From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Christendom,[1] or the Christian world,[2] has several meanings. In a cultural sense, it refers to the worldwide community of Christians, adherents of Christianity. In its historical sense, the term usually refers to the medieval and early modern period, during which the Christian world represented a geopolitical power juxtaposed with both paganism and especially the military threat of the Muslim world.

In a contemporary sense, it may simply refer collectively to Christian majority countries or countries in which Christianity dominates[1] or nations in which Christianity is the established religion.

Terminology and usage[edit]

The term cristendom existed in Old English, but it had the sense now taken by Christianity (as is still the case with the cognate Dutch christendom and German Christentum). The current sense of the word of "lands where Christianity is the dominant religion" emerges in Late Middle English (by c. 1400). This semantic development happened independently in the languages of late medieval Europe, which leads to the confusing semantics of English Christendom equalling German Christenheit, French chrétienté vs. English Christianity equalling German Christentum, French christianisme. The reason is the increasing fragmentation of Western Christianity at that time both in theological and in political respect. "Christendom" as a geopolitical term is thus meaningful in the context of the Middle Ages, and arguably during the European wars of religion and the Ottoman wars in Europe.

The Christian world is also known collectively as the Corpus Christianum, a translated as the Christian body, meaning the community of all Christians. The Christian polity, embodying a less secular meaning, can be compatible with the idea of both a religious and a temporal body: Corpus Christianum. The Corpus Christianum can be seen as a Christian equivalent of the Muslim Ummah.

The word "Christendom" is also used with its other meaning to frame-true Christianity.[clarification needed] A more secular meaning can denote that the term Christendom refers to Christians considered as a group, the "Political Christian World", as an informal[clarification needed] cultural hegemony that Christianity has traditionally enjoyed in the West. In its most broad term, it refers to the world's Christian majority countries, which, share little in common aside from the predominance of the faith. Unlike the Muslim world, which has a geo-political and cultural definition that provides a primary identifier for a large swath of the world, Christendom is more complex.[dubious ] It may be a cultural notion, but has very little weight in international discourse; very few political observers really discuss Christendom, while the Muslim World tends to comprise a civilization in itself. For example, the Americas and Europe are considered part of Christendom, but this region is further subdivided into the West (representing the North Atlantic) and Latin America. It is also less geographically cohesive than the Muslim world, which stretches almost continuously from North Africa to South Asia.


Early Christendom[edit]

This T-and-O map, which abstracts the then known world to a cross inscribed within an orb, remakes geography in the service of Christian iconography. More detailed versions place Jerusalem at the center of the world.

In the beginning of Christendom, early Christianity was a religion spread in the Greek/Roman world and beyond as a 1st-century Jewish sect,[3] which historians refer to as Jewish Christianity. It may be divided into two distinct phases: the apostolic period, when the first apostles were alive and organising the Church, and the post-apostolic period, when an early episcopal structure developed, whereby bishoprics were governed by bishops (overseers).

The post-apostolic period concerns the time roughly after the death of the apostles when bishops emerged as overseers of urban Christian populations. The earliest recorded use of the terms Christianity (Greek Χριστιανισμός) and Catholic (Greek καθολικός), dates to this period, the 2nd century, attributed to Ignatius of Antioch c. 107.[4] Early Christendom would close at the end of imperial persecution of Christians after the ascension of Constantine the Great and the Edict of Milan in AD 313 and the First Council of Nicaea in 325.

Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages[edit]

Spread of Christianity by AD 600 (shown in dark blue is the spread of Early Christianity up to AD 325)

"Christendom" has referred to the medieval and renaissance notion of the Christian world as a sociopolitical polity. In essence, the earliest vision of Christendom was a vision of a Christian theocracy, a government founded upon and upholding Christian values, whose institutions are spread through and over with Christian doctrine. In this period, members of the Christian clergy wield political authority. The specific relationship between the political leaders and the clergy varied but, in theory, the national and political divisions were at times subsumed under the leadership of the church as an institution. This model of church-state relations was accepted by various Church leaders and political leaders in European history.[5][full citation needed]

The Church gradually became a defining institution of the Empire.[6] Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 proclaiming toleration for the Christian religion, and convoked the First Council of Nicaea in 325 whose Nicene Creed included belief in "one holy catholic and apostolic Church". Emperor Theodosius I made Nicene Christianity the state church of the Roman Empire with the Edict of Thessalonica of 380.[7]

As the Western Roman Empire disintegrated into feudal kingdoms and principalities, the concept of Christendom changed as the western church became one of five patriarchal of the Pentarchy and the Christians of the Eastern Roman Empire developed. The Byzantine Empire was the last bastion of Christendom.[8] Christendom would take a turn with the rise of the Franks, a Germanic tribe who converted to the Christian faith and entered into communion with Rome.

