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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.

– Continuing with our contrast of that Roman Empire and its early days. And of course, with the church and its early days, we’ll start out with Rome by talking about the Emperor Claudius, who ruled from 41 to 54 AD. Actually makes him a little bit of a longer lasting emperor for this time period. He was somebody who was descended from both Augustus Caesar and Mark Antony, the men who had once been allies that became enemies. And we’re also told that Claudius walked with a limp, that his head wobbled, that he had involuntary jerks of his face and he had a speech impediment, meaning he rather struggled to actually lead with a strong physical presence at least, but that can be made up in other ways.

We are told for example, that he had a love of language. He loved philosophy, he loved history and law. In fact, he wrote works of history. He wrote essays on the alphabet. He wrote a Greek comedy. He also wrote scientific papers, everything from how to predict an eclipse to how to cure select snake bites. In fact, members of the Roman noble class like Pliny the Elder would sometimes quote Claudius as an authority. As for Claudius, the way he became emperor is rather interesting. He became emperor after that Praetorian guard assassinated Caligula. As for Claudius, he was 50 years old and he was, according to some stories, hiding behind the curtains. When suddenly the curtain was drawn back, he was there terrified, thinking he was going to be assassinated. but instead the Praetorian guard said, “Hail Emperor,” and then made him that Imperator or Princeps. He then released Caligula’s prisoners, recalled Caligula’s exiles, restored property that Caligula had confiscated, and ended many of his taxes. He also executed the assassins of Caligula, the same guys who made him Emperor, because he wanted to make it very clear that nobody kills an Emperor.

And then rather quietly, he declared that he was not a god. Like Augustus and like Tiberius, he went about repairing the old temples of the Roman gods and encouraging public worship. But we’re told by various Roman authorities that nobody really was interested in worshiping the gods anymore, probably because they didn’t really believe in them. We’re also told about Claudius that he was a bit hands-on in his administration and that he often was in the courts acting as a judge himself.

We’re told for example, that he had several building projects. He built a new canal or had men dig a new canal that is, to divert some of the water of the Tiber so it would not flood as easily.

He created a new Harbor at Ostia to better bring in grain for the people. He built new aqueducts and also did more flood control at Lake Fuchines via many different canals. To commemorate that project, he gathered some 19,000 condemned criminals, all men who were condemned to death, and forced them to undergo a mock naval battle where they would actually fight and kill each other while thousands of people watched as a form of entertainment.

It’s the first known time in history that those men before they die give the famous, or rather I should say, infamous line of, hail Caesar, we who are about to die salute you.

In fact, we’re told about Claudius that he loved the games. He loved watching the condemned kill each other. He did various things to try to make himself more popular by giving away games that was popular in Rome. He gave citizenship to new parts of Gaul. He also conquered Britain. This time he did not actually have his soldiers collect seashells. He also increased the size of Roman government and especially its bureaucracy. Wanting to control more and more things in the attempt to try to make things more just as he thought, he created many new officials and actually appointed former slaves of his to run the empire.

These slaves, we are told, gathered enormous fortunes, often because they lacked a certain morality. They accepted bribes. They sold offices of the state to the highest bidder. And they often falsely accused wealthy men of treason so that they could actually confiscate their property. As for Claudius’s wife, Messalina, we’re told that when he married her, she was rather young and also deformed and decidedly not pretty. She, like most Roman women of the ruling class, preferred to have affairs. Well, because she was deformed, decidedly not pretty, men often rejected her advances, so she threatened them with being accused of treason, which meant death, and which they decided to change their mind on the spot.

However, she was later executed by Claudius’ Praetorian guard after one of her lovers was discovered to be committing a coup to overthrow him. He then remarried another woman, a rather crafty character by the name of Agrippina. She’s rather famous because of her son, a man by the name of Nero. It was Agrippina who showed her ruthlessness by having a noble woman that Claudius had said was pretty executed. She then had another relative of Claudius’s poisoned for fear that he would become the heir to the throne of emperor. She also had some of his most powerful freedmen thrown in jail rather than let them have more power. Over time, Claudius, like emperors before him, grew paranoid of those closest to him, such as Agrippina and her son Nero. And so he went about on a reign of terror, often falsely accusing people of treason, not recognizing that Agrippina was always the one who was to watch out for.

