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The World And The Identity Of The Church
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The World And The Identity Of The Church


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Slides for Jon Kohler's Amarillo College Bible Chair SW World Religions Class, Spring 2010.

Slides for Jon Kohler's Amarillo College Bible Chair SW World Religions Class, Spring 2010.

Published in: Education, Spiritual

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  • 1. “ The World and the identity of the earliest Church”
  • 2. The Roman Empire:
    • Rome was the dominant military and political power in the first century A.D. Rome allowed local autonomy for the most part, letting native governors rule foreign lands.
    • Roman legions were used to help maintain the peace of Rome. PAX ROMANA
  • 3.
    • Macedonia was conquered in 168 B.C.
    • Achaia (where Corinth is located) was conquered in 146 B.C.
    • Asia (Ephesus was the capital) was conquered in 133 B.C.
    • Pompey took Syria in 66 B.C. (This included the lands of Galilee and Judea). The capital was Antioch.
    • Julius Caesar almost united Rome in 4 B.C.
    • Octavian (Caesar Augustus) rose out of the political climate to be the emperor when Jesus was born (Lk 2:1)
    • Tiberius (A.d. 14-37) took the reigns next.
    • Gaius (Caligula A.D. 37-41) played a major role in the early church period.
    • Claudius was Caligula’s uncle who evicted the Jews from Rome (A.D. 49)
    • Nero (A.D. 54-68)
    • Domitian (A.D. 81-96)
  • 4. “ Historians have long observed that conditions in the first century were just right for the spread of Christianity. There was relative peace, a common language (Greek), some level of social order enabling safe travel, and an increasing network of roads and sea routes.”
  • 5. Hellenistic (Greek) Civilization:
    • Rome was dominated by the influences of Greek culture…due mainly to the exploits of Alexander the Great and the spread of Greek culture.
    • Greco-Roman world.
    • Because Greek was the trade language, the early Christians could speak their message anywhere in the world and be understood.
    • Hellenization brought big city life as well as religious syncretism (the mixing of religious systems).
  • 6. Religions and Philosophies
    • Philosophy was intertwined with religion in antiquity.
    • The major philosophers of the 4 th and 5 th centuries B.C. (Socrates and Plato) passed on some of their thought.
    • Plato is most notable for dualism (matter / spirit).
    • Plato’s cave was an allegory that suggested salvation was the escape from the material world.
    • Sin was ignorance.
    • Salvation was disembodied immortality.
    • The Sophists preserved the thought of Socrates but focused on style of rhetoric rather than substance.
  • 7. Philosophy
    • Focused on human rationality, experience, will or a combination of all.
  • 8. Stoicism
    • Zeno was the original stoic (3 rd century B.C.)
    • They were pantheistic (God is everything) or panentheistic (God is a part of everything).
    • Most famous 1 st century stoic is Seneca (Nero’s tutor)
    • Stressed fate. The world is beyond our control, and therefore the individual must forsake the excess of pleasure and sorrow to navigate the world successfully.
      • Stoics are unmoved by emotion…they operate by a sense of determinism. Everything is already determined you just have to live in the light of this preconceived rut.
      • There is no good or evil only cosmic logic
      • This is very close to Deism…which left its adherents empty and wanting for a personal relationship with God.
  • 9. Epicureanism
    • Epicurus taught in Athens and founded the rival school against Zeno
    • Taught that god(s) were distant from the world.
    • Believed in the material world and that everything is made up of tiny particles.
    • gods existed but were unknowable
    • Key to life was to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.
    • “ Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!”
    • Not necessarily Hedonistic
  • 10. Cynicism: gloried in radical freedom of speech and act.
    • Antisthenes (4 th century B.C.)
    • First person to be labeled as a cynic was Diogenes because he was unkempt like a wild dog.
    • gloried in radical freedom of speech and act.
    • Deliberately violated social conviction (public defecation and sex, wore filthy clothes, spoke with abusive language)
