How did followers of Jesus come to be called Christians?
Why was it that followers of Jesus came to be known as Christians? According to legend, Antioch, the capital of the Roman province of Syria (which is now part of the Turkish district of Antakya), was the place where the term “Christian” was originally connected with early adherents of the faith. “And it was at Antioch that the disciples were first addressed as Christians” (Acts 11:26). Obviously, the concept of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is associated with the name “Christian.” In classical times, the followers of a leader would identify themselves by adding a descriptive extension to their leader’s name to distinguish themselves from others (ianus).
Similar to the name “Christian,” the term “Christianus” (of Latin origin, but Hellenized) was used to describe those who followed Jesus Christ.
² Chrism is also the Greek term for Christ, and it literally translates as “anointed one.” ¹ The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible is a picture-based reference work on the Bible.
Abridged version of this article is in the book, What People Ask About the Church, which was written and copyrighted by Dale A.
- Without exception, all biblical quotations were taken from The New King James Bible, published by Thomas Nelson Inc.
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The Way Fellowship
“I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus said of himself, referring to himself as “the Way.” “There is no other way to the Father but through me.” (See also John 14:6). As a movement of Jesus Christ, it is also described as such in the Bible, where it is used to characterize the expanding church. Even today, all believers in Christ are considered to be a member of His movement, and Jesus serves as our chief pastor and spiritual leader. So when we join His movement, we are called to be the physical manifestation of God’s character, allowing the fullness of Jesus Christ to be seen and heard through our lives and witness to the world.
- They were not only devoted to a cultural ritual or obligation, but they lived their lives in entire commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as demonstrated by their actions.
- As followers of Jesus, what would it look like if the individuals who identify as such decided to live out their identity as BEING the Church rather than simply attending a church service?
- Those whom Jesus summoned were summoned to be The Way.
- Our aim is that God will use us to bring restoration of all things to God the Father via the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ultimately, we want our church to be a part of a movement in which being a disciple of Jesus Christ is an entirely new identity and way of life. Theme for the year 2022
Home PhilosophyReligion Beliefs in a Higher Power Any of the 12disciples selected by Jesus Christ is referred to as an apostle (from the Greek apostolos, “one sent”). The word is also occasionally used to refer to others, including Paul, who was converted to Christianity a few years after Jesus’ death and is known as the Apostle Paul. Earlier in the Gospel of Luke, it is claimed that Jesus picked 12 of his followers “whom he dubbed apostles.” Later in the Gospel of Mark, the Twelve are referred to as Apostles when it is mentioned that they had returned from the mission of teaching and healing that Jesus had sent them on.
- Among the Twelve’s privileges were the ability to remain in constant attendance on their master and to be the receivers of his specialized instruction and training.
- Jesus’ inner circle consisted of three men: Peter, James, and John.
- (Mark 14:33; Matthew 26:37).
- In response to the betrayal and death of the traitor Judas Iscariot, urgent efforts were made to fill the void created by the election of Matthias to the Roman Senate (Acts 1).
- It is believed that Paul himself claimed the title of Apostle on the grounds that he had personally witnessed the Lord and had received a direct mandate from him.
- Certain early Christian writers, on the other hand, claim that some individuals were referred to as “apostles” after the time period covered by the New Testament.
- Those in charge of editing the Encyclopaedia Britannica Melissa Petruzzello was the author of the most recent revision and update to this article.
What is a Follower of Jesus?
Guest As I read through the first few chapters of the Gospels, I notice that Jesus gives the same command to almost everyone he comes across: “Follow me!” “Say a prayer of repentance and commitment to Jesus, attend church on a regular basis and live a generally good life,” has been the common understanding among Christians for decades. There’s a problem with this, you know. Jesus never walked someone through a’sinners prayer,’ followed by a directive to attend church services, as is commonly believed.
- Make yourself a follower of mine.
- Continue on with me into a life of service and love for God and humanity,” I said.
- Jesus was on a mission to bring about transformation in people’s lives.
- It is to allow him to lead you out into the world as an agent of transformation in the lives of others through the power of his Spirit in your life.
- They are found in Matthew 28:18-20, where they read: “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth,” Jesus announced to his disciples when he arrived.
