The term Inquisition refers to a development in European Christianity (particularly in the Middle Ages) during which both secular authorities and members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy cooperated to suppress heresy and punish heretics. The Inquisition developed within the context of the various cultures with which Christianity came into contact as it spread throughout the western part of the Roman Empire. Beginning as a small and persecuted sect within the Roman Empire, Christianity grew as a result of persuasion by word and example. The role of Christianity changed dramatically in the fourth century as the church began to merge with the state after Constantine legalized Christianity (ca. 314) and, later, Theodosius made it the official religion of the empire (380). The church absorbed much ...

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