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Chapter 4

Religion: Chapter 4

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David Perley

Chapter 4: Christian Traditions  To identify oneself as a Christian is to declare Jesus the lord and savior of the world Origins The Life of Jesus  Began his public life around the age of 30  Told his childhood home was in Nazareth, a tiny Jewish village on a rocky hillside in the predominantly Greek-speaking northern region called Galilee, and we assume that he learned the trade of his father  Only have one story about his youth: 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  Public years begin with his baptism by his older cousin, John, during which he sees heavens open and the holy spirit descending like a dove o Interpreting mystical vision, he withdraws into the „wilderness‟ on the eastern side of the Jordan River, on a kind of spiritual retreat; Joined by Satan who offers him a series of temptations, each of which he refuses  Return from the wilderness Jesus goes to Capernaum, town on northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, where his mother, Mary, now lives with other family members o Reason 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 return from wilderness, Jesus attends a synagogue service in Nazareth and volunteers to read a passage form the Torah; passage he is given to read speaks of a time to come when the lame shall walk and the blind shall see o 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 fishermen. Also attracts a number of women, among Mary Magdalene o For the next year, 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 kingdom of God o 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 disciples for holy days around Passover, causes a disturbance at the temple by accusing the money changers of cheating on the rate exchanged  Sunday before Passover, fulfills another prophecy by riding into the town on a donkey; people honor him by placing palm leaves in the road before he rides by and shouting his praises  Jesus is arrested while praying in a garden outside Jerusalem by a mixed party of Roman soldiers and servants of the temple priests whose authority he has challenged  Taken first before the Sanhedrin and then before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, Jesus is accused of perverting the people and claiming to be the king of the Jews o He is paraded through the streets of Jerusalem to a place of execution, a hill called Golgotha, where he is nailed to the cross and left to die o Two 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 o An angel tells the women that God has raised him from the dead  Became Christian belief that he was 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 them in the kingdom of God The Gospels and Jesus  Within generation of his death, his followers decided that his message was not for the Jews alone, and that anyone could become a Christian  In the accounts of Jesus‟ life—known as gospels—he performs miracles  Commands his followers for love their enemies and their friends and emphasizes forgiveness to a degree that is probably not exceeded in any other religion  Our understanding of Jesus depends on accounts produced a generation and more after his death  Three 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‟ o Known as the new testament; includes the gospels attributed to four of Jesus' disciples: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Mark  Simplest, shortest, most straightforward, and most likely the earliest of the four canonical gospels  Starts with Jesus‟ mature ministry following his baptism by John the Baptist, who prophecies that Jesus will be far greater than John  After 40 day retreat in the wilderness, during where he wrestles with his temptations of Satan, Jesus launches his ministry in Galilee, proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand  Local reputation spreads as he performs healing miracles  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  Jesus selects from among his male followers a group of twelve (symbolizing a complete set) as his inner circle od disciples  Accompanied by them, he continues to heal, teach, and challenge the priorities of religious authority  He goes to Jerusalem, arriving with an entourage that shouts „Hosanna‟ (a cry for divine deliverance in Hebrew prayer) and proclaims the coming of a king in the line of Hebrew dynastic founder, David  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 defense  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, Roman centurion identifies him as “truly” a son of God, before the Sabbath, three women followers go to the tomb to anoint the body, only to find the stone rolled away and the body missing; a figure appears to them and informs them Jesus had risen from the dead and will meet with this disciples Luke  Luke‟s account contains two chapters of material not found in Mark, detailing events before Jesus‟ adult baptism and ministry, including visions and portents anticipating the birth of John the Baptist as well that of Jesus  Reports on Jesus‟ birth in Bethlehem and describes how shepherds in the fields, informed of the birth by the messiah by angels come pay their respects to the infant o At a newborn-purification ceremony in the temple, a devout man is inspired to proclaim the infant to be the