Instruct these new disciples to follow all of the instructions I have given them. And rest assured that I will be with you at all times, even to the end of the age.” Being a follower of Jesus entails the following:
WE RECOGNIZE HIS AUTHORITY IN AND OVER OUR LIVES
We recognize him as Lord and submit to him. We accept that he has entire control over the situation and that we have diluted control. We followed in his footsteps. Our leader does not follow us; rather, we follow him.
WE MAKE DISCIPLES
It is important to note that disciples are instructed to go and create disciples. The act of asking people to follow Jesus is an essential part of becoming a disciple of Jesus. We are his witnesses, charged with the responsibility of spreading the gospel and demonstrating what he is like to the rest of the world. Disciples grow in maturity and number.
WE GET BAPTIZED
Baptism is a public declaration of our allegiance to Jesus and his teachings. He enlisted the help of his supporters to baptize new converts. New believers in the early Church were required to go through this process after putting their confidence in Jesus and becoming his disciples. When we examine the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the epistle writings, we cannot help but conclude that baptism was not a choice for people who would follow Jesus; rather, it was an expectation he placed on those who would follow him.
WE OBEY JESUS’ COMMANDS
The disciples were instructed to both teach and follow Jesus’ instructions. Following Jesus’ teachings will bring immense joy and great happiness to the follower of Jesus. It is crucial that before we can teach others to obey Jesus, we ourselves must first demonstrate our own obedience to him. Every disciple of Jesus is, by nature, a leader – we are to lead others into obedience to Jesus and submit to his way of life – which is the finest and most beautiful way to live one’s life. To be a good leader, we must first be good at what we do.
As Christians, we must apply the teachings of the Bible to our lives in a way that glorifies Jesus and sets him at the center of our priorities.
WE GO TO THE WORLD
We proclaim Jesus to a world that is lost, broken, and hurting. Throughout his life, Jesus preached the gospel in public places and to people. Today, we appear to be committed to keeping the gospel contained within church structures, while Jesus accomplished the inverse. God’s loving kindness and practical love were exchanged in marketplaces, next to swimming pools, in town centers, on mountain tops, on beaches, at a watering well, on a road, and in a variety of other settings, including dinners, parties, and sitting in temple courts, among other places.
Are you seeking Jesus in order to hear where he wants you to serve him: Is it in your local community for the long haul, or somewhere else entirely?
Is it a foreign country? Is it because you want to relocate to a town where there is little or no Gospel impact and voice? We are tasked with bringing the Gospel to those who are in need.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, his disciples sought his knowledge, insight, and guidance. They followed Jesus wherever he led them and went where he instructed them to go. They had faith in him to the point that they would submit to his authority. They didn’t always grasp what he was saying. They made a blunder. They had learnt their lesson. They expanded in size. They strolled alongside him and conversed with him. Following his ascension, they began preaching the gospel. They whisked him away to see the rest of the world.
- Follow this up with a study of Acts to observe how the earliest disciples followed Jesus and remained loyal to him and his teachings as time went on.
- To be able to govern every aspect of their life, Jesus is seeking for followers who would follow him and make him the most essential element of their lives in order for him to have complete control.
- A shelf stacker by trade, Stuart McCormack has also held positions as a bingo caller, archivist, and Youth Minister.
- Kairos Network Church in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, is where he co-leads “Vintage,” which is a missional community that is a member of the Kairos Network Church family.
- When he is not working, he may be found tweeting @STU7P or blogging at gospelpraxis.weebly.com.
Where the “Christian” Name Really Came From
“Christian” is one of the few terms in the English language that has as much connotation as this one. It’s a heavy title, to be sure, but what’s intriguing is that Jesus never really assigned a name to His disciples, which is a fascinating fact. The early Christians did not refer to themselves as Christians. The title “saints” was the most frequently used in the Bible. It is the Greek term for saints, which implies “consecrated to God, holy, sacred, and devout,” as well as “holy, sacred, and religious.” Saints is nearly often used in the plural form, as in “saints and saints.” This shows not just the individual’s relationship to the Lord and His Kingdom, but also their connection to a group of individuals who have been set apart for the Lord and His Kingdom.
- A name contains a profound meaning derived from personal experiences that aid in the definition of reality in a language that we can comprehend.
