Archives For Christian History

What About The Bible… ? (Chapter 6)

This is the final post on my series about the Bible. It has been an enlightening time for me. This final post is about the history of Christianity and how it seems to stop with the establishment of the biblical text. But before I get into that I must mention that I have found that to really understand the Gospel text you must also understand the basic history of that region of the world during that period of time. To do that means seeking out historical records  of the Roman Empire particularly in the Middle East.

There is virtually nothing about the person of Jesus found outside the gospel accounts. He just didn’t show up on the Roman radar screen.  Historical text shows that there were many different people who took on the mantel of “son of God” during those years. Several names were found in Roman text with that claim but Jesus of Nazareth was not one of them.

To understand the part the Roman authorities played in the Crucifixion  you must realize that Pontius Pilate routinely condemned Jews to death for a myriad of reasons.  He had little regard for that population. You must also understand that the religious leaders of the times were very much in bed with Roman authorities. These sort of historical accounts help us to understand the gospel stories.

The Bible contains almost all of the accounted history of the early Christian church. As such it is a very powerful document.  Shamefully any counter views of being a Christian  were systematically destroyed when the Biblical version was adopted. As a result we don’t have the pieces necessary to see any different views or to maybe fill in some of the holes in the gospel accounts.

One of my biggest disappointments is that we haven’t put as much enthusiasm in to documenting Christian history since 300AD. Why haven’t we documented how well we are doing in living the messages of Jesus? Progress means monitoring where we are and focusing on where we are going. If as much enthusiasm were put into this task as is it in our reverence to the Bible  think how much better the world would be today.

To know where the church stands today is to know how we got here. I think part of the problem with this is that Christianity has a very messy history since the Bible’s invention.  We started out as a small group of followers of Jesus’ words and commands to being a State mandated religion that gain immense power in the world.  We regularly killed those who might disagree with the established dogma of the times. The Inquisition was a sorry time in church history but it was not the only time.

In order to know where we are we must know where we came from. If the theologians of the church had spent as much energy helping us know how we are doing as they did trying to parse out a  particular text in the Gospel to show us their version of God we would be a stronger and more diligent followers of Jesus. Sadly that has simply not been the case.

Most versions of the church today have a very pre-defined dogma and particularly beliefs that they demand  compliance to if you want to be part of their group. The trouble is much of that dogma simply has never been justified by the words of Jesus.

The Beginnings…..

September 3, 2012 — Leave a comment

Time Period:  573BC

I am about three weeks into my study of the parallels between Christian church history and the history of the Roman empire. I was hoping to find a “people’s history” of Rome for a source but have been unsuccessful in that regard. I now have about five sources of info but there really is little documented evidence of how the common man lived during this time. There are a few accounts from Roman soldiers but they are pretty much limited to their time in the military.

Here is what Simon Baker in his book Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire says about that:

Modern professional historians tend to stress how little we know about the Roman world. True, we are almost completely in the dark about what life was like for the slum dwellers of the city (though we can make a fair guess!) or for peasants struggling to find a livelihood in the countryside. And we are not much better off when it comes to understanding the feelings of women or slaves, or how the Roman empire’s balance of payments actually worked, or – for that matter – what Romans wore under their togas or how they disposed of their sewage (the miracles of Roman drainage have, I am afraid, been grossly exaggerated). 

As is common with many historical accounts Roman history is primarily focused on the wars fought and not the citizens themselves. This hampers my ability to see any parallels between Roman citizens and Christians. So, although I will lack some comparisons at the people level I still will be able to try to see just what was happening in the Roman Empire from their beginning and how they were grappling with their little Jesus followers problem later on.

Lets start out with this study of Rome here with some origin stories.

The Roman state was unofficially founded in 753BC by two brothers Romulus and Remus. These two brothers were at the head of a small band of renegades who were dug into a defensive position in a tiny village. It seems that for some reason the two brothers quarreled and Romulus killed his twin brother.  Romulus then opened up his camp for all comers including exiles, runaway slaves and criminals. So, according to this story Rome was  originally a city populated almost entirely by asylum-seekers and almost all of them were men.

Mr. Baker said early in his book said this about this story:

We have no idea how much of this lurid tale is actually true. The precise date of 753 is the result of an elaborate and frankly unreliable calculation more than five hundred years later by Roman scholars…

When I read this story I immediately thought of about closely relates to the first two brothers in the Jewish Torah or Old Testament as we Christians call it.   Here is that account:

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.  Genesis 4:8

Much like many of the early stories in the Old Testament the story of Romulus and his brother is thought to be myth that was passed down by mouth from generation to generation before being finally recorded.

Next time we will move on to when Rome was ruled by kings.