Brief summary of the early years of Christianity
Part 2 of 3 parts:
The main founders of Christianity:
Yeshua (Jesus), James, and Paul.
About Yeshua of Nazareth (Continued):
Little is known about Jesus' childhood or his early adult life. In his late 20's, he joined an apocalyptic group obsessed with what they believed
was the imminent end of the world. The group was headed by his cousin, John the
Baptist. After John's execution, Yeshua struck out on his own. He initially assembled about a half
dozen very close followers -- about half of whom were men and half women -- along with over
prominent students. According to the synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke)
his ministry was in the Galilee and lasted a year. According to the Gospel of
John, it lasted three or four years and was primarily in Judea.
Yeshua was an Orthodox Jew. He was a follower of Hillel the Elder, a Jewish philosolpher who is traditionally believed to have lived from 110 BCE to 10 CE. 1 However, this may be in error because men at the time had a life expectancy of only about 30 years. A person living to be 110 yeasrs of age would have been extremely rare. He was the founder
of the more liberal of
the two schools of Jewish philosophy that were active at the time of Yeshua.
Yeshua did deviate from his teacher's beliefs in one important area: he favored more restrictions on divorce, presumably to give greater protection to women.
After having committed aggravated assault in the Jerusalem
temple close to the time of Passover, he was arrested by the Roman Army, tried, and
sentenced to death as an
insurrectionist. Crucifixion at the time was restricted to only slaves and insurrectionists. He was executed in Jerusalem by the
Roman occupying authorities, perhaps on a Friday in the
spring about the year 30 CE. The date may have been APR-07 of the year 30 CE.
Christians do not observe the precise anniversary of his death each year. Instead, Western Christians observe Easter Sunday on a date that falls sometime between March 22
and April 25th, depending on a mathematical process that:
- Starts at the nominal date of the Spring Equinox, which is in this case, MAR-20.
- Finds the next full moon, according to the "Metonic Cycle." This is an method of calculating the approximate date of the full moon that was developed by the ancient Greek astronomer Meton. It sometimes fails to predict the actual date of the full moon.
- Declares the next Sunday to be Easter Sunday.
There are vestiges of ancient sun and moon worship embedded in this calculation.
The Eastern Orthodox Churches have different processes that sometimes observes Easter Sunday on the same day as in the West, but often select different dates.
The Bible has two conflicting accounts of Jesus' bodily resurrection, following his execution. One implies that he was dead for about a day and a half and came back to life sometime during Saturday or very early
Sunday morning. Another says that he was dead for three full days and three full nights.
There is also confusion concerning the timing of his ascension towards Heaven. One Gospel records it as happening on the day following his resurrection; another says it happened 39
days later. At the time, Jews believed in a three-layer universe with Heaven located above a metal dome -- called the firmament -- that was
suspended over a flat Earth and separated Heaven from Earth. They believed that Hades -- the place where everyone went after death -- was located below the Earth. To travel to
Heaven in this design of the cosmos, Yeshua was described as ascending through the air, entering the clouds, and disappearing from sight.
About James the Just:
James is a.k.a. St. James, James the Just, James of Jerusalem, James Adelphotheos,
James the Brother of God, and James the Brother of the Lord. The Bible mentions that he is the brother of Yeshua of
Nazareth. Some Christian
denominations consider him to have been Yeshua's younger full brother. However, that would conflict with many Christian denominations' belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary. This belief is taught by the Roman Catholic Church, Assyraian & Orthodox Churches, and by some Anglican and Lutheran denominations. They regard James as the step-brother, cousin, adopted brother, or perhaps close friend of Yeshua.
Paul mentions in the book of Galatians that the Apostles James, Cephas (a.k.a. Peter) and
John were the three pillars of the Jerusalem synagogue. 2 According to Wikipedia:
"Tradition, supported by inferences in Scripture, holds that James led the
"In describing James' ascetic lifestyle, Jerome, De Viris Illustribus,
quotes Hegesippus' account of James from the fifth book of Hegesippus' lost Commentaries:
'After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord -- surnamed the Just -- was
made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one
was holy from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate
no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or bathed. He alone
had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not
use woolen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in
behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired
the hardness of camels' knees.'
"Since it was unlawful for any but the high priest of the temple to enter
the Holy of Holies once a year on Yom Kippur, Jerome's quotation from
Hegesippus indicates that James was considered a high priest. The Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions [also] suggest this." 3
James and the other ten remaining apostles proseltyced among the Jews, building a group of about three thousand converts to what was called "The Way." It was still a completely Jewish movement. Members followed the Hebrew Scriptures, including its dietary rules. They observed the Jewish holy days, circumcised their male infants, followed Temple traditions and the rest of the Mosaic law. However, their emphasis on the teachings of Yeshua generated considerable friction and disagreements between them and other Jewish groups. 4
The Jewish historian Josephus records that the
High Priest Ananus ben Ananus assembled a Sanhedrin -- a Jewish high court --
and arranged to have James stoned to death in the year 62 CE. 3
About Paul of Tarsus (a.k.a. St. Paul):
From the back cover of the book "The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church's Conservative Icon," by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan:
"Paul is second only to Jesus as the most important person in the birth of Christianity, and yet he continues to be controversial, even among Christians. How could the letters of Paul be used both to inspire radical grace and to endorse systems of oppression—condoning slavery, subordinating women, condemning homosexual behavior? Borg and Crossan use the best of biblical and historical scholarship to explain the reasons for Paul's mixed reputation and reveal to us what scholars have known for decades: that the later letters of Paul were created by the early church to dilute Paul's egalitarian message and transform him into something more "acceptable." They argue there are actually "Three Pauls" in the New Testament:
- "The Radical Paul" (of the seven genuine letters),
- "The Conservative Paul" (of the three disputed epistles), and
- "The Reactionary Paul" (of the three inauthentic letters).
By closely examining this progression of Paul's letters—from the authentic to the inauthentic—the authors show how the apostle was slowly but steadily "deradicalized" to fit Roman social norms in regards to slavery, patriarchy, and patronage. In truth, Paul was an appealing apostle of Jesus whose vision of life "in Christ" -- one of his favored phrases -- is remarkably faithful to the message of Jesus himself." 5
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Hillel the Elder," Wikipedia, as on 2015-NOV-19, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
- Described in Galatians 2:9.
- "James the Just," Wikipedia, 2009-MAR-20, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- "State church of the Roman Empire," Wikipedia, as on 2015-DEC-12, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
- Marcus J. Borg & John Dominic Crossan, "The First Paul:
Reclaiming the radical visionary behind the church's conservative icon," Harper
One, (2009). Read reviews or order this book safely.
Copyright © 2005 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2015-DEC-14
Author: B.A. Robinson