Rome in transition

So far, as near as I can tell from my research:

For about a hundred years prior to Constantine's victory at the Milvian bridge in 313 AD Rome was in turmoil. Various internal strifes kept the empire in a smoldering condition just short of civil war at times, the economy was in ruins in large part because of military expenses in trying to secure the borders and fend off intruders.

The hundred years or so following the battle of Milvian bridge isn't a great deal better, in spite of the legalization of Christianity and later subsequent adoption as the official state religion and outlawing of the long entrenched paganism. In 410 AD, Rome was sacked and the Western Roman Empire, the classical Rome we tend to think of, ended. Christianity was the official state religion for about 25 years or so prior (I'll get the figures presently as soon as I post some other research).
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The First Council of Nicaea​
First Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, held in 325 on the occasion of the heresy of Arius (Arianism). As early as 320 or 321 St. Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, convoked a council at Alexandria at which more than one hundred bishops from Egypt and Libya anathematized Arius. The latter continued to officiate in his church and to recruit followers. Being finally driven out, he went to Palestine and from there to Nicomedia. During this time St. Alexander published his "Epistola encyclica", to which Arius replied; but henceforth it was evident that the quarrel had gone beyond the possibility of human control. Sozomen even speaks of a Council of Bithynia which addressed an encyclical to all the bishops asking them to receive the Arians into the communion of the Church. This discord, and the war which soon broke out between Constantine and Licinius, added to the disorder and partly explains the progress of the religious conflict during the years 322-3. Finally Constantine, having conquered Licinius and become sole emperor, concerned himself with the re-establishment of religious peace as well as of civil order. He addressed letters to St. Alexander and to Arius deprecating these heated controversies regarding questions of no practical importance, and advising the adversaries to agree without delay. It was evident that the emperor did not then grasp the significance of the Arian controversy. Hosius of Cordova, his counsellor in religious matters, bore the imperial letter to Alexandria, but failed in his conciliatory mission. Seeing this, the emperor, perhaps advised by Hosius, judged no remedy more apt to restore peace in the Church than the convocation of an ecumenical council.
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: First Council of Nicaea

