions of the Magisterial Reformation as corrupted. Their activity brought about the Radical Reformation, which gave birth to various Anabaptist denominations.
Partly in response to the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church engaged in a substantial process of reform and renewal, known as the Counter-Reformation or Catholic Reform. The Council of Trent clarified and reasserted Catholic doctrine. During the following centuries, competition between Catholicism and Protestantism became deeply entangled with political struggles among European states.
Meanwhile, the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492 brought about a new wave of missionary activity. Partly from missionary zeal, but under the impetus of colonial expansion by the European powers, Christianity spread to the Americas, Oceania, East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Throughout Europe, the division caused by the Reformation led to outbreaks of religious violence and the establishment of separate state churches in Europe. Lutheranism spread into the northern, central, and eastern parts of present-day Germany, Livonia, and Scandinavia. Anglicanism was established in England in 1534. Calvinism and its varieties, such as Presbyterianism, were introduced in Scotland, the Netherlands, Hungary, Switzerland, and France. Arminianism gained followers in the Netherlands and Frisia. Ultimately, these differences led to the outbreak of conflicts in which religion played a key factor. The Thirty Years' War, the English Civil War, and the French Wars of Religion are prominent examples. These events intensified the Christian debate on persecution and toleration.
In the era known as the Great Divergence, when in the West, the Age of Enlightenment and the scientific revolution brought about great societal changes, Christianity was confronted with various forms of skepticism and with certain modern political ideologies, such as versions of socialism and liberalism. Events ranged from mere anti-clericalism to violent outbursts against Christianity, such as the dechristianization of France during the French Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, and certain Marxist movements, especially the Russian Revolution and the persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union under state atheism.
Especially pressing in Europe was the formation of nation states after the Napoleonic era. In all European countries, different Christian denominations found themselves in competition to greater or lesser extents with each other and with the state. Variables were the relative sizes of the denominations and the religious, political, and ideological orientation of the states. Urs Altermatt of the University of Fribourg, looking specifically at Catholicism in Europe, identifies four models for the European nations. In traditionally Catholic-majority countries such as Belgium, Spain, and Austria, to some extent, religious and national communities are more or less identical. Cultural symbiosis and separation are found in Poland, the Republic of Ireland, and Switzerland, all countries with competing denominations. Competition is found in Germany, the Netherlands, and again Switzerland, all countries with minority Catholic populations, which to a greater or lesser extent identified with the nation. Finally, separation between religion (again, specifically Catholicism) and the state is found to a great degree in France and Italy, countries where the state actively opposed itself to the authority of the Catholic Church.
The combined factors of the formation of nation states and ultramontanism, especially in Germany and the Netherlands, but also in England to a much lesser extent, often forced Catholic churches, organizations, and believers to choose between the national demands of the state and the authority of the Church, specifically the papacy. This conflict came to a head in the First Vatican Council, and in Germany would lead directly to the Kulturkampf, where liberals and Protestants under the leadership of Bismarck managed to severely restrict Catholic expression and organization.
Christian commitment in Europe dropped as modernity and secularism came into their own, particularly in the Czech Republic and Estonia, while religious commitments in America have been generally high in comparison to Europe. The late 20th century has shown the shift of Christian adherence to the Third World and the Southern Hemisphere in general, with the West no longer the chief standard bearer of Christianity. Approximately 7 to 10% of Arabs are Christians, most prevalent in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.
With around 2.3 billion adherents, split into three main branches of Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox, Christianity is the world's largest religion. The Christian share of the world's population has stood at around 33% for the last hundred years, which means that one in three persons on Earth are Christians. This masks a major shift in the demographics of Christianity; large increases in the developing world have been accompanied by substantial declines in the developed world, mainly in Europe and North America. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, within the next four decades, Christians will remain the world's largest religion; and by 2050, the Christian population is expected to exceed 3 billion.:60
As a percentage of Christians, the Catholic Church and Orthodoxy (both Eastern and Oriental) are declining in parts of the world (though Catholicism is growing in Asia, in Africa, vibrant in Eastern Europe, etc.), while Protestants and other Christians are on the rise in the developing world. The so-called popular Protestantism[note 4] is one of the fastest growing religious categories in the world. Nevertheless, Catholicism will also continue to grow to 1.63 billion by 2050, according to Todd Johnson of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. Africa alone, by 2015, will be home to 230 million African Catholics. And if in 2018, the U.N. projects that Africa's population will reach 4.5 billion by 2100 (not 2 billion as predicted in 2004), Catholicism will indeed grow, as will other religious groups.
Christianity is the predominant religion in Europe, the Americas, and Southern Africa. In Asia, it is the dominant religion in Georgia, Armenia, East Timor, and the Philippines. However, it is declining in many areas including the Northern and Western United State], Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), northern Europe (including Great Britain, Scandinavia and other places), France, Germany, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec, and parts of Asia (especially the Middle East, due to the Christian emigration, South Korea, Taiwan, and Macau).
The Christian population is not decreasing in Brazil, the Southern United States, and the province of Alberta, Canada, but the percentage is decreasing. In countries such as Australia and New Zealand, the Christian population are declining in both numbers and percentage.
Despite the declining numbers, Christianity remains the dominant religion in the Western World, where 70% are Christians. A 2011 Pew Research Center survey found that 76% of Europeans, 73% in Oceania and about 86% in the Americas (90% in Latin America and 77% in North America) identified themselves as Christians. By 2010 about 157 countries and territories in the world had Christian majorities.
However, there are many charismatic movements that have become well established over large parts of the world, especially Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Since 1900, primarily due to conversion, Protestantism has spread rapidly in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Latin America. From 1960 to 2000, the global growth of the number of reported Evangelical Protestants grew three times the world's population rate, and twice that of Islam.A study conducted by St. Mary's University estimated about 10.2 million Muslim converts to Christianity in 2015. The results also state that significant numbers of Muslims converts to Christianity in Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Belgium, France, Germany, Iran, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, Russia, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, the United States, and Central Asia. It is also reported that Christianity is popular among people of different backgrounds in India (mostly Hindus), and Malaysia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Japan, and South Korea.
In most countries in the developed world, church attendance among people who continue to identify themselves as Christians has been falling over the last few decades. Some sources view this simply as part of a drift away from traditional membership institutions, while others link it to signs of a decline in belief in the importance of religion in general. Europe's Christian population, though in decline, still constitutes the largest geographical component of the religion. According to data from the 2012 European Social Survey, around a third of European Christians say they attend services once a month or more, Conversely about more than two-thirds of Latin American Christians; according to the World Values Survey, about 90% of African Christians (in Ghana, Nigeria, Rwand], South Africa and Zimbabwe) said they attended church regularly.
