CHAPTER 4 : CHRISTIANITY
- within a generation of the death of Jesus, his followers had decided that his message was not
for the Jews alone, anyone could become a Christian. in that decision lay th eseeds of
christianity's development as one of the worlds three great missionary religions.
- Whether or not Jesus actually did or said everything the texts attribute to him, the Christian
message was crytallizing into recognizable form from the middle of the 1st century.
THE GOSPELS IN ORDER OF THEIR CHRONOLOGY
- simplest, shortest, most straight forward, most likely the earliest
- starts with mature ministry, not birth
- three women go to tomb afte sabbath and find the stone rolled away and the body missing,
angel appears and tells them jesus has risen from the dead.
***Q SOURCE is the literature in both matthew and luke that is not taken from mark. this
is the literature in sermon on the mount (matthew) and sermon on the plain (luke) and
other such political and morally driven proverb or snippit type phrases and passages that
could stand alone. german scholars attributed this to a lost q source that both matthew and
luke must have been drawing on.
- CONTAINS TWO CHAPTERS OF MATERIAL NOT FOUND IN MARK, detailing events
before Jesus' adult baptism and ministry. does not mention magi though (in Matthew).
- incorporates hymns believed to already be in use in the early church
- Luke had a Greco-Roman audience in mind, addressing gospel to Theophilus "one who loves
God". These early signs and wonder at Christ's birth share features with the standard
biographical tradtions associated with important teachers in both greco-roman and hebrew
- provides more info than mark regarding the trial and crucifixion
- references to jewish expectiations and fulfillments are not numerous
- more signs and portents surround jesus death and resurrection
- shows pilate to be innocent of the death
- much of the same material as Luke, but the focus is designed to persuade a jewish audience of
Jesus' claim to be the Messiah.
- its been suggested that the account of Jesus escape from the slaugher of infants by King Herod
was specifically intended to echo Exodus.
- matthew begins account by tracing Jesus lineage to king david through joseph, then bypasses
joseph right after saying that mary was pregnant before joseph married her to fulfil a prophesy in
the book of Isaiah. - matthew and luke are only sources for virgin birth, and the passage in isaiah they seek to fulfill
can be translated as young woman, the greek translation can be read virgin or young woman.
- shares little in common with the previous three gospels. this is why the first three are called the
- John's purpose seems to be not just a narrative alone but also a theological essay on Jesus'
- theologic interest shown from very opening (in the beginning was the logos, and the logos was
with God, and the logos was God)
- logos meant word but not just as a vocabulary item, but the whole idea of divine intelligence
- distinctions between judaism and chrianity beginning to form: "For the law was given through
Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." in step with Paul
- like Paul, John is using the term "Christ", greek for the hebrew term 'anointed'
- john 3:16
- Jesus himself begins to personally declre his being Messiah. Mark's Jesus will neighter
confirm nor deny this
- john's jesus is more than teacher, he is definitive link between god and humanity
- Trinity doctrine emerges after the middle of the third century, but it continues to be a doctrinal
issue well into 5th century.
FROM SECT TO CHURCH
- disciples had been peasants and fishermenat from rural galilee with a small Jewish sect whose
teacher stirred them wiht hope that low-status and marginalized people had a place in God's plan.
- they expected th eend of the age and the glorious return of their teacher to come at any
HOW DID THIS SMALL JEWISH SECT BECOME AN INDEPENDENT MISSIONARY
- Acts 2 descibes day of Pentacost when Holy Spirit descends on apostles and they speak in
tongues of fire. no mention of zealot rebellion though and destruction of temple
- seems Christians are already trying to distance themselves from the Jews who were now seen as
trouble in the Roman empire.
- gospel of Luke portrays Jesus and his disciples as much more mild and undissenting to roman
- Principle infuence on direction of early church.
- Cosmopolitan Jew with privileged status as Roman citizen, he was a Pharisee from the diaspora
community in Tarsus (south coast of Turkey) who had gone to Jerusalem for religio-legal study. - never knew Jesus personally
- travelled around mediterranean for 25 years initially preaching to diaspora communities but
eventually reaching out to gentiles as well.
- all are heirs in Christ to the promises of God.
- refers to himself as apostle to the gentiles
- rejects idea that to follow Jesus one must first become a jew or follow pharisaical jewish
- it is not through observance or even proper moral conduct by which one is saved, but by christ
- paul introduces concept of "life in the spirit" as contrasted with life "in the flesh", advocating
for a certain asceticism and denial of the body
- died about 65 CE
- became a martyr himself, persecuted in rome as part of Nero's scapegoating of Christians
MARCION & THE CANON
- his teachings had him excommunicated from teh Church in 144.
- Marcion takes Paul's ideas of polarities and says that the old testament and new testament have
two different Gods.
- OT God is stern and fearsome, despotic and cruel, a demiurgie god. Jesus reveals utterly
different God, one of love, mercy, one who takes the place of the Demiurge.
- Marcion rejects the OT, most gospels, and only keeps 10 of Paul's letters and an edited text of
Luke's gospel andActs.
- Marcion's following died out by the 5th Century.
- by forcing the church to consider the Old Testament's place, he brought about the Christian
church's full theological ratification of the Hebrew scriptures as a part of the Christian message.
- Gnosticism claimed to have privileged, secret knowledge (gnosis means knowledge in greek).
- at first they were just a school of thought within the christian church
- dualistic philosophy: divine powers of good opposed by demonic forces of evil, spirit in a
cosmic struggle with matter.
- understood Jesus as emissary from the realm of the spirit, his purpose was to transmit to
humans the saving secret knowledge of how to rise above this life to the realm of spirit.