The First Council of Nicaea, held in Nicaea in Bithynia (present-day İznik in Turkey), convoked by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in 325, was the first Ecumenical council[1] of the Christian Church, and most significantly resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, called the Nicene Creed. With the creation of the creed, a precedent was established for subsequent 'general (ecumenical) councils of Bishops' (Synods) to create statements of belief and canons of doctrinal orthodoxy— the intent being to define unity of beliefs for the whole of Christendom.
The purpose of the council was to resolve disagreements in the Church of Alexandria over the nature of Jesus in relationship to the Father; in particular, whether Jesus was of the same substance as God the Father or merely of similar substance. St. Alexander of Alexandria and Athanasius took the first position; the popular presbyter Arius, from whom the term Arian controversy comes, took the second. The council decided against the Arians overwhelmingly (of the estimated 250-318 attendees, all but 2 voted against Arius[2]). Another result of the council was an agreement on when to celebrate the resurrection (Pascha in Greek; Easter in modern English), the most important feast of the ecclesiastical calendar. The council decided in favour of celebrating the resurrection on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox, independently of the Hebrew Calendar (see also Quartodecimanism). It authorized the Bishop of Alexandria (presumably using the Alexandrian calendar) to announce annually the exact date to his fellow bishops.
The Council of Nicaea was historically significant because it was the first effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom.[3] "It was the first occasion for the development of technical Christology."[3] Further, "Constantine in convoking and presiding over the council signaled a measure of imperial control over the church."[3] A precedent was set for subsequent general councils to create creeds and canons.
emphasis mine-jt3
First Council of Nicaea - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The agenda of the synod were:
1. The Arian question;
2. The celebration of Passover;
3. The Meletian schism;
4. The Father and Son one in purpose or in person;
5. The baptism of heretics;
6. The status of the lapsed in the persecution under Licinius.
The council was formally opened May 20, in the central structure of the imperial palace, with preliminary discussions on the Arian question. In these discussions, some dominant figures were Arius, with several adherents. “Some 22 of the bishops at the council, led by Eusebius of Nicomedia, came as supporters of Arius. But when some of the more shocking passages from his writings were read, they were almost universally seen as blasphemous.”[5] Bishops Theognis of Nicea and Maris of Chalcedon were among the initial supporters of Arius.
Eusebius of Caesarea called to mind the baptismal creed (symbol) of his own diocese at Caesarea in Palestine, as a form of reconciliation. The majority of the bishops agreed. For some time, scholars thought that the original Nicene Creed was based on this statement of Eusebius. Today, most scholars think that this Creed is derived from the baptismal creed of Jerusalem, as Hans Lietzmann proposed. Another possibility is the Apostle's Creed.
In any case, as the council went on, the orthodox bishops won approval of every one of their proposals. After being in session for an entire month, the council promulgated on June 19 the original Nicene Creed. This profession of faith was adopted by all the bishops “but two from Libya who had been closely associated with Arius from the beginning.”[6] No historical record of their dissent actually exists; the signatures of these bishops are simply absent from the creed.
The Arian controversy was a Christological dispute that began in Alexandria between the followers of Arius (the Arians) and the followers of St. Alexander of Alexandria (now known as Homoousians). Alexander and his followers believed that the Son was of the same substance as the Father, co-eternal with him. The Arians believed that they were different and that the Son, though he may be the most perfect of creations, was only a creation. A third group (now known as Homoiousians) tried to make a compromise position, saying that the Father and the Son were of similar substance.
Much of the debate hinged on the difference between being "born" or "created" and being "begotten". Arians saw these as the same; followers of Alexander did not. Indeed, the exact meaning of many of the words used in the debates at Nicaea were still unclear to speakers of other languages. Greek words like "essence" (ousia), "substance" (hypostasis), "nature" (physis), "person" (prosopon) bore a variety of meanings drawn from pre-Christian philosophers, which could not but entail misunderstandings until they were cleared up. The word homoousia, in particular, was initially disliked by many bishops because of its associations with Gnostic heretics (who used it in their theology), and because it had been condemned at the 264-268 Synods of Antioch.
Homoousians believed that to follow the Arian view destroyed the unity of the Godhead, and made the Son unequal to the Father, in contravention of the Scriptures ("The Father and I are one", John 10:30). Arians, on the other hand, believed that since God the Father created the Son, he must have emanated from the Father, and thus be lesser than the Father, in that the Father is eternal, but the Son was created afterward and, thus, is not eternal. The Arians likewise appealed to Scripture, quoting verses such as John 14:28: "the Father is greater than I". Homoousians countered the Arians' argument, saying that the Father's fatherhood, like all of his attributes, is eternal. Thus, the Father was always a father, and that the Son, therefore, always existed with him.
The Council declared that the Father and the Son are of the same substance and are co-eternal, basing the declaration in the claim that this was a formulation of traditional Christian belief handed down from the Apostles. This belief was expressed in the Nicene Creed.
emphasis mine-jt3
By and large, many creeds were acceptable to the members of the council. From his perspective, even Arius could cite such a creed.
For Bishop Alexander and others, however, greater clarity was required. Some distinctive elements in the Nicene Creed, perhaps from the hand of Hosius of Cordova, were added.
1. Jesus Christ is described as "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God," confirming his divinity. When all light sources were natural, the essence of light was considered to be identical, regardless of its form.
2. Jesus Christ is said to be "begotten, not made," asserting his co-eternalness with God, and confirming it by stating his role in the Creation.
3. Finally, he is said to be "from the substance of the Father," in direct opposition to Arianism. Some ascribe the term Consubstantial, i.e., "of the same substance" (of the Father), to Constantine who, on this particular point, may have chosen to exercise his authority.
Of the third article only the words "and in the Holy Spirit" were left; the original Nicene Creed ended with these words. Then followed immediately the canons of the council. Thus, instead of a baptismal creed acceptable to both the homoousian and Arian parties, as proposed by Eusebius, the council promulgated one which was unambiguous in the aspects touching upon the points of contention between these two positions, and one which was incompatible with the beliefs of Arians. From earliest times, various creeds served as a means of identification for Christians, as a means of inclusion and recognition, especially at baptism. In Rome, for example, the Apostles' Creed was popular, especially for use in Lent and the Easter season. In the Council of Nicaea, one specific creed was used to define the Church's faith clearly, to include those who professed it, and to exclude those who did not.
The text of this profession of faith is preserved in a letter of Eusebius to his congregation, in Athanasius, and elsewhere. Although the most vocal of anti-Arians, the Homoousians (from the Koine Greek word translated as "of same substance" which was condemned at the Council of Antioch in 264-268), were in the minority. The Creed was accepted by the council as an expression of the bishops' common faith and the ancient faith of the whole Church.
The long-term effects of the Council of Nicaea were significant. For the first time, representatives of many of the bishops of the Church convened to agree on a doctrinal statement. Also for the first time, the Emperor played a role, by calling together the bishops under his authority, and using the power of the state to give the Council's orders effect.
In the short-term, however, the council did not completely solve the problems it was convened to discuss and a period of conflict and upheaval continued for some time. Constantine himself was succeeded by two Arian Emperors in the Eastern Empire: his son, Constantine II and Valens. Valens could not resolve the outstanding ecclesiastical issues, and unsuccessfully confronted St. Basil over the Nicene Creed.[34] Pagan powers within the Empire sought to maintain and at times re-establish Paganism into the seat of Emperor (see Arbogast and Julian the Apostate). Arians and the Meletians soon regained nearly all of the rights they had lost, and consequently, Arianism continued to spread and to cause division in the Church during the remainder of the fourth century. Almost immediately, Eusebius of Nicomedia, an Arian bishop and cousin to Constantine I, used his influence at court to sway Constantine's favor from the orthodox Nicene bishops to the Arians. Eustathius of Antioch was deposed and exiled in 330. Athanasius, who had succeeded Alexander as Bishop of Alexandria, was deposed by the First Synod of Tyre in 335 and Marcellus of Ancyra followed him in 336. Arius himself returned to Constantinople to be readmitted into the Church, but died shortly before he could be received. Constantine died the next year, after finally receiving baptism from Arian Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedi , and "with his passing the first round in the battle after the Council of Nicaea was ended."[35]

This is a bit of reading, but hopefully will provide a brief of some of the issues faced by this council. For intents and purposes, it was this seminal event that established the institution of Christianity. While it no doubt was intended to provide a standard for all to follow, even at this early time there were unresolved differences of opinion among followers, some of those differences were severe enough to fracture the faith. As we will see as this unfolds, this is evident just a bit further along in history, not only with the Arian-Athanasius controversy, but even so far as the schism between east and west and even formed a part of the underlying motivation for the Albigensian Crusade.
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I have separated this specific issue because it is very near to my heart:

