Forging a Christian Synthesis
Christianity was not the only religion of the Roman world with an afterlife or in which the soul's fate is determined by one's actions on earth. It is none the less unlikely that as much as 10 per cent of the population of the Roman Empire were Christian at the beginning of the fourth century. When the Christian organization came into the open after 313, synods of bishops were quickly recognized as the highest units of church government, but they were facing competition by the late fourth century from the claims of the Bishop of Rome. Christians dominated intellectual life in the west by the third quarter of the fourth century, and most Christian thinkers were conservative in doctrinal matters. The early Christian thinkers speculated freely, adopting and synthesizing diverse elements from Greek philosophy, oriental mysticism and Jewish ritual and doctrine into a universal religion.