Voices of Christianity: A Global Introduction
Voices of Christianity: A Global Introduction

Voices of Christianity: A Global Introduction

by Rebecca Moore

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Overview


Voices of Christianity presents the key documents that shaped the history of Christianity. The story is told through the struggles, events, and achievements that contributed to its beliefs. Early chapters describe the Jewish roots of Jesus and Paul, present the theological decisions made by early Christians, and describe ways of being “religious” in the Middle Ages. Later chapters investigate the responses to the Reformations of the Sixteenth Century and address Christian reactions to the challenges of Enlightenment Rationalism. The last two chapters look closely at world Christianity in its global setting.
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780824599430
Publisher: The Crossroad Publishing Company
Publication date: 08/15/2018
Edition description: None
Pages: 580
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author


Rebecca Moore is Professor Emerita of Religious Studies at San Diego State University. She has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Marquette University. She co-authored the book A Portable God: The Origin of Judaism and Christianity (Rowman and Littlefield 2007). She is past president of the Society for the Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages.

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CHAPTER 1

The Jewish Roots of Jesus, Paul, and Christianity

Literary Sources for Understanding Jesus

While Christianity claims Jesus Christ as its central figure, its history neither begins nor ends with his life, death, and resurrection. Jewish beliefs and traditions, and the struggle of Jews against their Roman rulers during the first century, provide the context in which Jesus was born. (Chapter 2 examines the Greek and Roman context in which subsequent Christian doctrine develops.) The story of Jesus that appears in the New Testament of the Bible is really just a small part of this sacred text for Christians. The four Gospels that describe Jesus' earthly life — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — take up less than one-quarter of the New Testament, and still less of the entire Bible, which for Christians includes an Old Testament and a New Testament.

A number of literary sources exist that set the scene for Jesus' arrival on the world stage. First, of course, is the Bible, with its Old Testament, which relates the story of the Israelites, and the New Testament, which relates the story of first-century Jews and of Jesus and his followers. Other texts, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Pseudepigrapha, illuminate the religious framework further by revealing the diversity of Jewish thought in Jesus' day. All of these texts broaden our understanding of who Jesus was.

A Semitic tribe of nomads known as the Israelites wrote the first and largest part of the Bible. The Israelites, who are the religious ancestors of Christians and Muslims as well as of Jews, compiled a collection of scrolls. This collection ultimately formed a body of Jewish scripture called Tanakh, an acronym for Torah (the first five books of the Bible); Nevi'im (the prophets); and Kethuvim (the writings). Protestant Christians know Tanakh as the Old Testament, while Catholic and Orthodox Christians include ancient Jewish texts written in Greek, as well as the Tanakh, in their Old Testament. Biblical scholars use the term the Hebrew Bible for the texts accepted as authoritative by Jews, to provide a neutral, all-inclusive phrase for the writings that three major world religions hold sacred. Muslims dub Jews and Christians "people of the Book," and in essence they are correct in labeling the Hebrew Bible the book, since all three faiths base subsequent holy texts upon it. Jews have the Talmud, Christians have the New Testament, and Muslims have the Qur'an.

The Hebrew Bible chronicles the fortunes of the Israelites. It uses poems, legends, prophetic oracles or sayings, prayers, hymns, dialogues, sermons, and other literary genres to document the ups and downs of a particular people and their relationship with their god. It describes the heroic men and women who were faithful to the one god of their tribe, as well as the less-than-heroic ones who were faithless. Though not a history book, the Hebrew Bible does recount historical events, two of which profoundly influenced Israelite religion and the creation of the Hebrew Bible. The first was the eighth-century B.C.E. Assyrian invasion that led to the fall of the northern kingdom of the Israelites, called Israel. (Because researchers of different faiths, or no faith, now study the Bible, we will be using inclusive terminology to designate historical eras. The acronym B.C.E. stands for "Before Common Era," the equivalent of B.C., or "Before Christ," while C.E., or "Common Era," is the term scholars use for A.D., "Anno Domini" — Latin for "in the year of the Lord.") Rather than deal with troublemakers in their own land, the Assyrians deported thousands of Israelites, particularly those in positions of political, economic, and religious leadership. A second disaster occurred with the fall of the southern kingdom, Judah, to the Babylonians in the sixth century B.C.E. Like the Assyrians before them, the Babylonians deported thousands of Israelites to Babylon. In 587 the Babylonians destroyed the Israelite temple in Jerusalem. This was extremely traumatic because all religions of the Ancient Near East, including Israelite religion, shared a belief that their national deities had specific places, or thrones, wherein their power resided. For the Israelites, that place was the temple in Jerusalem. With the temple destroyed, the Israelites asked themselves: Where is our God? Where can we worship God?