On Christmas Day 800 AD, Pope Leo III made the fateful decision to switch his allegiance from the emperors in Constantinople and crowned Charlemagne,[9][unreliable source?] the king of the Franks, as the Emperor of what came to be known as the Holy Roman Empire. The Carolingian Empire created a definition of Christendom in juxtaposition with the Byzantine Empire, that of a distributed versus centralized culture respectively.[10]

Later Middle Ages and Renaissance[edit]

After the collapse of Charlemagne's empire, the southern remnants of the Holy Roman Empire became a collection of states loosely connected to the Holy See of Rome. Tensions between Pope Innocent III and secular rulers ran high, as the pontiff exerted control over their temporal counterparts in the west and vice versa. The pontificate of Innocent III is considered the height of temporal power of the papacy. The Corpus Christianum described the then current notion of the community of all Christians united under the Roman Catholic Church. The community was to be guided by Christian values in its politics, economics and social life.[11] Its legal basis was the corpus iuris canonica (body of canon law).[12][13][14][15]

In the East, Christendom became more defined as the Byzantine Empire's gradual loss of territory to an expanding Islam and the muslim conquest of Persia. This caused Christianity to become important to the Byzantine identity. After the East-West Schism which divided the Church religiously, there had been the notion of a universal Christendom that included the East and the West. The Byzantines divided themselves in the Byzantine rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the eastern rite of the Catholic Church. The political reunion with the west, after the East-West schism, was put asunder by the Fourth Crusade when Crusaders conquered the Byzantine capital of Constantinople and hastened the decline of the Byzantine Empire on the path to its destruction.[16][17][18] With the breakup of the Byzantine Empire into individual nations with nationalist Orthodox Churches, the term Christendom described Western Europe, Catholicism, Orthodox Byzantines, and other Eastern rites of the Church.[19][20]

The Catholic Church's peak of authority over all European Christians and their common endeavours of the Christian community — for example, the Crusades, the fight against the Moors in the Iberian Peninsula and against the Ottomans in the Balkans — helped to develop a sense of communal identity against the obstacle of Europe's deep political divisions. But this authority was also sometimes abused, and fostered the Inquisition and anti-Jewish pogroms, to root out divergent elements and create a religiously uniform community.[citation needed] Ultimately, the Inquisition was done away with by order of the Pope Innocent III.[21]

Map of the Western Schism: red is support for Avignon, blue for Rome

Christendom ultimately was led into specific crisis in the late Middle Ages, when the kings of France managed to establish a French national church during the 14th century and the papacy became ever more aligned with the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Known as the Western Schism, western Christendom was a split between three men, who were driven by politics rather than any real theological disagreement for simultaneously claiming to be the true pope. The Avignon Papacy developed a reputation of corruption that estranged major parts of Western Christendom. The Avignon schism was ended by the Council of Constance.[22]

Before the modern period, Christendom was in a general crisis at the time of the Renaissance Popes because of the moral laxity of these pontiffs and their willingness to seek and rely on temporal power as secular rulers did. Many in the Catholic Church's hierarchy in the Renaissance became increasingly entangled with insatiable greed for material wealth and temporal power, which led to many reform movements, some merely wanting a moral reformation of the Church's clergy, while others repudiated the Church and separated from it in order to form new sects. The Italian Renaissance produced ideas or institutions by which men living in society could be held together in harmony. In the early 16th century, Baldassare Castiglione (The Book of the Courtier) laid out his vision of the ideal gentleman and lady, while Machiavelli cast a jaundiced eye on "la verita effetuale delle cose" — the actual truth of things — in The Prince, composed, humanist style, chiefly of parallel ancient and modern examples of Virtù. Some Protestant movements grew up along lines of mysticism or renaissance humanism (cf. Erasmus). The Catholic Church fell into general neglect under the Renaissance Popes, whose inability to govern the Church properly set the climate for what would ultimately become the Protestant Reformation.[23]

Reformation and Early Modern era[edit]

