Christianity, major religion stemming from the life, teachings, and death of Jesus of Nazareth (the Christ, or the Anointed One of God) in the 1st century AD.
It has become the largest of the world’s religions and, geographically, the most widely diffused of all faiths.
Christianity has a constituency of more than two billion believers.
Its largest groups are the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the Protestant churches.
While it started with a small group of adherents, many historians regard the spread and adoption of Christianity throughout the world as one of the most successful spiritual missions in human history.
Christians are monotheistic, i.e., they believe there’s only one God, and he created the heavens and the earth. This divine Godhead consists of three parts: the father (God himself), the son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit.
The central tenet of Christianity is the belief in Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah (Christ). Christians believe that Jesus, as the Messiah, was anointed by God as savior of humanity and hold that Jesus’ coming was the fulfillment of messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The Christian concept of messiah differs significantly from the contemporary Jewish concept. The core Christian belief is that through belief in and acceptance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, sinful humans can be reconciled to God, and thereby are offered salvation and the promise of eternal life.
Christians consider the resurrection of Jesus to be the cornerstone of their faith (see 1 Corinthians 15) and the most important event in history. Among Christian beliefs, the death and resurrection of Jesus are two core events on which much of Christian doctrine and theology is based. According to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified, died a physical death, was buried within a tomb, and rose from the dead three days later.
Christians contend that Jesus will return to earth again in what’s known as the Second Coming.
The most information about Jesus is recorded in four books of the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is important to note here, however, that these books were not written as biographies; their purpose rather was to persuade others that Jesus was the son of God and the savior of the world. Thus, they describe the life and ministry of Jesus as the one they believed was God in the flesh. In other words, what we have in these four books of the Bible is an account of Jesus the Christ—that is, “the anointed one” or “the chosen one”—not a history of Jesus the man from Nazareth.
The date of birth of Jesus of Nazareth is not stated in the gospels or in any secular text, but most scholars assume a date of birth between 6 BC and 4 BC. Two main methods have been used to estimate the year of the birth of Jesus: one based on the accounts of his birth in the gospels with reference to King Herod’s reign, and another based on subtracting his stated age of “about 30 years” from the time when he began preaching (Luke 3:23) in “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” (Luke 3:1-2): the two methods indicate a date of birth before Herod’s death in 4 BC, and a date of birth around 2 BC, respectively.
Three details have been used to estimate the year when Jesus began preaching: a mention of his age of “about 30 years” during “the fifteenth year” of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, another relating to the date of the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, and yet another concerning the death of John the Baptist. Hence, scholars estimate that Jesus began preaching and gathering followers around AD 28–29. According to the three synoptic gospels Jesus continued preaching for at least one year, and according to John the Evangelist for three years.
Five methods have been used to estimate the date of the crucifixion of Jesus. The most interesting is the lunar eclipse method – the Apostle Peter’s statement that the moon turned to blood at the crucifixion (Acts of the Apostles 2:14–21) is taken to refer to the lunar eclipse of 3 April AD 33; although astronomers are discussing whether the eclipse was visible as far west as Jerusalem. Recent astronomical research uses the contrast between the synoptic date of Jesus’ last Passover on the one hand, with John’s date of the subsequent “Jewish Passover” on the other hand, to propose Jesus’ Last Supper to have been on Wednesday, 1 April AD 33 and the crucifixion on Friday 3 April AD 33 and the Resurrection on the third day.
Trinity refers to the teaching that the one God comprises three distinct, eternally co-existing persons: the Father, the Son (incarnate in Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Together, these three persons are sometimes called the Godhead, although there is no single term in use in Scripture to denote the unified Godhead. In the words of the Athanasian Creed, an early statement of Christian belief, “the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God”.
The cross, today one of the most widely recognized symbols, was used by Christians from the earliest times. Tertullian, in his book De Corona, tells how it was already a tradition for Christians to trace the sign of the cross on their foreheads. Although the cross was known to the early Christians, the crucifix did not appear in use until the 5th century.
The most important Christian holidays are Christmas (which celebrates the birth of Jesus) and Easter (which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus).