- What kind of activity led to the foundation of Christianity?
This essay will show how a number of crucial changes such as the radical shift in the development of Judaism, the surrounding Hellinistic culture and the turbulent political climate all gave impetus to the emerging of Christianity.
It was a time of renewal and reform for the exiled Jews when, in 538 BCE, after 500 years of exile in Babylon, Cyrus of Persia came to power and released the Jews to return to Palestine and the restoration of Jerusalem and the temple. However, “those who go into exile are not the ones who return” (Jacob Neusner, p 51, in UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112. Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes). A shift had taken place in the development of the Jews and transformation was inevitable (p 51).
This significant event precipitated a “resurgence of Judaic religion and national identity” with prophets by the early 400s BCE recalling the people to return to the traditional lifestyle (p 51). For those of the Diaspora, distance separated them from Jerusalem and the temple and “the age of “emergent (Pharisaic) Judaism” ensued (p 51
For well over the next two hundred years the Jews religion developed and evolved as they adapted to the Hellenising influence of Greek culture and thought until, in 63 BCE, Rome conquered Greece. This new political change brought with it severe persecution for the Jews erupting in violence and some revolts, reviving in them a message of messianic hope.
Within this new melting pot of “sociopolitical forces feeding off one another and influencing each other” (p 37) a new movement erupted. ) Its founder, Jesus of Nazareth, the “agent of intentional change” (Robert E. Goodin p 78, in UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112. Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes ) recognized as a prophet by his followers, intervened, calling on the professional and priest to “fulfil, reform, and remake“ that which was already there (p 23 Pratt in UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112. Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes). Not willing to accept the “revised vision” and “move to a new tradition of a relationship with the deity”, Yahweh, they killed its founder (p 81).
Following Jesus’ death the “crisis of continuance” (Pratt p 23 in UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112 Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes) was met by new leaders being selected and the three fold “interrelated phenomena of belief, event, and activity” carried the movement forward. The gathered community shared the “belief” in the resurrection of the dead. The “event” of ‘Pentecost’ as recorded in the Book of Acts falls into the category where those gathered received “spiritual empowerment”. The “activity-phenomena”, saw acts of healing, teaching and preaching (Pratt p 60).
In sum, Rabbinical Judaism was in a process of change for over five hundred years. Centripetal forces caused by culture and political change brought to bear pressures from without. Centrifugal forces from within Judaism came from changes in the fundamentals of their religion. All of these opened up a breach, thus making way for the new movement, Christianity, to emerge.
UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112. Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes, 2002, The University of New England, Armidale, NSW.