After Jesus: The Triumph of Christianity. Based on the book of the same title by Jane R. Baun ; Rita G. Christopher; Donald R. Cutler; Marleen B. Flory; Charles Flowers; Robert Kiener ; Robert Thurston; Edward Watkin ; Peter Young Gayla Visali – Editor
Based on the book of the same title by
Jane R. Baun; Rita G. Christopher;
Donald R. Cutler; Marleen B. Flory;
Charles Flowers; Robert Kiener;
Robert Thurston; Edward Watkin;
GaylaVisali – Editor
Published by Reader’s Digest, 1992.
On the day of Pentecost, after Jesus’ death, his disciples were suddenly filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak excitedly about the works of God. Strangely, their ecstatic words were heard not as a Galilean dialect of Aramaic (their native language) but as all the languages spoken by the pilgrims visiting Jerusalem.
Jesus, it is recorded in the gospels spoke of his death and gave it meaning in celebration of the Passover meal called the Seder.
Along with baptism the Lord’s Supper (Communion) have been unbroken rituals throughout Christian tradition.
Jesus died by the brutal capital punishment inflicted by the Romans.
The early followers were destroyed, but would later come to view his death as integral to their salvation and in fulfillment of ancient Hebrew prophecy (Isaiah 53).
Prior to his death, according to the gospels, Jesus predicted his death and resurrection. This event will define the church as believers in the Resurrection.
The Resurrection was the physical raising of Jesus from the dead. The circumstances of his death and reports of his rising were public and well known.
Hundreds of people saw the risen Jesus. A few of these encounters are recorded in the gospels.
On the road to Emmaus two travelers walked with Jesus but did not recognize him until they broke bread together.
As the disciples waited and prayed they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Tongues of fire rested over their heads and they were commissioned to go into all the world with the good news of the Resurrected Jesus.
Peter who had previously denied he knew Jesus now with the power of the Holy Spirit filling his soul preached courageously and effectively to the masses gathered in Jerusalem.
The church was born in the City of Jerusalem. It is important in Hebrew history and the center of the importance is the Temple which Jesus claimed himself to be the fulfilment of its purpose.
Emperor Hadrian and the Savior god Serapis represented on the coins were just two aspects of the plurality of religions and cultures into which the new faith in Christ emerged.
In addition to Greco-Roman religions there was also oriental, Egyptian, and sects of Judaism influencing the new faith.
Within five year’s after Jesus’ death a church had been established in Jerusalem and missions sent out.
Religious life centered around three functions:
Prayer (the Lord’s Prayer recited).
Sermons and Teaching
A Daily Common Meal (The Lord’s Supper)
The meal fed hungry Christians as well.
To provide sustenance for poorer converts and for preachers early Christians shared their possessions.
It was the practice of the early church to help the poor especially widows.
When the Hellenist Christians complained that their widows were being neglected deacons were chosen.
More than just social service, they were also active in missions.
A dramatic ritual connected with conversion. Involved a confession of faith followed by complete immersion in water in the name of Jesus Christ.
Variations on immersion were created by end of the first century (water poured 3xs over the candidate’s head).
Christian baptism was meant to be a single stirring event.
“Followers of the Way”
“The Way of the Lord”
“The Way of God”
“Nazarenes” – derisive
“salt of the earth”
”church”-ekklesia in Greek
“Christian” – 40 A.D.
The strongest opponents of early Christianity were the Sadducees.
Joined in opposition by the Pharisees.
Elders of both groups sat on the Sanhedrin.
A heated debate resulted in violence when Hellenist Jews became outraged at Stephen and rushed him before the Sanhedrin.
The first follower of Christ to die for the profession of his faith. He is stoned by an angry religious mob. Assisting in the action was a young Pharisee from Tarsus named Saul.
Saul of Tarsus, a member of the party of the Pharisees became an ardent persecutor of the young church.
On his way to Damascus he is struck blind, confronted by a heavenly voice, and converted.
The Christians in Damascus eventually accept him, though they were at first doubtful.
Jesus’ disciples and followers recalled his deeds and words.