- It wasn’t a name that Jesus’ followers chose for themselves; rather, it was a term that was bestowed upon them by the community at Antioch.
- For what reason, in the eyes of outsiders, weren’t they just grouped in with all of the various variations of the Jewish faith?
- Antioch was formerly described to as “all the globe in one city,” since it allowed visitors to see all of the world’s richness and diversity in a single location.
- Antioch was developed in the same manner as most other cities of the time: With a circular wall on the outside and a marketplace in the center, the city’s interior was walled off in a way that separated different population groups from one another.
- Here comes the group of Christ-followers.
- When the Church arrived in Antioch, it immediately started about tearing down the divisions in a way that upended the society’s pre-existing categories.
- Essentially, this group of people was redefining community in a dramatic and unprecedented fashion, to the point that a new term was required to adequately define what was taking place throughout the world.
- They, on the other hand, recognized something distinct in Christians.
It is commonly thought that the term “Christian” was coined by the powers-that-be in a dismissive or even derogatory manner, as if as a dismissive wave of the hand to those “little Christs.” Christians were people who belonged to the party of Jesus, since the suffix “-ian” denotes in linguistic terms that they belonged to Jesus’ party.
- The first time is in Acts 26:28 (by Agrippa, an unbelieving King who applied the name he recognized as an outsider), and the second time is in 1 Peter 4:16.
- In each instance, the emphasis is placed on the fact that Christians are recognized as a separate group by those who are not believers, which is inherent in the ancient Greek language.
- After years of coexistence with Jews and Gentiles, Peter opted to disengage from the Gentiles in order to appease a group of conservative Jews who had arrived in town.
- Peter was “afraid” of what this people might believe or do, according to verse 12.
- Peter had a history of fighting to transform his heart so that it would align with what he understood to be the truth of the matter.
- As a result, Paul confronts Peter about it and admonishes him publicly in order to put the record straight (vs.
- It was difficult to confront Peter in public, yet the future of Gentile Christians depended on his response.
It is the Gospel that provides unity where there is separation, and healing where there is brokenness.
The division of people along racial lines is not only unjust, but it is also an insult to the Gospel itself, since it contradicts the Gospel’s decisive distinctiveness in this world.
It is important that we take the social divides of the world seriously, just as Jesus did.
Do our cities have the same appearance as Antioch?
Do our hearts beat in unison?
How well do we communicate to the rest of the world a vision of community in which there is no distinction between people based on their social, economic, racial, or gender identities (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:10-11)?
Because they no longer enjoy what it means to be Christian from the world’s perspective, it’s possible that some Christians are moving away from the term “Christian,” giving birth to statements such as “I’m a Christ-follower, not a Christian.” Ancient Antiochians may have given us that name because of the radical inclusion of early Christians, but it is now up to us to ensure that name is maintained in the modern world.
Because the term “Christian” is always being redefined in light of the reputation we accord it.
Who Are God’s True Followers?
“Those who are with Him have been called, have been chosen, have been faithful” (Revelation 17:14). When asked who would enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus responded, “Not everyone who calls out to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but only those who do the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). His admonition should compel all of us to reexamine our religious beliefs and assumptions in light of current events. Why? In order to avoid being rejected by Him by a large number of His followers, many of whom claim to have performed great feats in His name, He will tell them, “I had no prior knowledge of you” (Matthew 7:23).
- When it comes to distinguishing legitimate disciples of Christ who are truly carrying out the will of the Father from those who name Jesus “Lord” but overlook or refuse to carry out God’s plan, there are a few things we may look for.
- The majority of Christian groups identify themselves as having a “calling,” as having been “selected” by the Lord, or as having some other form of divine appointment.
- It doesn’t matter which way we look at it, the religious landscape is a mess.
- Do you think it’s feasible to separate the truth from this jumbled theological jumble?
- Jesus Christ is a genuine person.
- He is still alive.
- The name Jesus Christ is well-known to the majority of people.
- What was the nature of His mission?
- Who is the true representative of Him?
The Greek word for “church” in the Bible isekklesia, which literally translates as “a gathering” or, more specifically, “a calling out” or “called-out ones.” According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, ekklesia is “derived from the Greek words ek, ‘out of,’ andklesis, ‘a calling’ (kaleo, ‘to call’),” and “was used among the Greeks to refer to a body of citizens ‘gathered’ to discuss the affairs of state, Acts 19:39.” (1985, “Assembly”).