First Council of Nicaea - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Separation of Easter from Jewish Passover​
After the June 19 settlement of the most important topic, the question of the date of the Christian Passover (Easter) was brought up. This feast is linked to the Jewish Passover, as the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus occurred during that festival. By the year 300, some Churches had adopted a divergent style of celebrating the feast, placing the emphasis on the resurrection which they believed occurred on Sunday. Others however celebrated the feast on the 14th of the Jewish month Nisan, the date of the crucifixion according to the Bible's Hebrew calendar (Leviticus 23:5,John 19:14). Hence this group was called Quartodecimans, which is derived from the Latin for 14. The Eastern Churches of Syria, Cilicia, and Mesopotamia determined the date of Christian Passover in relation to the 14th day of Nisan, in the Bible's Hebrew calendar. Alexandria and Rome, however, followed a different calculation, attributed to Pope Soter, so that Christian Passover would never coincide with the Jewish observance and decided in favour of celebrating on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox, independently of the Bible's Hebrew calendar.
According to Duchesne,[22] who founds his conclusions:
on the conciliar letter to the Alexandrians preserved in Theodoret;[23]
on the circular letter of Constantine to the bishops after the council;[24]
on Athanasius;[25]

Epiphanius of Salamis wrote in the mid-4th century, "… the emperor … convened a council of 318 bishops … in the city of Nicea. … They passed certain ecclesiastical canons at the council besides, and at the same time decreed in regard to the Passover that there must be one unanimous concord on the celebration of God's holy and supremely excellent day. For it was variously observed by people…"[26]

The council assumed the task of regulating these differences, in part because some dioceses were determined not to have Christian Passover correspond with the Jewish calendar. "The feast of the resurrection was thenceforth required to be celebrated everywhere on a Sunday, and never on the day of the Jewish passover, but always after the fourteenth of Nisan, on the Sunday after the first vernal full moon. The leading motive for this regulation was opposition to Judaism, which had dishonored the passover by the crucifixion of the Lord."[27]

Constantine wrote that: "… it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul. … Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way."[28] Theodoret recorded the Emperor as saying: "It was, in the first place, declared improper to follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this holy festival, because, their hands having been stained with crime, the minds of these wretched men are necessarily blinded. … Let us, then, have nothing in common with the Jews, who are our adversaries. … avoiding all contact with that evil way. … who, after having compassed the death of the Lord, being out of their minds, are guided not by sound reason, but by an unrestrained passion, wherever their innate madness carries them. … a people so utterly depraved. … Therefore, this irregularity must be corrected, in order that we may no more have any thing in common with those parricides and the murderers of our Lord. … no single point in common with the perjury of the Jews."[29]

The Council of Nicaea, however, did not declare the Alexandrian or Roman calculations as normative. Instead, the council gave the Bishop of Alexandria the privilege of announcing annually the date of Christian Passover to the Roman curia. Although the synod undertook the regulation of the dating of Christian Passover, it contented itself with communicating its decision to the different dioceses, instead of establishing a canon. There was subsequent conflict over this very matter. See also Computus and Reform of the date of Easter.
emphasis mine-jt3

Let us remember that this anti-Semitism is not actively preached today, even if we do yet still on occasion hear echoes of it almost 1700 years later. I cannot help but wonder if this attitude fuelled a lot of the strife the Jewish people have faced through the centuries, particularly in Europe, even as recently as World War 2.

Seventy years ago a fateful meeting occurred in Rome. The Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII), and Germany’s vice chancellor, Franz von Papen, formally signed a concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich on July 20, 1933. This event ended negotiations that began after Adolf Hitler became Germany’s chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933. Among the witnesses to this event were Msgr. Giovanni Battista Montini (the future Pope Paul VI) and Msgr. Ludwig Kaas, the leader of Germany’s Catholic Center Party. Neither Pope Pius XI nor Hitler attended the meeting; both had already approved of the concordat. The pope ratified the agreement two months later on Sept. 10. The Concordat of 1933 specified the church’s rights in the Third Reich.

The political significance of the signing of the Concordat of 1933 was, however, ambiguous in its day and still remains so. Hitler interpreted the concordat to mean that he had won the church’s approval, thereby gaining international recognition of his Nazi regime.

America | The National Catholic Weekly - The Vatican Concordat With Hitler's Reich

See also:

Reichskonkordat - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pius XII and Hitler

Cardinal Pacelli, who had become the Vatican Secretary of State in 1930, signed the concordat July 20, 1933 after Hitler had begun persecuting Jews, including those who had earlier converted to Catholicism.
emphasis mine-jt3

Vatican politics and war | Human Quest | Find Articles at
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The first seven Ecumenical Councils​
Main article: First seven Ecumenical Councils
The period of Christianity from the First Council of Nicaea (325) to the Second Council of Nicaea (787) is called the period of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.

