Where did Christianity come from and how did it get to Europe?
Christianity, in the form of Catholicism, was "invented" by Constantine in an attempt to unite Europe. There had been several attempts to "defeat" Europe by invaders, but Constantine actually succeeded.
While Christianity actually existed before Constantine, it was actually a minor sect of Judaism. Several of the European belief systems were combined with the belief of the Jewish people who had considered Jesus to be their Rabbi.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth birthed Christianity in the area of Jerusalem?(He practically lived in Europe). Constantine did not even "kind of" invent Christianity.
Christianity was not ?actually a minor sect of Judaism?. This was no small group of followers. Also, Christianity grew not from combining other European belief systems, but began directly from/as a result of Jesus Christ walking/living/dying on the earth...claiming to actually be God in the form of a man. He invited others to follow/join Him. He set a living example. In addition, anyone with a belief system comprised of the ?belief of the Jewish people? and ?several of the European belief systems? are not Christian. There is only one "Way" when it comes to Christianity. Finally, Jesus proved to be more than a mere Rabbi.
Those who chose to accept Jesus? invitation to follow Him became His followers after watching His behavior and by and listening to, believing and obeying His spoken word and commands (which are all now listed today in His Word the Bible). Indeed, some of His commands were already solidly rooted in Judaism (the Ten Commandments) however He added to them...He actually boiled them all down to two: Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul and strength, and Love others as you love yourself. He said all the other commandments rest on these two.
Many thousands completely changed their life and dedicated themselves to Jesus Christ at His invitation while He spoke to them in huge crowds. He also caused some huge changes in how men were to view/access God:
While He lived He eliminated the need to be Jewish to go to Heaven (He allowed Gentiles, or non Jews into the fold).
When He died, the annual Jewish ceremony of atonement was eliminated. (His blood paid/pays the price as a living sacrifice).
When He rose from the dead, He effectively eliminated the Jewish need for a Temple building to pilgrim to yearly (Christ?s resurrected body and the bodies of His followers became the new Temple, and His Holy Spirit lives in them).
While He walked the earth, and immediately following His death He made the things about God that were once hidden to average men became clearly revealed to all who would follow Him. Jesus ushered in a new humanity, giving man a chance at a right relationship with God.
When Jesus Christ rose from the dead and was seen by hundreds of witnesses for a forty day period, the general idea that He was may simply be a great Rabbi or Teacher, changed to an actual certainty that He was in deed all that He (and no one else in history) claimed to be: The Son of God.
Roman leaders and Jewish leaders who refused to believe that Christ was actually God feared the popularity of the new movement. "The Way" (which is what Christianity was first known as) became huge when the Romans began to really persecute the Church due to their fear, because their intense, violent persecution caused the Church to scatter to the far corners of the earth which in turn caused it to quickly grow in places it may not have.
Not long after Christ's resurrection the Church followers of "The Way" began to be called Christians. (King Agrippa used the term ?Christian? in Acts, and Peter used it a few times in first Peter, following Christ's resurrection).
Christ died and was resurrected around 2,000 years ago. His true friends and followers obeyed the commands He gave when He walked the earth. His Apostles and Disciples carefully and clearly wrote to the thousands in the first churches both in the nearby and the European Cities to encourage them all to obey, behave and live in the same manner as Christ did when He walked the earth with them. They were quite driven and quite organized. They were encouraged to follow His commands, teachings and examples at all times and as best as was possible. Todays followers of Christ still obey the same commands and are still called Christians.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth invented Christianity. Some of His friends coined it while they were still alive. Europe is a near neighbor to Jerusalem, hence the growth there.
To get back to the original question (and the topic), Christianity of course originated in Judea (Palestine) and could easily spread westward from there due to the well developed communications system of the Roman Empire. Within 30 years or so of the Crucifixion, there were enough Christians in Rome itself for Paul to write an Epistle to them, and for Nero to persecute them.
It was well established in Roman Africa from an early date, with Carthage and Alexandria as important centres. Carthage and its neighbouring towns produced important early Christian figures such as Tertullian and Cyprian (2nd and 3rd Centuries) and St Augustine of Hippo (4th Century) whilst in Alexandria Athenasius (4th Century) famously led the fight against the Arian heresy.
To answer that question, let's also take a look at some themese common to the beginnings of many ancient religions: specifically, the Sun, the twelve constellations, and the keltic cross.
The sun, is the most adored object of mankind's time on this planet. The ancient civilizations understood that the Sun provided warmth, energy for crops to grow, and that the Sun was essential to the life on this planet. The sun was considered to be a gift from God that saved the world: God's sun.
The zodiac represents twelve star constellations, each of which the sun passes through each year, and in another fashion, every few thousand years. The ancients had personified these constellations, giving them characters, forms, stories, and legends. By watching the constellations, people could predict the change of seasons, full moons, and even eclipses.
Next, let's take a look at some ancient Sun dieties. We have Horus, from Egypt. He is the Sun, anthropomorphized, and his life is a series of allegorical myths of the Sun's movement through the sky.
Horus, being "the light of the world," had an enemy, Set, who personified darkness, or night. In the morning, Horus would win the battle against Set, and then in the evening, Set would conquer Horus, and send him into the underworld. Such a duality between dark and light is the most common religious theme.
Horus was born in December 25th to the virgin mother Isis-Meri. His birth was accompanied by a star in the East, and upon his birth, he was adored by three kings.