Christianity, in one form or another, is the sole state religion of the following nations: Argentina (Catholic), Tuvalu (Reformed), Tonga (Methodist), Norway (Lutheran), Costa Rica (Catholic), the Kingdom of Denmark (Lutheran), England (Anglican), Georgia (Georgian Orthodox), Greece (Greek Orthodox), Iceland (Lutheran), Liechtenstein (Catholic), Malta (Catholic), Monaco (Catholic), and Vatican City (Catholic).
|Tradition||Followers||% of the Christian population||% of the world population||Follower dynamics||Dynamics in- and outside Christianity|
The four primary divisions of Christianity are the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Protestantism.:14 A broader distinction that is sometimes drawn is between Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity, which has its origins in the East–West Schism (Great Schism) of the 11th century. However, there are other present and historical Christian groups that do not fit neatly into one of these primary categories.
There is a diversity of doctrines and liturgical practices among groups calling themselves Christian. These groups may vary ecclesiologically in their views on a classification of Christian denominations. The Nicene Creed (325), however, is typically accepted as authoritative by most Christians, including the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and major Protestant, including Anglican, denominations.
By reason of Protestant ecclesiology, ever since its emergence in the 16th century, Protestantism comprises the widest diversity of groupings and practices. In addition to the Lutheran and Reformed (or Calvinist) branches of the Reformation, Anglicanism appeared after the English Reformation. The Anabaptist tradition was largely ostracized by the other Protestant parties at the time, but has achieved a measure of affirmation in contemporary history. Adventist, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, and other Protestant confessions arose in the following centuries.
The Catholic Church consists of those particular Churches, headed by bishops, in communion with the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, as its highest authority in matters of faith, morality, and Church governance. Like Eastern Orthodoxy, the Catholic Church, through apostolic succession, traces its origins to the Christian community founded by Jesus Christ. Catholics maintain that the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" founded by Jesus subsists fully in the Catholic Church, but also acknowledges other Christian churches and communities and works towards reconciliation among all Christians. The Catholic faith is detailed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The 2,834 sees are grouped into 24 particular autonomous Churches (the largest of which being the Latin Church), each with its own distinct traditions regarding the liturgy and the administering of sacraments. With more than 1.1 billion baptized members, the Catholic Church is the largest Christian church and represents over half of all Christians as well as one sixth of the world's population.
The Eastern Orthodox Church consists of those churches in communion with the Patriarchal Sees of the East, such as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Like the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church also traces its heritage to the foundation of Christianity through apostolic succession and has an episcopal structure, though the autonomy of its component parts is emphasized, and most of them are national churches.
A number of conflicts with Western Christianity over questions of doctrine and authority culminated in the Great Schism. Eastern Orthodoxy is the second largest single denomination in Christianity, with an estimated 225–300 million adherents.
The Oriental Orthodox churches (also called "Old Oriental" churches) are those eastern churches that recognize the first three ecumenical councils—Nicaea, Constantinople, and Ephesus—but reject the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon and instead espouse a Miaphysite christology.
The Oriental Orthodox communion consists of six groups: Syriac Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Eritrean Orthodox, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (India), and Armenian Apostolic churches. These six churches, while being in communion with each other, are completely independent hierarchically. These churches are generally not in communion with Eastern Orthodox Churches, with whom they are in dialogue for erecting a communion.
The Assyrian Church of the East, with an unbroken patriarchate established in the 17th century, is an independent Eastern Christian denomination which claims continuity from the Church of the East—in parallel to the Catholic patriarchate established in the 16th century that evolved into the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Pope. It is an Eastern Christian Church that follows the traditional christology and ecclesiology of the historical Church of the East. Largely aniconic and not in communion with any other church, it belongs to the eastern branch of Syriac Christianity, and uses the East Syriac Rite in its liturgy.
Its main spoken language is Syriac, a dialect of Eastern Aramaic, and the majority of its adherents are ethnic Assyrians. It is officially headquartered in the city of Erbil in northern Iraqi Kurdistan, and its original area also spreads into south-eastern Turkey and north-western Iran, corresponding to ancient Assyria. Its hierarchy is composed of metropolitan bishops and diocesan bishops, while lower clergy consists of priests and deacons, who serve in dioceses (eparchies) and parishes throughout the Middle East, India, North America, Oceania, and Europe (including the Caucasus and Russia).
The Ancient Church of the East distinguished itself from the Assyrian Church of the East in 1964. It is one of the Assyrian churches that claim continuity with the historical Patriarchate of Seleucia-Ctesiphon—the Church of the East, one of the oldest Christian churches in Mesopotamia.
In 1521, the Edict of Worms condemned Martin Luther and officially banned citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending or propagating his ideas. This split within the Roman Catholic church is now called the Reformation. Prominent Reformers included Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, and John Calvin. The 1529 Protestation at Speyer against being excommunicated gave this party the name Protestantism. Luther's primary theological heirs are known as Lutherans. Zwingli and Calvin's heirs are far broader denominationally, and are referred to as the Reformed tradition.
Since the Anglican, Lutheran, and the Reformed branches of Protestantism originated for the most part in cooperation with the government, these movements are termed the "Magisterial Reformation". On the other hand, groups such as the Anabaptists, who often do not consider themselves to be Protestant, originated in the Radical Reformation, which though sometimes protected under Acts of Toleration, do not trace their history back to any state church. They are further distinguished by their rejection of infant baptism; they believe in baptism only of adult believers—credobaptism (Anabaptists include the Amish, Apostolic, Bruderhof, Mennonites, Hutterites and Schwarzenau Brethren/German Baptist groups.)
The term Protestant also refers to any churches which formed later, with either the Magisterial or Radical traditions. In the 18th century, for example, Methodism grew out of Anglican minister John Wesley's evangelical and revival movement. Several Pentecostal and non-denominational churches, which emphasize the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, in turn grew out of Methodism. Because Methodists, Pentecostals and other evangelicals stress "accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior", which comes from Wesley's emphasis of the New Birth, they often refer to themselves as being born-again.
Estimates of the total number of Protestants are very uncertain, but it seems clear that Protestantism is the second largest major group of Christians after Catholicism in number of followers, although the Eastern Orthodox Church is larger than any single Protestant denomination. Often that number is put at more than 800 million, corresponding to nearly 40% of world's Christians. The majority of Protestants are members of just a handful of denominational families, i.e. Adventists, Anglicans, Baptists, Reformed (Calvinists), Lutherans, Methodists, and Pentecostals. Nondenominational, evangelical, charismatic, neo-charismatic, independent, and other churches are on the rise, and constitute a significant part of Protestant Christianity.
Some groups of individuals who hold basic Protestant tenets identify themselves simply as "Christians" or "born-again Christians". They typically distance themselves from the confessionalism and creedalism of other Christian communities by calling themselves "non-denominational" or "evangelical". Often founded by individual pastors, they have little affiliation with historic denominations.
The Second Great Awakening, a period of religious revival that occurred in the United States during the early 1800s, saw the development of a number of unrelated churches. They generally saw themselves as restoring the original church of Jesus Christ rather than reforming one of the existing churches. A common belief held by Restorationists was that the other divisions of Christianity had introduced doctrinal defects into Christianity, which was known as the Great Apostasy. In Asia, Iglesia ni Cristo is a known restorationist religion that was established during the early 1900s.