1. First Council of Nicaea, (325); repudiated Arianism and Quartodecimanism, adopted the original Nicene Creed. This and all subsequent councils are not recognized by nontrinitarian churches— e.g. Arians, Unitarians, Latter-day Saints and members of other Mormon denominations, and Jehovah's Witnesses.
2. First Council of Constantinople, (381); revised the Nicene Creed into present form used in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches and prohibited any further alteration of the Creed without the assent of an Ecumenical Council.
3. Council of Ephesus, (431); repudiated Nestorianism, proclaimed the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos (Greek Η Θεοτόκος, "God-bearer" or more commonly "Mother of God"). This and all following councils are not recognized by the Assyrian Church of the East.
Second Council of Ephesus or Robber Council, (449); rejected Nestorianism. Pope Dioscorus I of Alexandria found Eutyches to be Orthodox. Dioscorus, however, declared anathema to Eutyches shortly after the Council of Chalcedon. This council is not recognized by the Chalcedonians (Western Catholics & Byzantine Orthodox, and Protestants).
Note: See Fourth Ecumenical Council to see the difference in numbering for this and the following council.
4. Council of Chalcedon, (451); repudiated the Eutychian doctrine of monophysitism, described and delineated the "hypostatic union" and two natures of Christ, human and divine; adopted the Chalcedonian Creed. For those who accept it, it is the Fourth Ecumenical Council (calling the previous council, which was rejected by this council, the "Robber Synod" or "Robber Council"). This and all following councils are not recognized by the Oriental Orthodoxy.
5. Second Council of Constantinople, (553); reaffirmed decisions and doctrines explicated by previous Councils, condemned new Arian, Nestorian, and Monophysite writings, decreed Theopaschite Formula.
6. Third Council of Constantinople, (680–681); repudiated Monothelitism, affirmed that Christ had both human and divine wills.
Quinisext Council (= Fifth and Sixth) or Council in Trullo, (692); mostly an administrative council that raised some local canons to ecumenical status, established principles of clerical discipline, and addressed the Biblical canon. It is not considered to be a full-fledged council in its own right because it did not determine matters of doctrine.
7. Second Council of Nicaea, (787); restoration of the veneration of icons and end of the first iconoclasm. This doctrine is rejected by some Protestant denominations, who instead would prefer the Council of Hieria (754), which condemned the veneration of icons.

Ecumenical council - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches recognize seven councils in the early years of the church, but Roman Catholics also recognize fourteen councils called in later years by the Pope. The status of these councils in the face of a Catholic-Orthodox reconciliation would depend upon whether one accepts Roman Catholic ecclesiology (papal primacy) or Orthodox ecclesiology (collegiality of autocephalous churches). In the former case, the additional councils would be granted Ecumenical status. In the latter case, they would be considered to be local synods with no authority among the other autocephalous churches.

The first seven councils were called by the emperor (first the Christian Roman Emperors and later the so-called Byzantine Emperors, i.e., the Eastern Roman Emperors after the Western Roman Empire ended in 476). Most historians agree that the emperors called the councils to force the Christian bishops to resolve divisive issues and reach consensus. One motivation for convening councils was the hope that maintaining unity in the Church would help maintain unity in the Empire. The relationship of the Papacy to the validity of these councils is the ground of much controversy between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Churches and to historians.

The Roman Catholic Church holds that these ecumenical councils are infallible.

The article notes that other churches, including the Eastern "Greek" Orthodox (which have every bit as much right as the Roman Catholic church does to claim legitimacy by invention at Nicaea) do not hold every council as infallible. Well worth reading to get a good look at Christian history.

*I also note that this last quote corrects one of my earlier posts in which I wasn't quite certain of the accepted final date for the fall of the Roman Empire. Here it is listed as 476 AD.
Some other points of contention regarding the history of the Roman Catholic church:

Filioque clause - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

East-West Schism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The primary causes of the Schism were disputes over papal authority—Pope Leo IX claimed he held authority over the four Eastern patriarchs (see also Pentarchy) — and over the insertion of the filioque clause into the Nicene Creed by the Western Church. Eastern Orthodox today state that the 28th Canon of the Council of Chalcedon explicitly proclaimed the equality of the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople. The Orthodox also state that the Bishop of Rome (i.e. The Pope) has authority only over his own diocese and does not have any authority outside his diocese. There were other less significant catalysts for the Schism however, including variance over liturgical practices and conflicting claims of jurisdiction.

Iconoclasm - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cadaver Synod - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This last actually holds a bit of grisly humor for those with a taste for dark comedy. :D
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The problem is that with both Christan and Jewish origins the line between history and mythology is intentionally blurred. We don't know who the first Jews or Christians were. Whoever they need to be to make one's pet ideology work out is where one inevitably draws the lines.
After tonight's research, I am left puzzling over Constantine's anti-Semetic views permeating the origins of the Roman Catholic (and Greek Orthodox) church. They had to transform Jesus from the Jew he was into something more acceptable to a Pagan audience. It probably was also beneficial to take the heat off of the Roman authorities that executed Jesus by shifting the blame entirely onto the Jews. I suppose it would strain the credibility of the political establishment to admit to wrongful execution of the fellow they were now elevating to the status of a god (just like was commonly done with Emperors). Can't be guilty of executing a god now, :rolleyes: , can we? So we end up with a Jewish Rabbi who isn't Jewish, who is executed but doesn't die, executed in Roman fashion but not by Romans...and a criminal threat to the Roman political authority posthumously becomes a unifying religious icon and rallying point for the Roman people, under penalty of law. :rolleyes: It's all a mystery, don't you know? You don't have to just have to believe.

In any other context this would reek of insincerity. No wonder there was such a backlash and outcry among the displaced pagans... Oh my, I think I'm having an "ah ha" moment!

Heavenly Father, save me from myself.
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No grand theory here Juan. Just some observations.

The zealotry is clear in the cast of characters. The core group of disciples are either zealots, or recently ex-zealots. We know that Peter is still carrying a sword at the very end. We know from the story that they are Galileans with ties to Nazareth, so they're from a famous hot bed of zealotry. It's unclear whether John the Baptist's movement was more militant. As a matter of fact, it isn't at all clear who John the B. really is, and the logistics of his group's merger with the Jesus group is very murky. This is the starting point for a lot of Da Vinci Code kind of stuff. I don't have much interest in that because it's entirely speculative. The point is that one can easily see the connection with zealotry in the Gospel stories just reading them at face value.

