Christ and Christianity

Christ refers to the historical figure of Jesus, founder of the Christian religion and believed to be the Son of God by his followers. Jesus was born in 4 b.c.e. and raised in the Galilean village of Nazareth in Jewish Palestine. In his late 20s, Jesus was drawn to John the Baptist’s message of repentance, and he began his own ministry in the region of Galilee, preaching the coming of the Kingdom of God. In about 30 c.e., Jesus and his disciples went to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem, but he was condemned as a political agitator by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, and crucified. Three days later, his followers found that his tomb was empty and said that the resurrected Jesus appeared to them for forty days thereafter until he ascended into heaven. Hence, his followers believed that Jesus was the promised Savior of Jewish sacred scripture, the anointed one, the Messiah (in Hebrew) or Christ (Christos in Greek). The life and teachings of Jesus Christ are chronicled in various first-century sacred writings, known collectively as the New Testament of the Bible (the Old Testament consisting of Jewish sacred writings prior to the coming of Christ). The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John provide the life of Christ; the Acts of the Apostles chronicle the earliest spread of Christianity, as do the Epistles, or letters. The latter two sections refer primarily to the extensive missionary work of Paul, born Saul of Tarsus. Paul believed that Christ’s message was for both Jew and non-Jewish Gentile and preached Christianity throughout the Roman Empire until his execution about 63 c.e. Despite sporadic Roman persecutions, Christianity continued to spread, and, in the early fourth century, Emperor Constantine recognized it as a force that could unite his empire. But there was no consensus among church leaders as to the precise nature of Christ. Constantine, therefore, called a church council at Nicaea (325 c.e.), which produced a statement of faith, the Nicene Creed, which defines God as a Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is called the Son of God, begotten from the Father. The Roman Empire was a Christian state by the time of its demise in the late fifth century. Christianity continued to spread throughout Europe, from west to east. However, questions persisted about doctrine, as well as the structure and authority within the church, so that Christianity split in 1054 between the Eastern Greek Orthodox Church and the Western Latin Catholic Church, which was led by the pope in Rome. Western Christendom was further fragmented with the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. In the age of exploration, the European powers that sponsored voyages did so for economic and political reasons, but also in the hope of spreading the Christian faith. Christopher Columbus, sailing for Spain in 1492, cited conversion of the people of the East as an objective of his voyage. On October 12, on his initial landfall (in the Bahamas) after his transatlantic voyage, Columbus named the island San Salvador [Holy Savior], in honor of our Blessed Lord. So Christ accompanied Europeans to the New World from the very start. In the seventeenth century Spain and France, both Roman Catholic countries, were colonizing powers in North America, which meant that the Catholic Church looked after the spiritual well-being of their colonists and fostered the spread of Christianity among the natives. The role of religion in the founding of the Protestant English colonies was somewhat different. Of the thirteen English colonies established along the Eastern seaboard of North America, the settlements in New England had the strongest religious basis. The growing division in the Church of England between the authority of king and bishops and those who believed that the church had not been sufficiently purified of its Catholic past led to the emigration of some of the so-called Puritans. These settlers came to practice their faith as they believed was proper and not as prescribed by the established Anglican Church. One group of Puritans, aboard the Mayflower, landed at Plymouth in 1620. According to the compact they subscribed to on board, their colony was being established for the glory of God, for the advancement of our Christian faith, and honor of our king and country. Governor William Bradford in his History of Plymouth Plantation (1646) cited advancing the Gospel of the Kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world as a reason for their settlement. Yet it was the Old Testament that greatly inspired the Puritans, who believed that, like the biblical Jewish people, they too had a covenant with God. In 1630, the Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony were reminded of this in the sermon delivered by Joseph Cotton on their departure from England: Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and I will plant them. In this period of increasing religious tensions in England, some who came to America compared their voyage to that of the exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt. Jonathan Edwards, a preeminent theologian from Massachusetts, believed in religious experience, while maintaining his strict Calvinist faith in predestination. In 1741, he delivered the sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, in which the fearful image of sinners being suspended over hellfire by the hand of God was mitigated by the presence of Christ, who has thrown the door of mercy wide open. In the 1740s, colonial America experienced the First Great Awakening, a renewal of religious fervor. It was in the Second Awakening, however, in the early nineteenth century that American Christianity moved away from the stern God of the Old Testament toward the saving grace of Jesus Christ of the New Testament. Florene S. Memegalos See also: Anglican Church; Baptists; Bible; Catholic Church; Methodist Church; Pietism; Puritanism; Documents: A Modell of Christian Charity (1630); Psalm 23 from The Bay Psalm Book (1640); Maryland Toleration Act (1649). Bibliography Holifield, E. Brooks. Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003 Noll, Mark A. America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Urban, Linwood. A Short History of Christian Thought. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Instant Death to Apostates in the Bible’s Old and New Testaments. holidaymapq

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Triumph of Christianity – Gustave Dore Christ and Christianity … holidaymapq

Christianity and the Baha’i Faith holidaymapq

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