The Early Christians

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When Hollywood takes on a historical story, it often embellishes the history to make things better or worse than they really were. This sensationalism tends to buy more movie tickets; after all, most movie goers want to be entertained, not educated.

 

But Hollywood depicts Ancient Rome, it usually gets this culture right. The Roman Empire was a very corrupt world. Everybody used everybody else.  Everyone—from Emperor to slave—was playing a game to increase his or her own personal advantage. There was little virtue and love in this culture. Nobody did anything out of the goodness of their heart. If there was an act of kindness somewhere, there was usually a favor attached to it somehow.

 

The early Christians broke this culture. From of these early communities, we find love, compassion, helpfulness, trustworthiness, and many more other humanistic virtues. People who could see the corruptness of the Roman and Jewish worlds found the Christian communities a welcome relief from mainstream society. There, they need not play those games to increase advantage. Instead they just enjoyed the positive fellowship of being around positive, caring people. That is what attracted people to join.
 
We can argue how much of Christian theology played in these early Christians. Despite many Christian communities developing a culture of humanity, they were not so united in their theology. There were all sorts of interpretations regarding the nature of man, God, and Jesus. Eventually the Council of Nicea in 325 AD brought theology under one umbrella. The written works that were to constitute the New Testament, original sin, atonement for that sin, the Trinity, and Satan all became standardized at this council or shortly after.

 

This brings us to an important point. Because this version of Christianity was standardized three hundred years after Christ’s death, does this mean that these earlier Christian communities were wrong?

 

If they were so wrong in their theology, then why did Christianity spread as it did?

 

Again, the answer lies in the culture of humanity that these Christians had created—in the midst a mainstream culture that was not very humanistic. Just imagine if all those early Christian teachers had the “correct” theology yet were trying to take all your disposable money, seduce your teenage daughters, and get into fights at the local pub. Without that culture of humanity, this early Faith could not have gone anywhere.

 

Christianity often mentions the Resurrection of Jesus as a cornerstone of its Faith. Maybe this resurrection has been misinterpreted. Maybe it is the resurrection of the people from a corrupt, debilitating way of thinking is what is far more important.

 

Comments

Charles Frankhauser Added Nov 26, 2017 - 11:52am
Interesting points, especially the operative words, "culture of humanity." I published a novel in historical fiction genre with premise that presents the ease of leading the protagonist astray by persons using crime and romance as bait to advance an evil agenda.  
Dino Manalis Added Nov 26, 2017 - 12:31pm
The early Christians were tortured for their beliefs.  Those who miraculously survived spread Christ's message of hope and love.  Merry Christmas!
opher goodwin Added Nov 26, 2017 - 12:42pm
Dave - that is pretty much the same in any idealistic cult. The camaraderie is similar whether it's religious or political.
The success of the spread of Christianity was purely the way Constantine used it to unify Rome at a time when it was disunited with hundreds of Gods. He remained a pagan himself but created a legitimacy for Christianity which raised it from the status of a small cult into a State sponsored religion. It was a political move.
Serendipity is wondrous to behold. 
opher goodwin Added Nov 26, 2017 - 12:43pm
Dino - back then there weren't many people who weren't tortured were there?
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 26, 2017 - 1:19pm
In the Rome of rich land and slave owners, they couldn't let Christians spread the idea as recorded in the Bible 'that no man owned anything, but they owned everything in common.' There was no place for God led Communism even then, when Communism as a word did not exist in the vernacular as yet.
I've imagined Karl Marx sitting in his cold London flat, reading those ideas in the Bible, and extrapolating them into his Communist Manifesto.
 
Teaching in Christ, there is no difference between a Slave owner and a Slave didn't sit well with the Elites of those Days.
 
For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if you be Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3
 
The Jews in Israel Today would take great offence to this, "There is neither Jew nor Greek and And if you be Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
If the US Evangelicals who support Israel without question understood the implications, they would stand up and fight for Palestinian Christians.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 26, 2017 - 1:25pm
I see that in this thread Jews are the evil backdrop against the good Stalinist Jesus shone his light. *g*
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 26, 2017 - 1:45pm
No, we don't discuss the Russian revolution here if you don't mind. You may put out a separate article about that. This is about the early Christians. Dave mentions the 'corruptness' of the Roman and Jewish culture that the Christians found as backdrop in the article. Israel fought the Romans, not just Jesus.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 26, 2017 - 2:16pm
Benjamin, I had to delete my comment to edit it before your reply appeared.
 
I'm the only one citing actual Christian scriptures. Don't smear everyone else here because of me. I don't smear all Jews when I use the legitimate word 'Jew" without any pejorative intent. And I don't see anywhere in my comment suggesting or implying what you see, "Jews are the evil backdrop against the good Stalinist Jesus shone his light. *g*  
OK. so you don't want to discuss the 1917 Communist Revolution even thought you introduced it 1st by your last sentence above.
 
