The Spread of Christianity

Christianity was first spread through the Roman Empire and later by the Roman Empire. Christianity began around the year 30 and was spread by missionary activity for the first nearly 400 years. This was made possible largely to the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) that made travel and trade relatively safe and easy. Of course this spread was not without its challenges due to official persecution that was often inconsistently enforced but sometimes severe.

It was not until 380 that Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire that it was spread by the empire itself. Much of the first part of the story is told in the Bible in the book of Acts. Acts focuses on the activity of Peter and then Paul. It ends with Paul in Rome around 63. Nothing is actually said about Paul's death in the Bible but tradition puts it after the mid-60s, I have 68 in the timeline below. In addition to the Bible stories there are many traditions associated with various churches that claim a particular apostle as a founder and these dates fit into the time of the book of Acts but those activities are not recorded there.

Paul was not the only missionary as is clear from the stories of Paul's associates such as Barnabas, Silas, Mark and Timothy.  These and others founded Churches that maintain a tradition of their apostolic founding.see Apostolic Sees.  

Why the message of Christianity was widely accepted, even under dire circumstances puzzles many.  A Jewish History site provides us with an explanation: 

In a world dominated by Roman cruelty — where the majority of the world's population was slaves or vassals to Rome; where the idea of human freedom (as we in the Western world know it) was unimaginable – if you spoke in terms of Jewish moral values, albeit minus the lifestyle that embodies it, you had a ready audience. If you said that slaves are as good as masters; that the poor as good as the rich; that the weak are as great as the mighty; and that God loves everyone; and that everyone could make it to eternity – people were going to listen. 12/2/14

The map below shows the spread of Christianity in two colors.  The darker blue is before 325 which is the date of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea.  This is when Christianity is becoming official. The lighter blue corresponds to the Roman Empire of the time. 

Spread of Christianity to AD 600 (1)

  Spread of Christianity to AD 325

  Spread of Christianity to AD 600


Year Event Source

Christ crucified, burried and resurrected

Church is "born" at Pentecost

Acts 1-2
35-40 Paul at Damascus Acts 9
38 Andrew founds Church in Byzantium (later site of Constantinople) Orthodox Tradition
39 Peter preaches through Judea, Lydda and Joppa. Peter called to Caesarea by Cornelius. Acts 9-10
41 Jerusalem expands the city walls which places the site of the crucifixion inside the city  

Barnabus is sent to visit the church in Antioch by the Jerusalem church

Acts 11.22

Beliavers called Christians at Antioch

Acts 11.26

James is beheaded by Herod Agrippa I


Paul's First Missionary Journey

  • Salamis, Cyprus
  • Paphos, Cyprus
  • Perga in Pamphylia (in present day Turkey)
  • Pisidian Antioch (Were persecuted and expelled from the region)
  • Iconium (left under treat of death)
  • Lystra
  • Derbe
Acts 13-15

Paul and Barnabus go on separate misssions: Barnabus goes to Cyprus, Paul on his second misssionary journey

Acts 15

Paul's Second Missionary Journey

  • overland through Syria and Cilicia
    • Derbe
    • Lystra (where Timothy joined him)
    • Phrygia
    • Galatia
    • Troas
  • Macidonia and Achaia
    • Philippi
    • Thessalonica
    • Berea
    • Athens
    • Corinth
  • Return
    • Rhodes
    • Cyprus
    • Caesarea. From there he went up to Jerusalem.
Acts 15-18

Paul's Third Missionary Journey

Acts 18-21

Andrew preaches in Kiev

tradition 1/14/15
58-60 Paul's Imprisonment in Judea Acts
c. 60 Founding of the church in Alexandria by Mark Coptic church tradition
60-61 Paul's Voyage to Rome Acts 27-28
61-63 Paul's Imprisonment in Rome Acts 28
64-324 Periodic Official Persecution by Roman Empire  
66-73 First Jewish-Roman War - Temple is destroyed in 70.  
68 Paul is executed by Nero on the road from Rome to Ostia.  
69 Ignatius (35-110) becomes bishop in Antioch, Syria. He knew Peter and Paul.  
85 Polycarp (69-155) is bishop of the church in Smyrna.  
88 Clement (30?-100) is bishop of the church in Rome. Clement worked along side of Paul around 57-62 AD (Philippians 4.3)  
94 John sent to the Isle of Patmos by Emperor Domitian  
95 Papias (60-135) is bishop of Hierapolis in Asia  
96 John recieves the Revelation. Domitian dies and the new emperor, Nerva, releases Domitian's political enemies.  John is released from Patmos and returns to Ephesus  
97 Clement writes I Clement (Probably the earliest Christian writing that is not in the Bible.)  
135 Bar Kochba Rebellion - the Second Jewish-Roman War.  
156 The Venerable Bede reports Christians in Britian (modern scholars dispute Bede's dating).  
190 Pantaenus of Alexandria visits Christians in India  
c. 229 Date given to the house that was converted to be used as a Church in Dura-Europos, Syria is thought by many to be the oldes Christian Church building yet discovered. 12/14/15


301 Armenia is the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion.
Founded on the missions of Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus.
304 Alban the first British Christian martyr was executed in a town called Verulamium
311 Beginning of Roman acceptance  
311 Edict of Toleration  
312-335 Macarius of Jerusalem - is Bishop of Jerusalem  
313 The Edict of Milan  
325-787 The Ecumenical Councils  
380 Edictum de Fide Catholica --Christianity becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire.  
476 The fall of the city of Rome - The Western Roman Empire  
622 The Hegria and The Rise of Islam  
635 Nestorian Stele evedence of Christianity reaching China  
725 Church of the Apostles, built over the house of Peter and Andrew on the Sea of Galalee, visited by a Bavarian bishop Willibald
828 The first Christian church of the Western and Eastern Slavs (Moravia) known to the written sources was built. Wikipedia
831 The first Moravian ruler known by name, Mojmír I, was baptized in 831 by Reginhar, Bishop of Passau, a town in Lower Bavaria, Germany. Wikipedia
863 The Greek missionaries, Saints Cyril and Methodius, who arrived in Moravia in the year. Cyril translated the liturgy and the pericopes into the regional Slavic language (their translation became the foundation of the Old Church Slavonic language), giving rise to the popular Slavic church, quickly surpassing the previously struggling Catholic missions with their foreign German priests and Latin liturgy. Wikiipedia 
957 Olga, Grandmother to Vladimir the Great is baptised.  
966 Christianization of Poland. The baptism of Mieszko I, the first ruler of the Polish state, and much of his court. Christianity had probably entered Poland in the 9th century, but this is the traditional date. I a sense it also marks the beginning of the Polish state. Wikipedia
988 Vladimir the Great is "converted." This begins the Christianization of Russia  
1453 Ottoman Turks capture Constantinople (New Rome)  
1472 Ivan III (the Great) begins to refer to Moscow as the third Rome 11/5/14 11/28/14 11/28/14 11/29/14 11/29/14 11/29/14 1/14/15