One individual who had a significant influence on Christianity and the early church was Marcion (c 85-c. 160 A.D.) Many of his views are being discussed 2,000 years later.

The Evolution of Christianity

 

The evolution of Christianity is the evolution of history.[1] The story of a child born to a “virgin” mother and unbelievable understanding husband is only part of the story. Why did this birth of peace cause so much death and destruction in the world? Is Christianity the story about Christ, or a story about a world rising out of its stages of barbarism? Would this story have happened with or without the birth and life of the carpenter? The Christian story is many stories about many men. Strongmen with strong beliefs that had the power to kill over those beliefs. The sword is turned upside down and made into a cross. It is not the cross which gives birth to the new religion, it is the sword that travels on its destiny, and on its way finds Christianity. If there had not been a historical Jesus, human kind would have created one. The has always been the need to have someone suffer for the pains of human existence. The Shakespeare tragedy of depicting events in life in such a horrible way that it evokes deep feeling of sorrow and relief are well played out in the story of the crucifixion. The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world has to be born again. There are many worlds and many sins yet to be taken away. The story of the disciples, who represented the 12 human characteristics of man, demonstrates that the story of Christianity and its evolution is the story of the world. The Christian churches that were established could represent the nations of the world giving birth to itself.

What does it say about human nature, when a gentle man walks among people, talking to them and healing their pain, and they turn on Him and crucify Him? What does it say to those who want to go out and help the poor and oppressed? What does it say about trust and dependency? Will there always be a Judas to watch for in Christian work? In the message of Jesus, even though the knowledge of a Judas is pre known, does the work of the messenger continue on? Huston Smith[2] suggests that sometimes people have problems distinguishing between the religion of Jesus and the religion about Jesus. Christianity sometimes gets away from the message and tries to analyze the messenger. The evolution of Christianity moved into violence and sacrifice, somewhere along the way it lost the Jesus message of love and helping. Christianity moved into what became “churches,” these churches divided off into political power bases and belief systems. It is a true testament to the miracle of God, that the Christian church has survived. It is broken into a Western church called Catholicism and an Eastern Church represented by the Orthodox countries and religions. During the days of Peter and Paul, it was just a question of serving Jews or Gentiles. To circumcise or not to circumcise. The fight spread all over the world, and serious battles were fought over rites and rituals. Churches could not agree on the elements, which represent the “true” wishes of God, or even who was God, or how many Gods are to be worshiped.                 One individual who had a significant influence on Christianity and the early church was Marcion (c 85-c. 160 A.D.) Many of his views are being discussed 2,000 years later, and have can be the discussion in theological centers of learning. He was a ship-owner, who started the belief about two Gods. This introduced the concept of dualism. He believed that the God of the Old Testament was not the same as the God of the New Testament. He believed that the God of goodness and kindness sent His son Jesus to earth because  He took pity on earth. The believed that the two gods were in a constant battle for the  souls of men. He believed that the evil God of the Old Testament was a punishing God, one of wrath and fire punishing mankind when ever He had a temper fit.Marcion started his own belief system. He denied the virgin birth, the infancy stories, the crucifixion and the resurrection. Of course without these core beliefs, there is no Christianity. Marcion ideas are close to some of the beliefs of some of the new religions. Some of the new religions, not only do not believe in the “Jesus” story, but some go as far and rewriting the chapters in Genesis of the Old Testament. In true Star Wars fashion, some of the new religions believe that there were several chapters before the book of Genesis. These chapters center on the theory that Adam and Eve were not suppose to be together. Eve was suppose to be Satan’s bride, and when she became involved with Adam, the Gods let sin come into the world through the sexual union between the two. There is a whole dialogue concerning sex and sin. Marcion[3] and the other major heresies were the forerunners of the thinkers and writers of books such as The Da Vinci Code[4]. Today they are not called heresies, and there is no one or religion powerful enough to punish the thinkers or writers. The question is however, what difference it makes if the writers say that Jesus did not exist. That the writers of the Gospels copied from each other, or that Jesus had a child by Mary Magdalene. These stories make exciting bar room talk, but it has no place in the church. It has no place in religion. It is not religion any more than the Crusades were about religion and the kingdom of God. Religion is not suppose to cloud the mind so that you cannot see the face and the purpose of God. It is a spiritual miracle that the message of Jesus Christ survived. The mind of man tried to destroy it two thousand years ago. The spirit of the message however, has been passed down to this generation.

