Jesus of NazarethEdit
Little is precisely known about the birth of Jesus. Mostly what we have are legends. Still it is reasonable to believe that he was born prior to 4 BCE, that being the year of Herod's death. His career as a teacher appears to have begun at around the age of 30. According to a number of accounts, he began his career by having himself baptized by John the Baptist.
He was first and foremost, a teacher to the Jewish people. Indeed he is quoted as saying, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law of the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill."
While not much seems to be known of his early years, this much is known:
- He was very much a product of Galilee, an area know for both rebellion & mysticism. Galileans were either seeking freedom, God, or both.
- His knowledge of Jewish Literature was thorough and on par with the Pharisee's.
- After his baptism by John the Baptist, he spent 40 days in the wilderness.
- He is believed to have spent time with the Essenes, and much of his teachings reflected both Essenic and Pharisaic influences.
The Crucifixion of Jesus proved to be rather unfortunate in that it left the followers without a leader or a central teacher. The Nazarenes as the early followers were known, initially stuck to pattern that had been set by Jesus. It is known that at first the Disciples returned to Galilee where they pondered over what next to do. To wit, had they chosen to follow a false Messiah or was there something not yet understood?
In time, the legend of the Resurrection emerged. And as happened to Buddha before him, the stories of Jesus's accomplishments and the events surrounding him spread and multiplied. As before, the Nazarenes continued to teach the Nazarine Doctrine only to those of Jewish background. Gentiles seeking to join the Nazarines were required to convert to Judaism first.
On the strength of just these practices alone, the Nazarene teachings were rapidly spreading throughout Judaea and Syria. As Judaism spread throughout the Roman Empire that had conquered its home, the teaching of the Nazarine Doctrine was seldom far behind. Such was the situation when Saul of Tarsus entered the picture.
Saul of TarsusEdit
Saul of Tarsus, like Jesus was of Jewish upbringing. The parents of Jesus may have been affiliated with the Pharisees, and Jesus himself reflected the influence of both Pharisee and Essene. The parents of Saul, however, were probably Sadducee. As was often the case with the Sadducee, he was both a Jew and a Hellenist.
It was a dichotomy that reflected much of the Jewish world at the time. Much of practicing Jewry was divided between the Pharisee and the Sadducee. The Pharisee saw themselves as Guardians of the faith and its purity. They could have both disagreement and respect for the Essenes and Nazarenes, who they often perceived as being strict Jews. The Sadducee, on the other, were both worldly and assimulationist. They had virtually no use for the Nazarene resistance to full participation in the ways of Roman society. The Pharisee, like the Nazarene wanted to keep the Jewish people separate from Rome. The Sadducee wanted full integration into the Roman Empire and would willingly persecute whoever got in the way.
Saul first enters the picture as a persecuter of the Nazarines. Like most Sadducees, he perceived the Nazarenes to be a heretical sect in need of extermination. Then too, there was the matter of the Nazarene insistence in maintaining a separation from Rome in matters of faith and personal practice. Not exactly conducive to being a full participant in contemporary Roman society, let alone maintaining Roman citizenship. Or the Roman name of Paul, as he was also known.
The early history of Christianity itself probably begins with Paul's trip to Damascus. Unfortunately, precious little seems to be known as to what happened during the trip. What we do know is this:
- Before he left, Paul was working under the authority of the temple leadership.
- He was being sent to Damascus for the purpose of purging Damascus of all Nazarine influences.
- When he finally arrived, he immediately joined forces with the Nazarines in the effort to spread knowledge of the Nazarine Doctrine among the Jews.
Clearly something must of happened between points 2 and 3, but that knowledge no longer seems to be available. Still, had Paul been content with just spreading knowledge of the doctrine among the Jews, Christianity might never had cause to split off from Judaism. Instead Paul developed a need to convert Gentiles over, and the requirement to first convert to Judaism was getting in the way.
Early Changes Edit
In order to facilitate conversion of Gentiles to the Nazarine way, a number of changes were made in accord with Paul's teachings. For the most part, converts were to be exempt from most of Jewish law. The primary exceptions were:
- They were forbidden the worship of other Gods or Idols.
- Fornication was forbidden.
- The consumption of flesh from strangled animals was forbidden.
- The consumption of blood under any circumstances was forbidden.
Other changes that occurred included the introduction of the concept of Original Sin, as well as the shifting of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.
- The Outline of History, HG Wells
- History and Destiny of the Jews, Josef Kastein
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