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History 4: Christendom

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  1. 1. Orientation
    12 Steps
  2. 2. Eternity in Operation: The Roman Principate and the New Testament Church
    11 Steps
  3. 3. Imperium sine Fine: The Successions of Rome, Judea, and the Apostolic Church
    11 Steps
  4. 4. The World That Died in the Night: Christianity, the Church Fathers, and the Transformation of Culture
    11 Steps
  5. 5. A Creed and Still a Gospel: Constantine, Nicea and Athanasius
    11 Steps
  6. 6. Centripetal & Centrifugal Forces: The Barbarians, the Church and the Fall of Rome
    11 Steps
  7. 7. Only the Lover Sings: Augustine of Hippo
    11 Steps
  8. 8. The Long Defeat: Byzantium
    11 Steps
  9. 9. There is No God But Allah: Islam
    11 Steps
  10. 10. How the Celts Saved Civilization: Christianity in Ireland and Britain
    11 Steps
  11. 11. The Holy Roman Empire: Benedict & Monasticism, Gregory the Great & Worship, Charlemagne & Education
    11 Steps
  12. 12. The Ballad of the White Horse: The Norse and Alfred the Great
    11 Steps
  13. 13. Medieval Covenants: Feudalism and the Norman Conquest
    12 Steps
  14. 14. Deus Vult: The First Crusade
    13 Steps
  15. 15. Outremer: Crusader Kingdoms and Later Crusades
    12 Steps
  16. 16. The Music of the Spheres: Medieval Art, Towns, Cathedrals and Monks
    11 Steps
  17. 17. Wonder & Delight: Medieval Education, the Scholastics and Dante
    12 Steps
  18. 18. Just Rule and a Braveheart: Plantagenets, Common Law and the Scots
    11 Steps
  19. 19. The Fracturing of Christendom I: Invasions, Wars and Plagues
    11 Steps
  20. 20. The Fracturing of Christendom II: The End of the Middle Ages
    12 Steps
  21. 21. Man the Measure I: The Renaissance
    12 Steps
  22. 22. Man the Measure II: The Renaissance
    12 Steps
  23. 23. The Morning Stars of the Reformation: Wycliffe to Erasmus
    11 Steps
  24. 24. Justification by Faith: The Great Reformation
    11 Steps
  25. 25. Towards a Proper End: Reformations and Counter-Reformations
    11 Steps
  26. 26. Lex Rex: The English Civil War and the Scots
    12 Steps
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The following transcript was automatically generated and may contain errors in spelling and/or grammar. It is provided for assistance in note-taking and review.

– Well, I hope you saw contrast. I think it’s pretty obvious in that last lecture. And of course, you’re gonna see more of that contrast today because we’re gonna talk about one of the most infamous emperors of all of Roman history. And that is Gaius, who reigned from 37 to 41 AD, lasted a mere four years. You probably know him by his nickname of Caligula. A Caligula is a word in Latin that means little shoes or little boots and was given to him while he was still adorable and when his naughtiness may have been a little bit more excusable, when he was only two years old by soldiers who he was actually being, well, he was accompanying as his father went off to wars.

He himself was a grand nephew to Tiberius. In fact, all these emperors are a part of what they call the Judeo-Claudian dynasty, basically from Julius Caesar through Nero, if I remember correctly, all these guys who were related to the same family.

Anyway, Caligula, or Gaius, was initially loyal to Tiberius, even though his older brother, Germanicus, was accused of treason and, well, as usual, ordered to take his own life.

As for Gaius, or Caligula, when he became emperor, perhaps actually having Tiberius executed, or some say even doing it himself. When Gaius came into office, he became rather popular because he gave away all the inheritance he had received from Tiberius to the citizens of Rome, and then increased the state welfare, the corn that was given to the poor throughout the empire of Rome, primarily in the city of Rome.

He also gave back the power to the people in the Commedia to choose their own judges. He recalled many of the banished people under Tiberius’s reign. It was said that he himself was a gifted speaker. He used to practice his oratory as well as his facial expressions in the mirror. He was also a gladiator and a charioteer, somebody who liked to show his prowess in the arena there and win the praise and law to different people.

But he also had a falling sickness. He would sometimes faint or he had difficulty walking at times. And that sometimes worked itself into actual fears. It was said that Caligula was terrified of the dark. He would sometimes hide under his bed whenever there was thunder. He would sometimes at night, if he could not sleep, wander the palace shouting for the dawn. Through one sickness, we’re told, he only got about three hours of sleep a night, and that lasted for six months, which might explain why he went from being seen as generous and brave to being seen as a sheer tyrant and monster.

He was very much someone who believed in the phrase Rex Lex, the king is the law. In fact, he told his own grandmother once after she gave him advice that he did not ask for, saying, quote, “Remember, Grandma, “that I have the right to do anything to anybody.” He frequently told his dinner guests that he could all have them killed if he wanted to. And he sometimes reminded his wives, he did have multiple wives, or his mistresses, he would say things like this as he was holding them, “Off comes this beautiful head whenever I give the word.” In other words, we have somebody who’s a megalomaniac here. He was somebody who worshiped the goddess Isis, hoping that she could somehow protect him from the scary things of the dark. He also wanted to be worshipped as a God like the pharaohs of old and made senators kiss his feet. He considered his sister, Drusilla, to be the only one he could actually trust and shared the worship of Isis with her, but also treated her as a fellow wife.

That’s one of the kind of disturbing things about Caligula. He was married some four times, had numerous affairs, often forcing women to divorce their husbands so that he could be with them. On one occasion, he actually went to the wedding of a couple and decided the bride was so pretty that he made her divorce her husband after she had married him on that same day and then took her home to be his mistress for a brief period of time.

He was extravagant in his spending. It was said that he took baths in perfume, that he drank pearls dissolved in vinegar, and that he put on elaborate banquets that cost millions of coins.

And one such banquet, he made a bridge of boats going across a certain bay, and he used so many boats in Rome that it caused a famine because those same boats could not bring in grain from Egypt.

He also had an ivory manger constructed for his favorite racing horse. That same horse he eventually invited to dinner, talked to him and even told various senators and leaders that he was thinking about making this horse a consul, one of the chief leaders of the Roman Republic who would actually command armies.

It is curious to think how a horse would command armies, if a horse could do that, but all the same, I hope you’re seeing we have a person here who is well, quite frankly, insane. The fact that he spent so much money meant that he himself ran into money problems. So he began encouraging people, especially very wealthy people, to generously donate to the emperor, to give him gifts, or to name him as an heir in their wills.

He also began taxing food, began taxing people’s income, and also accused several key wealthy people of treason, a treason they had not committed, and then after seeing them condemned as guilty, have them executed and confiscated all of their property.

To try to show that he was a powerful warlord, he sent two legions to the coast of France, what we now call France, with plans to cross what we now call the English Channel and invade Britain.

But then he seems to have lost the nerve or perhaps interest Because he ordered those same legions, rather than to arm themselves for the brave manly work of conquering Britain, he actually ordered them to collect seashells instead on the beach.

That in many ways tells you a lot that you need to know or all that you really need to know about Caligula. Like his uncle Tiberius, he was paranoid and often had his enemies killed usually by numerous small wounds. At one point when he believed his grandmother was out to get him, he forced her to take her own life. And then things got yet even worse when he announced himself to be a god and ordered statues made of him as a god, often having existing statues decapitated and an image of his head, a sculpted image of his head, put on them instead.

Pretending that he was Zeus, keep in mind he was afraid of thunder. He had a device or a machine, we don’t know exactly how it worked, but it somehow made a thunderous noise. So you have to imagine Caligula on some evening at the palace balcony making these thundering noises and declaring, “I am a god.” He then realized he needed a priest. So naturally, as I’m sure you can guess, he decided to have his favorite racehorse become his priest. They were evidently really tight together. He then– well, by this point, his own Praetorian Guard had enough. And so several of the Praetorian Guard members, a specific tribune named Sharia, actually led the revolt against Caligula and executed him, stabbed him to death in the palace, and then executed both his fourth wife and his daughter.

