The Birth of Christianity

I recently finished reading “The Birth of Christianity” by John Dominic Crossan.  I am kind of proud of myself for reading all the way through this book, because it is very academic and detailed in its approach.  But it was worth the effort.

Crossan is one of today’s leading scholars regarding the historical Jesus.  His interdisciplinary approach includes anthropology, history and archaeology to develop an understanding of earliest Christianity in the decades following the death of Jesus but before the first gospel writings.  His findings are often at odds with major teachings of the Church today, but there is much to be learned in this book whether or not one agrees with all of Crossan’s conclusions.

I won’t go into details here.  But one of the assertions that I found most interesting is that the earliest followers of Christ (about 30 AD to 60 AD) were focused primarily on the sayings of Jesus (the oral “Sayings Tradition”) and the shared meal tradition (love feast/ communion/ eucharist).  Their creed was to live as Jesus had instructed his followers.  The Christian focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection did not seem to come until later, especially as emphasized in the writings of Paul.

This book isn’t for everyone.  It will challenge your thinking, and even your beliefs.  It will drive you to your dictionary to look up some of those words used only in academia.  It is 600 pages long. But it is worth the effort.

Holiday and Solstice Greetings

This is indeed a special time of year.  It is a time to celebrate hope and new beginnings.  Today is the Winter Solstice – the shortest day and longest night of the whole year.  This occasion has been celebrated by people around the world from the most ancient times because for the next 6 months the light will triumph over the darkness throughout the northern hemisphere.

In modern times Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day, which falls on December 25. However, it’s believed that this date was chosen to offset pagan celebrations such as the Scandinavian solstice Feast of Juul (Yule).  Whatever Jesus’ true birth date might be, this does seem like a particularly appropriate time to celebrate His light coming into our world.

So I choose this day to send my Holiday greetings to all family and friends.  Rejoice in the light of the sun, the Light of Jesus, and the new opportunities that 2015 will bring.

The Jews

Hello!  Remember me?  It has been many months since my last post.  There didn’t seem to be much interest in what I was learning and capturing here, so I just stopped putting in the effort to post.  However, I have continued my studies on the history of Christianity.  Maybe I will get back to blogging more regularly again.

I have made reference in previous posts to the Jewish roots of our faith.  The more that I learn, the more important I view those Jewish roots.  I just finished watching a documentary on the Jews, and I recommend it:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/story-jews/video/episode-1/

I would enjoy hearing back from anyone that still subscribes to this blog.

Blessings …

What the Bible Really Says

The Bible is the foundation for Christian doctrine and practice.  It is the ultimate Christian authoritative source, and is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  We read and study it often, yet usually not as much as we think we should.

So what does the Bible really say?  It seems to depend on whom we ask.  The Bible (or at least selected passages) can be used to support almost any spiritual perspective.  It seems to me that much of what we think the Bible says is actually what someone else says it says.  While we often need help in understanding the context or background of what we are reading, too often we don’t rely on our own understanding of the plain text and the guidance of the Spirit within us.  I am remembering a specific incident where a Bible teacher went to great lengths to bend and stretch a passage well beyond the simple meaning of the words so that he could make the passage fit into his personal narrow doctrinal perspective.  We need to be very skeptical of such teaching.

There were two triggers for today’s post.  One is that today is the start of a new year and I intend to get back to my studies of the history of Christianity.  The other trigger is that I have started reading a book:  What the Bible Really Says, A Reader’s Guide to the Old and New Testaments, by Manfred Barthel.  This book is actually more about historical context than about specific commentary, and I am finding it to be both interesting and informative.

Happy New Year, and Happy Bible Reading.