Skip to main content

The Monstrous Growth of Christianity in Rome in the Early Centuries

Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome

Philip Jenkins, Mark Noll, and Rodney Stark have chronicled the amazing and exponential growth of Christianity in the first few centuries.  One chart from Rodney Stark's book, The Triumph of Christianity (163) gives an indication of the growth of Christians in Rome from the time after Jesus' death to 300 A.D.  Here is the chart:

Year                Number         Milestone    % of Rome's Population
100                 700                1,000          0.15
150                 3,600              -                   0.8
200                 19,000            20,000         4.2
250                 78,000            -                   17.3
300                 298,000          -                   66.2

Just in 50 years, from 250 to 300, Christianity increased in the percentage of Rome's population by roughly 49 percent.  What gave way to Christianity's monstrous growth.  For one, Christianity began claiming adherents in the port cities, reaching people where trade routes from sea and land would come to sell goods and exchange services.  There is an overwhelming difference between the growth of the faith in and around port cities and in the main land.  In fact, by 180 only 14 % of port cities lacked a visible Christian congregation.  Further, much of the growth of early Christianity was due to its language, Greek.  Meaning Diaspora Jews and Hellenistic Jews were already moving away from Hebrew and were influenced heavily by Greek language, thought, and religion.  The translation of the Hebrew bible into Greek (LXX), the Septuagint, also meant that these Jewish people could read Scriptures in the language they knew.  Even more, many of the early Christians spoke Greek as was their Scriptures, the New Testament.  The Greek in which the New Testament was written was called Koine, or common Greek.  

If you are interested further in this subject, check out a few good books:
Mark Noll, The New Shape of World Christianity, 2013
Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Christianity, 2011
Rodney Stark, Cities of God:The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome, 2006 
 Jonathan Hill, Christianity: How a Tiny Sect from a Despised Religion came to Dominate the Roman Empire, Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2011.


Popular posts from this blog

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder
Misperceptions, misconnections, and missed observations are just some of the issues that Timothy Snyder raises in his book, Black Earth, concerning the Holocaust.  Snyder, no stranger to the frontlines of scholarship on the Holocaust, with his previous book Bloodlands, that concerns the land from Hitler to Stalin, takes a look at the Holocaust from new sources and new avenues of thought.  How did some nation-states survive relatively unscathed from Nazi persecution while others, notably Jewish populations, succumb to a wave of killings?  Also, what was the role of the Soviet Union in the war and how did Stalin effect changes in the Final Solution?  These questions are only two of the many that Snyder answers in his detailed account of the Holocaust.
One of the best chapters was entitled The Auschwitz Paradox.  Generally when the public thinks about the Holocaust, we think of Auschwitz first or at the top of our mental m…

the great spiritual migration

The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian D McLaren

Brian McLaren and his own pithy way brings to the foreground and emphasis on a new kind of Christianity. The kind of faith that Brian envisions is a kind of migration not been set in the bedrock of beliefs that is unmoving but rather shifting with both culture and with faith. His new book the great spiritual migration is exactly that, a pointed work that encapsulates a vision towards the future where Christianity is changing and its peoples lives are changed as well.

Brian states in the introduction, "but we also know that for a lot of people Christianity is malfunctioning, seriously so, and it's not pretty. This kind of frustration with conventional Christianity is what McLaren gets gets to at the heart of this message is concerned with a number of different clusters unbelief. One, namely that Christianity has been stuck in a set of propositions or beliefs that has controlled churches in the faith, rather then a spirit of love t…

The Paraclete Poetry Anthology, Edited by Mark S. Burrows

Bringing words to life on a page is hard work, and no work is harder than poetry.  Poets take the visceral, the mundane, and the disjointed and frayed things of life and put them on their head.  This new anthology of poetry put out by Paraclete Press and edited by Mark S. Burrows, takes the best poetry of today and brings together old and new poems from these gifted creators.  You find poems from Scott Cairs, SAID, Phyllis Tickle, and others.  The collection stems the span of 2005-2016 and includes both religious poems and themes, as well as themes covering a broad swath of topics.

One of the beauties of this collection is the array of poems that the anthology includes in its pages.  One poem in particular stuck with me as read through the collection.  Anna Kamienska is a wonderful Polish poet who interacts with the wider lens of faith while looking carefully at the world we live in.  She says in her poem named Gratitude, (44)

A tempest threw a rainbow in my face
so that I wanted to…