Dio Cassius, writing many, many years later, the Caligula at that moment finally learned that he was not actually a god. Now before he died, while he was in full-on crazy mode in the year 40 AD, when he was having statues of himself put throughout the Roman Empire, he made a decree the statues of himself should be placed in the province of Judea.

However, the Jews tore them down or did not even let them be installed in the first place. So then Caligula decided he would go one step further and he gave the order that a statue of himself should be put up in the actual temple.

He even sent two legions to accomplish this. The leader of the legions stalled as much as he could and was relieved to learn that before he actually had to do it that Caligula had been killed.

But that gives us, that gets us right into the era of when Christianity is really growing specifically in Judea. In fact, if you went to Judea, say in the year 40 AD, that same year that Caligula tried to have the statue installed, you might hear about the early Christians who were not yet called Christians, and they might just seem like one of the many Jewish religious communities, like say the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Essenes, or the Zealots.

But the Christians seemed to be different. They weren’t merely a political party like the Sadducees or the Pharisees. They didn’t isolate themselves like the Essenes. And even though they talked about a kingdom, it was not an earthly kingdom like the Zealots talked about. As for these Christians, before they were called Christians, they were called sometimes the Nazarenes because Jesus was from Nazareth. or they were called the saints or the holy people or the poor in spirit based upon the Beatitudes. Sometimes they were called the friends of Jesus and the believers or perhaps most commonly they were simply called the people of the way. By this time the church numbered at least some 5,000 people and Acts tells us what their day-to-day life was like. We’re told for example that these early Christians, these people of the way, were devoted to the teachings of the apostles because the apostles had been with Jesus.

They had seen what he had done. They had seen him resurrected from the dead and they were now finally understanding, “Oh, that thing he said here or that Old Testament passage, it actually means this and it’s been fulfilled.” We’re also told that they had regular meals and prayers together, that they actually ate communal meals including bread and wine in each other’s homes. There’s no actual church building at this point. We’re told that there was awe upon every soul. They just somehow knew this is the right way. This is the God I’ve always wanted to know. We’re We’re told that they had everything in common, meaning that anybody who had a need, that need was fulfilled. We’re told that they prayed at the temple regularly, that they were essentially waiting in Jerusalem and missions were just beginning. In fact, those missions really begin in the 30s and will continue throughout the history of the church right on down to the present day.

As for these early church disciples, we’re also told that they were thankful. It’s one of those really unique marks of the Christian. And in fact, it’s Thanksgiving according to Philippians, that is one of the greatest weapons against fear and anxiety. We’re also told that they had favor amongst the people. Philip Schaff writing about this time, and specifically about Peter’s sermon says that Peter preached no subtle theological doctrine. Wasn’t really like anything brand new, but Peter rather preached a few great facts and truths, the crucifixion and the resurrection of the Jesus, the Messiah.

There breathes in them an air of serene joy and a certain triumph. It goes back to what Charles Williams said, the disciples knew that it had happened. We also know that these early apostles and members of the church would have most likely been heavily studying the Old Testament. It’s quite possible they used Septuagint, which was the Greek translation of the Old Testament because most of the quotations of the Old Testament in the New are from the Septuagint itself.

F.F. Bruce comments on this saying that Jesus himself had constantly used the Old Testament. He’d appealed to it. He treated it with the utmost veneration. Or we have, for example, when Jesus is on the road with those two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, we’re told that beginning with Moses and the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. So suddenly the apostles had this idea of like, this is where it all comes together. This would have of course led to the writing of the four gospels. A gospel being a word that means good news, but was specifically to be, these are eyewitness accounts of what we have seen or what we have compiled from different witnesses.

What I love about the four different gospels, each one being a different writer using different sources or his own accounts, his own eyewitness accounts in certain cases, each has a unique literary interest.

So we have, for example, Matthew, who might be the very earliest of the Gospels, who himself was one of the 12 disciples, who was an eyewitness to most of what happened, who compiled all those prophecies, all those things that Jesus explained to those disciples on the road to Emmaus, and showed how they were fulfilled by him.

