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I am excited to share my book review of “The Dawn of Christianity: How God Used Simple Fisherman, Soldiers, And Prostitutes To Transform The World” by Robert J. Hutchinson.
Robert is an award-winning writer and author who studied philosophy as an undergraduate, moved to Israel to learn Hebrew, and earned a graduate degree in New Testament. Hutchinson’s previous book “Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth is an overview of recent archeological finds and new developments in biblical scholarship that are calling into question much of what skeptical scholars have assumed and asserted about Jesus over the past two centuries.
Learn more about Robert at his web site.
I sit with the Jesus of my faith during my centering prayer practice. I love to learn more about the historical Jesus: the human Jesus. What can we know about his human actions? What was it like for Jesus to grow up in his small corner of this world?
Let me share some new things that I learned in this wonderful book.
What will we learn in this book?
“What did Jesus do and say, in as little as one year and a maximum of three years, that could possibly have had such an impact? How did the community he somehow gather together so quickly – made up of semi-literate fisherman, prostitutes, tax collectors, wealthy widow’s, day laborers, and even Roman soldiers – give birth to the spiritual revolution that became Christianity? This book is an attempt to answer that question.”
This book is nicely divided into four parts:
- The Road To Jerusalem
- The Beginning of Persecution
- The Expansion of the Jesus Movement
Rival Armies and Bandit Militias
“As a child, Jesus likely hid with his friends and family as rival armies and bandit militias marched by on the main roads just a few hundred yards from Nazareth.”
“This indicated that the Jews at this time prepared for the upcoming war by fashioning underground places to hide. This is the political and military background to the gospels that is lost on most people today.”
Jesus grew up in a very volatile corner of the world. The Roman Expire was in charge. Over the last six centuries the Jews lived under brutal domination: Babylonians, Persians, the Greeks and now the Romans. (In fact, the Jews were self-ruled for only a brief period: 164 – 63 BC.)
The Jewish people were under a tremendous tax burden. They were taxed by both the Romans and the temple administration in Jerusalem. These taxes left the majority of the country to live in severe poverty. Civil wars would often break out against the Romans. The Roman response was harsh: execution, woman and children sold into slavery and those who led the rebellions were crucified.
I agree with Robert. I think what it was like growing up during this volatile period is lost on most people today.
Kingdom of God
“What Jesus actually meant by “the kingdom of God” has been a source of debate among scholars across the academic and religious spectrum.”
“But in recent years, even many secular new testament scholars have rejected the idea that Jesus was an end–times prophet proclaiming the imminent apocalypse.”
“So what was Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God? According to the records we have, when Jesus spoke about the kingdom, he said it was “good news” (Luke 4:43), “like treasure hidden in a field” (Matt. 13:44), not bad news. He compared it to a wedding feast, not a cosmic Artillery barrage (Matt. 22:2-14).”
This changes how we think about Jesus. This changes how we live. We are not to live waiting for the end times. Jesus wants us to enjoy and celebrate life right now. Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God was not only in the midst of us but it was within us.
Jesus was the temple of God. When Jesus was crucified, died and resurrected, he left us a helper, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives within each one of us. The Kingdom of God continues to survive and expand within each one of us. Unfortunately, many of us fail to recognize this. This hidden treasure is closer to us than we imagine. It is within us.
“But no one drank this blood! Drinking blood was condemned in no uncertain terms by the Torah, and was considered one of the abominations of the pagans.”
“Yet here Jesus was saying this wine was his blood and his followers were too….drink it? Why?”
This was shocking news. The lamb’s blood was passed from priest to priest in the temple and poured on the alter. It was not drunk. To drink blood was condemned by the Torah. It was considered an abomination of the pagans (Gen 9:4).
I think this is also lost upon us too. Something new has happened. A new era has begun. I think many of us take this for granted as we partake in communion with the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine. We eat the body of Christ. We drink the blood of Christ. This is powerful! Christ is within us. We are each the temple of God.
“Christians are so accustomed to the story of Palm Sunday – of Jesus’ joyous entry into Jerusalem – that many forget what a profoundly dangerous and subversive act his arrival in Jerusalem actually was.”
