Christianity Jesus Christ, His Early Followers, and the Separation of Christians from Jews.
The First Mentions of Jesus On the historical side, Jesus first appears in Antiquities of the Jews, written by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in about 93 C.E. At that time lived Jesus, a holy man, if man he may be called, for he performed wonderful works, and taught men, and joyfully received the truth. And he was followed by many Jews and many Greeks. He was the Messiah.
<p>Christianity Jesus Christ, His Early Followers, and the Separation of Christians from Jews The Sources Especially dealing with early Christianity, we have difficulty with source materials To look at things from an historical perspective, we have to evaluate the authenticity of the Gospels and the New Testament, as well as attempt to corroborate non-religious writings in an attempt to gather information In both the religious and the non-religious sense, the works we have were written well after the life of Jesus The First Mentions of Jesus On the historical side, Jesus first appears in Antiquities of the Jews, written by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in about 93 C.E. At that time lived Jesus, a holy man, if man he may be called, for he performed wonderful works, and taught men, and joyfully received the truth. And he was followed by many Jews and many Greeks. He was the Messiah. Other Sources Pliny the Younger writes a letter to Emperor Trajan about what to do regarding Christians, usually dated about 110 C.E. Around 115 the historian Tacitus describes Neros persecution of Christians, which took place in 64 C.E. Tacitus implies that by 64 there was already a significant Christian community in the city of Rome Suetonius mentions the same story, and recounts how Emperor Claudius banished Jews who, stirred up by Christ, were causing public disturbances, in 52 this one corresponds with the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament, which mentions a decree of Claudius that Jews should leave Rome Religious Sources The earliest written sources on the religious side are letters attributed to Saint Paul, or the Epistles It is believed that many were written by friends of Paul after his death and are forgeries, but many, particularly those that mention the Last Supper and the crucifixion, are genuine and can be attributed to Paul himself Then There Are the Gospels The Four Gospels that come to us in the New Testament are survivors of a great many more gospels that once circulated among Christians in the first two centuries C.E. Like the historical sources, however, the Gospels were composed at a much later date than the life of Jesus The Gospel of Mark Is considered to be the first of the four written; it is usually dated as being composed around C.E. Mark was a follower and secretary for St. Peter His gospel is allegedly his memories of stories Peter told him Mark undertook to record the stories after Peter was executed in the reign of Nero in 64 C.E. The Gospel of Matthew Attributed to St. Matthew, the tax collector and disciple of Christ This would be difficult, as we believe the book to be written in about 85 C.E. Much of the book is a retelling of Mark (of 661 verses of Mark, over 600 appear in Matthew) in better prose; it also strongly emphasizes the manners in which Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy It is now widely believed that St. Matthew had nothing to do with this, and its author is an anonymous Jewish Christian, and not a gentile The Gospel of Luke Luke seems to be a gentile, and a friend of St. Pauls it is likely he wrote this based on stories handed down, and it appears he also wrote the Acts of the Apostles He also borrows about 350 verses from Mark It is believed Luke was written about 90 C.E. The Gospel of John Is considered to be the last written, probably close to 100 C.E. Ascribed to the disciple John, the book creates some difficulties in that it presents a different view of Jesus, and occasionally seems to contradict the other three gospels Its emphasis is on the metaphysical, depicting Jesus far more in his role as God than as a man The Big Question: Did Jesus Exist? We have to say yes Historically, we cannot prove it, but the circumstantial evidence seems overwhelming People tend to pick on Jesus because of the religious fact-claims associated with him We have far more evidence of Jesus than we have of Socrates, for example When Was He Born? We have no clue Matthew and Luke say he was born when Herod was king of Judea, which means he would have to be born prior to 3 B.C.E. But Luke mentions the decree of Caesar Augustus for taxation when Quirinius was governor of Syria Quirinius held that post from 6 12 C.E. The Christian writer Tertullian describes a census when Saturninus governed Syria, which he did from 8 7 B.C.E. As to the Exact Date... Several have been proposed January 6 April 19 May 20 Several in mid-July November 19 In the fourth century, both the eastern and western churches agreed to accept December 25 as the date, which was still calculated to be the Winter Solstice at the time in question