The book of Hebrews refers to this group of believers as “the universal assembly and church of the firstborn” (the “church of the firstborn”) (Hebrews 12:23). It is referred to as “the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” by the apostle Paul (1 Timothy 3:15).
Dangers of deception
In his warning, Jesus stated that “the gate is narrow and the route is arduous that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14). Is it reasonable to feel surprised? When individuals don’t agree with Jesus’ teachings, they tend to just disregard them. Nonetheless, Jesus instructs people who seek to be real disciples of His that they must “enter through the narrow gate; because wide is the gate and broad is the path that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it” (Matthew 7:13).
Even if one becomes a follower of Christ, he or she is still at risk of falling back into the hands of Satan, who is the archenemy of those who seek to live godly lives in this world.
In other words, if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you get a different spirit from the Spirit you got, or if you adopt a gospel that is different from the gospel you accepted, you will put up with it with little difficulty ” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, New International Version).
- Satan is known as the “Great Deceiver.” Even after accepting God’s truth, far too many individuals are easy prey to take advantage of.
- Paul goes on to say: “Because such individuals are false apostles, dishonest workers, and impersonators of the apostles of Christ.
- As a result, it should come as no surprise that his servants pose as slaves of righteousness ” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, NIV).
- His name is used as a cover for religious beliefs and teachings that did not begin with Him or His apostles, but rather with others!
Disobedience is the way of man apart from God
Human nature is firmly imprinted with a disregard for the law. Paul said the following: “As a result, God’s law is incompatible with the mind-set of the body, which cannot subject itself to God’s law due to its inability. Those who live in the body are unable to satisfy God ” (Romans 8:7-8, Holman Christian Standard Bible). Rather of following God’s commands, our natural human propensity is to oppose Him and His way of life. It is as a result of this that alternatives to the real message of Christ have been developed in order to satisfy the human unwillingness to live according to God’s commands.
They have embraced and believed a phony message that has been pushed on humanity for ages by a group of con artists.
Paul foresaw the impact it would have near the end of the world by saying: “In accordance with the working of Satan, the lawless one will appear with all power, signs, and lying wonders, as well as with all unrighteous deception among those who perish because they did not receive the love of the truth, in order that they might be saved.
The power of Satan, “the god of this age,” has resulted in mankind’s complete and total blindness (2 Corinthians 4:4).
There are many people who have adopted a counterfeit gospel and a distorted understanding of what it means to be converted.
Called and chosen
One of the first examples of the notion that one has to be “called” and “selected” comes from Jesus Himself, who informed His followers that “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Even while the notions of being called and being chosen are both biblically genuine, they are rarely understood and are frequently misapplied in everyday life. Let’s make certain that we’re on the same page. “Many are called, but only a few are chosen,” says the author. That is exactly what Jesus stated.
God’s ultimate goal is to provide salvation—eternal life—to all of humanity.
The important thing to remember is that not everyone is being saved at this moment and in this era (Romans 11:7-8;Romans 11:25-26;Ephesians 1:7-10).
All must acknowledge and embrace God’s Word as the source of truth if they are to be considered acceptable by God.
(1 Timothy 2:1-4). In order to gain everlasting life, one must first study and embrace the truth, then repent in faith and be baptized by the Holy Spirit. But how can one tell the difference between truth and error?
All must repent
After understanding the principles of God’s truth, one must repent of his or her actions. “The Lord is not as sluggish as some people think he is when it comes to honoring his promises. Instead, he is patient with you, desiring that no one perishes but that all come to repentance together” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV). There are no exceptions to this rule. God desires for everyone to repent. An correct comprehension of the gospel of Jesus the Messiah aids us in comprehending God’s purpose for us and the reason for which we are required to repent of our sins.
But how does one go about gaining this understanding?
And how are they supposed to believe in Him of whom they have not heard anything?
And how are they going to preach unless they are summoned?” (See also Romans 10:14-15.) As Paul explains, we must be taught by those who are truly sent by God, His faithful servants who do not teach lawlessness, who are faithful to God’s Word, who teach obedience to God, and who teach that repentance is the cessation of sin—the cessation of transgressing God’s laws—in order to be saved (1 John 3:4).
