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Sign in or Create an account. Click to enlarge. Buy in bulk and save. Product Description In Converts and Kingdoms, historian Diane Moczar tells the story of early Christianity's faith, courage, and cunning, chronicling the labors of missionaries and martyrs with no small help from Providence to spread the gospel and lay the foundation for the most magnificent culture human history has ever known.
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Add to cart. Confirmation Bracelet and Card. Jesus cures a sick man who is unable to reach the pool at Bethesda, which contains healing waters.
Everyone in the ancient world knew that divinity was all about power. Humans cannot control whether it rains or an epidemic destroys the community or a natural disasters hits; but the gods can.
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They can provide for humans what mere mortals cannot do for themselves. This stood at the root of all ancient religion. And it became the chief selling point of the Christian message. Christians declared that their God was more powerful than any other god—in fact, more powerful than all the supposed other gods combined.
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God alone was God, and he alone could provide what people need. The power struggle between the Christian and pagan gods is on full display in a wide range of ancient texts. At one point in the narrative, John visits the city of Ephesus and its renowned temple to the goddess Athena. Entering the sacred site, John ascends a platform and issues a challenge to a large crowd of pagans: They are to pray to their divine protectoress to strike him dead. If she fails to respond, he in turn will ask his God to kill all of them.
The crowd is terrified—they have already seen John raise people from the dead, and they know his God means business.
Although obviously legendary, the tale conveys an important truth. Jesus himself, the son of God, had performedone miracle after the other. He was born of a virgin; he fulfilled prophecies spoken centuries earlier by ancient seers; he healed the sick; he cast out demons; he raised the dead. His disciples also did miracles—amazing miracles—all recorded for posterity in writings widely available. And the miracles continued to the present day. People became convinced by these stories.
Not en masse, but one person at a time. Christ and Doubting Thomas, painted by Paolo Cavazzola Christianity did not initially succeed by taking its message to the great and the powerful, the mighty Roman elite. It succeeded at first as a grassroots movement. The original followers of Jesus told those close to them what they believed: that the great miracle worker Jesus had been raised from the dead, and that his wonders continued to be performed among those who believed in him.
They convinced others. Not most of those they talked with, but some. And as it turns out, small but steady growth from the ground up is all it took. If you chart the necessary rate of growth along an exponential curve, the Christian movement needed to increase at a rate of around 3 percent annually.
If that happens year after year after year, the numbers eventually pile up. Later in the history of the movement, when there are , Christians, the same annual growth rate will yield 3, converts; when there are 1 million Christians, 30, converts.
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In one year. The key was to reach people one at a time. It grows from the bottom up, not the top down. The top will eventually convert.
Legitimization Under Constantine
But you start below, at the base, where most people actually live. Roman Emperor Constantine making a donation from the city of Rome to the Pope in support of his new found devotion to the Christian church. Christianity succeeded in large measure because it required potential converts to make a decision that was exclusive and final.
If they chose to join the church, they had to abandon all previous religious commitments and associations.
For the Christian faith, it was all or nothing, so as it fed its own growth, it devoured the competition. But we ourselves accept exclusive religions precisely because the early Christians convinced the world that this is how it ought to be. Personal religion is one thing or another, not both—or several—at once. Since pagans all worshiped many gods, there was no sense that any one God demanded exclusive attention.
Quite the opposite. No, you worshiped both—along with Hermes, Athena, Ares, your city gods, your family gods and whichever others you chose, whenever you chose.