123 said:Either I blindly accept the routine traditions with all of the...inaccurate non truths...as 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 for...you might get it.
What are the essential elements of Christianity? What are the active ingredients it MUST contain regardless the many flavors and various packaging available? Theologically it's pretty simple, isn't it? So what we're really agonizing over here is the presumptive authenticity of one's choice of creative anachronism.
I hear ya regarding not *really* knowing about what it was like in that day and time. Of course, that same caveat extends across all cultural and sociological guesswork. Since we can't travel in time, all we have are a few trace remnant compositions from a handful of authors (each of whom presents his own validation issues, ), some presumably traditional cultural echoes, and a little bit of verifiable and cross referenced historical moments of significance, all set into a backdrop heavily imbued with Greek (and to a lesser extent Babylonian) philosophical underpinnings. Throw in a handful of hairbrained ultra-nationalists pining for the good ol' days, some power-hungry politicos schmuzing with the occupying government who really just wants peace and taxes (on their own terms, of course), and some disenfranchised anti-establishment types in a desert commune and I think that gives as valid a version of what it was like as any.I don't know if you're familiar with the Society for the Creative Anachronism. It's a bunch of people who enjoy dressing up in period wear and pretending to be knights, and ladies, and such. They have these week long camporees where they stage mock battles and such. There's no way of knowing what it was to be the earliest "Christians", just like there's really know way of knowing what it was really like to live in the medieval era. We have these impossibly idealized, iconically simplistic notions of what Judaism of the day might have been. But it's a lot like how kids think that all Eskimos live in igloos. It's mighty disappointing to find out you've been punked by first grade sociology. Especially after you've built the sugar cube igloo!
Something to consider (the germ is in the references already provided): the Roman Empire was split into two prior to Constantine, and Constantine moved his capitol East to modern day Istanbul and named it for himself: Constantinople. After the fall of Rome in 476 AD, Constantinople and the Eastern half of the Empire continued to flourish for almost another thousand years. Known as Byzantium, or the Byzantine Empire, this was the home of the Eastern Orthodox branch of the church, the same church founded at Nicaea. It is also the same church with which Rome sparred numerous times; The East-West schism, the Iconoclastic controversy, etc. The primary source of friction appears to be that of jurisdiction, the complaint being that Rome frequently overstepped her bounds trying to extend her influence beyond what was rightly hers into that that belonged to others.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.
The Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire or Eastern Roman Empire is the historiographical term used since the 19th century to describe the Roman Empire of the Middle Ages, centered on its capital of Constantinople. Whilst it was known as the "Empire of the Greeks" to many of its western European contemporaries (due to the dominance of Medieval Greek language, culture and population), it was referred to by its inhabitants simply as the "Roman Empire" (Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων) or Romania (Ῥωμανία) and its emperors continued the unbroken succession of Roman emperors; to the Islamic world it was known primarily as روم (Rûm, "land of the Romans").
As an outgrowth of the eastern portion of Empire founded in Rome, the Byzantine Empire's evolution into a separate culture from the West can be seen as a process beginning with Emperor Constantine's transferring the capital from Nicomedia in Anatolia to Byzantium on the Bosphorus (then renamed Nova Roma, and later Constantinople). By the 7th century under the reign of Emperor Heraclius, whose reforms changed the nature of the Empire's military and recognized Greek as the Empire's language, the Empire had taken on a distinct new character.
During its existence the Empire suffered numerous setbacks and losses of territory yet it remained the most powerful economic and military power in Europe, North Africa, and the near East for much of the Middle Ages. After a final recovery under the Komnenian dynasty in the 12th century the Empire slipped into a long decline culminating in the capture of Constantinople and the remaining Roman/Greek territories by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century.
During her thousand-year reign the Empire, a bastion of Christianity and one of the prime trade centers in the world, helped to shield Western Europe from early Muslim expansion, provided a stable gold currency for the Mediterranean region, influenced the laws, political systems, and customs of much of Europe and the Middle East, and preserved much of the literary works and scientific knowledge of ancient Greece, Rome, and many other cultures.
