Written by: Beth Davies-Stofka
Christian leaders explored the core beliefs of Christianity in accordance with their intellectual training, launching theological controversies over the use of philosophical terms such as person and substance to define and understand the nature of God. The Christological controversies over the nature of the incarnation of God in Jesus and the Trinitarian controversy over the relationship of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were particularly sharp and of continuing significance. Both the conclusions formulated and some of the controversies associated with them persist to the present day.
The politics of the Roman Empire had two significant and lasting effects on Christianity. In the first case, the fledgling Christian communities suffered official persecution by the Romans for almost three centuries, leaving a lasting legacy of martyrdom. In the second case, early Christian communities responded to questions of communal organization by adopting the hierarchical model of Roman political organization. This is most apparent in the roles and relationships of clergy, where bishops have authority over priests, and archbishops or popes have authority over everyone.
1. How was Christianity linked to a Jewish identity?
2. Why was Jesus revered amongst early Christian followers?
3. How did the Roman Empire influence Christian communities?