Yes, this was indeed a dangerous and subversive act. Jesus was a threat to the Jewish council leaders and Romans. They needed to ensure their control and power over the masses to maintain their interests.
Jesus knew that his journey into Jerusalem was risky. It could get him killed. Jesus decided to bring the kingdom of God to the heart and center of Judaism. The heart and center did not want to hear it. It threatened their control, interests and power.
What does this dangerous and subversive act tell us about Jesus?
Jesus was a man on a Spirit filled mission. Jesus must have been extremely brave, calm, compassionate, confident and wise. As Marcus Borg would say, Jesus was a Spirit filled man. He let the Inner Spirit lead and guide his actions. He was in God and God was in him. He and the Creator were one.
“Through his followers, he created self – perpetuating “cells” of his kingdom movement throughout Israel, each with the mission of establishing new communities.”
“As a result of Jesus’ wise planning, demographer’s estimate the kingdom movement grew at a rate of about 40% per decade. Within two years, the few dozen men and women had grown to more than 500, then to 3000. Within a decade, the community could have numbered many tens of thousands. Within 300 years, it was 35 million. Today, it’s about 2 billion.”
Our job is to continue this Kingdom movement. The kingdom movement is an inclusive movement filled with empathy and compassion. We are the future “cells” of this kingdom movement.
I encourage you to check out The Dawn of Christianity.
If you enjoyed reading this post, please recommend and share it to help others find it.
One on One Coaching with Rich
Does this sound like you?
“I am bored with my life?”
“I am not doing the things that I want to do in all areas of my life:”
-career, personal, family, community.
I feel unfulfilled, like I am just going through the motions everyday.
I have dreams and goals, but I am afraid to show up and take action on them.
I don’t want years to pass and be disappointed when I look back on my life.
Integrating Centering Prayer practice with your everyday life addresses all of these thoughts.
Do you want to obtain the freedom to become your true self, the person I’m created to be?
How do I create a long lasting and sustainable centering prayer practice?
I am currently taking on clients for Centering Prayer One on One Coaching sessions.
I will work with you to setup a program designed to meet your specific needs.
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Themes in the Gospel of John by N. T. Wright: The course approaches the Gospel of John in a way that looks at seven key themes. These themes bind the Fourth Gospel together in a manner that allows us to see this ‘new way of living’ as possible for followers of King Jesus. In so doing, we then apply these themes to the current era in order to ask ourselves questions about how we are putting them into practice. In a way, this is the story of how to live out being the presence of God on earth through the indwelling of God’s spirit.
Prepare to be immersed in the 1st Century A.D. context of the life, work, teachings, and actions of Jesus. Check out Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright. It is based on his book Simply Jesus. Enjoy an article I wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.
This course is a short course based on Prof. N.T. Wright’s latest book, Simply Good News. Tom Wright will guide you through the chapters of his book through videos that suggest what some of the main points are. You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament. You will be brought into their world in order to make more sense of what ‘good news’ means in our world.
Christian Prayer Methods: Prayer is a core Christian practice, but for many, this means “saying prayers” or asking God for various favors. In this course, we will review a variety of methods of prayer that have been used for centuries in Christianity. Whether you’re a beginner who is just learning how to pray, or a more mature Christian who has been at it awhile, this course will offer specific guidance, encouragement and support for practicing several time-tested methods of prayer.
The Way of the Wisdom Jesus: Going Beyond the Mind to the Heart of His Teaching – If you put aside what you think you know about Jesus and approach the Gospels as though for the first time, something remarkable happens: Jesus emerges as a teacher of the transformation of consciousness. In this online course, Episcopal priest, teacher, and retreat and conference leader Cynthia Bourgeault serves as a masterful guide to Jesus’s vision and to the traditional contemplative practices you can use to experience the heart of his teaching for yourself. It is based upon her book, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – a New Perspective on Christ and His Message .
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Living Sacraments: The Christian Mystics & The Inner Journey to God – How might your life change if you were steeped more deeply in the wisdom of the Christian Mystics? This course helps contemplatives, healers, clergy, and spiritual directors get a handle on the daunting subject of Christian Mysticism to draw on this timeless wisdom for their own spiritual journey AND to provide care to those they serve.
After taking this powerful course, you will know:
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