While in exile in Babylon, the Israelites came up with an answer. Now called Jews, or Judahites, because of their origin in Judah (Yehuda), they gathered together the religious stories and traditions of their people. They considered their long history of conflict with foreigners who did not believe in their deity, worshipping instead other gods and goddesses. They turned to collections of oracles of prophets for inspiration and hope. They were guided in part by a contemporary prophet named Ezekiel, whose vision of God's throne leaving the temple in Jerusalem gave them hope that God was present in their exile. The Jewish community compiled, edited, and wrote a set of scrolls that traced their encounters with a god whose name was so sacred it was never said aloud. The editors arranged the scrolls somewhat chronologically: from narratives of the creation of the world and the lives of early ancestors; through stories of kings, queens, and prophets; to their present exile. They also ordered the scrolls in terms of theological importance. Thus, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible — called the Torah by Jews and the Pentateuch by Christians — came first because they were the most important.

Jews returned to the land of Judah later in the sixth century B.C.E. and rebuilt their temple in Jerusalem. Because this was the second temple that had been constructed, the Judaism of that time period, and up to the temple's destruction in 70 C.E., has been called Second Temple Judaism. During the period dating from Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.E.), the Jews faced enemies and invasions on several fronts: from the Greeks under Alexander; from the Ptolemies of Egypt; from the Seleucids of Syria; and, in 63 B.C.E., from the Romans under the general Pompey. They also faced tyranny within their own ranks, most notably from the Hasmonean dynasty of priestly rulers (152–63 B.C.E.), who first liberated the Jews from their Seleucid rulers and then oppressed their countrymen and women under a corrupt temple priesthood.

The two centuries before the birth of Jesus served as the crucible in which many religious works emerged and various Jewish traditions arose. A number of Jewish texts surfaced in this period that do not appear in the Hebrew Bible. Some were written in Greek, the language of learning and culture in the Mediterranean inherited from Alexander the Great and his conquests. Their late arrival on the religious scene, as well as their Greek rather than Hebrew origins, made them suspect in terms of credibility and authority. Some were the writings of anonymous Jews, which reflected influences outside of Israelite religion. Still others came from the hearts of Jews living outside of Jerusalem and practicing alternative traditions. This last group, sometimes identified as Essenes, comprised ascetic monastic Jews who lived on the shores of the Dead Sea. In addition to maintaining traditional or orthodox Jewish scriptures, such as the Prophets, the Qumran community (named after its location at Khirbet Qumran) also wrote its own sacred texts. These writings, called the Dead Sea Scrolls, were found there by accident in 1947.

It has taken decades to translate and publish these ancient Jewish writings, in part because of the fragmentary nature of the scrolls (they were in actual bits and pieces) and in part because of scholarly and professional envy. What the materials reveal is a strand of Jewish thought that anticipated a holy war to be fought in heaven between the "sons of light" and the "sons of darkness." God had acted in history, on earth, in the previous centuries of Israelite religion, and the Hebrew Bible documented this divine activity. But the time had come, according to the Qumran writings, for God and God's angels to fight the enemy, Satan and Satan's forces, in heaven. These Jews expected an otherworldly savior to lead God's army against Satan's army. Some writings suggest that the angel Michael — who would be leading God's troops — might be the savior. The Dead Sea Scrolls depict a type of religion that was apocalyptic, anticipating a climactic cosmic battle in which, eventually, the good guys would win. Upon that victory, God would rule on earth, and would be the king, just as God had been king of Israel in its earliest days.