The (sort of) Pythagorean mystery school stuff is a combination of what's commonly referred to as sacred geometry and Greek gematria. Sacred geometry is an expression of the perfection of ratios discovered by Pythagoras and others. In that sense it's the geometry of the Logos. In the parables, most particularly the stories of the miraculous catch of fish and the feeding of the five thousand, underlying the text, is a metaphysical grid of this geometry. That's what the numbers relate to. So, for example, the five thousand people sitiing in groups of fifty and one hundred, the two fish, the five loaves, the twelve baskets, all relate to the geometric structure being created within the story. The derived mathematical values, like the circumference of the circle within the square of 5000 units, or some other measurement extrapolated from the structure created by the number values in the story, are also in the story in the form of words that correlate with their gematrical values. So, for example, when Jesus divides the two fish among the five thousand (unit square) the two fishes become two circles equal in diameter to a circle which fits exactly in the square. The circumference of the two circles crossing the center point of the center circle creates two vessica pisces, or fishes, within the 5,000 square. Each vessica pisces has a horizontal axis of 61.2 units. Together they measure 122.4 units. 1224 is the gematrical value of the Greek word FISHES, kinda thing. Of course we should bear in mind what Bannanabrain has said numerous times about the limited value of gematria. Still, it seems to me that there is a credible and demonstrable influence coming from what I'm calling the "mystery school" source.

Paul is all about ethics. Reading his thesis in Romans; it's not just about the law, it's about discipline and how to control one's self. He's trying to fuse his message with Greek ethics. This is also self-evident from the text.

So, already in the primitive materials, the Gospels and Paul, the earliest stuff, we can see this variety of influences. And there are no clear cultural boundaries because within Judaism there were mystery schools dealing with Pythagorean mathematics. Everybody with scholarly aspirations was interested in that stuff. It was like the quantum physics of the day. Similarly, there was no cultural chasm between Judaism's dialog about ethics and that of the Stoics, Cynics, and Epicureans of the day.

Back to this question: How do zealotry and pacifism mix? Thinking about Judaism as a continuum, it's hard to to find any roots of turn the other cheek- ism. There is a prolonged discussion of ethics that, basically, starts at the beginning and hasn't stopped. That is: what is it to be righteous (so God won't keep whacking us)? But there's no loving one's enemies.

Cool, Chris! Didn't know about the gematria stuff. I'm a bit torn on the zealotry stuff, seems some want to associate at least some of the disciples to the Essenes, and I can see possible validity in both arguments. John Baptist is somewhat of an enigma. I agree about Paul's ethics, and I am inclined to agree about the lack of "chasm" between the various philosophies at least in the more cosmopolitan cities.
Back to this question: How do zealotry and pacifism mix? Thinking about Judaism as a continuum, it's hard to to find any roots of turn the other cheek- ism. There is a prolonged discussion of ethics that, basically, starts at the beginning and hasn't stopped. That is: what is it to be righteous (so God won't keep whacking us)? But there's no loving one's enemies.
OK, so does this imply that at least some amount of the Gospel story and other parts of the New Testament are *edited* or rewritten to better suit the new hosts right around 325 AD? I haven't seen anything that hints in this direction...but then, it would be somewhat compromising for such to be brazenly admitted in light of the other issues being addressed at the first council of Nicaea, especially the Arian controversy. It would be difficult enough to argue over established texts, and quite another matter to clash two different texts against each other. Maybe better said; debate of two interpretations would seem proper, but debate between two texts might present some ethical problems if word got out... :confused:
OK, so does this imply that at least some amount of the Gospel story and other parts of the New Testament are *edited* or rewritten to better suit the new hosts right around 325 AD? I haven't seen anything that hints in this direction...

Me neither!

China Cat Sunflower said:

We know that Peter is still carrying a sword at the very end.

While reading Matthew 5: 43-45, I assume that Peter is carrying a sword while Jesus is preaching this message. The weapon is bound to go noticed. So from the very beginning of Peter joining the revolution, he may have carried a sword. During the time, we know the famous belief was that a militant messiah, like Joshua, is going to victoriously defeat the roman empire and deliver the people like Moses did in the past. However, God shockingly dies with the Jews. The new exegesis sparks a revolutionary ideology which eventually is the winning idea that conquers the roman empire.

But there's no loving one's enemies.

After the fall of the temple, life for the Jews completely change. Maybe the answer is around the fall of the temple somewhere. Maybe John the Baptist and Jesus knew it was coming. Well, this is what I was thinking when reading what ya'll were discussing. . .
OK, so does this imply that at least some amount of the Gospel story and other parts of the New Testament are *edited* or rewritten to better suit the new hosts right around 325 AD?

We know that the material has been redacted. I'm staying strictly within the story here. If one takes the posture that it's less important to have answers than learn the ability to construct the right questions, I don't think we need to question the historicity of the Gospel narrative. Before we ever get to the point where we question the literalness of the narrative we should be asking all these questions about practical origins.

We know that the material has been redacted. I'm staying strictly within the story here. If one takes the posture that it's less important to have answers than learn the ability to construct the right questions, I don't think we need to question the historicity of the Gospel narrative. Before we ever get to the point where we question the literalness of the narrative we should be asking all these questions about practical origins.
OK, I think I see your point. Goodness, all it takes is a look at Theosophist literature and one can get the impression that the Jesus story is simply a retelling of the same old pagan superhero. Sheesh, come to think of it, I remember from somewhere an association between the names Jesus and Zeus.

