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This lesson discusses Christianity from a historical and religious standpoint, tracing its origin in first century A.D./C.E. Judea to the present day, while introducing its main divisions and sects.

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[THEME MUSIC] Welcome to this tutorial on Christianity. Here is a simple cross with the initials INRI, which comes from the Latin Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum. This was the phrase that the Roman soldiers put on the cross to sort of mock Jesus. And it means "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."

For Christians, Jesus of Nazareth, who died in around the year 30 AD or CE, they believe that Jesus was the Messiah. The Messiah was prophesied in the Jewish scriptures, a coming king who would liberate the Jews from Roman occupation and restore them to their kingdom of Israel. His followers believed Him to be this Messiah.

Messiah means "anointed one." Christ also means "anointed one." Messiah is Hebrew. Christ is Greek. Other Jews thought that the Messiah would be a military leader, so they did not believe in Jesus.

Probably Jews and Christians were worshiping together for at least of the first century and maybe even longer than that. Christianity started out as a sect within Judaism and later became its own branch. Scholars used to say when the temple was destroyed in 70 CE that the two branches went their separate ways, but it may have taken longer than that.

Jesus is also described as Emmanuel, God is with us, along with many other titles in the Christian scriptures. The Christian scriptures are just the Hebrew scriptures plus the Gospels, the letters and the book of Revelation.

Christians believe that there was original sin when Adam and Eve sinned, and that separated humanity from God. At any rate, people have violated the law of God through their own wickedness and they are powerless to bridge the gap between themselves and God because they are innately sinful. The only way that humanity can be restored to fellowship with God is if they have forgiveness of sins, and this happens through Jesus.

Christians believe that if you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior through a profession of faith and are baptized--in some traditions baptism is more important than others-- but at least if you profess Jesus as Savior then you are restored to fellowship with God and you can have a relationship with God again. So Jesus has a perfect victim, completely soundless and is sacrifice on our behalf.

Little bit more about Christianity. Christianity is trinitarian. Christianity is a monotheistic religion. It is an Abrahamic religion. But the Christians believe that God comes in three persons--Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

There are tensions about the exact relationship between those three persons between the Western church and the Eastern Church, but all Christians believe that there are three persons in the Trinity.

For complex theological reasons, the church is divided between Western and Eastern branches. One of the main tensions is that the bishop of Rome, who is known as the pope, was claiming to be the leader for all of Christianity, and that rankled the Eastern bishops. And the Western church and the Eastern Church split into two.

The Western branch also split, actually split several times, but by and large, we tend to divide it between the Roman Catholic Church, that is the church that celebrates all the seven sacraments, and the Protestant Church. The Protestant Church protested against perceived abuses of the Catholic Church, especially the priesthood and the hierarchy. The selling of indulgences for remission of sins.

They also thought that the saints and Mary had become too much of a focus. So, they wanted to correct these perceived abuses by going back to the scriptures, sola scriptura, the Protestant rallying cry means "scripture alone." If it's not in the scripture, we shouldn't be celebrating it, according to the Protestants. So by and large in Protestant churches there are only one or two sacraments--communion and possibly marriage.

Although some Protestant churches do baptize infants and they do have the sacrament of confirmation, they generally do not have holy orders, that is monasticism. So, in the Protestant Church the emphasis is on individual believers and their relationship with God. So, there's this real emphasis on a personal connection with God and on studying the Bible for oneself. That is, you don't need a priest to go to confession. You can just confess directly to God.

Catholicism is traditionally strong in Western Europe, although that is certainly beginning to change. This is true throughout the whole church, really, that the center of gravity is shifting towards South America and Africa and South Asia. Catholicism in these countries tends to be more charismatic, that is, there's more of an emphasis on the Holy Spirit and prophecy and things like that. That's also true in the Protestant Churches.

So Protestantism is traditionally strong in the US, although all of the major denominations are losing members. But Protestantism is growing in Korea. It's growing in the global south. So throughout all of Christianity the church is really growing in Third World countries, especially. Not so much in the Western, liberal democracies, where secularization is still very much happening.

The mainline Protestant denominations, groups like the Baptists and Methodists and so forth, are shrinking in size while evangelical, independent mega churches tend to be growing more rapid rate.

Just to recap, we said that Christianity is a religion founded following the death of Jesus of Nazareth. And His followers believe also the resurrection of Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah or Emmanuel, God with us.

Christianity is a trinitarian religion, one God in three persons, and is divided into Western and Eastern branches. The Western branch is composed of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Protestantism protested against abuses in the Catholic Church and believed in an individual relationship with God.

The vocabulary terms for this lesson are the Trinity, the term used to describe God the Father, God the Son. and God the Holy Spirit. The Reformation, that movement that we mentioned that led to the split of the Western church between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. And a Christian is anyone who accepts Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, as Lord and Savior.

Terms to Know

Anyone who accepts Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, as Lord, and as Savior.

The Reformation

A movement, which culminated in the establishment of Protestantism, started by dissident Roman Catholics seeking to reform the Church.

The Trinity

In Christianity, the term used to describe God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost).