Christianity, lecture notes


Grew out of Judaism, much as Buddhism grew out of Hinduism and Islam out of Christianity and Judaism.  All leading founders of Christianity Jews:  Jesus, Peter, Paul, first 12 apostles, etc.


Messiah:  “Anointed One.”  Kings anointed in OT, others given special task by Yahweh.  Done also to current British monarch during coronation 50 years ago.


One coming (Jewish view) vs. two comings (Christian view).


Alternative Jewish solution:  2 Messiahs.  Messiah ben Joseph pierced by Armius, followed by tribulation.  Messiah-Menahem ben Ami-el, appears to remnant of Israel.  With Elijah, resurrects Messiah ben Joseph, then all the dead.


In Dead Sea Scrolls—Messiah once described:  “He will be great over the earth . . . All will worship him. . . . He shall be called great and He will be designated by his name.  He will be called “son of God” and they will call Him “son of the Most High.” . . . His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom, and all his paths in truth and uprightness . . . the sword shall cease from the land and all the provinces shall pay him homage.  He is a great God of gods.”  Aramaic apocalypse.


Zech. 9:9 vs. Dan. 7:13-14?

Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a):  “If they are worthy, he will come with the clouds of heaven; if they are unworthy, he will come “poor and riding on a donkey.”


Jesus:  His identity argued about more than His message historically.  Incarnation issue.  God turned into flesh in order to redeem humanity from death caused by sin by dying Himself.


Zaleucus and the theory of redemption story (King of Greek colony in Italy put out one of own eyes to save son from total blindness, losing just one eye then):  The issue of “why” God had to die issue.


Paul:  “Basic theory”—Romans 3:19-4:15

“Apostle to Gentiles” when Peter “Apostle to Jews.”

“Standard synagogue sermon?  Acts 13:16-41 vs. Acts 17, I Cor. 9:19+ on honesty issue


Gentiles and circumcision.  Peter in Acts 10:28, 34.

Showdown in Jerusalem-c. 49 A.D.—circumcision not required for gentile converts.  Problem of overcoming racial/ethnic prejudice.

Crucial for making Christianity a universal religion:  Gal. 3:28, Col. 3:11.  Place for women, unlike Mithraism, Christianity’s great third century rival.  Gibbon:  “The Jewish religion was admirably fitted for defence, but it was never designed for conquest.”


Arius:  Since monas indivisible and immutable (unchangeable), and God can’t be divided, son must be separate, and caused by Him.  Duas, demiurge of Timaeus, in-between, created to create universe issue.  God can’t be more than one person then.  God can’t communicate His substance.  Platonic, pagan thinking.  Greek philosophical influence, not turning back to Judaism in his view of God.


Jehovah’s Witnesses:  Why issue not merely theoretical, arcane—importance depends on if believe in NT or not.


LOGOS:  “Word,” “statement,” “motive,” “speech,” “reason,” etc.

Philo, Jewish scholar of 1st century Alexandria in Egypt, influenced by Greek thought.  Philo used “logos” loosely, Plato’s ideal world, mind of god, and a Principle subordinate to God, mediators between God and man (including angels, Moses, Abraham).

John’s use more primitive, basic—E.R. Goodenough.  British scholar T.W. Manson:  Tendency to speak of God’s attributes as having separate existence.  (Apocalyptic books, Wisdom of Solomon and Eccls. 24:1-23).

Wisdom is personified.

Isaiah 55:11  “Word of God” personified.

“Memra” (wisdom); Prov. 8’s “wisdom.” 

Both Philo and John use OT, but Philo mixes OT and Stoicism, and John uses OT concept about Jesus.


Council of Nicea (325 A.D.):  “Homoousios” (same being), consubstantial, vs. “homoiousios,” of like being.  Creed, p. 274.  300+ bishops present.

Eusebius of Nicomedia:  Blunders, puts forth blunt statement of Arian position, heatedly rejected by majority.  Others, pro-monarchist, others in middle, not decisive initially.

Barbarians invading Rome often Arians, except for Clovis and Franks (France).


