Christianity is an Abrahamic religion that arose in the Middle East in the first century CE, around the time of Jesus Christ.

Branches of Christianity

Even in the early days of Christianity, there were numerous different strands of thought. The religion began as a sect of Jewish people who believed in an imminent apocalypse. The destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE saw early Christianity really begin to diverge from Judaism, and while “mainstream Christianity” split decisively from Judaism as it attracted more and more adherents in the Roman Empire who had not previously been Jewish, there remained a sect within Judaism which believed in the message of Christ until about the fifth century CE. Another early sect of Christianity was Gnosticism – which believed the material world was inherently evil, and did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus as an actual restoration of life to his dead body, but rather as the creation of a new body made out of ether.

In the modern era, the three main broad groupings of Christian denominations are:

  • Orthodox Christianity, split between…
    • Oriental Orthodox Christianity, which includes Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian and Syriac branches of Orthodox Christianity (not an exhaustive list)
    • Eastern Orthodox Christianity, including Greek, Albanian, Georgian, Russian and other Slavic branches of Orthodox Christianity (also not an exhaustive list)
  • Catholicism: The largest subgrouping of which is obviously Roman Catholicism, but there are around two dozen other Catholic churches (the Eastern Catholic Churches) – these are mostly former Orthodox churches that broke with them and established communion with the Roman Catholic Church
  • Protestantism: A heterogeneous group of churches which split from the Roman Catholic Church over the Reformation. Ranges from high-ceremony churches like Anglicanism to more down-to-earth mainstream Prot­es­tant churches (in Australia the largest example is the Uniting Church) to modern evangelicalism (like Pentecostalism).

Major Events

  • The destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE: A huge event in the history of Judaism too, this event saw early Christians distance themselves increasingly from Jews as the Christians saw the event as punishment for the majority of Jews’ rejection of Jesus.
  • The 325 Council of Nicaea: Established the first consistent creed for all Christians to follow (the Nicene creed), and also took place during the reign of Emperor Constantine who marked the turning point from the Roman Empire repressing Christianity to beginning to adopt it as its own official religion.
  • The Schism of 1054: When the Orthodox and Catholic Churches split.
  • The Reformation: More or less contemporaneous with the Renaissance, this saw Protestant churches break away from Roman Catholicism in many parts of northwestern Europe.