Healing in the History of Christianity

By Amanda Porterfield | Go to book overview

2
Healing in Early Christianity

The religious movement originating with Jesus met with amazing success. Despite sporadic episodes of persecution, it gained thousands of adherents in the first three centuries after Jesus' death. By the end of the second century, small Christian communities had sprung up in most of the urban centers around the Mediterranean, as well as northwest and west into Germania, Gaul, and Spain, north and east through Syria into Mesopotamia, Bactria (now Afghanistan), and Persia, and further east to southern India. By 225, Persia had more than twenty bishops, and Christian communities appeared in Armenia and along the Euphrates, the Persian Gulf, and the Hindu Kush.1

In the sprawling, spreading Roman Empire, the pace of conversions grew after Constantine's vision of the sign of Christ leading him to victory over the city of Rome in 312. The emperor proclaimed religious toleration in 313, bringing the persecution of Christians to an end first in western, then in eastern parts of the Mediterranean world. The unification of the Empire in 324, the development of Constantinople as a center of Christian learning, and the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Empire by Theodosius I in 381 secured and extended the new religion's influence, which spread south into Ethiopia in the fourth century, across the Red Sea into Arabia, along the Silk Road into Syria and Persia, and further into Europe.2

The fourth century witnessed several important developments

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