Some of the churches originating during this period are historically connected to early 19th-century camp meetings in the Midwest and upstate New York. One of the largest churches produced from the movement is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. American Millennialism and Adventism, which arose from Evangelical Protestantism, influenced the Jehovah's Witnesses movement and, as a reaction specifically to William Miller, the Seventh-day Adventists. Others, including the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Evangelical Christian Church in Canada, Churches of Christ, and the Christian churches and churches of Christ, have their roots in the contemporaneous Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, which was centered in Kentucky and Tennessee. Other groups originating in this time period include the Christadelphians and the previously mentioned Latter Day Saints movement. While the churches originating in the Second Great Awakening have some superficial similarities, their doctrine and practices vary significantly.
Various smaller Independent Catholic communities, such as the Old Catholic Church, include the word Catholic in their title, and arguably have more or less liturgical practices in common with the Catholic Church, but are no longer in full communion with the Holy See.
Spiritual Christians, such as the Doukhobor and Molokan, broke from the Russian Orthodox Church and maintain close association with Mennonites and Quakers due to similar religious practices; all of these groups are furthermore collectively considered to be peace churches due to their belief in pacifism.
Messianic Judaism (or the Messianic Movement) is the name of a Christian movement comprising a number of streams, whose members may consider themselves Jewish. The movement originated in the 1960s and 1970s, and it blends elements of religious Jewish practice with evangelical Christianity. Messianic Judaism affirms Christian creeds such as the messiahship and divinity of "Yeshua" (the Hebrew name of Jesus) and the Triune Nature of God, while also adhering to some Jewish dietary laws and customs.
Esoteric Christians regard Christianity as a mystery religion, and profess the existence and possession of certain esoteric doctrines or practices, hidden from the public but accessible only to a narrow circle of "enlightened", "initiated", or highly educated people. Some of the esoteric Christian institutions include the Rosicrucian Fellowship, the Anthroposophical Society, and Martinism.
Western culture, throughout most of its history, has been nearly equivalent to Christian culture, and a large portion of the population of the Western Hemisphere can be described as cultural Christians. The notion of "Europe" and the "Western World" has been intimately connected with the concept of "Christianity and Christendom". Many even attribute Christianity for being the link that created a unified European identity.
Though Western culture contained several polytheistic religions during its early years under the Greek and Roman empires, as the centralized Roman power waned, the dominance of the Catholic Church was the only consistent force in Western Europe. Until the Age of Enlightenment, Christian culture guided the course of philosophy, literature, art, music and science. Christian disciplines of the respective arts have subsequently developed into Christian philosophy, Christian art, Christian music, Christian literature, etc.
Christianity has had a significant impact on education, as the church created the bases of the Western system of education, and was the sponsor of founding universities in the Western world; as the university is generally regarded as an institution that has its origin in the Medieval Christian setting. Historically, Christianity has often been a patron of science and medicine. It has been prolific in the foundation of schools, universities, and hospitals, and many Catholic clergy; Jesuits in particular, have been active in the sciences throughout history and have made significant contributions to the development of science. Protestantism also has had an important influence on science. According to the Merton Thesis, there was a positive correlation between the rise of English Puritanism and German Pietism on the one hand, and early experimental science on the other. The civilizing influence of Christianity includes social welfare, founding hospitals, economics (as the Protestant work ethic), politics, architecture, literature, personal hygiene, and family life.
Eastern Christians (particularly Nestorian Christians) contributed to the Arab Islamic Civilization during the reign of the Ummayad and the Abbasid, by translating works of Greek philosophers to Syriac and afterwards, to Arabic. They also excelled in philosophy, science, theology, and medicine. Also, many scholars of the House of Wisdom were of Christian background.
Christians have made a myriad of contributions to human progress in a broad and diverse range of fields, including philosophy, science and technology, fine arts and architecture, politics, literatures, music, and business. According to 100 Years of Nobel Prizes a review of the Nobel Prizes award between 1901 and 2000 reveals that (65%) of Nobel Prizes Laureates, have identified Christianity in its various forms as their religious preference.
Postchristianity is the term for the decline of Christianity, particularly in Europe, Canada, Australia, and to a minor degree the Southern Cone, in the 20th and 21st centuries, considered in terms of postmodernism. It refers to the loss of Christianity's monopoly on values and world view in historically Christian societies.
Cultural Christians are secular people with a Christian heritage who may not believe in the religious claims of Christianity, but who retain an affinity for the popular culture, art, music, and so on related to it. Another frequent application of the term is to distinguish political groups in areas of mixed religious backgrounds.
Christian groups and denominations have long expressed ideals of being reconciled, and in the 20th century, Christian ecumenism advanced in two ways. One way was greater cooperation between groups, such as the World Evangelical Alliance founded in 1846 in London or the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of Protestants in 1910, the Justice, Peace and Creation Commission of the World Council of Churches founded in 1948 by Protestant and Orthodox churches, and similar national councils like the National Council of Churches in Australia, which includes Catholics.
The other way was a institutional union with united churches, a practice that can be traced back to unions between Lutherans and Calvinists in early 19th-century Germany. Congregationalist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches united in 1925 to form the United Church of Canada, and in 1977 to form the Uniting Church in Australia. The Church of South India was formed in 1947 by the union of Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Congregationalist, and Presbyterian churches.
The ecumenical, monastic Taizé Community is notable for being composed of more than one hundred brothers from Protestant and Catholic traditions. The community emphasizes the reconciliation of all denominations and its main church, located in Taizé, Saône-et-Loire, France, is named the "Church of Reconciliation". The community is internationally known, attracting over 100,000 young pilgrims annually.
Steps towards reconciliation on a global level were taken in 1965 by the Catholic and Orthodox churches, mutually revoking the excommunications that marked their Great Schism in 1054; the Anglican Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) working towards full communion between those churches since 1970; and some Lutheran and Catholic churches signing the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999 to address conflicts at the root of the Protestant Reformation. In 2006, the World Methodist Council, representing all Methodist denominations, adopted the declaration.
Criticism of Christianity and Christians goes back to the Apostolic Age, with the New Testament recording friction between the followers of Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes (e.g. Matthew 15:1–20 and Mark 7:1–23). In the 2nd century, Christianity was criticized by the Jews on various grounds, e.g. that the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible could not have been fulfilled by Jesus, given that he did not have a successful life. Additionally, a sacrifice to remove sins in advance, for everyone or as a human being, did not fit to the Jewish sacrifice ritual; furthermore, God is said to judge people on their deeds instead of their beliefs. One of the first comprehensive attacks on Christianity came from the Greek philosopher Celsus, who wrote The True Word, a polemic criticizing Christians as being unprofitable members of society. In response, the church father Origen published his treatise Contra Celsum, or Against Celsus, a seminal work of Christian apologetics, which systematically addressed Celsus's criticisms and helped bring Christianity a level of academic respectability.
