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Early Christianity. Why the Appeal of Christianity?. Little spiritual aspect to Roman state religion: cult of the Emperor Resemblance to existing mystery religions: dying and reborn or resurrected god Cult of Isis Mysteries of Dionysus/Bacchus Cult of Mithras. Cult of Isis.

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Early Christianity


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    Presentation Transcript
    1. Early Christianity

    2. Why the Appeal of Christianity? • Little spiritual aspect to Roman state religion: cult of the Emperor • Resemblance to existing mystery religions: dying and reborn or resurrected god • Cult of Isis • Mysteries of Dionysus/Bacchus • Cult of Mithras

    3. Cult of Isis • Egyptian origin • Promise of immortality • Strong ethical code • Celebrated by Apuleius in The Golden Ass, 2nd c. ce

    4. Mysteries of Dionysus/Bacchus • Greek origins • Promise of immortality -- as the grapevine regenerates each year, so will the soul • Bacchanalia, secret rites of initiation into the mysteries, sometimes degenerated into drunken orgies

    5. Mithraism: Similarities to Christianity • Mithras referred to as “the Light of the World;” Sol invictus by Romans • Mediator between Heaven and Earth • Birth celebrated on December 25; • Celibate god who valued self-control, renunciation and ascetism in followers • Belief in heaven, hell and day of judgement • Ritualistic baptism (in blood) as purification • Strong ethical code

    6. Mithraism: Differences with Christianity • Worship limited to men,initiated into mysteries • Mithraism became a military religion in Rome: emphasized victory, strength, security in next world, and absolute loyalty to authority and fellow soldiers • Promotion through ranks of ritual initiations corresponded to heavenly journey of soul • Strong astrological influences • Animal sacrifice: bulls and birds

    7. Christianity’s Appeal • Promise of eternal life • Strong ethical code • Message of Peace • Offered salvation to all believers -- gave hope to slaves and women • Martyrdom of early Christians • Evangelicalism

    8. Evangelicalism “...and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Jesus, Acts 1:8 Three major early Christian movements: • Nazorene • Pauline • Gnostic

    9. Nazorene • Jewish Christians: first followers in Jerusalem, led by James and Peter • Advocated preservation of Jewish rituals • Peter founded church in Rome Caravaggio, The Crucifixion of St. Peter, Chiesa di Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome

    10. Pauline • Saul’s conversion  Paul • Greek Jew • Roman citizen • Classically educated • Gentiles: Establishment of Churches throughout the Mediterranean world: Epistles • Corinth • Ephesus • Galatia • Phillipi • Thessalonica Massaccio, St. Paul

    11. Gnostic • Redemption achieved through gnosis: knowledge. One attains salvation by learning secret knowledge of one’s spiritual essence: the creative experience of revelation, a rushing progression of understanding, and not a static creed • Sexually egalitarian • Many Gnostic texts written by women • Importance of Mary Magdalene – second only to Jesus • Male and female images used to represent Supreme God Carlo Dolci, Magdalene

    12. Nag Hammadi texts with Gnostic Gospels discovered in 1945"In the name of the Father unknown to all, in the Truth, Mother of All, in the One who came down upon Jesus, in the union, redemption and communion of powers." • 4th c. papyrus manuscripts discovered in Egypt – written in Coptic – the language of the Egyptian Christian Church • 45 titles including the Gnostic Gospels and writings attributed to Jesus’s followers including: • The Gospel of Thomas • The Gospel of Phillip • The Gospel of Mary • The Gospel of Truth • The Gospel of the Egyptians • The Apocalypses of Paul, James, and Peter The Nag Hammadi Library

    13. Christian Canon • Adoption of Jewish Bible as Old Testament • Many early Gospels • 367: Canonization of New Testament: • Gospels, 70-100 ce: • Synoptic Gospels: Matthew (Jewish audience), Mark (Gentile/Roman audience), Luke (Greek audience) • John (integrates Platonic philosophy and mysticism) • Acts of the Apostles (attributed to Luke) • 21 Epistles: 14 ascribed to Paul: Emphasis on Christ’s Incarnation and Atonement • Revelation, c. 75-95 ce • Patristic Writings: early Church fathers

    14. 393-405: Vulgate Bible Latin Translation by St. Jerome Dürer, St Jerome in the Wilderness

    15. Establishment of Christian Church

    16. In Hoc Signo Vinces Constantineca. 280-337 • First Christian Roman Emperor • 313: Constantine issued Edict of Milan: toleration of Christians • 325: Convened Council of Nicaea: Nicene Creed • Christianity incorporated pre-existing pagan customs and motifs • 330: capital of Empire moved to Constantinople

    17. Holy Roman Empire • 361-363: Emperor Julian the Apostate tries to reinstate paganism, but mostly allows religious liberty to the Christians • 375-383: Emperor Gratian confiscates temples, abolishes privileges for pagan priests, etc. • 379-395: Emperor Theodosius I prohibits pagan religious observances • 402: Emperor Honorius moved capital of Western Empire to Ravenna • 410: Rome sacked by Visigoths • 455: Rome sacked by Vandals

    18. Christian Iconography Chi RhoChristogram Ihs :abbreviated name of Jesus in greek (Iasous) Alpha and Omega Icthys: Fish Acrostic for Jesus Christ Son of God Saviour Anchor/CrossHebrews 6:19, ‘Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.’ Dovethe soul that reached divine peace

    19. TheGoodShepherdand Agnus Dei(lamb of God) A marble statue of the Good Shepherdfound in al-Mina - Gaza Catacomb Fresco

    20. Roman Catholic Church • Incorporation of Roman Law and Hierarchy • Pope • Cardinals • Bishops • Priests • Latin as the language of the Church • Bishop of Rome appointed as first Pope: Pope Leo 440-461

    21. St. Augustine354-430 • Bishop of Hippo (Northern Africa) • Countered Arian, Pelagian and Donatist heresies • Confessions -- first spiritual autobiography • City of God-- response to fall of Rome • Synthesized Christian doctrine with classical philosophy • Neo-Platonism • Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover Claudio Coello: The Triumph of St. Augustine

    22. Byzantine Empire • 435: Theodosius II commanded that pagan temples be destroyed or turned into churches • 527-567: Emperor Justinian prohibited paganism upon pain of death. • 529: Justinian abolished the 900 year-old School at Athens • 532: Justinian and Theodora saved Constantinople and ordered the construction of the Hagia Sophia

    23. Justinian, mosaic, San Vitale, Ravenna

    24. Theodora, mosaic, San Vitale, Ravenna

    25. Christ enthroned between angels and Saints, apse mosaic, San Vitale

    26. Isidoros and Anthemios Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

    27. Latin as Church Language Church governed by local bishops headed by elected Pope Mandatory celibacy for priests Iconography: Reverence for sacred images and relics Greek as Church Language Church governed by Patriarch appointed by Emperor Clergy allowed to marry Iconoclastic controversy Schism:Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox