By 313 A.D., the Roman Empire recognized Pauline Christianity as a legitimate religion. Sixty-seven years later, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and for the next 1,000 years, only Catholics were considered Christians. In 1054 A.D., there was a split between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians.
Shortly after Jesus' death, Peter became a central figure in the Jewish Christian movement. These early Christians viewed themselves as a reform movement within Judaism and still followed most Jewish laws. After Saul had a vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus and became Paul, he was the foremost evangelist of the early Christian church. Pauline Christianity was aimed at Gentiles rather than Jews, creating an early, but subtle, split within the church.
Gnostic Christians were also around at this time, believing that Jesus was a spirit being sent by God to Earth to impart knowledge to humans to help them escape the misery of life. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., Jews became scattered, and Pauline and Gnostic Christianity became dominant. Three hundred years later, Roman Catholicism became the official religion of the Roman Empire, which controlled most of that region of the world at that time.
For the next 1,000 years, Roman Catholicism dominated Europe, until an official rift led to the formation of the Eastern Orthodox church. Five hundred years later, Martin Luther broke off to form the Protestant Reformation. Those who remained loyal to the Roman Catholic church believed that the central regulation of doctrine by church leaders was necessary to prevent confusion and division within the church and corruption of its beliefs.