Concept of God; Chapter 2 – Christianity.
Christianity sprang from Judaism. Judaism arose out of the religion of Israel. Judaism regarded the Jews as especially favored by God. They regarded their god, Yahweh, as the God of the universe, the maker and ruler of heaven and earth. Prominent in the Jewish faith were apocalypses and a belief in the Messiah. Inquiries pointed to Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah.
Towards the close of the second century, disasters began to overtake the Roman Empire and society was threatened with progressive disintegration, many turned to religion for the remedy.
Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in a village south of Jerusalem named Bethlehem, during the reign of King Herod the Great. He was brought up in the village of Nazareth. Jesus grew up in a humble family. Jesus was a great lover of nature, liked to be with people, was quick and direct in his observations. As an adult, Jesus was a faithful Jew. He was linked to John the Baptist’s movement and received baptism from him, in the Jordan River.
“At about thirty years of age, Jesus sought solitude and meditated on the issues. After that Jesus began preaching and teaching. Jesus declared that he and the Father are one. He declared that he had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. He believed that the kingdom of God was about to be inaugurated; the kingdom of God meant a society in which God’s will would prevail.”
“Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him to witness his transfiguration. Secluded high on a hill, John saw Jesus temporarily transformed into a glorious, supernatural figure whose “face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” John also witnessed Jesus speaking to Moses and Elijah, both of whom had died centuries before. (Matthew 17:1–3).”
The language of the people, spoken also by Christ and His Apostles, was a dialect of the ancient Hebrew, the Western or Palestinian Aramaic. Jesus though performed many miracles, he always did so to meet a human need, and he avoided any display of his power. His intimates were men from the humble walks of life and he had few friends among the influential. He wrote no book.
The Last Supper;
Jesus had meal with his twelve disciples. It was then that he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying that it was his body, and followed it with the cup, also giving thanks, having them drink from it, declaring that it was his blood of the new covenant. Around this developed the central rite of the Christian Church.
After the Last Supper, Jesus goes out to a garden called Gethsemane and there a crowd led by his own disciple, Judas, comes to arrest him. Jesus is taken before the Sanhedrin, which is the council of chief priests, elders, and scribes and sentenced to death. At the insistence of Jewish leaders and crowd the Roman Prefect, Pontius Pilate orders Jesus to be executed.
Jesus was crucified with the charge “King of the Jews” over his head and his death took three hours. Being Sabbath day, Jesus was placed in the tomb quickly and without the usual preparation of the body. After the Sabbath ends, Mary Magdalene and a few other followers go to the tomb to anoint the body with spices and rewrap it properly in linens. When they arrive at the tomb, they find the stone rolled away from the entrance. They understand that Jesus has risen from the dead. The women report Jesus’s resurrection to the other disciples, and soon others begin reporting encounters with the risen Jesus.
Jesus’s resurrection marks the turning point between the life of Jesus the man and the life of the risen Christ.
Jesus teachings cared for the individual and his concern was for “the lost”. He commanded his disciples not to despise even one of “these little ones.” Almost all of his recorded healings were of individuals.
Jesus’s favorite type of teaching was through parables.
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:15–22).
“He believed that infinite possibilities were available to men if they would take the right way towards attaining them. His works of healing both body and spirit Jesus regarded as demonstrations of God’s power, but he declared that this power was available to others if they would only reach out in faith and claim it. Life would be sheer wonder and joy if men would only enter the door which was there for them, the door into God’s kingdom of light and love. Pain might also be there, but it was not incompatible with the fullness of life. On the other hand, Jesus declared that few find the way to life and that many follow the road which leads to destruction. Perhaps the paradox is insoluble within history.”
The central idea that Jesus taught was to love God, neighbor, and enemy (Mark 12:28–34; Matthew 22:34–40; Luke 10:25–37).
“……After his death, his followers decided that Jesus had been divine. This did not happen immediately. The development of Christian belief in the Incarnation was a gradual, complex process. …..”
“one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…” (Eph. 4:4–6).”
The gathering of the church community in the presence of the Holy Spirit had great importance among the first Christians.
The very believer who stepped out of the baptismal bath was considered pure and holy. At the beginning there was no infant baptism, it started only after the middle of the second century.