In fact, she got rid of Claudius by feeding him poisonous mushrooms. And we’re told that it took him 12 hours to die after eating these poisonous mushrooms. And during the entire time, he was unable to speak to say what he thought about Agrippina, or more importantly, to name who should come after him.

And so Nero became emperor after him and said with some bit of Nero’s type of humor that mushrooms must be the food of the gods because after all they have made Claudius divine. Now, before we end the story of Claudius, it’s worth noting that in 46 AD, he banned Jews from meeting in synagogues in Rome after there had been several insurrections or at least just a lot of hustle and bustle over some guy from Judea named Crestus.

This of course seems to refer to the story of Christ and these Jews appear to be Christians who at this point were making commotion probably simply by preaching the gospel message.

Claudius also was the one who made Herod Agrippa the King of Judea. that Herod ruled from 41 to 44 AD. He was somebody that was loved by the people, by the Jews at large, and did things to try to appease them. For example, he had James the Greater, the disciple of Jesus, the brother of John, executed by the sword, and we’re told that he had Peter imprisoned, who was once again rescued from jail by an angel. We’re then told this curious story about Herod Agrippa, about how he goes up to Caesarea to address the Phoenicians, who are worried about being cut off from the food supplies of Egypt and of Judea.

He assures them that he’s going to take care of them. Josephus, the great Jewish historian, tells us that when Herod Agrippa went to talk to them, he wore a shining robe, a robe that seemed to have an iridescence to it.

If you’re familiar with the character of Saruman in Lord of the Rings, the robe of Herod Agrippa seems to be a lot like the way Gandalf describes Saruman’s new one. But then of course the people shout out while Herod is addressing them. They say, “Ah, it is the voice of a god and not of a man.” We’re then told that he was immediately struck down. Both Axe and Josephus record the exact same story. He immediately was struck down because he accepted their praise. We’re then told he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. Sometimes it could be thought that eaten by worms is what happens to his body after it’s buried in the ground, but this, because it happens before he breathed his last, there is some speculation that he had some kind of severe gastrointestinal issue.

It was a painful way to go. But the point being that because he took on the idea that he was a God and was executing the leaders of the church, well, he gets taken down pretty quickly.

As for the leadership of the church in Jerusalem, it then goes on to a different character. Yet another James, and there are several James in the New Testament, but we’re gonna call this one James the Just, as he is often called. It was James the Just whom we’re told was the brother of Jesus. Most likely the oldest child after Jesus. Jesus had several brothers and sisters according to the New Testament. And then of course some of the names come down to us through tradition. And some of the earliest forms of Christian history. We’re also told that James the Just was perhaps the first or the second leader of the church in Jerusalem. Some people put James the Greater, the one that Herod Agrippa beheaded as the very first leader of that church. What we know though, is that James the Just was chosen by Peter and John and seen as a respected leader for the actual church.

It’s very curious that in John 7, we’re told that he did not believe that Jesus was actually the Messiah, but that he becomes a believer based upon seeing the risen Lord.

something that Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 9 both refer to. Paul also refers to it later in Corinthians. We’re also told about James, according to various sources, that he was rather pious. He was known for frequently praying on the temple floor, kneeling down. In fact, evidently, he developed such large calluses on his knees that they sometimes simply called him “Old Camel Knees.” Some people have hypothesized that he practiced the Nazarene vow, that he drank no alcohol, he consumed no oil, and never cut his hair, only wearing wool garments.

Very much like what say, John the Baptist does, or what Samson was called to do. Well, while James is leading the church in Jerusalem, we can turn our attention to the north, to one of the great centers of Christianity known as Antioch.

