E.U. and John the Baptist.
Okay- let’s start with last week’s meeting in Brussels. The European Union met to hack out a deal on their debt problems. All 27 European nations met- 26 signed on to an agreement- sort of.
Britain was the only nation that did not sign on. Why? Cameron [the Prime Minister] said they did not want to give up any control over their sovereign nation. Basically the agreement says that the E.U. nations that refuse to deal with their debt problems- they will face fines/penalties if they let things get out of hand.
‘So John- how does a promise like this fix anything’? Actually- it doesn’t. In the U.S. we just came off a year of various panels/groups who were put together to deal with our nation’s debt crisis.
Some of these panels- bi-partisan- came up with some okay ideas- but in the end the President and congress did not pass anything.
So the last attempt was the ‘super committee’ as opposed to just any old regular one! Yeah- they even said ‘we are are so serious about getting our fiscal house in order- we even passed a law that said if we don’t agree to the cuts- then automatic cuts will happen- beyond our control- and then the budget will eventually balance out’.
Wow John- you mean they actually passed a real law that said this? Yup.
Okay- what happened? They came down to the wire and passed nothing. Then they started saying ‘look- we know we passed a law- to make it look like this time we mean it- but do you really think we can’t change the darn thing’!
Well John- Obama said he will veto any change. Oh yeah- that threat has lots of weight to it.
So the E.U. said ‘we will allow more oversight of our individual nations budgets’ and that was the deal. They did not fix anything yet- and the real test will be this coming year. All these nations [Italy] will have to raise new revenue [sell bonds] and if the private investors/banks do not want to take the risk and buy these bonds- then things will get bad.
So that’s the story.
Okay- in the last few posts we talked a little about the first century world that Christianity was birthed from. We call this Greco/Roman culture.
Though Rome was the ruling empire at the time of Christ- they were ‘Hellenized’. Hellenization is the word we use to describe the Greek kingdoms efforts- under Alexander the Great- to ‘Cosmopolitanise’ the world.
Whenever Alexander would conquer a people- he would allow them to stay in their land- they could hold on to their customs and habits but at the same time become part of Greek culture.
Alexander even translated the Jewish bible [Torah] into Greek. This version is called the Septuagint [means 70] and comes from the story that 70 scholars put this version together under Divine inspiration.
This Greek ‘bible’ was the bible that the Jewish people who lived outside of Israel would use. These scattered Jews are referred to as the Diaspora.
Okay- during the time of Christ more Jews lived outside of Israel than in the land. And the influence of the Greek world upon all the people under the Roman Empire was very great.
Our New Testaments were originally written in Greek- this is the reason why. Now- the other day I mentioned how the Synagogue rose up during the time of this Diaspora- this scattering of the Jewish people before the time of Christ.
So during Jesus day- you already had a habit of Jews meeting for study and prayer- in these ‘church’ like buildings. These places of worship had no sacrifices or priestly ordinances- they were places of prayer and ‘bible study’. Do you now see how the culture that surrounds a movement does indeed have the potential to shape that movement?
Yes- early Christianity took on a form of Synagogue worship and order of service. The New Testament teaches us that we have no more animal sacrifices- but offer spiritual worship to God.
In the book of Acts we read about a group of people called God Fearers. This designation refereed to gentiles [non Jews] who enjoyed the Synagogue ‘services’ and wanted to attend- but they were not willing to go all the way- so to speak- and make the final ‘cut’.
Yes- if you wanted to completely convert to Judaism as an adult- you could- but you did have to go thru the rite of passage- circumcision.
So for those who liked the ‘bible study’ but also liked to keep all their body parts as well- they became God Fearers.
A while back I read an article [book review?] about a book some scholar put out- and he had an interesting twist on why the early Christian’s had friction with the early Jews. He posited the idea that the Gentile converts to Judaism were the main pool of people that the early Christians were converting- and that simple statistics said if all these former God Fearers became Christians- well the synagogue membership would go down- and the offerings too!
It’s an interesting idea- but we do read in the bible that the friction came because the early Jewish Christians accepted Christ as their final sacrifice and they did indeed ‘leave’ Judaism and identified themselves with Christ and his Church. [I put ‘leave’ in quotes because what actually happened was these Jewish converts to Christianity were simply receiving all that the prophets said- they did not see what they were doing as being unfaithful to their faith- they saw it as simply completing their journey].
But to know the context- the world in which these things took place- that helps us to see a little more into the story.
This past week I read Mark chapter 1 and John chapter 1. These chapters cover the ministry of John the Baptist. John was called ‘the Baptist’ because he was baptizing people in the river Jordan. How come we never read anyone saying ‘hey John- what the heck are you doing- this new rite of dunking people in the water’?
Well no one said it [as far as we know] because it was not a new rite [ritual]. During the rise of synagogue worship- and thus the rise of gentiles who wanted to join the ‘church’ on their block [non Jews who liked the readings and spiritual atmosphere of the synagogue] the Jewish people developed a type of Baptism that was used as a sort of entry rite [along with circumcision] to join their religion.
But the thing about John was he started using this rite as a means to call the Jewish people to repentance- this was a first of its kind.
So Johns Baptism said ‘you religious folk- you Jewish people- yes- you need to repent just like everyone else’. Yeah- John was a unique person- and his baptism was one of a kind.
Okay- that’s it for today- maybe try and read the chapters I mentioned above- do a little study on your own.
In this month’s issue of Christianity Today magazine they started a 5 year study on classic Christianity and it looks like it’s going to be very well done- something Protestants and Catholics would benefit from.
I have been reading this magazine for many years- and the last few years they have really taken a step up in their scholarship- maybe go on line and subscribe? You can also read the articles right from the computer.
I also read the Catholic Magazine called First Things- both of these are on my blog roll. First Things is top rate- but might get a little too ‘intellectual’ for first timers [don’t want to sound condescending here] they cover issues of Philosophy and Science form a Christian perspective- and they too have great stuff.
But I think the C.T. 5 year program that they are just starting might be the way to go for new learners- or ‘old’ learners- who want to brush up on the faith.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John