Christianity is practiced by billions of people around the world. The religion is linked specifically to Jesus of Nazareth, who adherents worship as God. What Christians believe about Jesus is found primarily in the Bible.
Below are some fast facts about Christianity.
Christianity Is World’s Largest Religion
Christians are the largest religious group in the world. There are more than 2.3 billion Christians in the world, “making up nearly a third (31 percent) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people,” according to the Pew Research Center. Muslims come in second, with there being 1.8 billion adherents to Islam.
According to Pew’s Religious Landscape Study, more than 70 percent of the U.S. population identifies as Christian. The three largest segments within that group are Evangelical Protestants at 25.4 percent, Catholics at 20.8 percent, and Mainline Protestants at 14.7 percent.
Within Protestant Christian denominations, the three largest are the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church, and the American Baptist Churches USA.
Though Christians can be found within various ethnicities and nations, the earliest Christians were Jewish like Jesus. As his followers started to grow and his teachings spread, however, non-Jews (Gentiles) started to believe in him.
What Christians Believe Is Based on the Bible
The Bible is considered the only holy text for Christians. The Bible is divided into the Old Testament (Jewish Bible) and the New Testament. There are 66 books in the Bible, made up of various narratives, poetry, prophecies, and letters written by different authors at different times. The authors wrote in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
The most popular English translation of the Bible is the King James Version, although Christians also use modern translations like the New International Version (NIV) and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
The Old Testament is characterized by the story of creation, the history and origins of the Jewish people, the Mosaic laws, and various prophecies. The New Testament, on the other hand, is characterized by the Gospel (good news) accounts of Jesus’ life, letters revealing the activities of his earliest followers, instructions for Christian churches, and the major apocalyptic account, the Book of Revelation.
One of the first books ever printed was a Latin translation of the Bible in the mid-15th century by Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press in Europe.
What Christianity Says About Jesus
What Christians believe about Jesus is based on the Holy Bible.
First, Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God and worship him as Savior.
According to the Bible, Jesus was born in 1st century Judea in a town called Bethlehem under Roman occupation (Matthew 2). He was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit of God in the womb of a young girl named Mary (Matthew 1). His earthly or human father was named Joseph, a carpenter. Jesus had siblings, and not all of them believed in his divinity (John 7:5).
Jesus is known for performing many miracles, including healing physically disabled persons (John 5) and even bringing the dead back to life (John 11). He also taught about the love of God and love of other people. One of the most popular quotes attributed to him is: “Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 12:30-31).”
The Bible says Jesus was killed by painful crucifixion for breaking Jewish religious laws, such as claiming to God’s only Son (John 5:18). The Bible also indicates that ruling Jewish religious leaders were jealous of his influence on the people (Matthew 27:18) and/or thought he would provoke the Romans to persecute the Jewish people (John 11). Religious leaders turned Jesus into the Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate, who condemned him to death, presumably for treason (Luke 23).
Christians believe Jesus came back to life three days after his death and continued to perform miracles and teach his followers, before finally returning to heaven.
Christians believe the Bible teaches that Jesus is the key to salvation, and that people must believe in him and repent of their sins (John 3). This is why Jesus is often referred to as the Christ or Messiah. Christians also believe Jesus will return to Earth at some point in the future.
Common Christian Holy Days
In general, Christians commemorate the birth and death of Jesus Christ with annual traditions.
While there is disagreement about Christmas, as no one knows the exact date of Jesus’ birth, many U.S. Christians choose to celebrate his birth on December 25. The weeks leading up to Christmas is referred to as the season of Advent.
Jesus’ death and resurrection are usually celebrated in the month of April. Good Friday is when Christians remember how Jesus was tortured and killed via Roman execution. Before Good Friday, however, is Palm Sunday. Christians use this day to remember when Jesus returned to Jerusalem for the final leg of his ministry. His resurrection back to life is marked three days later, on Sunday. This day is referred to as Resurrection Sunday or Easter Sunday.
There are other holy days and seasons acknowledged by Christians, such as Lent and Pentecost. However, Christmas and Easter are the most common.
While this post only ventures to offer fast facts about Christianity, there are numerous comprehensive sources about the religion. Some examples are Killing Jesus, The History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium, and Church History in Plain Language.