Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Some old lecture notes on Christianity

•The Founding of Christianity II
•Paul, the Judaizers, and the New Testament
•I. Jesus’ apocalypticism
A.Jesus did teach about an impending final judgment.
B.Some passages suggest that he predicted his own return within the lifetimes of those present. This would cause some theological problems because he didn’t meet that timetable.
C.He viewed his kingdom as not of this world, and so was not a political messiah.
•II. Pentecost
A. The earliest disciples gathered in an upper room where they began to preach the message of Christ’s resurrection, and when they did the book of Acts records that people could understand it in their own language.
•III. The Jerusalem Church
A.The Jerusalem church was led by James, the brother of Jesus. It was a strong influence for 40 years but died out with the destruction of Temple of Jerusalem.
B.The non-Jewish, Greek-speaking branch of early Christianity began spreading throughout the Roman Empire.
•IV. Paul and the Mission to the Gentiles
A.Originally named Saul, Paul was a Roman Citizen, a fluent Greek speaker, and a scholar of Judaism.
B.He was at first virulently opposed to the early “Jesus Movement,” and according to Acts, supported the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Stephen.
C.While en route to persecuting more Christians on the road to Damascus, he had an experience of the Risen Christ which convinced him to become a Christian and to spread Christianity to non-Jews.
•V. Paul and the Gentiles
A.Despite his commitment to the Gentile mission, he always went to the Jewish synagogue first, on only when rejected there, went to the Gentiles.
B.Christians of Jewish origin, called the Judaizers, insisted that Gentile Christians follow the Jewish law. In particular, they insisted that all the males be circumcised. Paul insisted that faith in Christ, not obedience to the Jewish law, was what was sufficient for salvation, and that therefore Gentile converts did not have to be circumcised. In his mind, circumcision was replaced by baptism as the entry ritual, and rightness with God did not require ritual correctness in any event.
•VI. A Turning Point
A.This is the first major turning point in Jewish history. Had Paul’s opponents prevailed, Christianity would probably have remained nothing more than a Jewish sect.
B.Paul maintained that if we were to go by the Jewish Law, all are sinners and condemned for their wrongdoing. We need not strict observance but redemption from our sinful nature. Accepting God’s righteousness in Christ, not our own righteousness, is what puts us into right relationship with God.
•VII. So should we just party hearty?
A.Paul says no. The Christ who saves us also inspires us to lead a moral life, and to behave in a way that brings honor to the Gospel.
B.Jesus was proof of God’s love for humanity, especially demonstrated by Christ’s death on the cross for our sins.
C.Sin had brought to humans the punishment of death, but Jesus’ death is the atonement for human sins and Jesus’ return to life shows that eternal life in right relationship with God can be given to humans who have the Spirit of God in them.
D.For Paul, Christ was a cosmic figure who was pre-existent, and who reunites God and human creation.
•VIII. The New Testament
A.The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. (Not John, Paul, George and Ringo).
B.Acts of the Apostles.
C.The Epistles
D.The Book of Revelation.
•IX. The Gospels
A.Portraits of the life of Jesus. Not biographies in the strict sense. The first three are called the Synoptic Gospels.
1. Matthew was written to a Jewish audience, and portrays Christ as the new Moses and as the fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy.
2. Mark is the shortest Gospel, and focuses on the deeds, not the words of Jesus.
3. Luke contains many miracles, contains many portraits of women, emphasizes compassion for the poor and the oppressed.
4. The Gospel of John was written somewhat later. Shows a struggle between light and darkness. Portrays Jesus as the incarnation of God, the divine made visible in human form.
•X. The Acts of the Apostles
A.Part of a two-volume work by Luke whose first volume was the Gospel of Luke.
B.Portrays the early expansion of Christianity, culminating in Paul’s being taken to Rome to stand before Caesar.
C.Also contains a considerable miraculous element.
D.Some parts of it are remarkably well-attested by archaeology, in that it indicates correctly what types of governmental institutions existed in various cities and gives other details about the places it mentions which have been confirmed by archaeology.
•XI. Epistles
A.Many attributed to Paul, though some also to John, Peter, James and Jude.
B.Authorship of some of them is open to dispute.
C.Focus on belief, morality, and church order. The epistle to the Romans lays out Paul’s understanding of what Christ does for humans, and how Christ’s righteousness relates to the Jewish law. The Corinthian epistles deal with problems in the new Christian churches, and Galatians is Paul’s rebuttal to those who had insisted that Gentile Christian converts be circumcised.
•XII. Revelation
A.A series of visions that shows Christ’s final triumph over evil.
B.Highly symbolic language employed that would probably be understood by its readers but not by the Roman authorities, should they get a hold of the book.
C.The New Jerusalem descends from heaven and is ruled over by Jesus, who appears as a lamb. The evildoers are cast into the lake of everlasting fire.
D.Was very influential in Christian art and literature, such as the Divine Comedy by Dante and Paradise Lost by Milton.

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