Episode:Jesus—The Legacy of His Life (Part 1)
Western civilization of the first century was intellectual, war weary, and thoroughly skeptical of all existing religions and universe philosophies. Upon such a stage of human society the teachings of Jesus, embraced in the Christian message, were suddenly thrust. The ideals of Jesus, as they were reinterpreted by Greek philosophy and socialized in Christianity, now boldly challenged the ethical, moral, and religious traditions of the human race.
Summary by Kermit
194:4 Beginnings of the Christian Church
Creatively using the Book of Acts, the authors succinctly describe the early development of the new gospel of the ‘risen Christ’. On fire with their new experience as a consequence of their infusion with the Spirit of Truth, and armed with their new gospel, combined with the expectation of Jesus imminent return, the apostles and early believers were filled with joy and lived such new and unique lives that all men were attracted to their teachings about Jesus. They now proclaimed the facts of his life, death, and resurrection and preached the hope of his speedy return to this world to finish the work he began. These early communities of believers exhibited a marvelous manifestation of brotherly love and unexampled good will. But it was a fellowship of believers in Jesus, not a fellowship of brothers in the family kingdom of the Father in heaven. Even the great mistake of using the living and illustrative commentary on the gospel of the kingdom in place of the gospel itself represented the greatest religion mankind had ever known.
Commentary: We discussed the use of biblical citation by the authors. The revelators use the scripture to teach truth, not just facts. Approaching the Urantia Book as revelation requires that you be willing to question your entire world-view and be willing to follow truth. Do you have discernment?
We engaged in an interesting commentary concerning the early believers’ practice of “equal sharing,” which led to disastrous results, even to the necessity of taking a collection in Antioch to prevent the Jerusalem believers from starving. Our discussion revolved around the significance of the two words “equal” and “equity.” By substituting the spirit word “equal” for the cosmic word “equity,” a profound omission of meaning occurs leading to a serious distortion of perception wherein the uniqueness of personality is sacrificed to a lower level of meaning—fairness.
This summary can hardly do justice to our discussions, which is why we have the archives for more focused study.
With the rapid growth of the Jesus sect came scrutiny and persecution by the Sadducees, until one of the leading rabbis warned them to desist lest they be found to be fighting against God.
It was the coming of the Greeks in large numbers from Alexandria, along with two pupils of Rodan that signaled the end of peaceful relations between the Jewish rulers and the Jesus brotherhood. Stephen and Barnabas, having been converted by Rodan’s pupils began preaching more as Jesus taught. It was during one of Stephen’s sermons that he was stoned on the spot, thus becoming first martyr and giving rise to the formal organization of the early Christian church. Of course unbeknownst to current day Christians, Stephen, fifteen years earlier, had met and talked with Jesus for four hours, but did not connect this conversation with the Savior of the world, for whom he valiantly gave his life. And in so doing profoundly impressed one Saul of Tarsus, later to become the indomitable Paul.
Paper 195 After Pentecost
Peter was the real founder of the Christian church, and his preaching on the day of Pentecost led to the establishment of the future policies and plans of the apostles in their efforts to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom.
Although the Hebrews refused to accept either Jesus’ gospel or Peter’s and Paul’s proclamation of the risen and glorified Christ (subsequent Christianity), the rest of the Roman empire was receptive to these evolving Christian teachings. The Western world had unfulfilled spiritual longings, notwithstanding the great accomplishments of philosophy, art, literature, and political progress. The compromised Christianized version of Jesus’ message was more than the simple spiritual appeal of Jesus’ gospel. It presumed to transcend being merely a new religion, to encompass a new order of human society by striking definite attitudes on religious rituals, education, magic, medicine, art, literature, law, government, morals, sex regulation, polygamy, and, in limited degree, even slavery.
By the second century Christianity’s appeal expanded beyond the early converts of the lower social and economic strata, to include the very best of Greco-Roman culture. This triumph of Christianity over the philosophic religions and mystery cults was due to: Paul’s organization; the inclusion of the best in Greek philosophy and Hebrew theology; the ideal of Jesus’ bestowal and message of salvation for all mankind; the compromises struck with Mithraism winning over the better half of its adherents; and the further compromises with paganism such that even the Roman emperor, Constantine was won to the new religion.
Thus were some of the ideals of Jesus compromised in order to save many of his ideas. Even so, these ideals are still latent in his gospel and will eventually assert their full power upon the world. Even with the compromises, Christians gained the ascendency over the old order in that: human morality was uplifted; an enlarged concept of God became available; the hope of immortality became part of a recognized religion; and Jesus was given to man’s hungry soul.
Prior to the paganization of Christianity came its Hellenization. The authors cite the eloquence and logic of Athanasius in helping to prevent the real truth of Jesus’ bestowal from being lost to the world.
Commentary: Here again ensued an engaging commentary on the differences in the doctrines of Athanasius and Arius and the implications for the world today of the Athanasian triumph. Consult the archives for the details.
1. Influence of the Greeks
The emergence of the individual provided common ground for the Greeks social and political ideas and the moral and spiritual teachings of Jesus.
Christianity triumphed over all contending religions because the Greeks were willing to borrow new and good ideas even from the Jews; and Paul, along with his successors were willing, albeit shrewd and sagacious, compromisers.
Initially the Romans fought Christianity, while the Greeks embraced it and subsequently forced the Romans to accept it as a part of Greek culture. For centuries the Greeks seriously considered all human problems, save religion. For centuries the Jews were devoted to religion to the neglect of other fields of thought. As illuminated by the content of Jesus’ message, the combined product of the thought of these two peoples became a driving power of a new order in human society. However, it remained necessary for the Romans and their political genius for empire administration to enable the religion, whose one God possessed empire dignity, to endure.
Wherever Greek culture prevailed throughout the West, Christianity took root. The Eastern version of Jesus’ message, while remaining more true to Jesus’ teachings, was uncompromising under Abner and never progressed as did the Hellenized version.