- advocated extreme asceticism
- a third century Iranian Gnostic named Mani claimed to sum up the teachings not only of Jesus
but of Zoroaster and the Buddha, starting MANICHAEISM, which spread through much of the
roman empire and competed with christianity for adherents in the fourth and fifth centuries.
- in response to Manichaean teachings, Christians came to stress the unity and sovereignty of
God, the humanity of Jesus, and the goodness of life in the material world.
- some Gonstic ideas, such as the Devil as antagonist to God, and the value of asceticism, found
a place in Christianity. CRYSTALLIZATION
EMERGING CHURCH ORGANIZATION
- FORMALLY ORGANIZED DURING EARLY CENTURIES.
- formal ordination was required before long, most simple position being DEACON (open to
women too, first two centuries women apparently performed a variety of ecclesiastical roles)
**only deacons, elders, and apostles mentioned in NT
- PRIESTS not mentioned in new testament but they came to be in charge of rituals and
instruction and the deacon survived as subordinate to priests.
- ranking priest in particualr political jursdiction came to be known as BISHOP.
- bisop ordained deacons and priests through symbolic laying on of hands
- anyone could baptize someone into faith, bishop came around his diocese and confirmed the
baptism of new initiates
- eventually ARCHBISHOP emerged to supervise large section of bishops.
- ordination line of bishops reffered to as "apostolic succession" to legitimate leadership.
- various nations claimed to have been convered by missionary activity of one or another of the
- Paul referred to all loyal members of the church as saints.
- in time the title came to be reserved for distinguished people proven to be channels of divine
grace, displaying unusual degree of piety.
- some expected return of Christ as imminent and practiced strict discipline to deepen spirituality
- some seen desert monasticism as an alternative to martyrdom
- when christianity gained wider favour after 4th century, retreating to life in desert was a way of
repudiating the laxity and complacency of the wider community
- origins traced toANTONY (251-356) who lived in Egypt.
- termed HERMITS for greek eremos, 'solitary'.
- in time the desert fathers took up locations near one another for safety and support
- Monasticism was coming to be formalized as a corporate discipline and an intergral part of
- Christians rejected civic gods and rituals in the Hebrew tradition of monotheism and standing
against idolatry. For Romans, this ammounted to political insubordination.
- the state from time to time added fase accusations to the justifiable insubordination chargeds
(incest, cannibalism, black magic), all of which were thought to provoke the gods to send
epidemics and natural disasters
- for this reason, Christians in the 1st and 2nd centuries were sometimes subject to persecution
by local mobs. - Emperors Decius and Valerian made persecution of Christians a systematic matter of state
policy from 250-251 and 257-259.
- by making martyrs of Christians, the Roman state helped to build a tradition of bravery and
fidelity that Christians could be proud of. this persuaded many pagans to become Christian.
- last and fiercest of official persecutions came in 303-312 under emperor Diocletian.
- reigned 306-337, gradually abandoned the persecution policy
- issued edict in 313 that gave Christians liberty to practice their religion
- eventually granted them state support and patronage
- contrary to myth, the shift was not immediate but gradual
- cross appeared next to pagan symbols on coignage for a long time
- sunday did not become a public holiday until 321, and even then it coincided with popular
worship of the Sun.
- even though his mother was a Christian, Constantine was not baptised till on his deathbed.
- Constantine must have recognized that the church as an institution had the potential to serve as
a much needed stabilizing force.
- CHRSITIANITY DID NOT REPLACE PAGANISM OVER NIGHT
- etymology of word "pagan", meaning rural, hints at the delay. Christianity spread in towns and
along trade routes. (similarly: word Heathen came from word Heath, meaning wasteland or
- Emporer JUSTINIAN attempted to bring back pagan worship in 361-363, stopping short of
- it was only with Emperor THEODOSIUS I (r. 379-95) that the empire OFFICIALLY became
- now church membership was a way to get ahead!
- in time it became normal practice to baptize infants
***now rulers oversaw the appointment of bishops and convoked councils
CREEDS & THE TRINITY
- CREEDS - Statements of the content of Christian faith
- church began forming these very early on, especially before Constantine put an end to
- as early as 150, if not early 200's, the APOSTLE'S CREED was in use (no historic evidence
that this was used in the actual apostles' time)
- NICENE CREED, named for the Council of Nicaea in 325. Ratified ints present form in 381.
Longer than apostle's creed, same topics, more detail. regular part of services in the catholic
- Nicene Creed reflects emergence of the Trinity doctrince, central to Christian teaching. - Troublesome since it asserts three persons of God while claiming monotheistic beliefs.
- emerging doctrine of Trinity dominated discussion in the early fourth century.
- at the time, doctrine was a highly politcal matter as Christianity was emerging as the empires
- rivalries for church leadership crystallised around such doctrinal differences
- Constantine, hoping that a unified Church would promote stability in his empire, called a
meeting fo the bishops in Nicaea (near Constantinople) in 325.
- ARIUS, believed that Christ was not eternal by nature
- ATHANASIUS believed Christ and the Father had coeternity and coequality
- Athanasius' views won out at Council of Nicea but Arians remained until 381 when Theodosius
put the matter to rest at the Council of Constantinople.
- Trinity doctrine was the discussion of FOURTH CENTURY, once settled, it opened the door to
CHRISTOLOGICAL DOCTRINE debates that dictated the FIFTH CENTURY.
- regional divisions developed around three positions on this question of how did the eternal
divinity of Jesus relate to his historical humanity?
● two separate persons, one divine and one human. NESTORIAN CHURCHES,
stretching eastward across asia)
● one person, with only a divine nature. MONOPHYSITES, from ethiopia and egypt to
syria and armenia.
● one person, but with both a divine nature and a human nature