Orthodoxy in the World: Beginnings

This is the 2nd blog in this introductory series to the Orthodox Faith.  The First blog is Orthodoxy in the World and Light to the World

1st Century Christian Congregations

           It was in this time period of pressure to change in 1st Century Palestine that Jesus himself was born, grew up and gathered a group of followers, his disciples, who believed him to be the promised messiah of Israel.   They  began spreading their message to the world.   And they  naturally used the means already existing in Judaism for spreading the faith – the synagogue system which focused on a study of the written word of God and the revelation of God they believed it contained, and the Septuagint, using the Greek language to make the new Christian teachings accessible to the entire culture surrounding Judaism.  

            And Christianity did rapidly spread among Greek speaking people throughout the Roman Empire.   The Christians composed some of their own writings as well, letters of the new movements leaders and also a new genre of literature known as the Gospel, all written in Greek, the unofficial language of the nascent Christian movement.   In fact that part of the Christian scriptures which is unique to Christianity was all originally written in Greek, and only later translated into Latin.   Historical and archeological findings and documents show that from the beginning of Christianity well into the 5th Century, the vast majority of Christians were Greek speaking, even as the faith spread throughout the Roman Empire and into territories beyond the Empire. 

3rd Century Distribution of Christianity

 And as the Christian movement became more established it became increasingly comfortable with the Greek language and also with Greek religious and philosophical concepts and perspectives.  It was in this world that many of the early Christian theological concepts were conceived and accepted as true expressions of the faith.   Of course these concepts were debated and in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire they were given further cross pollination as a mixture of Greek, Syriac and Coptic forms of Christianity wrestled with terminology that might best express the faith.

            The rapidly growing Christian movement also found itself in a hostile world.  It’s claims and teachings pitted it against some forms of traditional Judaism.  Christianity was definitely a messianic sect, whereas some forms of Judaism were not messianic.  Christianity was not based in or dependent on the temple in Jerusalem – a temple which King Herod had built just prior to Jesus’s own birth and this temple had given rise to a new Jewish nationalism and pride which then fed messianism.   Christianity also came to believe that not only was Jesus’ interpretation of the Torah the correct understanding of God’s Teachings, but that Jesus himself was more important than the Torah, an idea that was repugnant to many Jews for whom the Torah was more important than the Temple.    The Christians found themselves unwanted in Jerusalem and often expelled from the Jewish synagogues which were spread throughout the Mediterranean region. 

Next:  Orthodoxy in the World: The Roman Empire