By the 3rd century, criticism of Christianity had mounted, partly as a defense against it. Wild rumors about Christians were widely circulated, claiming that they were atheists and that, as part of their rituals, they devoured human infants and engaged in incestuous orgies. The Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry wrote the fifteen-volume Adversus Christianos as a comprehensive attack on Christianity, in part building on the teachings of Plotinus.
By the 12th century, the Mishneh Torah (i.e., Rabbi Moses Maimonides) was criticizing Christianity on the grounds of idol worship, in that Christians attributed divinity to Jesus, who had a physical body. In the 19th century, Nietzsche began to write a series of polemics on the "unnatural" teachings of Christianity (e.g. sexual abstinence), and continued his criticism of Christianity to the end of his life. In the 20th century, the philosopher Bertrand Russell expressed his criticism of Christianity in Why I Am Not a Christian, formulating his rejection of Christianity in the setting of logical arguments.
Criticism of Christianity continues to date, e.g. Jewish and Muslim theologians criticize the doctrine of the Trinity held by most Christians, stating that this doctrine in effect assumes that there are three Gods, running against the basic tenet of monotheism. New Testament scholar Robert M. Price has outlined the possibility that some Bible stories are based partly on myth in The Christ Myth Theory and its problems.
Christian apologetics aims to present a rational basis for Christianity. The word "apologetic" (Greek: ἀπολογητικός apologētikos) comes from the Greek verb ἀπολογέομαι apologeomai, meaning "(I) speak in defense of". Christian apologetics has taken many forms over the centuries, starting with Paul the Apostle. The philosopher Thomas Aquinas presented five arguments for God's existence in the Summa Theologica, while his Summa contra Gentiles was a major apologetic work. Another famous apologist, G. K. Chesterton, wrote in the early twentieth century about the benefits of religion and, specifically, Christianity. Famous for his use of paradox, Chesterton explained that while Christianity had the most mysteries, it was the most practical religion. He pointed to the advance of Christian civilizations as proof of its practicality. The physicist and priest John Polkinghorne, in his Questions of Truth discusses the subject of religion and science, a topic that other Christian apologists such as Ravi Zacharias, John Lennox, and William Lane Craig have engaged, with the latter two men opining that the inflationary Big Bang model is evidence for the existence of God.
The enthusiasm for evangelization among the Christians was also accompanied by the awareness that the most immediate problem to solve was how to serve the huge number of new converts. Simatupang said, if the number of the Christians were double or triple, then the number of the ministers should also be doubled or tripled and the tole of the laity should be maximized and Christian service to society through schools, universities, hospitals and orphanages, should be increased. In addition, for him the Christian mission should be involved in the struggle for justice amid the process of modernization.
Theologians, bishops, and preachers urged the Christian community to be as compassionate as their God was, reiterating that creation was for all of humanity. They also accepted and developed the identification of Christ with the poor and the requisite Christian duty to the poor. Religious congregations and individual charismatic leaders promoted the development of a number of helping institutions-hospitals, hospices for pilgrims, orphanages, shelters for unwed mothers-that laid the foundation for the modern "large network of hospitals, orphanages and schools, to serve the poor and society at large."
In the central provinces of India they established schools, orphanages, hospitals, and churches, and spread the gospel message in zenanas.
Hence all the power of magic became dissolved; and every bond of wickedness was destroyed, men's ignorance was taken away, and the old kingdom abolished God Himself appearing in the form of a man, for the renewal of eternal life.— St. Ignatius of Antioch in Letter to the Ephesians, ch.4, shorter version, Roberts-Donaldson translation
We have also as a Physician the Lord our God Jesus the Christ the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For 'the Word was made flesh.' Being incorporeal, He was in the body; being impassible, He was in a passable body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts— St. Ignatius of Antioch in Letter to the Ephesians, ch.7, shorter version, Roberts-Donaldson translation
The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: ...one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father 'to gather all things in one,' and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, 'every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess; to him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all...
For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water— Justin Martyr in First Apology, ch. LXI, Donaldson, Sir James (1950), Ante Nicene Fathers, Volume 1: Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, ISBN 978-0802880871
Ὡσαύτως καὶ αἱ τρεῖς ἡμέραι τῶν φωστήρων γεγονυῖαι τύποι εἰσὶν τῆς Τριάδος, τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ τοῦ Λόγου αὐτοῦ, καὶ τῆς Σοφίας αὐτοῦ.
Nam et ipsa ecclesia proprie et principaliter ipse est spiritus, in quo est trinitas unius diuinitatis, Pater et Filius et Spiritus sanctus..
Armenia is considered the first nation to have adopted Christianity as the state religion in a traditional date of c. A.D. 301.
Forced Conversion under Atheistic Regimes: It might be added that the most modern example of forced "conversions" came not from any theocratic state, but from a professedly atheist government—that of the Soviet Union under the Communists.
In reviewing the records, the reader is struck with the Anabaptists' acute consciousness of separation from the "fallen" church—in which they included the Reformers as well as the Roman institution. Some writers have therefore concluded that Anabaptism is not merely a variant form of Protestantism, but rather an ideology and practice quite different in kind from those of both Rome and the Reformers.
Anabaptists: We are neither Catholic nor Protestant, but we share ties to those streams of Christianity. We cooperate as a sign of our unity in Christ and in ways that extend the reign of God's Kingdom on earth. We are known as "Anabaptists" (not anti-Baptist)—meaning "rebaptizers."
The English Quakers, who had made contact with the Doukhobors earlier, as well as the Philadelphia Society of Friends, also determined to help with their emigration from Russia to some other country--the only action which seemed possible.
For example, Messianic Jews, without exception, believe that the way to eternal life is through the acceptance of Jesus as one's personal savior and that no obedience to the Jewish law or "works" is necessary in order to obtain that goal....Remarkably, it has been exactly this adherence to the basic Christian evangelical faith that has allowed Messianic Jews to adopt and promote Jewish rites and customs. They are Christians in good standing and can retain whatever cultural attributes and rites they choose.
It was in the Near and Middle East and North Africa that the old traditions of teaching and learning continued, and where Christian scholars were carefully preserving ancient texts and knowledge of the ancient Greek language
Nor is the agreement coincidental, according to a substantial constituency of religious apologists, who regard the inflationary Big Bang model as direct evidence for God. John Lennox, a mathematician at the University of Oxford, tells us that 'even if the non-believers don't like it, the Big Bang fits in exactly with the Christian narrative of creation'. ... William Lane Craig is another who claims that the Biblical account is corroborated by Big Bang cosmology. Lane Craig also claims that there is a prior proof that there is a God who created this universe.
The terms anno Domini (AD) and before Christ (BC) are used to label or number years in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The term anno Domini is Medieval Latin and means "in the year of the Lord", but is often presented using "our Lord" instead of "the Lord", taken from the full original phrase "anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi", which translates to "in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ".