- Consider the distinction between the words called and selected.
- People are called (invited) by the preaching of the gospel, as we can see in this passage (the good news of the Kingdom of God).
- Individuals chosen for salvation are those who react affirmatively to that summons, to that invitation.
- They are sanctified (or set aside) as a result of believing the truth and receiving and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Only those drawn by God will understand
The process of God’s calling and choosing us is a sorting procedure that begins with a miracle from the Creator of the universe. In the words of Jesus, “No one can come to Me except the Father who sent Me pulls him” (John 6:44). “Therefore, I have told you that no one can come to Me unless he has been granted permission by My Father,” he continues (John 6:65). In spite of Satan’s influence, our flawed human nature, and the attractions of this current wicked world, it is a stunning witness to the overwhelming power of God that He can nevertheless reach us.
- He calls our attention to Himself.
- Our natural tendency, on the other hand, is to oppose complying with His laws (Romans 8:7).
- The parable of the sower and the seed is used by Jesus to show the wide range of responses that individuals have to the gospel.
- However, only those who are called by God are able to receive and comprehend the truth.
- The parable of the sower and the seed may be found in Matthew 13, where Jesus not only delivers the narrative but also explains what it means in the context of the story.
- They are unable to comprehend what they are hearing.
“Any time someone hears the word of the kingdom but does not comprehend it, the evil one comes and takes away what has been sown in his heart. This is the man who was given seed on the side of the road ” (Matthew 13:19). Such individuals are incapable of comprehending the message and its importance.
Different responses of those who understand
Next His explanations are based on three different reactions from those who do comprehend. God has opened their brains, and they have grasped the significance. They, on the other hand, react differently and for different reasons. “But he who received the seed on stony ground is the one who hears the word and quickly receives it with gladness; nonetheless, he has no root in himself and only endures for a short period of time before dying. Because when suffering or persecution happens as a result of the word, he is quickly brought to his knees ” (Matthew 13:20-21).
- He is more concerned with what people think than with what God thinks.
- It is more vital for him to conform to people around him.
- He refuses to accept God’s invitation.
- This individual is not as concerned with the views of his peers as he or she should be.
- His passion, time, and energy are consumed by maintaining his social standing and obtaining belongings.
- He is preoccupied with serving himself.
Similarly, he rejects God’s calling.
This individual is familiar with God’s Word and takes it seriously.
He makes a significant adjustment in his life!
He prioritized God as the most important person in his life.
Many people are blessed with the potential for God to operate in them “to will and to do for His good pleasure,” as the Bible says (Philippians 2:13).
Few genuinely repent and devote their will to God, making a promise to obey His commands in exchange for their forgiveness.
They must remain faithful
When God presents individuals with a chance to serve Him, they have the option to accept or decline. The decision to make this option is not a one-time decision. They must make a decision and stick with it through to the completion of the process (Matthew 24:13). God has revealed to us who His genuine disciples are. In order to be called to repentance, they must first have their brains opened so that they may fully grasp what the Scriptures are saying. Resistant world rulers “will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will triumph over them,” because “He is Lord of lords and King of Kings,” and “those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” at the end of this century (Revelation 17:12-14).
- The fact that you have been called and chosen is not the end of the narrative.
- As evidence of our continuous dedication to serve God, we may be asked to demonstrate our fidelity by enduring hardships and conquering barriers that stand in the way of our faith.
- (1 Timothy 3:15).
- Before anything else, they are called to repentance by having their brains opened in order to correctly grasp the teachings of the Bible.
As a result, all those who continue to be loyally obedient to Him are the actual “called, chosen, and faithful” people of God!
The Jesus Movement
How Jesus’ followers reacted in the days following his death was a sobering experience. Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program at the University of Texas in Austin, L. Michael White is a scholar who specializes in religious studies. THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD The death of Jesus must have been a terrible blow to the movement that had sprung up around him. More to the point, nothing happened, rather than that a Messiah could not die. Unlike what they might have imagined, the kingdom did not arrive immediately.
- They appear to have dispersed, but it does not appear that they took long to come to the conclusion that something had happened to warrant their attention.
