The Contextual Guide and Internet Index to Western Civilization
Biblical Historical Essay
Dying Saviour (from Reni)
For better (e.g., St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa) and, unfortunately, for worse (the crusades, the Inquisition), the past two millenia of Western Civilization have been predominantly Christocentric. Jesus of Nazaretth has inspired countless artists, sculptors, architects, composers, theologians, and writers, and over the last 2,000 years more cultural artifacts are devoted to the story of his life than that of any other individual.
The exact date for the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is uncertain, but we know it could not have been after 4 B.C. (Some scholars date his birth as early as 7 B.C.) He grew from boy to man in Nazareth in Galilee, though the New Testatement tells us almost nothing of his youth. His career and teaching are recorded in the Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament. Drawn to the preaching of John the Baptist, Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan river and began his three-year public ministry.
He became an itinerant rabbi (teacher), gathering a small company of associates (disciples or Apostles) and a larger company of followers, and travelled in Galilee, Tyre, Sidon and finally to Jerusalem over a period of about three years. There he was arrested and brought to trial in the administration of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate, probably in the year 29 A.D (or possibly 33 A.D.). He was condemned to die by crucifixion. Upon his death, his followers left for their homes, but quickly regathered in Jerusalem, being convinced that Jesus was raised from the dead, or resurrected.
As a teacher, Jesus emphasized the nearness of the kingdom of God, repentance and faith; he also engaged in healing the sick. He preached, taught through stories (parables) and was concerned for the poor, the children, the aged and the sick. He honored the traditions of Jewish religious practice and the Jewish Law, but was critical of Jewish religious practices that he felt were mere formality. His condemnation of such practices brought him into conflict with some Jewish religious officials (Pharisees). Some of these leaders also objected to what they believed to be Jesus' claim that he was the Messiah. These conflicts caused charges to be made against him before Roman authorities and lead to his condemnation and crucifixion.
Jesus Christ is arguably the most significant personality to have walked the earth. His life and death have divided history itself into B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (anno Domini -- in the year of the Lord). His sermons, prayers, sayings, teachings and parables have provided the richest source of spiritual advice ever given and have become essential knowledge for anyone wanting to understand the genius of Western civilization and the monumental influence of the Christian Church.
The following passages from the New Testament (RSV) comprise the core events from the life of Jesus of Nazareth, a life that has inspired countless artists of all media throughout the ages.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. -- Luke 1:26-27
And he came to her and said, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus." -- Luke 1:28-31
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed." -- Luke 1:46-48
THE BIRTH OF JESUS
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be of child with the Holy Spirit. -- Matthew 2:18
And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them at the inn. -- Luke 2:6-7
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. -- Luke 2:20
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. -- Matthew 2:10-11
But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. -- Luke 2:19
PRESENTATION IN THE TEMPLE
And when the time came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the Temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."-- Luke 2:22-32
THE FLIGHT TO EGYPT
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and reamin there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called my son." -- Matthew 2:13-15
THE YOUNG JESUS
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. -- Luke 2:40
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God. -- Luke 2:52
THE BAPTISM AND JOHN THE BAPTIST
"And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins." -- Luke 1:76-77
They said to him then, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" He said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said." -- John 1:22-23
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased." -- Luke 3:21-22
And John bore witness, "I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." -- John 1:32-34
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him. -- Mark 1:12-13
CHOOSING OF THE DISCIPLES
And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. -- Mark 1:16-18
On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus was also invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." -- John 2:1-3
And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear." -- Matthew 14:25-27
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of hi departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. -- Luke 9:28-31
"Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want." -- Luke 15:13-14
"But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.'" -- Luke 15:22-24
"For which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - he then said to the paralytic - "Rise, take up thy bed and go home." And he rose and went home. -- Matthew 9:5-7
Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her." -- Luke 10:38-42
So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me." When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." -- John 11:41-44
THE ENTRANCE INTO JERUSALEM (PALM SUNDAY)
And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road. As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out." -- Luke 19:35-40
And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the Temple, and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer;' but you make it a den of robbers." -- Matthew 21:12-13
THE LAST SUPPER
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it ot the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." -- Matthew 26:26-29
THE TRIAL AND CRUCIFIXION
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head, and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they spat upon him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe, and put his own clothes on him, and led him away to crucify him. -- Matthew 27:27-31
And there followed him a great multitude of people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children." -- Luke 23:27-28
And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split." -- Matthew 27:50-51
And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" -- Mark 15:39
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. -- Luke 23:32-33
They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen clothes with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. -- John 19:40-42
RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them,"Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." -- John 20:11-17
As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. -- Luke 24:36-37
And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." -- Acts 1:9-11
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