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Early Christianity

Early Christianity is commonly defined as the Christianity of, roughly, the three centuries (1st, 2nd, 3rd, early 4th) between the Crucifixion of Jesus (circa 30 AD) and the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD). At first the Christian church was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John.

The first Christians were all Jews or Jewish proselytes, either by birth or conversion, referred to by historians as the Jewish Christians. Paul of Tarsus, after his conversion, claimed the title of "Apostle to the Gentiles". Though Paul's influence on Christian thinking is said to be more significant than any other New Testament author, the relationship of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism is still disputed today. By the end of the first century, Christianity began to be recognized internally and externally as a separate religion from Rabbinic Judaism which itself was refined and developed further in the centuries after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.

Early Christians used and revered the Jewish Bible, generally in the Greek (Septuagint) or Aramaic (Targum) translations. As the New Testament canon developed, the letters of Paul, the 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, to be still relevant. Church Fathers further developed Christian theology and laid the groundwork for the doctrine of the Trinity. Early Christians demonstrated a wide range of beliefs and practices, many of which were later rejected as heretical.

Early Christians suffered sporadic persecution because they refused to worship the Roman gods or to pay homage to the emperor as divine. Early Christians considered martyrs to be particularly holy. In the 4th century Constantine allied himself with Christianity and ended persecution of Christians with the Edict of Milan.

What started as a religious movement within first century Judaism became, by the end of this period, the favored religion of the Roman Empire, as well as a significant religion outside the empire. According to Will Durant, the Christian Church prevailed over Paganism because it offered a much more attractive doctrine and because the church leaders addressed human needs better than their rivals. The First Council of Nicaea marks the end of this era and the beginning of the period of the First seven Ecumenical Councils (325 - 787).
source: Wikipedia
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