 

Jesus is the heart of God, and He is received in the heart, when the heart knows, religion is being experienced, but Christians must be careful how Church history isread and accepted.

A Culture of Violence, the Foundation of the Christian Church Church history does not center on a spiritual issue. It centers around the history of the world and its violent struggle through the ages. The violence of the Middle East and Europe remains center fold in any research of the history of the church. Violent kings seeking to capture other kings and kingdoms. The blood baths of European history gives birth to a violent and oppressive set of beliefs.

 

It does not appear as if religion or European history had any significant effect on each

 

other. Religion did not make the Europeans a more compassionate people, and history

 

of religion does not provide spiritual road maps of man in search of his god.

 

Spiritual searches seem to take a philosophical journey rather than a spiritual one.

 

The journeys of Plato, Aristotle and Socrates appear to be more spiritual quest than

 

Peter, John or Paul.

 

The battles of the Caesars, the Pharos, the Alexander’s and the Constantine’s of history

 

had little to do with the will of God for His people.

 

A religion that comes out of a bloody crucifixion could and did inspire a careless

 

regard for humankind. What would have happened if the Prophet and messenger of

 

God gave us a quiet reflection on the spiritual meaning of life? What would have

 

happened if the quieter populations of the world gave birth to this new religion?

 

What would have happened if Jesus sat under the tree, talking to a group of people about

 

God’s plans for the world, rather than being nailed to the tree with blood dripping

 

down its bark? Did a violent people need a violent religion? Did Europe need a Jesus

 

on a cross crying out to His heavenly Father? Did the Christ message get lost or

 

swallowed up in the message of violence.

 

It would appear that a people born of violence were not afraid to die for their religious

 

beliefs, but may have lacked the courage to live for them. To dies for the love of Jesus

 

makes no spiritual sense, it does make sense if motivated by the violence of the time.

 

Violent actions produce violent thoughts and the belief that through force individuals

 

will change their ways.

 

Christian history tells little about man and women living lives

 

of kindness and grace. It tells little about individuals living in complex societies and

 

obeying the laws of those societies. Stories of men and women spreading love and

 

kindness without challenging the status quo. This would have been a message of

 

Christianity which could have had a different history.

 

The armies and the fighting forces of the world would still have fought their needed

 

battles, but the mingling of Christian history with warfare produced a story of violence

 

and conflict. Perhaps this trend of thought is naïve. Christianity was born at the cross of violence

 

not at the heart of love. What is the meaning and significance of the cross? It was always a symbol of death.

 

Perhaps the message was not suppose to be in the cross. Perhaps the message was

 

suppose to be in the quiet heart of the women in the life of the man called Jesus.

 

Perhaps only the women heard and understood the message that the Christ came into the world to deliver. Perhaps the one who bore the life, wiped the blood which oozed out of Christ tortured body, stood by the door of the tomb which housed the human remains of the Savior, and were the first to hear the words of the risen Christ saying “GO and Tell.”               That story would not be exciting. That story of women as the foundation of The Christ message would not sell in the local markets. It is more exciting to read about body parts being torn apart by lions for the sake of depraved human entertainment. The history of the churches of the past are very similar to the stories of conflict and confusion in modern day churches. People gather around strength and differences, and the individual who is strong enough to prevail become the leaders of the church. The Jews and their religion had their own cultural and spiritual belief systems for centuries. It was a family tradition and religion. As the children in the family grow up, they sometimes want to branch out on their own. Two men, Peter, a Jew, and Paul also a Jew, decided to do his own thing. Peter wanted to bring some new ideas back to the Jewish family and Paul wanted to start a new family all together.    The battles of these two people and positions, is also not about religion or spirituality. It centers on power and influence.