This calendar era is based on the traditionally reckoned year of the conception or birth of Jesus of Nazareth, with AD counting years from the start of this epoch, and BC denoting years before the start of the era. There is no year zero in this scheme, so the year AD 1 immediately follows the year 1 BC. This dating system was devised in 525 by Dionysius Exiguus of Scythia Minor, but was not widely used until after 800.The Gregorian calendar is the most widely used calendar in the world today. For decades, it has been the unofficial global standard, adopted in the pragmatic interests of international communication, transportation, and commercial integration, and recognized by international institutions such as the United Nations.Traditionally, English followed Latin usage by placing the "AD" abbreviation before the year number. However, BC is placed after the year number (for example: AD 2019, but 68 BC), which also preserves syntactic order. The abbreviation is also widely used after the number of a century or millennium, as in "fourth century AD" or "second millennium AD" (although conservative usage formerly rejected such expressions). Because BC is the English abbreviation for Before Christ, it is sometimes incorrectly concluded that AD means After Death, i.e., after the death of Jesus. However, this would mean that the approximate 33 years commonly associated with the life of Jesus would neither be included in the BC nor the AD time scales.Terminology that is viewed by some as being more neutral and inclusive of non-Christian people is to call this the Current or Common Era (abbreviated as CE), with the preceding years referred to as Before the Common or Current Era (BCE). Astronomical year numbering and ISO 8601 avoid words or abbreviations related to Christianity, but use the same numbers for AD years.Apostles
In Christian theology and ecclesiology, the apostles (Greek: ἀπόστολος, translit. apóstolos, lit. 'one who is sent away'), particularly the Twelve Apostles (also known as the Twelve Disciples or simply the Twelve), were the primary disciples of Jesus, the central figure in Christianity. During the life and ministry of Jesus in the 1st century AD, the apostles were his closest followers and became the primary teachers of the gospel message of Jesus.
In modern usage, missionaries under Pentecostal movements often refer to themselves as apostles, a practice which stems from the Latin equivalent of apostle, i.e. missio, the source of the English word missionary. For example, Saint Patrick (AD 373–463) was the "Apostle of Ireland", Saint Boniface (680–755) was the "Apostle to the Germans", Saint José de Anchieta (1534–1597) was the "Apostle of Brazil" and Saint Peter of Betancur (1626–1667) was the "Apostle of Guatemala".
While Christian tradition often refers to the apostles as being twelve in number, different gospel writers give different names for the same individual, and apostles mentioned in one gospel are not mentioned in others. The commissioning of the Twelve Apostles during the ministry of Jesus is recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. After his resurrection, Jesus sent eleven of them (minus Judas Iscariot, who by then had died) by the Great Commission to spread his teachings to all nations. This event is commonly called the Dispersion of the Apostles. There is also an Eastern Christian tradition derived from the Gospel of Luke of there having been as many as 70 apostles during the time of Jesus' ministry. In early Christianity, Paul, is often referred to as an apostle, because he was directly taught and commissioned by a vision of Christ[Acts 9:4–5] during his journey to Damascus.
The period of early Christianity during the lifetimes of the apostles is called the Apostolic Age. During the 1st century AD, the apostles established churches throughout the territories of the Roman Empire and, according to tradition, through the Middle East, Africa, and India.Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.
Catholic theology is based on the Nicene Creed. The Catholic Church teaches that it is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church founded by Jesus Christ, that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles, and that the pope is the successor to Saint Peter upon whom primacy was conferred by Jesus Christ. It maintains that it practises the original Christian faith, reserving infallibility, passed down by sacred tradition. The Latin Church, the twenty-three Eastern Catholic Churches, and institutes such as mendicant orders and enclosed monastic orders reflect a variety of theological and spiritual emphases in the church.Of its seven sacraments the Eucharist is the principal one, celebrated liturgically in the Mass. The church teaches that through consecration by a priest the sacrificial bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. The Virgin Mary is venerated in the Catholic Church as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, honoured in dogmas and devotions. Its teaching includes sanctification through faith and evangelisation of the Gospel as well as Catholic social teaching, which emphasises voluntary support for the sick, the poor, and the afflicted through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of education and health care in the world.The Catholic Church has influenced Western philosophy, culture, science, and art. Catholics live all over the world through missions, diaspora, and conversions. Since the 20th century the majority reside in the southern hemisphere due to secularisation in Europe, and increased persecution in the Middle East.
The Catholic Church shared communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church until the East–West Schism in 1054, disputing particularly the authority of the pope, as well as with the Oriental Orthodox churches prior to the Chalcedonian schism in 451 over differences in Christology. The Reformation of the 16th century resulted in Protestants breaking away.
From the late 20th century, the Catholic Church has been criticised for its doctrines on sexuality, its refusal to ordain women, as well as the handling of sexual abuse cases involving clergy.Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity, identified by traits such as a name, organization, leadership and doctrine. Individual bodies, however, may use alternative terms to describe themselves, such as church or sometimes fellowship. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity". These branches differ in many ways, especially through differences in practices and belief.
Individual denominations vary widely in the degree to which they recognize one another. Several groups claim to be the direct and sole authentic successor of the church founded by Jesus Christ in the 1st century AD. Others, however, believe in denominationalism, where some or all Christian groups are legitimate churches of the same religion regardless of their distinguishing labels, beliefs, and practices. Because of this concept, some Christian bodies reject the term "denomination" to describe themselves, to avoid implying equivalency with other churches or denominations.
The Catholic Church which claims 1.2 billion members – slightly over half of all Christians worldwide – does not view itself as a denomination, but as the original pre-denominational church, a view rejected by other Christians. Protestant denominations account for approximately 37 percent of Christians worldwide. Together, Catholicism and Protestantism (including Anglicanism, and other denominations sharing historical ties) comprise Western Christianity. Western Christian denominations prevail in Western, Northern, Central and Southern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas and Oceania.The Eastern Orthodox Church, with an estimated 225–300 million adherents, is the second-largest Christian organization in the world and also considers itself the original pre-denominational church. Unlike the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church is itself a communion of fully independent autocephalous churches (or "jurisdictions") that mutually recognize each other to the exclusion of others. The Eastern Orthodox Church, together with Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East, constitutes Eastern Christianity. (There are also some smaller groups of Eastern Catholics which are in communion with the Bishop of Rome but have cultural and historical ties with other Eastern Christians and Byzantine Lutherans were newer group of Eastern Christianity and Protestant Lutheranism in Ukraine and Slovenia that accepts Byzantine Rite as the denomination's liturgy while retaining their Lutheran traditions.) Eastern Christian denominations are represented mostly in Eastern Europe, North Asia, the Middle East, Northeast Africa and mostly South India.
