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Christianity was born within the Greco-Roman world, at about its midpoint, with the birth of Jesus, probably sometime around the year 4 B.C. It’s important for us to understand the birth of Christianity not simply by situating it within the Mediterranean at this time, but also within the context of religion in the Mediterranean at this time.
The vast majority of persons living in the Roman Empire were pagans, meaning that they were polytheists who adhered to various local and state religions, or as scholars usually call these religions, cults.
When you speak of a “cult,” you think of a kind of marginalized fringe group that is on the edge of sanctioned religion. When historians refer to “cults” in the ancient world, they aren’t referring to it in that sense.
“Cult” comes from a Latin term, cultus deorum, which means “the care of the gods.” Cults are simply forms of ritual worship. The vast majority of people in the empire were polytheists, then, believing in many gods, who participated in one or another of the many state or local cults, forms of worship.
To continue reading this FREE article, “From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity Lecture 2: The Religious World of Early Christianity” click here.