During this same time period — from about 200 B.C.E. to 200 C.E. — another set of writings surfaced from Jews who had been influenced by Persian religion. Sometimes these texts are called Intertestamental Literature because they were written more or less in the period following the writing of the last book of the Old Testament and prior to the writing of the first book of the New Testament. Sometimes they are called "Pseudepigrapha," which means fake or false writings. They earned this name because they purport to be written by biblical figures such as Moses and Abraham, and even Adam. In a sense these texts could be titled "The Further Adventures of ...," with heroes of the Old Testament figuring prominently. These books vividly describe a world vastly different from that of the Hebrew Bible. Whereas the latter is grounded — literally — in the land of Canaan, the Pseudepigrapha turn heavenward, reporting dreams, visions, and celestial travel: a realm in which angels, archangels, demons, and Satan figure prominently. What appears to be important in these "revelations" is what is going on behind the scenes, up above. Like the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Pseudepigrapha are apocalyptic literature that turn attention away from the world and toward heaven. That is where the action is; it is where history will be made in future.

A final ancient literary source for understanding Jesus is the New Testament. Consisting of twenty-seven books, it includes four gospels (accounts of Jesus' life), twenty letters, one sermon, one apocalypse, and a historical book. Although Christians usually start with the New Testament, the fact is that this work reinterprets and retells many of the stories and themes that precede it in the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Pseudepigrapha. To begin with the New Testament, and then go back to the Old Testament, is a bit like reading the ending of a book before its beginning. The New Testament brims with references to Jewish scripture, practices, and theology — everything from Sabbath to sacrifice. Some Jewish scholars claim that the New Testament is in fact a Jewish text, just one of many that came out of the period of great diversity occurring within Judaism between 200 B.C.E. and 200 C.E. Moreover, they find the New Testament to be of great help in understanding the antecedents to Rabbinic Judaism. The writers of the New Testament certainly knew Jewish scripture, including the legends of the Pseudepigrapha, and they used it to interpret the meaning and significance of Jesus' life.

Thinking about Scripture

The texts just noted — Tanakh (or Hebrew Bible or Old Testament), Dead Sea Scrolls, Pseudepigrapha, and New Testament — are, or were, sacred to members of their religious communities, but not necessarily to all readers. Each of us brings a worldview into our reading of any text, but especially of sacred texts. Thus, a Hindu reading a New Testament account of Jesus comes away with a different understanding of Jesus than does a Christian — just as Mohandas K. Gandhi did. Gandhi founded his movement of nonviolent resistance to British colonialists in India in part on the teachings of Jesus. A feminist who reads the story of Jesus' encounters with women may well explain those stories differently than a conservative Christian, a Buddhist, or an atheist. The concept of worldview helps explain these differences, for a worldview captures all of the beliefs, opinions, presuppositions, and prejudices we bring to our reading. When we read ancient texts, our modern worldview collides with the worldview in the text, as we attempt to make sense of what we are reading.

How, then, should we read scripture? Feminist theologian Sandra Schneiders suggests three approaches to any "revelatory text." She writes that we should first examine the world behind the text: that is, the historical context in which the text was written. What was happening? Who were the major players? What were the important issues and concerns of the time? Second, we should examine the world within the text: that is, the narrative on its own. What does the text itself say? What is going on in the reading apart from any external considerations? Finally, we should reflect on the world before the text: that is, what we ourselves bring to the reading. Interpretation means entering into the text from our twenty-first-century vantage point and then reemerging transformed, enlightened, or changed by our reading.

It may come as a surprise, but the more literally we read sacred texts, the better we will understand. That means reading the stories in the Bible as stories rather than as history, or science, or theology. This kind of reading pays close attention to plot and to character development. It ignores the succeeding layers of interpretation and doctrine that have gathered around the texts and focuses on the stories themselves. What is the plain meaning of the text? This may be a difficult approach for some readers to take because for many these are not "just" stories, and the Bible is not "just" any book. The genre of literature called "scripture" invests significant and even transcendent meaning in writings and makes them holy. If we drop a novel or a cookbook on the floor, we pick it up and dust it off. If we drop a Bible on the floor, however, we may experience a sense of guilt or violation. A student in a New Testament class once asked me if it was okay to write in his Bible and, specifically, to use a highlighter. I could understand his concern. Out of a large collection of Bibles that I own, I write in just one, which I use for teaching and study. Christians call the Bible the "Word of God" and the "Good Book," which indicates the sense of reverence they feel about it. Jews have this same feeling of respect for their scripture. On the Sabbath, when the Torah scroll is removed from the ark, people stand, and as the scroll circulates through the congregation, worshipers may touch a scarf or prayer shawl to the scroll and then kiss it. Muslims feel similarly about the Qur'an, their scripture, and believe that it cannot be translated from Arabic, the language in which it was originally recited by the prophet Muhammad. Other world religions also have sacred texts and share this reverence for the stories that reveal something of the divine and of the nature and destiny of humankind.