Developments in western philosophy and European events brought change to the notion of the Corpus Christianum. The Hundred Years' War accelerated the process of transforming France from a feudal monarchy to a centralized state. The rise of strong, centralized monarchies[24] denoted the European transition from feudalism to capitalism. By the end of the Hundred Years' War, both France and England were able to raise enough money through taxation to create independent standing armies. In the Wars of the Roses, Henry Tudor took the crown of England. His heir, the absolute king Henry VIII establishing the English church.[25]

In modern history, the Reformation and rise of modernity in the early 16th century entailed a change in the Corpus Christianum. In the Holy Roman Empire, the Peace of Augsburg of 1555 officially ended the idea among secular leaders that all Christians must be united under one church. The principle of cuius regio, eius religio ("whose the region is, his religion") established the religious, political and geographic divisions of Christianity, and this was established with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which legally ended the concept of a single Christian hegemony in the territories of the Holy Roman Empire, despite the Catholic Church's doctrine that it alone is the one true Church founded by Christ. Subsequently, each government determined the religion of their own state. Christians living in states where their denomination was not the established one were guaranteed the right to practice their faith in public during allotted hours and in private at their will.

The European wars of religion are usually taken to have ended with the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), or arguably, including the Nine Years' War and the War of the Spanish Succession in this period, with the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. In the 18th century, the focus shifts away from religious conflicts, either between Christian factions or against the external threat of Islam. The European Miracle, the Age of Enlightenment and the formation of the great Colonial empire together with the beginning decline of the Ottoman Empire mark the end of the geopolitical "history of Christendom". Instead the focus of western history shifts to the development of the nation-state, accompanied by increasing atheism and secularism, culminating with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars at the turn of the 19th century.

Classical culture[edit]

Art and literature[edit]

Writings and poetry[edit]

Christian literature is writing that deals with Christian themes and incorporates the Christian world view. This constitutes a huge body of extremely varied writing. Christian poetry is any poetry that contains Christian teachings, themes, or references. The influence of Christianity on poetry has been great in any area that Christianity has taken hold. Christian poems often directly reference the Bible, while others provide allegory.

Supplemental arts[edit]

Christian art is art produced in an attempt to illustrate, supplement and portray in tangible form the principles of Christianity. Virtually all Christian groupings use or have used art to some extent. The prominence of art and the media, style, and representations change; however, the unifying theme is ultimately the representation of the life and times of Jesus and in some cases the Old Testament. Depictions of saints are also common, especially in Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy.


Picture of Christ in Majesty contained in an illuminated manuscript.

An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration. The earliest surviving substantive illuminated manuscripts are from the period AD 400 to 600, primarily produced in Ireland, Constantinople and Italy. The majority of surviving manuscripts are from the Middle Ages, although many illuminated manuscripts survive from the 15th century Renaissance, along with a very limited number from Late Antiquity.

Most illuminated manuscripts were created as codices, which had superseded scrolls; some isolated single sheets survive. A very few illuminated manuscript fragments survive on papyrus. Most medieval manuscripts, illuminated or not, were written on parchment (most commonly of calf, sheep, or goat skin), but most manuscripts important enough to illuminate were written on the best quality of parchment, called vellum, traditionally made of unsplit calfskin, though high quality parchment from other skins was also called parchment.


There are few old ceramic icons, such as this St. Theodor icon which dates to ca. 900 (from Preslav, Bulgaria).

Christian art began, about two centuries after Christ, by borrowing motifs from Roman Imperial imagery, classical Greek and Roman religion and popular art. Religious images are used to some extent by the Abrahamic Christian faith, and often contain highly complex iconography, which reflects centuries of accumulated tradition. In the Late Antique period iconography began to be standardised, and to relate more closely to Biblical texts, although many gaps in the canonical Gospel narratives were plugged with matter from the apocryphal gospels. Eventually the Church would succeed in weeding most of these out, but some remain, like the ox and ass in the Nativity of Christ.

An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Orthodox Christianity or one of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church. Christianity has used symbolism from its very beginnings.[26] In both East and West, numerous iconic types of Christ, Mary and saints and other subjects were developed; the number of named types of icons of Mary, with or without the infant Christ, was especially large in the East, whereas Christ Pantocrator was much the commonest image of Christ.

