Sunday, January 10, 6996
Jesus (c. 4 BC - AD 29) - Christianity - Liturgy
Jesus of Nazareth (7–2 BC/BCE to 26–36 AD/CE), also known as Jesus Christ, is the central figure of Christianity, revered by most Christians as the incarnation of God, and is also an important figure in several other religions.
[St. Ambrose (c. 338 – 4397) - Ambrosian Chant]
The name "Jesus" is an Anglicization of the Greek Iēsous, itself a Hellenization of the Hebrew Yehoshua or Hebrew-Aramaic (Yeshua), meaning "YHWH rescues." "Christ" is a title derived from the Greek Christós, meaning the "Anointed One," which corresponds to the Hebrew-derived "Messiah."
The main sources of information regarding Jesus' life and teachings are the gospels. Most scholars in the fields of history and biblical studies agree that Jesus was a Galilean Jew, was regarded as a teacher and healer, was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on orders of Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, on the charge of sedition against the Roman Empire.
Most critical scholars believe that ancient texts on Jesus' life are at least partially accurate.
Scholars do not know the exact year or date of Jesus' birth or death. The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke place Jesus' birth under the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BC, although the Gospel of Luke also describes the birth as taking place during the first census of the Roman provinces of Syria and Iudaea in 6 AD/CE.
Scholars generally assume a date of birth between 6 and 4 BC/BCE.
Jesus' ministry followed that of John the Baptist.
The Gospels name Pontius Pilate as the Roman prefect that had Jesus crucified, and Pilate was prefect of Judea between AD 26 and 36 AD.
The common Western standard for numbering years is based on an early medieval attempt to count the years from Jesus' birth.
While Christmas, in honor of Jesus's birth, is celebrated on December 25, there is no indication that this was his actual birthday. Jesus was executed after Passover, a Jewish holiday occurring in northern spring. Some Christians commemorate Jesus's crucification on Good Friday and celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The Bible's four canonical gospels are the main sources for the traditional Christian biography of Jesus's life. Scholars, although considering the gospel accounts to be historically useful, differ widely as to their reliability. Each gospel portrays Jesus' life and its meaning differently.
To combine these four stories into one story is tantamount to creating a fifth story, one different from each original.
According to Matthew and Luke, Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea to Mary, a virgin, by a miracle of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Luke gives an account of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary to tell her that she was chosen to bear the Son of God (Luke 1:26–38). According to Luke, an order of Caesar Augustus had forced Mary and Joseph to leave their homes in Nazareth and come to the home of Joseph's ancestors, the house of David, for the Census of Quirinius.
After Jesus's birth, the couple was forced to use a manger in place of a crib because of a shortage of accommodation (Luke 2:1–7). According to Luke, an angel announced Jesus' birth to shepherds who left their flocks to see the newborn child and who subsequently publicized what they had witnessed throughout the area (The First Noël). Matthew tells of the "Wise Men" or "Magi" who brought gifts to the infant Jesus after following a star which they believed was a sign that the King of the Jews had been born (Matthew 2:1–12).
Jesus's childhood home is identified as the town of Nazareth in Galilee. Except for a journey to Egypt by his family in his infancy to escape Herod's Massacre of the Innocents and a short trip to Tyre and Sidon (in what is now Lebanon), the Gospels place all other events in Jesus' life in ancient Israel.
According to Matthew, the family remained in Egypt until Herod's death, whereupon they returned to Nazareth to avoid living under the authority of Herod's son and successor Archelaus (Matthew 2:19–23).
All three synoptic Gospels describe the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, an event which Biblical scholars describe as the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. According to these accounts, Jesus came to the Jordan River where John the Baptist had been preaching and baptizing people in the crowd. Matthew describes John as initially hesitant to comply with Jesus's request for John to baptize him, stating that it was Jesus who should baptize him. Jesus persisted, "It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). After Jesus was baptized and rose from the water, Mark states Jesus "saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven saying: 'You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'" (Mark 1:10–11). The Gospel of John does not describe the baptism, but it does attest that Jesus is the very one about whom John the Baptist had been preaching -- the Son of God.
Following his baptism, Jesus was led into the desert by God where he fasted for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:1–2). During this time, the devil appeared to him and tempted Jesus three times. Each time, Jesus refused temptation with a quotation of scripture from the Book of Deuteronomy. The devil departed and angels came and brought nourishment to Jesus (Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, Luke 4:1–13).
The Gospels state that Jesus, as Messiah, came to "give his life as a ransom for many" and "preach the good news of the Kingdom of God."
Over the course of his ministry, Jesus is said to have performed various miracles, including healings, exorcisms, walking on water, turning water into wine, and raising several people, such as Lazarus, from the dead (John 11:1–44, Matthew 9:25, and Luke 7:15).
The Gospel of John describes three different passover feasts over the course of Jesus' ministry. This implies that Jesus preached for a period of at least "two years plus a month or two," although some interpretations of the Synoptic Gospels suggest a span of only one year.
