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Early Christianity. The Historical Jesus. Jesus (c. 4 BCE – 30 CE) set out to reform Judaism Jews in Judea torn between accommodation to Rome and Roman rule, or strict adherence to Jewish tradition. The Political Climate of the time. The Jewish people were under Roman Rule.

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Early Christianity


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    Presentation Transcript
    1. Early Christianity

    2. The Historical Jesus • Jesus (c. 4 BCE – 30 CE) set out to reform Judaism • Jews in Judea torn between accommodation to Rome and Roman rule, or strict adherence to Jewish tradition

    3. The Political Climate of the time • The Jewish people were under Roman Rule. • Their local leader was called Herod • Born under the reign of Augustus Cesar • The Roman emperor at the time of Jesus’ death was Tiberius • Jesus was born in what is now Palestine in the Jewish land of Judea • Herod was a client king of the Roman Empire and represented Roman interests • Unrest common

    4. Herod • Very successful ruler • Had an extensive building program for Jerusalem. • Wanted to bring people to the city • It is much easier to find sources about Herod from the period than Jesus

    5. The Life of Jesus • Gospels claim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. • Grew up in Galilee in Nazareth. • The region was know for being a political hotbed at the time. • Jesus left Nazareth to become a preacher. • He was faithfully Jewish and only set out to reform the Jewish religion. • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slbMe-aTY1A

    6. The Influence of the Essenes • The Essenes abandoned ordinary Jewish life; formed “pure” communities in caves • Avoided sexual contact and impure food (although the idea of celibacy as a virtue in Christianity emerged later) • Renounced private property • Preparing for the day of Judgment

    7. Religious Life in the Time of Jesus • Not monolithic • Judaism was not a state religion • There was often disagreement about how to practice Judaism correctly • Some turned their religious beliefs into a political agenda and said that they must destroy the Roman Empire

    8. The Birth of Christianity • Witnesses who knew Jesus claimed to see Jesus risen from the dead • This happened a short time after his death • Christianity soon emerged • Group was dedicated to communal living • Christian religious and social values: offered believers a strong sense of community and promise of salvation in the next world • Emphasized caring for the poor, widows, and orphans

    9. Why does Jesus’ message appeal to Jews and the first Jewish-Christians? • Considering the Jews’ long history of oppression under Egyptian, Hellenistic, and Roman rule, many asked how could a just God allow the wicked to prosper and the righteous to suffer? • The “kingdom of God is at hand:” the idea that God would conquer the forces of evil and on the day of judgment punish the wicked and reward the righteous for eternity—very appealing!

    10. First Leader of the Church • Peter? • James (Brother of Jesus?) – adhered strictly to Jewish law • Early on Christians began to break away from traditional Jewish practices • Stephan was stoned for challenging key teachings of Judaism becoming the first Martyr

    11. The Apostles • Paul (originally called Saul) persecuted Christians • Underwent a conversion experience on the road. • Became influential because he wrote so many letters. • Emphasized the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus • Teaches that the end time is just around the corner • Helped to make it so that you did not have to first become a Jew in order to become a Christian.

    12. Paul Transforms the Movement • Paul of Tarsus spreads Jesus’ teachings to wider Jewish communities in Palestine and as far as Rome • Responsible for taking the message to Gentiles (disagreement with James the Just) • Emphasized the idea of celibacy and chastity within marriage

    13. The Wider Appeal of the Message • The kingdom of heaven was open to believers regardless of their social status or apparent sinfulness • Appealing to slaves and the lower classes of Roman society

    14. First Christians • Withdrew from the everyday world to escape evil • Abandoned their families • Shunned sex and reproduction • Others believed they could live by Jesus’ teachings while still retaining their jobs and ordinary lives.

    15. Rome and the New Religion • Rumors of shameful behavior in Christians • Thought they hated the human race because they did not do the things others did • Said they were atheists because they did not believe in the Roman gods

    16. Persecuting Christians • The Fire of Rome blamed on the Roman Emperor Nero • He pointed the finger at the Christians • At this time, Christians were widely persecuted • Crucified, beheaded, killed in the Roman coliseum • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cgfzaCja2c • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w97DbzroECg

    17. Forms of Christianity and Controversies • There were many forms of Christianity • Many different texts • How many gods are there? • Did the true God create the world or an inferior deity? • Was Jesus divine, human, or both? • Did Jesus’ death bring salvation or was it irrelevant to salvation? • Did Jesus really die?

