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0 to a.d. 100

Backward to 100 B.C. to 0

Contrary to what devout Christians might like to believe, the birth of Christ had very little effect on the world at large during this first one hundred years. Pagan Rome continued to dominate western Europe, the Mediterranean and north Africa, dividing the Middle East with the great Parthian Empire. A new power developed in south central Asia and part of India - the Kushan Empire, while the far advanced Chinese continued under the Han Dynasty. Since this chapter does begin the Christian era, however, we shall start our regular discussions of the Christian church at this time.

The christian church

In this first century Paul (who had actually never seen the living Jesus) and others gradually changed the simple teachings of Jesus into the complex sacerdotal religion of Christianity, merging the principle ideas of many oriental faiths into the new religion. Each of the great cults of the Mediterranean region had "mysteries" which were usually ceremonies of purification, sacrifice, initiation, revelation and regeneration centering about the death and resurrection of the god. All sects assumed the possibility of magic and miracles, as well as the promise of personal immortality, of an endless happiness after a life of subjection, poverty or toil. This was the final and irresistible attraction of the oriental faiths and of the Christianity that absorbed and finally succeeded them. The entire western world seemed ready and prepared for the new Christ but initially the following was confined largely to Greeks and to urban merchants. (Ref. 48 , 213 )

Very recently some fifty-two papyrus texts, including gospels and other secret writings, some dating from this early Christian era, were found near Nag Hammadi in the upper Egyptian desert in an earthenware jar. These so-called "Gnostic" writings describe many of the people and events found in the New Testament, including many alleged quotations from Jesus, but with a greatly different perspective than found in orthodox Christianity. These texts were apparently hidden at some later time when their proponents were under indictment as "heretics". The writings included, for example, the "Gospel of Mary", which depicts Mary Magdalene as one favored with visions and insight surpassing even Peter. Some of these Gnostic Gospels discuss the possibility of the ultimate God being feminine and most indicate a belief that Jesus never was human and existed entirely as a spirit.

The Gnostics gave a better place for women in religion and had no hierarchy of elders, priests, bishops, etc., feeling that each individual looked within himself for God and guidance. Dr. Elaine Pagels, author of the text describing these recent finds, feels that this individualism in their philosophy is the reason that the "orthodox" church, with its social and political organization, won out over the Gnostics. (Ref. 163 ) Still further sources of early Christian doctrine will be discussed under NORTHEAST AFRICA, below. (Continue to Christian Church 2nd Century)

Forward to A.D. 101 to 200

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Source:  OpenStax, A comprehensive outline of world history. OpenStax CNX. Nov 30, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10595/1.3
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