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Christianity Exam Review

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Kyle Smith

Christianity Exam Review 14/12/2012 9:16:00 AM Week 2: The Historical Jesus and the Jesus of the Gospels What do we know about the social, religious, and historical circumstances in which Jesus was born and raised? What do the different “portraits” of Jesus in the Gospels tell us about how his life was understood? Week two left me guessing my knowledge in what I knew about Christianity. There is wide range of questions that arises from the reading as to what is fact? What is fiction? The aim of the lecture is to differentiate between historical Jesus and Jesus of the gospels. According to the reading from the textbook and the articles posted on the blog, it is clear to me that everyone saw Jesus in the light they wanted to see Jesus. The Historical Jesus differed completely from the Jesus described in the gospels. Jesus according to the readings was born, raised, lived and died as a Jew. It wasn’t until a few decades later that his followers stopped attending the synagogues. If Jesus was a Jew then how did Christianity form? Was it the religion of his followers or disciples? We know that Jesus was a leader in his religious circle, but he did still come from an artisan household. How did he receive the recognition that he receives today? We could get a glimpse at the answers to the question if we looked into the times, life and locality of that era. Jesus has been described by four different gospels Mark, Mathew, Luke and John. They were disciples of Jesus. It is unclear that if they knew each other or not. The descriptions of Jesus are similar in the gospels but then there are variations that stand out. The gospels varied from language to regions to the audience they were aimed at. This makes me question as to how do we know, what was Jesus’s teachings? Were the gospels written to convert the audience rather that spread the true teachings? How do we know that the culture, the region or the audience did not influence their writings? Answers to these questions I am not able to find yet, but I am able to decipher that Jesus was a Jew. His followers made him Jesus Christ. The gospels were not an historical depiction of Jesus. The main thing is that even now at the present day people perceive Jesus only in the light they want to see him in. +++ He could be a simple carpenter, a Galilean, a political criminal, a prophet, the Messiah, the sacrificial lamb, or the Son of God. It doesn’t help that the religious writings that are supposed to help us understand who Jesus was, all tell a different story. The question of “who is Jesus?” has been debated and talked about for centuries and I think that the identity of Jesus differs depending on whom you ask. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is portrayed as a countryman who possesses amazing powers and performs miracles, and is also Gods persecuted son. In the Gospel of Matthew, he is made out to be more man than God by tracing his genealogy all the way back to Abraham. In Luke’s Gospel, he is a scholar who is then punished as a political criminal, and finally, in the Gospel of John, Jesus is seen as a serene figure that is noted to be the sacrificial lamb for all of humanity. I think the story that is widely accepted is the one where Jesus is the son of God who came to earth to help us learn how to be better people, and then sacrificed himself for our sins, but this definition is always changing. In the beginning, Jesus was made out to be more divine and otherworldly, but as more research is being done and more information is surfacing, the more the human side is emerging, such as the fact that Jesus was probably not conceived through immaculate conception, the fact that he probably grew up in a household of at least seven children, and even that Jesus could have been married, all point to a very human Jesus. This is starting to become a more popular definition because of the study of the geographically area and the time that Jesus lived. It is scientifically impossible for Immaculate Conception to occur, and in those times, single children families were almost unheard of. Marriage was also very common. Almost all adults married so to belief that Jesus was single could probably inaccurate. In the end, it is up to each individual person to decide who Jesus really was. In my opinion, at this current time in my life and in my faith journey, Jesus was probably a Galilean carpenter turned preacher/prophet who was very much human but who we can all look up to because of his moral principles. He was a living example of how to be a good person and how we should love and do onto others, as we want to be done onto us. +++ This is the inevitable question that comes with not one answer but with many, many answers. The reason for that I believe is because there is no one distinct definition as to whom Jesus was but rather a multitude of ideas. This is evident through the bible, through neighborly descriptions, through scholars or even through simple media such as YouTube or PBS. The bible tells us that Jesus is one of many important figures and yet us human beings have no one word or words to describe who he is. In the bible, in the New Testament, there are four gospels, from which there are three that are synoptic and yet from those three they all portray Jesus as a different person. According to the gospel of Mark, Jesus is a wonderworker, a suffering servant, and a keeper of messianic secrets. Then in the gospel according to Matthew, Jesus is a Messiah for the Jews, a second Moses, a descendent, and an opponent. Then in the gospel according to Luke, Jesus is a scholar, a teacher, and a compassionate forgiver. Lastly, in the gospel of John, who is not a synoptic, identifies Jesus as the miracle, the divine and holy, the messianic, the Passover meal. These are just a few of the images of who Jesus possibly is. Even on YouTube alone, there are people such as Jefferson Bethke that believe Jesus is a man sent by God to condemn and rid the world of religion. In Kennedy’s: Christianity An Introduction, he makes a reference to Jesus being a manual worker among agrarians, spending most of his life as a carpenter. He also makes a reference to some people like Pontius Pilate, who believed that Jesus was simply a man that wanted to overtake his throne. Lastly, Kennedy also points out that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, which can bring forth the ideas that Jesus is a holy person because he was made not from impure intentions. Another interesting image was introduced by Mark Goodacre, a professor of New Testament at Duke University, stating that Jesus is simply a historian’s work, someone to study of the past. He also brought up the idea that Jesus is simply a person of which people today can make money off of. Personally, I believe that who Jesus is, is going to vary in the eye of the beholder. Jesus to one person may be a man