Categories

Christian History

The development and sale of an idea

There is no doubt that Christianity evolved out of Judaism and that Jesus was a Jew. In the years following his death, there were many sects of Christ's followers who hearkened to elements of his teaching and attempted to follow his advice.

Before then the Jews renamed the Hindu Idea of God Brahma so we get the one and only creator. 

These groups or followers of Christ which eventually became known as Christians remained a thorn in the side of the establishment, but they soon spread despite a great deal of persecution.

Jesus had shared some great teachings providing new values for a peaceful and purposeful life which the authorities appreciated, after all at the time there were a great many gods which differed between regions of the  empire.

THE EVOLUTION OF CATHOLIC CHRISTIANITY. 1900

Of the actual history of The Canon, the first half of the first century we have no knowledge. Of the history of the next hundred years also we have for the most part to rely on conjecture. The now universally received canonical account was a selection from a mass of tradition and legend; it is only in the second half of the second century that the idea of a Canon of the New Testament makes its appearance, and is gradually developed by the Church of Rome and the Western Fathers. The early Alexandrian theologians, such as Clement, are still ignorant of a precise Canon. Following on the lines of the earliest apologists of a special view of Christianity, such as Justin, and using this evolving Canon as the sole test of orthodoxy, Irenæus, Tertullian and Hippolytus, supported by the Roman Church, lay the foundations of "catholicity," and begin to raise the first courses of that enormous edifice of dogma which is to-day regarded as the only authentic view of the Church of Christ.

Background on the 1st Council of Nicaea

The first two centuries, however, instead of confirming the boast of the later orthodox, "one church, one faith, always and everywhere," on the contrary present us with the picture of many lines of evolution of belief, practice, and organisation. The struggle for life was being fiercely waged, and though the "survival of the fittest" resulted as usual, there were frequent crises in which the final "fittest" is hardly discernible and at times disappears from view.

The Gospels.

The view of the Christian origins which eventually became the orthodox tradition based itself mainly upon Gospel-documents composed, in all probability, some time in the reign of Hadrian (A.D. 117-138). The skeleton of three of these Gospels was presumably a collection of Sayings and a narrative of Doings in the form of an ideal life, a sketch composed by one of the "Apostles" of the inner communities and designed for public circulation. Round this nucleus the compilers of the three documents wove other matter selected from a vast mass of myth, legend, and tradition; they were evidently men of great piety, and their selection of material produced narratives of great dignity, and cast aside much in circulation that was foolish and fantastic, the remains of which we have still preserved in some of the apocryphal Gospels. The writer of the fourth document was a natural mystic who adorned his account with a beauty of conception and a charm of feeling that reflect the highest inspiration.

At the same time the canonical selection most fortunately preserved for us documents of far greater historic value. In the Letters of Paul, the majority of which are in the main, I believe, authentic, we have the earliest The Letters of Paul. historic records of Christianity which we possess. The Pauline Letters date back to the middle of the first century, and are the true point of departure for any really historic research into the origins. On reading these Letters it is almost impossible to persuade ourselves that Paul was acquainted with the statements of the later historicized account of the four canonical Gospels; all his conceptions breathe a totally different atmosphere.

Instead of preaching the Jesus of the historicized Gospels, he preaches the doctrine of the mystic Christ. He not only seems to be ignorant of the Doings but even of the Sayings in any form known to us; nevertheless it is almost certain that some collection of Sayings must have existed and been used by the followers of the public teaching in his time. Though innumerable opportunities occur in his writings for reference to the canonical Sayings and Doings, whereby the power of his exhortations would have been enormously increased, he abstains from making any. On the other hand, we find his Letters replete with conceptions and technical terms which receive no explanation in the traditions of General Christianity, but are fundamental with the handers-on of the Gnosis.

The picture which the letters of Paul give us of the actual state of affairs in the middle of the first century is that of an independent propagandist, with his own illumination, in contact with the ideas of an inner school on the one hand, and with outer communities of various kinds on the other. Whatever the inner schools may have been, the outer communities among which Paul laboured were Jewish, synagogues of the orthodox Jews, synagogues of the outer communities of the Essenes, communities which had received some tradition of the public teaching of Jesus as well, and understood or misunderstood it as the case may have been.

Religions would have us believe and obey,
yet the teachings ascribed to Jesus ask us to
live by his example, be peaceful and heal the sick.

The Gentilisation of Christianity.

Paul's mission was to break down Jewish exclusiveness and pioneer the way for the gentilization of Christianity. The century which followed this propaganda of Paul (50-150) is, according to Harnack, characterised by the following features:

(i) The rapid disappearance of Jewish (that is to say, primitive and original) [popular] Christianity.
(ii) Every member of the community was supposed to have received the "Spirit of God"; the teaching was "charismatic," that is to say, of the nature of "spiritual gifts."
(iii) The expectation of the approaching end of the age, and the reign of Christ on earth for a thousand years--"chiliasm"--was in universal favour.
(iv) Christianity was a mode of life, not a dogma.
(v) There were no fixed doctrinal forms, and accordingly the greatest freedom in Christian preaching.
(vi) The Sayings of the Lord and the Old Testament were not as yet absolute authorities; the "Spirit" could set them aside.
(vii) There was no fixed political union of the Churches; each community was independent.
(viii) This period gave rise to "a quite unique literature, in which were manufactured facts for the past and for the future, and which did not submit to the usual literary rules and forms, but came forward with the loftiest pretensions."
(ix) Particular sayings and arguments of assumed "Apostolic Teachers" were brought forward as being of great authority.