Byzantine Empire - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaFourth Crusade
In 1198, Pope Innocent III broached the subject of a new crusade through legates and encyclical letters. The stated intent of the crusade was to conquer Egypt, now the centre of Muslim power in the Levant. The crusader army that arrived at Venice in the summer of 1202 was somewhat smaller than had been anticipated, and there were not sufficient funds to pay the Venetians, whose fleet was hired by the crusaders to take them to Egypt. Venetian policy under the aging and blind but still ambitious Doge Enrico Dandolo was potentially at variance with that of the Pope and the crusaders, because Venice was closely related commercially with Egypt. The crusaders accepted the suggestion that in lieu of payment they assist the Venetians in the capture of the (Christian) port of Zara in Dalmatia (vassal city of Venice, which had rebelled and placed itself under Hungary's protection in 1186). The city fell in November 1202 after a brief siege. Innocent, who was informed of the plan, but his veto was disregarded, was reluctant to jeopardize the Crusade, and gave conditional absolution to the crusaders—not, however, to the Venetians.
After the death of Theobald III, Count of Champagne, the leadership of the Crusade passed to Boniface of Montferrat, a friend of the Hohenstaufen Philip of Swabia. Both Boniface and Philip had married into the Byzantine imperial family. In fact, Philip's brother-in-law, Alexios Angelos, son of the deposed and blinded emperor Isaac II Angelos, had appeared in Europe seeking aid and had made contacts with the crusaders. Alexios offered to reunite the Byzantine church with Rome, pay the crusaders 200,000 silver marks, and join the crusade with 200,000 silver marks and all the supplies they needed to get to Egypt. Innocent was aware of a plan to divert the Crusade to Constantinople, and forbade any attack on the city; but the papal letter arrived after the fleets had left Zara.
Alexios III made no preparations for the defense of the city; thus, when the Venetian fleet entered the waters of Constantinople on June 24, 1203, they encountered little resistance. In the summer of 1203 Alexios III fled, and Alexios Angelos was elevated to the throne as Alexios IV along with his blind father Isaac. Innocent reprimanded the leaders of the crusaders, and ordered them to proceed forthwith to the Holy Land.
Juan said:Sorry for the delay in responding, been away a few days...
The essential elements of Christianity? Is this a rhetorical question? Depending who one asks I suppose most would start with the Apostle's Creed or some like, without realizing that was something that stemmed from Nicaea and Roman consolidation.
For me I think it is the teachings of the man Jesus (Yashua). The wisdom, the idealist concept of keeping G-d in mind in everything we do, the "do unto others," things like that. Agonizing over a choice of creative anachronism? I suppose that may be one way of looking at it.
Some good points Chris. I am wondering regarding baptism though, as far as I know that is not a traditionally Jewish ceremony. Now, washing is. The Jewish priest would ceremonially wash in preparation for various religious functions. And one of the proscribed duties for laypersons in transition from some states of ritual uncleanness into ritual cleanness involved washing oneself along with other things. But the act of submersing in water for the ritual washing of sins (and "dying to the world") begins AFAIK with John Baptist. Now that I think about it, symbolically it mirrors the Pagan spring fertility ritual of planting a seed (death) into the ground and sprouting (rebirth) from the ground.Jesus says, essentially, "believe in me and you'll have eternal life BECAUSE I'm taking away the sins, or sinful condition of the world." Here's one obvious NT-OT portal. Jump through the star gate in the NT and you land Isaiah somewhere. God is punishing the sin of Israel. But God has a history of relenting, and God has a larger plan wherein eventually Israel gets to be a great nation.
But Israel keeps screwing up. It keeps sinning. So God keeps whacking them while simultaneously inflating their enemies so that their (the enemies) eventual humiliation will be that much more spectacular. See, two birds with one stone. God's extra good at multi tasking.
