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CHRISTIANITY
Religious History

Christian Symbol
Christian Symbol
Branches
Branches of Christianity

Praise

Time-line:

Christianity is a religion practiced today and has the largest number of adherents in the world, about 2.1 billion or 1/3 of the world population. The different denominations are founded on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth in the early 1st century CE (AD) as revealed in their Scriptures. The main denominations are the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox and Protestantism. There are many other denominations. All of these denominations have many sub-denominations within them with slightly, or sometimes major, differences in doctrine and organization. We shall start here with the chronology of the history of the world as derived by Bishop Ussher in the 17th century.

Few adherents of Christianity understand either the biblical time line of events described or the contributions from other cultures or religions. I will thus start with a time line as presented by James Ussher, the Archbishop of Amiagh of the Church of Ireland. The work was a contribution to the old theological debate on the age of the earth. His work is based on the annals of The Hebrew Scriptures from creation to the birth of Christ. Since the bible does not give explicit dates for these events he had to supplement his information from other cultures such the Chaldeans (the 6th century Babylonians), Persians or Romans. He was not the only one working on dating the world in the 17th century, the most prominently known today was John Lightfoot, an English churchman. Their dates differ with Ussher placing the beginnings of creation as nightfall preceding Sunday, October 23rd, 4004 BCE, in the proleptic Julian calendar, near the autumnal equinox. Lightfoot used the same time of day but calculated the year to be 3929 BCE. The Judeans creation year from the Book of Jubilee is 3704 BCE assuming the Exodus was in 1290 BCE.

The Ussher dates are the primary times used by some Christians today, especially, the Young Earth Creationists. For them the beginning of world, the Universe, is usually stated as 9 am on October 23rd, 4004 BCE at the autumnal equinox. The world was predicted to last 6000 years or one thousand years for each of the 6 days of creation and thus should have ended in 1996 CE. These time-lines have been disputed by theologians, scientists and philosophers.

Ussher’s chronology key events-dates in the Biblical history of the world:

Events

Creation of the World (and Universe)

Noah builds the Ark as commanded, and enters the flood   

God’s call to Abraham                                                             

The Exodus from Egypt

Founding of the Temple in Jerusalem

The Exile to Babylon (First, Destruction of Jerusalem) 

The Birth of Jesus  (The birth of Jesus is put at 4 BCE since Herod the Great died in that year according to Josephus the Jewish historian of the 1st century.)


Years
BCE (Before the Common Era)
4004

   2349 – 2348

       1921

   1491

              1012

   597, 587

             4

Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark
Exdous
Exodus
Cruxifixion
Crucifixion
Constine
Constantine
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas

Significant dates for the western church after the birth of Jesus:

Events
Years
CE {Common Era)

Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus   

Paul’s letters to the Christian Churches                              

Destruction of the Second Temple 

Writing of the Gospels:

Mark

Mathew & Luke

John


                       


Constantine I conversion to Christianity                             

Council of Nicaea                                                             

New and Old Testament writing (Vulgate Bible)             

End of Roman Empire                                                          

Crusades                                                                               

St. Thomas Aquinas (birth)                                    

Protestant Reformation (Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses)       

Tyndale’s English Bible                                                   

King James Bible      

 

c. 30

  c. 60

    c. 70



c. 65

c.85

c.95

c. 313

   c. 325

     c. 400

 c. 461

c. 1095-1272

c. 1225

c. 1517

      c. 1530

 c. 1611


Early Christianities

Most modern Christians believe there is only one true faith based on the Bible that include the four Gospels, the letters of Paul and several other books totaling 27 books in total. Further Christianity is based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus who was all God and all man. Although this is the predominant view, it does not factor in the wide variety of beliefs and organizations that exist today under the umbrella of Christianity. If you think there is a wide diversity of doctrines today, the early Christians of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries had a much more divergent interpretation of Jesus and his teachings. Why didn't they just read the New Testament containing the 27 books? Because there was no canonized text similar to what we have today until the Vulgate, the official Roman text published circa (c.) 400 CE. We will discuss the main early Christianities to compare their beliefs and scriptures leading up to the Orthodox beliefs that finally triumph.  Most of what we know about these early sects, except the proto-Orthodox, comes from writings claiming them as heretical. The four discussed here are the Ebionites, Marcionites, Gnostics and proto-Orthodox:

