Tuesday, November 24, 2009

82 things you might not have known about Christianity

Some things about Christianity that you probably did not know...to provoke thought and the asking of questions.

First topic : Theology
1. The name of Jesus…wasn't really Jesus…but was actually Yeshua, or translated into English, Joshua.
2. Our word "God" is actually a corruption of a German translation meaning "Good".
3. Jesus "Yeshua" was not white, blonde haired, or blue eyed. He was Jewish Arabic in descent.
4. Jesus most likely had brothers and sisters, they are mentioned in the gospels, Mary was most likely not a virgin for her whole life.
5. Jesus may well have been a tin merchant and not a carpenter…working with his Uncle, Joseph of Arimathea.
6. Jesus spoke a language known as Aramaic, a mixture of Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek.
7. Jesus probably didn't walk around in white robes…white was a color reserved for Priests.
8. Most scholars believe that Jesus was most likely illiterate and knew the scriptures from hearing them read, having never actually read them.
9. During the time of Jesus there were perhaps as many as 100 other teachers claiming to be the messiah.
10. Jesus never intended to start a church or new religion, he most likely saw himself as a reformer within the Jewish faith.
11. Although Jesus often rebukes people within the Gospels, he never once condemns anyone.
12. The Old Testament was not put into writing until between 500 and 250 B.C.E.
13. The New Testament was not put into writing until around 350 C.E., Nearly 320 years after the time of Jesus.
14. There are thought to be over 200 texts written about Jesus or by his followers. Of those texts only 27 made it into our current Canon.
15. Most likely the bible that you own was translated from Greek and Latin texts, the oldest of which dates from around the 6th century C.E.
16. The letter to the Hebrews and The Revelation of John almost didn't make it into our Bible as many scholars in the 4th Century C.E. believed them to be unreliable texts.
17. New biblical texts are still being found, the most recent was "the gospel of Judas" found in Egypt in the 1970's.
18. The gospel of Mark is the earliest and possibly most accurate of the Gospel stories.
19. There are two common methods of biblical translation. Translating the meaning of each word, called "word translation" and the translation of each sentences overall meaning, called "Integral translation."
20. Most English Bibles are "word" translations, although "Integral" translations are technically more accurate.
21. The bible was not written to us, nor did most of its writers ever dream that their personal stories or letters would carry on past their own generations.
22. To thoroughly study the bible one would have to learn Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Latin, German and have degrees in world history, archeology, politics, and anthropology, as well as have studied ancient Judaic, middle eastern pagan, Greek and Roman religious beliefs.
23. Our concept of Hell comes from the Hebrew word "Gehenna" which describes a burning trash pit dug outside of the city where refuse and unclaimed bodies where destroyed.
24. Jesus speaks of Hell only three times, and never once condemns any person to that fate.
25. The Hebrew people did not believe in heaven as an outside place of paradise, but instead saw it as a return of ones internal essence back to God.
26. There were thought to be at least 25 different sects (denominations) of Judaism functioning in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. The Sadducees and Pharisees where just the most numerous and powerful.
27. The 10 commandments that we know are only a small portion of the 266 Levitic laws described in the first five books of the Old Testament.
28. Our name "Satan" comes from the Hebrew word "Sha'tan" meaning "a n adversary, or stumbling block."
29. Satan didn't receive a personality until the New Testament stories. The Jewish religion still does not acknowledge Satan as a distinct person, but more as a concept.
30. Although Jesus is said to have been tested by Satan, Jesus never actually speaks about Satan.
31. Jesus often speaks of what we translate in English as Good and Evil, but in Aramaic he uses the terms "Ripe and Unripe", terms that distinctly change the meaning of these concepts.
32. Although we often vision Jesus traveling with 12 Disciples, in fact he was followed by large numbers of people, some historians believe up to 50 or 60 at a time.
33. A large number of those "Disciples" where women. It is believed that the most famous of those women, Mary Magdalene, was wealthy and helped to finance Jesus' ministry.

