Apocalypse is defined as “[…] the complete final destruction of the world, especially as described in the biblical book of Revelation” (Oxford University Press). It all begins in 586 BC, when the king of Babylonians (King Nebuchadnezzar) took over the city of Jerusalem, it was said that a lot of Israelites were deported to Babylon, which forced them to live in a foreign place and worship their God in a foreign place. That was the birth of the apocalypse.The Book of Revelation was created by a man named John from his vision of heaven. The writing was compiled of images, symbols, and numbers which are known as “apocalyptic” writing (Smith, 1992). The purpose of this book was to remind Christians that God is still in charge. This book encouraged persecutions of Christians. Interpreting the Book of Revelation is very challenging, because there are many scholars with different ideas of what the symbols mean making it difficult to confirm their true meanings.
Americans have a fascination with apocalypticism. There are millions of websites and books written on the apocalypse. There are a large number of Christians in the United States, which naturally brings curiosity to the subject. Many people believe that the truth can only be uncovered if the scholar was in the actual time and place of the occurrence- speculation is not enough. However, it seems as though interest surrounding the apocalypse comes in waves. When a scholar discovers a new ideal or item, the interest goes up and more people start digging for more information. After a long time passes without any new discoveries, people tend to lose interest and, therefore, fewer discoveries are made. Overall it is human nature to have a curiosity in things, beliefs and stories that are old and abnormal.
-Oxford University Press. “Apocalypse.” 2013. Oxford Dictionaries. Web. 31 May 2013. <http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/apocalypse>.
-White, Michael. “The Political History of Jewish People.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 15 May 2013. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/apocalypse/explanation/jews.html>.
-Smith, Pat. “What is the book of Revelation about?.” . N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2013. <http://www.christianbiblereference.org/faq_Revelation.htm>.
-Wessinger, Markun, Catherine, Michael. “Apocalyptic Roundtable.” Frontline . WGBH educational foundation, n.d. Web. 15 May 2013. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/apocalypse/roundtable/dos.html>.
B) From Jesus to Christ
Letters of Pliny the Younger and the Emperor Trajan
The PBS FRONTLINE series From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians analyzes many aspects about Christianity and breaks them down into subject categories. The first article, Christianity’s Success, describes the “[…] scene in the courtroom of Pliny the Younger” (Frontline, 1998). This article introduces Pliny, “[…] one of the most important aristocrats of his generation,” and explains about his obligation to execute the Christians found to be refraining from “[…] buying certain things for the gods” (Frontline, 1998). After he realizes what these people are doing, he interrogates them mercilessly, using methods of torture in order to understand their motives and find ‘the bad Christians.’ After doing so, he begins to understand that these Christians actually live respectable lives and maintain a very optimistic mindset. However, he was still obligated to execute some of the Christians who hadn’t given their Gods the proper material.This case is very important for two different reasons. First, “[…] it’s the first time that we have a Roman public official recognizing Christians as a distinct religious group in the empire” (Frontline, 1998). Second, Christianity, being a part of Judaism, “[…] was considered to be protected by the legal status of Jewish tradition within the Roman Empire” (Frontline, 1998). This marked a significant change in the status of Christianity.The story makes one question how Christians must have felt while they were in this situation. Having strong and positive morals and living for the good seemed to be met with dismay, which leads one to wonder how the Christian religion stayed so strong and survived for so long that it still exists present day. It’s truly amazing it remained intact and lasted through such hardships.
In the year 250, it was decided by Emperor Decius that Christians were a “[…] real enemy of the Roman order, [and] that they must be dealt with empire-wide, with all the police power that the emperor can bring to bear upon them” (Frontline 1998). This decision was based off of the knowledge that many Christians had begun to immigrate into different areas around the Empire. With large organized and faithful groups, Christianity became a threat to the Roman Empire. The leaders of Christianity, thus, became targets and were martyred or forced to flee if they did not withdraw or offer sacrifices (Frontline, 1998). The effect of all of this was that “[…] a new cult of the martyrs [appeared] in Christianity, which [strengthened] the church, [and] which [fed] on anti-government sentiment in many segments of the empire” (Frontline 1998).The segment on the martyrs leaves one questioning again how Christians pushed through and survived as a religious group when met with such extreme opposition and adversity. Perhaps it was because the martyrs gave the Christian population strength. They certainly succeeded in creating a name for themselves and for other faithful Christians, which led to yet other Christians admiring and wanting to be closer to them. Their courage, determination, and integrity with regard to their beliefs can only be described as impressive and even inspirational.