If you look at the symbolism for the Gospel writers, Matthew’s Gospels often are represented by a man with wings or an angel to show how Jesus truly was a man fulfilling all the prophecies of him, but was also of course, God himself.

And then you have Mark. Mark was most likely a disciple who was there with Jesus and knew him personally, but probably got most of information from Peter. Mark, kind of like the character of Peter, his gospel that is, is rather action focused. He uses the word immediately over and over again. The symbolism that goes with Mark is the symbol of a winged lion, and showing that Mark shows how Jesus is truly a king and focuses on his actions as a king.

As for Luke, Luke’s curious, he’s a physician. He’s somebody who was converted much later. He was also somebody who paid great attention to details, much like a gifted physician has to, and compiled the testimony of numerous people. He actually talks about it in the very first chapter of his gospel. We also know that he was a co-laborer of Paul, with Paul on many of his journeys, and that his gospel is highly detailed. That’s why his symbol is usually a winged ox, an animal that goes with priestly sacrifice, which was something that was always highly detailed. Just read Leviticus to see that. And then of course we have John, who like Matthew was an eyewitness to most everything that happens in the Gospels, but was also one of the inner three who knew Jesus perhaps better than anybody else.

His Gospel is different than the other three. It’s often seen as the most philosophical. It has a different sequence as he emphasizes different things, which is why his creature is a creature that’s already winged. It’s an eagle, hinting at the idea of this philosophy that soars above many other Gospels and yet complements them as they all complement each other.

Well if we go back to Acts, we’ll see that we have the very first conflicts soon after Pentecost. That very first conflict actually happens when Peter and John heal a man who is lame from birth. When this miracle gets out and gets around the community of Jerusalem and the high priestly family hears that they have healed this man in the name of Jesus, Peter and John are brought before the leaders, Annas and Caiaphas, these men who had helped to put to death Jesus, who then ask Peter and John, “By what power, what name did you do this?” They of course say, “By the name of Jesus,” which is the only name by which men are saved. And of course, as they talk, this little remark is made that they seem to be common, uneducated men, they’re just fishermen, and yet they seem to talk like somebody who has clearly spent time with Jesus and been discipled by Him. They’re of course then told by Annas and Caiaphas not to speak in the name of Jesus, and they reply, “We must speak of what we have seen and heard. You must judge. Is it right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than him? A later conflict after they conduct even more miracles of healing, this is actually all the disciples at this point it would appear, they’re once again brought before the high priest and their allies, the Sadducees, who deny that there was a resurrection at all. This time they’re arrested, they’re imprisoned, let out by an angel, and then they start preaching a sermon. It’s at this point that one of the rivals of the Sadducees, a Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel, who was a famous rabbi who actually taught Paul, he stands up and he starts talking to the Sanhedrin saying, “You know, there have been previously two major movements that I have seen of men that have both failed.” Then he says this, quote, “If this plan or this undertaking is of man, if what the disciples are doing is of man, it will fail.” You don’t have to do anything. It’ll just fail on its own. But, if it’s of God, you’ll not be able to overthrow them. It’s an incredibly wise stance. Something that’s curiously also collected in the sayings of rabbis known as the Pirkei Ahoth. Well, it’s also around this time that we see the very first martyr in the history of the church, and that, of course, is Stephen. Stephen, we’re told, is one of the very first deacons, one of seven, all whom are given Greek names, one who appears to not even be a Jew by birth.

And as deacons, they’re given the task of caring for widows and orphans and for the poor. We’re then told that men become jealous of Stephen, probably simply for his virtue. And so they stir up a crowd against him and they accuse him of blasphemy or of changing the traditions of the Jews. It’s very much like the charges given against Jesus. Well, then Stephen, and you’ll see this kind of sermon throughout the history of Acts in the early church, he then gives this rather lengthy sermon showing all that God has done, highlighting really the big stories of the Old Testament saying they’ve all been leading up to this point in time. reminding them that the whole history of the Old Testament was to be for the redemption of the Messiah, and the temple is temporary because heaven is God’s throne and the earth is his footstool. But of course he also confronts the people saying that they are stiff-necked and that they have often killed the prophets because they do not want to keep the laws that Moses gave.