At the age of twelve, he was a prodigal child teacher, and at the age of thirty he was baptized by Anup, and began his ministry among men.
He had twelve disciples he travelled about with. and performed miracles such as healing the sick and walking on water.
Horus was known by many names, including The Light, The Good Shepherd, The Lamb of God, The Truth, and God's Anointed Son.
After being betrayed by Typhon, horus was crucified on a cross, buried for three days, and then resurrected.
Horus is one of many gods throughout the world with such a story:
In 1200 BC, Attis of Phrygia Greece, was born on December 25th to the virgin Nana. He had a similar ministry, including being killed on a cross, placed in a tomb upon death, and after three days, resurrecting.
Also in 1200 BC, Mithra of Persia was born on December 25th to a virgin. He had twelve disciples, performed miracles, died, and was resurrected three days later. Once a week, the Day of the Sun (Sun Day) was set aside to worship Mithra.
In 900 BC, Krishna of India was born to the virgin Devaki, accompanied by a star in the East signifying his birth. He performed miracles, had disciples, and after dying, was resurrected.
In 500 BC, Dionysis of Greece was born to a virgin on December 25th. He was a travelling teacher of men. He performed miracles, such as changing water into wine. He was referred to as the "King of Kings," "God's Only Begotten Son," "Alpha and Omega," and several others. After he died, he was resurrected.
Factually, there has been numerous saviors from various parts of the world, and from different time periods, all which share these similar attributes.
Next, let's look at why. Why the virgin birth on the 25th of December, announced by a star in the East?
Let's look towards the heavens: The brightest star in the sky, Sirius, on December 24th, aligns with the three stars in Orion's belt (the three kings). If we follow the line that these stars make points to where the sun rises the following morning on December 25th.
Then we have the constellation Virgo (latin for virgin). Another name for Virgo translates into "House of Bread," as the virgin was popularly personified as holding a stalk of wheat. In Hebrew, Bethlehem translates into "House of Bread." On December 25th, the sun was born in the constellation Virgo, or the constellation Breadhouse (Bethlehem).
As Autumn turns into winter, the sun spends less time in the sky, and travels its path much lower up until Winter Solstice. To the ancient people, the process was symbolic of the sun's death.
For three das, from the 22nd to the 24th of December, the Sun stays perceivably at its lowest point in the sky, in the vicinity of the constellation known as the Southern Cross. Then, on the 25th, the moves North, foreshadowing the rebirth of life in the Spring to come. So, essentially, the sun dies for three days at the cross, and then is resurrected.
The resurrection was not celebrated until the Spring Equinox, when the sun's daily journey through the sky becomes longer than the darkness of night, and the plants all around begin to bud and show new life.
The cross is also a pagan symbol of the zodiac, dividing the four seasons. Many early depictions of Jesus show a cross in a circle behind his head. The twelve disciples are the twelve constellations, with whom the Sun travels about with.
There's also another religious/astrological concept of age. Every 2100 years, the sun's retrograde movement moves through a different astrological sign. Before Moses, it was Taurus (the golden calf). Moses was Aries, the ram (sounding of the Ram's horn). Jesus, is the age of Pisces the fish, starting around 1 AD. That is why there are so many references to fish and fishing in the stories of Jesus. With each new age, the old age must be shed.
When asked by his disciples about where the last passover would be held, in Luke 22:10, Jesus says,
Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you bearing a pitcher of water.... follow him into the house where he entereth in.
This represents the next constellation that the sun's retrograde path will enter into after the age of Pisces is over: Aquarius, the water bearer.
(For the full story with more details, check out Zeitgeist the Movie.)
Basically, the christian god Jesus started some time in the 1st century AD.
The difficult thing about defining Christianity, is that there were many differing sects with very contrasting beliefs, and the belief that most Christians hold about it being a unified belief system is actually quite wrong.
Here are just a few of the 1st and 2nd Century Christian flavors:
There are actually more, but many of them are lost due to the warfare and bloodshed practices of the competing Christian sects, who would often wage war on one another to destroy those with differing beliefs.
Most Christians would be really surprised if they spend the time to really learn about Christianity's origin. Most don't even know that Paul and James were very much opposed to each other's understanding of who Jesus even came to save.
After centuries of these different religious sects killing one another, Constantine ordered his religious leaders to come to a mutual agreement, First Council of Nicaea, where they essentially formed a committee and decided on what the the Christian religion would be.
This was also opportunity for Constantine and others in power to create a belief system in which the masses could be controlled. If somebody committed a crime, it was also a sin, and his eternal happiness was on the line. This worked for hundreds of years, until religious leaders who believed more in the goodness of religion rather than the power that came with it, started to break off into different religious sects, and the absolute power that the religion entailed was also lost.
Christianity was started by a man called Jesus who selected twelve men to follow him and learn from him. After Jesus' death and resurrection, the twelve men started spreading the good news wherever they went. This spreading eventually reached Europe.
Christianity of course originated in Judea (Palestine) and could easily spread westward from there due to the well developed communications system of the Roman Empire. Within 30 years or so of the Crucifixion, there were enough Christians in Rome itself for Paul to write an Epistle to them, and for Nero to persecute them. It was well established in Roman Africa from an early date, with Carthage and Alexandria as important centres. Carthage and its neighbouring towns produced important early Christian figures such as Tertullian and Cyprian (2nd and 3rd Centuries) and St Augustine of Hippo (4th Century) whilst in Alexandria Athenasius (4th Century) famously led the fight against the Arian heresy.