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Early Christianity
Chapter 6: Jerusalem And Early Christianity
Judaism and Early Christianity
The Hebrew Bible and Its Message
The Beginnings of Christianity
Christianity Spreads
Early Christian Art
Frescoes (Wall Paintings Done on Fresh Plaster)
Glass and Sculpture
Constantine and Early Christian Architecture
Early Christian Music
Timeline: Jerusalem And Early Christianity
1800-1600 BC - Age of the Hebrew Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob
1280 BC - Exodus of Israelites from Egypt under leadership of Moses
1000 BC - Formation of the Scriptures in written form
1000-961 BC - Reign of King David
961-922 BC - Reign of Solomon
c. 961- c. 922 BC - Building of Temple of Solomon; city of Megiddo
rebuilt by Solomon
c. 536-515 BC -Second Temple of Solomon constructed
2nd century BC - Cult of Mithra in Rome
End of 2nd century BC - Apocryphal Book of Judith
c. 6 B.C. - Birth of Jesus
45-59 AD - First missionary journeys of Saint Paul
c. 70 AD - "Sermon on the Mount" in Gospel of Saint Matthew, New Testament
c. 81 AD - Arch of Titus, Rome, commemorates victory of Roman army in Jerusalem
c. 150 AD - Justin Martyr Apology
c. 230-240 AD - Synagogue and House Church at Dura Europos
Diagram of Solomon's Temple (961-922 BC), Jerusalem
“Romans Taking Spoils of Jerusalem,” detail of marble relief
from the Arch of Titus,Rome, c. 81 AD
Christianity was nourished and evolved
within the context of Judaism.
Later, it spread through the Roman Empire,
eventually displacing the Roman Pantheon
of gods and the Mystery Cults
Israel/Palestine about the time of Jesus
Early Christian Communities by 185 AD
This chapter traces a very long history from the beginnings of the
biblical tradition to the emergence of Christianity as a state religion
in the Roman Empire, a history so complex that one hesitates to
generalize about its shape and significance. Nonetheless, certain
points deserve to be highlighted both because they are instructive
in their own right and because of their continuing impact on the
shape of Western culture.
Foundation Stone from the
Third Wall of Jerusalem, 41-70 AD.,
carved limestone, 22 x 40 x 20 inches
Rome, 3rd - 4th century AD,
Burial Plaque, carved and painted
Kingdoms of David
and Solomon, 1000 – 900 B.C
The biblical tradition reveals the emergence of monotheism
(a belief in one God) as a leading idea in Western culture. Judaism
held the ideal of the uniqueness of God against the polytheistic
cultures of Babylonia, Assyria, and Egypt. That idea carried over into
Christianity and became a point of conflict with Roman culture.
The Roman charge that Christians were atheists meant not that they
denied the existence of God but that they rejected the Roman gods.
The often-unspoken name of the Jewish God,
Variously translated as
God, Yahweh, Elohim, Jehovah
This notion of a single God – set the Jewish people
against their Middle-Eastern neighbors and
against the entire Roman Empire.
The Jewish faith was iconoclastic and resisted
figurative descriptions of spiritual truths
The entire biblical tradition had a very strong ethical
emphasis. The prophets never ceased to argue that the
external practice of religion was worthless unless there was
a "pure heart." Jesus preached essentially the same thing in
his famous criticisms of those who would pray publicly but
secretly, in his words, "devour the substance of widows."
Virgin and Child, Cemetery of Priscilla,
c 250 A.D. The figure to the left has been
identified as a prophetic figure,
perhaps the prophet Isaiah
This ethic was rooted in the biblical notion of
Prophetism - the belief that people could be called
by God to denounce injustice in the face of
hostility either from their own religious
establishment or from equally hostile civil
governments. Such prophetic protest, inspired
by the biblical message, was always a factor in
subsequent Judaism and Christianity.
This virtue also inspired the
martyrs’ fervor of early
Christians, who suffered
greatly for their beliefs
Christ Teaching the Apostles,
Catacomb of Domitilla, Rome,
c. 300 AD
Both Judaism and Christianity
insisted on a personal God who was
actively involved with the world of
humanity to the degree that there was
a covenant between God and people
and that the world was created and
sustained by God as a gift for
humans. This was a powerful doctrine
that flew in the face of the ancient
belief in impersonal fate
controlling the destiny of people or a
pessimism about the goodness or
reliability of the world as we have it
and live in it.
Good Shepherd, c 300 AD, marble
The biblical belief in the providence of God would have an enormous
impact on later Western culture in everything from shaping its
philosophy of history (that history moves in a linear fashion and has a
direction to it) to an optimism about the human capacity to understand
the world and make its secrets known for the benefit of people. Western
culture never accepted, at least as a majority opinion, that the physical
world itself was sacred or an illusion. It was, rather, a gift to be explored
and at times exploited.
Frescos of events from Hebrew Scriptures, Dura-Europos, Roman outpost at Damascus Syria, c 245 AD.
Finally, the Jewish and Christian tradition produced a work of literature:
the Bible. The significance of that production can best be understood
in the subsequent chapters of this book. It will soon become clear that
a good deal of what the humanistic tradition of art, literature, and music
produced until well into the modern period is unintelligible if not seen
as an ongoing attempt to interpret that text in various artistic media
according to the needs of the age.
Constantine – the first Christian Roman Emperor
Constantine converted to Christianity – 313 AD
Moved Capital of Empire to Constantinople – 330 AD
Pieces from Colossal Statue of Constantine I (324 – 332 AD), marble,
from the Basilica of Constantine in the Forum Romanum.
Old Saint Peter’s Basilica – Basilica of Constantine
Rome, c. 333 AD
Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, c. 345 AD
Early Christian Music
•Drew on Jewish sources
•Singing (chanting) religious texts
•Adapted to local traditions
•Often carried on by trained professionals
•Christians mistrusted music because of its
way of arousing sensuality and emotion
•Controlled by response, repetition
Blind Harper of Leiden, detail from tomb
of Paatenmmheb, Saqqara,
c. 1340 – 1330 B.C.