I agree with the Pope. Inside every Christian lives a Jew by the Scripture cited in my 1st comment.
By your reply, I was quite right in the last paragraph.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 26, 2017 - 2:32pm
Ray: I don't even know.....your point. I'm smearing a good deal of Christianity that simplifies the gospel has Jesus coming along with glib speeches and hectoring the Jews.
Now, there is something said that he lived in a culture of decline. But his message was a bit more nuance than it is usually made out to be. The letters between the early Christians reflect the discussion of the community. And it was about the law, morals, and redemption. It was very little about sharing fish. And it was not just reduced to 'be nice'. Though the 'love thy neighbour' bit was eventually focused and supposed to replace the nitty gritty of the halacha. That did not work out. The letters reflect that they were going back and forth about it.
I'm just mocking how this is habitually reduced to 'amids the sinful Jews came the savior who told them to be nice already'. It's so glib.
 
Terri Parke Added Nov 26, 2017 - 8:39pm
I wasn’t initially sure where you were going with this-I appreciate that you state that Christians were viewed as humanistic.  I like to think that being humanistic and caring for others is an essential part of faith.
Dave Volek Added Nov 26, 2017 - 11:58pm
Orpher
 
Historians have identified 30 or so movements around the time of Christ that supposedly had a messiah to lead the Jews somewhere else. Think of the Monty Python's "Life of Brian", the marketplace scene where Brian is escaping the Roman soldiers. Only one of those movements survived. That is significant, especially at the time of Christ's death where he could count his friends on one hand.
 
 
Dave Volek Added Nov 27, 2017 - 12:20am
Benjamen
The Jewish Faith at that time were split into four sects: the Pharisees, the Saducees, the Essenes, and the Zealots.
 
The first two were in cahoots with the Romans politically speaking. The Romans allowed them significant control of Palestine. The P's and S's raised the taxes to send to Rome; the Romans supplied the soldiers to keep the peace. The P's and S's were given the charge to interpret the Torah as they saw it--and created a whole bunch of new laws that were hard to follow--but allowed the priests to punish wrongdoers and get more profits. King Herod belonged to this group. He got filthy rich, collaborating with the P's and Romans. The P's, as the religious watchdogs, got a privileged position in this society--and running rough over their fellow religionists was OK in their holy books.
 
The average Jewish person was living a terrible existence. If he was a free man, he was being taxed horrendously to pay both the Romans taxes and the Jewish temple taxes. If he couldn't pay the taxes, he was given a loan in exchange for indentured servitude, which often turned into direct slavery. Like the rest of the Roman empire, many people were crucified and put on display to show who really was the boss.
 
Jesus was of the Essene sect of Jews, the more spiritually enlightened and mostly pacifist. They were persecuted by both Herod and the Romans if they spoke up too much.
 
The Zealots had a secret mission of overthrow of the Romans (and Herod). Like most insurgent movements, timing is important. They struck in 70 AD, were soundly defeated. As a lesson, the Romans sent the entire Jewish population out of Palestine.
 
So it hard to label all Jews as the same at those times, just as it is now. The same can be said for Christians: there is no standard sect. The same can be said for Muslims: there is no standard sect. Some sects are enlightened; some sects are up to no good.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dave Volek Added Nov 27, 2017 - 12:26am
Terri
 
I like to think that being humanistic and caring for others is an essential part of faith.
 
You are 100% right! "Is" is the operative phrase. If you read my previous comment, the Pharisee sect at the time of Jesus was no where near this "should be". They were spiritually bankrupt, only concerned for their own wealth and power. Just because something is done in the name of religion does not make it right.
 
Jesus was, very tactfully, pointing this out to his growing following. 
 
 
 
 
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 2:08am
The first two were in cahoots...
You are aware that they were the vast majority and led multiple protests that would result in the war against Rome in 66AD and the destruction of the Temple.
 
The Romans allowed them significant control of Palestine.
They were everyone. What does that even mean?
 
Romans supplied the soldiers to keep the peace.
Thank goodness John G is not here, you imperialist  war-monger ;-)
 
bunch of new laws
Name one!
 
the priests to punish wrongdoers and get more profits
How does the priest profit from wrongdoers?
 
The P's, as the religious watchdogs, got a privileged position in this society
How? Did they carry ID card or something?
 
Yes, there was much ado about the tax, but not the temple tax, the real tax. And it was the Romans who enslaved. I could be wrong, but the halakha actually forbids slavery of a fellow Hebrew longer than 2 years. And the 2 years is only to control enemy forces to stop a war. It could be that they broke the halakha, but I would like to see a source here.
 
Jesus was of the Essene sect of Jews
No, I think he was a phariseer. The bible portraits him a bit like he tried to best everybody, but that was really because he was criticized for not focusing to uphold the common halakha, leave alone the essene cult rules. His followers did not even wash their hands before eating.
 
The zealots were no religious group. The war started 66 AD.
 