Thus, most readers approach scripture differently than they do other kinds of writing. And religious believers have still more at stake because certain scriptures make up their identity as human beings. With all this noted, it is important to reiterate the value of reading the Bible in a scholarly, nonconfessional way. (By "nonconfessional" I mean temporarily setting aside one's religious beliefs for the purpose of seeing the text in a new light.) Obviously, this is not the only way to read sacred texts, nor is it even the most common. But it is the most useful in seeing how Christian doctrine developed. The late Marcus Borg, a contemporary Protestant New Testament scholar, called it "reading the Bible again for the first time."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Voices of Christianity"
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Copyright © 2018 Rebecca Moore.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Invitation

PART ONE

Chapter One: The Jewish Roots of Jesus, Paul, and Christianity

Timeline: 587 B.C.E. – 95 C.E.

Genesis 1–3, 9:1–17 (and Leviticus 18:2–5, 16:20–22; Jeremiah 31:31–34, etc.)

I Thessalonians

The Gospel of Mark

Mark 1:1-19 (Willis Barnstone translation)

Literary Sources for Understanding Jesus • Judaic Religions • Apocalyptic Literature • Thinking About Scripture • Jewish Concepts in Christian Theology • Covenant, Atonement, Messiah • Varieties of First-Century Judaic Religions • Jews or Judeans? • Paul the Convert • Gospel Formation • New Testament Traditions • The Historical Jesus • Jesus the Jew

Map: The Roman Empire Under Augustus Caesar

Map: The Journeys of Paul

Chart: Gospel Formation

Chapter Two: The Early Church: Diversity, Division, and Dominion

Timeline: 4 B.C.E. – 476 C.E

The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity

The Gospel of Thomas

Various Creeds in the Early Church (including Nicene Creed)

Athanasius: On the Incarnation (Chapter Three)

Augustine: The City of God (Excerpts from Book Fourteen)

Church of the Martyrs • Constantine • The Mystery Religions • Varieties of Early Christianity: Practices • Varieties of Early Christianity: Beliefs • The Influence of Hellenism • The Development of Creeds • On the Incarnation • The Church of Empire

Map: The Growth of Christianity in the Early Fourth Century

Map: TheRoman Empire in the Fourth Century

PART TWO

Chapter Three: The Middle Ages: For the Love of God

Timeline: 410–1453

Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love (Excerpts from Book Fourteen)

Haimo of Auxerre: Commentary on Jonah, Chapter 1

Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae (Part I, Question 2)

John of Damascus: On the Divine Image (Third Lecture)

Gregory Palamas: The Triads (Excerpts from Third Triad)

William of Ockham: Eight Questions on the Power of the Pope (Chapters 2–4)

Life and Learning • Monasticism • The Celtic Renaissance • Popular Theology • Mystical Theology • Hildegard of Bingen • Medieval Women Mystics • The Carolingian Renaissance • Missionaries to Western Europe • Monastic Theology • The Four Senses of Scripture • Scholastic Theology • Anselm of Canterbury • Peter Abelard • Mendicant Theology • • The Theology of Icons • Missionaries to Eastern Europe The Theology of Deification • Political Theology • The Medieval Papacy

Map: Europe and the Byzantine Empire

Map: A Rural Community in Medieval Europe

Map: Empire of the Franks under Charlemagne

Map: European Universities

Map: Expansion of Islam

Map: Medieval Pilgrim Routes

Chapter Four: The Reformation: A Clarification of Doctrines

Timeline: 1455–1689

Martin Luther: Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans

Council of Trent: Decree Concerning Justification

John Calvin: By the Fall and Revolt of Adam the Whole Human Race was Delivered to the Curse, etc.