unworthy of the focus people pay to him; whereas, another person may claim that Jesus is the reason for our own salvation because he chose to carry our sins. I guess what I am trying to point out is that I really don’t know who Jesus is nor does anyone else. We certainly can try to understand the past political, social and cultural history to create a crisp image of him, but unless we knew the man himself, who is to say that ones depiction of Jesus is right over others. +++ Jesus was born in Bethlehem under the reign of the Emperor Augustus, the Roman Empire. King Herod was the leader of Israel and helped build the city by building a temple. Jesus was a poor Jewish carpenter who was largely influenced by the Roman Empire. The temple in Jerusalem was the core and most sacred symbol of Judaism. During the time of Jesus, Judaism was a very diverse religion. There were extremist Jewish groups whom were upset with the way the church was structured and wanted to take out the Roman Empire. They were an apocalyptic group that believed God would abolish injustice and evil. The Romans destroyed the temple and built the Arch of Titus to celebrate their victory. Judea Capta coins were in circulation so Jews were constantly being reminded of the Roman destruction. Modern historians visit ancient texts and try to construct Jesus? life. There is no direct answer to the type of person Jesus was. Jesus is constantly being constructed and just recently a piece of papyrus was transcribed suggesting that Jesus had a wife. Different religions, scholars, and theologians view Jesus in a multitude of ways. In Islam, Jesus is considered as a prophet and not a Messiah. Jesus has been created from God?s flesh, thus Christianity is essentially a story of his reincarnation. The Gospels of Jesus help tell his life, death, and resurrection. Mark was the first to write about Jesus? life. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is depicted as a strange teacher with substantial power and wisdom of healing others, thus making him a miracle worker. The Gospel of Matthew and Luke are dependent on the story of Mark. However, there are Greek sayings of Jesus in both Matthew and Luke that don’t appear in Mark. Since Jesus spoke Aramaic, this meant that there was another source other than Mark known as Quelle, which was used to write the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The Gospel of Matthew is written for a Jewish audience. According to Matthew, Jesus is the son of Abraham. A lot of the symbols in the Gospel are derived from Jewish tradition. Matthew says that Jesus looks like Moses. There are five sermons like the book of Torah. The Gospel of Luke is more of a Greco-Roman novel. For the first time, we learn that the followers of Jesus are called Christians. Luke tells the story of the Roman church because most of the stories are told from the East, in Rome. The Gospel of John is very different from the other three synoptic Gospels. It is regarded as the spiritual Gospel because it illustrates Jesus in a symbolic way. In John’s Gospel, the Passover meal is not eaten before Jesus’ death as described in the other Gospels. Instead, Jesus is depicted as eating before the Passover and becoming the Passover meal. The body and blood of Christ is shared amongst his followers. Jesus will always be regarded as the Messiah, an enigmatic figure whose identity will remain obscure and sacred. Week 3: Paul and Ancient Christianity 14/12/2012 9:16:00 AM Week 3: Paul and Ancient Christianity Why is Paul sometimes called the “founder” of Christianity? Is this a fair claim? Some representative posts on Week 3 material: Paul, formerly known as Saul, is one of the most prominent and influential figures within the Christian realms of history because of the fact that he is considered to be the Founder of Christianity.? This is due to the many contributions that he made as well as the issues that he addressed during his humble time on earth spreading the word of Jesus Christ, in which he stressed Jesus’ resurrection as he viewed this heavenly event as essential in understanding Jesus. This is because he stressed that Jesus the Christ died to reconcile a sinful humanity with God and that God subsequently raised him to a new life. Even though Paul had never met Jesus, he still remains a primary historical witness to Jesus’ life for the simple reason that he came to know very well both Peter, who had accompanied Jesus in his travels, and James, Jesus’ brother. Furthermore, one of the Paul’s more significant contributions to Christianity is some of the long-standing traditions in how Christian celebrate some of the Holy Sacraments. Paul downplayed the conventional wisdom of the Jewish laws as he began to form his own for the people who were following the teachings of Jesus through Paul as Christianity was not yet a religion but rather referred to people who believed in the Messiah. For example, as discussed in the third lecture the Jewish act of self-cleansing in a pool of water was a necessary component before performing rituals in the Temple but it was taken by Paul and used as a form of initiation into the world of Jesus, as this would replace the circumcision of the infants after birth. Hence, it is evident that this tradition has prevailed throughout time and it has cemented itself in to foundation of Christianity, as Baptism is an essential part into the induction of the Christian faith. Moreover, another important aspect that Paul had contributed to Christianity were all of his writings that now comprises the New Testament, which included 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Romans and 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians and a few others. These ancient writings are a witness to Paul’s rooted foundation in Jesus Christ, as he states, “Yet whatever gains I had” he says, these I have come to regard as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.(Phil 3: 7-8). For such a stance, Paul has often been labeled as the founder of Christianity. In essence, it is evident that Paul was a very significant individual to the Christian faith as his vital contributions made him the Founder of Christianity, and as it has grown into the largest religion in the world today. +++ Paul the Apostle is considered by some to be the founder of Christianity while others believe it had been generated prior to his evangelical mission. Paul’s discovery of Christianity is the most widely accepted view due to his direct confrontation with Jesus. While on the road to Damascus, the resurrected Jesus appeared to him in a blinding flash of light. This confrontation with Jesus caused Paul to convert immediately from his Jewish beliefs. He would then travel from Jerusalem, all across the Mediterranean, as far as Lyrica to preach that Jesus of Nazareth was the Jewish messiah and the Son of God. After this euphoric experience, he believed in Jesus as the messiah and began to spread the word of the gospels across the Roman Empire. He did this