Christianity’s Impact on Western Civilization
What do people look for in religion? Do they seek guidance, belief, reason, or help? All of those traces can be found in one form or another in the Judeo-Christian religion. From the followers attempting to flee prosecution to now being a major religion throughout the world with billions of followers, Christianity has extended its roots to the modern world. It hardly needs stating that Christianity has influenced the Western World through literature by influencing culture, history, laws, and morals in both negative and positive aspects.
Throughout time, many civilizations have created a form of creation stories that in their culture account for how the world is made. Although there are many striking differences between faiths and cultures on how the world came to be, there exist similarities between creation stories. For example, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, The Book of Genesis, and The Babylonian Accounts of Creation there exist underlining similarities in what existed before, how life was brought upon, and the sequence of creation. In both creation stories, the primitive world was formless and empty with only water having existed before creation. In the Book of Genesis, the earth is described to be without form surrounded with darkness. It was not until the third day that God created land and vegetation. In The Babylonian Accounts of Creation, only the two primeval gods of water existed before the development of land. It was not until Marduk kills Tiatam that he splits half of her body; the first half used to create the sky and the other half to create the land. In both stories, creation is an act of divine speech. The Babylonian Accounts of Creation is in the form of a speech given by Marduk while in The Book of Genesis it is stated when God said, “Let there be light: and there was light.” In both stories, the sequence of creation is the same in how they formed. It starts with the introduction of light, firmament, dry land, luminaries, and humanity. Both of these creation stories feature strong reoccurring elements, the only difference lies in how they were told. One might believe that it’s a shared human history that got interpreted differently based on the nature that a civilization grew upon.
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Culture helps identify people’s personal identity because it is defined by a collection of people’s values, beliefs, and personal interest. Christianity has influenced culture through literature, education, and science. Christianity has had a negative impact on literature by destroying Greek and/or classical literature. Church officials felt that classical text that did not support the Christian message were to be destroyed, but those that did support their message were virtually the main classical text that was preserved. As can be seen in Statutes of Gregory IX, for the University of Paris, 1231, the Church promotes learning and the development of science through providing guidelines and funding. Essentially, the Church revives the teachings at the University of Paris encouraging professionalism among the professor to an extent. The Church will allow the professor to branch and extend on their teachings as long as it is not on Theology and Canon Law. Those will be left to the Church to teach. Through literature, education, and science, Christianity has influenced the culture of Western Civilization. If it was not for Christianity creating and destroying pieces of history that make up culture, many people wonder how far advance might the human population be along as compared today.
From persecution to a universal religion, followers of the Christian religion have been part of influencing and contributing to the historical context. With an emphasis on the historical context of the persecution of the Christian followers, the Accounts of Persecution of the Christians follows the historical significance through the public opinion, legal basis, and government motivation. Because people tend to look at history from a modern perspective, it is often misinterpreted on the true reason why the Romans persecuted Christians. Unlike the popular claim that it was the Christians who were persecuted due to the refusal to worship the emperor, it rose due to Christian’s refusal to worship multiple gods and partake in sacrifices rituals, something uncommon in the Roman Empire. According to the account of Sulpicius Severus, a Christian writer, “Afterwards he even made laws forbidding the religion, and published edicts, ordering that Christianity should not exist.” The emperor at the time, Trajan, assuming he was above the law created pieces of legislation that forbade the religion entirely. As seen in Pliny’s Letter to Emperor Trajan, the majority of the outcome for those that confessed that they were Christian were subject to the governor’s personal decision. This led to the persecutors to rely on the precedent or imperial opinion, but such guidance was usually not available. Thus, Christians were persecuted due to their beliefs and criticizing the Roman way of religion. Through the public opinion, legal basis, and government motivation, people can identify the historical significance in the Accounts of Persecution of the Christians.
With a stress in the modern world that religion should remain out of politics and laws, it is easy to forget that religion affect certain aspects of law. In How Constantine Overthrew Maxentius and Favored Christianity by Eusebius marks the pivotal moment in which Christianity started influencing politics and laws from being protected in the empire to becoming the empires’ official religion. As stated in the short context, Constantine the Great was the first emperor to adhere to Christianity and converted to Christianity. These changes allowed for the followers to be given protection in the law through the Edit of Milan. This precedent allowed in 392 for Theodosius I to declare Christianity as the official religion of the empire while outlawing pagan worship. The shift is significant because it switched the persecution targets from the Christians to pagan worshipers and Jews. When today’s modern age answer many questions that religion was founded upon, it should not be seen as a science and certainly not as law. Especially when government affects people’s lives daily.
A crucifixion was a punishment of the Roman Empire that dates back before the Punic Wars. Most people only think of the crucifixion of Jesus, but so many others were crucified before and after him. The crucifixion of Jesus has a legal, reasonable means to be executed as seen through the events leading up to his arrest in both Roman’s perspective and his disciple’s perspective of the crucifixion. In the eyes of the Roman Empire, Jesus was seen as an enemy of the state due to the teachings in the temple or even his increasing popularity that would lead to an uprising against the state. For his crimes against the state, by Roman law, he would have to face the crucifixion. Jesus truly believed that he was on the mission from God and was fulfilling the mission. Since his birth, it was said that “Do not be afraid; behold, I tell you good news, great joy which shall be for all the people; because this day there has been born for you in the city of David a savior who is Christ the Lord.” He was predestined towards his faith at the crucifixion by being in mankind’s world filled with sins. When looking at the modern approach given from the interpretation of the disciple’s perspective, the reason Jesus was crucified was for man’s salvation. In Christianity, this modern perspective allows the bridge between mankind, the sinners, to reach the heavens because mankind would not have made it there on their own. Through the Roman Empire, Jesus, and his disciples perspective each display what they believed was the reason for crucifying Jesus. His willingness to accept death, and with faith, to be resurrected is the true beginning of Christianity.
Christianity impact on the Western World can be seen through literature by influencing culture, history, laws, and morals in both negative and positive aspects. The text and its teachings still shape the lives of its followers extending its roots to the modern world. Christianity is vibrant throughout history enduring longer than great empires and people have described it as more influential than many cultural achievements.