Council of Trent: Decree Concerning Original Sin

The Supper of the Lorde and the Holy Communion (1552)

Council of Trent: Decree Concerning the Sacraments, Foreword

Council of Trent: Canons on the Sacraments in General

Council of Trent: Canons on the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist

Ulrich Stadler: Cherished Instructions on Sin, Excommunication, and the Community of Goods

Teresa of Avila: Spiritual State and Manner of Prayer

Reformation or Reformations? • Printing and the Humanist Renaissance • Martin Luther and the Lutheran Reformation • Justification and the Council of Trent • John Calvin and Reformed Theology • Original Sin and the Council of Trent • The Anglican Reformation • Communion • Sacraments and the Council of Trent • The Radical Reformation • The Catholic Reformation • New Religious Orders • Wars of Religion

Map: Distribution of Religious Groups in Europe, ca. 1555

Map: Distribution of Religious Groups in Europe, ca. 1600

Chapter Five: Rationalism and the Quest for Authority

Timeline: 1624–1902

William Ellery Channing: Christianity a Rational Religion

Gotthold Lessing: New Hypothesis Concerning the Evangelists Regarded as Merely Human Historians

Margaret Fell: Women's Speaking Justified: A Further Addition

Nicolaus Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf: On the Essential Character and Circumstances of the Life of a Christian

Friedrich Schleiermacher: Second Speech: On the Essence of Religion

The Way of a Pilgrim

Alfred Loisy: Introduction to The Gospel and the Church

The Enlightenment • The Quadrilateral • The Authority of Reason • Deism • The Authority of Scripture • Biblical Criticism • Women in the Bible • The Authority of Experience • Pietism: The Experience of the Holy Spirit • Romanticism: The Authority of Feeling • Mysticism: The Truth of Experience • The Authority of Tradition • Ultramontanism and Infallibility • The Gospel and the Church

PART THREE

Chapter Six: Missions and Inculturation: Singing the Lord's Song in a New Key

Timeline: 1492–1911

Bartolomé de las Casas: On the Kingdom of the Yucatan

Virgilio Elizondo: Our Lady of Guadalupe as a Cultural Symbol

Steven Charleston: The Old Testament of Native America

Shushaku Endo: Silence (selection)

Toyohiko Kagawa: Japan Needs Christ

Thomas Lewis Johnson: Twenty-Eight Years a Slave (selection on mission to Africa)

Mercy Amba Oduyoye: The African Experience of God through the Eyes of an Akan Woman

Christian Missions, Incarnation, and Inculturation • "Christian" Holidays? • Christianity in the New World • The Virgin of Guadalupe • The North American Experience • Old World Missions • South Asian Christianity and the Acts of Thomas • Japanese Christianity • Christian Fiction • Africa for Christ • Slavery in the United States • African American Spirituals • Modern African Christianity • The Missionary Encounter with Other Religions

Map: Spanish and Portuguese Exploration

Map: Christian missionary activitiy in the nineteenth century

Chapter Seven: Twentieth-Century Christianity: Voices for the Future

Timeline: 1906–2005

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Religionless Christianity

Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate)

Guidelines on Religious Relations with the Jews

Sergius Bulgakov: Orthodoxy and Other Christian Confessions

Message of the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches (1948), Amsterdam, Netherlands

Message from the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches (1954), Evanston, Illinois

Pope John Paul II: Ut Unum Sint (Selection)

David Yonggi Cho: Home Cell Groups: A Key to Evangelism

Fernando Bermúdez: Persecution and Martyrdom: Testimonials

Gustavo Gutiérrez: Liberation and Salvation

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Loving Your Enemies

Sallie McFague: Concluding Chapter of Models of God

A World Come of Age • Social Gospel • Liberalism, Modernism, and Fundamentalism • Neo-Orthodoxy, Evangelicalism, and the Social Gospel • Søren Kierkegaard • De-mythologizing Jesus • Transcendental Thomism • World War II • Christianity and Non-Christian Religions • Vatican Council II • The Ecumenical Movement • The World Council of Churches • Pope John Paul II • Pentecostal Christianity • Prosperity Christianity • Liberation Theology in Latin America • Liberation Theology in North America • Black Theology • Feminist Theology • Eco-theology

Map: Distribution of the World's Religious

Credits

Index

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