God of the Week 04/05/2010: Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus of Nazareth, or Jesus the Christ (or anointed one) is a savior god of Hebrew/Greek origin.
The earliest writings of the Christian movement were of an apocalyptic nature, forecasting the coming of the end of the world (Jesus is made to say, “This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished” after speaking of apocalyptic imagery in the Gospel According to Mark).
The character of Jesus is believed by the adherents of the religion to have been an actual historical figure, though all non-religious references to him are late and consist of not much more than explanations of what the religion already believes, so verification of this claim had never been accomplished. The actual details of the Jesus story, though, have been shown by many scholars to be “midrash” , a re-telling of stories from the Hebrew scriptures meant to appeal to a new audience. This was most likely done as the result of a practice known as “pesher”, a religious way of looking for hidden meaning in holy writings; in this case, the foretelling of a coming savior.
The Hebrew religion long had a tradition of a coming “anointed one” (messiah, or christ in Greek), though their idea of a messiah was meant to be, as the name implies, a king on earth, ruling the kingdom of Israel. The earliest writings from the Christian religious movement seem to view Jesus as being a heavenly mediator, not an earthly ruler, though the term christ was still applied to him.
The Jesus movement gained in popularity when an adherent of the faith, Constantine I, ascended to the throne of the Roman Empire in the early 4th century CE. It was his edict that created the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, an assembly of the leaders of the Christian movement at that time. At the council, they discussed the relationship between Jesus to that of the Hebrew god Yahweh. Since the early days of the religion, Yahweh was often refereed to as “the father” while Jesus was refereed to as “the son”. At the council, they determined that the two were of the “same substance” (made of the same god stuff? of a similar nature?), based upon their interpretation of the writings of the earlier Christians (assuming, of course, that all ideas expressed in those writings were divinely inspired and without error and, therefore, in agreement with each other, even if they appeared to not agree. Any apparent disagreement must be able to be worked out philosophically) .
By the time of the second Ecumenical Council (381), the Holy Spirit (an abstract Jewish concept often given credit for inspiring holy writings and often artistically depicted as a dove) was added to the happy family and the Jesus/Yahweh duality was transformed into a “trinity”.