Medieval History – HS534

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  1. Friar Turk

    Friar Turk Dankin' and Tankin'

    Medieval History – HS534
    Foundations of Early Christianity
    Prepared for Dr. Evan Bodette-Radz
    Prepared by Lee J. aBaker

    Given the argument that the ancient Roman Republic and Empire was built upon
    a religiously pagan foundation, the simple answer is that Christianity paved the way for
    the medieval period by undermining the old pagan foundation of Rome. Yet while the
    pagan spirituality of Rome was ultimately formally undone by the content of Christianity,
    the hierarchy of Roman government was ultimately adapted and absorbed by the
    Christian Church. The medieval period was therefore formed through a synthesis of
    Christian religious content and Roman governmental form—in addition to vestigial
    gothic, celtic, and teutonic spirituality and law.
    In order to look at the earliest roots of Christianity within the Roman Empire we
    would ofcourse have to examine the life of Christ who lived in Galilee and was hung on a
    cross according to the Roman tradition of crucifixion. It is indeed interesting that the
    Jews sought to make the Romans complicit in the crucifixion of Christ. Yet Pontius
    Pilate, upon cross-examining Jesus, saw that the Jews sought to punish an innocent man.
    He therefore washed his hands of the whole affair. It was this distinction which gave to
    the Roman Church, in centuries to come, the authority to actively persecute the Jews in
    their feudal kingdoms and burgeoning nation-states.
    Although Jesus proclaimed that Peter would be the foundation, or the rock, upon
    which he would build his Church, he does not explicitly define how it was that he would
    use Peter to build his Church. When the early Church was first being built it was the
    exclusive province of the Jewish people (there were one hundred and twenty disciples of

    Jesus residing in Jerusalem) and it’s initial outburst of growth occurred on the occasion of
    a Jewish celebration. Jews from around the world had convened in Jerusalem in order to
    celebrate their annual festivities: they were “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the
    dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia,
    and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome,
    Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians (The Acts 693).” Many of these Jews who had
    assembled in Jerusalem for their traditional celebrations were-- as a result of the
    outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the one hundred and twenty disciples-- witnessed to as
    to the works of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom which he sought to build. It was as Jesus
    had promised. The disciples had received the new baptism. But the plan of God was
    built into the way that he had sent his Holy Spirit so that the faithful would-- through their
    very baptism-- testify to other Jews from other nations. As the Holy Spirit descended upon
    the disciples, they testified and witnessed the life and works of Christ. But they did so by
    speaking in the foreign languages of the multitude of Jews who were assembled in
    Jerusalem. These Jews who were from distant lands could therefore hear and understand
    the story of Jesus. “We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God
    (The Act 693).” When the foreign Jews flock around the gathered disciples after hearing
    testimony of Jesus in their own languages, they then inquire as to what the meaning of
    this strange deliberation is. Some speculate that the disciples are drunk.
    It is Peter who first responds to these queries. Presumably, Peter would have been
    speaking in Hebrew. Whether or not the disciples who had just been made fluent in
    languages formerly unknown to them-- through being baptized by the Holy Spirit-- had
    continued to translate the words of Peter’s sermon is unclear. Regardless of who exactly

    it was that was able to hear the words of Peter’s sermon, Luke suggests that there were
    many who did here Peter’s sermon who were “pricked in the heart.” The text records that
    there were about “three thousand souls” that were joined to the original group of disciples
    on that day-- the Day of Pentecost. And so the foundation of an organized body of
    believers in Jesus Christ-- as opposed to the former motley band of disciples-- had it’s start
    on the Day of Pentecost and was born through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit which
    Christ had promised.
    The question of who precisely it was that came forward to receive the baptism
    which had first been received by Jesus’ closest followers is an important one though
    difficult to answer definitely. Was it Jews from Jerusalem in the main who responded to
    Peter with the foreign Jews merely wandering-- as they had previously-- what was really
    being spoken about? In this case the foreigners from distant lands would be-- in some
    sense-- being prepared to here the testimony of Jesus when they could fully understand
    the message of Christ, perhaps when they traveled back to their own countries. But as
    further examination of the text will reveal, a cursory understanding of the meaning of
    Christ’s sacrifical offering to individuals is a sufficient basis for being baptized by the
    Holy Spirit, and therefore into the community of believers. So among the three thousand
    may have been numbered some of the foreign Jews who sought to understand Peter’s
    It is clear from the sermon which Peter gives that his audience is entirely a Jewish
    audience-- Hebrew-speaking and otherwise. The political nature of Peter’s sermon
    addresses, in part, the nationalist fervor of the Jewish people which is circulating among
    the Jews at this particular point in history. Although Peter’s main emphasis is on the