Christians have various doctrines about the Church (the body of the faithful that they believe Jesus Christ established) and about how the divine church corresponds to Christian denominations. Both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox hold that their own organizations faithfully represent the One Holy catholic and Apostolic Church to the exclusion of the other. Sixteenth-century Protestants separated from the Catholic Church because of theologies and practices that they considered to be in violation of their own interpretation. Generally, members of the various denominations acknowledge each other as Christians, at least to the extent that they have mutually recognized baptisms and acknowledge historically orthodox views including the Divinity of Jesus and doctrines of sin and salvation, even though doctrinal and ecclesiological obstacles hinder full communion between churches.
Since the reforms surrounding the Second Vatican Council of 1962–1965, the Catholic Church has referred to Protestant communities as "denominations", while reserving the term "church" for apostolic churches, including the Eastern Orthodox (see subsistit in and branch theory). But some non-denominational Christians
do not follow any particular branch, though sometimes regarded as Protestants.Christianity and Islam
Christianity and Islam are the two largest religions in the world and share a historical and traditional connection, with some major theological differences. The two faiths share a common place of origin in the Middle East, and consider themselves to be monotheistic.
Christianity is a monotheistic religion which developed out of Second Temple Judaism in the 1st century CE. It is founded on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and those who follow it are called Christians.Islam is a monotheistic religion that developed in the 7th century CE. Islam, which literally means "surrender" or "submission", was founded on the teachings of Muhammad as an expression of surrender to the will of God. Those who follow it are called Muslims.Muslims have a range of views on Christianity, from viewing Christians to be fellow possessors of monotheistic scriptures to regarding them as heretics. Christian views on Islam are diverse and range from considering Islam a fellow Abrahamic religion worshipping the same God, to believing Islam to be heresy or an unrelated cult.
Islam considers Jesus to be al-Masih, the Arabic term for Messiah, sent to guide the Children of Israel (banī isrā'īl in Arabic) with a new revelation: al-Injīl (Arabic for "the Gospel"). Christianity believes Jesus to be the Messiah of the Hebrew scripture, the Son of God, and God the Son, while Muslims consider the Trinity to be a division of God's Oneness and a grave sin (shirk). Muslims believe Jesus (Isa) to be a messenger of God, not the son of God.
Christianity and Islam have different scriptures, with Christianity using the Bible and Islam using the Quran, however Muslims believe that the Gospel was also sent by God. Both texts offer an account of the life and works of Jesus. The belief in Jesus is a fundamental part of Islamic theology, and Muslims view the Christian Injeel as altered, while Christians consider the Gospels to be authoritative and the Quran to be a later, fabricated or apocryphal work. Both religions believe in the virgin birth of Jesus through Mary, but the Biblical and Islamic accounts differ.Christianity in India
Christianity is India's third-most followed religion after Hinduism and Islam, with approximately 28 million followers, constituting 2.3 percent of India's population (2011 census). The Christian faith was introduced to India by Thomas the Apostle, who supposedly reached the Malabar Coast (Kerala) in 52 AD. According to another tradition Bartholomew the Apostle is credited with simultaneously introducing Christianity along the Konkan Coast. There is a general scholarly consensus that Christian communities were firmly established in India by the 6th century AD, including some communities who used Syriac liturgies. It is possible for Christianity to have existed in the Indian Subcontinent as far back as the first century AD, in keeping with the belief of St Thomas's arrival.Christianity in India is made up of people from different denominations. The state of Kerala is home to the Saint Thomas Christian community, an ancient body of Christians, who are divided into several different churches and traditions. They are East Syriac Saint Thomas Christian churches: the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Chaldean Syrian Church. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church, Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, and the Malabar Independent Syrian Church are West Syriac Saint Thomas Christian Churches. Saint Thomas Anglicans are in the Anglican tradition and are members of the Church of South India. Since the 19th century, Protestant churches have also been present; major denominations include The Pentecostal Mission (formerly Ceylon Pentecostal Mission), the Baptists, Church of South India (CSI), Evangelical Church of India (ECI), St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India, Believers Eastern Church, the Church of North India (CNI),Council of Reformed Churches of India (CRCI), the Presbyterian Church of India, Pentecostal Church, Apostolics, Lutherans, Traditional Anglicans and other evangelical groups. The Christian Church runs thousands of educational institutions and hospitals which have contributed significantly to the development of the nation.Christians are found all across India and in all walks of life, with major populations in parts of South India and the south shore, the Konkan Coast, and Northeast India. Indian Christians have contributed significantly to and are well represented in various spheres of national life. They include former and current chief ministers, governors and chief election commissioners. Indian Christians have the highest ratio of women to men among the various religious communities in India. Christians are the second most educated religious group in India after Jains.Roman Catholicism was introduced to India by the Portuguese, Italian and Irish Jesuits in the 16th century to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ among the Indians. Most Christian schools, hospitals, primary care centres originated through the Roman Catholic missions brought by the trade of these countries. Evangelical Protestantism was later spread to India by the efforts of British, American, German, Scottish missionaries. These Protestant missions were also responsible for introducing English education in India for the first time and were also accountable in the first early translations of the Holy Bible in various Indian languages (including Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Hindi, Urdu and others).Even though Christians are a significant minority, they form a major religious group in three states of India - Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland with plural majority in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and other states with significant Christian population include Coastal Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Kanara. Christianity is widespread across India and is present in all states with major populations in South India.Constantine the Great and Christianity
During the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (AD 306–337), Christianity began to transition to the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. Historians remain uncertain about Constantine's reasons for favoring Christianity, and theologians and historians have often argued about which form of early Christianity he subscribed to. There is no consensus among scholars as to whether he adopted his mother Helena's Christianity in his youth, or, as claimed by Eusebius of Caesarea, encouraged her to convert to the faith he had adopted himself.
Constantine ruled the Roman Empire as sole emperor for the remainder of his reign. Some scholars allege that his main objective was to gain unanimous approval and submission to his authority from all classes, and therefore chose Christianity to conduct his political propaganda, believing that it was the most appropriate religion that could fit with the Imperial cult (see also Sol Invictus). Regardless, under Constantine's rule Christianity expanded throughout the Empire, launching the era of Christian Church's dominance under the Constantinian dynasty. Whether Constantine sincerely converted to Christianity or remained loyal to Paganism is still a matter of debate among historians (see also Constantine's Religious policy). His formal conversion in 312 is almost universally acknowledged among historians, despite that he was baptized only on his deathbed by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia in 337; the real reasons behind it remain unknown and are debated too. According to Hans Pohlsander, Professor Emeritus of History at the University at Albany, SUNY, Constantine's conversion was just another instrument of realpolitik in his hands meant to serve his political interest in keeping the Empire united under his control:
The prevailing spirit of Constantine's government was one of conservatorism. His conversion to and support of Christianity produced fewer innovations than one might have expected; indeed they served an entirely conservative end, the preservation and continuation of the Empire.