Legitimization Under Constantine
According to Christians, their growing numbers and ever-strengthening beliefs was, of course, the work of God. In their rise to victory, Christianity started as small gatherings of people of faith around a holy man who were kept together by his healings and teachings. However, this man was executed by authorities for being a “[…] threat to the social order” (Frontline, 1998). Next, Christianity was separated as “[…] Paul, who then [took] this Jewish school, this Jewish philosophy, this Jewish sect, and [said] that the teachings of this sect [were] such that the entire map of the world [needed] to be redrawn, so that we now no longer [had] the simple dichotomy of Jews and gentiles and we no longer simply [had] a Jewish school arguing with other Jews about interpretations of law and theology” (Frontline, 1998). There were many different opinions about the new map, but in the end, the new map marked the “[…] breaking out of Christianity from Jewish social setting” and Christians carried on to understand what it was that separated Christians from Jews (Frontline, 1998). As Christianity continued to flourish, Romans tried to stop the continuous upward movement of the religion. However, in the end, they failed to accomplish this goal.
This article highlights how Christianity gained followers, as well as that the people had a general longing and desire for something in life with regard to seeking healing and favors from a man who attracted a crowd. Had any of the steps to Christianity’s growth and success been altered or accomplished by different means, one can’t help but to ponder whether the religion would be the same as it is today, as well as question whether the separation between Christians and Jews would be the same.
The Great Appeal
The Great Appeal answers the question as to what early Christians desired with regard to their faith. First, there was the promise of spiritual gifts and wellness such as “[…] immortality, a future life which would be liberation from sickness and from disease and from poverty, and individual isolation” (Frontline, 1998). People were interested in becoming a part of a group and following a higher power. For those in a lower level of the hierarchical pyramid, it was crucial to find a way to receive goods that, otherwise, would never be given to such a low-powered class.
In the early years of Christianity, during the Roman Empire, Christianity seemed to be appealing and desirable to the people in many ways, but perhaps the greatest gift that this religion had to offer to those within the lower socioeconomic classes was an alternative to being starved of goods and health.
Frontline. “Why did Christianity Succeed?” April 1998. Web. 17 May 2013. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/
C) Religion and Healing.
Body Mapping is a creative tool that is used for healing and therapy. Body mapping can be very therapeutic and helpful for many people including those with self-esteem issues, HIV/AIDs, and victims of torture. It combines bodily experiences with artistic and visual expression. Basically, body mapping is having the patient draw (or have another illustrate) his/her body outline on a large surface and then use colors, images, symbols, and so on as a portrayal of his/her life experiences. It was “[…] first used by HIV groups in Uganda to record the lives of positive women [who were] afraid they would die and leave their children without memories of who they were […] and since then […] has been used by the Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH) to chart the struggles and healing journeys of positive women, youth, and men around the world.” (Burris, n.d.). The idea behind body mapping is that creating can be healing, and that kind of true healing is more effective than just taking pills. TICAH holds body mapping workshops for people who need creative healing and believes that “Art can be a very ‘practical theology’ on our road to healing. We begin each session in a body mapping workshop with a meditation, a song, a prayer, a spirited way of sharing [and] end by listening to one another describe our [paintings] and what it meant to us to create [them]” (Burris, n.d.). Body Mapping is a unique but effective form of therapy and healing. On the TICAH website there is a video of all of the participants at a body mapping workshop showing their artwork and telling their stories. In short, even just being listened to and supported by people who are in need of similar healing can be extremely therapeutic.Works Cited:
Burris, Mary Ann. N.d. “Body Mapping Workshop” Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health. Web. May 15, 2013. <http://www.practicalmattersjournal.org/issue/4/centerpieces/body-mapping-workshop
E) Christianity Introduction
With over 2 billion followers falling under 34,000 denominations, Christianity is the largest world religion that currently exists. In fact, about one in every three people on earth considers themselves to be Christian (Sprunger, 2013). Due to the fact that there are an enormous amount of Christians, it is very difficult to make general statements about what Christians believe, because the beliefs differ so much depending on the denomination, interpretation, time period, place etc… However, “In general Christians share a common belief in the uniqueness of Jesus of Nazareth as a truly divine and truly human incarnate Son of God who is the savior of mankind. They, for the most part, believe each individual by their faith and life determine their eternal destiny–either in heaven or in hell” (Sprunger, 2013). Christianity was derived from Judaism originally and is now the second youngest religion after Islam. Jesus is believed to have been “[…] born between 4 and 7 B. C. at Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth of Galilee. His contemporaries regarded him as the eldest son of Joseph, a carpenter, and his wife, Mary; but Matthew and Luke report that Jesus was born of a virgin […]” (Sprunger, 2013). Jesus then began his ministry when he was about thirty years old. Christians believe that he was sent to earth by God as the messiah, which was promised in the Old Testament. “The basic teaching of Jesus was the love of God and the love of man” and that all men should live according to the will of God (Sprunger, 2013).
