The historical truth content behind many biblical events can justifiably be doubted. Through intensive securing of evidence in Gospels and contemporary inscriptions, however, Historians can draw an authentic picture of the history of origins of Christianity. Who was the first Christian in Europe? When was the Crucifix first used as a religious symbol? How much do we know about the begin of faith?
The first Crucifix
The woeful fate of the Italian territorial city, Pompeii, is still commonly known by many people today. In the year 79, the city near the Gulf of Naples was surprised by a volcanic eruption. The consequences of the outburst were, that the complete city was buried beneath a 12-metre-thick layer of ash and pumice.
The life of the city became completely preserved. This tragedy was a cast of fortune for many new-age scientists – nowhere else do you have such a pure, genuine and unaltered snapshot of a life long gone.
In 1813, archaeological excavation in the ruins of the city brought some sort of bakery to light. On the opposite side of the entrance door, the researchers came across an extraordinary discovery: an imprint of a Christian Crucifix in the plaster of the wall.
Previously, Historians thought that the Crucifix was first used as a Christian symbol of faith at some remote period, not just 40 years after the death of Jesus Christ. In 1938, research confirmed, that the Crucifix in the bakery was no coincidence: Scientists found another cross in the neighboring city of Pompeii, Herculaneum. In the upper floor of a family home, they came across the remains of a Christian cross on the wall.
- Eckhard J. Schnabel: Urchristliche Mission. TVG, 2002, S. 795
- Leo G. Linder: Jesus, Paulus & Co. Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2013, S. 238ff.
The first Church
In the year of 313, Christianity was officially proclaimed the preferred Religion in the Holy Roman Empire – only two years after the first persecution of Christians came to a sudden halt. Mainly responsible for that change was Constantine the Great, who changed the world in many ways: He abolished the Imperial cult and established laws based on Christian attitude of morality. Until today, the established laws of Constantine are noticeable: He was the one who introduced Sunday as a day of rest.
If Constantine was a Christian, or if he mainly used Religion as Opium for the people, is anyone’s guess. However, that some of the most crucial first phases of Christian development carry his thumb print is indisputable. He was the one who ordered the first church building program.
The first church we know of arose in the year of 314 in the city of Aquileia in the Italian province Udine, 45 kilometers away from Trieste.
There were, of course, earlier house- and hall churches way before they built this church in Aquileia. Those were, however, churches not solely built for Christians. After all, building or attending a church for Christians before 313 would’ve resulted in certain death.
Even in the church of Aquileia, they restrained from showing too much open avowals. While there were no Christian symbols whatsoever in the mosaic floor or on the walls, in the second church built only a few years later, next to the first church, they used some early symbols of their faith.
- Reisebuch.de: http://bit.ly/1sn7kp6 (16. July 2014)
- Leo G. Linder: Jesus, Paulus & Co. Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2013, S. 245ff.
The first Christian in Europe
“Sailing from Troas we made a straight run for Samothrace; the next day for Neapolis, and from there for Philippi, a Roman colony and the principal city of that district of Macedonia.” (Acts 16,11)
Near the bay of Naples, Paulus the Convert took his first steps on European soil. Only a few days after his arrival, he and his companions travelled to Philippi. At this time, Philippi, the alleged birth-place of Lucas, was still a Roman colony with only a few Jews left.
In Philippi, the travelers met a small group of Jews, who gathered for a prayer. Paulus joined and got into a conversation with them. Mainly, he talked to a woman called Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira.
„ A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one who worshiped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened to listen to the things which were spoken by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, „If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and stay.“ So she persuaded us.“ (Acts 16,14)
She let herself be baptized on spot and took Paulus and his companions to her house.
The first Christian in Europe was, in fact, a woman. From then on, the Christian community in Philippi grew and met at her house. In the Epistle to the Philippians, Paulus mentions that they obtained additional and special financial help from her parish, which was rather important for his future travels.
- Wikipedia.de: http://bit.ly/1jwRYvk (16. July 2014)
- Jean-Pierre Sterck-Degueldre: Eine Frau namens Lydia. Mohr Siebeck, 2004, S. 114
- Leo G. Linder: Jesus, Paulus & Co. Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2013, S. 200