Mircea Negres Added Nov 27, 2017 - 2:54am
Good article, Dave. There were many reasons for the spread of Christianity. A big one was the notion that one's sins could be forgiven, something of great concern to the multitudes who as you pointed out, did a lot of bad things in the pursuit of advantage, because apparently forgiveness of sins did not feature in pagan cults of the day and people were worried about what awaited them Upstairs.    
opher goodwin Added Nov 27, 2017 - 4:41am
Dave - I don't really find it significant. There were numerous similar Jewish cults around. It was part of the region and times. It is not surprising that one of them survived and the others withered on the vine. How many Messiahs were around at the time?
Christianity gets barely a mention in the chronicles of the times. It was one of many such.
As I said before - serendipity.
If it had not been for Constantine using Christianity to further his political needs it more than likely would have perished like all the others.
Christianity adopted a number of policies that greatly appealed to people - we are all equal - sins could be forgiven and you start with a clean sheet - just believe and you get to heaven - the poor, meek and downtrodden will get pie in the sky - the greedy and selfish will end up in hell. It resonated with those being persecuted.
Religions grow once people start investing in them. Psychologically if you put money, time, effort or sacrifice into a venture you have to commit to it. That is why we have cathedrals, mosques, temples, synagogues and the Sistine Chapel. The bigger and more lavish the more true it all must be. Once the reach a critical mass they engage a psychology that propels them forward.
John Minehan Added Nov 27, 2017 - 7:33am
I think Stoics might disagree emphatically, as might Epicureans.
 
To grossly generalize, Rome had a very conservative culture built around the concepts of order and duty. 
 
You owed certain obligations to your family, your tribe and your state (starting with the City-State of Rome and growing into the Republic and later the Empire of Rome).  You owed certain duties to the gods, starting with the  familial or household gods (Maini) and moving up to the Pantheon (who were, in time, identified with the Greek Gods, Jupiter and Zeus, for example).
 
Roman Religion was not an "ethical religion" per se.  It was somewhat transactional.  You placate the Maini and you will have good fortune.  Rome makes proper offerings to Mars and it will be successful in war.
 
As Rome expanded, it came in contact with other cultures: Greeks; Jews; the various other Semitic peoples in the Levant and North Africa; Parthians and other Iranian People in Asia Minor and the Middle East; Celts and Germans in Northern and Western Europe.
 
Starting with other Italic people in Italy (for example, the Samnites), they had to decide if conquered people could become citizens (the answer, ultimately universally, was "yes"). 
 
Now religion in these other parts of the world was undergoing a Transformation.
 
In the Hellenistic Greek World, contact between Greeks and people to the east had lead to the rise of the Mystery Cults, Eleusinian Mysteries  and the Cult of the Magna Mater dealt with issues of death and resurrection that the Classical religion of the Greeks and Romans did not. (In those faiths, all the dead became shadows of what they had been in life, something like the Hebrew concept of Sheol . 
 
Further, Judaism with its strong foundation in ethics (even though it did not teach a Resurrection of the Dead at this point and remains a religion more concerned with living justly and well in this world than being unduly concerned with the next) also became a potent force in the Hellenistic World the Romans conquered and inherited.
 
Additionally, ethical philosophies, that were not religious per se but gave adherents a guide for their daily lives in human society became widespread, especially among the educated classes.  Stoicism, with emphasis on duty and acceptance of fate became especially popular among the Romans.
 
Roman society was probably pretty far from a den of iniquity.  It was a society that prized order and duty.  However, it was also a society stressed by its own growth and success.    
Billy Roper Added Nov 27, 2017 - 7:56am
Paul's letters to the early Christian churches are instructive. He was a citizen of Rome himself, which saved his rear a few times. But as he traveled, eventually to the city itself, we get a vignette of the small congregation's struggles internally and externally.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 27, 2017 - 10:21am
Benjamin,
"Ray: I don't even know.....your point"
My point in my 1st comment, was to point out the relevance to this article, of the early Christians being killed because of their economic/religious belief in God led Communism, the rich land and slave owners had to stop from spreading, no matter how brutal the means. This fits in with all Christ's admonitions about the rich, US Christian Evangelicals totally dismiss these Days.
 
"has Jesus coming along with glib speeches and hectoring the Jews"
This displays such a vain arrogance on your part as far as I see.
 
"Israel fought the Romans, not just Jesus."
The Historical FACTS are Israel disappeared from among the Nations some 800 years before Jesus walked through Judea and Samaria during the Occupation of Palestine 2000 years ago, until it was re-created from the Bible in 1948. Now it's a Nuclear Power possessing the 'A-bom-i-Nation' of desolation the Bible describes.
 
The Messiah the Jews were expecting 2000 years ago was supposed to be a Military Genius who would defeat the Romans and get them out of Palestine. Jesus did not fit that description, but History confirms it took another 300 years before the Emperor of Rome was replaced by the Pope of Rome in the name of Jesus, exercising the same Imperial Power over the Kings of Europe.
 
"You are aware that they were the vast majority and led multiple protests that would result in the war against Rome in 66AD and the destruction of the Temple."
 
The Priests of the Temple made the Courtyard of the Gentiles a Shopping Mall. They rented stalls to the bankers and merchants to sell their goods with the Priest's Kosher Blessing. You could buy the same merchandise off Temple property at half the price. We know the only Biblical record of Christ turning violent, was when he chased the bankers and merchants out of the Temple.
 
When the Priests demanded where Jesus got the Authority to do that, he answered, 'My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but you have made it a den of thieves..'
Jesus said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
Then the Jews said, 'It took 46 years to build this Temple, and you will rear it up in three days?
But he spoke of the temple of his body.
 
The Bible says 1000 years to God is the same as a Day for a Human. This is the 3rd Day, and the body of Christ is resurrected.
 
