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World between the Testaments From Stephen Harris’s Understanding the Bible.

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Presentation on theme: "World between the Testaments From Stephen Harris’s Understanding the Bible."— Presentation transcript:

1 World between the Testaments From Stephen Harris’s Understanding the Bible

2 Roman Empire Rome occupies Judea and much of known world Herod, half-Jewish governor, has elaborate building projects; paranoid and violent Ruler cult. Ovid describes J. Caesar ascending into heaven like a comet. “Gospel” is associated with Augustus’s reign.

3 Jewish war against Rome Hebrew Bible completed between Maccabees revolt and Jewish revolt; Messianic hopes shaped canon Revolt of 66-73; messianic expectations General Titus, son of Vespasian, razes temple Jewish Diaspora extended, dispersed throughout wider empire Gradual reinterpretation of “covenant” and messiah by Jews

4 Hellenistic culture and Philosophy Parallels between Socrates and Jesus, who eschewed material things in favor of spiritual values; both paid ultimate price for challenging establishment Plato’s influence: Immortality of the soul Coexistence of two plains: physical world and invisible realm of perfect, eternal ideas.

5 Greek Philosophy, cont’d Stoicism: Reason (Word, “Logos”) is divine principle that directs and shapes the universe. Human souls are sparks of the divine Logos. Ideal is to achieve harmony with universe, indifferent to pleasure and pain.( Paul echoes this idea as he counsels Christians to abstain from “lust” and withstand suffering until the end time. ) Stoics were essentially monotheists.

6 Philosophy, Cont’d Epicureanism: Material, perishable nature of everything in the universe, including the soul. Democritus ( ): Atomic theory—all things, including soul, are made up of small particles. We are chance collections of atoms which will perish without a trace. Paul disputed this theory.

7 Greco-Roman religion 12 gods of Olympus: Zeus, sky god (like Yahweh). Hades, god of Death. Avernus, traditional entrance into the underworld of Dis

8 Greek & Roman Pantheon

9 Later Greek Deities Asclepius, mortal son of Apollo. Had the gift of healing, so Zeus was jealous and killed him with a thunderbolt. Achieved posthumous divinity Professional healers flocked to his sanctuaries; patients went for miracle cures (usually through dreams) Hailed as a “savior”; welcomed poor to his sanctuaries.

10 Later Greek Deities: Dionysus Dionysus foreshadows Jesus’s cosmic role. Divine father and human mother Mother Semele incinerated when she looked on Zeus in true form; Zeus snatched him from womb and planted him in own body, from which Dionysus had a 2 nd birth. Dionysus was dismembered and “eaten” by Titans; reminiscent of violent death, communal meal, transubstantiation He descended into Hades (“died”) to bring Semele to heaven. Mary also achieved Immortal status, according to some early Christians.

11 Dionysus, cont’d Inventor of wine-making. Euripides describes his “blood, the blood of the grape” Telling of story parallels life of Jesus: escapes death as infant, performs miracles, virgin birth with divine parent, descends into underworld, rises to divine immortality, establishes universal cult

12 Mystery Cults Orpheus and Orphism: Musician who loved Eurydice. Humans spring from ashes of Titans who killed Orpheus. All have part rebel (Titans) and part divine (Orpheus). We are redeemed by Orpheus’s death; Underworld becomes place of regeneration until we reach of state of spiritual purity and salvation. Early Christians used images of Orpheus and Dionysus to represent Jesus.

13 Orpheus as Jesus

14 Mystery Religions, Cont’d Mithras and Mithraism: Name means “Covenant.” Combination of Persian god of Light with Hellenistic astrology. Solar deity who presided over zodiac and planets. Born from a rock on December 25 (the solstice). Slays a bull, from whose semen and blood new life appears. Popular cult among soldiers and merchants; initiation ceremony was a spiritual rebirth, initiate was “child of the light.”

15 Temples of Mithras Below: a Mithraem in England. Click here for a virtual Mithraem.Mithraem

16 Mithraism, cont’d Mithraism was chief competition for Christianity in Roman Empire. Rites paralleled Christian rites: baptism, communal meals, oaths of celibacy. Initiates were “washed in blood of bull.” Women were excluded Church adopted Mithras’s birthday for Jesus.

17 Mother Goddess Isis, imported from Egypt, continually worshipped. Apuleius describes being initiated into Goddess cult. Isis is his personal savior, redeems him from animal nature, promises care-free life after death.

18 First –century Judaism Pharisees, chief authorities of Torah during Jesus’s time. Created first body of rabbinical teaching, Mishnah. Helped religion to survive. Saul (Paul) was a Pharisee, student of Gamaliel, who argued for tolerance and against persecuting members of Jesus movement. After temple destruction, Pharisees’ Academy of Jamnia confronted task of living without Temple, priesthood, or homeland. Defined limits of Judaism; excluded Christians from synagogues (John 9:22)

19 Sadducees Jewish upper class; none of their writings survive. Landowning aristocrats and Roman collaborators. Chief engineers of Jesus’s destruction; anxious to remove threat to Judea’s political survival. Conservative; Jesus rebelled against their literal reading of Torah.

20 Samaritans Northern branch of Jews living between Judea and Galilee. Jews in Judea regarded as little better than gentile cult. Recognized Torah but not prophets or Writings as scripture. NT writers portray them favorably. Samaritans are first step in worldwide mission. Sadducees and Pharisees call Jesus a Samaritan as an insult. Samaritans, who survive today, did not generally accept Jesus movement.

21 Essenes of Qumran Hiders of the Dead Sea scrolls; a reclusive, ascetic cult. Scrolls show us the range of textual variants and non- canonical texts. Modes of worship, communal meals, and purification rites show parallels between mainstream Judaism and Christianity Jesus or John the Baptist may have been an Essene; also, perhaps, brother James (“The righteous.”)

22 Qumran today

23 Zealots Opposed any attempt to bring Judea under the dominion of Rome, a fanatical war party from the time of Herod until the fall of Jerusalem and Masada. Also called Sicarii, from their custom of going about with daggers ("sicæ") hidden beneath their cloaks, with which they would stab any one found committing a sacrilegious act or anything provoking anti-Jewish feeling. Zealots led by Eleazar ben Jair revolted against Rome in 67-70; Crushed. Seige of the fort of Masada led to suicide of Zealots stationed there.

24 First century Messianic Hopes Many Sadducees denied messianic hope. Mainstream Judaism denied Jesus was messiah (christ) because death on cross made him “accursed.” (Deut. 21:23) Judas of Galilee thought better claimant; led revolt against Rome around 6 CE Josephus reports other claimants of “royal rank” – a key ingredient Messianic “Revisionism”


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