Christianity

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Name Means

followers of Christ (Greek christos, Messiah)

Adherents

2.2 billion

Place Founded

Southern Levant (modern-day Israel, Palestine, and Jordan)

Date Founded

c. 30 CE

Founder(s)

Jesus, Peter, Paul

Major Branches

Roman Catholic; Eastern Orthodox; Protestant

Practices

Prayer, Bible study, baptism, Eucharist (Communion), church on Sundays, numerous holidays.

Main Holidays

Easter, Christmas, saints' days

Texts

Bible (Hebrew Bible + New Testament)

Symbols

Cross, dove, anchor, fish, alpha/omega, chi rho

With over 2 billion adherents worldwide, Christianity is the largest religion in the world. It has dominated western culture for centuries and remains the majority religion of Europe and the Americas.

Christian beliefs center on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, a teacher and healer who lived in first century Palestine. The primary source of information about the life of Jesus are the Gospels, which were written sometime between 20 and 100 years after his death and became the first four books of the New Testament. The Gospels describe a three-year teaching and healing ministry during which Jesus attracted 12 close disciples and other followers who believed him to be the Messiah (Christos).

Jesus' teachings focused on the themes of the kingdom of God, love of God and love of neighbor. Along with some of his teachings, his growing popularity with the masses was seen as dangerous by Jewish religious leaders and the Roman government, leading to his execution by crucifixion. Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead three days later, and in so doing made it possible for those who believe to be forgiven of sin and attain eternal life. Much of Christian belief and practice centers on the resurrection of Christ.

The sacred text of Christianity is the Christian Bible, which consists of the Old Testament (the Jewish Bible) and the New Testament. The New Testament contains 27 books: four gospels (narratives of Jesus' life), one account of the apostles' ministry after Jesus' death, letters from church leaders (the earliest of which predate the Gospels), and an apocalyptic book.

Nearly all Christians regard the Bible as divinely inspired and authoritative, but views differ as to the nature and extent of its authority. Some hold it to be completely without error in all matters it addresses, while others stress its accuracy only in religious matters and allow for errors or limitations in other areas due to its human authorship.

Christianity has divided into three major branches. Roman Catholicism represents the continuation of the historical organized church as it developed over the centuries, and is headed by the Pope. Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism separated in 1054, when the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope excommunicated each other. Eastern Orthodoxy (which includes the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches and several others) differs from Catholicism in its refusal of allegiance to the Pope, its emphasis on the use of icons in worship, and the date it celebrates Easter. Other cultural, political, and religious differences exist as well.

Protestantism arose in the 16th century. Protestants do not acknowledge the authority of the Pope, reject many traditions and beliefs of the Catholic Church, and emphasize the importance of reading the Bible and the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Protestantism encompasses numerous denominational groups, including Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and Evangelicals.

Christian practices vary by denomination, but common elements include a Sunday worship service, private and corporate prayer, study and reading of the Scriptures, and participation in the rites of baptism and communion. Distinctive Catholic practices include recognition of seven sacraments, devotion to Mary and the saints, and veneration of relics and sacred sites associated with holy figures. Eastern Orthodoxy holds many practices in common with Catholicism, but is especially distinguished by the central role of icons.

The most important Christian holiday is Easter, a spring holiday that celebrates Christ's resurrection from the dead. Easter is immediately preceded by Holy Week, which includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. The 40 days prior to Easter form the Lenten season, a time of fasting and repentance. Another holiday that has become important is Christmas, which commemorates the birth of Jesus on December 25 (January 6 in Orthodox Churches). Saints' days are also important. Some of these, such as St. Patrick's Day and St. Valentine's Day, have come to play a prominent role in popular American culture.

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Books on Christianity

Hand-selected books on Christianity available for purchase at online bookstores.

Christian Beliefs

Beliefs are important in Christianity. Christian beliefs center on the nature of God, the identity of Jesus Christ, and how people can be saved from sin and its punishments.

Afterlife

Christology

Creation

End Times

God & Spirits

Human Nature

Other Religions

Salvation

Scripture

transubstantiation

Christian Denominations

Divisions within Christianity, known as "denominations," number into the thousands by some counts. Nearly all Christian denominations have their roots in the Reformation, when some Christians began to question the Church's long-standing firm control over doctrine and practice.

Anglicanism

Cathari

Catholicism

Charismatic movement

Christian Science

Donatism

Eastern Orthodox Church

Jehovah's Witnesses

Mormonism

Protestantism

Christian History

The following articles provide an overview of some of the most important events and periods in Christian history.

Context

Birth of Jesus

Baptism of Jesus

Persecution in the Early Church

Conversion of Constantine

Council of Nicea

Canonization of the New Testament

Seven Ecumenical Councils

History of the Papacy

Great Schism

Crusades

Reformation

Salem Witch Trials

Reason and Revival

Christian Holidays

Holidays, feasts and fasts are a significant part of Christian religious practice. Feast days celebrate joyous events like the birth of Christ, while fast days provide a special opportunity for self-reflection and repentance. Some Christian holidays have come to have a considerable impact on western culture and traditions.