"The Romans allowed them significant control of Palestine."
It's called limited Autonomy.
Dave Volek Added Nov 27, 2017 - 10:51am
Opher: Depending on the historian, the Roman chronicles either do not mention Jesus at all or maybe he just made a few citations. Either way, he was not an newsmaker in any way in his day. His movement should have died shortly after his death. I find that very significant. 
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 10:57am
John Minehan:
even though [Judaism] did not teach a Resurrection of the Dead at this point
That's not true. The whole point of the pharisees was that there is a resurrection from the sheol (1 Sam 2,6). Both Jesus and apostle Paul of Tarsus were pharisees. The sheol is called realm of the dead by Christians today. But there is also a Hollywood Christianity without sheol. In movies the soul enters heaven (when he voted Hillary) or goes to hell (when he voted Trump) immediately upon death. In real Christianity the dead have to wait in the sheol until the Day of Judgement when the living and the dead are ushered to heavens (when they voted Trump) or to hell (when they voted Hillary).
 
I leave uncorrected what has no direct connection to early Christianity.
Dave Volek Added Nov 27, 2017 - 11:04am
Benjamen
It's been a while since I read the books and I wish I could cite them for you. But I will paraphrase some of the laws that the Pharisees had set up.
 
1. One could take only so many steps on the Sabbath. Any one caught two far out of their home had obviously broken this law, and was worthy of punishment.
 
2. No food was allowed to be prepared on the Sabbath. So the families had to do all their cooking the day before. Any fires were a sign of breaking the law.
 
3. Not any animal could be sacrificed at the temple. The Pharisees selected the goats or sheep from their herds and somehow sanctified them. Common people could not use their own animals, and had to buy the right animals from the vendors at the temple at a higher price.
 
The average Jewish person was oppressed and downtrodden. The Pharisees were the gatekeepers of the Jewish religion, and got help from the Roman soldiers to enforce their laws. The Pharisees bent the law to their own liking and had no trouble sending Jews who could not pay their tax debts into slavery. Of course, the Pharisees could claim it was the Romans who did the enslaving, but the Pharisees were on the sidelines watching, enjoying their privileged position. King Herod was quite wealthy in a land of very poor people.
 
I doubt it very much Jesus was a Pharisee.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dave Volek Added Nov 27, 2017 - 11:11am
John Mineham
Your comments regarding the Stoics and Epicureans are probably fairly accurate. Rome probably was a conservative society.
 
This does not, however, negate the assertion that the Romans used each other to advance their own personal agenda. Favors were exchanged, paid back, or given in exchange for "future considerations." If one did not play the favors game, one did not advance too far. These players were in the game mostly for themselves, not the society they governed.  
 
The early Christians, on the other hand, were able to express love and compassion and justice. Favors were not part of their culture. People did things because it was the right thing to do and did not expect a return favor. These are two vastly different cultures. It is no wonder some people preferred hanging around Christians than mainstream society.
John Minehan Added Nov 27, 2017 - 11:19am
Jesus had ties to the Pharisees (note the title, "Rabbi" and the fact that he taught in Synagogues).  He also had ties to the Essenes (note his Baptism by John The Baptist).
 
The best analogy for Jesus in recent history might be the Bal Shem Tov at the beginning of the Chassidic movement, especially the Apostles as a kind of "Rabbinic Court.".
Dave Volek Added Nov 27, 2017 - 11:24am
Opher (again)
I just reread your post. More commentary is required.
 
At the time of Constantine, it is estimated that about 10% of the population (slaves included) had become Christians. And after the Council of Nicea, social forces were set in motion to make Christianity "cool", thus more acceptable to the masses. 
 
The question then arises: How did Christianity move from the death of its founder to the point of where 10% of the population accepted this faith?
 
Remember in 325, Christianity had:
1) no unified theology
2) no formal structure beyond the local level
3) no big churches or cathedrals
4) no political influence
 
We cynics could say that these four points are what keeps religion together today, but the early Christians had none of those .
 
The only answer that I can see is that the early Christians were very nice people: they were habitable  islands in an ocean of corruptness.
 
If the early Christians had exhibited the characteristics of the general population and somehow offered "their sins would be forgiven," I doubt this theology would have gained any traction. This early religion would have died a quick death after its founder.
 
 
John Minehan Added Nov 27, 2017 - 11:36am
"That's not true. The whole point of the pharisees was that there is a resurrection from the sheol (target="_blank">1 Sam 2,6)."
 
Which the Sadducees denied, as it was not part of the Torah. It is worth noting that Karaites (who also reject the Oral Law) do believe in the Resurrection of the Dead.   
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 11:37am
Ray: The Christians were not persecuted because they were communists. Nobody cared. It looks like the Essens led a communist lifestyle for religious reasons. There were others, too.
 
The early Christians, however, did probably engage in a tax boycott (give the Emperor what is his - was the reaction of Jesus when questioned about it). The Christians avoided taxes by trading in goods and tit for tat services, eshewing monetary transaction. This is probably the reason why it was harder for rich people to join the movement than for the poorer.This is now misinterpreted by people who use the bible as a projection screen for their own wishful thinking, which is often communist.
 
Ultimately I think before Jesus' death the early Christians were first and foremost a political movement, not a religious one. Jesus defense that he was only a messiah for a heavenly kingdom was not believed by the authorities and he was executed. 
 
