Early Christianity and the Church

Early Christianity and the Church - Early Christianity and...

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Early Christianity and the Church For the historian, insurmountable difficulties surround Jesus himself. Too little information about the actual man in his day can be verified and too many people care about the interpretation of Christ's life and teaching, a situation which leaves historians with no real hope for achieving consensus. The gospels themselves only exacerbate the problem, since they entail numerous difficulties starting with the very language in which they were published. For all practical purposes, then, Christianity enters history with the appearance of Saint Paul whose writings are the earliest datable Christian documents. In the next three centuries, as the new religion slowly spread across the Roman world, it becomes easier and easier to track its development up to its consummate political triumph, Constantine's conversion in the early fourth century. Research on the evolution of early Christianity and the complex path it followed up to its eventual domination of the West has uncovered an unparalleled wealth of diverse perspectives on Christ, many of which were branded heresies and subsequently disappeared from the historical record. But now archaeology has brought to light several of the texts composed by authors later denounced as subversives. These so-called Gnostic Gospels demonstrate the immense creativity of early Christians and the rich abundance of possibilities inherent within the religion itself. People, Places, Events and Terms To Know: Jesus Christ Gospels Apostles Tacitus Josephus Diaspora New Testament Greek Aramaic Paul (Saul of Tarsus) Stoicism Persecutions Diocletian Constantine Constantinople In Hoc Signo Vince Edict of Milan Pagans ( Paganus ) Orthodox(y) Heresy Gnostics Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels Nag Hammadi Theodotus Gospel of Mary Arius Arianism Athanasius Council of Nicaea Nicene Creed Sacraments Bishop(s) See Papa Apostolic Succession Patriarch I. Introduction: Jesus and History Hard archaeology is quite marginal to the continuing power of the biblical tradition . . . Archaeology's most important role in the exploration of the emergence of Christianity is not as a fact-checker but as a context-giver—helping us understand what was happening all over ancient Judea during the lifetimes of Jesus and his followers. (Neil Asher Silberman, Archaeology , 2005) At the very heart of Christianity lies the life of Jesus Christ , which from nearly every perspective imaginable involves complications of some sort. Believers can choose to focus
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on Christ's human suffering or divine transcendence, theologians are left to debate the specific details of his resurrection and, without any contemporary portrait to go by, artists have little or no guidance in depicting him. Most problematical of all, an array of accounts now known as the Gospels , which have been ascribed to various disciples connected to him, present different and sometimes incompatible recollections of his teachings. But of all
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