Ebionites: This was a Jewish Christian sect who claimed you had to be either born Jewish or converted to Judaism.  The sect was led by James, the brother of Jesus, and some of the disciples such as Peter. They thought that Jesus was the most righteous man and was “adopted” by God to be his son at the baptism by John the Baptist. For them, Jesus was the Jewish messiah, the deliverer of the Jew’s from bondage, and anyone wanting to be right with God must be or become Jewish and follow the Law.

The Ebionites had their own writings that they claimed to be derived from the original followers of Jesus, namely, the disciples. One of their gospels was very much like the Gospel of Mathew found in the present New Testament  without the first few chapters on Jesus birth. Another gospel was called the Gospel of the Ebionites and appears to be some kind of conflation of the synoptic gospels Mathew, Mark and Luke. They did not think highly of Paul who reported to them but started converting gentiles that did not have to become Jewish and Paul’s claim that the converts did not have to follow the Law.

It's ironic this sect of Christianity associated with James and some disciples in the time immediately following Jesus crucifixion fell out of disfavor  and was declared a heresy by the late 2nd century.  It is possible that this sect lasted as long as 1,000 CE or a little later from references from different authors of that period. It’s possible that these later groups had an influence on the Islamic view of Jesus.  

symbol

Ebionites Symbol

Yeasie Mount

Yeshua Mount

 

Map

Ebonite Map

Record

Ebonite Record

 

Marconite
Marcion of Sinope
AD 85 - 160

Marconite

Efran - Marconite

Marcionites: This sect was followers of Marcion of Sinope at Rome c. 144 CE and his teachings. The teachings of Marcion were basically opposite of the Ebionites, stating Christianity had nothing to do with Judaism. The creator God of the Old Testament, the only full testament that existed at the time, was vindictive and thus was separate from Jesus who was a benevolent God. Marcion developed a scripture that contained 10 letters of Paul and a gospel comparable to the Gospel of Luke from the present orthodox gospel. The Old Testament was not included nor did its Laws apply. Marcion concluded that the Creator God had given the Jews their scripture, had called the Jews to be his people and gave them the Law. Jesus came to save the world from the wrath of the Old Testament God.

As with the Ebionites, the Marcionites were labeled as heretics by the proto-orthodox. However Marcion’s teachings did have a positive effect on the developing orthodox Christianity such as stressing monotheism and the importance of a canon of Scripture. In many ways Marcion’s teaching still have an effect on Christianity today. Many Christians contrast the Old Testament God of wrath with the New Testament God of love and mercy. There are also those that think the Law of Moses is for the Jews and thus relegate the Old Testament, or parts of it, to a secondary status.

Gnosticism: Gnostic-Christians were a diverse set of groups of early Christians whose teachings are based on a special knowledge (Greek: gnosis) that leads to salvation. The Ebionites and Marcionites are known through the herpetologist writings of the proto-orthodox in the later 2nd century CE. The Gnostic teachings became available in their own words from the Nag Hammadi volumes found in 1945 in Upper Egypt. The most famous of these volumes is The Gospel of Thomas. This gospel contains the sayings of Jesus some of which are similar to the Canonical Gospels and others that are considered as Gnostic in meaning. Like Buddhism, Gnosticism begins with the fundamental recognition that is filled with suffering.

In the Gnostic view, there is a true, ultimate and transcendental God that is everything. There are, also, Aeons, intermediate gods, along with the true God, that make up the realm of Fullness wherein the potency of divinity operates. Some Gnostics thought that the material world came about by a cosmic disaster and was an evil place that one needed to escape. Escape comes by knowledge over coming ignorance of spiritual realities by the few who received special insights from a divine emissary. This knowledge comes from revelation of Gnosis as brought by Messengers of Light, especially by Christ, the Logos of the True God.