Jesus Name Would have been Yoshua ben Yosef He appears to come from a large family the Gospel of Luke mentions his brothers as James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas, and claims he has plural sisters, who are unnamed The Virgin Birth Being born of a virgin is a fairly common theme in Classical Religion (Remember Attis?) Paul and John do not mention it, and seem to suggest that it did not occur While Matthew and Luke do mention it, both trace Jesus lineage back to King David through Joseph If the Virgin birth is true, then Jesus is not related to Joseph It is often believed the story of the virgin birth came much later, perhaps as late as 300 C.E., and was added into Matthew and Luke during a revision Jesus Baptism Jesus was baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist, around age 30 John preached the coming Kingdom of God and Last Judgment, and thought the Jewish Messiah would come at once if all Judea repented of its sins Death of John the Baptist John the Baptist was killed by King Herod due to his potential to cause a rebellion amongst his ministry Jesus baptism suggests he was a follower of Johns; at Johns death, he took over Johns ministry and became an itinerant rabbi, wandering from town to town preaching His Disciples We are told of the 12 They are an odd mix openly ambitious, full of faults, and yet selected to be the greatest followers of Jesus In other Scriptures, however, Jesus appointed 72 other disciples, and sent them into various towns to spread his teachings Jesus Message Did not have much that was new The central idea of his teachings the coming Judgment and the Kingdom of God at hand had been prophesied and spoken of among Jews for over a century Love thy neighbor is found in Leviticus, one of the Mosaic books of law, and Exodus commands Jews to do good to their enemies Message Continued The Old Testament prophets had ranked living a good life ahead of strict ritual The prophet Isaiah had begun to change God into a God of Love (Old Testament God can be pretty demanding) The Golden Rule already existed in Judaism, and had also been stated by Confucius almost six centuries earlier So What Is New? His followers Jesus does not find many worshippers among the rich, the educated, or the erudite The bulk of those who adhere to his teachings in his lifetime are the poor What Else? His ethics Jesus believed the Kingdom of God was imminent, and could come any day Jesus taught an ethical code of poverty, gentleness, and peace, designed to make people worthy of the Kingdom when it appeared The teachings that Jesus espoused were most definitely not meant for the long haul Consider: Jesus taught meekness, indifference to financial success, celibacy, and giving up on all family ties He even praised those that intended to make themselves eunuchs for the glory of Heaven These are not virtues or practices that allow a growing society over the long term if you want to start a movement, you need children Instead, they are practices of people who expect to be taken at any moment As Far As Jesus Was Concerned The only people worth teaching to were Jews He repeatedly told his disciples to not go among gentiles Jesus was a Jew, preaching to Jews, and interested only in Jewish salvation Why Was He Arrested Upon entering Jerusalem for the Passover feast he was greeted by large throngs It seems both Jewish and Roman authorities were worried that he would incite Jews into open revolt against Roman authority Brought Before Pontius Pilate Pilate was a Roman prefect; he was in charge of the province of Judea under supervision from the Roman governor of Syria He questioned Jesus, Jesus essentially confessed, and so Pilate found Jesus guilty The Crucifixion Crucifixion is a Roman punishment, not a Jewish one Jesus was placed on the cross around nine in the morning, and was dead by three in the afternoon Or Was He? A number of naysayers have suggested that the reason the resurrection worked is because Jesus wasnt dead in the first place The topic has no proof on either side He did die quite rapidly for a crucifixion 6 hours as opposed to several days but he had also been whipped before this and had had his side pierced by a Roman spear As the Believers Have It He rose again on the third day, and met a few more times with his disciples and people close to him before ascending to Heaven Whatever really happened, his story continues After Jesus is Gone The Apostles go to work, spreading the teachings of Jesus to other Jews around Jerusalem All of them, however, observed strict adherence to Jewish law these were Jews teaching of the Messiah, not people who were attempting to start a new faith Their Numbers Grew Jewish authorities tended to let the sect continue, as it was at first quite small Within a few years, however, the Nazarenes had gone from about 120 converts to about 8000 Peter and Others Were Arrested Peter and other church leaders were questioned by the Sanhedrin (priests in charge of the Jewish Temple) One of those questioned was Stephen Saint Stephen Was not one of the 12 disciples, but had been added as a deacon of the early