Dave: Something with your source is not quite right. The Pharisees where not a class with special rights. It was the group with the most common interpretation of the bible at the time. This entire thing that they were a selected group of gatekeepers is not right. I recognise the law not to cook on shabbes, but I have to check whether this was introduced at the time. The steps thing sounds far fetched. I also doubt that people had to purchase certain animals and could not use their own. Your main claim that Pharisees were a distinct class of people somehow identified and placed in high positions by the Romans to oppress their fellow Jews is most certainly false.
 
Jesus was a Pharisee, but I must admit that it's always Jews who think that. Somehow Christians have so long misinterpreted the Pharisees in the bible that they only can think of them as an evil group. It also needed some people after the middle ages to tell ordinary Christians that Jesus was Jewish. Somehow things were forgotten in the dark ages and to reconstruct the bible is more difficult than one might think.
 
John Minehan: I wouldn't make so much out of the Baptism. John the Baptist was a similar influential leader at the time and the Christians needed a story that their movement was sanctioned by John's. The story when Christ is admonished by some pharisees because his followers don't wash their hands before eating shows that they are less observant of the washing rituals than the general population.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 11:47am
Dave:
The law not to make fire is in the Torah, in Exodus. Not a new law.
 
John Minehan:
Hm... this is now pure logic. You said that the belief did not exist at the time. I showed you that it did. You turn around and say something like "... not every single person". Well, that was not your original statement. Jews believed in the resurrection of the dead and quite many of them.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 11:50am
John Minehan: I misread. You said 'it' did not teach. Yes, that's right. Not everyone taught that.
John Minehan Added Nov 27, 2017 - 11:59am
Samaritans likewise reject the Resurrection as something that came into Judaism after the Babylonian captivity.  Although Rabbinic Jews do not accept Samaritan views, this at least implies that the dispute was fairly widespread before the Common era.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 12:01pm
John: I agree that the dispute was widepread that's why I wrote (a bit simplified) that it was the whole point of being a pharisee.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 12:09pm
Dave:
This early religion would have died a quick death after its founder.
It actually did. Apostle Paul of Tarsus did an amazing organisational job to build all these communities and to organise the missions. He revived it after it was already done with. I agree with Opher that it wasn't a feature of Christianity itself that spread it. But the spreading itself, as Paul did, became a feature of Christianity, making it a religion of debaters and intellectuals. A grain from which later democracies nourished.
With Emperor Constantine Christianity was used as a dictatoral measure. It now has the seeds of both in it, the good and the evil, the free and the totalitarian. I think without Emperor Constantine we wouldn't have developed Nazism or Socialism, but that is speculation.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 27, 2017 - 12:15pm
Benjamin, then our "opinion" of why the early Christians were killed will remain unresolved. It's easy to speculate on what happened 2000 years ago, but Logic and Probability is on my side.
 
"he was criticized for not focusing to uphold the common halakha, leave alone the essene cult rules. His followers did not even wash their hands before eating."  
You leave out the more relevant parts putting your comment in context.
Then the scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem came to Jesus saying
Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they don't wash their hands when they eat bread.
But he answered and said to them, Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? [...]  Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man. [...] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the Law, Judgment, Mercy, and Faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
You blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
You blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like  whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
Wherefore you be witnesses unto yourselves, that you are the children of them which killed the prophets.
                                                     
"Jesus defense that he was only a messiah for a heavenly kingdom was not believed by the authorities and he was executed. "
He was executed for chasing the bankers and merchants out of Temple property, and telling the Priests they turned the Temple into a 'den of thieves.' That was the last straw for the Jewish Authorities in his running skirmishes with the Jewish "religious establishment."
 
 
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 12:20pm
Ray: I'm sure the Romans didn't give a fig about the "bankers" in the temple. He was killed and his followers persecuted because they were perceived as a threat. But that does not match well enough with Karl Marx' writings, I guess.
 
You add nothing of worth to the simple fact that Jesus' followers did not wash their hands before eating. His rant did little but distract.
Dave Volek Added Nov 27, 2017 - 12:22pm
Benjamin
Wikipedia: The first historical mention of the Pharisees and their beliefs comes in the four gospels and the Book of Acts, in which both their meticulous adherence to their interpretation of the Torah
 
Wikipedia is not always right, but this statement lines up with my previous reading. The Pharisees were more interested in the rules than the spirit of Jewish Faith.
 
Wikipedia goes on to say that there was more conflict between the Pharisees and Sadducees than I had previously thought.
 
I've have not encountered the demographic distribution of the sects (and maybe there isn't one). But the Pharisees were on top of the Jewish pecking order in Palestine. In the favor-begets-favor of the Roman culture, the Pharisees probably took care of each other--to the detriment of the other Jewish sects. It's hard to see how the Pharisees ever implemented a fair system.   
 
I can see the Romans giving a Jewish sect with only 10% of the population to run roughshod over the rest of the population.
 
 
 
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 12:31pm
Dave: You must give me some source that says the Romans installed Pharisees over others. There are not many sources outside the bible that talk about them. And the bible does not say what you say. So maybe some other source supports your claim that they had privileges.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 12:34pm
I also guess that the 10% is wrong. They called themself the 'seperatists', but it is likely that they were a large group. As they were the group from which both Christianity and modern Judaism spring.
John Minehan Added Nov 27, 2017 - 12:46pm
Actually, the reason that Christianity spread is that it was a patently ethical religion, like Rabbinic Judaism, but was far simpler to follow for an average person. 
 