Constantine's decision to cease the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire was a turning point for early Christianity, sometimes referred to as the Triumph of the Church, the Peace of the Church or the Constantinian shift. In 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan decriminalizing Christian worship. The emperor became a great patron of the Church and set a precedent for the position of the Christian emperor within the Church and the notion of orthodoxy, Christendom, ecumenical councils, and the state church of the Roman Empire declared by edict in 380. He is revered as a saint and isapostolos in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, and various Eastern Catholic Churches for his example as a "Christian monarch."Devil
A devil is the personification of evil as it is conceived in many and various cultures and religious traditions. It is seen as the objectification of a hostile and destructive force.It is difficult to specify a particular definition of any complexity that will cover all of the traditions, beyond that it is a manifestation of evil. It is meaningful to consider the devil through the lens of each of the cultures and religions that have the devil as part of their mythos.The history of this concept intertwines with theology, mythology, psychiatry, art and literature, maintaining a validity, and developing independently within each of the traditions. It occurs historically in many contexts and cultures, and is given many different names — Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles — and attributes: It is portrayed as blue, black, or red; It is portrayed as having horns on its head, and without horns, and so on. The idea of the devil has been taken seriously often, but not always, for example when devil figures are used in advertising and on candy wrappers.Early Christianity
Early Christianity covers the period from its origins (c. 30–36) until the First Council of Nicaea (325). This period is typically divided into the Apostolic Age (c. 30-100) and the Ante-Nicene Period (c. 100-325). After the death of John the Apostle (c. 100), early Christianity was guided by the Ante-Nicene Fathers until the Council of Nicaea (c.325). Early Christianity is also known as the Early Church by the proponents of apostolic succession, notably the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, Assyrian Church of the East, and Ancient Church of the East, in addition to some Protestant denominations.
The first Christians, as described in the first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible, were all Jews either by birth or conversion ("proselytes" in Biblical terminology), and historians refer to them as Jewish Christians. The early Gospel message spread orally, probably originally in Aramaic, but almost immediately also in Greek. The New Testament's Acts of the Apostles and Epistle to the Galatians record that the first Christian community centered on Jerusalem and that its leaders included Peter, James, the "brother of Jesus", and John the Apostle.After his conversion, Paul the Apostle claimed the title of "Apostle to the Gentiles". Paul's influence on Christian thinking is said to be more significant than that of any other New Testament author. By the end of the 1st century, Christianity began to be recognized internally and externally as a separate religion from Judaism which itself was refined and developed further in the centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70.Numerous quotations in the New Testament and other Christian writings of the first centuries, indicate that early Christians generally used and revered the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh) as religious text, mostly in the Greek (Septuagint) or Aramaic (Targum) translations.Early Christians wrote many religious works, including the canon of the New Testament, which includes the canonical gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation, and which were written before 120.As the New Testament canon developed, the Pauline epistles, the canonical gospels and various other works were also recognized as scripture to be read in church. Paul's letters, especially Romans, established a theology based on Christ rather than on the Mosaic Law, but most Christian denominations today still consider the "moral prescriptions" of the Mosaic Law, such as the Ten Commandments, Great Commandment, and Golden Rule, to be relevant. Early Christians demonstrated a wide range of beliefs and practices, many of which were later denounced as heretical.Easter
Easter, also called Pascha (Greek, Latin) or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.
Most Christians refer to the week before Easter as "Holy Week"—it contains the days of the Easter Triduum, including Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Maundy and Last Supper, as well as Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus. In Western Christianity, Eastertide, or the Easter Season, begins on Easter Sunday and lasts seven weeks, ending with the coming of the fiftieth day, Pentecost Sunday. In Eastern Christianity, the season of Pascha begins on Pascha and ends with the coming of the fortieth day, the Feast of the Ascension.
Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts which do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars which follow only the cycle of the sun; rather, its date is determined on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established two rules, independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity, which were the only rules for Easter explicitly laid down by the council. No details for the computation were specified; these were worked out in practice, a process that took centuries and generated a number of controversies. It has come to be the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March, but calculations vary.
Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In most European languages the feast called Easter in English is termed by the words for passover in those languages and in the older English versions of the Bible the term Easter was the term used to translate passover. Easter customs vary across the Christian world, and include sunrise services, exclaiming the Paschal greeting, clipping the church, and decorating Easter eggs (symbols of the empty tomb). The Easter lily, a symbol of the resurrection, traditionally decorates the chancel area of churches on this day and for the rest of Eastertide. Additional customs that have become associated with Easter and are observed by both Christians and some non-Christians include egg hunting, the Easter Bunny, and Easter parades. There are also various traditional Easter foods that vary regionally.Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism (), evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide, transdenominational movement within Protestant Christianity which maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ's atonement. Evangelicals believe in the centrality of the conversion or "born again" experience in receiving salvation, in the authority of the Bible as God's revelation to humanity, and in spreading the Christian message. The movement has had a long presence in the Anglosphere before spreading further afield in the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries.
Its origins are usually traced to 1738, with various theological streams contributing to its foundation, including English Methodism, the Moravian Church (in particular its bishop Nicolaus Zinzendorf and his community at Herrnhut), and German Lutheran Pietism. Preeminently, John Wesley and other early Methodists were at the root of sparking this new movement during the First Great Awakening. Today, evangelicals are found across many Protestant branches, as well as in various denominations not subsumed to a specific branch. Among leaders and major figures of the evangelical Protestant movement were John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Harold John Ockenga, John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The movement gained great momentum during the 18th and 19th centuries with the Great Awakenings in Great Britain and the United States.
In 2016, there were an estimated 619 million evangelicals in the world, meaning that one in four Christians would be classified as evangelical. The United States has the largest concentration of evangelicals in the world. American evangelicals are a quarter of the nation's population and its single largest religious group. In Great Britain, evangelicals are represented mostly in the Methodist Church, Baptist communities, and among evangelical Anglicans. Some evangelical Christian denominations are grouped together in the World Evangelical Alliance.Gnosticism
Gnosticism (from Ancient Greek: γνωστικός gnostikos, "having knowledge", from γνῶσις gnōsis, knowledge) is a modern name for a variety of ancient religious ideas and systems, originating in Jewish-Christian milieux in the first and second century AD. These systems believed that the material world is created by an emanation or 'works' of a lower god (demiurge), trapping the divine spark within the human body. This divine spark could be liberated by gnosis, spiritual knowledge acquired through direct experience. Some of the core teachings include the following:
All matter is evil, and the non-material, spirit-realm is good.
There is an unknowable God, who gave rise to many lesser spirit beings called Aeons.
The creator of the (material) universe is not the supreme god, but an inferior spirit (the Demiurge).
Gnosticism does not deal with "sin," only ignorance.
To achieve salvation, one needs gnosis (knowledge).The Gnostic ideas and systems flourished in the Mediterranean world in the second century AD, in conjunction with and influenced by the early Christian movements and Middle Platonism. After the second century, a decline set in. In the Persian Empire, Gnosticism in the form of Manicheism spread as far as China, while Mandaeism is still alive in Iraq.
