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Chapter 4 - Final.docx

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University of Toronto Scarborough
David Perley

Chapter 4 Pg. 166 185 To identify oneself as a Christian is to declare Jesus the lord and saviour of the world. The heavy emphasis that Christians place on that declaration is crucial for understanding the nature of Christianity, for to be a Christian is to make a commitment of faith in the doctrine that Jesus was the incarnate son of God. We know very little about the early years of Jesus, before he began his public life around the age of 30. Luke and Matthew recount a series of extraordinary events surrounding his birth in Bethlehem, a small town just southeast of Jerusalem. We are told that his childhood home was in Nazareth, a tiny Jewish village on a rocky hillside in the predominantly Greek-speaking northern Region Galilee, and we assume that he learned the trade of his father (a carpenter or builder). But from his youth we have only one story: at the age of 12, after spending the High Holidays in Jerusalem with his family, he is said to have become so absorbed in discussing the subtleties of Jewish law with the teachers at the temple that his family started home without him. His public years begin with his baptism by his older cousin, John the Baptist, during which he sees the heavens open and the holy spirit descend like a dove. Interpreting this mystical vision as a call to prophecy or ministry, he withdraws into the wilderness on the eastern side of the Jordan River, on a kind of spiritual retreat. There he is joined by Satan, who offers him a series of temptations, each of which he refuses. On his return from the wilderness Jesus goes to Capernaum, a town where his mother, Mary, now lives with other family members. The reason for leaving Nazareth is never explained, but one theory suggests that it may have had something to do with the death of his father, Joseph. Soon after his return from the wilderness, Jesus attends a synagogue service in Nazareth and volunteers to do one of the Torah readings. The passage he is given to read speaks of a time to come when the lame shall walk and the blind will see. He then declares to those present that this prophecy is now fulfilled. This episode sets the stage for a series of miracles and at the same time underlines the idea that he has come to fulfill prophecies of the Hebrew Bible. Jesus recruits 12 male disciples, most of whom make their living as fishermen. He also attracts a number of women followers, among them Mary Magdalene, who play important roles. For the next year or more, Jesus travels the region around Capernaum, working miracles, teaching how to apply Jewish law to everyday life, and telling parables many of which point to an impending apocalypse that will lead to a new era of peace and righteousness he calls the kingdom of Gods. His main venues are synagogues or private houses, but sometimes he preaches to larger crowds who gather to witness his miraculous cures, which include healing the blind and even raising the dead. When he goes to Jerusalem with his disciples for the high holy days around Passover, he causes a disturbance at the temple by accusing the money changers of cheating on the rate charged to exchange regular Greek and Roman coins for the traditional Hebrew coins required to make offerings. On the Sunday before Passover, he fulfills another prophecy by riding into the town on a donkey. The people honour him by placing palm leaves in the road before he rides by and shouting his praises. A few days later, while praying in a garden outside Jerusalem, he is arrested by a mixed party of Roman soldiers and servants of the temple priests whose authority he has challenged. When one disciple tries to resist, Jesus tells him to put his sword away. Taken before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, Jesus is accused of perverting the people and claiming to be the king of the Jews. Together with several other condemned men, he is paraded through the streets of Jerusalem to the place of execution, a hill called Golgotha, where he is nailed to a cross and left to die. 2 days later, on the morning following the Sabbath, some of his women followers go to the tomb where his body was placed on the Friday, only to find it empty. In one account an angel tells the women that God has raised him from the dead; in others he appears to the disciples himself. In any event, it became the Christian belief that he had been resurrected and had gone to sit at the right hand of God in heaven, from where he would soon return to judge all persons and usher in the kingdom of God. The Greek term christos was used as a synonym for messiah, and so he became known as Jesus the Christ, now shortened to Jesus Christ. In Marks account, a Roman soldier who is standing by as Jesus gasps his last breath is moved to say Truly this was a son of God. It is fitting that Mark attributes this comment to a Roman soldier rather than one of Jesus followers, for the Christian movement soon grew beyond its origins as a Jewish sect. Within a generation of his death, his followers had decided that his message was not for the Jews alone, and that anyone could become a Christian. In that decision lay the seeds of Christianitys development as 1 of the worlds 3 greatest missionary religions In the accounts of Jesus lifeknown as gospels, from the Greek evangel, meaning good newshe performs miracles. He commands his followers to love their enemies as well as their friends, and in word and example emphasizes forgiveness to a degree that is probably not exceeded in any other religious tradition. For more than a century scholars have agreed that, however suspect some of the details may be, it does demonstrate the existence of a community of faith centred on belief in Jesus as the risen lord. Whether or not Jesus actually did or said everything the texts attribute to him, the Christian message was crystalizing into recognizable form by the middle of the first century. The Christian movement was coming into focus, reporting the life of Jesus on earth, but also preaching an interpretation of that life as cosmically significant. More than 3 centuries later, when Christianity became the established religion of the Roman Empire, church leaders made a list of the writings they acknowledged to be scripture. That standard list, or canon, of books and letters is what Christians know as the New Testament. It includes the gospels attributed to 4 of Jesus disciples: Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. By then, those 4 accounts had been accepted throughout Christendom. It is helpful to think of each gospel as the product of an individual author with his own particular interpretation and audience in mindMarks account is the simplest, shortest, most straightforward, and likely the earliest of the 4 canonical gospels. It starts not with Jesus birth, but with the beginning of his mature ministry following his baptism by John the Baptist, who prophesies that Jesus will be greater than John After a 40-day retreat in the wilderness, during which he wrestles with the temptations of Satan, Jesus launches his ministry in Galilee, proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand. His local reputation spreads as he performs healing miracles. He also violates the Sabbath law by picking grain and healing on the day of rest, and when he is challenged for doing so, he takes the notion of Jewish legal authority into his own hands, declaring that the Sabbath is made for people rather than people for the Sabbath. It is in response to this apparent arrogance, Mark suggests, that the Pharisees conspire to do away with him. Jesus selects from among his male followers a group of 12 as his inner circle of disciples. Accompanied by them, he continues to heal, teach, and challenge the priorities of religious authority. Eventually he goes to Jerusalem, and over the course of a week in Jerusalem, he disputes with the religious authorities, celebrates the Passover with his disciples, is betrayed by one of them (Judas), and is arrested. Brought to trial before Pilate, the Roman governor, Jesus does not deny that he is the king of the Jews and offers no defence. Jesus is executed on the cross, crying out a quotation from one of the Hebrew psalms, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? As he breathes his last, the Roman centurion identifies him as truly a son of God, and before the Sabbath begins, his body is placed in a tomb, which is sealed by a large stone. The day after the Sabbath, 3 women followers go to the tomb to anoint the body, only to find the stone rolled away and the bod
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