The first recorded writings of the Old Testament date back to approximately 1000 b.c.e. Jesus was born approximately 4 b.c.e., and crucified approximately 30 c.e. Converts began to spread the Word through the Roman Empire. Within three hundred years of its beginning, Christianity became the dominant religion in the Roman Empire, and in the approximately two thousand years since then it has become the world’s most populous religion.
As an organized religion Christianity began with the small band of disciples who followed Jesus Christ during his teaching in Palestine in the first century. The history of the Church can be divided into three major time periods, which are the ancient, the medieval, and the modern. In the early fourth century under Constantine I, Christianity became accepted in the Roman Empire. The medieval period was marked by relations between Church and state in which the Church exerted considerable authority. The Renaissance and the Reformation marked the beginning of the modern period of the Christian church; a date that may be selected to mark the change is 1517, when Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses.
Denominations formed as more questioning of Rome’s supremacy took place. This pattern continued into the nineteenth century, when people were disillusioned with religion as a means to improve the human condition. In the seventeenth century, a group of dissenters from the Anglican church, called Puritans, sparked the creation of Protestant denominations such as the Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Quakers, and Baptists. The Puritans brought their set of beliefs to America, and it would not take long for other denominations to emigrate to America for the same reason as the Puritans, who sought religious freedom.
From the nineteenth century onward, people experienced disillusionment with religion in an age faced with scientific research, discovery, questioning, and diverse theory. A group of faithful Christians emerged that defended the Scripture when it was undermined as literal truth by many types of criticism. This group was the Christian Fundamentalists. Their influence in America was felt markedly beginning in the 1920’s and continued for many years. The Fundamentalist movement lost dominance among thinkers and theologians as an age of open-mindedness concerning all things arose, especially in matters of religion. Fundamentalism remained powerful in political and social settings, however.