“We confess our faith: In the Father, the ruler of the whole world, And in Jesus Christ, our savior, And in the Holy Spirit, the representative advocate, And in the holy church, And in the forgiveness of sins.”
--- (The Epistle of the Apostles 3–5; ca. A.D. 150–180)
After entering the baptismal water, one confesses the Christian faith in the words of his law and declare with their own mouths that they have renounced the Devil, his pomp, and his angels. The one who has become a believer is lead to a place where other believers are assembled. Then bread and a cup containing water mixed with wine are brought. At the end of the prayer and the thanksgiving all the people assembled give their assent, saying, “Amen.” The word “Amen” in Hebrew means “So be it!” When the thanks have been given and all the people have assented, each one present is given some of the bread and wine with water that was accepted with thanksgiving. This meal called Thanksgiving [Eucharist]. No one is allowed to take part in it except he who believes that the teachings are true, who has received the bath for the forgiveness of sins and for the new birth, and who lives according to the teachings handed down by Christ. On Sunday, a meeting in Church (or one place) is organized for all who live in the cities or the country nearby. The memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits. Then all stand up together and send up the prayers. The people give their consent by saying, “Amen” and the distribution (Eucharist) takes place.
The Holy Trinity:
Monotheism is the central belief of Christianity. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one……………….” (Mark 12; 29 – 30)
1. The Father.
God is the source and the creator of all creatures. So He is called the Father of all creatures. “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him” (I Corinthians 8:6).
2. The son
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared (revealed) Him”. (John 1:18)
Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”(John 10:30)
3. The Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit
“God is Spirit” (John 4:222 Cor 3:17).
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit; if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Rom. 8:9)
“For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God”. (I Corinthians 2:10).
Just as water takes three forms (liquid, vapor, and ice), so too God takes the form of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
o The foundation for Christian marriage was purely religious: marriage was seen as a symbol of the relationship of the one God with his one people, the one Christ with his one church.
Bible comes from the Greek word “scroll”, derived from the ancient city of ‘Biblos’ in the present Lebanon. Bible is a collection of works by various authors initially and later on made into a single volume.
Bible starts with Genesis, with the story of Adam and Eve and talks about Noah and his Ark. Later parts contain details about Abraham, Moses, Joshua and the Ten Commandments. History of Israel under different rulers is given. The birth, life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus comes next. The early church details are given after that. The final part is the Book of Revelation.
Book of Revelation;
Revelation contains all the apocalyptic portions.
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what, must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (Revelation 1:1–3).
o Revelation is originally intended for churches and not for general public.
o The scroll had a total of seven seals (Revelation 5:1). As each of the first four seals was opened, a rider on a horse appeared.
o The riders have come to be called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
o First rider on white horse - carries bow-symbol of victory.
o Second rider on red horse - wielding a large sword- symbol of war.
o Third rider on black horse - holding a pair of scales – symbol of famine.
o Fourth rider on pale (green) horse – symbol of death.
o Fifth seal - souls of those slain because of being faithful to God.
o Sixth seal – unleashes natural disasters on the earth.
o Seventh seal – released horses create destruction in the earth.
o God’s seven bowls of final wrath.
o “Satan” means accuser(slanderer) in Hebrew.
o Satan, Antichrist, and false prophet - his name or his number (666).
o Satan will be bound for the thousand years, then released, and then thrown into the “lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.”
o Judgment Day; God sits in a great white throne. All dead, great and small, stand before the throne, and book of life will be opened. The dead will be judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. They will be sent to heaven or hell depending on the merit.
"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” ( Isaiah 41:10 )
1. A History of Christianity - by Kenneth Scott Latourette
2. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim
3. The Early Christians in their own words by Eberhrdarnnold.
4. The Meaning of the Holy Trinity by Fr. Abraam D Sleman.
5. Understanding the Trinity by Jeffrey E. Brower and Michael C. Rea.
6. God is one in the Holy Trinity by Fr. Zakaria Botros.
7. Complete idiots guide to The Book of Revelation by Stan Campbell and James S. Bell Jr.
8. The Historical Jesus For Dummies by Catherine M. Murphy, PhD
9. The Bible for Dummies (Mini Edition) by Jeffrey Geoghegan PhD and Michael Homan PhD.
10. A History of God by Karen Armstrong.