John the Baptist was beheaded by local authorities causing many of his followers to look to Jesus for leadership.
Initially, Jesus’ message was fundamentalist Judaism. He promoted basic ethics such as loving one’s neighbor and returning hatred with kindness. He had an apparent ability to heal the sick. Many of Jesus’ followers believed that he was a messiah, sent by their God, to drive out the Romans and establish a new Jewish state. At some point, Jesus too believed he was the messiah. The authorities, concerned with his popularity, had him arrested, condemned to death and crucified.
After Jesus’ death, the less messianic, more religious aspects of his teachings were emphasized, primarily through the gospels of four of his disciples, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The disciple Paul was responsible for separating Christianity from its Jewish roots. He introduced the idea that Jesus was the son of God and that faith in God was the only way to be saved from sin.
The early Christians were split into two hostile groups for nearly a century. One group followed Peter and the other group followed Paul. Peter’s followers were predominantly Jewish, following many Jewish traditions, as Jesus had done. Paul’s followers were more accepting of non-Jewish converts and waived Jewish law for those not born into the religion. Both Peter and Paul were executed in Rome in approximately 64 AD.
Christianity had certain strengths and strong psychological, as opposed to philosophical, messages of protection hope and forgiveness. Christianity’s greatest strength was its egalitarianism – it was first and foremost a religion of the poor.
By the third century the Roman Empire was being attacked from every direction. In 395 it officially split into two halves, the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire. In 410 the Visigoths destroyed Rome and the Western Roman Empire. In the late 600’s Arabs conquered Egypt and Syria which were