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David Perley

Chapter 4 Christianity Perspectives on the Christian Bible Inerrancy: this word means exemption from error. It connects with the belief that the bible is not subject to error. If we correctly translated the message there can’t be any error. Literalism: it means that every word is literally true. If we believe in inerrancy we also believe in literalism. Historical- critical: it’s a method of interpretation. A Christian method to discover the biblical author’s original intended meaning. Mosaic: it means small pieces of tiles stuck together. Jesus is like mosaic. We don’t know who he is. All religions have interpretations about him and we have joined every piece to have a composite picture of Jesus. Spiritual kingdom: forgiveness, atonement and loving others Missionary tradition: more and more people traveling together to have universal idea. Christianity has two commandments: love neighbors (Christians) and love god. Christian Origins The Gospels and Jesus In Mark’s biography, a Roman soldier calls Jesus, while he was being crucified, that He as truly a son of God. It is fitting that a roman soldier and not a Christian called Jesus a son of God because within generations after Jesus, the Christians decided that their message was for everyone, not just Jews. In that decision lay the seeds of Christianity’s development as one of the world’s great missionary religions. Since Jesus was born in a time when there were not formal records, most of what we know comes from records of his followers produced a generation after his career. It is widely agreed that Jesus was born in 4 BCE in a Palestinian town called Nazareth. He learned his father’s trade of stone working or carpentry. At the age of 30 he began to proclaim religious teachings and attract followers. At about 33, he went to Jerusalem where he came into confrontation with the authorities. He was apprehended, tried and executed by being nailed to the cross. More than 3 centuries later, when Christianity became an established religion, church leaders listed the writings acknowledged to be scripture. The standard list of boos and letters is what Christians know as the New Testament. It includes the 4 gospels that had achieved universal acceptance throughout Christianity. But in the late first and early second centuries, when these and some other gospels were written and circulated, the situation was much more fluid. It is helpful to think of each gospel coming from an individual author with a particular interpretation and an intended readership. Mark It is the simplest and most straightforward gospel. It is also considered to be the earliest of the gospels that eventually became a part of the canon. His account starts from Jesus’ mature life. It recounts how John the Baptist baptizes Jesus and Jesus begins his preaching in the region of Galilee. His local reputation increases and he insists that Sabbath is made for the people, not people for Sabbath. This creates a rift between Jesus and the Pharisees. Jesus selects 11 of his best followers and they go to Jerusalem. During the course of a week, he disputes with the religious authorities, celebrates the Passover and is betrayed by one of his followers, Judas. He is tried and executed. German scholars came up with a hypothetical source that they presumed was not recorded in History but was used by Mark and Luke when writing their Gospels. It contained teaching of Jesus. This document was named “Q” by the German scholars, the initial letter of Quelle which is the German word for source. Luke Luke’s gospel contained two chapters not present in Mark’s gospel. It recounts that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and when Jesus was born, Angels came to pay their respects. Luke wanted to portray Jesus as a person who was destined to become the messiah because the circles in which Luke was writing had a tendency to use messianic themes. Declarations and Omens would serve well to strengthen any case that Jesus was the long-awaited messiah. On the contrary, Mark portrayed Jesus as a person who decided to preach as an adult decision after the baptism. Luke’s gospel attracted more people because he presented Jesus as being important to the gentile world too. Luke also has more details of the crucifixion. He states that Jesus was charged for inciting rebellion by claiming kingship. Mathew As a writer, Mathew is clearly claiming a Jewish audience with his claims of Jewish messiahship. Mathew claims that Jesus was a descendant of King David but his mother Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit rather than Joseph. This sets the stage for Christianity’s one of the more problematic teachings, the virgin birth of Jesus. John Despite their differences, the 3 gospels of Mark, Luke and Mathew have a fair bit in common when compared with the one of John. The first three are sometimes called the “synoptic Gospel”. Compared with the others John’s Gospel is a theological essay. He wanted to present not just the narrative but its cosmic significance. John declared Jesus as the divine present in flesh and blood among us. In Mark’s narration, Jesus would neither deny nor confirm his kingship but in John’s narration, Jesus would openly state it. John stated that salvation was the goal of humanity who needed to be delivered from the constraints of our condition. From Sect to Church The small circle of Jesus’ disciples who were left at the time bears little resemblance to the Church of Rome. After Jesus’ crucifixion, his followers started to preach to different people. Slowly Christians also reached a general consensus that circumcision was not a requirement. After the destruction of the temple at 70, Christians started to distance themselves further from the Jews. The principle figure to shape the direction of the early church was not one of Jesus’ 11 followers but an educated and sophisticated convert who took the name Paul. Paul learned about Christianity by reading Luke’s account and he started preaching in the Eastern Mediterranean Diaspora Jewish communities. He preached a message that gentiles alike were heirs in Christ to the promise of God. He stressed that salvation was not obtained by following Jewish rules but through faith in Jesus as the messiah. It was not through morally-correct action, but through trusting faith, that people could be saved. Paul continued his correspondence with these scattered converted communities with the means of letters. Paul’s letters which came at a time before the gospels are the earliest Christian literature and had a formative effect on Christian Theology. He contrasted life ‘in the spirit’, that is, life is centered on lasting religious values with the life of the flesh. He preached that we needed the grace the God if we were to live in spirit. Paul left us the idea of taking our bodies negatively, as something to be repressed and controlled which is a major issue in later Christian theology. Imperial Christianity Constantine Under Constantine, came a shift of policy that forever changed Christianity’s place in the world. He switched from persecuting Christians to issuing an edict in 313 giving them liberty to practice their religion, to later giving them state support and patronage. It is often considered that Constantine had a vision of the cross right before a decisive battle in 312. This inspired him to take up Christianity. However this is argued because he allowed