              Christianity then became a struggle between two power forces. The Peter religion and the Paul’s religion. However, neither of these men were strong enough to inspire religions to be names after them, so they started the religion of the written word. Each writer claimed to have divine inspiration, and a fax machine straight to the front office of God. These writers hired themselves an army of translators, since all of these messages were sent back written in a different language or coded, they were able to announce themselves as the only authentic voice of God. Each writer had a different Fax machine and a different set of translators, as a results, Christianity became a religion of words and translations of words. There was even the question of plagiarism. It was difficult to determine who copied from whom. It could be suggested that some of the translators were moonlighting with for the opposition. Debates began to center around who wrote what, and who wrote it first. Theories developed with respect to who had the “real” fax machine. The real one was able to send secret messages. Gnostic messages sent in a form that only the select could or would understand. This still was not religion, this was politics. This was sociology and or psychology, but it was not religion. 

               Enters Constantine the Great. He represented the Roman government. He was engaged in the many fun sports of the time which were the bloody battles. Christians running around not quite sure of who or what they were had been a minor annoyance, but the bulk of the Christian’s time was spent in internal disputes over who said what, who saw what, and who wrote what?

             In between these disputes on who was or was not a Christian, and who had the authority to speak for Christians, there was always the willingness on the part of some individuals to go to the cross of sacrifice and suffering. Since they were not clear about the religion, they were clear about the suffering part. Constantine realizing that he was only making the confused Christians happy by leading them to the enlighten, through suffering and death decided not to help Christians enter into heaven on his watch. He made an interesting decision. He decided to make Christianity the official state religion of Rome. Christians were not sure of whom they were or have clear foundation on a religion with structure. By becoming the official religion of the state, they permitted the state to determine what Christianity was. The state, as represented by Rome was in the business of conquering countries and bringing them into the Roman Empire through force. The state did not take on the religion of Jesus the Christ. The church and the followers of the disciples took on the personality of the Roman state. The history of the church from that point on became the history of violence. The violence of Rome became the violence of the Church and this continued for over one thousand years.

                 This is our bible. These were the events, which influence the writing of the bible. The studying of the bible must be taken in the context of the history of the people and the times. Words can be used to express those events, but unless there is an understanding of the cultural and historical factors surrounding any given event, the words are almost meaningless. The bible cannot be studied in any meaningful way without paying attention to what was going on during the time when the writer was writing.

All of the characters in the bible have personalities. Each of these personalities contributed to the richness of the story. The story would just be a collection of words without some context. The same word may have different meanings for different peoples. The same scene described could be preceived in a different way depending on cultural background. Hermeneutics ask the researcher to take into consideration all of the variable surrounding world. The who, what where, when, how and why are the major questions of the bible. These are the questioning world that should be used if the biblical stories are to have meaning in our lives.

 

                                   Bibliography

Huston Smith, The World’s Religions, Harper San Francisco, A Division of Harper Collins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022

Justo L. Gonzales, The Story of Christianity, The Early Church to Present Day, Hendrickson Publishers, Harper-Colins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street New York NY 10022.

Dan Brown, The DA Vinci Code, DoubleDay, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney Auckland,

Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Harper San Francisco 2000

John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, Harvard Theological Review 2001

 

Earl Doherty, The Galilean Tradition, Canadian Humanist Publication 1999

 

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

1] Houston Smith, The World’s Religions, Our Great Wisdom Traditions, Harper San Francisco, A Division of Harper Collins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

[2] Huston Smith, The Religions of the World, Our Great Wisdom Tradition, Harper San Francisco, A Division of Harper Collins Publishers 10 East53rd Street, New York, NY10022, V111. Christianity

[3] Gnosticism, Montanism, challenged the church to define itself more clearly. Marcion was the son of a bishop. He was called the first born of Satan. He could not believe that the father of Jesus was the same God of the Old Testament.

[4] Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, Doubleday New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, Auckland.

[5] http://www.church–history.com/

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