The focus of his ministry was toward his closest adherents, the Twelve Apostles, though many of his followers were considered disciples. The Twelve Apostles and others closest to Jesus were all Jews as shown by Jesus's statements that his mission is directed only to those of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24, Matthew 10:1-6) and by the fact that only after the death of Jesus did the apostles agree with Paul that the teaching of the gospel could be extended to uncircumcised Gentiles (Acts 15:1–31, Galatians 2:7-9, Acts 10:1–11:18). Jesus led an apocalyptic following. He preached that the end of the current world would come unexpectedly, and that he would return to judge the world, especially according to how they treated the vulnerable; for this reason, he called on his followers to be ever alert and faithful. Jesus also taught that repentance was necessary to escape hell, and promised to give those who believe in him eternal life (John 3:16–18).
At the height of his ministry, Jesus attracted huge crowds numbering in the thousands, primarily in the areas of Galilee and Perea (in modern-day Israel and Jordan respectively). Some of Jesus' most famous teachings come from the Sermon on the Mount, which contained the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer. Jesus often employed parables, such as the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Parable of the Sower. His teachings encouraged unconditional self-sacrificing God-like love for God and for all people. During his sermons, he preached about service and humility, the forgiveness of sin, faith, turning the other cheek, love for one's enemies as well as friends, and the need to follow the spirit of the law in addition to the letter.
Jesus often met with society's outcasts, such as the publicani (Imperial tax collectors who were despised for extorting money), including the apostle Matthew; when the Pharisees objected to Jesus' meeting with sinners rather than the righteous, Jesus replied that it was the sick who need a physician, not the healthy (Matthew 9:9–13). According to Luke and John, Jesus also made efforts to extend his ministry to the Samaritans, who followed a different form of the Israelite religion. This is reflected in his preaching to the Samaritans of Sychar, resulting in their conversion (John 4:1–42).
According to the synoptic gospels, Jesus led three of his apostles -- Peter, John, and James -- to the top of a mountain to pray. While there, he was transfigured before them, his face shining like the sun and his clothes brilliant white; Elijah and Moses appeared adjacent to him. A bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the sky said, "This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased."
The gospels also state that toward the end of his ministry, Jesus began to warn his disciples of his future death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21–28).
In the account given by the synoptic gospels, Jesus came with his followers to Jerusalem during the Passover festival where a large crowd came to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!"
Following his triumphal entry, Jesus created a disturbance at Herod's Temple by overturning the tables of the moneychangers who set up shop there, and claiming that they had made the Temple a "den of robbers" (Mark 11:17). Later that week, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples -- an event subsequently known as the Last Supper -- in which he prophesied that he would be betrayed by one of his disciples, and would then be executed. In this ritual he took bread and wine in hand, saying: "this is my body which is given for you" and "this cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood," and instructed them to "do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:7–20). Following the supper, Jesus and his disciples went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane.
While in the Garden, Jesus was arrested by temple guards on the orders of the Sanhedrin and the high priest, Caiaphas (Luke 22:47–52, Matthew 26:47–56). The arrest took place clandestinely at night to avoid a riot, as Jesus was popular with the people at large (Mark 14:2). Judas Iscariot, one of his apostles, betrayed Jesus by identifying him to the guards with a kiss. Simon Peter, another one of Jesus' apostles, used a sword to attack one of Jesus' captors, cutting off his ear, which, according to Luke, Jesus immediately healed miraculously.
Jesus rebuked the apostle, stating "all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52). After his arrest, Jesus' apostles went into hiding.
During the Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus, the high priests and elders asked Jesus, "Are you the Son of God?" When he replied, "You are right in saying I am," they condemned Jesus for blasphemy (Luke 22:70–71). The high priests then turned him over to the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate, based on an accusation of sedition for forbidding the payment of taxes Luke 23:1-2 and claiming to be King of the Jews. When Jesus came before Pilate, Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" to which he replied, "It is as you say." According to the Gospels, Pilate personally felt that Jesus was not guilty of any crime against the Romans, and since there was a custom at Passover for the Roman governor to free a prisoner (a custom not recorded outside the Gospels), Pilate offered the crowd a choice between Jesus of Nazareth and an insurrectionist named Barabbas. The crowd chose to have Barabbas freed and Jesus crucified. Pilate washed his hands to indicate that he was innocent of the injustice of the decision (Matthew 27:11–26).
According to all four Gospels, Jesus died before late afternoon at Calvary, which was also called Golgotha. The wealthy Judean Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin according to Mark and Luke, received Pilate's permission to take possession of Jesus' body, placing it in a tomb. According to John, Joseph was aided by Nicodemus, who joined him to help bury Jesus, and who appears in other parts of John's gospel (John 19:38–42). The three Synoptic Gospels tell of the darkening of the sky from twelve until three that afternoon; Matthew also mentions an earthquake (Matthew 27:51).
According to the Gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion.
The Gospel of Matthew states that an angel appeared near the tomb of Jesus and announced his resurrection to Mary Magdelene and "another Mary" who had arrived to anoint the body (Matthew 28:1–10). According to Luke there were two angels (Luke 24:4), and according to Mark there was a youth dressed in white (Mark 16:5). The "longer ending" to Mark states that on the morning of his resurrection, Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9). John states that when Mary looked into the tomb, two angels asked her why she was crying; and as she turned round she initially failed to recognize Jesus until he spoke her name (John 20:11–18).