- It is yet unclear what transpired during the resurrection.
- He was the crucified and rising Lord of the universe.
- Whether or not he considered himself to be a prophet or a messenger of God, his perspective alters when he himself is raised from the dead by God.
- As though he were the Messiah himself.
- It’s likely that it’s during these early days following Jesus’ death that the movement begins to rebuild itself around his memory.
- Although it appears to have spread swiftly among his followers, the oldest version of the movement is still considered to be a sect within Judaism in its current form.
They are adherents of a Jewish apocalyptic tradition, which they follow.
It is a Jewish movement, to be sure.
At least one of these appears to be based in Jerusalem, but it’s possible that there are more scattered around the surrounding region.
It is therefore necessary to view the initial years of this movement as little pockets of sectarian activity that were all focused on the identify of Jesus as Messiah.
It’s difficult to say in all circumstances.
At Jerusalem, it appears that James, Jesus’ brother, was the group’s leader for the next generation, according to the evidence available to us.
There’s a woman by the name of Mary who comes to mind.
CHARISMATICS ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS One of the first evidence of the Jesus movement is what we like to refer to as “wandering charismatics,” or itinerant preachers and prophets, who continue to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, presumably carrying on the tradition of Jesus’ own teaching.
So, they are meant to perform miracles and treat the ill for free, but it appears like they were begging for food instead of doing so.
Even in Paul’s day, we learn that he comes across individuals who are traveling from Judea and bringing a different sort of gospel message, and it appears that these are the same kind of roaming charismatics that we hear about in the early phases of the movement following Jesus’ death and resurrection.
- What is the behavior of sects?
- A sect always emerges within a society with whom it shares a fundamental set of ideas, but it must find a method to distinguish itself from the rest of the group in order to survive.
- That tension manifests itself in a multitude of ways, including disagreements over doctrine and practice, as well as differing conceptions of purity and piety.
- Wayne A.
- THE INTRODUCTION TO THE JESUS MOVEMENT Where did the first followers of Jesus, the cults, if you will, share characteristics with other cults in the pagan world and where did they diverge in a very significant way?
- One of a number of sects that we are aware of that originated around the same time period.
- However, it is precisely this that remains a mystery and continues to pique the interest of historians.
They didn’t leave a mark on history, so what made this one different?
EXPLAINING THE TERMINOLOGY “KING OF THE JEWS” Were the disciples of Jesus making an amazing claim about him, or were they just making it up?
In a way, the tale of Jesus’ disciples begins with what Pilate said about Jesus, which was ironic given the circumstances.
What is the most likely interpretation of this?
And he wishes to convey a caustic remark to the recipient.
Because it is humiliating, it is intended to put a certain spin on what is taking place in the eyes of the general public that witnesses it.
How do we cope with this, not only the end of this life, but the disgraceful end of this life?
Incredibly, they asserted, “Hey, Pilate was correct – Jesus was really the King of the Jews; and moreover, God has verified this claim, that Jesus is the King of the Jews, by rising him from the dead.” Attempting to communicate that difficult reality marks the beginning of the Jesus movement as it is correctly known today, which would eventually become Christianity.
- That marks the very beginning of everything.
- It definitely does not imply, “King of the Jews,” in the manner that a century later, Bar Kochba would strive to be King of Israel and rebuild the political kingdom of Israel, liberated from the Romans.
- And so the early Christians, as genuine Jews, they begin to investigate the scriptures,what hints are concealed here which no one has seen before.
- So, here is where it all begins, with this type of interpretative process, which of course goes in many other places.
- Morison Professor of New Testament Studies and Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History Harvard Divinity School EARLY CHRISTIANS USE HEBREW SCRIPTURES What is the Gospel of Peter and what is remarkable about it?
- Outside of the New Testament canon, we have only one more extensive narrative of Jesus’ suffering and death, and that has appeared in the Gospel of Peter.
- Eusebiusof Caesarea, the earliest church historian at the beginning of the 4th century, tells about the fact that there was a Gospel of Peter which was used by some communities in Syria.
- But it is told in such a way that one can assume that it was not dependent upon the canonical gospels that we have.
