"A true Christian should have but one fear -- lest he or she should not hope enough." - Walter Elliot
Some of you might be interested in this History of Religion map from a website called "Maps of War."
Others of you might want to check out the St. John's Bible site.
The Bible - We will focus more of our attention on the New Testament given the obvious overlap of the material from the Old Testament with what we already discussed during Judaism.
Defining terms: Old Testament, New Testament, gospels, synoptic
Things to consider:
- How did the New Testament widen the gap with Judaism? (Consider more than just the story of Jesus and his life.)
- Does it matter where the various gospels were written? Why or why not?
- How does the fact that the gospels were written decades or longer after the events influence the interpretation of those events?
Comparing Gospel accounts: There are four gospel accounts which are generally considered to be the "canon". They are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There are differences in the styles, emphases, and dates of compilation for the four.
DO THIS: You can find a handy on-line version of the gospels here. Choose several sections or particular events from the life of Jesus and compare them. I'd suggest looking at the beginnings, the discussion of (or lack of discussion of) miracle stories, and the events leading up to and including the resurrection account. See what conclusions you can draw from these comparisons.
Comparing versions of the Bible: The Christian Bible is the most widely translated book in the world. Many different versions have been compiled over the centuries. Two of the most widely known are the King James Version and the Revised Standard Version.
DO THIS: Compare these two versions. (You can also go here for the RSV version.) Select a particular section and look at the differences and similarities. You might consider the account of Genesis, the Gospels, or the letters of Paul.
"Bible Basics" describes various interpretations of the Bible. You can read around the origins of each and a description of their "intended" audience. Check out the five (I count four) versions of Corinthians 1:13 in the "quote box" on the right.
Here is a tongue-in-cheek quiz which attempts to "match" you with the Biblical character you are most similar to in your interests and preferences.
Nicean Creed: The Roman Emperor Constantine, who legalized Christianity in the Empire, called together the Council of Nicea to decide issues of Christinaity. The Creed that emerged forms the basis of the interpretation of Christian belief. A modern wording is reprinted below.
believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one being with the Father.
him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son].
With the Father and the Son
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. AMEN.
Distinctive Christian Tenets:
Defining terms: Trinity, atonement, incarnation, Nicean Creed
Huston Smith describes these three unique tenets of Christianity in some detail.
DO THIS: Each of you will choose one of the three tenets and read what Smith has to say about it. We will discuss those ideas together as a group next time.
- Trinity: Check out Smith (pp. 344-346)
- Atonement: Check out Smith (pp. 343-344)
- Incarnation: Check out Smith (pp. 340-343)