In other In other words, this is really more of a heart issue than it is an issue of belief in terms of intellect. So they of course decide to stone him. And as they’re stoning him, you can of course read the account in Acts, it’s one of my favorites. And he says that he sees heaven opened up and he sees Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. And then he says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit “and very much like Jesus on the cross, do not hold the sin against them. We’re then told that he falls asleep and then dies. But of course, we have a curious character standing by. A Pharisee, one I already mentioned to you earlier, one who was well-trained, who called himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a man by the name of Saul, who holds the cloaks of the people as they stone Stephen approving of what they do.

We’re then told that Saul begins ravaging the church. As the Jews flee Judea to places like Syria or Phoenicia, Saul pursues them. He arrests them, armed with nothing more than a letter from Caiaphas that evidently gives him the force of law no matter where he goes to the Roman Empire, so long as he is only dealing with the Jews.

It shows you how the Jews were sometimes viewed in the Roman Empire. As for Philip Schaff, he says that the stoning of Stephen began a wide-scale persecution, but it also began the wide-scale spread of the church.

As for the disciples, we’re told that they were scattered and they began preaching the word, and we see them spreading out. In fact, if you look at the Ascension, Jesus says to them, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth. And so we see them first in Jerusalem, as we’ve already talked about, and then soon after this, we see them spreading to places like Samaria, which is where the Samaritans lived, who were hated by the Jews because they were seen as not being of pure Jewish blood.

They were seen as a mixture of the Israelites of old and the peoples of the ancient Near East. Because of that, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim. We see them, for example, in the ministry of Jesus when he encounters the woman at the well. Well, the disciples don’t seem to have a problem bringing the gospel to the Samaritans because Philip goes there right after Stephen’s death. We’re told that he commits signs and wonders and there was much joy in the city of Samaria. Soon after this, Peter and John come. We’re told that they lead the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It’s also where they encounter a guy like Simon Magus, who thinks he can buy the ability to perform miracles. It’s where the word simony comes from. The idea that you can somehow buy spiritual authority or buy favor with God. Philip then gets around because he goes up north to Samaria, and then we’re told that he goes down south to the area of Gaza, where he meets an Ethiopian eunuch, a treasurer to the Queen of Ethiopia or Nubia, who is reading the book of Isaiah, chapter 53, a famous passage on the suffering servant or Jesus suffering on our behalf.

He’s confused and so Philip actually explains it to him and he immediately wants to be baptized. One can imagine that he brought that same faith back with him to Nubia. It has one of the oldest churches in church history. And then we’re told that Philip is taken up by the spirit back north to Caesarea, where also one of the earliest churches in all of history is.

As for Peter, he makes his way around, ending up in a place known as Joppa, where he encounters a centurion, a Roman centurion by the name of Cornelius, who has had a vision of an angel telling him to send men and to bring Peter to his house.

That would have been a problem for Peter. Peter was somebody who wanted to observe the Jewish law and customs, and the idea of going into a Gentile’s house and eating Gentile food was seen as something that was against the law, or at the very least something that no respecting Jew would ever do.

So Peter, of course, has his own vision that God gives him, in which he’s shown this blanket with all the animals of the world, And he’s told, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” And then of course, the explanation is given, “What God has made clean, do not call common or unclean.” In other words, the gospel is also to go to the Gentiles. And so Peter enters the house of Cornelius. He goes into the house of a Gentile, and this is truly a pivotal event in the history of the church. In fact, he says, “Truly God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” He then recounts the gospel to the household of Cornelius, and we’re told the Holy Spirit falls upon all who hear it, and they’re baptized. When he comes back to Jerusalem, he reports this, and says, “Against those who think the gospel should not go to the Gentiles,” he says, “Who was I to stand in God’s way?” And then he says, “To the Gentiles also, God has granted a repentance that leads unto life.” This is something that he would later defend and bring up at the famous Council of Jerusalem, which we’ll talk about in a later lecture.