Aviva Directory » Faith & Spirituality » World Religions » Abrahamic Religions » Christianity » Church Divisions

Christianity is the largest religion in the world today, but it began as a small sect of Judaism about 2,000 years ago. About 26 CE, Jesus of Nazareth was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, and so began His ministry. Those who followed him believed him to be the awaited Messiah but rather than reestablishing the Kingdom of David, he was crucified by the Roman governor of Judea. Christians believe that He rose on the third day, later ascending into heaven. Christians began welcoming Gentiles into their fellowship and a new religion was formed. Christians kept the Jewish Scriptures and added a New Testament. During the early centuries, the Christian Church was not separated into clergy and laity, but eventually a leadership structure arose. As the Church spread and developed politically, conflicts arose. Councils of bishops decided that some movements within the Church were heretical, and heretics were often executed in horrifying ways. Many of the more significant divisions in the Church were the result of growing divisions between different language groups. The first official separation occurred in the mid-5th century when the Coptic Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox churches separated from the Greek Orthodox. The separation between the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church occurred gradually, out of disagreements over who should be the temporal head of the Church. The final break came in 1054, after which the Roman Catholic Church became the dominant social institution in Western Europe. In the 16th century, reformers such as Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli called for doctrinal reform in Catholicism, based on Scripture rather than tradition, and the Church in Western Europe was divided between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. While the Protestant Reformation was taking place, the Anabaptists and Mennonites came out of the Radical Reformation. In the years to follow, many further divisions occurred, particularly within Protestantism.








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