The oldest gospel (good news) is the account given by Mark.
Other accounts include the synoptic (same eye) gospels of Matthew and Luke.
The final gospel is that of John.
As “the Way” moved from Jerusalem to Antioch and on to Rome, Gentiles joined the ranks, ministered to especially by Paul, the converted Pharisee. Meanwhile, Rome was ravaged by a devastating fire, and tensions in Jerusalem were building toward a disastrous conflict with the Roman Empire.
To bring Gentiles into the Christian community was not an easy step. Jews were forbidden to eat with them or consume food apart from the dietary laws. Only a pagan who had converted to Judaism, agreeing to live by its laws, would be able to take the next step and be baptized in Jesus’ name. While praying on the roof of Simon the tanner Peter has a vision that changes the church.
The Ethiopian eunuch like Simon the tanner would have been unclean but instead was baptized on the spot by Philip.
They rejected belief in pagan gods and magic; adopted the Christian ethic, which besides avoidance of sins such as idolatry and adultery, stressed charity and brotherhood. They were now part of a loving community that took care of one another in time of illness and other troubles, even meeting needs for basic food and shelter if necessary as well as a strong belief in life after death.
They met in homes. Paul writes, “When you come together, each has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” It is clear that these early gatherings were dynamic and exciting and encouraged every worshiper to participate.
It was at Antioch the followers of the Way were first called “Christians.” Antioch’s church attracted all classes from patrician to slave. It counted wealthier citizens among membership. From 46 AD the community sent famine relief to Jerusalem. It was from here that Paul and Barnabas departed on their missionary journey.
Jerusalem was still headquarters of the movement. The group that remained after many had fled the persecutions led the Jerusalem church down a more conservative road.
James , the leader of the church acted as mediator between those powerful Jewish Christians who were opposed to welcoming Gentiles and those who were willing to receive them.
Thanks to Caligula (37-41) relations between Rome and the Jews became more hostile. He became obsessed with the idea that he was a living god. When opposed he demanded that a colossal golden statue of himself be erected at the Temple in Jerusalem. He was assassinated before the order could be carried out, but the damage was irreparable.
He covered some 10,000 miles over his lifetime. He suffered shipwrecks, a stoning, beatings, imprisonments, humiliations, the rigors of primitive travelling conditions, and a great deal more in his mission to spread the word of Christ. His capacity for survival was coupled with an ability to touch people’s souls as he preached the Gospel.
How did Christianity’s most successful missionary survive such hardships? His devotion to spreading the gospel apparently strengthened his nerve.
He planned his travel carefully following Roman highways and sea routes.
At times his Roman citizenship helped him, as did his knowledge of Greek, and skill as a tentmaker.
Paul would realize his dream of journeying to Rome. After his fourth shipwreck in Malta he was finally transported to Puetoli and then to Rome.
He was placed under house arrest for two years and welcomed all who came to him.
It is possible that he travelled all the way to Spain (Clement of Rome).
Possibly began by Jews after they returned from pilgrimages to Jerusalem in 40’s, and possibly 30’s.
Claudius (41-54) expelled the Jews “ because they caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus he expelled them from the city.”
Aquila and Pricilla were among these. They went to Corinth.
A typical Roman believed that gods controlled nearly every activity in the world and that paying them homage to them would guarantee success or at least stave off disaster.
Moral codes were determined more by social or familial codes of behavior.
The father or paterfamilias dominated. He could decide life or death within his family.
There continues to be speculation as to whether or not Peter actually went to Rome, much less was the head of the Roman church.
Archaeology in the Vatican seems to point to the grave and bones of Peter buried beneath St. Peter’s Basilica.
July 19, 64 AD a fire began near the Circus Maximusspread by the wind and ravaged the city. The fire burned for nine days and left most of the cit y in ruins. Thousands lost their lives and the streets were filled with distraught, displaced persons.
Although Nero had rushed to his subjects aid, a rumor quickly circulated that he was the cause of the fire. According to Tacitus, “to suppress this rumor, Nero fabricated scapegoats – and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called).”