Sprunger, Meredith. 2013. “An Introduction to Christianity.” Web. May 13, 2013. <http://www.urantiabook.org/archive/readers/christianity-introduction.htm
8) The Christian Worldview
The early Christian worldview was diverse, because Christianity certainly didn’t start as a unified movement. The disciples were dispersed and each taught things their own way based on their own personal experiences. There was such a huge explosion of Christianity spreading around the world, so of course not everybody everywhere was practicing, teaching or believing exactly the same things. “Paul’s mission carried Christianity all the way over Asia Minor, present Turkey into Macedonia, into Greece, within 20 years” (Koester, n.d.).
“A Christian understanding of God is unique, distinct, and unlike any other concept of God. It is different from the Jewish understanding of Jehovah, and unlike the Islamic understanding of Allah, even though these theological concepts are also monotheistic,” and despite all being Abrahamic religions (Fowler, 2002; University of WI-Madison, 2013). Christians believe that humans can only understand God to the extent that he shows himself. They believe that people’s understanding and knowledge of God is not their own personal intellectual discovery, but rather comes only from his own self-revelation. “No man has seen God at any time” (John. 1:18), but God has revealed Himself in His natural creation (cf. Rom. 1:20), as a Personal God to His people (cf. Exodus 3:14), and subsequently revealed Himself supernaturally in the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:14; 14:9; Luke 10:22)” (Fowler, 2002).
Christians believe that God is self-existent, not self-created or self-caused and that He is the creator of everything. They believe that “what God is, only God is”, meaning that there is nobody or nothing else like God, and that “God does what he does, because he is what he is,” meaning that everything he does and creates is an expression of his being (Fowler, 2002). God is infinite and all encompassing, while everything else is finite. Christians believe that “God is absolutely, intrinsically, inherently, self-existently Good, Holy, and Love, and the source of all goodness, holiness and love within His creation” (Fowler, 2002).
Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God and the messiah that was promised in the Old Testament. Traditionally and generally speaking, they believe that he was born of a virgin (Mary) through Immaculate Conception. It should be noted, though, that modern Christians do not always interpret the Bible literally, especially since there are countless types of literary forms within the Bible, such as figures of comparison (like similes and metaphors), figures of association (like metonomy and synecdoche), figures of humanization (like personification, anthropomorphism, and apostrophe), figures of illusion (like irony and hyperbole), figures of understatement (like euphemism), figures of emphasis (like pleonasm, repetition, and climax), figures requiring completion (like ellipsis, zeugma, and aposiopesis), extended figures of speech (like parables, allegory, obscure figures of speech, riddles, and fables), symbolism, narratives (including heroic narratives), creation and consummation, epics, laws, tragedy, poetry, and parallelism (in synonymous, antithetical, synthetic, introverted, climactic/stair like, and emblematic styles) just to name a few (Boa, 1995; Weiss, 2006). This isn’t even an exhaustive list of all the types of language used within the Bible, and it is for these various styles of literature, especially the figurative forms of language, that many do not interpret the Bible literally and may combine science with faith today in the more mainstream and less fundamental denominations. That being said, Christians believe that Jesus was a human being, but that he was also God, and that he never sinned or did anything wrong his whole life (n.a., 2011).