In the story of John the Baptist we see a group preparing for a messianic age by ceremonially renouncing their sins in the act of baptism. This is going on before Jesus shows up and eventually is proclaimed super avatar messiah god man. The Jesus movement gets it's initial pool of adherents from, and appears to itself emerge from John's group. John shows up just long enough in the story to be plausibly dismissed.
To get really primitive we need to know what the other elements of John's movement's ideology were besides the renunciation of sin in preparation for the messianic age. We need a broader picture of the socio political soup that this type of movement is spawning from. Did these earliest movementarians have particular customs? Were they really anal about observing the ceremonial law? Did they have secret handshakes. In what circles of Jewish society did they ambulate? How were they thought of within the social structure of the synagogues? Were they wanted by the law? We need to know these things to understand who Jesus is when he steps out to be baptized. He will never again be more Jewish than at that moment. The problem is, of course, that everything that might help us answer those questions has been bloody excised from the text. It's been sanitized away in the process of snipping off all the loose and unruly ends.
The main source of information about the life and belief of Essenes is the detailed account contained in a work of the 1st century Jewish historiographer Flavius Josephus entitled The Jewish War written about 73-75 AD (War 2.119-161) and his shorter description in his Antiquities of the Jews finished some 20 years later (Ant. 18.11 & 18-22). Claiming first hand knowledge (Life §§10-11), he refers to them by the name Essenoi and lists them as the followers of one of the three sects in "Jewish Philosophy'" (War 2.119) alongside the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The only other known contemporary accounts about the Essenes are two similarly detailed ones by the Jewish philosopher Philo (fl. c. 20 AD - c. 54 AD; Quod Omnis Probus Liber Sit XII.75-87, and the excerpt from his Hypothetica 11.1-18 preserved by Eusebius, Praep. Evang. Bk VIII), who, however, admits to not being quite certain of the Greek form of their name that he recalls as Essaioi (Quod Omn. Prob. XII.75), the brief reference to them by the Roman equestrian Pliny the Elder (fl. 23 AD - 79 AD; Natural History, Bk 5.73). Pliny, also a geographer and explorer, located them in the desert near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the year 1947.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, found in caves at Qumran, are widely believed to be the work of Essenes or to reflect Essene beliefs.
Josephus uses the name Essenes in his two main accounts (War 2.119, 158, 160; Ant. 13.171-2) as well as in some other contexts ("an account of the Essenes", Ant. 13.298; "the gate of the Essenes", War 5.145; "Judas of the Essene race", Ant. 13.311, but some manuscripts read here Essaion; "holding the Essenes in honour", Ant. 15.372; "a certain Essene named Manaemus", Ant. 15.373; "to hold all Essenes in honour", Ant. 15.378; "the Essenes", Ant. 18.11 & 18; Life 10). In several places, however, Josephus has Essaios, which is usually assumed to mean Essene ("Judas of the Essaios race", War I.78; "Simon of the Essaios race", War 2.113; "John the Essaios", War 2.567; 3.11; "those who are called by us Essaioi", Ant. 15.371; "Simon a man of the Essaios race", Ant. 17.346). Philo's usage is Essaioi, although he admits this Greek form of the original name that according to his etymology signifies "holiness" to be inexact (NH XII.75). Pliny's Latin text has Esseni. Josephus identified the Essenes as one of the three major Jewish sects of that period.
it is correct to identify the community at Qumran with the Essenes (and that the community at Qumran are the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls), then according to the Dead Sea Scrolls the Essenes' community school was called "Yahad" (meaning "oneness of God") in order to differentiate themselves from the rest of the Jews who are repeatedly labeled "The Breakers of the Covenant", especially in their prophetic book-scroll entitled "Milhama" (meaning " The War") in which the master of the Essenes (referred to as "The Teacher of Righteousness") prophesised that the so-called "Breakers of the Covenant" Jews will be on the side of the Antichrist. The accounts by Josephus and Philo show that the Essenes (Philo: Essaioi) led a strictly celibate but communal life — often compared by scholars to later Christian monastic living — although Josephus speaks also of another "rank of Essenes" that did get married (War 2.160-161). According to Josephus, they had customs and observances such as collective ownership (War 2.122; Ant. 18.20), elected a leader to attend to the interests of them all whose orders they obeyed (War 2.123, 134), were forbidden from swearing oaths (War 2.135) and sacrificing animals (Philo, §75), controlled their temper and served as channels of peace (War 2.135), carried weapons only as protection against robbers (War 2.125), had no slaves but served each other (Ant. 18.21) and, as a result of communal ownership, did not engage in trading (War 2.127). Both Josephus and Philo have lengthy accounts of their communal meetings, meals and religious celebrations.