through preaching to many of the individuals in the Roman Empire, majority of which were Gentiles (non-Jewish Greeks), and through written epistles. The epistles that he wrote, addressed to a number of Gentile communities across the Roman Empire, spoke of what Christians should believe and how they should live. These epistles were dispersed throughout churches, and read during mass. His travels helped in converting the non- Jewish Gentiles from their previous beliefs towards Jesus as the messiah and this inadvertently began what is today known as Christianity. Paul preached word of a new covenant. He taught them that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God who sacrificed himself for our salvation, which now cleared the path for the deceased to live an eternal life in the kingdom of God. He altered the standard Jewish practices and deemed the Torah obsolete in achieving salvation. Circumcision was no longer a necessary baptism, and the strict Laws of Moses, both dietary and sacramental, need not to be followed. His teachings were very influential due to his knowledge of the Gentiles culture and prior religious beliefs. He spoke of Zeus and other deities, as well as familiar Greek philosophies. His teachings were legitimized because they did not come from other gospels they came directly from Jesus. Paul influenced the Greeks to believe that faith in Christ would be their salvation, and Christians are redeemed from their sins because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Paul’s epistles and teachings have greatly influenced the Christian understanding of salvation, and eventually led to the birth of Christianity, as we know it today. They have greatly influenced our knowledge of the early history of Christianity and play an essential role in our understanding of the religion. +++ It is important to note Paul?s identity as a Jew. Paul, formerly Saul, was a formidable adherent to Jewish law. He maintained tradition, and went so far as to persecute Jewish deviants from following the Jesus Movement. However on his journey to Damascus, whether it be a type of divine, mystical appointment, or epiphany, Paul encountered Jesus after Jesus? death. From this one encounter Paul adopts his new name and radically changes his priority from persecuting disciples of the Jesus Movement, to converting anyone who would listen to Jesus? Disciples, or Christians. This testimony in itself reinforces Paul?s authority as the founder of Christianity, and even the validity of Jesus? message because Paul was directly touched, and changed by Christ. The message Paul preached spoke of inclusivity to Jews and Gentiles alike. Paul balanced his knowledge of Jewish Scripture and law with new messianic principles emulated by Jesus. Rather than speaking of Jesus?s life, Paul focused more on Jesus? death and consequent resurrection, and accessibility of salvation to all. However, for this ideal of inclusivity to Jews and Gentiles, Paul had to deal with two major Jewish Laws- circumcision and dietary restrictions. He addressed these issues by claiming that race and sex do not matter anymore. Along with other disciples, Paul went to the Council of Jerusalem and explained those customs meant to distinguish God?s chosen (the Jews) from everyone else were no longer necessary. He introduced baptism as the new circumcision ? in doing so offered access to anyone. Through Paul?s message and others like it, Christianity began to emerge as its own religion rather than a sect of Judaism. Although Paul was not the first to convert Gentiles into the Jesus Movement, Paul was definitely a key player in how the roots of Christianity were spread. It is also important to note Paul?s ideas were shared by many disciples, but many newer ideas were deemed as divinely inspired by God, thus attributing Paul as the founder of Christianity. Paul took the initiative to spread the gospel to wherever and to whomever would listen. He preached in synagogues made of diasporic Jews, Jews, and Gentiles. The presence of synagogues in non-Jewish lands allowed Paul to create dialogue between secular, gentile philosophers. Paul?s knowledge of prevalent culture allowed him to further engage his gentile audiences. Compared to Jesus, Paul traveled a great amount going from Jerusalem and even almost hitting Italy. Also, Paul constantly wrote letters to different churches, much of which comprise approximately 13 books of the New Testament. The sheer amount of writing, and travelling Paul accomplished in his lifetime are popular reasons as to why he is referred to as the founder of Christianity. +++ Many people believe that there is no real founder to this well known religion called Christianity, yet there are others who believe the apostle Paul or originally known as Saul is the founder of this religion. And it is not hard for one to see where they get this idea. For one thing Paul was one of the most important people when it came to spreading the message of Jesus although at first it seemed clear that Paul did not want anything to do with this so called Messiah, but when God spoke to him, he was able to see things in a different light. He finally started to proclaim jesus as the Messiah and shared the good news with anyone and everyone. Not only did he write the many letters such as the ones to the Corinthians and Thessalonians, that we see in the New testament he also travelled around the world to spread the good news regarding Jesus, this was something Jesus himself was not able to do. Jesus only went around Israel telling them about his father, and why his father has sent him down to earth. Paul was also the first one to focus on Jesus? crucifixion and resurrection as a center point something the gospel writers did not do. They mostly focused on his life and his message, Paul?s letters on the other hand focused on Jesus himself. He wrote about Jesus to many groups of people, some of whom who had already heard about him and claimed him as their Lord and savior and others who had brushed him off as nothing more than someone who was tooting their own horn. His primary message was that the Messiah died for our sins (crucifixion) and three days later he rose again (resurrection) and it is through his blood that we receive salvation. This is the bases for many Christian denominations such as Baptists, Protestants, Pentecostal etc. They all believe in salvation through faith which is believing and knowing why Jesus died, and how great his selfless act was for all mankind, rather than salvation through good works where people help out the needy in order to get a ticket to heaven. And Paul was the first one to point this out. Week 4: Christian Worship, Initiation and the Eucharist 14/12/2012 9:16:00 AM Week 4: Christian Worship, Initiation, and the Eucharist Why is a Eucharistic (or “thanksgiving”) meal central to Christian practice? Why is it often called a “sacrificial” meal? Some representative posts from Week 4... Rituals come in many different forms, and are virtually a part