It would be interesting to see what Christianity, indeed our world, would be like had there never been a diaspora in the early church, but there was. In fact, there were two.
The Holy Spirit is an odd creature, when things aren’t going the way it wants them to strange things can happen, that is what happened in the early church. Jesus’ plan for his followers was to bring the Good News to the entire world, not keep it among the Jews. The Apostles and Disciples didn’t quit understand that, they were perfectly happy with Greeks coming to them, they didn’t see the need to actively seek out Greek converts.
The first diaspora happened with the murder of Steven (~33AD) by, among others, Saul of Tarsus, though (according to Acts) his involvement seemed to be limited to holding the cloaks of others.
…and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was consenting to his death.Acts 7:58 – 8:1 (RSV)
Shortly after this some of the disciples left Jerusalem out of fear for their lives and ended up in Judea and Samaria.
And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samar′ia, except the apostles.Acts 8:1 (RSV)
While preaching did occur in these areas before, this is the first time that we actually hear about people leaving Jerusalem for reasons other than just spreading the Good News. Over the years the persecution against The Way increases, more and more disciples, and even Apostles, leave Jerusalem for their safety. About 10 years later (~43AD) we see Peter being forced to leave for “another place”, it is about this time that Peter is said to have arrived in Rome to take over leadership of the church (First Bishop of Rome). On the way tradition holds that he stopped, briefly, in Antioch and serves as its first Bishop, only to return again after the persecution of the church in Rome. It is on this second visit to Antioch (~50AD) that he encounters Paul and they have their legendary conflict (not important to our tale).
While the church has been spreading, it is not enough for the Holy Spirit. In 70AD we see the second diaspora of the Christian Church as the uprisings in Jerusalem become too much for the Roman authorities and force all Jews (Christians still seen as part of the Jewish church) out of Jerusalem. At this point the Apostles are forced out as well, and this is where we see the church leaving Jewish influence and opening more and more to Greek converts.
Next time we will look at the Five Sees of the Christian Church.