Christian roots of European Civilisation


Yehoshua, also known in Latinized version as Jeshua, in Greek translations as Iesous, or in Latin as Jesus, was born in Bethlehem, in Roman province of Judea, about the time of the winter solstice in 6 BCE. His parents Mary and Joseph were of the House of David, one of its poor branches, and their marriage was pre-arranged in accordance with the Hebrew norm.8 Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a small town within the province of Galilee, close to the larger metropolitan centers of Tiberias and Sepphoris. He was helping his father, who was a carpenter, but his mind was inclined towards religious conversations. Religion, to the Jews, was part of their daily life, dictating eating, drinking, thinking and even sleeping habits. But the Jews differed in their approach to religion and there were various Jewish sects at the time. The Essens congregated in communal life practising poverty, baptism and a communion meal, living an ascetic life devoted to spiritual growth and the perfection of the soul.9 Jesus was most likely either a member of the Essens or was influenced by them. The Essens were much fewer in number than the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the other two major Jewish sects at the time.10 The Sadducees were mostly members of the wealthy conservative elite who favoured status quo. They insisted that the only worthy form of Judaism was to be found in the written law namely Torah, the five books of the Hebrew Bible, which included the ten commandments that were given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, in circa 14-13 century BCE, and which formed foundation of Jews' Covenant with God. The Pharisees, the largest group, were mostly middle-class Jews who emphasized the keeping of the law as it had been interpreted by sages, elders, and rabbis. They believed that without an oral tradition, some of the Torah's laws would be incomprehensible. There were also the elders, the well respected heads of families or clans, and the chief priests who came from the ruling class and had enormous religious and political power. Finally, there were the Zealots, the nationalistic partisans who strongly rejected collaboration with the Romans.

The religious and business life in Jerusalem centred around the Temple, the ancient sacred site constructed on the Temple Mount under the reign of King Solomon, son of David, circa 1000 BCE. Since the Hebrew were pre-dominantly agricultural people, Solomon received architectural aid in construction of this Temple from Hiram, Phoenician King of Tyre, an ancient city on the Mediterranean coast of Lebanon.11 King Hiram's aid involved not only material like cedar-wood but also architectural direction and skilled craftsmen who possessed knowledge in masonry. The project had been carried out under supervision of his best architect, Hiram Abiff. It was believed that the ancient Temple of Solomon had been designed by God, that it represented the origin of architectural beauty and enshrined the virtues of divine rule and kingship. The Temple was described in several biblical texts – notably 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, 1 Kings and Ezekiel. In 2 Chronicles the text notes that Solomon was 'instructed' when building 'the house of God' that its length was to be 'threescore cubits, and the breadth twenty cubits'. So the House of God within the Temple was triple-square in proportion 3:1.12 The legend has it that the Temple was so magnificent that once it was designed, Hiram, the Grand Architect, had been murdered by three ruffians as he refused to divulge the Master Masons' secret passwords. The Temple of Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians around 586 BCE and the Second Temple was built on the same site, modified and enlarged, during the first century BCE by Herod, the Roman appointed head of Judea. It was believed that the Temple stored great treasures including manuscripts with ancient knowledge as well as the Arc of Covenant, which contained Ten Commandments that Moses received from God on Mount Sinai.

Jesus was often found preaching on the steps of the Temple in Jerusalem. He used parables to talk about the relationship between the human spirit with the Heavenly Father through the Holy Spirit and how to activate the powers inherent in the human soul. He used these powers to heal people which brought him many followers. Jesus desired to end the ongoing cycle of violence by proclaiming, in his famous Sermon on the Mount, love and mercy as a base of human relations, advising to “turn the other cheek”, and “love your enemies.”13 His teachings were invoked in one simple principle: “Do to others as you would have them do to you. for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”14 Jesus teachings appealed especially to those who were on the margins of society. But Jesus did not intend to establish a new religion. He claimed he came to purify and reform the Jewish faith. In many cases he challenged Jewish customs and traditions. On one occasion he saved a woman accused of adultery from stoning, a punishment prescribed by Mosaic Law. He said to the Pharisees who were prepared to stone her to death, that the one who is without sin is the one who should cast the first stone. Jesus had often criticised the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law of Moses who were corrupting Jerusalem and the Temple. He called them “snakes” and “brood of vipers”15 who “love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues”16 and “to be called ‘Rabbi'.”17 Jesus also said the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law of Moses, “shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces”18 and “will be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time—from the murder of righteous Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Berekiah...”19 Many believed that Jesus was the Messiah (“the anointed one”, in Greek Christos) promised to the Jews by God and announced centuries before in the prophetic writings of Isaiah and Jeremiah.20

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8 Jim Bishop, The Day the Christ Died (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1977), p. 103 »

9 Pilny the Elder, Natural History (Naturalis Historia, 77-79 CE); Another account of the Essens is in Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War (c.75 CE); Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94 CE); The Life of Flavious Josephus (c.97 CE) »

10 Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War (c.75 CE); chapter 8 »

11 S. J. Hodge, Secrets of the Knights Templar; p. 47 »

12 Dominic Reid (ed.), Lord Mayor's Show. 800 Years 1215-2015 (Third Millenium Publishing, 2015), p. 26 »

13 Matthew 5:43-48, New Testament (New International Version) »

14 Matthew 7:12, New Testament (New International Version) »

15 Matthew 23:33, New Testament (New International Version) »

16 Matthew 23:6, New Testament (New Living Translation) »

17 Matthew 23:7, New Testament (New Living Translation) »

18 Matthew 23:13, New Testament (New Living Translation) »

19 Matthew 23:35, New Testament (New Living Translation) »

20 See The Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Chapter 53.; and The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. Chapter 23, Old Testament »