Advent

All Saints Day

Ash Wednesday

Boxing Day

Christmas

Easter

Epiphany

Good Friday

History

Lent

Lord's Day

Mardi Gras

Palm Sunday

St. Andrew's Day

St. Patrick's Day

Thanksgiving

Twelfth Night

Valentine's Day

Christian Objects

Like most religions, Christianity concerns itself primarily with the spiritual world. Christians believe in a God they cannot see, pray for the salvation of non-material souls, and anticipate an afterlife characterized primarily by spiritual pleasures...

baptistery

Cassock

Christmas tree

icons

New Testament manuscript

paten

pyx

Relics

Shroud of Turin

Christian Practices

Christian practices vary by denomination, but common elements include a Sunday worship service, private and corporate prayer, study and reading of the Scriptures, and participation in rites such as baptism and communion (known as sacraments)...

Bible study

catechism

Christian baptism

Christian Prayer

Christian Vestments

Confirmation

Eucharist

Fasting

Monasticism

Neo-Pentecostalism

Tithing in Christianity

Christian Symbols

Whether carved on ancient tombs, incorporated into medieval art, or tattooed on 21st-century bodies, symbols have always played an important role in the Christian religion.

agnus Dei

Alpha and Omega

anchor

aureole

butterfly

Chi Rho

Christ Pantocrator

Creator's star

cross

eagle

eight-point star

Eye of God (Providence)

fish

Five Wounds

five-point star

four-point star

nine-point star

number symbols

peacock

pelican

pomegranate

square

star

twelve-point star

six-point star

color symbolism

Christian Texts

## The Sacred Texts of Christianity ## The Bible The primary sacred text of Christianity is the Bible. Its name is derived from the Latin word biblia, which simply means "books...

Bible translations

Didache

New Testament

Old Testament

Septuagint

Christianity Adherents

Christianity has about 2.2 billion adherents worldwide. This number is based on global surveys and estimates of 2.17 and 2.18 billion from 2010-11, rounded up a bit to correspond with increases in world population since then...

Christianity Comparison Charts

Comparison charts are useful tools for quickly identifying similarities and differences or gathering information without having to read longer articles or compare several sources...

Catholic and Protestant Christianity

Christian Denominations: Beliefs and Theology

Christian Denominations: Ethics

Christian Denominations: Facts

Christian Denominations: Rituals and Practices

Christianity and Islam

Christianity and Islam and Judaism

Christianity and Judaism

Christianity and Mormonism

Early Church Fathers

Historical Jesus Theories

JW and Christianity

Resurrection Accounts

Glossary of Christianity

Definitions of terms related to Christianity.

Notable People in Christianity

Christian history is populated with interesting characters and personalities. Whether saint, heretic, pope, bishop, monk, scholar, philosopher, statesman, preacher or author, each person profiled in this section made a contribution to Christianity — and often to western history as well...

Abelard, Peter

Abigail

Adrian III, Pope

Albertus Magnus

Ambrose of Milan

Anselm of Canterbury

Anthony of Egypt

Apollonaris

Arminius, Jacob

Athanasius

Augustine of Hippo

Barclay, Robert

Barth, Karl

Basil of Caesarea, St.

Beck, Glenn

Bede, the Venerable

Benedict of Nursia

Biden, Joe

Boaz

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich

Booth, William

Brown, Dan

Bucer, Martin

Bultmann, Rudolph

Bunyan, John

Bush, Jeb

Canisius, Peter

Carmichael, Amy

Charles V

Chesteron, G.K.

Christie, Chris

Clement of Alexandria

Clement of Rome

Clinton, Hillary

Cranmer, Thomas

Edwards, John

Falwell, Jerry

Foster, Richard

Fox, George

Francis of Assisi, St.

Francis, Pope

Frederick the Wise

Gregory IV, Pope

Gregory of Nazianzus

Haggard, Ted

Harnack, Adolf von

Henry VIII, King

Huckabee, Mike

Hus, Jan

Innocent I, Pope

Innocent V, Pope

Irenaeus of Lyons

Jennings, Peter

Jesus

John Paul II, Pope

Kucinich, Dennis

Latimer, Hugh

Lewis, C. S. (1898-1963)

Lilly, Evangeline

Lombard, Peter

Luther, Martin

Macarthur, John

Martin of Tours, St.

Mary

Mary I, "Bloody" Queen

Mary Magdalene

McCain, John

McPherson, Aimee

Medici, Giovanni de

Milton, John

Montanus

Nader, Ralph

Nicholas, St.

Nyssa, Gregory of

Obama, Barack

Origen of Alexandria

Palin, Sarah

Patrick, St.

Paul, Apostle

Paul, Rand

Paul, Ron

Pelagius

Penington, Isaac

Penn, William

Perry, Katy

Pius IX, Pope

Polycarp

Prince, Joseph

Putin, Vladimir (b. 1952)

Ridley, Nicholas

Romney, Mitt

Sarkozy, Nicolas

Savonarola, Girolamo

Schleiermacher, Friedrich

Smith, Joseph

Stephen, Pope

Swaggart, Jimmy

Teresa, Mother

Tolkien, J.R.R.

Urban II, Pope

Valentine, Pope

Warren, Rick

Whitefield, George

Wilberforce, William

William of Ockham

Wycliffe, John

Xavier, Francis

Zwingli, Ulrich

Timeline of Christianity

Christian history at a glance.

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