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The pre-history of Christian thought

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1 The pre-history of Christian thought
Chapter 1 The pre-history of Christian thought

2 Questions to be addressed in this chapter
What ideas came from Hebrew/Jewish history to influence Christian thought? How did the Greeks shape the intellectual climate within which Christian thought developed? What was the Roman contribution to the early development of Christian thought? What was the relationship between the governing authorities in Jerusalem, Judea, and the Roman Empire?

3 Hebrew ideas relevant to the history of Christian thought
Hebrews Hebrew ideas relevant to the history of Christian thought Monotheism: There is one God, Yahweh. Other nations worship other “gods”, but these are false gods. Perhaps these others have some limited power, but Yahweh is the only supreme being, the creator of all that is, and the only one who should be worshipped. Election: Yahweh singled out the Jewish people through Abraham to have a special relationship with him. They were to be blessed and would prosper in the land that was given to them. Eventually, all people of the earth would be allowed to participate in the permanent kingdom that God would establish through the Jewish people. Righteousness: Yahweh seems to be unique among the gods of all known ancient civilizations in that he demanded righteousness. In the stories of other gods, they just wanted to be respected and treated well, but Yahweh intended for his people to be holy and just, to be humble, to be compassionate—moral demands that were defined by the law he gave them and that were expected to be obeyed.

4 Ancient Greek ideas which were influential for
Greeks Ancient Greek ideas which were influential for Christian thought Rationality: The Greeks emphasized reason and rationality much more than the Jews did. Greek thinkers found themselves in a world that needed to be figured out—why things were the way they were, and how they could be understood. The real existence of an intelligible world: Contrasted with the world that is immediately apparent to the senses, there is a realm that is only to be comprehended by reason. Plato, for example, illustrated this with ideal “objects” like mathematical constructs and, most famously, the Forms from which the visible world is but a copy. Immortality and the soul: By the time of Plato, many Greeks understood the soul to be trapped in the body. It is the soul which is eternal and survives the death of the body by its very nature. This becomes increasingly important in later Christian thinking in contrast to the Jewish view of a bodily resurrection in which eternal life is a supernatural event enjoyed by a reawakened body and soul as a unified existence.

5 Ancient Roman ideas and practices that influenced Christian thought
Romans Ancient Roman ideas and practices that influenced Christian thought Mitigating influences: Epicurean pursuit of bodily pleasure; Stoic belief that virtue consists in acceptance of one’s fate. Natural law: The Romans were sure that there are universal values to which all people and cultures should subscribe. Development of infrastructure: aqueducts for sanitation, roads for transportation of goods and communication.

6 The Jewish People as Roman Subjects
The Gospel of Luke lists Roman public authorities over the Jewish People “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria” (Luke 2:1-2). “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis. . . during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness” (Luke 3:1-2).

7 Organizational Chart of Government in Jewish Lands circa 30CE

8 Summary of main points 1. Yahweh’s election of the Hebrew people, through whom he would bless all nations, formed a central guiding idea for early Christian thought. 2. The Greeks’ emphasis on rationality affected the intellectual climate within which Christian doctrines were worked out. 3. The Romans imposed order and pragmatism on the territories and people they conquered. 4. The high priest in Jerusalem reported to the governor of Judea, who reported to the emperor.

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