At the same time, besides this gentilizing tendency, which was always really subordinated to the Jewish original impulse, though flattering itself that it had entirely shaken off the fetters of the "circumcision," there was a truly universalizing tendency at work in the background; and it is this endeavour to universalize Christianity which is the grand inspiration underlying the best of the Gnostic efforts we have to review. But this universalizing does not belong to the line of the origins along which General Christianity subsequently traced its descent.
~ Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, by G.R.S. Mead]

The persecutions ended for a short time after Roman Emperor Constantine the Great converted to Christianity following his victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 and he made Christianity the state religion in order to consolidate power over the empire.

It is debated whether or not Constantine was actually a believer (according to his confessions and understanding of the faith) or just someone trying to use the church and the faith to his own advantage.

Constantine called the first general council of the Christian church in Nicea Turkey in 325 A.D. and it was here that the 318 learned Christian (referred to as) bishops decided the shape of Christianity which was the  beginning of the Catholic Church or church of Rome.

The most important point to note here is that the church was to now be the intermediary between God and the people, as well as the interpreter of the will and word of God. Now only the priests and agents of the church could legitimately communicate directly with God and for the people to access God and have their prayers heard and answered, they had to pay the  priest.

In the year 367 the books of the New Testament we arranged in exactly the  number and order in which we presently have them by Athanasius, Bishop of  Alexandria.

Creating History

There is continuing debate and some consensus that the books containing  the worlds history and thought and in particular the Zoroastrian religion and Sanatana Dharma served as a model on which to build the modern Christianity and that the instigators of modern Christianity made good use of the great libraries of Alexandria to study the past and formulate the new religion.

The prominent historic view attempts to discount this theory however researchers have established that it is highly unlikely that all the great  libraries of Alexandria were burned in 48 BC as claimed and it is possible they has access to the great library at Nalanda which was said to have been greater than Alexandria.

It is far more likely that the Christian Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria destroyed the books if not the libraries themselves in 391 on the orders of Emperor Theodosius who certainly wanted the rid the world of pagan ideas and very likely also wanted to eliminate the details surrounding the formulation of the new Christianity and any remaining  books were likely destroyed after the Muslim conquest in AD 642.

Second Council of Nicea and the Seventh Ecumenical Council. It concluded  that icons were worthy of veneration but not worship, and restored their use.

Christianity was now well established and spreading and the only word of God was that sanctioned by the Catholic church and although emperors rose and fell, and even Christians were persecuted under different rulers, Christianity spread under the power and influence of Rome.

The biggest threat to the new religion came with the advent of Islam (meaning submit) which soon after its inception, spread into Eastern Europe, North Africa  and Southern Spain. Islamic rule is often reported as more tolerant than Christian rule and did not require conversion to Islam, however it was a case of convert, pay exorbitant taxes or die.

The Catholic church remained dominant throughout the Roman empire and after its demise as the armies of Rome fell back from the provinces of Europe Christianity remained.

The church was rich and powerful owning a large portion of the now Italian Peninsula, (the papal States). As the accepted intermediary between God and the people, the church must have seemed invincible. It made a huge  fortune from its services which largely consisted of ecclesiastic malpractice, the teaching and the sale of indulgences, and simony, the  selling and buying of clerical offices.

Martin Luther

Martin's criticism of the church made him an enemy of the church although he was simply stating the obvious. He saw fist hand how corrupt the church was, particularly the administration; the pope and hierarchy who were into every kind of debauchery. Martin Luther describes the licentiousness of a Vatican party he attended where after the main meal, wine and drunkenness, a large cake was bought in from which emerged about 20 naked boys for the pleasure of all gathered.

In pointing out the obvious, Marin Luther was hailed as a hero and thus began the reformation and a division within Christianity resulting in Protestantism and the pantheon of Christian sects we see today.

The Catholic church however fought back with the persecution of non Catholics known as the inquisition which was to last for hundreds of years and claim the lives of many thousands of not only those the church inquisitor considered pagan, but even those considered not very good Catholics.

"Religion keeps the poor from murdering the rich." ~ Napoleon

Final Reformation

The papal States were ruled by popes from 754 until 1870. These were originally given to the papacy by Pepin the Short and reached their  greatest extent in 1859, however the emperor Napoleon ended this tenure  and the church retreated to the Vatican , the last papal state which was  formally established as a separate state by the Lateran Treaty of 1929.

Since then the divisions of the Christian church have charted independent courses with different interpretations of the bible and Christian history and providing services to the people and governments to justify their existence.

With the rise of democracy, the people now have greater freedom to compare religions and systems of belief and the church is perhaps reaping its own karma as atheism grows and the differences of faith and ideas are still the cause of  most of the worlds conflict.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Leave a Reply