of every existing and past culture or religion. One of the most important and well- known rituals in Christianity is the sacrificial meal, (also known as the Eucharistic meal, Communion, or by various other names). It is important to note that this ritual did not appear out of thin air. In fact, many aspects were taken from early Roman and Jewish notions of sacrifice. First of all, if we look back to the ancient Jews, we can see that they celebrated what is known as Passover. Passover was the celebration and commemoration of the Angel of death passing over those who were Jewish, during the time that the Jews were enslaved by the Egyptians. According to the Old Testament, all of the first-born males were killed, unless the blood of a lamb was spread across the front door, signifying followers of God (the Jewish people). Passover was celebrated by taking part in the ritual meal, called the Seder. This meal was closely connected to sacrifice. Indeed, sacrifice and meals often went together and were not even seen as separate entities. A lamb was sacrificed in the temple for Passover, and was eaten with other ritual foods, including unleavened bread, which is still used today for the Eucharist. These meals would call together the whole community, and be shared together in celebration. Sacrifice was also very important to the Greco-Roman culture. The Romans had a sacrificial meal as well, called Souvetaurilia. This entailed the sacrifice of a Pig, sheep and bull. Their sacrifice was to the Roman god Mars, hoping that he would bless and purify their land. Both these rituals sound similar, and it is clear there are elements of both in the Christian communal meal. Yet, the Eucharist is different. The biggest example of this is that there is no animal sacrifice. Instead, Jesus Christ’s crucifixion takes the place of any other sacrifice. Also, the Christian ritual meal is not actually a meal. Although it started off as one, it quickly changed. Only a small amount of wine and unleavened bread is taken, as a symbol for Christ’s blood and body, and the suffering he endured for all of humanity. This meal was celebrated very early on in Christianity. Christians would gather together, read scriptures, pray, and celebrate Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Although part of the focus of the Eucharistic meal is the sacrifice of Christ, unlike the rituals of Passover and Souvetaurilia, the main focus is not sacrifice. Instead, it is why Jesus sacrificed himself, instead of the act itself. +++ Understanding the Christian sacrificial meal, the Eucharist, means realizing the properties that are involved in this ritual. For best comprehension of any ritual is through practice. It is only afterwards that one can develop one’s understanding even better by looking at the historical background of how the Eucharist meal came to be, what separates this meal from other meals, and knowing why this meal is concrete to the Christian faith. Since one cannot simply complete the acts of the Eucharist on paper, it can only be explained what the Eucharist is. This is an act where people take a piece of bread and wine as the body and blood of Jesus. The blood and body reference is not meant to be taken literally as Calvin may have, believing that it is a representation of Roman Catholic cannibalistic desires; instead, is to be taken in a more contextual and symbolical form. Keeping this in mind, it must also be realized that an act involving Jesus, as Kennedy points out, cannot be understood without knowing that Jesus was Jewish and that there were different practices in his era. The Jewish practice consists of a sacrificial meal that is commonly known as the Passover Meal. This meal is a way for the Jewish to remember the sacrifices their people had made to escape slavery in Egypt after the angel of death passed over the land of Egypt killing the first born male of each household. This meal often consists of lamb and unleavened bread. This is where Jesus got his idea of using the bread to represent his body. Now, for the Romans, their sacrifices were made towards the Roman god of Mars, who was believed to bring people health and bless their lands. It also needs to be understood that aside of the devotion to one’s god, any form of sacrifice was often pared with a meal because it was seen as a time for celebration, joy, and bringing friends together. Wine was often drunk at these celebrations. This is where Jesus may have gathered his idea to use the wine to represent his blood. Thus both the bread and wine were used to as reminders of Jesus after he died so that he is remembered not only in the head but in the heart of his people, as so stated by Jesus at the last supper. The Eucharist meal is different because it looks at the act of a selfless man, who brought together a nation of people known as Christians. This meal is a way for Christians to devote themselves to their lord, to commemorate his great deeds, his finial hours and the many words he had no doubt taken the time to think about. This Eucharist symbolizes Jesus as the last sacrifice made in Christianity and the only person to die for the world’s sins so that they may receive forgiveness. In conclusion, the Eucharist is a reminder of all that Jesus embodies. +++ The background for the Eucharistic meal can best be understood through parallels drawn from Jewish and Greco Roman conceptions of sacrifice. In fact, these practices create the building blocks of the Christian celebration of Eucharist. Sacrificial meals involved living creatures and were performed to appease wrath and lead to ritual cleansing. In the Greco Roman empire, worshippers ate a meal called Souvetaurilla in which a pig "suss", sheep "obis" and bull "taurus" are sacrificed to the Roman God of mars as a way of blessing and purifying the land. In Greco Roman Times, Jewish Food celebrations and Christian Eucharist celebrations, the memorial is used to commemorate God's protection. Some of the food was sacrificed to the god(s) and the rest of the food was given to the community. The eating of food is almost always used in religious festivals to bind the community together. Even the order of animals used in the Greco Roman sacrifices is telling: pigs in many religions such as Asian mythology and Western culture are representative of wisdom, self control and power such as in the term "my piggy bank." The Taurus or "bull" is often used as a symbol of strength and dominance such as the "Chicago bulls" and "sheep" are usually representative of individuals who follow the crowd, such as in the Honda advertisement where they used sheep to convey the idea that people blindly follow the crowd when they are buying cars. Both sheep and bulls were sacrificed as sin offerings throughout the Torah. In the eating of bread and wine, Jesus is symbolically representative of the Jewish high priesthood who needed to be ritually cleansed through a ceremony with water and then anointed afterwards as a prophet, priest or king. In the Jewish and