Friday, January 25, 2013

Second Century Apologetics

          Before we can describe Christian apologetics in the second century, I think we first need to clearly define what apologetics is. Almost all historians will agree that the word comes from the Greek root Aplogia meaning “to give a defense.” This does not mean that these people men in general were going around telling people they are sorry. What they were doing was writing to emperors and the highly educated of their day in attempts to answer attacks and accusations made against Christianity; while pointing out the flaws of paganism.[1] Also, “the Apologists were not content with defense. They took the offensive by attacking the pagan cults, which were mythological, irrational, and often connected with immorality.”[2]
            It is rather ironic that the very people the Apologists were arguing against were the ones accusing them of the same type of scandalous behavior or worse. For instance there was a belief that Christians were cannibals. According to Justo Gonzalez, “Since Christians spoke of being nourished by the body and blood of Christ, and since they also spoke of him as a little child, some came to the conclusion that, as an initiation rite, Christians concealed a newborn in a loaf of bread and ordered the neophyte to cut the loaf.”[3]
            Apologists in that time also played a major role in defending the church against heresies that were one the rise, about the body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit. On top of all that they were being accused of being Atheist, having orgies and committing incest. How could they be atheist because they had no visible gods then most of their greatest philosophers and poets were atheist also?[4] Gonzalez also points out that, “How can anyone believe that our worship is orgiastic and incestuous, when the rules of our conduct must be cast aside?”[5] In order to clear the air about the supposed secrecy that took place in the Christian life, especially say aspects of a worship service Justin Martyr answered most points raised, whether it had to do with baptism, the relationship of the Son to the Father, or any other doctrinal beliefs established at that time.[6]
            The way that we can respond in today’s culture is to remember what gets people’s attention, and be willing to answer their questions head on. Far too often when we are confronted we shy away from the question and do not answer what has been asked. We must take the Scripture serious when it tells us, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

[1] Bruce L. Shelley, Church History in Plain Language Second Ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995)33.
[2] Everett Ferguson, Church History Vol One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005)78.
[3] Justo L.Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity Vol One: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. (New York: Harper Collins, 2010)60.
[4] Ibid, 66.
[5] Ibid, 67.
[6] Ferguson, Church History, 74.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

First Century Jewish Life

For the average Jew in first century Israel life was not piece of cake. We commonly think of a tithe being only ten percent of our income, but for these Jews tithes for all of the different events could end up costing them almost fifty percent of their resources.[1] Roman people in general did not have to worry so much about their finances because their idols did not call for such obligations.
In those times another great distinction that took place had to deal with the types of homes people lived in; you had those who lived in the desert dwelling in tents, most Jews would reside in houses made of stucco or sun-dried bricks, and most Romans lived in houses of brick or concrete.[2] The houses in Palestine for the lower class were often not much more than a single room without a window, the houses often had flat roofs with fences around them (to prevent people from falling off). [3] Those with the means could afford more affluent mansions; whose remnants can be found by archeologist.[4] For the Roman upper class you would almost have a hard time distinguishing it from a modern home they had central heating, baths, and plumbing, and using oil lamps as a source of light.[5]
We are not given much information about the way Romans ate, we can assume that they must have eaten better than the average Jew depending upon their place on the social scale. However, most Jews lived on a diet of fruit, vegetables and especially bread; while some Jews in northern Palestine would eat fish.[6] Every family in Palestine was in charge or teaching their children about the law, while the communities did provide schools[7] and gave the males in particular their general education. Most females were only trained in the domestic duties of the home, except for the rare few. For the boys their career in school would usually end by the time he was twelve or thirteen years old, which at that point he would begin learning a trade to support himself and his family.[8]
For a Jew one of the most important things they owned, for some possibly the only thing they could call their own was their tunic. A tunic was a garment that would be worn year round, and generally went from the shoulder to either the knees or ankles.[9] In regards to how the people of this time got around there was an extensive road way built but travel especially for commerce was more likely to take place over the water.[10]
When dealing with entertainment the Jews enjoyed much of what we enjoy in our time, hanging out with music, and playing board games.[11]Whereas the Romans for enjoyment would take people and throw them in the ring with animal or one another and watch them die. It has been surprising that the Romans were so advanced in some ways with the way they lived while seeming barbaric in others. Then the way the Jews chose to relax almost feels like that is the way we as people were created to enjoy life.

[1] J. Julius Scott Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995)238.
[2] Thomas D.Lea, and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2003)32.
[3] Ibid, 33-34.
[4] Ibid., 34.
[5] Ibid, 34.
[6] Ibid, 34.
[7] Scott, Jewish Backgrounds, 257.
[8] Ibid, 258.
[9] Lea, New Testament, 35.
[10] Ibid, 39.
[11] Ibid, 40.

The State of Jewish worship in Jesus' Time

The Jews of the Intertestamental period devoted themselves to two main places of worship the first was the Temple in Jerusalem and the second was their local synagogue. For the average Jew of this time the synagogue became the most important place of worship. Understanding the roles that each of these places played in the time of Christ, will enlighten us to a deeper understanding of what the scriptures are saying without saying it specifically.
                        The Temple in particular was in the process of being rebuilt after its destruction in 586 B.C. with the Babylonian invasion. It would be completed around 63 A.D. only to be destroyed again in 70 A.D.  According to Lea and Black, “Within the daily life of the temple, priest presided over offerings in the morning and the afternoon, and sacrifices for Caesar and the Roman nation were also offered.”[1] Most people would assume that the high priest presided over the worship regularly, when in actuality it was only on the Sabbath and festival days.[2] While the temple at one point held high honor amongst the Jewish people, “the significance of the temple in Intertestamental Judaism was then, largely symbolic and sentimental. It was the visible center of the religious life and pride of the nation. Nevertheless, in fact, its role and function were in decline.”[3]
            With the role of the temple on the decline that meant something else was on the rise and that would be the synagogue. Most scholars will agree that we do not have an exact date for the beginning of the synagogue; however it is assumed they originated in the time of exile. If you take a moment to read what Lea and Black say of the service in a synagogue, and you did not know they were referring to an ancient Jewish service you would feel as though you were in a modern day church service. Listen to what they had to say,
The synagogue service consisted of a recitation of the Jewish creed known as the Shema (see Deut. 6:4-5). This recitation was accompanied with praises to God known as the Shemone Esreh and was followed by a ritual prayer….The reading of Scriptures was followed by a sermon, explaining the portion that had been read. A blessing by the priest closed the service.[4]
I am part of a PCA church where we have multiple Scripture readings, sing praises to God, several prayers are offered, and then the pastor will read the Scripture, teach from it, we sing a closing song and receive the benediction. We do not however have eighteen benedictions in the middle of our service. So this is more than likely where we get our model for a service which makes me appreciate it all the more.

[1]Thomas D. Lea, and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2003)60.
[2] J. Julius Scott Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995)150.
[3] Ibid, 155.
[4] Lea, New Testament, 63.