Now many people around the beginning of the Common Era had become "G-d-Fearers," gentiles who followed the Noahide Laws, but Christianity put them more at the center of the faith than being G-d-fearers did.  I suspect that many of the "Jews" who heard the Apostles speaking in tongues on Pentecost where actually G-d-Fearers.  This gave Christians a built-in audience.
 
Despite the fact that Christianity and Judaism are very separate religions, Christians were seen as a group within Judaism as late as  Bar Kokhba's revolt in 130 CE.  I suspect the G-d Fearers had prevented the clean break prior.  (As a matter of marketing, this might be why Paul was so adamant that new Christians not undergo full conversion to Judaism, as James the Just and Peter advocated, G-d-Fearers did not have to and that was the target market he was aiming at.)
 
Finally, the idea of the Incarnation and the redemptive sacrifice of a god or goddess was common in mystery cults like that of the Magna Mater.  those elements of Christianity had cultural relevance to people coming from a Pagan background, especially initiates of Mystery Cults.
 
Additionally, Paul a former Rabbi and a Hellenized Jew from Tarsus in Asia Minor was also able to clothe his preaching in somewhat philosophical terms.  Later Christians, like Augustine of Hippo, sometimes came from backgrounds as students of philosophers, in Augustine's case Neo-Platonists.
 
Finally, many potentially competitive value systems (Stoicism or Mithraism) were either too complex for the average person or oriented to particular sub-cultures (Mithraism to the Roman Army, where you were [literally] washed in the blood of a bull, no lamb for them). 
 
The fact that Christianity was more welcoming to women than other faiths like Mithraism or philosophies like Stoicism was also an advantage.  Many of the adherents of the Mystery Cults had been women and Christianity was more attractive to this demographic than competing brands.         
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 12:56pm
Yes, the attempt to simplify the law was somehow appealing. But in itself it is not enough. Although we cannot always lay a finger on it, people around were also ethical.
I think it was really the organisation of the missions and community by Saint Paul that established it. The one thing that made it different from Judaism was really that people could join easily and were even invited.
 
The fact that Christianity was more welcoming to women than other faiths like Mithraism or philosophies like Stoicism was also an advantage. 
I can't speak much about the Mithrais and Stoics, but I think the better treatment of women is a myth. Roman women were quite emancipated. Christians didn't really have an edge, did they?
John Minehan Added Nov 27, 2017 - 12:58pm
"You must give me some source that says the Romans installed Pharisees over others."
It is the opposite. 
 
The Romans were allied with the Herodian Dynasty, who were aligned with the Sadducees.
 
Rabbinic Judaism was seen as a novelty, an innovation rooted in the Babylonian captivity.  It was largely tolerated by the Romans, except for the Zealots and  Sicarii among them. 
opher goodwin Added Nov 27, 2017 - 1:12pm
Dave - they might well have been very nice guys - certainly the message was what was wanted. Being a persecuted minority pulls people together - bonded in brother/sisterhood.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 27, 2017 - 1:17pm
Benjamin, Ray: I'm sure the Romans didn't give a fig about the "bankers" in the temple. He was killed and his followers persecuted because they were perceived as a threat.
 
I totally agree with you on that, but it is a distraction from the record of Christ being a threat to the Jewish religious establishment, not to the Romans.
John Minehan Added Nov 27, 2017 - 1:27pm
"The fact that Christianity was more welcoming to women than other faiths like Mithraism or philosophies like Stoicism was also an advantage. 
I can't speak much about the Mithrais and Stoics, but I think the better treatment of women is a myth. Roman women were quite emancipated. Christians didn't really have an edge, did they?"
 
Over the Stoics and Mithraism, which were the main rivals after the 3d century, very much.  Mithraism was an essentially military faith.  The Mystery cults that were more "woman-friendly" were in decline, perhaps because of Elagabalus and the association with the Severan Dynasty.
 
The question of the emancipation of Roman women is best answered with "it depends." 
 
Out in the Empire at large, they probably faired no better than women in any pre-modern society . . . and that is one place the Christians drew converts.  In the larger cities, they had more rights as the Roman idea of Pater Familius  (a head of a household having the power of life and death over his household) faded in importance.  But even here Christians benefited from powerful patrons like Helena, the mother of Constantine, who was a Christian and who was canonized ultimately. 
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 1:40pm
John: That is too vague for me. The Roman woman had traditionally a strong standing. Rome had the monogamy for quite some time, based on the consensus of both, which strengthened her position and deeply ingrained it into the culture. She had the legal right make her own contracts and to run her own businesses.
 
Christian women might have had an edge over some Persians or women in some other places (maybe Egypt), but I wouldn't swear on it. Saint Paul also put the man on top of the family. I also doubt that Roman had the power over life and death of their wives. If his in-laws, particularly his mother in law, comes for a visit, he better be scared *g*.
 
Ray:
I totally agree with you on that, but it is a distraction from the record of Christ being a threat to the Jewish religious establishment, not to the Romans.
Hogwash
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 27, 2017 - 2:00pm
John, Jesus was much more liberal toward women than the Jewish Culture was 2000 years ago.
 