Handsome and headstrong, he ordered his own mother’s death, vain and a lover of arts and entertainment, he admired all things Greek.
He was a tyrant, claiming to be equal with Apollo. A great persecutor of Christians. At his death the Empire was in deep turmoil which would soon burst into war in Judea.
In 66 AD in response to a pagan sacrifice that was deliberately made in front of a synagogue in Caesarea, a delegation of Jews protested. The governor had them arrested and then took money from the Temple treasury. Then he ordered Roman troops to raid the markets in Jerusalem killing 3,600 men, women, and children.
Herod Agrippa II sent 2,000 troops to assist the rebels. By late summer the rebels had taken control of Jerusalem.
The crack 12th Legion was sent down from Syria. The Jews managed to hold off the Romans and forced them to retreat. Nero dispatched Vespasian to quell the rebellion with three legions. His son Titus prevailed with 80,000 troops.
Some perished, some fled, and some returned. But Jerusalem was no longer the nucleus of the church. Jews supporting the revolt would have seen Christians (who remained neutral) as betrayers. Rabbis added to the synagogue liturgy a prayer that condemned Jewish Christians. From then on Christianity would develop separately from Judaism.
Most scholars think the Gospel of Mark was composed around 70 AD. The claim of 70 is based on Mark’s description of the destruction of the Temple, as prophesied by Jesus.
Considered the earliest Gospel, Mark apparently was used for Matthew and Luke.
Others, including your pastor) challenge this date believing the authorship is earlier.
As Christianity passed the half-century mark, the churches organized to meet new challenges. The scriptures are produced.
The Roman church grew quickly (70 AD). By the end of the first century the congregation had adopted a leadership role throughout the empire. The claim that both Peter and Paul had died there added weight to this claim . The Roman church also prospered enough to send contributions to other churches.
Vesuvius formed a time capsule of first century Roman life.
70 A.D. Rome is in shambles following the rule of Nero. Suetonius noted, “Throughout his reign he made it his principal business to shore up the moral foundations of the state, which were in a state of collapse.”
By the end of the first century A.D. the Apostles had taken the gospel north into Syria and Asia Minor; west to Macedonia, Greece, Italy, and the isles of the Mediterranean; then to northeastern Africa, and Egypt. A century later Christian communities existed in Gaul (France), Germany, and the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) as well as in northwestern Africa.
A well respected ruler who continued many of his father’s policies.
Domitian considered himself the guardian of the people’s morals, and in 85 CE he appointed himself censor for life, with a general supervision of conduct and morals. Although Domitian’s conduct did not always reflect good personal conduct and moral behavior, he was a big supporter of traditional Roman religion; he also seemed to hold Minerva and Jupiter in the highest esteem.
And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.
• Justin Martyr, First Apology c. 150 AD
Paul mentions no ecclesiastical hierarchy when he wrote to Rome in 50 A.D.
In Clement’s letter to Corinth near the end of the first century, it says just as Christ commissioned Apostles, so the Apostles had in turn “appointed … bishops (overseers) and deacons (ministers) for those who should afterward believe.” Also bishops refers to presbyters or elders.
During the peaceful second century, paganism saw a revival, while Christians suffered sporadic persecution. Gnosticism and Marcionism challenged the church. Popular Christian writings enhanced the faith.
Bishop of the church at Antioch for 40 years. Denounced as a Christian during a period of persecution under the Emperor Trajan. According to legend he was cross-examined by Trajan himself. He refused to worship the Roman deities. Ignatius, who was more than 70 years old, was given a brutal sentence. He was bound in chains and taken to Rome where he would be devoured by beasts.
“Come fire, come cross, ; grapplings with wild beasts, cuttings and manglings, wrenching of bones, hacking of limbs, crushing of the whole body; let cruel torments of the devil come upon me; if only I may attain unto Jesus Christ.”
Unafraid Ignatius faced his punishment with joy.