After a total of three years probation (War 2.137-138), newly joining members would take an oath that included the commitment to practice piety towards Yahweh and righteousness towards humanity, to maintain a pure life-style, to abstain from criminal and immoral activities, to transmit their rules uncorrupted and to preserve the books of the Essenes and the names of the Angels (War 2.139-142). Their theology included belief in the immortality of the soul and that they would receive their souls back after death (War 2.153-158, Ant. 18.18). Part of their activities included purification by water rituals, which was supported by rainwater catchment and storage.
Since the 19th century attempts have been made to connect early Christianity and Pythagoreanism with the Essenes: It was suggested that Jesus of Nazareth was an Essene, and that Christianity evolved from this sect of Judaism, with which it shared many ideas and symbols. According to Martin A. Larson, the now misunderstood Essenes were Jewish Pythagoreans who lived as monks. As vegetarian celibates in self-reliant communities who shunned marriage and family, they preached a coming war with the Sons of Darkness. As the Sons of Light, this reflected a separate influence from Zoroastrianism via their parent ideology of Pythagoreanism. According to Larson, both the Essenes and Pythagoreans resembled thiasoi, or cult units of the Orphic mysteries. John the Baptist is widely regarded to be a prime example of an Essene who had left the communal life (see Ant. 18.116-119), and it is thought they aspired to emulate their own founding Teacher of Righteousness who was crucified. However, J.B. Lightfoot's essay (On Some Points Connected with the Essenes) argues that attempts to find the roots of Essenism in Pythagoreanism and the roots of Christianity in Essenism are flawed. Authors such as Robert Eisenman present differing views that support the Essene/Early Christian connection.
John the Baptist
Saint John the Baptist (d. c 30) was a Jewish preacher and ascetic. He drew large crowds, , practiced baptism for the forgiveness of sins in the Jordan, and prophesied God's coming judgment. He baptized Jesus, and later was killed by Herod Antipas. The Jewish historian Josephus (c 37 to c 100) wrote that Herod had John killed for fear of a rebellion that John might raise. Jesus' own ministry followed John's, and some of Jesus' early followers had been followers of John. John, like Jesus, preached at a time of political, social, and religious conflict, and he prophesied that fire was coming to destroy the wicked.
Christians, Muslims, Baha'i, and Mandaeans regard John as an eschatological prophet. In the Christian gospels, written within a generation or two of John's death, John announces Jesus' coming. He is also identified with Elijah and as Jesus' cousin. Early church tradition describes John as being endowed with prenatal grace, so the day celebrating his birth has historically been more solemn than that marking his death. He is commonly referred to as John the Forerunner or Precursor by Christians who consider him the forerunner of Jesus Christ. Christians have traditionally honored John as a saint. The Quran, the Book of Mormon, and Baha'i writings affirm John's role as a prophet. In Mandaeanism, a tiny Gnostic religion, John is a divine prophet but Jesus is false.