Christian symbolism invests objects or actions with an inner meaning expressing Christian ideas. Christianity has borrowed from the common stock of significant symbols known to most periods and to all regions of the world. Religious symbolism is effective when it appeals to both the intellect and the emotions. Especially important depictions of Mary include the Hodegetria and Panagia types. Traditional models evolved for narrative paintings, including large cycles covering the events of the Life of Christ, the Life of the Virgin, parts of the Old Testament, and, increasingly, the lives of popular saints. Especially in the West, a system of attributes developed for identifying individual figures of saints by a standard appearance and symbolic objects held by them; in the East they were more likely to identified by text labels.

Each saint has a story and a reason why he or she led an exemplary life. Symbols have been used to tell these stories throughout the history of the Church. A number of Christian saints are traditionally represented by a symbol or iconic motif associated with their life, termed an attribute or emblem, in order to identify them. The study of these forms part of iconography in Art history. They were particularly


The structure of a typical Gothic cathedral.

Christian architecture encompasses a wide range of both secular and religious styles from the foundation of Christianity to the present day, influencing the design and construction of buildings and structures in Christian culture.

Buildings were at first adapted from those originally intended for other purposes but, with the rise of distinctively ecclesiastical architecture, church buildings came to influence secular ones which have often imitated religious architecture. In the 20th century, the use of new materials, such as concrete, as well as simpler styles has had its effect upon the design of churches and arguably the flow of influence has been reversed. From the birth of Christianity to the present, the most significant period of transformation for Christian architecture in the west was the Gothic cathedral. In the east, Byzantine architecture was a continuation of Roman architecture.


Christian philosophy is a term to describe the fusion of various fields of philosophy with the theological doctrines of Christianity. Scholasticism, which means "that [which] belongs to the school", and was a method of learning taught by the academics (or school people) of medieval universities c. 1100–1500. Scholasticism originally started to reconcile the philosophy of the ancient classical philosophers with medieval Christian theology. Scholasticism is not a philosophy or theology in itself but a tool and method for learning which places emphasis on dialectical reasoning.

Christian civilization[edit]

Science, and particularly geometry and astronomy, was linked directly to the divine for most medieval scholars. Since God created the universe after geometric and harmonic principles, to seek these principles was therefore to seek and worship God.

Medieval conditions[edit]

The Byzantine Empire, which was the most sophisticated culture during antiquity, suffered under muslim conquests limiting its scientific prowess during the Medieval period. Christian Western Europe had suffered a catastrophic loss of knowledge following the fall of the Western Roman Empire. But thanks to the Church scholars such as Aquinas and Buridan, the West carried on at least the spirit of scientific inquiry which would later lead to Europe's taking the lead in science during the Scientific Revolution using translations of medieval works.

Medieval technology refers to the technology used in medieval Europe under Christian rule. After the Renaissance of the 12th century, medieval Europe saw a radical change in the rate of new inventions, innovations in the ways of managing traditional means of production, and economic growth.[27] The period saw major technological advances, including the adoption of gunpowder and the astrolabe, the invention of spectacles, and greatly improved water mills, building techniques, agriculture in general, clocks, and ships. The latter advances made possible the dawn of the Age of Exploration. The development of water mills was impressive, and extended from agriculture to sawmills both for timber and stone, probably derived from Roman technology. By the time of the Domesday Book, most large villages in Britain had mills. They also were widely used in mining, as described by Georg Agricola in De Re Metallica for raising ore from shafts, crushing ore, and even powering bellows.

Significant in this respect were advances within the fields of navigation. The compass and astrolabe along with advances in shipbuilding, enabled the navigation of the World Oceans and thus domination of the worlds economic trade. Gutenberg’s printing press made possible a dissemination of knowledge to a wider population, that would not only lead to a gradually more egalitarian society, but one more able to dominate other cultures, drawing from a vast reserve of knowledge and experience.

Renaissance innovations[edit]

During the Renaissance, great advances occurred in geography, astronomy, chemistry, physics, math, manufacturing, and engineering. The rediscovery of ancient scientific texts was accelerated after the Fall of Constantinople, and the invention of printing which would democratize learning and allow a faster propagation of new ideas. Renaissance technology is the set of artifacts and customs, spanning roughly the 14th through the 16th century. The era is marked by such profound technical advancements like the printing press, linear perspectivity, patent law, double shell domes or Bastion fortresses. Draw-books of the Renaissance artist-engineers such as Taccola and Leonardo da Vinci give a deep insight into the mechanical technology then known and applied.