Maybe there is something to all of the DaVinci Code / HBHG bs floating around, I don't know. But there is an awful lot that just doesn't add up.
While reading Matthew 5: 43-45, I assume that Peter is carrying a sword while Jesus is preaching this message. The weapon is bound to go noticed. So from the very beginning of Peter joining the revolution, he may have carried a sword. During the time, we know the famous belief was that a militant messiah, like Joshua, is going to victoriously defeat the roman empire and deliver the people like Moses did in the past. However, God shockingly dies with the Jews. The new exegesis sparks a revolutionary ideology which eventually is the winning idea that conquers the roman empire.
Thanks for your interest, Ahanu!

Conquers the Roman Empire? I think an equally valid argument could be made that Christianity may have hastened the fall of the Western Empire, rot from within so to speak. It's hard to say without better source material and my Latin is severely limited. I do think you bring a good point about the expectation of a militant messiah. Seems I recall reading somewhere that after Jesus and especially after the Temple was razed that a number of men were put forward as potential Messiahs. The most famous being Simon bar Kochba.

After the fall of the temple, life for the Jews completely change. Maybe the answer is around the fall of the temple somewhere. Maybe John the Baptist and Jesus knew it was coming. Well, this is what I was thinking when reading what ya'll were discussing. . .
Absolutely. The fall of the Temple was a huge blow to the Jewish cultural psyche. That was what distinguished the Jews from the other Hebrew tribes was their hold on the Temple proper. A couple of generations later and the Romans booted the Jews completely from Palestine, seems to me around 125 AD or thereabouts, the repercussion from the Bar Kochba revolt.

You broach an interesting thought, wondering if Jesus and John Baptist could "foresee." I believe in a metaphysical reality, a something that does interact with the material reality. But I can't help but wonder just how involved it can and does get with the affairs of human politics. And religion is politics and politics is religion at this stage of history.
I mentioned the Albigensian Crusade earlier, I wanted to show that the differences in interpretation have always been there (in spite of some protests to the contrary). In the West where the Vatican held sway its influence was often enforced militarily. Most of us know some of these things in a general sense, but for those who might want some resources to explore these historical highlights of Church history:

The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade (1209–1229) was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Roman Catholic Church to eliminate the heresy of the Cathars of Languedoc.

When Innocent III's diplomatic attempts to roll back Catharism[1] met with little success, he declared a crusade against Languedoc, offering the lands of the schismatics to any French nobleman willing to take up arms. The violence led to France's acquisition of lands with closer cultural and linguistic ties to Catalonia (see Occitan). An estimated 1,000,000 people died during the crusade.[2][3]

The Albigensian Crusade also had a role in the creation and institutionalization of both the Dominican Order and the Medieval Inquisition.
emphasis mine-jt3

Albigensian Crusade - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Catharism was a name given to a religious sect with dualistic and gnostic elements that appeared in the Languedoc region of France in the 11th century and flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries. Catharism had its roots in the Paulician movement in Armenia and the Bogomiles with whom the Paulicians eventually merged. They also became influenced by dualist and perhaps Manichaean beliefs.

Like many medieval movements, there were various schools of thought and practice amongst the Cathari; some were dualistic, others gnostic, some closer to orthodoxy while abstaining from an acceptance of Catholic doctrines.
Catharism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

All big medieval inquisitions were decentralized. Authority rested with local officials based on guidelines from the Holy See, but there was no central top-down authority running the inquisitions, as would be the case in post-medieval inquisitions. Thus there were many different types of inquisitions depending on the location and methods; historians have generally classified them into the episcopal inquisition and the papal inquisition.

The first medieval inquisition, the episcopal inquisition, was established in the year 1184 by a papal bull entitled Ad abolendam, "For the purpose of doing away with." The inquisition was in response to the growing Catharist heresy in southern France. It is called "episcopal" because it was administered by local bishops, which in Latin is episcopus. The episcopal inquisition was not very effective for many reasons. The bishops often did not reside in their dioceses, living in far-off cities such as Rome and rarely, if ever, visiting. When they did visit, bishops were busy and had many other responsibilities. Also, the procedures used in this inquisition were not effective. For example, according to the Ad abolendam, it was required to reveal the name of the accuser to the accused, and this would often lead to the revenge killing of the accuser before the trial.

Medieval Inquisition - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Some other historical notes of merit:

In the history of the Roman Catholic Church, the Avignon Papacy was the period from 1305 to 1378 during which seven popes, all French, resided in Avignon:

Pope Clement V: 1305–1314
Pope John XXII: 1316–1334
Pope Benedict XII: 1334–1342
Pope Clement VI: 1342–1352
Pope Innocent VI: 1352–1362
Pope Urban V: 1362–1370
Pope Gregory XI: 1370–1378

In 1376, Gregory XI moved the papal residence back to Rome and died there in 1378. Due to a dispute over the subsequent election, a faction of cardinals set up an antipope back in Avignon:

Clement VII: 1378–1394
Benedict XIII: 1394–1423 (expelled from Avignon in 1403)

This was the period of difficulty from 1378 to 1417 which Catholic scholars refer to as the "Western schism" or, "the great controversy of the antipopes" (also called "the second great schism" by some secular and Protestant historians), when parties within the Catholic church were divided in their allegiances among the various claimants to the office of pope. The Council of Constance in 1417 finally resolved the controversy.
Avignon Papacy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

At one point there were 3 popes simultaneously in office, in Rome, Pisa and Avignon.