Greco roman Tradition, these sacrifices were performed annually to atone for sins, and sometimes as an article of divination. This was found in the famous prophecy given to Julius Caesar to beware of the "ids of march" where he was told, he would encounter "a situation of great peril." He was eventually killed just as the diviner predicted on that very day. While Jewish and Greco Roman sacrifices were done annually, Christ's sacrifice was performed only once. The difference in the Christian Eucharist, according to Paul is that Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice. Christ atones for sins once and for all and after his sacrifice, no other animal sacrifices needed to be made. +++ The sacrificial meal is a very important event to Christians around the world. It was at the Last Supper where Jesus sat down with his followers and had his last chance to preach and explain to them the very important process that was about to take place. This gave Jesus a chance to symbolically show everyone that he was about to sacrifice his life for the cleansing and survival of others. Ritual meals have gone on for a very long time and are almost always associated with sacrifices. In this situation it was not an animal that was being given up but instead, it was Jesus that was going to be the ultimate sacrifice. While at the table Jesus identified himself with the lamb sacrificed in the Jewish temple during Passover. He did this in order to relate himself to something that his apostles could understand. Jews would eat a meal called Passover in order to commemorate their escape from slavery in Egypt. At this ritual meal they ate a lamb that had been slain in the temple as well as other ritual foods. Considering his followers were Jewish, comparing himself to the sacrificial lamb of Passover allowed for a symbolic meaning of his upcoming death to be made. Being associated with the sacrifice of the lambs in the temple he inserted his coming death into the history of God's liberating relationship with the Jewish people and promised to be present to his followers whenever they met to eat this meal and remember him? (B. Cooke and G. Macy, Christian Symbol and Ritual: An Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2005). Another important component about the Last Supper is how Jesus changed the usual blessing over the bread and over the wine during the meal. Jesus identified himself with the bread and wine and distributed both to his followers, instructing them to continue to celebrate this meal in his memory.(B. Cooke and G. Macy, Christian Symbol and Ritual: An Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2005). Thus, this meal is not just for celebrating the sacrifice and death of Jesus but also the love and selflessness that he displayed for his people. It is a true celebration for his entire life, death, resurrection, and the freedom that came out of the whole process. As stated in class, this idea of sacrificial meals was an existing notion from Greek and Roman traditions. Romans and Greeks would sacrifice animals to cleanse and purify the land. The animal would be sacrificed to the God, and also be eaten by the people. This was to bind the community and show who is a part of the community. Although the Christian meal had similarities with these types of event, it was a different version of a sacrificial meal. When the bread and wine ritually became Jesus during a Christian communal meal, it was as if God and Jesus were fully present in the community. To Christians, the Eucharistic meal is considered the institution narrative and can be considered the most fundamental practice of Christian worship. Week 5: Martyrdom and the Body 14/12/2012 9:16:00 AM Week 5: Martyrdom and the Body Why is the “body” so important in Christianity? How did Christian ideas about death and the body challenge prevailing non-Christian ideas in the Roman Empire? As talked about in lecture, the word martyr is a Greek word meaning witness. However, what distinguishes a suicide from martyrdom? Furthermore, are suicides considered cowardly while martyrdoms are considered heroic? Martyrdom, or noble death, is usually for a cause, while suicide is primarily to escape. However, when one needs to quantify a death, it is not easy to decide whether the death was noble or ignoble. This brings us to the stories of the early Christian martyrs, one of the most famous being Perpetua. The story of Perpetua’s death is known as a hero story. As the PBS frontline clips described, if we read only martyr stories, one would assume that all Christians were heroes, and that the church flourishes because of that heroism. We do not have thousands of people being martyred, instead we have tens of thousands of people admiring the few that are martyred, Perpetua being one of them. The story of the martyrdom of Perpetua is a very important milestone in the development of early Christianity. The story tells the perception of Christians at that time. At the beginning of the second century, Christians were an unknown commodity. By the year 203, when Perpetua met her death, Christianity was a known commodity. Therefore, the story of Perpetua represents the change in the status of Christianity. Christianity had begun to be a part of the Roman world. This is the reason early Christians celebrated the death of Perpetua, her death marked Christianity gaining ground amongst those in the Roman Empire, finally acknowledging Christians as their own group, separate from the Jews. Another topic, this one discussed through our readings, was the topic of the cult of the saints. As Brown describes in his article, the cult of the saints, involved the digging up, moving, and dismemberment of the bones of the dead and then placing these in areas from which the dead had once been excluded. These bones were representations of Gods miracles, and were thought to have spiritual properties. The dead bodies linked the dead and the living, therefore linking heaven and earth. Brown states, by the end of the period, the immortal boundary between the city of the living and the dead came to be breached by the entry of relics and their housing within the walls of many antique towns, and the clustering of ordinary graves around them? (Brown 4-5). The cult of the saints therefore broke down the current barrier between the dead and the universe. +++ The complex and intricate discussion of martyrdom is a perplexing topic, as what constitutes this action may sound simple when read from a definition. However, as Professor Smith demonstrated in the lecture, what establishes one to be a martyr becomes problematical issue when people are given murky real life situations that contain too many fluctuating variables to clearly give a definite framework. Hence, the real life story of the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas is a fascinating tale of how early Christians viewed their stories as acts of martyrdom, as they have celebrated their death for the significance that it has brought to the