Renaissance science spawned the Scientific Revolution; science and technology began a cycle of mutual advancement. The Scientific Renaissance was the early phase of the Scientific Revolution. In the two-phase model of early modern science: a Scientific Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries, focused on the restoration of the natural knowledge of the ancients; and a Scientific Revolution of the 17th century, when scientists shifted from recovery to innovation.


Geographic spread[edit]

Christianity - Percentage by country (2010 data)
Christian majority countries

Christianity is the predominant religion in Europe, Russia, the Americas, Oceania, the Philippines, Eastern Indonesia, Southern Africa, Central Africa and East Africa.[28] There are also large Christian communities in other parts of the world, such as China, India and Central Asia, where Christianity is the second-largest religion after Islam. The United States is the largest Christian country in the world by population, followed by Brazil and Mexico.[citation needed]

Many Christians not only live under, but also have an official status in, a state religion of the following nations: Argentina (Roman Catholic Church),[29][30] Armenia (Armenian Apostolic Church),[31] Bolivia (Roman Catholic Church),[32] Costa Rica (Roman Catholic Church),[33] Denmark (Church of Denmark),[34] El Salvador (Roman Catholic Church),[35] England (Church of England),[36] Greece (Church of Greece), Iceland (Church of Iceland),[37] Liechtenstein (Roman Catholic Church),[38] Malta (Roman Catholic Church),[39] Monaco (Roman Catholic Church),[40] Romania (Romanian Orthodox Church), Norway (Church of Norway),[41] Vatican City (Roman Catholic Church),[42] Switzerland (Roman Catholic Church, Swiss Reformed Church and Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland).

Number of adherents[edit]

The estimated number of Christians in the world ranges from 1.5 billion[43] to 2.2 billion people.[43][44] Composed of around 34,000 different denominations,[citation needed] Christianity is the world's largest religion.[45] Christians have composed about 33 percent of the world's population for around 100 years.

Notable Christian organizations[edit]

A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. In contrast, the term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to a group of individuals who are set apart for a special role or ministry. Historically, the word "order" designated an established civil body or corporation with a hierarchy, and ordinatio meant legal incorporation into an ordo. The word "holy" refers to the Church. In context, therefore, a holy order is set apart for ministry in the Church. Religious orders are composed of initiates (laity) and, in some traditions, ordained clergies.

Various organizations include:

Christianity law and ethics[edit]

Church and state framing[edit]

Within the framework of Christianity, there are at least three possible definitions for Church law. One is the Torah/Mosaic Law (from what Christians consider to be the Old Testament) also called Divine Law or Biblical law. Another is the instructions of Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospel (sometimes referred to as the Law of Christ or the New Commandment or the New Covenant). A third is canon law which is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of churches.[46] The way that such church law is legislated, interpreted and at times adjudicated varies widely among these three bodies of churches. In all three traditions, a canon was initially a rule adopted by a council (From Greek kanon / κανών, Hebrew kaneh / קנה, for rule, standard, or measure); these canons formed the foundation of canon law.

Christian ethics in general has tended to stress the need for grace, mercy, and forgiveness because of human weakness and developed while Early Christians were subjects of the Roman Empire. From the time Nero blamed Christians for setting Rome ablaze (64 AD) until Galarius (311 AD), persecutions against Christians erupted periodically. Consequently, Early Christian ethics included discussions of how believers should relate to Roman authority and to the empire.

Under the Emperor Constantine I (312-337), Christianity became a legal religion. While some scholars debate whether Constantine's conversion to Christianity was authentic or simply matter of political expediency, Constantine's decree made the empire safe for Christian practice and belief. Consequently, issues of Christian doctrine, ethics and church practice were debated openly, see for example the First Council of Nicaea and the First seven Ecumenical Councils. By the time of Theodosius I (379-395), Christianity had become the state religion of the empire. With Christianity in power, ethical concerns broaden and included discussions of the proper role of the state.

Render unto Caesar… is the beginning of a phrase attributed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels which reads in full, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s". This phrase has become a widely quoted summary of the relationship between Christianity and secular authority. The gospels say that when Jesus gave his response, his interrogators "marvelled, and left him, and went their way." Time has not resolved an ambiguity in this phrase, and people continue to interpret this passage to support various positions that are poles apart. The traditional division, carefully determined, in Christian thought is the state and church have separate spheres of influence.