Pope Martin V (c. 1368 – February 20, 1431), born Odo (or Oddone) Colonna was Pope from 1417 to 1431. His election effectively ended the Western Schism (1378–1417).

He was elected pope on St. Martin's Day (November 11) at the Council of Constance by a conclave consisting of twenty-three cardinals and thirty delegates of the council, which after deposing antipope John XXIII (1410–15), had been for long divided by the conflicting discourses of Pope Gregory XII (1406–15) and antipope Benedict XIII (1394–1423)

Pope Martin V - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

How about this guy:

Pope Alexander VI[1] (1 January 1431 – 18 August 1503), born Roderic Llançol, later Roderic de Borja (Italian: Borgia), who was Pope from 1492 to 1503, is the most controversial of the secular popes of the Renaissance and one whose surname became a byword for the debased standards of the papacy of that era.

At first, Alexander's reign was marked by a strict administration of justice and an orderly method of government, in contrast to the mismanagement of the previous pontificate, as well as by great outward splendour. But it was not long before his passion for endowing his relatives at the church's and his neighbours' expense became manifest. To that end he was ready to commit any crime and to plunge all Italy into war. Alexander VI had four children by his mistress (Vannozza dei Cattani), three sons and a daughter: Giovanni, Cesare, Goffredo (or Gioffre or, in Catalan, Jofré) and Lucrezia.

In spite of the splendours of the Pontifical court, the condition of Rome became every day more deplorable. The city swarmed with Spanish adventurers, assassins, prostitutes and informers; murder and robbery were committed with impunity, and the Pope himself cast aside all show of decorum, living a purely secular life; indulging in the chase, and arranging dancing, stage plays and orgies (culminating in the debaucherous Banquet of Chestnuts of 1501) within the Vatican itself.

Pope Alexander VI - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

We forgot the "r," all this time the word was "celebrate."
Now that I got some of the off-track stuff out of the way, here is some Jewish history pertaining to the situation on the ground in the earliest days of Christianity:

Bar Kokhba revolt (132–135) (Hebrew: מרד בר כוכבא‎) against the Roman Empire was a second major rebellion by the Jews of Iudaea and the last of the Jewish-Roman Wars.

Simon bar Kokhba, the commander of the revolt, was acclaimed the Messiah, the divine king prophesied to restore Israel. The revolt established a Jewish state for over two years, but a massive Roman army finally crushed it. The Romans then barred Jews from Jerusalem.

Jewish Christians hailed Jesus as the Messiah and did not support Bar Kokhba. They were barred from Jerusalem along with the rest of the Jews. The war and its aftermath helped differentiate Christianity as a religion distinct from Judaism.
Bar Kokhba revolt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Simon bar Kokhba (Hebrew: שמעון בר כוכבא, also transliterated as Bar Kokhva or Bar Kochba) was the Jewish leader who led what is known as Bar Kokhba's revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE, establishing an independent Jewish state of Israel which he ruled for three years as Nasi ("prince," or "president"). His state was conquered by the Romans in 135 CE following a two-year war. He became the last king of Israel in history.
Simon bar Kokhba - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The first Jewish-Roman War (years 66–73 CE), sometimes called The Great Revolt (Hebrew: המרד הגדול‎, ha-Mered Ha-Gadol), was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of Iudaea Province against the Roman Empire (the second was the Kitos War in 115–117 CE, the third was Bar Kokhba's revolt, 132–135 CE). It began in the year 66, stemming from Greek and Jewish religious tension.[1] It ended when legions under Titus besieged and destroyed Jerusalem, looted and burned Herod's Temple (in the year 70) and Jewish strongholds (notably Gamla in 67 and Masada in 73), and enslaved or massacred a large part of the Jewish population.

First Jewish-Roman War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

According to Josephus, a first-century Jewish Roman historian, Herod the Great fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt. In 66 CE, at the beginning of the First Jewish-Roman War against the Roman Empire, a group of Judaic extremist rebels called the Sicarii took Masada from the Roman garrison stationed there.

The works of Josephus are contested. But nevertheless, as the sole record of events that took place then, according to Josephus, the Sicarii were an extremist group.

According to some modern interpretations of Josephus, the Sicarii are considered an extremist splinter group of the Zealots.[1] The Zealots (according to Josephus), in contrast to the Sicarii, carried the main burden of the rebellion, which opposed Roman rule of Judea (as the Roman province of Iudaea, its Latin name).

The Sicarii on Masada were commanded by Elazar ben Ya'ir (who may have been the same person as Eleazar ben Simon), and in 70 CE they were joined by additional Sicarii and their families that were expelled from Jerusalem by the Zealots with whom the Sicarii were in conflict shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple.
Masada - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
So we end up with a Jewish Rabbi who isn't Jewish, who is executed but doesn't die, executed in Roman fashion but not by Romans...and a criminal threat to the Roman political authority posthumously becomes a unifying religious icon and rallying point for the Roman people, under penalty of law.
Just to recap:

From 165 BCE to 63 BCE, the formation of an independent Jewish kingdom, known as the Hasmonaean Dynasty. This is the era of the Maccabbees.

A Roman campaign of conquest and annexation soon followed. Gradually the rule over Judea became less and less Jewish, until it came under the direct rule of Rome.

Some 34 years or so later (3 BC, +/-), the man we know as Jesus is born (thought by some to have occurred in the late summer or early autumn of the year).

33 years later (30 AD, +/-), the man we know as Jesus dies a criminal's death in the spring at the hands of the Romans at the instigation of the Jewish priests, ostensibly for posing a threat to the religious establishment and possibly for posing a threat to the civil establishment.