    saving work of Christ, there is still vestigial evidence that Peter is willing to link the
    person of Jesus to the political will and destiny of Israel. Peter says that Jesus, who is the
    “fruit of David’s loins,” would be raised up to sit on David’s throne. The original
    promise to David would be kept such that God would “make thy foes thy footstool.”
    This was a promise not only to David, but also to the Israeli nation. “Therefore let all the
    House of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have
    crucified, both Lord and Christ (The Acts 694).” Peter is reminding his audience of this
    promise and suggesting that Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. At this point in the
    foundation of the early Church, the Apostle’s had not yet considered that Jesus’ promise
    belonged to anyone but the Israelites. Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s unique promise
    to Israel, that they should be a nation set apart among nations-- a nation that was pure and
    righteous, unlike the heathen gentiles who were unclean.
    Yet despite this sermon, it was Peter who first introduced the story of the Gospel
    to the Gentiles. Although his response to the Pentecost was to consider God’s blessing of
    the Holy Spirit specifically for the Jews, God eventually led Peter to the door of a Roman
    Centurion. In so doing Peter must have recognized that Jesus sought Peter to be the rock
    of his Church because it was Peter who would first recognize the merits of the Romans
    for believing in Christ. Peter would ultimately take the message of Christ all the way to
    Rome. And it was upon the tradition of his apostolic authority in Rome that the Roman
    Church was built.
    While Peter built the central apostolic church and ultimately seated that church in
    Rome, there were other Churches which sprung up which were not Roman and not based
    on the Roman tradition. Given the existence of the Ethiopian-Egyptian Coptic Church

    and it’s prior baptism of the Eunuch to the Roman Cornelius, and the independent
    journey of Mark to Egypt which confirmed and supported the early work of Philip, the
    Roman Catholic claim that Peter alone has the “keys to the kingdom” cannot quite mean
    which many Roman Catholic’s purport it to mean. Peter having the “keys” cannot mean
    that only Peter’s Roman Church will open the saving work of Christ to mankind—or else
    there would be no Coptics at all. But rather what the term must mean is that Peter would
    open the Roman door to God’s kingdom and that the Roman road and the Roman path
    would extend it’s way across the Globe always leading to this Roman door, which Peter’s
    keys would always open. The Roman Church was therefore fundamental to the building
    of Christ’s Church and the synthesizing of Jewish and Gentile elements into Christ’s
    Church. Without the Roman Church, Christ’s Church would not have been built in the
    linear and intersecting and structural manner that God intended for it to be built. Peter’s
    Roman Church and therefore the apostolic succession which he establishes was therefore
    necessary to build the kind of Christian Civilization that God wanted to build upon the
    Earth. It is in this sense that God gave to Peter the “keys to his kingdom.” That is, that
    Peter would establish a Church that would ultimately bring order, precision, excellence,
    harmony and peace to the entire world. The same claim cannot be made of the Coptic
    Church. The Coptic Church did not accomplish all which the Roman Church
    accomplished. Yet soteriologically, one can be baptized and saved in the Coptic Church,
    else Philip would not have baptized the Eunuch, and else Philip would not have
    performed this baptism before Peter ever spoke with or dreamed of Cornelius.
    It may very well have been the intention of Luke the Doctor to structure the story
    of the founding of the Christian Church—as he records in the Acts of the Apostles—in
    such a way that future generations would see what authority exactly Peter’s Roman
    Catholic Church would have in contrast to other Churches which would be independent

    of the Roman Church and would be founded upon the logic of Philip’s baptism of the
  2. wilsjane

    wilsjane Well-Known Member

    The more that I see about discoveries and look at the huge gaps in our theories of evolution, the more that I wonder whether life from elsewhere in the universe was involved. We often see such ideas as a threat to Christianity, but why should we at the same time chose to believe that gods work is confined to one small planet.

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