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Intro: Welcome to Istanbul
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TURKEY   >  HISTORY   >> Historic Period
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HISTORIC PERIOD
Alexander the Great Roman Age Byzantine Period
Hellenistic Age Christianity

CHRISTIANITY
St. Paul of Tarsus (c.1-67 AD)


Also called Saul in Hebrew and leader of the early Christian movement, was instrumental in the spreading of Christianity throughout the Greco-Roman world. He was born a Jew in Tarsus of Cilicia in Anatolia probably between 1-10 AD.

Thirteen New Testament letters have been attributed to him, many of which show him adjusting Jewish ideas and traditions to new circumstances and measuring Old Testament laws by their relevance to Jesus Christ.

The New Testament records how he actively tried to suppress the early Christian movement through persecution until he was converted to Christianity by a visionary encounter with the risen Jesus while on the road to Damascus in about 36 AD. Because of this vision, Paul held that he, too, had met Jesus and was therefore qualified to be called an apostle. After being instructed and receiving Christian baptism in Damascus, Paul went to "Arabia" for a short time. He then returned to Damascus for 3 years until he was driven out and back to Tarsus, probably in 40 AD. Several years later Barnabas brought Paul to Antioch in Syria, where they ministered together for a year.

Paul spent the following 10 years on 3 lengthy missionary journeys to Anatolia and Greece. The second journey included an 18-month stay in Corinth and the third, 2-3 years in Ephesus. During this time Paul wrote letters to churches he had previously founded and could not visit in person. Some of these letters have been preserved in the New Testament. Paul was especially concerned that he protect his understanding of the life and teachings of Jesus from alteration toward Jewish practices or toward Hellenistic religious and philosophical ideas. He instructed the Christian communities he founded in ethical behavior by correcting their failings and offering advice. The Book of Acts describes the typical pattern of Paul's ministry: he began by preaching in a synagogue but was soon expelled as a rabble-rouser; then, with a small number of Jewish adherents, Paul turned to the Gentiles, converting large numbers but occasionally encountering trouble with the civil authorities.

The different accounts of Paul's visit to Jerusalem to settle the controversy over how much of the Jewish Law Gentile Christians were required to keep, have never been fully reconciled. Years later (c.58 AD), Paul brought a collection to Jerusalem for the city's poor Christians, but he was arrested. After 2 years in prison he used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to the emperor and was sent to Rome for trial.

The Book of Acts ends with Paul under house arrest (c. 63 AD), still preaching about Jesus. Clement of Rome and Eusebius of Caesarea report that Paul was eventually acquitted before traveling to Spain where he was arrested again and subsequently martyred in Rome under Nero, c.67 AD. Feast day: June 29 (with Saint Peter).

Seven Churches of Revelation

The Seven Churches of Asia are all located in Anatolia; Ephesus (Efes), Smyrna (Izmir), Laodicea ad Lycum (Goncali), Sardis (Sart), Pergamum (Bergama), Philadelphia (Alasehir) and Thyatira (Akhisar).

These churches are associated both with Saint Paul and with Revelations (the Apocalypse); letters written in c.95 AD to the Seven Churches by John. For some people John is a visionary who lived on the island of Patmos. But some people say he is the Apostle John.

There should have been more than seven cities with major Christian congregations in Anatolia at the time that John wrote and it is unknown why he addressed only these seven. These were possibly the most important ones at that time or letters to other churches were lost.

These churches were not church buildings as such but congregations. These early congregations had their meetings in private homes as there had been no original church buildings until the 3C AD. St. Paul possibly founded some of the Seven Churches on his missionary journeys between 47-57 AD, as he was thought to have visited all seven cities.

Constantine the Great (280-337 AD)

He was the first Roman emperor to adopt Christianity. Before 312 AD Constantine seems to have been a tolerant pagan, willing to accumulate heavenly patrons but not committed to any one deity. However, between 312-324 AD he gradually adopted the Christian God as his protector and on several occasions granted special privileges to individual churches and bishops.

Soon after his victory over Licinius at Chrysopolis in 324 AD, Constantine openly embraced Christianity and became more directly involved in the affairs of the church. Christianity spread fastest among the urban populations while people who lived in villages continued to worship different deities. The early Christians called non-Christians pagans because pagani in Latin means "country-dwellers".




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