world. Furthermore, their deaths were supposed to be a spectacle for the Roman citizens; put into an arena to be viciously attacked by gladiators, and beasts of many kinds. However, in the end they both died with dignity in accordance to Jesus Christ their savior. Their story as portrayed in lecture by Professor Smith, personifies a changing in the power dynamic in the Roman Empire where Perpetua takes the power away from her executioner as she guides his bloodthirsty blade into her own throat which portrays her taking back control of the power for Christian women. Thus, as the PBS Frontline story states, She screamed as she was struck on the bone; then she took the trembling hand of the young gladiator and guided it to her throat. It was as though so great a woman, feared as she was by the unclean spirit, could not be dispatched unless she herself was willing. Furthermore, this monumental story also portrays the fact early Christians, specifically women would have celebrated Perpetua’s death because it signified self-empowered of the women race as she can be now be portrayed as a vital figure in the Christian community for breaking down some barriers for women in the family realm and society. Moreover, according to the Peter Brown the cult of saints broke down the barrier between heaven and earth in a variety of ways. One vital way was that it he evidently demonstrates that, Pagan parallels and antecedents can only take us so far in understanding the Christian cult of saints, very largely because the pagan found himself in a world where his familiar map of the relations between the human and the divine, the dead and the living, had been subtly redrawn. The importance of this passage from Mr. Brown is that is demonstrates that the Christian cult of saints started to modify the pagan ideology of heaven and earth were separate entities, to them being unified by Saint figures that have been present between both worlds, as when the Angel was present at the tomb of Jesus resurrection. Hence it is evident the topic of martyrdom is an issue that can be found in the roots of the Christians religion and still maintains itself as an important topic of discussion in modern society. +++ According to Brown (1981), the upsurge of the cult of saints broke down the majority of imaginative boundaries between heaven and earth, the living and the dead, the holy and the human, and the city and its opposite, which most ancient citizens assumed to exist (P.21). For in ancient times, the supposed disappearance of a body because it went into heaven was evidence of a primitive mind, as the layout of the universe restricted this (Brown, 1981, p.2). Brown (1981) argues that the cult of saints was able to break the boundaries through joining heaven and earth at the grave of a deceased human, which was accessible to others on earth (P.1). Brown (1981) asserts that the rise of the cult of saints primarily occurred in cemeteries outside of Roman cities, and they took part in digging, and moving the dead bodies to areas where they were excluded (p.4). Christian bishops also began to engage in public worship near the gravesites, and they were considered public space so that others could offer reverence, and praise (Brown, 1981, p.9). These graves of saints were deemed holy, privileged spaces where heaven and earth met because the saint was believed to be in heaven while also being present on earth within their tomb (Brown, 1981, p.3). Hence, he claims that it is because martyrs died as humans that they are so close to god, thus differing from the pagan heroes? (Brown, 1981, p.6). An example of a Christian martyr is the admired Perpetua who through choosing not to recant her Christian identity was sentenced to death around 200 CE (Frontline, 1998). Perpetua refused to do this despite the fact that her family begged her too, and she recently gave birth (Frontline, 1998). In fact, she was actually happy to do so as she was willing to suffer like Jesus to go to heaven, thus appearing as a second Christ (Frontline, 1998). Given that a martyr is subjectively constructed by others it seems as though her story served to strengthen other Christian’s faith, and the church (PBS). Hence, in her prison diary she describes her fight as against the devil, rather than the animals, thus framing her death as a victory against that entity (Frontline, 1998). Moreover, by guiding the gladiator’s sword to her own throat it seems as if she is not truly murdered, because she exercised agency (Frontline, 1998). Again this can be understood as a victory because even though her body died she believed she would be ascending into heaven afterwards, thus winning in her eyes (Frontline, 1998). Christians may celebrate her death because she is an example of a heroic Christian, who would rather die than renounce her faith. +++ 1) Early Christians would have celebrated Perpetua’s death because she died for her beliefs in Christianity and in Jesus Christ as her lord. In Perpetua’s place and time being Christian was becoming more of a crime. She had the option to either make a sacrifice to the Emperor or to sacrifice her own life for her faith. Perpetua chose to sacrifice her own life, which must have had an impact and influence on other early Christians. Her personal diary reveals that she had divine dreams or visions. Possession of these qualities must have been influential on the attitudes and opinions that the onlookers and remembers had of Perpetua. She predicts suffering for herself, which she does experience by being in prison, and by having to give up her baby for her own execution. She walked peacefully and joyfully to her death. After being tormented by animals, a gladiator was sent in to finish the job. His hand was trembling; Perpetua took it and guided the sword into her throat. This brave act, in the name of Christianity, was commemorated because Perpetua was so anxious to die for her Lord. Christians were would have been happy to see someone standing up for what they believe in. 2) The cult of the saints broke down the barriers between heaven and earth by establishing that the soul of the saint is present at his grave. This idea of the soul on earth with flesh, humans, was foreign. Until the cult there were clear distinctions between the earth, the area below the moon, and the heavens, the area above the moon. The cult of the saints expressed the importance of the bodies, bones graves and shrines of the deceased, contrary to Jewish and Pagan feelings. Relics and tombs of passed saints were worshipped, as though the saint were still present. Another barrier that was eroded was between the public and the private; tombs of saints were made available to everyone. Anyone could worship at one of these graves, promoting the blend of the living and the dead worlds. Worshipping the graves of the deceased and praising the locations at which they had died, in hopes of some type of divine reward, really molded the previously segregated concepts of earth from heaven, the living from the