Letters of Ignatius written in transit to Rome. In these seven letters he stressed the importance of unity among the faithful; encouraged Christians to follow their spiritual leaders (bishop, presbytery, deacons), and trying to Judaize Christianity. “If we go on observing Judaism, we admit we never received grace.”
As Christians grew in number, so did the accusations against them (cannibalism, atheism, incest). At least one Roman Governor was tasked to investigate the Christians.
Pliny the Younger was put in charge of Bithynia-Pontus on the Black Sea (Turkey). In 112 Pliny had those Christians who were not citizens executed because they refused to deny their faith.
When he further investigated he discovered that they met before dawn in praise of “Christ as a God.” The food they ate was “harmless.”
He began to reconsider the persecution and appealed to Trajan. Trajan made it clear that simply being a Christian was a capital offense, but not to hunt them down anymore “for they are not worthy of your time.”
In 155 a wave of persecution swept Smyrna. A number of Christians were martyred. As a young man he had known several of the Apostles. His faith was a blend of compassion and exhortation (similar to Paul in his pastoral letters). His ordeal is recorded in great detail in The Martyrdom of Polycarp.
He prayed night and day for the deliverance of others. In a vision it was revealed to him that he would be burned alive.
He was hauled before a crowd accused of being an atheist. He refused the Roman proconsul's plea to curse Christ. The lion had just eaten so they burned him.
His bones became first known relics.
In 177 hatred toward Christians erupted. The accused were prosperous immigrants. When their slaves wee tortured they confessed that their masters were cannibals and incestuous.
Many confined to underground dungeons, roasted on a red hot iron chair, or torn apart by beasts.
Christians were cheaper than gladiators for amusement of the crowds.
Throughout their torture the Christians prayed for their tormentors. Some even longed for death so they might imitate Christ. The Roman guards began to fear their victims might rise again. Their deaths inspired faith and attracted new converts. It also underscored the growing spiritual desperation and insecurity lurking beneath the surface of the Roman Empire.
Trajan was considered a very successful emperor. Replenishing the coffers of the empire, caring for his troops, delighting the crowds, far-sighted in his building program. But he also made being Christians a capital crime. His column celebrating his defeat over the Dacians came to symbolize his reign. A statue of him was erected on top…
In 1588 the statue of Trajan was replaced by St. Peter.
Abandoned Trajan’s policy of expanding the empire through conquest. Invested in impressive defensive works. Spend money previously designated for war into building new buildings. He loved the arts and all tings Greek. Ushered in a pagan revival. Greatly disliked the Jews. His legal actions against the Christians were moderate. In Jerusalem he built a Temple of Venus atop Golgotha.
Starting with Julius Caesar a number of Roman Emperors were deified. Domitian demanded deification while he was still alive. Hadrian was proclaimed the “Olympian” and deified alongside Jupiter.
Merchants brought new religions from the East. Members from all classes sought spiritual meaning.
Pagans believed in fate and looked to the gods for aid. They gave heed to prophecy which helped warn and advise, often seeking predictions at the shrines of oracles. They sought answers in astronomy and in mystery religions of Demeter, Isis, and Cybele.
The cult of Demeter promised a happy afterlife. According to Greek mythology Demeter is outraged at the abduction of her daughter Persephone by the god of the underworld, Hades. In retaliation she refuses to resume her role as goddess of the harvest. Zeus works out a compromise . Persephone could return but for four months every year she must return to Hades.
Corresponds with agricultural cycle.
Demeter instructed the noblemen in Eleusis in her sacred rites. The citizens of nearby Athens built a huge sanctuary to honor the goddess and reenact the secret rituals.
Rituals involved sacrificing a pig, a 14 mile long procession, and drinking a potion that was hallucinogenic. It was secret and costly. Members included Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius.
“For among the many excellent and indeed divine institutions which your Athens has brought forth and contributed to human life, none, in my opinion, is better than those mysteries. For by their means we have been brought out of our barbarous and savage mode of life and educated and refined to a state of civilization; and as the rites are called "initiations," so in very truth we have learned from them the beginnings of life, and have gained the power not only to live happily, but also to die with a better hope.”—Cicero, Laws II, xiv, 36