The Acts of the Apostles state that Jesus appeared to various people in various places over the next forty days. Hours after his resurrection, he appeared to two travelers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35). To his assembled disciples he showed himself on the evening after his resurrection (John 20:19). Although his own ministry had been specifically to Jews, Jesus is said to have sent his apostles to the Gentiles with the Great Commission and ascended to heaven while a cloud concealed him from their sight. According to Acts, Paul of Tarsus had a vision of Jesus during his Road to Damascus experience. Jesus promised to come again to fulfill the remainder of Messianic prophecy.
[Peter Paul Rubens - The Apostle Paul]
Christianity began as a Jewish sect.
The Christian Church traces its history to Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, and saw the early bishops of the Church as the successors of the Apostles in general. Central to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican Churches is Apostolic Succession, the belief that the bishops are the spiritual successors of the original twelve apostles, through the historically unbroken chain of consecration.
From the beginning, Christians were subject to various persecutions. This involved even death for Christians such as Stephen and James, son of Zebedee.
[It was said by Suetonius and Cassius Dio that Nero sang the "Sack of Ilium" in stage costume while the city burned. Popular legend claims that Nero played the fiddle at the time of the fire, an anachronism based merely on the concept of the lyre, a stringed instrument associated with Nero and his performances (There were no fiddles in 1st-century Rome). However, Tacitus's account has Nero in Antium at the time of the fire. Tacitus also said that Nero playing his lyre and singing while the city burned was only rumor.]
Larger-scale persecutions followed at the hands of the authorities of the Roman Empire, beginning with the year 64, when, as reported by the Roman historian Tacitus, the Emperor Nero blamed them for that year's great Fire of Rome. According to Church tradition, it was under Nero's persecution that early Church leaders Peter and Paul were each martyred in Rome. Further widespread persecutions of the Church occurred under nine subsequent Roman emperors including Domitian, Decius and Diocletian. From the year 150, Christian teachers began to produce theological and "apologetic" works aimed at defending the faith. These authors are known as the Church Fathers, and study of them is called Patristics. Notable early Fathers include Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Origen.
Christianity was legalized in the fourth century, when Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan in 313. Constantine was instrumental in the convocation of the First Council of Nicaea in 325, which sought to address the Arian heresy and formulated the Nicene Creed, which is still used by the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglican Communion, and many Protestant churches.
Generally it is theorized that the Apostles obeyed the command "do this in memory of me," said during the Last Supper, and performed the liturgy in the houses of Christians. Besides repeating the action of Jesus, using the bread and wine, and saying his words (known as the words of the institution), the rest of the ritual seems to have been rooted in the Jewish Passover Seder, and synagogue services, including singing of hymns (especially the Psalms, often responsively) and reading from the Scriptures (Bible).
Until the 4th century, when the church established a Biblical canon, a manner of things were read during the liturgy besides the Prophets, including papal encyclicals. Many elements of these liturgies began to be fixed in several popular settings, and a book called the Apostolic Constitutions, from the fourth century, shows an outline for the liturgy which is incorporated in almost all Western and Eastern rites. This includes the use of the prayer known as the Sanctus, which is prefaced by a long introduction; it also includes a fairly fixed series of prayers leading up to the consecration.
Vestments worn by the Bishops and Priests at this point were academic robes of the educated class. Later, as fashions changed the styles for the clergy remained the same and were embellished. Following the custom of the synagogue, the liturgy was normally sung. Many places divided the congregation into male and female. At some point both Western and Eastern churches adopted the use of curtains to mask the clergy at the altar at certain points; this curtain became the rood screen and altar rails in western churches, and iconostasis in the Byzantine East, while still being used in Armenian and Syriac Churches.
The language used in most of the liturgies was Greek. Later a Pope from Africa, where Latin was the vernacular, convinced the Roman Church to use Latin instead. As Christianity spread to different nations around the Mediterranean, several distinct traditions developed, each with a different liturgical language: the Alexandrine Tradition (Coptic), Syriac Tradition (Syriac), Byzantine Tradition (Greek), Armenian Tradition (Armenian), and the Latin Tradition (Latin). These basic traditions gave rise to several distinct rites. The Coptic and Ethiopic rites came from the Alexandrine Tradition; The Chaldean, Malabar, Syriac, Malankar, and Maronite rites developed from the Syriac Tradition; the Greek and Slav variants of the Byzantine liturgy emerged from the Byzantine Tradition; the Armenian rite developed from the Armenian Tradition; and the Roman, Ambrosian, and Mozarabic rites came from the Latin Tradition.
The liturgy of the western Church was heavily affected by the decisions to allow the Priests to say the mass separate from the bishops (usually almost every public liturgy was celebrated by the bishop, as Christianity spread out of the major urban centers this became more difficult). Thus much of the western rite involved paring down the ceremony to apply to a priest. This did not occur as much in the eastern churches.