A major question in scholarly research is the qualification of Gnosticism, based on the study of its texts, as either an interreligious phenomenon or as an independent religion.Greek Orthodox Church
The name Greek Orthodox Church (Greek: Ἑλληνορθόδοξη Ἑκκλησία, Ellinorthódoxi Ekklisía, IPA: [elinorˈθoðoksi ekliˈsia]), or Greek Orthodoxy, is a term referring to the body of several Churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, whose liturgy is or was traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the Septuagint and the New Testament, and whose history, traditions, and theology are rooted in the early Church Fathers and the culture of the Byzantine Empire. Greek Orthodox Christianity has also traditionally placed heavy emphasis and awarded high prestige to traditions of Eastern Orthodox monasticism and asceticism, with origins in Early Christianity in the Near East and in Byzantine Anatolia.
Historically, the term "Greek Orthodox" has also been used to describe all Eastern Orthodox Churches in general, since "Greek" in "Greek Orthodox" can refer to the heritage of the Byzantine Empire. During the first eight centuries of Christian history, most major intellectual, cultural, and social developments in the Christian Church took place within the Empire or in the sphere of its influence, where the Greek language was widely spoken and used for most theological writings. Over time, most parts of the liturgy, traditions, and practices of the church of Constantinople were adopted by all, and still provide the basic patterns of contemporary Orthodoxy. Thus, the Eastern Church came to be called "Greek" Orthodox in the same way that the Western Church is called "Roman" Catholic. However, the appellation "Greek" was abandoned by the Slavic and other Eastern Orthodox churches in connection with their peoples' national awakenings, from as early as the 10th century A.D. Thus, today it is generally only those churches that are most closely tied to Greek or Byzantine culture that are called "Greek Orthodox".History of Christianity
The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion, Christendom, and the Church with its various denominations, from the 1st century to the present.
Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christianity spread to all of Europe in the Middle Ages. Since the Renaissance era, Christianity has expanded throughout the world and become the world's largest religion. Today there are more than two billion Christians worldwide.Jesus
Jesus (c. 4 BC – c. AD 30 / 33), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity and is widely described as the most influential person in history. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah (Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament.Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed historically, although the quest for the historical Jesus has produced little agreement on the historical reliability of the Gospels and on how closely the Jesus portrayed in the Bible reflects the historical Jesus. Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was baptized by John the Baptist and began his own ministry. He preached orally and was often referred to as "rabbi". Jesus debated with fellow Jews on how to best follow God, engaged in healings, taught in parables and gathered followers. He was arrested and tried by the Jewish authorities, turned over to the Roman government, and crucified on the order of Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect. After his death, his followers believed he rose from the dead, and the community they formed eventually became the early Church.The birth of Jesus is celebrated annually on December 25th (or various dates in January by some eastern churches) as Christmas. His crucifixion is honored on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter. The widely used calendar era "AD", from the Latin anno Domini ("in the year of the Lord"), and the equivalent alternative "CE", are based on the approximate birthdate of Jesus.Christian doctrines include the beliefs that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born of a virgin named Mary, performed miracles, founded the Church, died by crucifixion as a sacrifice to achieve atonement for sin, rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, from where he will return. Most Christians believe Jesus enables people to be reconciled to God. The Nicene Creed asserts that Jesus will judge the living and the dead either before or after their bodily resurrection, an event tied to the Second Coming of Jesus in Christian eschatology. The great majority of Christians worship Jesus as the incarnation of God the Son, the second of three persons of the Trinity. A minority of Christian denominations reject Trinitarianism, wholly or partly, as non-scriptural.
Jesus also figures in non-Christian religions and new religious movements. In Islam, Jesus (commonly transliterated as Isa) is considered one of God's important prophets and the Messiah. Muslims believe Jesus was a bringer of scripture and was born of a virgin, but was not the son of God. The Quran states that Jesus never claimed divinity. Most Muslims do not believe that he was crucified, but that he was physically raised into Heaven by God. In contrast, Judaism rejects the belief that Jesus was the awaited Messiah, arguing that he did not fulfill Messianic prophecies, and was neither divine nor resurrected.March
March is the third month of the year and named after mars in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars. It is the second of seven months to have a length of 31 days. In the Northern Hemisphere, the meteorological beginning of spring occurs on the first day of March. The March equinox on the 20 or 21 marks the astronomical beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere, where September is the seasonal equivalent of the Northern Hemisphere's March.Nondenominational Christianity
Nondenominational Christianity (or non-denominational Christianity) consists of churches which typically distance themselves from the confessionalism or creedalism of other Christian communities by calling themselves nondenominational.Oriental Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy is the fourth largest communion of Christian churches, with about 76 million members worldwide. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, it has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Armenia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and parts of the Middle East and India. An Eastern Christian communion of autocephalous churches, its bishops are equal by virtue of episcopal ordination, and its doctrines can be summarised in that the communion recognizes the validity of only the first three ecumenical councils.The Oriental Orthodox communion is composed of six autocephalous churches: the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Collectively, they consider themselves to be the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church founded by Jesus Christ in his Great Commission, and that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles. Most member churches are part of the World Council of Churches. All member churches share a virtually identical theology, with the distinguishing feature being Miaphysitism. Three very different rites are practiced in the communion: the western-influenced Armenian Rite, the West Syrian Rite of the two Syriac churches, and the Alexandrian Rite of the Copts, Ethiopians and Eritreans.
At the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, the Oriental Orthodox churches separated from the Imperial Roman Church, primarily over differences in Christology. Oriental Orthodoxy developed distinctively under the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt, originally part of the Pentarchy, and the only episcopal see besides the Holy See to maintain the title "Pope". The majority of Oriental Orthodox Christians live in Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Armenia, with smaller Syriac communities living in the Middle East–decreasing due to persecution–and India. There are also many in other parts of the world, formed through diaspora, conversions, and missionary activity.Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity (Latin: Trinitas, lit. 'triad', from Latin: trinus "threefold") holds that God is one God, but three coeternal consubstantial persons or hypostases—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—as "one God in three Divine Persons". The three Persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature" (homoousios). In this context, a "nature" is what one is, whereas a "person" is who one is. Sometimes differing views are referred to as nontrinitarian. Trinitarianism contrasts with positions such as Binitarianism (one deity in two persons, or two deities) and Monarchianism (no plurality of persons within God), of which Modalistic Monarchianism (one deity revealed in three modes) and Unitarianism (one deity in one person) are subsets.
While the developed doctrine of the Trinity is not explicit in the books that constitute the New Testament, the New Testament possesses a "triadic" understanding of God and contains a number of Trinitarian formulas. The doctrine of the Trinity was first formulated among the early Christians and fathers of the Church as early Christians attempted to understand the relationship between Jesus and God in their scriptural documents and prior traditions.
History of Christianity