The record is clear on this:
There came a woman of Samaria (Palestinian?) to draw water: Jesus said to her, Give me to drink.

Then the woman of Samaria said to him, How is it that you, being a Jew, asks drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. (so it is to this very Day) [...]
Jesus saith to her, Go, call your husband, and come here.
The woman answered and said, I have no husband.
Jesus said to her, You have well said, I have no husband:
For you have had five husbands; and he whom you now have is not your husband: in that you said truly. (she would have been considered a woman of low moral character in the culture of that Time)
 
The woman said to him, Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
 
Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and you say, (the Jews) that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
 
Jesus said to her, Woman, believe me, the hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him.
 
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
 
Additionally, when Christ resurrected from the Dead, he appeared to the Women before he appeared to his male disciples. It's one line in the whole Book, but it speaks volumes and is confirmed by Paul with these words and ideas, 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, (Gentile) there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if you be Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 27, 2017 - 2:04pm
Benjamin, easy for you to say hogwash, but you're wrong. No use quoting from the record for you. You're in total denial!
John Minehan Added Nov 27, 2017 - 2:08pm
Roman family . . . .
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 2:10pm
Yes, Ray, the Arab woman with her fifth husband, denying the existance of her current one to get Jesus laid would be considered a slut by Jews. Wrap her in a burka and send her back to Saudi Arabia!
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 2:29pm
John Minhan:
Wikipedia says,
[A]s early as the 5th century BCE, Roman women could own land, write their own wills, and appear in court.
That is also how I remember it. And I assume her standing improved over the centuries. The question really is if the Christians were more emancipated and I doubt that.
John Minehan Added Nov 27, 2017 - 2:37pm
"[A]s early as the 5th century BCE, Roman women could own land, write their own wills, and appear in court.
That is also how I remember it. And I assume her standing improved over the centuries. The question really is if the Christians were more emancipated and I doubt that."
 
Please read the rest of whet you cite, this was an exception, rather than the rule.  
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 2:46pm
Minehan: Sorry, I don't know what you mean. I read your PBS text from top to bottom and I absolutely think that a Roman woman had more power than a Christian woman elsewhere (let's say in Egypt). I don't see how Christianity gave more power to women. Rather to the contrary, I think the strong standing of the Roman woman was declining when Christianity became prevalent in Rome. But I could be wrong of course.
Dave Volek Added Nov 27, 2017 - 3:42pm
Benjamin
 
I can't recall the standing of women in the Roman Republic, but I don't think the two genders were all that equal in the eyes of the Roman Empire.
 
The early Christian church (or many communities of this emerging faith) had a lot of women as its leaders. Christianity was a place where women utilize their intellect and resources. The Council of Nicea changed Christianity to male-dominated top-down approach to governance. 
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 3:51pm
Dave: This is highly contested. The early church probably had women missionaries, but I don't recall that they had high positions in the communities or in daily lives. Now, remember that most early Christians were also Jewish. Of course, a Jewish woman has a strong power, often being the bread winner of the family. But the faith itself did not lean to it. Apostle Paul, who was both Jewish and Greek, was very patriarchal (like the Greek). If I remember right he did not alot women a high position. Rather the opposite. The man be the head of the woman and the Lord be the head of the man. Something like that. He is also quoted as having said 'in ecclesia mulier taceat', i.e. in church (which was the gathering then) a woman has to stay silent.
I really think the standing of a Christian woman was based on the overall culture into which Christianity spread.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 3:56pm
I mean, church was the informal gathering. In public whenever Christians meet, a woman has to be silent - said St Paul.
Dave Volek Added Nov 27, 2017 - 4:10pm
Benjamin
 
The first two centuries of Christianity did not have much a Bible to guide them. Much of the knowledge was passed down orally. There were various books and papers being moved around and cited, and some of them eventually became part of the new testament. But there was no uniform code to which all Christians agreed to abide by--like there is today.
 
Christian communities did not develop on similar paths. Some allowed women a high role; others did not. Some communities created an electoral system where the members elected the presbyters, and the presbyters elected their bishop, who did the day-to-day duties to run the church. From my understanding of Philip Schaffer's work of Christian history, more than a few women were bishops. 
 
Regardless of the exact social structure, if the early Christians were not nice people--and only mirrored the society around them--Christianity would have quickly died out.
 
 
 
 
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 27, 2017 - 4:20pm
Let's set the record straight. When Christ Jesus walked through occupied Judea and Samaria, he was a Jew preaching to Jews. Christians, as a new Sect of Judaism, did not exist yet.
Dave Volek Added Nov 27, 2017 - 4:25pm
Ray
Christ being a threat to the Jewish religious establishment, not to the Romans.  
 
I have to agree. If the Pharisees and King Herod were not able to keep the peace in Palestine, the Romans were ready with a Plan B, which they did enact a few decades later.
 
Sorry, I'm not able to connect with your Samaritan story. I can't recall reading about it. And there seems to be a lot of euphemisms, which can be subject to interpretation.
 
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 27, 2017 - 4:36pm
'Yes, Ray, the Arab woman with her fifth husband, denying the existance of her current one to get Jesus laid would be considered a slut by Jews. Wrap her in a burka and send her back to Saudi Arabia!'
 
There was no Saudi Arabia 2000 years ago and most probably no burkas since the story predated Mohammad.Saudi Arabia came into existence only in 1930.
 