Thomas Aquinas thoroughly discussed that human law is positive law which means that it is natural law applied by governments to societies. All human laws were to be judged by their conformity to the natural law. An unjust law was in a sense no law at all. At this point, the natural law was not only used to pass judgment on the moral worth of various laws, but also to determine what the law said in the first place. This could result in some tension.[47] Late ecclesiastical writers followed in his footsteps.

Democratic ideology[edit]

Christian democracy is a political ideology that seeks to apply Christian principles to public policy. It emerged in 19th-century Europe, largely under the influence of Catholic social teaching. In a number of countries, the democracy's Christian ethos has been diluted by secularisation. In practice, Christian democracy is often considered conservative on cultural, social and moral issues and progressive on fiscal and economic issues. In places, where their opponents have traditionally been secularist socialists and social democrats, Christian democratic parties are moderately conservative, whereas in other cultural and political environments they can lean to the left.

Women roles[edit]

Attitudes and beliefs about the roles and responsibilities of women in Christianity vary considerably today as they have throughout the last two millennia — evolving along with or counter to the societies in which Christians have lived. The Bible and Christianity historically have been interpreted as excluding women from church leadership and placing them in submissive roles in marriage. Male leadership has been assumed in the church and within marriage, society and government.[48]

Some contemporary writers describe the role of women in the life of the church as having been downplayed, overlooked, or denied throughout much of Christian history. Paradigm shifts in gender roles in society and also many churches has inspired reevaluation by many Christians of some long-held attitudes to the contrary. Christian egalitarians have increasingly argued for equal roles for men and women in marriage, as well as for the ordination of women to the clergy. Contemporary conservatives meanwhile have reasserted what has been termed a "complementarian" position, promoting the traditional belief that the Bible ordains different roles and responsibilities for women and men in the Church and family.

Major Christian denominations[edit]

A schematic of Christian denominational taxonomy. The different width of the lines (thickest for "Protestantism" and thinnest for "Oriental Orthodox" and "Nestorians") is without objective significance. Protestantism in general, and not just Restorationism, claims a direct connection with Early Christianity. Both the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches would consider themselves in unbroken continuity with the "early Christianity" line.
Major branches and movements within Protestantism

A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. Worldwide, Christians are divided, often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Various denominations, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, make particular distinctions in their literature.[49] Technically, divisions between one group and another are defined by church doctrine and church authority. Centering on language of professed Christianity and true Christianity, issues that separate one group of followers of Jesus from another include:

Christianity is composed of, but not limited to, five major branches of Churches: Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, and Old Catholicism. Some listings include Anglicans among Protestants while others list the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox separately. The Assyrian Church of the East (Nestorians) and the Old Catholic churches are also distinct Christian bodies of historic importance, but much smaller in adherents and geographic scope. Each of these five branches has important subdivisions. Because the Protestant subdivisions do not maintain a common theology or earthly leadership, they are far more distinct than the subdivisions of the other four groupings. Denomination typically refers to one of the many Christian groupings including each of the multitude of Protestant subdivisions.

Sizes of denomination[edit]

Catholicism is the largest denomination, comprising just over half of Christians worldwide.

In Christendom, the largest denominations are:

  1. Roman Catholicism – 1.2 billion
  2. Protestantism – 540 million
  3. Eastern Orthodoxy – 300 million
  4. Anglicanism – 115 million
  5. Oriental Orthodoxy – 75 million
  6. Nontrinitarianism – 26 million
  7. Nestorianism – 1 million
  8. Old Catholicism - 0.4 million

Christendom and other beliefs[edit]

In the interaction between Christendom and other belief systems,[50] men and women when not at war with their neighbors have always made an effort to understand the Other (not least because understanding is a strategy for defense, but also because for as long as there is dialogue wars are delayed). Such interactions have led to various interfaith dialogue events. History records many examples of interfaith initiatives and dialogue throughout the ages. In the field of comparative religion, the interactions connects fundamental ideas in Christianity with similar ones in other religions. Christianity and other religions appear to share some elements. Regarding Christianity's relationship with other world beliefs, Christianity and other beliefs have differences and similarities in connection with each other.

Judaic world[edit]

Global distribution of Jewish in 2006; percentage of the top nation (Israel - 5,313,800).

Although Christianity and Judaism share historical roots, these two religions diverge in fundamental ways. Though Judeo-Christian tradition emphasizes continuities and convergences between the two religions, there are many other areas in which the faiths diverge.