John followed the example of previous Hebrew prophets, living austerely, challenging sinful rulers, calling for repentance, and promising God's justice. His practice of baptism might relate to the practice among Jews of his time to baptize converts. The early Christian church used baptism, combined with imposition of hands, as a rite conferring membership in Christ's church. Baptism is a nearly universal practice among Christians today.
emphasis mine, -jt3According to the canonical Gospels, John the Baptist's public ministry was brought to a close when he was imprisoned on orders of Herod Antipas, probably about seven months after he had baptized Jesus. The synoptic Gospels state that Herod reacted to John's condemnation of Herod's marriage to Herodias, the wife of Herod's brother Philip (Luke 3:19; Matthew 14:3-5}. Josephus locates John's imprisonment in the fortress of Machaerus on the southern extremity of Peraea, nine miles (14 km) east of the Dead Sea (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities XVIII:5:1–2).
Matthew relates that the imprisoned John sent messengers to Jesus to ask him whether he was the Messiah. Jesus indirectly answered in the affirmative and described John in terms of a return of the prophet Elijah (Matthew 11:2-15).
Regarding John's death, Josephus states that Herod had John killed to preempt a possible uprising. Matthew links John's death as well with Herodias, as he related that her daughter Salome so much delighted Antipas with a dance that he vowed to grant her any wish to which, after being prompted by her mother (Herodias), she demanded the head of John the Baptist. (Matthew 14:6-8)
The Gospels date John's death before the crucifixion of Jesus. Josephus places John's death no later than 36 CE. Some scholars[attribution needed] believe that Herod Antipas did not marry his brother's wife until his brother Philip died in 34 CE, placing these events after the date in the Gospel account.
Some Christians believe that John the Baptist had a specific role ordained by God which was to be the forerunner or precursor to the Messiah, whom they believe to be Jesus. "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Luke 1:17 and also Luke 1:76 "...thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 1:77 "To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins."
There are several passages within the Old Testament which are generally interpreted by Christians as being prophetic of John the Baptist in this role. These include a passage in the Book of Malachi that refers to a prophet who would prepare the way of the Lord:
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. - Malachi 3:1
Though the interpretation of this passage as referring to a forerunner of the Messiah was uncommon amongst Jews prior to the 2nd century BC, it became significantly more common under Hellenic, and later Christian, influences. (*If true, this is rather curious..., -jt3)
Christians interpreted Isaiah 40:3-5 as referring prophetically to John, based on John's own statement as written in John 1:22-23::He said, 'I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, "Make straight the way of the Lord" ', as the prophet Isaiah said.
An account of John the Baptist is found in all extant manuscripts of Flavius Josephus' Jewish Antiquities book 18, chapter 5, paragraph 2:
Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him. (Whiston Translation) 
Josephus' Account of Jesus: The Testimonium Flavianum“ About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.”
- Jewish Antiquities, 18.3.3 §63-(Based on the translation of Louis H. Feldman, The Loeb Classical Library.)
The external cause of attention was the bias of English deists and Continental Rationalists who strove to metamorphize the Essenes into predecessors from whom gradually and quite naturally Christians developed; and Freemasons pretended to find in Essenism pure Christianity. In reference to such chimeras it is enough to say that between Essenism and Christianity there are some points of resemblance; it could not very well be otherwise because Essenism was Judaic in its foundation and Christianity was not destructive but progressive. On the other hand, the differences are fundamental. That John the Baptist and Christ were Essenes are mere assumptions based on similarities which spring naturally and independently from asceticism and voluntary poverty. So likewise the vaunted dependence between Essenism and monasticism can be resolved into necessary traits of any ascetic, communistic life (see "Wuku" in "Studien u. Mittheilungen d. Ben. Cist. ordens", 1890, I 223-30; Berlière in "Revue Bénéd", 1891, VIII, 12-190).
… Josephus relates in his Jewish Antiquities (XVIII, v, 2), but it should be remembered that he is woefully erratic in his dates, mistaken in proper names, and seems to arrange facts according to his own political views; however, his judgment of John, also what he tells us regarding the Precursor's popularity, together with a few details of minor importance, are worthy of the historian's attention. The same cannot be said of the apocryphal gospels, because the scant information they give of the Precursor is either copied from the canonical Gospels (and to these they can add no authority), or else is a mass of idle vagaries.
Chapter III verse 32. Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him.
3. Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, (9) those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; (10) as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.