Early Christianity presents us with a wide diversity in attitudes towards the law. There were also many different Christologies circulating in different communities. The book of James presents one unique perspective. It seems to be written in the tradition of Jewish wisdom literature in its presentation of sayings and its concern for the poor. James also presents a view of works and faith that seems to oppose Pauline teaching. However, the terms "faith" and "works" function differently in Paul's writings and in the book of James
- 00:00 - Chapter 1. Diversity in Early Christianity: Attitudes towards the Jewish Law
- 03:57 - Chapter 2. Diversity in Early Christianity: Christology
- 21:03 - Chapter 3. James as Jewish Wisdom Literature
- 27:47 - Chapter 4. Faith and Works in James in Comparison to Paul
Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://open.yale.edu/courses
Finished chapter 8 about the book of Luke. Some interesting talk here at the end about his social agenda. Where is this in modern religion?
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The speech that Stephen gives before his accusers in Acts shows how the author of Luke-Acts used and edited his sources. So, also, does the description of the destruction of Jerusalem in Luke, as compared to that in Mark. The major themes of Luke-Acts are 1) the Gospel going first to the Jews and then to gentiles and 2) that of the prophet-martyr, with Jesus as the prophet-martyr par excellence.
- Stephens Speech in the Acts of the Apostles [00:00:00]
- The Destruction [00:19:18]
- Luke's Gospel to the Jews First [00:24:18]
- The Prophet-Martyr in Luke and Acts [00:38:19]
Luke and Acts, a two-volume work, are structured very carefully by the author to outline the ministry of Jesus and the spread of the Gospel to the gentiles. The Gospel of Luke emphasizes the themes of Jesus’ Jewish piety, his role as a rejected prophet, and the reversal of earthly status. The Gospel ends in Jerusalem, and the Acts of the Apostles begins there and then follows the spread of the Gospel, both conceptually and geographically, to Samaria and the gentiles. By closely analyzing the Gospel and Acts, we see that the author was not concerned with historicity or chronological order. Rather, he writes his “orderly account” to illustrate the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews and its consequent spread to the gentiles.
We have known of the existence of the Gospel of Thomas from ancient writers, but it was only after the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Codices that the actual text became available. The Gospel of Thomas is basically a collection of sayings, or logia, that sometimes seem similar, perhaps more primitive than sayings found in the canonical Gospels. Sometimes, however, the sayings seem better explained as reflecting a “Gnostic” understanding of the world. This involves a rejection of the material world and a desire for gnosis, a secret knowledge, in order to escape the world and return to the divine being.
I just heard a snippet of a radio show recently in which the interview guest would be talking about practicing multiple faiths simultaneously could be interesting and fruitful. Obviously this is not a new ideas…
The Gospel of Matthew contains some of the most famous passages that both Christians and non-Christians are familiar with. However, Matthew also presents itself paradoxically as preaching a Torah observant Christianity and a Christian mission that seeks to reach gentiles. The figure of Jesus in Matthew is that of a teacher, the founder of the Church, and the model for the apostles and Matthew’s own community. Matthew seems to be writing for a church community that needs encouragement to have faith in a time of trouble.
- Matthew: The Most Famous Gospel [00:00:00]
- Jesus and the Torah in Matthew [00:12:29]
- The Foundations of the Church in Matthew [00:22:08]
- Jesus as a Model for the Disciples [00:27:51]
- The Stilling of the Storm in Matthew [00:35:44]
The Gospels of the New Testament are not biographies, and, in this class, they are read through a historical critical lens. This means that the events they narrate are not taken at face value as historical. The Gospel of Mark illustrates how the gospel writer skillfully crafts a narrative in order to deliver a message. It is a message that emphasizes a suffering messiah, and the necessity of suffering before glory. The gospel’s apocalyptic passages predict troubles for the Jewish temple and incorporate this prediction with its understanding of the future coming of the Son of Man.
The accounts of Paul’s travels in The Acts of the Apostles and Galatians seem to contradict each other at many points. Their descriptions of a meeting in Jerusalem–a major council in Acts versus a small, informal gathering in Galatians–also differ quite a bit. How do we understand these differences? A historical critical reading of these accounts does not force these texts into a harmonious unity or accept them at face value. Instead, a historical critical reading carefully sifts through the details of the texts and asks which of these is more likely to be historically accurate.
Of the four kingdoms that arose after Alexander’s death, those of the Seleucids and the Ptolemies are most pertinent to an understanding of the New Testament. Especially important is the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who forced the issue of Hellenism in Jerusalem by profaning the temple. Jews were not alike in their reaction to Hellenization, but a revolt arose under the leadership of the Mattathias and his sons, who would rule in the Hasmonean Dynasty. After the spread of Roman rule, the Judea was under client kings and procurators until the Jewish War and the destruction of the temple in 70 CE. Revolt was only one Jewish response to foreign rule; another was apocalypticism, as we see in Daniel and also in the Jesus’ teaching and the early Christian movement.
Knowledge of historical context is crucial to understanding the New Testament. Alexander the Great, in his conquests, spread Greek culture throughout the Mediterranean world. This would shape the structure of city-states, which would share characteristically Greek institutions, such as the gymnasium and the boule. This would also give rise to religious syncretism, that is, the mixing of different religions. The rise of the Romans would continue this trend of universalization of Greek ideals and religious tolerance, as well as implement the social structure of the Roman household. The Pax Romana, and the vast infrastructures of the Roman Empire, would facilitate the rapid spread of Christianity.
The Christian faith is based upon a canon of texts considered to be holy scripture. How did this canon come to be? Different factors, such as competing schools of doctrine, growing consensus, and the invention of the codex, helped shape the canon of the New Testament. Reasons for inclusion in or exclusion from the canon included apostolic authority, general acceptance, and theological appropriateness for “proto-orthodox” Christianity.
This course approaches the New Testament not as scripture, or a piece of authoritative holy writing, but as a collection of historical documents. Therefore, students are urged to leave behind their pre-conceived notions of the New Testament and read it as if they had never heard of it before. This involves understanding the historical context of the New Testament and imagining how it might appear to an ancient person.
Featuring vibrant full color throughout, the sixth edition of Bart D. Ehrman's highly successful introduction approaches the New Testament from a consistently historical and comparative perspective, emphasizing the rich diversity of the earliest Christian literature. Distinctive to this study is its unique focus on the historical, literary, and religious milieux of the Greco-Roman world, including early Judaism. As part of its historical orientation, the book also discusses other Christian writings that were roughly contemporary with the New Testament, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the letters of Ignatius.
This is a recommended text for Dale Martin’s course Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature.
About the Course
This course provides a historical study of the origins of Christianity by analyzing the literature of the earliest Christian movements in historical context, concentrating on the New Testament. Although theological themes will occupy much of our attention, the course does not attempt a theological appropriation of the New Testament as scripture. Rather, the importance of the New Testament and other early Christian documents as ancient literature and as sources for historical study will be emphasized. A central organizing theme of the course will focus on the differences within early Christianity (-ies).Course Structure
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2009. The Open Yale Courses Series. For more information about Professor Martin’s book New Testament History and Literature, http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300180855 click here.