messiah  Omens, portents, and decalcifications would have served to strengthen the case that Jesus was the long-awaited messiah o Someone only reading Mark‟s account would likely understand Jesus to have embarked on his ministry following an adult decision marked by baptism  Roman governor, Pilate, himself finds Jesus innocent of any crime, mob pressure demands execution, and Pilate yields to it  After discovering empty tomb, Jesus appears among his followers and speaks to them o Luke seems to consider signs and portents the most important evidence of Jesus‟ special role Matthew  Designed his narrative to persuade a Jewish audience of the truth of Jesus‟ claim to be the messiah  Has been suggested that his account of Jesus‟ escape from the slaughter of infants by King Herod was specifically intended to echo the Exodus account of the Israelites‟ escape from the wrath of the Egyptian pharaoh  King Herod, on hearing of the birth of a child who is to be the king of the Jews, plots to kill every Jewish infant to protect his own reign  Angel warns Jesus‟ parents to take the child and escape to Egypt  Matthew begins his account by tracing the genealogy of Jesus as the descendant of King David in a lineage that runs through Joseph, the husband of Mary  Matthew bypasses the genealogy and declares that Mary was already pregnant with Jesus before her marriage, with a child fathered by the Holy Spirit rather than Joseph  Matthew and Luke are the only sources for the doctrine of a virgin birth  Historical episode of deepest significance for Christians is the Passion and death of Jesus on the cross o Bystanders mock Jesus for have trusting in God, saying God should rescue him now o Jesus says he‟s thirsty, his hands and feet are pierced  Shares a popular expectation that the kingdom of God, which will in some way restructure society, is at hand, and he was willing to die a martyr‟s death for the cause John  Scholars refer to first three gospels as the „synoptic gospels o Share good deal in common  A God who can create the world through his word who can command the world through his word, and who can redeem the world through his world, is what John wants his hears to appreciate here  John declares Jesus to be the incarnation of that divine word: „The logos became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.‟ o Logos: a Greek term with an important range of meaning in the philosophy and religion of the Hellenistic world at the time of Jesus  Meant whole idea of divine and intelligence  John‟s Jesus is more than a teacher with an insight into human nature; he is the definitive link between God and humanity  Salvation is John‟s goal for us humans, who need to be delivered from the flaw and constrains of our condition o Especially concerned with our mortality, and he offers the hope of life  Paul is also concerned with our sinfulness, and offers the hope of justification—being right set with God  In final analysis, only God can save us from sin and death from the limitations of our human existence  Jesus‟ status as a manifestation of God was eventually spelled out in a doctrine of the Trinity, after middle of the third century, but the link between the divine and the human in Jesus continued to be a doctrinal issue well into the fifth century From Sect to Church  Small circle of disciples who were left to carry on after Jesus‟ execution bore little resemblance to the institution that within four centuries would become the state church of the Roman Empire  Disciples were peasants and fisherman from rural Galilee, a small Jewish sect whose teacher had stirred in them the hope that low-status and marginalized people had a place in God‟s plan  In Acts 2, New Testament book Acts of the Apostles, the disciples have gathered to celebrate the festival of Shavouth, seven weeks after the Passover crucifixion, when the Holy spirit appears to them as a rush of wind and fire o Suddenly they are able to speak and be understood in diverse languages; able to preach to all people  With the destruction of the city fresh in his mind, it is not surprising that Luke depicted Jesus and his followers as mild-mannered in word and deed o There are hints to the contrary in Mark 14 and Matthew 26  In their accounts of Jesus‟ arrest, Mark and Matthew say that the disciples were armed, resisted arrest, and that Peter used his sword to cut off the ear of one of the arresting men Paul  A cosmopolitan figure with a privileged status of a Roman citizen, Paul was a Pharisee from the diaspora Jewish community in Tarus who had gone to Jerusalem for religio-legal study  Did not know Jesus personally but experienced a vision of the post-resurrection Jesus that turned his life upside-down  Next quarter century, he travelled tirelessly around the Mediterranean, initially preaching to the diaspora Jewish communities, but eventually reaching out to gentiles as well, teaching that all were heirs in Christ to promises of God  His letters, written before the gospels themselves were composed, constitute the earliest Christian literature  In his letters, Paul refers to himself as the apostle to the gentiles o Rejects idea that in order to follow the Jesus one must first become a Jew and follow the various regulations of Pharisaism  For Paul, it is not through observance of ritual laws or even correc
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