dead, and the flesh from the soul. Week 6: Communitarian Christians 14/12/2012 9:16:00 AM According to the Gospels, Jesus instructed his followers to go forth and “make disciples of all nations.” So why have Christians often established insular communities set apart from the world? Both the hesychastic, Jesus Prayer, and the Roman-Catholic Lectio Divina or, Sacred/Spiritual readings are traditions of Christian monasticism that share similar emphasis in their origins based on achieving private communion with the divine. At the same time these two practices are somewhat divergent when it comes to the manner, or ritual, that allows one to communion with God. Hesychastic tradition emphasizes the Jesus Prayer, which focuses on the repetition of a single recitation Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner aided by the use of prayer ropes. In a sense the hesychastic Jesus Prayer is similar traditions in the Oriental East, where the objective is to empty ones mind and heart of other distractions and, once both vessels are empty, invite the divine to fill them in a spiritual sense. On the other-hand the Lectio Divina focuses intensive study and rumination on biblical passages in the expectation that the divine will speak through these scriptures. Instead of repeating a prayer with the goal of shutting out worldly distractions and orientating ones thoughts and heart to communion with divinity like in the hesychastic tradition, the Lectio Divina strives to attain the same goal through careful, methodical rumination of what is considered to be Living Word. The hesychastic tradition is perhaps more straight-forward than the Lectio Divina, because, unlike the hesychastic simple repetition of the Jesus Prayer, the Lectio Divina involves a four-step process of reading (Lectio), meditation (meditation), prayer (oratio), and contemplation (contemplatio). The original practice of this procedure is done while one is in solitude, and much of the process is carried out in silence. Likewise the hesychastic Jesus Prayer appears to be an activity that is carried out in solitude, but is more vocal than the Lectio Divina, as one has to speak aloud the prayer throughout the procedure. In summary both it could be argued that both traditions are attempts to accomplish the same objective: communion with God. While the hesychastic Jesus Prayer seeks to meet with divinity through emptying one self the Lectio Divina appears to strive for the same objective by filling ones mind and heart with the word of God. In this way both practices seek the same objective through different means. +++ Gathering for prayer, worship, and liturgies within one's household have always been an important aspect of the Christian religion. The Rule of Saint Benedict, prescribing how monks should live influenced the "monastic life" as being viewed as the angelic life, which was ordered under the power of Charlemagne. However, it was not until the fourth century that Christians began to gather as a community publically rather than privately sequestered within their households. The most common and ancient art practiced by all Christians at one given time is known as, lectio divina, a slow and quiet way praying of the Scriptures in order to become closer to God. This technique requires reading and listening to the voice of God, which illustrates the intensity of concentration and focus, required to hear God's quiet voice. This type of reading is very different from how modern Christians today read other forms of writing such as, newspapers and other novels. This is very similar to hesychastic prayer being described in the video clip which is also regarded as a form of "quiet prayer" focusing on an inner and a more personal stillness of the mind and the body in order to detach from other distractions including, one's hopes, thoughts, aspirations and hopes for the future. Similarly, lectio divina and the hesychastic prayer both require a lot of reading and mind concentration in order to collect one's self amongst the various directions that the outside world is conflicting with the inner stillness necessary to bring one's self closer to the Lord. Both techniques of prayer encourage the individual to open their hearts and minds to prayer, which will help them, find their inner peacefulness. More emphasis on the body is made in hesychastic prayer describing that putting stress (es) on the body will not allow a peaceful mind to find the presence of God in their lives. Whereas, lectio divina makes a greater emphasis on the importance of isolation and personal prayer through contemplation. However, as the video clip illustrates true "quietism" can be learned through experience, which monks can provide through their own telling of personal experiences. Both techniques offer individuals the opportunity to become closer to God by focusing on themselves and their spirituality in a more private and "quiet" way through reading and deep contemplation. When examining the practice of lectio divina and that of the hesychastic prayer, one cannot help but notice the many similarities between each practice and their main underlining points. Both practices share many similarities especially with the importance of silence and the use of silence to become closer with God. Lectio divina involves a slow, contemplative praying of the scriptures, which allows the individual to understand the word of God and a developer a better union with God. It is through hearing with the ear of our hearts that allows us to hear the voice of God. Hesychastic prayer involves the individual to find an inner quietness or stillness that allows one the opportunity to be alone with themselves and bring Jesus Christ into this relationship. Since the minds of human beings tend to be scattered because our mind is always stressed, we need to use and concentrate on prayer and focus on our heart. Even though these two practices share similarities, each one has a different point or a different reason why people engage in these practices. The goal of lectio divina is to discover our own underlying spiritual rhythm, to teach us that God truly loves us, and that there is no place in our hearts that cannot be opened to God. Through hesychastic prayer, the goal is to strengthen our concentration and focus in order to bring the mind into the heart (because Jesus Christ is in our hearts). Both stress the importance of concentration, listening, and silence however lectio divina stresses the significance of listening to the word of God in silence, mediation, and contemplation while hesychastic prayer stresses the significance of clearing our minds, focusing and bringing Jesus into our hearts so we can better understand Him. +++ There are many different branches in Christianity; consequently it means there are various ways of prayer life. According to most Christians praying is one of the essential customs in order to be close to God. One of the forms of prayer forms that is used by Christian monks is lectio divina, the Orthodox