Second topic: Church History

34. The earliest recorded religions (what we consider paganism) were based on Feminine energy…only women could be priests.
35. Abraham, (Abram) was said to be from Ur, of the Chaldeans…which is… Modern day Iraq, south Iraq, some where around the region of Nasariya.
36. The earliest name for the God who spoke to Abram, is "EL or AL" meaning "The one who is."
37. The early pagan religions of the time were regional, each town or region had its own God.
38. Each of these regional gods required sacrifice, to insure good crops, healthy children, etc.
39. To travel from one town or region to another meant you must bring sacrifices for the gods of that area.
40. EL was the first God who became transitory, not confined to a region or town. EL tells Abram "I am with you, and your seed, wherever you may be."
41. EL was the first God to not require a sacrifice, to prove this EL creates the sacrifice for Isaac, a foreshadowing of EL's future sacrifice's for mankind.
42. EL's intention was to be the priest, king, parent for the Hebrew people, but the people could not accept it.
43. The people eventually demand all of the chains that other peoples are bound up with…sacrifices, laws, kings, etc.
44. Eventually Solomon builds a temple, Ironically a place to house EL, the God who is with the people wherever they go.
45. It is through the actions of Israel, sacrifices, rules systems and temples that true "religion" is created.
46. The Israelites Kings, systems, and temple are destroyed first by the Assyrians, then by the Babylonians, and finally by the Romans.
47. Jesus appeared on the scene shortly before the final destruction of the temple and the Israelite system.
48. Jesus often reminded the people that God did not reside in any Temple, nor was a priest necessary.
49. Jesus often bucked the rules system of the time, to show that rules had become more important than the basic concept of God's love.
50. The Early church after Jesus was a loose organization, mostly made of up home based meetings and traveling ministers.
51. Most early Christians didn't think of themselves as a separate religion but more as reformed members of Judaism
52. Early Christians were persecuted cruelly by Rome, Nero commanded that offending Christians be hung on pikes along the roads into Rome, and set on fire to light the road at night.
53. The Emperor Constantine's mother was a devout Christian, and did much to promote the early church to her son.
54. Constantine eventually accepted Christianity and made it the official religion of Rome.
55. During this early time of Roman Christianity pagans still held many powerful offices, so concessions were made to include many pagan rituals in Christian Holy days.
56. Our current holidays of Christmas, Easter, and Valentines Day are all leftovers of Pagan holidays.
57. This blending of Pagan ritual soon brought many into the church, it was not long before the balance of power changed…thus began the Christian persecution of pagans.
58. Early church Fathers such as Augustine and Polycarp argued about the best ways to worship God…a definite system was needed to boost the new religion…thus the first talks of a Bible were begun.
59. In 325 C.E. the council of Nicea began talks on creating a canonized Bible, and a universal Creed for all Christians.
60. The Nicene Creed was created to deal with the various controversies of the time. Most notably the Arian and Gnostic concepts.
61. The Roman church began attempting to create a unified concept of Christianity, which often crushed smaller less organized Christian sects.
62. In the long run the universalization of the Church saved the religion of Christianity, but many theologians agree…it damaged the spirituality and freedom of what Christ taught.
63. It would be over 1200 years before Martin Luther would speak out against the Universal faith and the corrupt system that came out of it.
64. An opinion by the author: Can you see the cycle? God has told us over and over that our freedom is in His love…not in temples, books, laws, or kings. But we always want to organize, canonize, codify and create systems that take away our freedom in Christ…every time…every cycle…God raises up someone to remind his people that freedom is theirs. Is this the time again? Has our faith become to homogenized, to pre-packaged? Are you the one to remind the people that its time for a change?

Some concepts of Christianity

67. Christianity in its entirety is only roughly two thousand years old.
68. Comparatively Buddhism is 2500 years old, Zoroastrianism is 2600 years old, Judaism is 3500 years old and Hinduism is around 4000 years old. Islam is slightly younger at 1500 years old.
69. Judaism, the foundation of Christianity changed greatly from its early origins to its current state.
70. Early Judaism seemed to be a reaction to the polytheistic religions of its time…too many gods…too many problems.
71. Judaism was the first religion to present a concept of a singular God who was involved with the daily lives of mortal humans.
72. Judaism was highly influenced by the early Sumerian, Babylonian, and Persian religions respectively.
73. The Sumerians introduced concepts of creation, the flood story, dispersion of the races, and a war like God.
74. The Babylonians introduced concepts of a lawful God, prophecy, male dominated rites, temple building and written codes of behavior.
75. The Persians, through Zoroastrianism were the most influential. The Persians introduced concepts of the dualistic nature of God (Good/Evil, Light/Dark, God/Devil) – Also concepts of Heaven and Hell, Angels, Spirits Journey to Heaven, concepts of a person of Satan, a coming Messiah and many others.
76. Christianity would also find much influence in some of the established religions of the time during its early formation. Particularly Mithraism, the Egyptian mythos, and Greek philosophy.
77. The Egyptians influenced Christianity through concepts of a coming savior, born of a virgin, who would be a direct descendant of a once great king. The Egyptian stories tell of Osiris, the son of Isis, born of the blood line of the first Dynasty. A savior to the people of Egypt.
78. The Greeks had overtaken and held Israel for many years before Rome, and they had had much influence on the current state of events by the time Jesus was born.
79. The Greeks heavily influenced dualistic thought, particularly that God (The immovable mover) would have its greatest influence through an earthly progeny. Concepts of Baptism, communion meals, monasticism and others came from the Greeks.
80. Mithraism, an offshoot of early Zoroastrianism, was a very influential religion of the day, telling a story of a singular God (Ahura Mazda) who sought to be reunited with his creation…thus he fights a never ending battle with spirit forces to save the souls of his creation. He sends Mithra, his son, born of a virgin, to be the redemption of mankind.
81. The Romans of course had their turn as well, influencing holiday celebration, inserting various pagan rites into Christian practice to mesh believers into a unified body. Constantine chose the particular books in our bible to coincide with these concepts.
82. This can all look pretty confusing and even disheartening if you might have though that the Christians and Jews were coming up with something unique or new. This concept is really not damaging to our beliefs at all if we will simply take a step back and look at what God has been up too. It seems that since the earliest times God has been trying to tell us the same things, whether through the Sumerians, Persians, Greeks or Romans…the story is the same…we can, and do believe in the same God…we just get the names wrong, we love to believe that each one of us has the right answers…but look how much work it has taken to get us to this point. With the confluence of many religions…over thousands of years we have boiled these concepts down to more and more defined descriptions of God and our worship of Him. When we realize that our every concept of God has come to us through the beliefs and worship of many peoples and nations…it should be a reminder that our God is BIG…BIGGER than we can imagine…and there is no corner on this earth, no hidden place, that He has not had influence upon. Its time to quit squabbling about who's right and who's wrong and it's high time we started embracing our brothers and sisters, even if we don't agree with one another, because we too will leave an influence on Christianity…and the religion of our children will be shaped by what we leave behind.

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