    • They ridiculed those who conformed to accepted social standards, which they reviled.
    • Relied on begging to survive
  • 11. Skepticism:
    • knowledge grew out of experience alone, that all experience is unique to individuals, and therefore no truth is binding on all persons.
    • Morality was living in conformity to the accepted norms of society.
    • Agnostics of the ancient world
  • 12. Neo-Pythagoreanism
    • Named after 6 th century B.C. mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras.
    • Communal groups that focused on mathematics, mysticism, numerology, vegetarianism, and reincarnation.
    • Emphasized harmony and the discover of the divine within a person.
  • 13. Mystery religions
    • Sought to bring the initiate into contact with the god or goddess of the cult.
    • Promised conscious eternal life with a particular god.
    • Membership was only given to those who had gone through the initiatory rites.
    • Strong internal leadership characterized these groups.
    • e.g. the worship of Dionysus often consisted of drunken orgies.
  • 14. Magic
    • Had to do with the manipulation of a god or the gods into doing what a person wants by means of incantations, spells, formulas and other techniques.
    • Similar to the occult today.
  • 15. Gnosticism
    • Platonic dualism
    • Material world is inherently evil / spirit was good.
    • Hedonism: indulge in the body
    • Asceticism: deny the body satisfactions
    • Salvation meant the soul escaping the body by means of secret knowledge.
    • Layers of deities in the heavens.
    • The world was created by a flawed aeon
    • Primary sources are the “Nag Hammadi Library” (gospel of mary, gospel of thomas)
    • Mainly a 2 nd century A.D. teaching.
  • 16. Emperor Worship
    • Julius Caesar was the first to be deified by his Son Augustus after Julius’ death (27 B.C.).
    • Augustus’ son Tiberius also deified Augustus upon his death (A.D. 14).
    • Gaius Caligula (A.D. 37-41) sought acclamation as a god.
    • Nero (A.D. 54-68) sought the worship of himself close to the end his life.
    • Domitian (mid 90s) tried to establish himself as a god on a large scale. Calling himself “lord and God.”
  • 17. Christianity held these philosophies in check by saying that there was a norm and standard to life, and that was modeled by the life of Christ. Freedom is only found in Christ not in experiential self-expression; furthermore, truth is rooted in God’s creative mastery over the universe.
  • 18. The Early Christians: New People in Christ.
    • Pentecost (Acts 2) Three thousand were converted. Christians spread all over the world due to this event.
    • At first Christians stayed close to Jerusalem.
    • Problem arose when looking at Christianity apart from Judaism…what do we do with the long-held Jewish customs…circumcision
    • Jerusalem council (A.D. 49) Acts 15…Christians were not a subset of any other religious system.
    • This was simply building on God’s design and plan for history and prophecy.
  • 19. How early Christians saw themselves:
    • The people of God and inheritors of OT Promises.
    • Lived their lives around the core message of the Gospels.
    • They preached not themselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
    • followers of the way, servants of Christ, the remnant of Israel, true Israel, church, witnesses, and Christians.
  • 20. What Early Christians Believed
    • The OT was their Bible.
    • They agreed with the Jewish understanding of who God is. (One God, the Creator, who is holy, loving, just and true.)
    • They believed in life after death, bodily resurrection, coming of the end of the age, last judgment, eternal consequences for actions on earth in the form of heaven or hell.
    • The uniqueness of Jesus. The difference between Christianity and Judaism was their belief in who Jesus is. Jesus is God himself taken in human form, God was more than one person (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)…doctrine of the Trinity. Phil 2. Col 2:9
    • Death and resurrection: everyone agreed that Jesus died, but the Christians believed that he also rose from the dead. Jesus’ death was for the sin of the world, so that God’s people might be saved through him. (Rom 10:9)
  • 21. The desperation of ancient and modern culture and the answer to the world’s vacuum is Christ.