Christianity: Key facts
Information: This section contains a brief summary of the history and key teachings of Christianity. A version of this article was originally published on the website www.faithnet.org.uk.
The origins of Christianity are typically traced to Jesus of Nazareth, who was born around 4BCE and lived and taught for thirty three years in an area of Israel called Galilee. However, there are some people who believe it was actually the Apostle Paul who started the faith tradition we have today through his development and organisation of the Church.
Jesus' ministry began when he was thirty years old. Christians believe the Old Testament (Jewish Scriptures) foretold of Jesus' birth, life (ministry) and his subsequent death. They believe he was the Messiah the Old Testament writers prophesied about.
Jesus was a Jew. His first disciples followed him, believing him to be the Messiah spoken of in the Old Testament who they thought would liberate Jews from Roman rule. Instead, Jesus changed their understanding of what the Messiah's role would be. Instead of anger and aggression, Jesus taught people to love their enemies and treat others as they would want to be treated themselves.
Jews and Christians both believe in a Messiah, but disagree about whether Jesus was this person. Jews say he was not because he died in shame on a cross, and did not fight against the Romans. However, Christians say he was because they believe the Messiah was someone meant to win spiritual battle against the devil, through his death on the cross.
Jesus was put to death by the Romans at the age of thirty three. Christians believe this was a sacrifice for the sins of the world. However history says this was because he upset the Jewish religious leaders, and threatened the security of Roman rule.
At the heart of Christianity is the idea of salvation and a Saviour. Christians believe that humans were originally created perfect, but that this perfection was lost when humans turned away from God to follow their own selfish desires. Thus humans have fallen short of God's standards, and are in need of salvation. This salvation was brought about by Jesus Christ.
Without God's help humans are said to be unable to live as they ought to, so doing good and pleasing God requires God's grace (God's help) to do so. The teaching of Jesus also gives certain principles, which people are meant to live by (E.g. love you neighbour as yourself'). These are passed on through the traditions of the Church.
Christianity began as a Jewish sect, which broke away from official Judaism when it began welcoming non-Jews into its community (later called the Church). The Apostle Paul (and later the Apostle Peter), was key in bringing this about through his missionary journeys around Asia Minor.
As Christianity developed, differences arose between Christians. At the moment there are three major Christian groups (Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant), and many other smaller groups (called sects, or denominations) within these (E.g. Greek Orthodox, Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical, Methodist, Anglican etc.).
Christians believe that at the end of time Jesus will come again (The Second Coming), and that people will be judged by God as to how they have lived. Those who have lived according to God's principles will go to heaven, whilst those who have not will go to hell.
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