Human nature mirrors this duality found in the world which is made up of two parts: the part made by the false creator God and the other part by the light of the True God, a fragment of the divine essence. This divine essence is often referred to as the “divine spark.” Morality comes from the illumination of the inner spark, then the Gnostic will embrace this spirituality informed ethic as ideal. In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says that human beings must come by Gnosis to know the ineffable, the divine reality from whence they came, and where they will return. This knowledge must come to them while they are still embodied on earth.

You can discern the idea that the world and humanity are evil contained in the Canonical Scriptures. You also see the idea of the “spark within” for select peoples reflected in those volumes as well as morality coming from knowledge provided by the Scriptures. This Gnostic world view transcends the theodicy, why evil in the world created by a benevolent God, problem since the world was created by an evil semi-god. In modern times the new scientific discipline of depth psychology has been influenced by Gnosticism especially by C. G Jung.

We then can see the influence of Gnosticism in our lives today. The proto-orthodox Christians ruled that Gnosticism was heretical but even some of the Gnostics called their own groups heretical. In spite of all this heresy, we can see the influence the Gnostic ideals had on Christianities development.

Gnostic Virgin

Gnostic virgin


bible
Gnostic bible

Sacred Sexuality
Sacred Sexuality

 

Gnostic Devotion

Gnostic Devotion

 

 

Eusebius

Eusebius of Caesarea
AD 263 - 339


Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius of Antioch

Proto-Orthodox: The proto-Orthodox view of Christianity is the precursor to what we call Christianity today. Eusebius of Cesarea (c. CE 263 - 339) is the source for this discussion. Eusebius was a Roman historian and Christian polemicist who was a follower of the theologian Origen (c. 185 - 254 CE) through Pamphilus (Late 3Rd century - 309) and was a Biblical scholar. He was a learned man and famous author, enjoyed the favor of the Emperor Constantine and played a prominent role at the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE.

Eusebius started from the basic thought of the absolute sovereignty of God. According to him, God is the cause of all beings. In him everything good is included, from him all life originates, and he is the source of all virtue. God sent Christ into the world that it may partake of the blessings included in the essence of God. Christ is a God and is a ray of the eternal light; but the figure of the ray is so limited by Eusebius that he expressly distinguishes the Son as distinct from Father as a ray is also distinct from its source. This view of Christ was not accepted at the Council of Nicaea and Eusebius later accepted the Nicene Creed which declared that God and Christ were one and the same. The Holy Spirit was not include as part of the Trinity until a later Council of  Constantinople in the later part of the 4Th century.

In the 290s, Eusebius began work on his magnum opus, the Ecclesiastical History, a narrative history of the Church and Christian community from the time of the apostles to Eusebius' own time. In this history he claimed that the proto-orthodox interpretations of Jesus, his own, were dominant from the beginning of Christianity and the other early Christianities, included here, were minor variations. This is the prominent view of Christians today.

In the 5th century, the Christian historian Socrates Scholasticus described Eusebius as writing for “rhetorical finish” and for the “praises of the Emperor” rather than the “accurate statement of facts.” ...

Creation of the Scriptures (New Testament w/Old Testament):

The creation of a text that contained the correct beliefs for Christians was unique in the period of the Roman Empire. Most religions of the time only required observance of the rituals that were meant to placate the gods and were meant to ease the burdens of daily life. The exception to this was Judaism which had a written scripture but was still a religion based on practices not belief.

There were long and contentious battles over what books and beliefs should be part of the Orthodox cannon. Finally, in 367 CE, the Bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius, proposed the 27 books. Those 27 books are the present New Testament. The criteria appears to be the following:

1. The book had to be considered ancient.

2. The book had to be connected to an Apostle.

3. It had to be widely accepted by the proto-orthodox churches.

4. And most importantly, it had to evidence a proto-orthodox theology.

There were many other texts to choose from such as The Gospel of Thomas that we now have but were excluded. The Marcionites and the Gnostics had developed their own scriptures earlier, but these and other writings were now destroyed for being heretical.

The orthodox New Testament cannon includes the four gospels (Mark, Mathew, Luke and John), the 13 books attributed to Paul, Acts of the Apostles, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and Jude written in Koine Greek.