Antioch had been a city founded by one of Alexander the Great’s commanders all the way back in the year 300 BC. It was conquered by the Romans in 64 BC in the heydays of guys like Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great. It was a center for the Jews but it was also a center for Christians who were fleeing from the persecutions of Saul down in Judea.

It’s also of course the very first place we’re told according to Acts where the people were called Christianoi or Christ people or as we simply say Christians. And so there were even given the names of leaders with characters like Barnabas or Simeon who was called Niger or Lucius of Cyrene. These are characters coming from all over the place. Both Cyrene and Niger seem to hint at Africa. We also have a character by the name of Menaen who was a friend of one of the herets. And then of course we have a character later on named Lucas, the physician, who is of course Luke. It was the church in Antioch which had these Christians early on who decide when famine hits Judea in 46 AD, something that Josephus tells us, that they would actually raise food and funds for the people of Judea.

We’re told yet about one more leader whom Barnabas had brought from Tarsus in the church of Antioch and his name of course is Saul whom we better know as Paul.

If you read in the Talmud you’ll find that the famous rabbi Gamaliel, the guy who basically defended the disciples by saying if it’s of man their movement will fail, if it’s of God you can’t stop it? We’re told the Talmud that Gamaliel had a disciple who gave him, quote, “impudence in matters of learning.” Some people have hypothesized that this man was Saul, who later was called Paul. As for this character of Paul, he was a Jewish citizen of the city of Tarsus in Cilicia, the southern part of what we now call Turkey.

He had the Jewish name Saul, most likely from the famous King of Old Testament Israel, for Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin. But we also know that because Paul tells us he was a Roman citizen from birth, that his father must therefore have been a Roman citizen.

In other words, Paul was probably his Latin name, probably coming from the name Paulus. And because he’s a connection, a connecting point for all these cultures, He would have known, say, Aramaic, which was sort of like the common language of the area, but he also would have known Greek.

In fact, he writes the New Testament letters in Greek. He would have, of course, known Hebrew because he was trained as a Pharisee, and because he was a Roman citizen, he probably knew Latin, the language of politics and government and law.

In other words, Paul’s an interesting character because he combines all these different elements of the culture of the time, of the Greek, of the Roman, and the Hebrew.

He brings them all together. As for Saul, when he’s still called chiefly by that name, we’re told that he was clearly against Stephen. And one point that FF Bruce makes is that he was probably against Stephen because as a good Pharisee and Hebrew of the Hebrews, as he calls himself, he would have known the Old Testament law.

He would have known Deuteronomy 21, 23, which says, “Cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree.” In other words, looking at the whole story of Christ, his crucifixion upon a tree, or what we call the cross, he would have seen the whole idea of a resurrected Messiah coming from that as ridiculous.

And so he approved the stoning of Stephen. He approved of the persecution of Christians. That is until he’s on the way to Damascus and there on the road, he is greeted by a blinding light and a voice from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And of course, it’s most likely he already knew who was talking to him, but stalling for time, he says, “Who are you?” And of course, Jesus says, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” That’s why Paul tells us in the Corinthians that last of all, Jesus, the resurrected Lord, appeared to him. Meaning it sounds as if he actually saw him and did not simply hear his voice. But of course, he struck blind for a period of time until he’s helped by a fellow Christian named Ananias in Damascus. And then thinking back on the curse, He says in Galatians, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming the curse for us. For it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'” In other words, the verse that was most likely a stumbling block to him in the first place becomes an incredible asset as he realizes the whole beauty of the atonement, that Christ has actually taken our position.

He has actually fulfilled the law and he has taken on our sin and given us his righteousness. And then of course, risen from the dead to make it all work for all eternity, once and for all. Paul then immediately seems to change. He goes preaching in Damascus, where he’s hated by the Jews and has to escape by basket through a window in the city walls. When he heads on up to Antioch, He’s suspected by other Christians, but it’s Barnabas who hosts him, who accepts him, who trusts him. Paul then says later on in Galatians, he says, “I was set aside, quote, “that I might preach Jesus among the Gentiles.” He recognized much like Isaiah had said in chapter 49 of that book, or like Simeon quotes in Luke chapter two, or like both Paul and Barnabas would say later in Acts of the town of Perga, that Jesus is a light to the Gentiles and that his people also serve as a light to the Gentiles.