In 66 CE, Judeans began to revolt against the Roman rulers. The revolt was defeated and the Temple was destroyed in the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The siege of Masada followed shortly after, marking the end of this war. This is the period Josephus writes about as I recall.

Judeans continued to live in their land in significant numbers, until the Bar Kokhba revolt. Most of the Jewish population of central Judaea was essentially wiped out, killed, sold into slavery, or forced to flee, banished from Jerusalem until 1948 (another story for another day). By the way, this also meant that there were no Christians in Jerusalem either. For intents and purposes at this point and for some time yet to come, Christianity was viewed as an offshoot of Judaism.

Christians didn't have it easy. Nero was the first Roman Emperor to scapegoat the Christians, blaming them for the fires that levelled a lot of the old city of Rome. Christians were dipped in barrels of tar and set alight to illuminate Nero's garden parties, among other more famous tortures like being thrown to lions and executed by gladiators.

There were at least 3 major persecutions of the Christians over the ensuing 200 years or so, and several minor ones. Even so, Christians were by and large tolerated well enough that their numbers grew and they were even allowed at times to hold various public offices and conduct public business. They were even allowed a presence in the military. So Rome had a love/hate relationship with Christianity. When it was convenient, Rome tolerated them. When it was convenient, Rome butchered them. Until the time of Constantine the terms of tolerance or not were what Pagan Rome dictated at the moment.

So it took some intestinal fortitude to be a Christian during the period leading up to Constantine. No doubt there was some comforting element offered that the Pagan pantheon could not provide, perhaps the hope of eternal life and resurrection into a peaceful heaven rather than the arbitrary whims offered by Pagan superstitions? Perhaps the idea of common good and social welfare, (no stranger to Judaism even before Jesus), developed into an art that provided comfort and shelter and consolation that the Pagan pantheon could not beyond the appeasement of bread and circuses?

Along comes Constantine, no doubt a remarkable man no matter how history cares to view him. The son of the Ceasar of Britain, history recalls that British Christians joined the ranks of his soldiers and helped him defeat Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge. It was in payment for this debt of gratitude for this victory in 313 AD that Constantine officially lifted the sanctions that were imposed on Christians. No longer was it a social handicap to be a Christian. From this point Christianity exploded and never looked back.

The Christianity of this point in time was fragmented, holding a number of differing beliefs and traditions. There were no established canons, no set books (or "letters") that were read, indeed many texts still exist that were held at that time and later deemed non-canonical. So there were a lot of differing views, much like how Christianity is today.

What did these early, pre-Roman Catholic Christians believe? We can't say for sure. No doubt our pride and loyalty want us to believe that we believe now as we did then, but there isn't much to confirm that with. Indeed, some of the Gnostic texts and other texts that were ostracized by Rome in 325 AD and later suggest that at least some Christians held views quite unlike those commonly held today, views that seem to hold an even stronger influence from earlier Greek pagan, mystical and philosophical traditions. Even in what history remains, simply in considering the Arius - Athanasius controversy that framed the first Council at Nicaea, it is apparent that there was no "one" set way to be a Christian. And until one specific "denomination" if you will gained the political upper hand, there were no winners to these arguments. Arius lost at Nicaea- yet- Constantine was baptised on his deathbed as an Arian Christian!

Constantine was a great benefactor to Christianity, but he conducted his public and private life as a Pagan throughout until he was on his deathbed. After a few fits and starts, it was several emperors later before any could actually be said to have been Christian in more than just name.

Did the pre-Catholic Christians believe in a trinity? Hard to say...some probably did, some probably didn't. There are trinitys in certain Pagan pantheons, and there is evidence that Pagan practices were adopted and adjusted...given a fresh coat of paint and a new name, so to speak, and called Christian. This is how we end up with certain Pagan holidays (like Christmas and Easter) being celebrated in Christianity instead of the Jewish Holy Days (like Passover).

To this end I found it remarkable the stated anti-semitism of Constantine, word for word the same I have heard in more recent contexts (from Catholics!). Considering that Constantine was in a position to shape future policy within the emerging Christian institution, it begins to make sense to me how particularly at this stage in time Christianity began to take on Pagan attributes as it distanced itself from its Jewish roots. No doubt another reason was expediency, PR, "spin," in an attempt to mold the formulaic church into something appealing to a Pagan audience.

Was Jesus defacto G-d in flesh, rather than a remarkable human teacher of righteousness? In light of some of these other contextual events it becomes a bit harder to say. Of course we want him to be, but will it destroy our faith if he is not? It is hard to deny how much the "Savior" story resembles other Pagan savior and hero myths that long predate the formative era of Christianity. Myths where gods embue their human offspring with supernatural powers to heal, feed masses, teach wisdom and work miracles, even returning from the dead. It is coincidences like these that raise what I feel are legitimate doubts as to the factual authenticity of the Christian savior mythos. Even his name, Jesus, is a pagan name!, his Jewish name Yashua having been forsaken by the church in its quest to distance itself from Judaism.

The more I look, the more loose ends I find. It doesn't add up.

Either I blindly accept the routine traditions with all of the...inaccurate non part and parcel of the deal. Or I hold out for the truth of reality and personal experience. Seems to me the Christianity Jesus, James, Peter and Paul taught was more Jewish than it is now. A LOT more. Want truth? Be careful what you pray might get it.
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Thanks grey, but I'll wait for the fallout to hit the fan first before I start taking any bows...

<where's an embarassed smiley when you need it?>