practice the hesychastic form of prayer. There are many similarities and differences between both the prayers, which will be analyzed onward. To begin with, the two types of prayer hesychastic and lectio divina are similar in many ways. Hesychastic prayer focuses on solitary life and the practice of inner prayer, aiming at union with God through the Jesus prayer. It helps one focus on oneself and God instead of letting the mind wander to other thoughts and temptations. The point of this prayer is to have an inner peacefulness and lets one open their mind to be able to focus on meaningful prayer. Similarity, lectio divina is a slow contemplative praying of scriptures, which enables the Word of God to become a means of union with God. The similarity can be noted that they both focus on the union with God through prayer. On the other hand, The Rule of Benedict prescribes the practice of lectio divina for the monks in the monastery. It is a basic guide for them to stay committed and be faithful to God; their days revolve around prayer life and manual labour. Kennedy writes that, in its final form, the Rule of Saint Benedict envisages a monastic community that is directed by an abbot, a patriarchal figure of authority who is responsible for the welfare of the monks, whose chief responsibility is to follow a regimen of regular prayer. Which is determined by the abbot to direct the monks and accommodate them for whatever they may need. The major difference between lectio divina and hesychastic is that there are four aspects to lectio divina. They are lectio meaning reading, meditato meaning meditation, ortatio meaning prayer, and contemplatio meaning contemplation. This method was used to help one unite themselves with Him. These four aspects made sure that the monks should read and listen deeply, so they maybe able to meditate and contemplate in order to understand the conversation with God. Whereas, the hesychastic prayer does not have these forms, there method is basically a quiet stillness within them so they may repent through the Jesus prayer. In conclusion, the prayer life of hesychastic prayer and the technique of lectio divina have vast differences, however the differences outweigh the similarities. The differences in Christianity is what makes it interesting to compare and contrast numerous number of the religions followers way of life. +++ Lectio divina constitutes a form of prayer and reading that Christian monastic monks use to seek knowledge about Jesus. The Rule of St. Benedict ultimately guides monks on how to behave. Through the abbot, monks learn the common ways of living in the monastery including how much to sleep, eat, drink, dress, pray, and meditate. Benedicts Rule is essentially written for monastic hermits who wish to live the life Christ once lived. When monks prepare food, it is in a form of meditation because there isn’t a lot of work or cognitive attention involved with cooking, so monks are often able to clear their minds. While the monks eat, they read psalms because it allows them to digest passages as they meditate. The monks sit alone in reflection while they eat. Lectio divina involves listening to the heart for the voice of God. In lectio divina, the passages are read in a slow and tentative manner. Passages are never read out loud because it interferes with cultivating silence and connecting with God. The oratio of lectio divina is a form a prayer that involves having a conversation with God in order to seek character transformations. On the other hand, the Orthodox practice of hesychastic prayer uses the prayer rope as a connective aid to bring the mind into the heart. Father Vladika Lazar says they seek to prevent their minds from wandering on outside issues. Once they gain peace they can open their heart. Hesychastic prayer involves gaining control of the mind and bringing focus of the mind into the heart. Both forms of meditation strive to locate the inner stillness of prayer so that Jesus can be invited. Preservations of the Holy Spirit are attained once peacefulness is achieved either through lectio divina or hesychastic prayer. This meditative state brings wholeness in life and conveys a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. Both lectio divina and hesychastic prayer involve connecting the heart either by controlling with the mind or listening to the Holy Spirit. Gods voice encounters the human soul in a soft tone. In order to hear God’s voice, silence must be achieved through lectio divina or hesychastic prayer. Inner peace with God is achieved through readings, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. Week 7: O Jerusalem! 14/12/2012 9:16:00 AM Why is Jerusalem so important to Christians and what are some ways by which Christians have “acquired” the city? As mentioned in class, a replica is an identical reproduction of its intended representation and a relic is a preserved object that is part of a religious article of the past. Wharton explains that the Holy Land Experience is the space of spectacle, thereby denying it as being either a relic or a replica. She begins by comparing it to Disneyland stating that it tries to make an experience that is real, attracting pilgrims. However, she strongly states that it lacks the marks of history, comparing it to Disney as being clean and as if it just opened; instead of displaying Jerusalem’s history and what it has gone through. The lack of history in the Holy Land Experience is a big disadvantage which Wharton believes makes it just another theme park. She mentions that, it privileges theology rather then history. However, in class it was mentioned that it is hard to separate theology from acts and practices of history and as a result from history itself. The Holy Land Experience tends to display a more modern view of what Jerusalem was like, instead of the accurate depiction in the time of Jesus. Without including the history one cannot truly understand the religion and by default rejecting the true essence of the religion. As she mentions the Holy Land Experience takes the pretext of religion and changes it. The value of religion becomes something in monetary terms under the display of a pure religious experience. Therefore, as Wharton mentions, it is a diminutive replica of the original. It is not a replica because Wharton mentions, it doesn’t allow the recreation of rituals, as did the Temple church. Thereby, it is more of a place to just see the bare surface of a religion without understanding the whole history and ideologies of the religion. Furthermore, it is not a relic because it lacks the actual material connection to an originating power that distinguishes a fragment of the True Cross. Christians throughout history found relics of their religion as vital to their worship (unlike the Protestants, as mentioned by Wharton) and the Holy Land Experience disregards this component. Therefore, the Holy Land Experience uses the guise of an authentic experienc
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