Saint Jerome is credited with producing the Latin Vulgate from the Greek and Latin text that were available to him c. 400 CE. However Jerome had been commissioned by Pope Daasus I in 382 CE  to revise the Old Latin text of the four Gospels from the best Greek texts, and he also translated a more cursory revision from the Greek Septuagint of the Old Latin text of the Psalms. How much of the rest of the New Testament he revised is difficult to judge today, but little of his work survived in the Vulgate text.

The Vulgate, in the Western Roman Empire, was given an official capacity by the Council of Trent (1545–1563) stating which parts of books are canonical. When the council listed the books included in the canon, it qualified the books as being "entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate edition". There are 76 books in the authorized edition by the council. This includes the 46 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament, and three in the Apocrypha..The council cited Sacred Tradition in support of the Vulgate's Authority:

Moreover, this sacred and holy Synod,—considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,—ordains and declares, that the said old and Vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatsoever.

This would seem to be the version used today, but the evolution of the Bible continues even today. The Biblical manuscripts were, as the name defines, were copied by priests and groups of priests. If you wanted to replace worn out copies or wanted one for another location it had to be copied by hand. This leads to changes due to errors and willful changes to match the copiers personal ideologies. This changed, somewhat, after the invention of the printing press in the middle of the 15Th century since many copies could be made of the same version. This enabled Martin Luther to publish a Bible in German and William Tyndale to translate the New Testament into English.

Athanasius

Athanasius
Bishop of Alexandria

 

St. Jerome

St. Jerome

 

 

BibleScrole

Scripture Scrolls

 

 

Bible Helper

Bible Helper

 

 

ModernBible

Modern Bible

The Protestant Reformation

 

 

 

Martin Luther

Martin Luther
1483-1546

 

 

 

William Tyndale

William Tyndale

 

Martin Luther had a small head-start on Tyndale, as Luther declared his intolerance for the Roman Church’s corruption on Halloween in 1517, by nailing his 95 Theses of Contention to the Wittenberg Church door. His excommunication in 1521 preceded the translation of the New Testament into German for the first time from the 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus, and publishing it in September of 1522. Luther also published a German Pentateuch in 1523, and another edition of the German New Testament in 1529 and in the 1530’s he would go on to publish the entire Bible in German.

William Tyndale was the Captain of the Army of Reformers, and was their spiritual leader. Tyndale holds the distinction of being the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language. His translations included the New Testament, 1525-26; Pentateuch, 1530; Jonah, 1531. Tyndale's translation was banned by the authorities, and Tyndale himself was burned at the stake in 1536, at the instigation of agents of Henry VIII and the Anglican Church. His New Testament was the bases for the King James original version completed in 1611 and the 1769 'Authorized Version' of the King James Bible. These translations were from the Greek and Latin versions available at the time.

Any time you translate from one language to another there are words and phrases that take on a new meaning. Examples of changes that occurred during the production of the Old Latin and Vulgate Bible include the designation in the Exodus story of the crossing of the Red Sea instead of the Sea of Reeds as in the Hebrew text. A second mistranslation comes from Isaiah of a “virgin” instead of “young women” who in the Tanakh is already “with child.”

In recent times, in the west, many versions of the bible have been produced all meant to coincide with text we now have found of the earlier versions in Greek and Latin. These versions also coincide more closely with our modern ideas of appropriateness and ideologies. In the Byzantine Empire formed from the Eastern Roman Empire, the official language was Greek and their biblical translations continued to be in Greek that was the original language of the New Testament and the Septuagint. These Greek translations were available to the west after the mid-middle ages.

Thus, we conclude the quick review of the production of the Christian Bibles that we use today. Since the 1950's there have been new discoveries and textual exegesis that have enhanced our knowledge of early Christianities and textual meanings.

Basic Tenets of the Faith

The tenets of the Christian faith are, basically, the Nicene Creed. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea, by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325 CE. Nicene is located in Asia Minor across from Constantinople (Istanbul). This council was called together by the Emperor Constantine to provide a uniform statement of belief for the Christian church. The Nicene Creed has been normative for the Anglican Church, the Church of the East, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations, forming the mainstream definition of Christianity.

The Nicene Creed:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.


 

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