What is interesting in this Gospel of Peter is that it shows in some instances more clearly the direct dependence of the passion narrative upon the prophecy and psalms and suffering servant stories of the Hebrew Bible, and therefore gives us an insight in the development of the passion narrative.
We know that in the Jewish synagogue scriptural text would be read and would be interpreted.
So it’s not like someone who tries to go back now and says, “let’s find the right text or scripture that would fit.” But it’s rather that out of the deep involvement in a religious tradition that was anchored in the worship life of Jewish communities, these stories about Jesus arise that now use the same words, the same language, the same images, in order to describe Jesus’ suffering., the question of the suffering servant is very closely connected with Isaiah 53.
- And Isaiah 53, in most Christian churches, is usually the text from the Old Testament that is read at Good Friday as a prefiguration of the death of Jesus.
- Is it the prophet himself who depicts himself as the suffering servant?
- And it tells a different aspect of the story of Moses, not Moses as the leader who leads the people out of exodus, but Moses as the one who dies eventually and who is not able to see the Holy Land, and Moses about whom the book of Deuteronomy says, his tomb could not even be found.
- How can it be understood that the righteous in this world have to suffer?
And the answer to this was found in the story of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. And that is the story to which the Christians apparently went very early at this stage, to find an understanding of what the suffering and death of Jesus meant and signified.
These 12 Men Shaped Christianity—But Were They Real?
A total of 12 apostles are named by Jesus Christ in the Bible, and their missionary zeal is credited with the quick growth of the early Christian church. However, there is little proof of the existence of the Twelve outside of the New Testament for the majority of them. When authorTom Bissell goes out to determine if the Twelve Apostles were real historical persons or just characters in a literary narrative, he writes about his journey inApostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve. During his journey, he walked for 500 miles along theCamino de Santiago pilgrim route in northern Spain, visited the location where Judas Iscariot is said to have hanged himself, and searched fruitlessly for a mysterious monastery in Kyrgyzstan, where the bones of the Apostle Matthew are believed to be buried.
(Learn why the Virgin Mary is considered the most powerful lady on the planet.) Speaking from Vancouver, Bissell reveals why the Monty Python film Life of Brian served as an influence for his book as well as how his views on Christianity have evolved as a result of the experience.
If there had been aNew York Timesbest-seller list in the first century A.D., which column should the New Testament have appeared in? Fiction or nonfiction?
If you look at it from the perspective of the first century, I’m not sure that difference would have made a lot of sense. There was no difference made between evangelical propaganda and what the authors really thought to be true in their writing. From a modern perspective, it’s difficult to regard the Gospels as unadorned, true depictions of the life of Jesus. Back then, there was no such thing as a journalistic instinct. Their ideas that magic and divine were at work in the world won out over the facts and evidence.
You grew up a Catholic, but then had a crisis of faith. Wind the clock back and explain how that inspired you to write this book.
In fact, I did not suffer a crisis of faith so much as I just read a few books that made me think, “Wow, none of this stuff is probably true in the manner that I had previously believed it to be.” In spite of this, I remained captivated by these stories from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. My biggest inspiration for this book, however, came from the film Life of Brian, specifically the scene where Brian is fleeing from the Romans and jumps out of a tower into a marketplace full of gabbling prophets who are all saying nonsense, and so he just starts reciting random stuff to attract an audience and becomes famous.
You say that, “Christianity’s special appeal is largely furnished by its claims of historical legitimacy….yet the existence of the faith’s most crucial eyewitnesses is uncertain.”
One or two of the names reported in the New Testament are most likely those of real persons. There was almost certainly a Peter and a John, almost certainly a James (Jesus’ brother), and almost certainly a Thomas. Apart from the gospels themselves, there isn’t anything historical that can be used to establish their historical existence. As a result, I believe they are a combination of reality and fiction. In the early history of Christianity, one of the great mysteries is that we know a decent little about Paul and that James the brother of Jesus was a genuine person.
In other words, you have these 12 individuals who were the earliest disciples of Jesus, yet there is nothing written about them in any secular source. However, both Peter and John are mentioned in Paul’s writings, which shows that they were historical individuals rather than simply names.
You begin your search in Jerusalem for the final resting place of Judas Iscariot, whom you call the “electromagnet of wickedness.” Tell us about that journey—and whether you believe Judas was a real historical character.
