THE FOUNDATIONS OF CHRISTIANITY

 

By drawing upon the best aspects of Judaism while eliminating its national narrowness, Christianity's message of high moral standards and the gift of eternal life for all who believe brought many converts to its teachings in its first three centuries.

 

*Jesus of Nazareth (4 b.c.-31 A.D.):  Born a Jews, the Savior for Christians, preached for 3 and a half years, crucified by Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator of Judea, at the request of the Sanhedrin.

 

*Messiah (Christ):  "The anointed one."  The Conquering Messiah (Jeremiah 23, Isaiah 11) versus the Mournful Messiah (Isa. 53).  The Christian solution was to say the same Messiah would have two comings, the Jewish solution was (generally) to say the Messiah has yet to come, and deny there is a Mournful Messiah.

 

*Paul (Saul of Tarsus):  A Jew of the Diaspora, never knew Jesus personally, unlike Peter and the other apostles; had persecuted the church before a dramatic miraculous conversion; main New Testament writer for interpreting the theological significance of Jesus' coming; main missionary to the gentiles of the Christian message.

The New Testament:  Four canonical Gospels, Acts, the Letters (Epistles), and Revelation (an apocalypse).  Completed by c. 100 A.D., and mostly before 70 A.D.  Written mostly by Jews.

 

Judaism's monotheism is reinterpreted to allow for the Deity of Christ along with the Father's.  The Gospel of John's use of "logos," and the controversy over whether its usage by Greek philosophers or Philo of Alexandria (Hellenistic Jewish scholar, c. 25 b.c. to 50 A.D.) influenced John's usage.

*Arius (c. 250-336 A.D.):  Provoked great controversy by maintaining Jesus Christ had a beginning and was like God the Father in substance, but not the same substance, based on Greek Platonic thought.

 

*Council of Nicea (325 A.D.):  The doctrine that Jesus is God the son officially declared to be the official orthodox view in a meeting of bishops supervised by Constantine.  Athanasius (293-373) main defender of Nicene creed, was repeatedly exiled and recalled.  Councils of Alexandria (362 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.) solidify the Holy Spirit as God and the doctrine of the Trinity.

 

Roman attitude towards Christianity:  Initially, Christianity seen as a sect of Judaism, received legal protection.  Nero's persecution (64 A.D.) opportunistic, result of seeking scapegoats for Rome's fire.  When became a primarily gentile religion, then Christians' refusal to offer sacrifices to the emperor as a god sometimes provoked persecution and occasional martyrdoms.  Worst, most systematic persecution launched by the Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305).  After the Edict of Milan *(313 A.D.) was proclaimed by Constantine, which gave toleration to Christians, the Roman Empire was rapidly converted to Christianity, and Christianity picked up still more non-Jewish, pagan customs and beliefs.