Jesus began his ministry at age thirty and then, when he was thirty three people turned on him and he was crucified (Sprunger, 2013). He was, according to Christians, not supposed to be crucified, and three days after his burial, he was resurrected and came back to life. They believe that he then joined God in the spirit world, but that he will come to earth again.
It seems as though there are many, many functions of the Holy Spirit. Christians believe that once a person invites Jesus into their life, the Holy Spirit “[…] takes up permanent residency in that person” (n.a., 2007). The first function is that the Holy Spirit convicts of Sin which is stated in John 16:8-9. “In the unsaved, He convicts of sin to bring them to salvation. In the saved, He convicts of sin to keep them clean and show them how to live for Jesus” (n.a., 2007). The second function is that the Holy Spirit creates and regenerates. The third function is that the Holy Spirit seals you once you’re saved. “He puts His permanent mark on your heart, designating you a child of God” (n.a., 2007). The fourth function is that the Holy Spirit bears witness to your soul which is stated in John 4:13 and Romans 8:16. The fifth function is that the Holy Spirit intercedes in prayer for you. The Bible says that when we are so discouraged that we don’t even know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit prays for us” (n.a., 2007). The sixth function is that the Holy Spirit gives comfort in time of need. Lastly, the seventh function is that the Holy Spirit empowers you to serve God.
The trinity refers to the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. “The Trinity expresses the belief that God is one Being made up of three distinct Persons who exist in co-equal essence and co-eternal communion as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Fairchild, 2013). Christians see humans as sinful and limited, whereas God is holy and limitless. “Sin has weakened their minds, bodies, and whole beings. Life itself is not their own” (Kis, 1991). Christians believe that life is sacred, because God created it and God is sacred. Also, life has a specific purpose, therefore it is precious and people should be very grateful to be alive.
Christian beliefs about afterlife vary depending on the specific denomination. However, Christians generally believe in a heaven and most (not all) believe in a hell. Christians believe that human existence does not end after death. After people die they will go to another world in which they will be judged by God and receive consequences for our sins. God will judge everyone based on his or her personal relationship with Christ. People who are not “saved” risk the possibility of being sentenced to an eternal hell full of punishment and torture separated from God forever. Catholics, however, believe in purgatory and that few souls go directly to hell, giving most people an opportunity even after death to make up for their sins and go to heaven eventually. Many Christians are fearful of the possibility of eternal damnation and therefore are most concerned with being saved and saving others. The only way to be saved is to receive Salvation through Jesus Christ.
Boa, Kenneth. “IV. Literary Forms in the Bible.” 1995. Bible.org. Web. 5 June 2013. <http://bible.org/seriespage/iv-literary-forms-bible>.
Fowler, James. 2002. “Towards a Christian Understanding of God.” Web. May 14, 2013. <http://www.christinyou.net/pages/understandgod.html
Kis, Miroslav. August 1991. “The Christian View of Human Life.” Web. May 14, 2013. <https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1991/08/the-christian-view-of-human-life
Koester, Helmut. N.d. “Diversity in Early Christian Communities.” Web. May 14, 2013. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/first/diversity.html
N.a. March 2011. “What do Christians Believe?” John Hopkins University Graduate Christian Fellowship. Web. May 14, 2013. <http://www.jhu.edu/gcf/beliefs.html
N.a. March 4, 2007. “The Functions and Attributes of the Holy Spirit”. Web. May 14, 2013. <http://www.families.com/blog/the-functions-and-attributes-of-the-holy-spirit
Sprunger, Meredith. 2013. “An Introduction to Christianity.” Web. May 13, 2013. <http://www.urantiabook.org/archive/readers/christianity-introduction.htm
University of Wisconsin- Madison Board of Regents. “Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions: Welcome- Why “Abrahamic”?” 2013. University of Wisconsin- Madison. Web. 5 June 2013. <http://lisar.lss.wisc.edu/welcome/Why%20Abrahamic.html>.
Weiss, Rabbi Andrea L. (Ph.D.). “Figurative Language in Biblical Prose Narrative: Metaphor in the Book of Samuel.” 2006. Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion. Web. 5 June 2013. <http://huc.edu/chronicle/68/articles/BookOfSamuel.pdf>.