Population Estimates

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BibArch Home Up In the Roman Empire In the World The Swamping

Determination of the place, size, growth rate, commitment, and faction of early Christian communities remains problematic if not impossible. Population Estimates, sets forth a summary of some recent attempts to quantify population figures for Jews and Christians in the Roman world for the Late Roman Period. 

Population Estimates


For the1st Century CE

For ca. CE 300 

Edwards 1997:30

6 million Christians reside in the Roman empire ca. CE 300

Frend 1984:444, 988

Christianity was probably the majority in western Asia Minor, in Numidia and around Carthage, and in Armenia; a strong minority in much of Syria and in eastern Mauretania and Baetica, with scatterings of Christians in other Latin-speaking provinces

Gilbert 1992:12

In the first century CE over 6 million Jews in the Roman Empire of whom 1 million resided in Egypt

3 million Jews in the Roman empire of whom 1 million resided west of Macedonia

Johnson 1976:11

4.5 Jews in the Diaspora and 1 million in Palestine

Meeks 1983:34

5–6 million Jews in the Diaspora with them making up about 10–15% of the total population of every town of any size in the lands of the Mediterranean

Stark 1996:6-7

1,000 Christians in CE 40

Christians make up about 10% of the population of the Roman world

Such estimates involve a certain degree of speculation and lack of precision. Moreover, in an overall population sense the term "Christians" refers to its membership in an all-inclusive way. The deeply committed or observant probably would have been significantly less. Perhaps at most no more than 10% of the total were actually practicing Christians. At best, based upon today’s knowledge, developing reasonable projections of Christian population growth are not plausible beyond the dyad of Christians of Jewish stock and Christians of Gentile stock. Developing these projections, however, has some probative value in considering the matter of the Greco-Roman Gentile Church overtaking and eventually overwhelming Judeo-Christianity.

Of the Jews on the Temple Mount on that first Christian Pentecost in CE 30 there were, according to Luke, "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs" (Acts 2:9-10 NASB). This diverse group came from all over the Roman empire, except Britain, and beyond. 

Visitors at the Temple Mount on Pentecost CE 30



Persia and the area of modern Iran

Parthians, Medes & Elamites

Area of modern Iraq

Residents of Mesopotamia

The Roman province of Judea

Residents of the districts of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee

Various provinces of Asia Minor in the area of modern Turkey

Residents of Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia (west coast province of Asia Minor), Phrygia, & Pamphylia

North Africa

Residents of Egypt, the districts of Libya around Cyrene


Visitors from Rome both ethnic Jews and proselytes





Above, Visitors at the Temple Mount on Pentecost CE 30, lists the various peoples in attendance at the Temple Mount at Pentecost CE 30 as reported in Acts 2. As Christianity spread, furthered by some of these visitors taking the Judeo-Christian message back to their homelands, it moved first through settlements of Jews throughout the Diaspora.F1

In CE 30 there were perhaps as many as 8 million Jews worldwide with at least 6 million living within the Roman empire. Significant Jewish centers in the Diaspora existed all over the Roman world and east as far as India and south into Ethiopia. The first-century CE Jewish population of the Roman empire, as understood by Martin Gilbert, was over 6 million, of whom 1 million lived in Egypt, mostly in Alexandria (Gilbert 1992:12; see also Johnson 1976:11).

While exact figures do not exist, Paul Johnson suggests that Diasporan Jews outnumbered the settled Jews of Palestine by perhaps 4.5 million to 1 million (Johnson 1976:12). Meeks holds that in the first century some 5 to 6 million Jews lived in the Diaspora, that is, more or less permanently outside the Levant, with a substantial Jewish population of about 10 to 15 percent of the total population in virtually every town of any size in the lands of the Mediterranean (Meeks 1983:34). Moreover, if other early Judeo-Christian evangelists followed the pattern of the apostle Paul, by preaching first in the synagogues of the Jews before going to the Gentiles, then the implication is that small Judeo-Christian Churches of God arose all around the Mediterranean. Wherever a Jewish settlement existed one should expect to find a Judeo-Christian presence as well.


F1This appears to be the origin of the congregations in Italy referred to in the apostle Paul's CE 56 epistle to the Romans and references to his trip to Rome ca. CE 60.

Page last edited: 01/26/06 07:12 PM

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