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Yuri Koszarycz


Despite the fact that the gospel message of Jesus found a hostile, stormy, and crisis-ridden reception in the second and third century, it is astounding to note how quickly the Christian community spread throughout the Roman empire. In addition to the concentration of Christians in Palestine and Asia Minor, by the end of the second century Christians were to be found in sizeable numbers in Italy, including Sicily and Sardinia, and also along the north African coast with its centre in Carthage. In the third century, the south of Spain was home to a large Christian community in Cordoba and the city of Elvira. In southern France in the area from the Rhine to the Mosel, as well as in the British Isles, Christian centres were established under the leadership of local bishops.

The favourable travel conditions that existed facilitated access to the far corners of the empire allowing the Christian faith to proliferate rapidly. Persecutions in Italy, Greece and in Asia Minor often meant that believing Christians became itinerant, moving to less threatening areas within the Roman empire. This peregrination became in itself a cause for the rapid dissemination of the Christian message.

It has been estimated that in the first century there existed almost half a million Christians. By the close of the second century, their number had risen to two million; at the close of the third century, their number had again more than doubled - to almost five million. This is astonishing when we realize that at the beginning of the fourth century, it was reputed that the Roman empire had almost 50 million adherents within its borders. In that century, after the conversion of emperor Constantine, and after the Church received its freedom, the numbers of Christians in the total Roman empire quickly rose to almost ten million.

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Copyright ©1999, Yuri Koszarycz. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents,including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.The contents of ORB are copyright © 1995-1999 Laura V. Blanchard and Carolyn Schriber except as otherwise indicated herein.