That is a really difficult question to answer. In accordance with legend, however Scripture is unclear on this point, Judas hung himself in the Hinnom Valley, which is a stony, desert-like valley located in the southern section of Jerusalem and known as Hakeldamain the Hinnom Valley. You get the distinct impression that the location is cursed when you visit. That is the significance of these stories. You can sense the years of anger and contempt that have been directed at this individual who betrayed Jesus.
The question of whether or not his given name was Judas is a considerably more difficult one to answer.
There are several additional Jesus stories where the gospel authors appear to be singing from the same song sheet.
This seems to me that he was more of a literary figure than a real-life individual.
In 2006, a team of translators and scholars working for National Geographic published the so-called lost “Gospel of Judas.” Did this shed any further light on the subject?
The Gospel of Judas was an item of Sethian Christianity, a very confrontational style of non-mainstream Christianity that flourished in the first and second centuries, respectively. Their Judas, they imagined, took a little different route than the more traditional Judas. Judas is both a source of censure and a source of illumination for them at the same time. This group of people believed in a deity who was radically distinct from the proto-orthodox Christians of their day. The Sethian Christians despised the apostolic authority paradigm that was followed by the majority of Christians.
- And some of them were just bizarre.
- You, on the other hand, traveled there in search of Matthew’s grave.
- Despite the fact that central Asia does not appear to be the most Christian-friendly region of the globe today, there was a significant Christian population in the region until the Middle Ages.
- They were Christians from the Middle East who had been traveling eastward for centuries.
- A Russian archaeologist claimed to have discovered it in 2006, which prompted me to go on a hunt for it.
However, it was one of my favorite excursions because it was so difficult to locate and because it was one of the most fascinating places I have ever been, despite the fact that my quest to locate St Matthew’s relics came to an unsatisfying finish.
You call the Apostle James a “particularly elusive character.” In 2002, anossuarysurfaced in Israel, which appeared to confirm his identity. Is there any truth to it?
We know for a fact that James, Jesus’ brother, was a genuine person. In the first century, a Jewish historian named Flavius Josephus makes reference to him. The ossuary, according to some, is genuine; however, the inscription on the wall, which reads “James, the Brother of Jesus” in Aramaic, is not. Although no trace of his remains has been discovered, he was certainly a well-known character in the first century, as evidenced by the fact that he appears in a great deal of early Christian material.
- My lack of experience with archaeology and my lack of training in the field lead me to assume that James may have had a hidden tomb complete with an ossuary, but I’m ready to accept that possibility.
- The difficulty with James, on the other hand, is that he contradicts everything that orthodox Christians believe regarding the virgin birth.
- I believe that James existed, that there is a high possibility that he was Jesus’ older brother, and that he was the most influential figure in first-century Christianity after Jesus.
- Generally speaking, the acknowledged rules of the cosmos do not cease to operate.
Did your journey end up convincing you of the historical veracity of the Apostles? Or just make you even more confused?
It didn’t move me at all, to be honest. Some people hold the belief that just believing in something is beneficial. This is one of my pet peeves. That is something I have a difficult time embracing because what if you believe in something monstrous? The ideas that emerge from the monotheistic Abrahamic religions are rather disturbing from a modern point of view, and this is especially true for the Jewish religion. These practices, including the way they treat women, the way they regard children, and the way they perceive authority, have little or no place in today’s secular society.
Anyone who appreciates opera, cinema, or literature isn’t likely to be compelled to put into question the meaning that religion provides.
Among the many ways in which the Western culture opted to educate itself what is meant by community and storytelling, as well as by truth, friendship, and loyalty, the Twelve Apostles’ stories constitute a significant part of the process.
In order to be in a better position, we should endeavor to reach a consensus on the relevance of meaning that may be obtained from literature or works of imagination.
This is not meant to imply that everything is a hoax; rather, it is meant to imply that we may take comfort from another person’s endeavor to bring order to the cosmos.
Perhaps the fact that it is only a fiction is the finest thing that can be said about it. The length and clarity of this interview have been adjusted for readability. Book Talk is curated by Simon Worrall. Subscribe to his blog atsimonworrallauthor.com or follow him on Twitter.