Well, in the year of 46 AD, Paul and Barnabas and a young Gentile by the name of Titus to whom Paul would later write a letter, they visit Jerusalem.

And we’re told in Galatians 2, which is most likely referring to this time, that Paul and Barnabas essentially had an agreement with the church in Jerusalem, that the Christians in Jerusalem would focus upon bringing the gospel to the Jews, whereas they would bring the gospel to the Gentiles.

This would actually come to yet another head and what’s one of the most incredible events in Acts early church history, it’s the very first church council happening most likely in the year 49 AD or possibly 50 AD. is typically called the Council of Jerusalem. It was here that the church leaders had to decide what should be done about the Gentiles who are coming into the church, who are becoming Christians.

Do they have to be circumcised? Do they have to obey the Old Testament dietary laws? It’s Peter who initially had kind of worried about what the Jewish leaders would think. And at one point had given up actually eating with Gentiles, At which point Paul said he was acting like an actor. He was play acting. He was practicing, literally the Greek is hypocrisy. It’s Peter who changes his view. And while he’s at the council of Jerusalem, it gets up, he sides with Paul and reminds everybody that he had actually brought the gospel to the first Gentile, Cornelius.

Paul and Barnabas then give their testimony saying, we’ve already been working with Gentiles And here is all of the accomplishment that we have actually seen. Actually, here’s what the Holy Spirit is doing in the lives of these people throughout the Greek world. By this time, they’d already accomplished their very first missionary journey. And then James gets up. James the just, the leader of the Jerusalem church gets up and he quotes Amos and he quotes Jeremiah, both prophets who both talk about the Gentiles receiving the blessing of God and being able to worship the one true creator.

They then give certain recommendations about how to actually live life, especially to not associate with all the pagan practices, especially the sexual immorality that was connected to pagan worship.

And you have this incredible harmony as the church goes forward. Well, probably sometime after that council, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, James the Just, pins a letter that bears his name in the New Testament, a letter that he addresses the 12 tribes of Israel, a letter that makes it very clear that faith without works is dead.

Sometimes people try to contrast it to Paul’s idea because Paul was all about you’re justified by faith, not by your works. The reality is that James and Paul go together. It’s James who calls the gospel quote, “the perfect law of liberty or freedom.” He recognizes that out of faith and out of a love of God, we naturally perform works because we actually want to be more like him.

Because we love him, we can therefore love others, including ourselves. Josephus then reports to us that at some point James was arrested by the high priest Ananias, the younger we’re told, and that he was stoned to death for breaking the law in the year 63 AD. Later on, writing in the year 170 AD, we have the writer Hegesibus, who actually tells us that James was brought to a public place and he was asked to renounce his faith in Jesus, or to persuade the people not to follow this guy named Jesus.

Instead, he used the opportunity to preach that Jesus was truly the Christ and that he had resurrected from the dead. We’re then told that he was from the pinnacle of the temple and shoved off it, survived the fall and then was stoned and only survived that too and then was clubbed to death, which is why you’ll often see James and Christian art with a club showing his actual death. According to some of the ancient writers, we’re told that James was martyred right before the siege of Jerusalem and the rebellion of the Jews. It probably happened a little while before that because Josephus gives us the date of 63 AD. Whatever the case may be, even with James, the leader of the Jewish church, now gone on to heaven, we still have very clearly yet another leader, a man by the name of Simeon, we’re told, the son of Cleopas and a cousin of Jesus. And in fact, we have a list of Jewish church bishops or leaders or overseers all the way until the time of Hadrian. It just shows you how cohesive and how continual the leadership of the church has been from its very beginning at Pentecost all the way up to the present day.