the influence of Christianity to grow in his empire before his vision. There was a gradual increase of Christian influence couple with a gradual removal of pagan symbols and practices. Whatever the religious motives, Constantine must have been politically shrewd to recognize that the Church had the potential for stability that his empire needed. The Church had dispersed throughout his empire and had developed a system of regional government which were supervised by Bishops. It was arriving at a coherent sense of teaching and its followers had remarkable sense of discipline, both institutional and personal. Still Christianity did not replace paganism overnight. Christianity spread in towns and through trade routes while rural areas still followed the old ways. Christianity was made the official language of the empire by Theodosius. The consequences of the official religion were far reaching. People could practice Christianity freely. The practice of baptizing infants became normal. No longer were bishops chosen they were appointed by the ruler. The state’s enforcement of laws extended to areas of conduct that had previously been only concerns of religion; what had been sins became crimes. With state patronage Christians no longer worshipped in houses or in seclusion. Now there was an emperor ready to erect sanctuaries and shrines appropriate to the Church’s new status. The cross, Christianity’s chief symbol was seldom found in buildings before Constantine, but it came into widespread use during his time. Crucifixion of criminals was abandoned. Creeds and the Trinity Christians have defined themselves as followers of a creed: believing such-and-such about Jesus or God and the word and they have expected other traditions to be formulated in terms of belief as well. In the early third century a formulation known as the Apostle’s Creed was coming into use. The apostles were the first generation of the Christian Church. The other best known formulation is the Nicene Creed, named for the Council of Nicaea. Both of these two creeds covered almost the same topics. The Nicene Creed was more specific and more inclined to mention the Spirit along with God, the father and Christ, the son as part of a triadic list. This reflects the emergence of the explicit doctrine of the Trinity, a central Christian teaching and a problematic one. Its roots came from the insistently resisted monotheistic Judaic tradition, and Christians wanted to resist the idea of plurality of distinct Gods. However they have wanted to maintain a plurality of divine “persons” or divine manifestations. Christianity today often think of the Trinity as a doctrine present in their tradition form its very beginning, almost as though foreordained by God from the foundation of the world. Actually, the Trinity as such is hardly mentioned in the New Testament. The text there speaks of God as Father and Christ as Son and talks about God’s spirit but never puts the three together in an explicit list. To settle of a doctrine that would hold the three in balance but still preserve the monotheistic stance took the church several centuries. The emerging doctrine of the Trinity dominated the discussions in the early fourth century. Such importance came due to the politicization of doctrine as a consequence of the emergence of Christianity as the empire’s established religion. Doctrinal issues were rallying points around which regional and personal rivalries for Church leadership crystallized. In the context of doctrinal development, it is important to understand what is orthodoxy and heresy. Heresy is when continues to preach an idea which has been rejected by the community or society. Orthodoxy is the consensus one affirms with the wisdom of hindsight as having been intended all along. What was permitted by consensus could change over time. For example, Paul of Samosata was chosen as Bishop of Antichoh due to his theological insight. He believed in the binitarian theology of God as Father and Son. However when Trinitarian theology developed, the very idea that lead to his appointment was thought to be heretical and he was removed. There were other conflicting ideas too. The bishop of Alexandria, Arius, believed that the Son came after the Father. There was another bishop, Athanasius, who believed on the coeternity and coequality of father and son. On the assumption that a unified Church would promote stability in his empire Constantine called the bishops to meet in Nicaea, with one of the agendas being the dispute between Arius and Athanasius. Ultimately the ideas of Arius failed. Though they did not die out completely, and they gained influence Teutonic Tribes. Ultimately the Teutonic Tribes converted to Catholicism in 495. Orthodoxy in the Greek world The council of Chalcedon in 451 was composed almost exclusively of eastern bishops. They believed that the incarnate Christ was one person but with both divine and human nature. The main portion of the Eastern Empire remained orthodox within the term of the Chalcedon’s doctrinal formulation. The Byzantine, or Eastern Roman Empire, was a comparatively stable and prosperous religion and they were doing better intellectually and culturally than the western Romans. Byzantium lasted for more than a thousand years after Constantine until 1453. Even after the invasion by the Turks, the religion was not wiped out. Byzantine Art and Theology The influence on the Byzantine imperial traditions can be seen in pictorial representations of Jesus. After the patronage introduced by Constantine, Jesus was no longer portrayed as a young shepherd but as an older bearded king, or a judge, attired in robes reflecting the dignity of his office. There is also a more influence of the symbol of glory, the halo or nimbus. The origin of the halo comes from the association of the revered figure with the radiance of the unobscurred sun. the figure of Jesus is promoted further in Byzantine Art. Christ is now represented as enthroned in the heavens the ruler of creation. Such representations create a more distinguished appearance than the carpenter from Nazareth who was crucified when only in his thirties. Icons The orthodox churches such as Greek and Russian, developed portraits of Jesus, Mary and other religious figures which are called icons. It comes from the Greek word for image. It can be an entirely two-dimensional painting, often on a piece of wood or it might be overlaid in low relief, in wood or precious metal and ornamented with jewels. While the robs of the figure were executed in relief, the hands and face characteristically remained two dimensional so that the flesh of the portrait peek through what amount to openings in the relief. In an orthodox sanctuary, a screen, three times the persons height shields the alter which is called iconostasis or place for icons. Small icons are hung in private homes. Rome and Constantinople With the passage of time after the council of Chalcedon in 451, Greek and Latin Christianity grew further and further apart. The underlying differences were mostly language and culture, but again, theological formulation provided the rallying point for primarily political differences. The issue was the single word “filioque” (Latin, “and from the son”). The Greeks believed that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the God, the Father but the Romans believed the Holy Spirit came from the Father and the Son. Behind t
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