Muslim world[edit]

Percentage adherents of Islam

Christianity and Islam share their origins in the Abrahamic tradition, as well as Judaism. Islam accepts Jesus and his miracles and other aspects of Christianity as part of its faith - with some differences in interpretation, and rejects other aspects.

Buddhist world[edit]

Percentage adherents of Buddhism.

There has been much speculation regarding a possible connection between both the Buddha and the Christ, and between Buddhism and Christianity. Buddhism originated in India about 500 years before the Apostolic Age and the origins of Christianity.

Hindu world[edit]

Hinduism - Percentage by country

The declaration Nostra Aetate officially established inter-religious dialogue between Catholics and Hindus. It has promoted common values between religions. There are over 17.3 million Catholics in India, which represents less than 2% of the total population and is the largest Christian Church within India.

Secular world[edit]

Atheists, agnostics and nonreligious, by the Dentsu Institute (2006) and Zuckerman (2005)

Irreligion is an absence, indifference or hostility to religion. Secularism, in one sense, may assert the right to be free to choose religious beliefs and non-beliefs. In its most prominent form, secularism is critical of religious orthodoxy and asserts that real reason and scientific method are better ways to understand reality than religious beliefs. Humanism refers to a philosophy centered on humankind. Much of Humanism's life stance upholds human reason, ethics, and justice, and rejects supernaturalism (Christian mythology).

See also[edit]

Outline of Christianity, Christian Apologetics, Criticism of Christianity
Ecumenism, Christianity and other religions, Christian Flag, Crusade, Christian pilgrimage, The Good News, The City of God
History of Christianity, Constantinian shift, Constantine I and Christianity
Roman Catholic Church
Papism, Church militant and church triumphant, Union of Christendom, Catholic Church and ecumenism, Political Catholicism, Interdict
"Western" concepts
Western world, Western nationalism
Muslim world
Caliphate, Ummah, Mohammadan
Church and State
Freedom of religion, Caesaropapism, Ecumene, Dominionism, Res publica christiana
Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire (Holy Roman Emperor)