church When summoned before the Sanhedrin, he replied curtly, and so he was taken outside and stoned to death; he becomes the first Christian martyr One of those who helped kill him was a Pharisee named Saul Peaceful, For A Time The church in Jerusalem came to be headed by James the Just, the brother of the Lord, who oversaw the church until his death in 62 C.E. During this time, the disciples were traveling further from Jerusalem, preaching among Jews And Peter Went to Rome We dont know exactly when he got there We know he began churches in Syria His earliest recorded date for showing up in Rome is 42 C.E., and he had to be there by 62; most likely he visited on several occasions Somewhere Along the Way Peter seems to have relaxed the idea that one had to be Jewish in order to be Christian He seems to have begun practicing baptism, but to stop requiring circumcision, which has always been a bit of a sticking point for potential male converts Meanwhile... The Pharisee named Saul, who had helped to stone St. Stephen to death, had become a persecutor of Christians Hearing that some Christians were practicing in Damascus, within Syria, he was struck blind by a sudden light in the sky According to the Book of Acts Saul heard the voice of Jesus, asking why Saul was persecuting Christians Saul had to be helped the rest of the way to Damascus Once there, a Christian placed his hands on Pauls eyes At the Touch of a Christian Something like scales dropped from his eyes, and his sight was restored He was baptized that day A few days later he entered several Jewish synagogues in Damascus, and told them Jesus Christ was the Son of God He Becomes the Apostle Paul And he is perhaps the biggest reason that Christianity exists today From this point on, he will actively preach throughout the Empire Unlike any other apostle, Paul is also a Roman citizen Called to the Gentiles Paul believed that he had been called to spread word of Jesus among the gentiles It seems he was one of the first to do so He also begins to put forth a theology that catches on within the Empire Paul Changed Christianity Jesus and the disciples had followed strict adherence to Jewish law; Paul said a convert no longer needed to do this This opened up a whole new batch of converts to Christianity they had liked the message of Jesus, but they had not wished to engage in Jewish dietary laws nor practice the rite of circumcision Didnt Always Make Him Popular Paul did meet with Peter at some point; the two men got along, and Paul may have influenced Peters change regarding Jewish law Most of the other disciples did not trust Paul and did not care for his message For Several Years Paul went on a variety of missionary journeys, traveling all over Asia Minor and into Greece He returned to Jerusalem around 58 C.E., and began preaching his new ideas in the Jewish temple Jews rioted and attempted to kill him, and Roman soldiers saved his life by arresting him He was sent to Caesarea to await trial Paul Awaited Trial Paul was placed under house arrest and waited about two years for a trial Eventually it was decided he should stand trial in Jerusalem Fearing the response he would get there, he exercised his rights as a Roman citizen to appeal directly to the emperor Paul Arrived in Rome It seems Peter was already there, building a following Rome will always be far more Peters city than Pauls He waited again, this time for an audience with the Emperor Nero While He Waited He wrote lengthy letters to those he had known or visited in other churches; they become the Epistles Galatians Corinthians Ephesians Timothy Etc. The Great Fire Around this time came the Great Fire that consumed much of Rome Looking for a scapegoat, Nero blamed the Christians, and persecutions began Paul was not among the persecuted; we believe that Peter was, and so died in 64 C.E. Finally, Paul Gets a Trial But the mood in Rome is definitely anti-Christian, and he is found guilty As a Roman citizen, he has his own private execution, and it is believed he was beheaded, also in 64 C.E. But His Message Is Working Paul has traveled so much, and written so much, that more and more gentiles are hearing about Christianity Here is a faith that says the meek are blessed, and that the rich cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and that poverty, humility, and service are the ways in which one will gain Paradise A Perfect Message for Rome About 94% of the Roman population are slaves and the poor If ever there was an audience that was ready to believe that the meek would inherit the earth, here it was Paul and Peter are both gone, but Christianity is spreading Particularly Pauls version, that is, among the gentiles In 66 C.E. Judea revolts against Rome Vespasian and his son Titus are sent east to put down the insurrection The Christians dont seem to care Christians Leave Jerusalem Early Christians were concerned that the kingdom of God was coming any day; they didnt have time for politics, they had to get ready for Paradise As Jews engaged in revolution, Christians fled the city and established themselves in the pro-Roman town of Pell...</p>