Question 103:

Why did Christianity spread in Europe although it originated in the Near East?


Answer: The Gospel according to Matthew closes with the universal mission from the resurrected Jesus to the eleven apostles: And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, until the end of time' (Mt 28:18-20).

In obedience to this command, the apostles and the first generation of Christians spread their faith in all directions. Christian communities and Churches were founded very early in Asia, Africa and Europe. Until the rapid expansion of Islamic rule, the focus of the Christian world was in the mediterranean region, including North Africa, as well as the Near and Middle East. Not a few Christian communities and Churches came to be ruled by Muslims, due to the expansion of Muslim dynasties, and became dhimmi-s (literally: protected people) of Islam. The Christian majorities gradually became Christian minorities. The number of Christians in countries with Muslim majorities declined steadily and sometimes dramatically. During the course of several centuries, the focus of Christianity moved towards Western and Eastern Europe. Since the 15th century it has spread from here to other parts of the globe.

Christianity today is present in all six continents, that is, it has spread throughout the world. The majority of Christians live in the southern hemisphere, in Latin America, Africa and Oceania. While the number of European-Occidental Christians is steadily declining, the number of Christians in the southern hemisphere is increasing. As a result, the global face of Christianity is changing decisively and at an accelerating rate.

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Prof. Dr. Christian W. Troll,

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