    18. Christian Splinter Groups • Arians: did not believe that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-eternal, but that the son was not created equally to the Father • Monophysites: divine nature takes precedence over the human; Jesus was only divine • Nestorians: Mary gave birth to a human that became a dwelling for the divine; believed Jesus was only a “bearer of God”

    19. Most Dangerous: Gnostic Christians • Believed the world to be evil • Humans are imprisoned in this world and the human spirit entrapped in a body • Human spirit comes from a divine realm and seeks to escape its body and the world • Salvation comes through knowledge (Greek world gnosis) • In Gnostic texts Jesus reveals the necessary knowledge for salvation

    20. The Gnostic World View • Humans come from the realm of God and do not long belong in this world full of evil and suffering. • Humans are trapped and the only way to escape is to gain knowledge to return to our heavenly home. What type of knowledge: who we are, what we have become…birth and rebirth…a spark that needs to be rekindled with this secret knowledge

    21. Women in the Church • Originally church services took place in the home • Women held a position of power in the home • Later, there was division in the church as to what rights women should have • Some felt that they should hold similar positions of power to men • Others disagreed - Paul said their place was to sit and listen but not to speak

    22. Modifying the Message • First century Christians expected Jesus to return to pass judgment during their lifetime. • When he did not, they transformed their religion from an apocalyptic sect into one that could survive over the long term.

    23. The Government of the Church • Many important early Christians were executed by the Romans • Went underground for the next 100 years • Worshiped sometimes in the catacombs • This was similar to a Roman tradition of celebrating a meal with the dead • Integrating Roman customs into Christianity

    24. Continued • Different factions in the church began to challenge each other • Because of the disagreements the church decided they needed more of a central organization • Modeled their church on the Roman Government

    25. Influences on Christianity • Greek • Roman • Mystery Cults • Soon Christianity became part of the Political landscape of Rome

    26. Christianity and Rome • Over 300 years, Christianity spreads throughout Rome • Rome was beginning to decline and the empire was split in two • At this time persecutions of Christians began again • Constantine becomes Cesar of the western empire and tried to reclaim the Eastern emprie

    27. Constantine • Constantine becomes Cesar of the western empire and tried to reclaim the Eastern Empire • Has a vision of the cross in front of the sun on the eve of battle and a voice say “You are to conquer in this sign” • He wins the battle • Becomes a Christian

    28. Continued • Some debate over this version of the conversion • Constantine retains pagan practices throughout his reign • Could have been a political move • Changed day of Worship from Saturday to Sunday • Officially Converted to Christianity on his deathbed

    29. The Council of Nicaea • Had to have standard text to unify the religion of Christianity • Gnostic Christians – alternative theology, included a female aspect to God • Many of these texts were thrown out by the council of Nicaea • Debated such things as the divinity of Jesus

    30. Canonical Gospels • Mark, circa 65 or 70 CE • Mathew and Luke, circa 80 or 85 CE • John, circa 90 or 95 CE • Paul’s letters written around 50 CE, 8 of the 13 are believed to have actually been written by the apostle Paul

    31. Continued • After much debate among different Church leaders and the ousting of various “unorthodox” Christian sects and their scriptures • the New Testament that you know today was compiled in 367 CE

    32. Canonical Gospels • Each gospel has a different view of Jesus • a particular attitude toward Judaism • its own conception of the kingdom of God and salvation

    33. Continued • Over the course of second and third centuries centrist Christians created an image of a singular, mono-linear history of the Christian church • How? By selecting, collecting, and arranging the writings on Jesus

    34. Early Christian Communities • Early Christian scribes were not professional scribes until the 4th century • The 3rd c. church father Origen once complained about his copies of the Gospels: • “The differences among the manuscripts have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed or, in the process of checking, they make additions or deletions as they please.”

    35. Continued • In addition to poor copying practices and simple mistakes, some copyists changed words or passages in order to conform with their own views. • Charges against opponents (i.e. heretics) that they altered the texts of scripture to make them say what they wanted them to mean. • One ancient author charged: “Some believers, as though from a drinking bout, go as far as to oppose themselves and alter the original text of the gospel three or four or several times over, and they change its character to enable them to deny difficulties in the face of criticism.”

    36. Continued • Church scribes emerged as a professional class within the church in the 4th & 5th c. • Even scribes who were competent, trained, and alert made mistakes • Reasons scribes made intentional changes: to correct a mistake, possibly because they found a contradiction in the text. • Most changes were made in the first two hundred years in which the texts were copied

    37. Complications in knowing the “original text” • Once a scribe changes a text – whether accidentally or intentionally – then those changes are permanent in his manuscript. • The next scribe who then copies that manuscript copies those mistakes, and he adds mistakes of his own. • The next scribe who then copies that manuscript copies the mistakes of both his predecessors and adds mistakes of his own, and so on. • End Result: Religious texts vary significantly and which one is right???

    38. Quick Review • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG55ErfdaeY