Your arrogance is showing again! You've morphed into a new John G!
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 27, 2017 - 4:43pm
Dave, the Samaritan Woman at the well record comes from John 4. If you can't connect, tell me your difficulty, and I'll try to make it simpler for you.
Dave Volek Added Nov 27, 2017 - 4:52pm
Ray
That explains it! Reading John is too weird for me, hard to see how all the dots are connected. Much different flavor than Mark, Matthew, and Luke.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 5:08pm
Dave:
Regardless of the exact social structure, if the early Christians were not nice people--and only mirrored the society around them--Christianity would have quickly died out.
It just makes no sense. Do you know how many weird cults lived long no matter if people were nice or not. If it wasn't for the internet, Scientology would spread like wildfire as they did before the internet became popular in the 90s. There is no correlation between being nice and being successful as a cult.
 
Christ being a threat to the Jewish religious establishment, not to the Romans.  
I have to agree.

Did you mean 'disagree'?
 
Ray:
There was no Saudi Arabia 2000 years ago.
You are a true leftist. No humor whatsoever.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Nov 27, 2017 - 5:12pm
Benjamin, there was nothing funny in your comment.
 
Yes, Dave, John is much more Spiritual than the others.
The last line in his Gospel confirms that, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen."
 
Don't jump to conclusions!
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 5:29pm
Dave: I also found the Gospel of John somehow daft. In Ray's interpretation the girl is a Palestinian, but not an immigrant from Saudi Arabia.
 
BTW Palestinia is the Roman name for the occupied area, which is now Israel. It is derived from the name Phoenicia which was an important tribe in the mediterranean area.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Nov 27, 2017 - 5:34pm
Ray, before I forget it, you also come across as arrogant.
Dave Volek Added Nov 27, 2017 - 6:01pm
Benjamin
 
Jesus said you will know a good true by the fruit it bears. I--and much of the rest of the world--are not seeing much good fruit from Scientology. I suspect this "religion" is dieing a slow death.
 
Ray
I can't recall the last quote you put up, but if it from John, I either missed it or it did not register as a memory in my brain cells. Jesus probably had lots of encounters in his three years that did not make into the four gospels. Maybe there are things in the "lost gospels".
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dr. Rupert Green Added Nov 27, 2017 - 7:35pm
"
Eventually the Council of Nicea in 325 AD brought theology under one umbrella. The written works that were to constitute the New Testament, original sin, atonement for that sin, the Trinity, and Satan all became standardized at this council or shortly after.
 
This brings us to an important point. Because this version of Christianity was standardized three hundred years after Christ’s death, does this mean that these earlier Christian communities were wrong?"
Was that where they decided than many other biblical texts must be excluded?
Very informative about the mysteries of the Bible.
denver l mason Added Nov 30, 2017 - 2:39pm
I find it interesting that everyone is seeking some outside source for truth. The bible explains that God's law is written in everyone's heart. Thus one has to seek no further than there own heart for what is righteous or sin. I don't know what happened before I was born, but I can know what is in my own heart and truthfully what is in my own heart is all I can hope to be an expert in. lol
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 1, 2017 - 6:24am
Dave -  Your conclusion encapsulates what I believe Christianity was intended to teach us.  What we see as Christianity today should more properly be referred to as Christendom, or the secularized construct of a church organized as a political entity. And for this we can thank the Romans. Christianity in the western world is little about spirituality and more about the perpetuation of the Roman way of doing things.
Dr. Rupert Green Added Dec 1, 2017 - 6:26am
The target="_blank">negative confession informed Christianity 3000 years before Christ.   target="_blank">Religion.
Edward Miessner Added Dec 11, 2017 - 6:32pm
Good points, Dave. Apologies for being late to the party.
 
It certainly explains the decline of Christianity in the West and even the United States (2014 Pew SurveyEvangelical Christianity has declined noticeably after this survey was made, and apparently it's moralizing over abortion and homosexuality, while not looking after its own house seems to be a major cause.  People may like conservative religion but they don't like it when it's run by hypocrites. 
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Dec 11, 2017 - 7:34pm
Edward, the decline of Christianity is prophesied in the Bible
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, (the coming of the Lord) except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
2 Thessalonians 3
Edward Miessner Added Dec 12, 2017 - 5:46pm
Ray Joseph,
 
When I was younger, I was led to believe by the US Evangelicals that the Common Market was the resurrected Roman Empire (Beast of Rev 13) in seed and it would soon fully manifest as a full-blown, world-ruling authoritarian state. Nothing ever happened of the sort. And who's the full-blown, world-ruling authoritarian state now? My country, dammit!
 
And who is the man of sin? Revelation originally identified him as Nero Caesar. So anyone who was thought to be Nero redivvivus was considered the man of sin. Recently (some) US Evangelicals thought it was Obama! Well he stepped down into retirement except to rake in the dough making pretty speeches, and of the duo in the White House now, the Orange Crassus is very Nero-like and his understudy is very pious and preachy.
 
My apologies for saying this, but I really thing the Book of Revelation is being fulfilled as farce!
Edward Miessner Added Dec 12, 2017 - 5:47pm
...I really think the Book of revelation...
 
Where's the comment edit key??? >:^(

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