Outline

The first decision demanded of those seeking to engage and understand earliest Christianity as a religion concerns focus. A. Two approaches to the subject dominate the field but miss the specific subject with which we are concerned. 1. A historical approach analyzes the ancient evidence to reconstruct specific events in their chronological sequence and in their causal relations. 2. A theological approach analyzes the ancient evidence to determine the nature and the logical relations between...

Lecture Eighteen Access to Power Visions and Prayer

Scope In all ancient religions, visions (and auditions) and prayer represent the two-way traffic between humans and the divine. Prayer is the enacted conviction that there is a power greater than the human at work in the world, access to which can be attained through human effort. Visions (and auditions) are the immediate experience of that greater power and, when reported to others through writing, offer testimony to a larger reality than that of the empirical world. The prayer of Jesus and...

Lecture Twenty Three The Power of the Saints

Scope Christianity has retained its original power and a radical and sometimes subversive edge in the saints, who have reminded Christianity of the priority of religious experience through the ages by rekindling in their lives the fervor of Christianity's beginnings. The term saint ( holy one) was applied in the New Testament to all members of the community as a way of demarcating the boundary between the assembly of God and the world. With the passage of time, the term began to denote...

Luke Timothy Johnson PhD

Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, Emory University Luke Timothy Johnson is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia. Born in 1943 and from the age of 19 to 28 a Benedictine monk, he received a B.A. in philosophy from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, an M.Div. in theology from Saint Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana, and an M.A. in religious studies from Indiana University,...

Supplementary Reading

Weaver, Introduction to Christianity, 3rd edition, with D. Brakke and J. Bivins (Belmont, CA Wadsworth Press, 1998). N. Smart, The Religious Experience of Mankind (New York Charles Scribner's Sons, 1984), 3-23. Questions to Consider 1. What cultural forces are at work in making contemporary Americans so ignorant regarding religion in general and Christianity in particular 2. Is the distinction that this lecture draws between religion and culture one that is legitimate for other religious...

Lecture One Christianity as a Religion

Scope Among world religions, Christianity is at once the best and least known. Christianity's political and cultural importance in the shaping of Western civilization and in the colonizing of non-Western parts of the world is obvious. Its institutional arrangements, theological disputes, and moral teachings are familiar. Less clear is the reason that the Christian religion despised by so many and declared dead so many times continues to thrive, drawing adherents from every nation. The study of...

Scope

Christianity is the largest of the world religions and, despite being declared dead any number of times by its cultured despisers, continues to thrive and grow. What accounts for its continuing attractiveness and astonishing success in a post-Christian world The answer is not to be found in Christianity's myths, or ideas, or moral teachings, but in its distinctive claim to mediate an experience of the divine power. In short, Christianity draws people because it is convincing as a religion....

Essential Reading

The most frequently cited primary sources in this course are the writings of the New Testament. Any modern translation is acceptable. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is available in several formats, among them The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha edited by B. M. Metzger and R. E. Murphy (New York Oxford University Press, 1991). The NRSV has the advantage of using the best available manuscript evidence and of being gender-inclusive. I tend to prefer its predecessor, the Revised...

The Imperial Context

Scope Christianity came to birth in the Mediterranean world of the first century c.e., whose several layers of culture including ancient patterns deeply resistant to fundamental change all affected the development of this new religion. Politically, the world was ruled by Rome, which had recently made the transition from a republic to an empire. Culturally, the world was dominated by the ideals of Greek civilization, which had been spread as far as India by Alexander the Great. Alexander sought...

Lecture Twenty Two Teachers and Creeds

Scope As religious communities expand in size and survive through time, they tend to develop more elaborate forms of institution and more structured patterns of belief. Earliest Christianity was characteristically simple with respect to structure and creed. Itinerant apostles and prophets exercised authority wherever they appeared, whereas in local churches, elders and supervisors carried out administration, as well as teaching. The Gnostic crisis of the second century together with the...

Lecture Twenty The Communitys Worship

Scope One of the most important ways in which religion organizes existence is through ritual activity that establishes (or reveals) sacred time and space. Ritual activity in the earliest stage of Christianity was relatively simple Sacred space was nonexistent sacred time was simply the Lord's Day. In the New Testament, we catch glimpses of baptism, Eucharist, kinship language, foot-washing, the holy kiss. Some worship gatherings gave opportunity for teaching, ecstatic speech, and prophecy. We...

Lecture Twenty One The Transforming Word of Scripture

Scope Because of the key role played by experience, Christianity has never been a religion of the book in the way that Judaism and Islam are. Christianity's relationship to Scripture has always involved a tension-filled dialectic. Its first Scripture was the Torah shared with Judaism, which Christians reinterpreted in light of the paradoxical experience of the crucified and raised Messiah, Jesus. Its own literary productions were composed at least in part on the basis of the appropriation and...

Lecture Seven Greco Roman Religious Experience

Scope Although our extant evidence is slender, it is sufficient to warn against oversimplifications of ancient religiosity. People in Greco-Roman culture seemed to demonstrate the same range of attitudes toward ultimate power as people do today. At one extreme are the superstitious and at the other are the skeptical. Between them, we find a range of religious responses. Three examples give us a sense of genuine religious experience in antiquity. The first is the piety shown by the philosopher...

Part I

Professor Course Lecture One Christianity as a Lecture Two What Is a Lecture Three The Role of Religious Lecture Four Sourcing Lecture Five The Imperial Lecture Six Greco-Roman Lecture Seven Greco-Roman Religious Experience 14 Lecture Eight The Symbolic World of Lecture Nine Palestinian Judaism in the Greco-Roman Lecture Ten Judaism in the Hellenistic Diaspora 21 Lecture Eleven Jesus and the Lecture Twelve The Resurrection

Healing and Salvation

Scope Healing the sick is a manifestation of divine power in both Greco-Roman and Jewish religious traditions. Physical healing and exorcism are major components of Jesus's ministry in the Gospels and play a large role in the Acts of the Apostles (both canonical and apocryphal). The letters of Paul and James attest that a healing ministry continued in established Christian communities. As a visible sign of divine presence, healing tends to validate the healer as a divine agent and the movement...

Lecture Twenty Four Christianities Popular and Real

Scope A study of the vestibule and sanctuary of a typical Roman Catholic church of the twenty-first century reveals the enduring tension in Christianity between official religion (which is all about controlled power) and popular religion (in which power eludes official channels). Official religion always claims to be real religion, tending to despise the popular. Academic study of religion, for a variety of reasons, has tended to follow the same path. Thus, we know much more about...

Ce common era

of John the Baptist of Jesus (probable) of Saul Paul (probable) ministry and letters of Paul other epistolary literature burns Rome, punishes Christians of Jewish War against Rome of Paul (and probably also of Peter) of Jerusalem Temple by Romans Gospel of Mark Birkat Ha Minim Gospels of Matthew and Luke of John Letter of Clement of Ignatius of Antioch Jewish revolt against Rome of Jerusalem by Romans in Rome of Polycarp of Marcion of Justin of Montanus (approximate) of Irenaeus of Perpetua...