The Early Growth of Christianity

Under the leadership of the apostles Peter and Paul, who both died around the year 64 CE, the early Christian community grew from Jerusalem to Rome, from a Palestinian Jewish sect to a more universal group that included Gentile non-Jewish people, all around the Mediterranean area.  The travels of Paul as found in the Acts of the Apostles and his letters give a glimpse into what was happening back then.  The followers of Jesus Christ began to differentiate themselves from the Rabbinic Judaism that was developing at the same time.

Problems of time and space

The study of words and actions, written about and by people who lived many years ago in a faraway land with a different language and symbolic structure, has inherent difficulties, as has been shown by biblical hermeneutic research.  To understand the origins of Christianity, I must be cognizant about first century Palestinian Jewish cultural conditions, as well as my own biases.  I need to avoid projecting my own experiences and prejudices on documents written thousands of years ago.  Can I ever really fully understand the men and women of the Mediterranean area who lived over two thousand years ago?  I can try.  Fortunately, a few of these early followers of Jesus, among the elite literate well educated of their time, left some sparse written evidence.  Their cosmology, their economics, and their sociology are not mine.  I must be aware of this from the start.