Roman attitude on Christians:  Acts 18:12-15, Acts 19:23-34-41.  Wouldn’t worship Caesar/emperor as god.

Pliny the Younger, governor of Pontus and Bithyna, Asia Minor, letter to Emperor Trajan (A.D. 110).  Had executed so many men and women, wanted to know if should kill all, or just certain ones.  Said found temples neglected and deserted.  Trajan:  Don’t hunt them down; If accused and convicted, punish them, except if will worship our gods then, let him go regardless of prior suspicions.  Easy to escape death—but had to commit idolatry to do so.

Marcus Aurelius:  allowed persecutions, done partially to satisfy masses by scapegoating. 


Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, killed then.  Proconsul:  “consider yourself and have pity on your great age.  Reproach Christ and I will release you.”  Polycarp:  “Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He never once wronged me.  How can I blaspheme my King, who saved me?”  Threatened with wild beasts, fire, Polycarp replied, “What are you waiting for?  Do whatever you please.”  To be burned at stake, sword put into him when fire didn’t burn him.


Later 190-200 A.D., upper class starts to convert, not just a religion of slaves, the poor among gentiles anymore.  Mithraism, little for oppressed in its teachings.


Decius (250-1 A.D.):  Targeted Christian leaders, wanted uniformity, all to do same allegiance to the state. 

Diocletian (303-313 A.D. attack, cf. Rev. 2:10), with Ceasar Galerius:  All churches to be destroyed, all Christians to be dismissed from government service, eastern provinces, arrested clergy, make them sacrifice to state, then (304 A.D.), applied same policy to laymembers.  Maximinus II enforced it.  Galerius—while dying—pulls back some, 311 A.D.



I.  Mutually exclusive nature of the truth.  Acts 12:4; John 14:6 vs. pagan tolerance, all roads lead to God mentality.

Delivered from national/ethnic emphasis of Jews.

II.  Cicero, uncertainty in philosophy over eternal life, immortality of soul.  Admitted his own arguments for immortality only really persuaded him when directly mentally considering arguments in favor of it.


Epicureans:  Denied future life altogether, flesh made up of atoms, dispersed.

Wish father of belief:  Dislike idea own minds would have an end, be like animals.


Third century A.D.  Life in empire bad, turns people away from this world.


III. Miracles—visions, tongues, casting out demons, healings, resurrection of dead, etc.

Gibbons’ moderate skepticism—not clear when ceased.


I Cor. 15:12-19:  Christianity interesting in tying religion to historical events, like Judaism and Islam, but unlike Hinduism and Buddhism.


IV.  High moral standards, unlike later medieval church, in early church.  Two reasons:  1.  Repentance for past sins, 2. Uphold public image and respect for group one is part of.  Sin embarrassing to church.  Help and watch each other to avoid sin, try to stop persecution since small group, and a few individuals can badly damage its reputation among others. 


Could be very rigid—Like monks, lacking balance on avoiding pleasure per se.  Tertullian—could honestly say few Christians executed but for religion.

Condemnations of colorful clothing, elegant furniture, large mansion [also prideful]; wigs, feather-filled pillows, white bread, foreign wines, warm baths, shaving the beard.  Rigid on view of sex even within marriage:  thought Adam w/o falling would always be a virgin.  Marriage tolerated, not extolled, celibacy promoted; second marriages, even for widows, banned.  Refused to be in army or civil administration.


V.  A state within a state, even eventually organized itself along Roman lines.  Leo I (440-61 A.D.), Papacy organized church using Roman units of government (Diocese = province, etc.)


Pontifex Maximus:  title taken from Roman religion.  A “separate society.”  Bishops, presbyters/elders, laity—hierarchical model.  Top bishops of large cities argued for own authority:  Rome, Constantinople (Patriarch), Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem.  Synods—meetings of groups of bishops—start in Greece, Asia in later 2nd century.  Would decreee canons (laws) on controversies at regular assemblies.  Groups of provincial bishops meeting elsewhere formed.