Further first century spread of the faith

In those first early vigorous years Paul was by no means the only one who spread the faith through the Empire. We hear more about him than of any other, but in various ways we obtain glimpses of many. Peter traveled, for we hear of him in Antioch, and what seems to be reliable tradition speaks of him as being in Rome and dying there as a martyr. Not all its representatives agreed on the essence of the faith. We read of Apollos, who, as a missionary, differed in his message from that of Paul but who was willing to receive instruction from friends of Paul and, conforming, became one of Paul's valued colleagues. Others were so apart from Paul in their understanding of the Gospel that he believed that he must denounce them as bearing a false message. Some of those who spread the faith were professional missionaries, drawing their financial support from the churches, but others, like Paul and Barnabas, earned their livelihood by trade or a handicraft, and many witnessed while giving most of their attention to other occupations.

Christianity quickly moved out of the Jewish community and became prevailingly non-Jewish. As early as the time that Paul wrote his letter to it, a generation or less after the resurrection, the church in Rome was predominantly Gentile. This in itself was highly significant: Christianity had ceased to be a Jewish sect and, while having roots in Judaism, was clearly new and different from that faith.

In becoming non-Jewish in its following, Christianity was entering into the Hellenistic world. While one eminent scholar has attempted to prove that some of the books of the New Testament were first written in Aramaic and then translated into Greek, there can be no doubt that the form in which they gained their initial wide circulation was in Greek and it may well be that all of them were first written in that language. The Greek was the koine, the vernacular of that language which was current at the time. Even the church in Rome, at the heart of the Latin part of the Empire, employed the koine. This meant that Christianity, still relatively flexible in thought forms, would tend to find expression through the ideas abroad in Hellenism and perhaps would even be moulded by them. It first attracted those elements in the Hellenistic population which were influenced by Judaism and thus for at least a generation was less shaped by the Greek mind than if its initial converts had come straight from pure paganism.

Christianity did not become any more exclusively Hellenistic in constituency than it was Jewish. Early it numbered some whose speech was Syriac, and among those who are reported as hearing the Christian message at Pentecost were Parthians, dwellers in Mesopotamia, Medes, Elamites, as well as those from regions more clearly in the circle of Hellenistic culture. While they were, presumably, either Jews, Jewish proselytes, or enough interested in Judaism to have come to Jerusalem, it may well be that through some of the converts of that memorable day the faith was carried to non-Jewish, non-Hellenistic groups and individuals.

At the outset, Christianity was predominantly urban. It moved along the trade routes from city to city. By the second decade of its second century in at least some parts of Asia Minor it had spread widely into towns and even into the countryside, but its strength was in the cities which were so prominent a feature of the Roman Empire.

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