  1. ^ a b See : dictionary, "Christendom"
  2. ^ Marty, Martin (2008). The Christian World: A Global History. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-58836-684-9. 
  3. ^ Acts 3:1; Acts 5:27–42; Acts 21:18–26; Acts 24:5; Acts 24:14; Acts 28:22; Romans 1:16; Tacitus, Annales xv 44; Josephus Antiquities xviii 3; Mortimer Chambers, The Western Experience Volume II chapter 5; The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion page 158.
  4. ^ Walter Bauer, Greek-English Lexicon; Ignatius of Antioch Letter to the Magnesians 10, Letter to the Romans (Roberts-Donaldson tr., Lightfoot tr., Greek text). However, an edition presented on some websites, one that otherwise corresponds exactly with the Roberts-Donaldson translation, renders this passage to the interpolated inauthentic longer recension of Ignatius's letters, which does not contain the word "Christianity."
  5. ^ Chisholm, Hugh (1911). The Encyclopedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. Encyclopedia Britannica Company. p. 700. 
  6. ^ The church in the Roman empire before A.D. 170, Part 170 By Sir William Mitchell Ramsay
  7. ^ Boyd, William Kenneth (1905). The ecclesiastical edicts of the Theodosian code, Columbia University Press.
  8. ^ Challand, Gérard (1994). The Art of War in World History: From Antiquity to the Nuclear Age. University of California Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-520-07964-9. 
  9. ^ Willis Mason West (1904). The ancient world from the earliest times to 800 A.D. .... Allyn and Bacon. p. 551. 
  10. ^ Peter Brown; Peter Robert Lamont Brown (2003). The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity 200-1000 AD. Wiley. p. 443. ISBN 978-0-631-22138-8. 
  11. ^ Shaping a global theological mind By Darren C. Marks. Page 45
  12. ^ Somerville, R. (1998). Prefaces to Canon Law books in Latin Christianity: Selected translations, 500-1245 ; commentary and translations. New Haven [u.a.: Yale Univ. Press
  13. ^ VanDeWiel, C. (1991). History of canon law. Leuven: Peeters Press.
  14. ^ Canon law and the Christian community By Clarence Gallagher. Gregorian & Biblical BookShop, 1978.
  15. ^ Catholic Church., Canon Law Society of America., Catholic Church., & Libreria editrice vaticana. (1998). Code of canon law, Latin-English edition: New English translation. Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America.
  16. ^ Mango, C. (2002). The Oxford history of Byzantium. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  17. ^ Angold, M. (1997). The Byzantine Empire, 1025-1204: A political history. New York: Longman.
  18. ^ Schevill, Ferdinand (1922). The History of the Balkan Peninsula: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day. Harcourt, Brace and Company. p. 124. 
  19. ^ Schaff, Philip (1878). The history of creeds. Harper. 
  20. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Christendom". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  21. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Inquisition". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  22. ^ Stump, P. H. (1994). The reforms of the Council of Constance, 1414-1418. Leiden: E.J. Brill
  23. ^ The Cambridge Modern History. Vol 2: The Reformation (1903).
  24. ^ This was presaging the modern nation-state
  25. ^ The Anglican Domain: Church History
  26. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Symbolism". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  27. ^ Alfred Crosby described some of this technological revolution in his The Measure of Reality : Quantification in Western Europe, 1250–1600 and other major historians of technology have also noted it.
  28. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica table of religions, by region; retrieved November 2007
  29. ^ Argientine - Religion. (cf., juridical status different from the rest of churches in line with the National Constitution)
  30. ^ "Argentina". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  31. ^ "Gov. Pataki Honors 1700th Anniversary of Armenia's Adoption of Christianity as a state religion". Aremnian National Committee of America. Retrieved 2009-04-11. 
  32. ^ "Bolivia". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  33. ^ "Costa Rica". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  34. ^ "Denmark". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  35. ^ "El Salvador". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  36. ^ "Church and State in Britain: The Church of privilege". Centre for Citizenship. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  37. ^ "Iceland". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  38. ^ "Liechtenstein". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  39. ^ "Malta". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  40. ^ "Monaco". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  41. ^ "Norway". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  42. ^ "Vatican". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  43. ^ a b Christians: Number of Christians in the world at the Wayback Machine (archived April 4, 2008)
  44. ^ Global Christianity
  45. ^ "Major Religions Ranked by Size". Adherents. Retrieved 2007-12-31. 
  46. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Canon law". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  47. ^ Burns, "Aquinas's Two Doctrines of Natural Law."
  48. ^ Blevins, Carolyn DeArmond, Women in Christian History: A Bibliography. Macon, Georgia: Mercer Univ Press, 1995. ISBN 0-86554-493-X
  49. ^ While the generally-accepted definition of "Christendom" is sometimes intended, The Watchtower and other publications of Jehovah's Witnesses more often intend the term to indicate merely professed Christianity as distinct from true Christianity. Although they self-identify as Christian, Jehovah's Witnesses claim to be no part of "Christendom". They explain their use of the term:

    "What is the definition of “Christendom” as used in Watch Tower publications?
    Most often the term “Christendom” is used in the Society’s publications in the more restricted way in which the word is first defined in the dictionary: “Christianity”; actually, professed Christianity, in contrast to the true Christianity of the Bible. This focuses primarily on the religious aspects. However, the word is sometimes used in our publications in its enlarged second meaning: “the portion of the world in which Christianity prevails.” ("Questions From Readers", The Watchtower, August 1, 1981, page 31)

    For details, see "True Christianity Is Flourishing", The Watchtower, March 1, 2004, page 7 As retrieved 2009-04-09, "While Christendom's theologians, missionaries, and churchgoers continue to grapple with the gathering storm of controversy in their churches, true Christianity is flourishing worldwide. Indeed, true Christians [...] invite you to join Jehovah's Witnesses in united Christian worship of the only true God, Jehovah."; and Watchtower, April 1, 2001, page 18, "Equally striking is the contrast between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christendom today. [...] The very features that Christendom lacks abound among Jehovah’s Witnesses!"; Also The Watchtower, April 15, 1962, page 229, "It is out of date to define Christendom as meaning Christianity. True Christians today do not confuse Christendom with Christianity or make them identical."
  50. ^ These belief systems include various non-Christian life stances, world views, ideologies, philosophies, and religions.


20th century sources
19th century sources

Further reading[edit]

  • Bainton, Roland H. (1966). Christendom: a Short History of Christianity and Its Impact on Western Civilization, in series, Harper Colophon Books. New York: Harper & Row. 2 vol., ill.
  • Whalen, Brett Edward (2009). Dominion of God: Christendom and Apocalypse in the Middle Ages. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

External links[edit]