A modern analogy to ancient Christian roots.

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Ben C. Smith
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A modern analogy to ancient Christian roots.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:12 am

I am always interested in historical analogies, and that between the modern (mostly evangelical) charismatic movement and early Christianity has long drawn my attention.

I think that one of the main takeaways from the historical study of early Christian roots is that the religion was, right from the very beginning, already complex and multifaceted. It may or may not stem from a single event or series of events (an unfortunate crucifixion, a series of mystic visions, or what have you), but the ideological/theological baggage already in play right at the start was, IMHO, immense. The reason is that the religion was derivative of religious traditions which had gone before it in the same way that the modern charismatic movement is derivative of its own set of previous religious traditions.

This complex derivation would explain why we are given so many (overlapping?) names for the earliest Christian movement(s): Nazarenes/Nazoraeans, the Way, the Twelve, the brethren of the Lord, the apostles, Galileans, and so on. Adjacent to those possibly formative groups lurk other groups which may or may not have had an input: Hemerobaptists, Gnostics, Essenes, the so called Fourth Philosophy, and others.

The complexity of early Christianity would owe itself to the complexity of the forms of Judaism from which it sprang, as well as from the complexity of the mystery cult phenomenon as the religion began taking on a more Gentile character, just as the complexity of the charismatic movement owes itself to the combination of Methodist, Evangelical, and Holiness traditions which had made themselves felt during century XIX.

Just as Christianity looks back on foundational events such as the crucifixion of Jesus, the visions of the resurrected Lord, and the event known as Pentecost (whether historical or not), so too the modern charismatic movement looks back on its own foundational events, such as the Topeka Outpouring (1901) or Azusa Street (1906).

The movements, developments, and influences of various groups on and into other groups in both cases look similar to me, as well.

In both cases, creative people inside the movement could draw upon inspirations from outside the movment. Early Christians, for example, could draw from pagan myths or from gnostic wisdom or from varieties of Judaism other than the kind(s) which had produced the movement in the first place; charismatics may draw (and have drawn) from the Catholic mystics or from Buddhist meditation. These borrowings do not alter the roots of the movement, but they certainly change the character of the most up to date manifestation of it.

I have two flow charts, gleaned from online, showing the development of the modern charismatic movement. The first is fairly simple (and aiming wider than the charismatic movement itself), the second more complex (and more uniquely focused upon the phenomenon of "holy laughter" in charismatic meetings), but neither is anywhere near as complex as the reality of the historical situation itself. If one were to chart out early Christian individuals and groups, including as many of them as are known to us, I bet it would have to be about as complex and messy as the following flow charts:

Image
http://kingdomchange.org/wp-content/upl ... ments2.png

Image
http://www.bible.ca/tongues-history-laughing.gif

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Re: A modern analogy to ancient Christian roots.

Post by MrMacSon » Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:13 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:12 am
... the religion [Christianity] was, right from the very beginning, already complex and multifaceted ...
Yep.

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:12 am
... the ideological/theological baggage already in play right at the start was, IMHO, immense.
When I first read that I wasn't initially sure whether baggage was the right word: it might be for a predominantly Jewish background after the fall of the Temple, or to reflect interactions among the Diaspora and other religions ... I wonder if tensions or another word might be more suitable, but my pontification* is a small [non] issue (* I'm not even a pontiff).

I also wonder what ideological baggage or 'things' you had in mind, or whether theological issues or tensions were a key factor, or whether early Christianity was just a gradually snowballing thing (or whether Jörg Rüpke is right in proposing Christianity was initiated by biographical narratives in a wider social environment enjoying or seeking such 'biographies').

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:12 am
The complexity of early Christianity would owe itself to the complexity of the forms of Judaism from which it sprang, as well as from the complexity of the mystery cult phenomenon as the religion began taking on a more Gentile character ...
And probably Gnostic or early or evolving Gnostic theologies ... and possibly reflections on or interactions of accounts of Roman history [link to a thread on this forum]

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:12 am
This complex derivation would explain why we are given so many (overlapping?) names for the earliest Christian movement(s): Nazarenes/Nazoraeans, the Way, the Twelve, the brethren of the Lord, the apostles, Galileans, and so on. Adjacent to those possibly formative groups lurk other groups which may or may not have had an input: Hemerobaptists, Gnostics, Essenes, the so called Fourth Philosophy, and others.
The involvement of or references to these names could reflect a range of different things eg. names given by others for various reasons; Gentile groups being brought into the fold, being targeted for being brought into the fold, or independently engaging with early Christianity; etc.

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Re: A modern analogy to ancient Christian roots.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:20 pm

MrMacSon wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:13 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:12 am
... the religion [Christianity] was, right from the very beginning, already complex and multifaceted ...
Yep.

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:12 am
... the ideological/theological baggage already in play right at the start was, IMHO, immense.
When I first read that I wasn't initially sure whether baggage was the right word: it might be for a predominantly Jewish background after the fall of the Temple, or to reflect interactions among the Diaspora and other religions ... I wonder if tensions or another word might be more suitable, but my pontification* is a small [non] issue (* I'm not even a pontiff).
Oh, my mistake. I always imagined you wearing a miter and chasuble. ;)
I also wonder what ideological baggage or 'things' you had in mind, or whether theological issues or tensions were a key factor, or whether early Christianity was just a gradually snowballing thing (or whether Jörg Rüpke is right in proposing Christianity was initiated by biographical narratives in a wider social environment enjoying or seeking such 'biographies').
Dozens if not hundreds of things. Ideas about what the/a Messiah would do or be, prejudices concerning the appropriate degree of gentile participation in Jewish praxis, interpretations of legal matters, calendrical controversies, sectarian interests against other sects, and so on. Certainly your "theological issues or tensions" would be a big part of all that.
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Re: A modern analogy to ancient Christian roots.

Post by GakuseiDon » Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:54 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:12 am
The movements, developments, and influences of various groups on and into other groups in both cases look similar to me, as well.

In both cases, creative people inside the movement could draw upon inspirations from outside the movment. Early Christians, for example, could draw from pagan myths or from gnostic wisdom or from varieties of Judaism other than the kind(s) which had produced the movement in the first place; charismatics may draw (and have drawn) from the Catholic mystics or from Buddhist meditation. These borrowings do not alter the roots of the movement, but they certainly change the character of the most up to date manifestation of it.
I think another important parallel is that money could be made by people promoting the new spirituality, and this helped to push the message to new audiences, working to change the message to cater to those new audiences. I suspect that a lot of preachers in both early and modern Christianity eventually focused on accumulating wealth, either initially for devout purposes or for more cynical personal-enrichment purposes. The more cynical of them would have had no problems pulling in pagan myths and mystery religion-style activities into their shows. Indeed, according to my 'head canon', early Christians were accused of holding orgies and killing babies during their secret ceremonies because some really DID hold orgies and kill babies during their ceremonies, in an effort to get donations.

I'd be interested to know what the economic conditions were like in the areas that the ancient/19th C evangelicals moved into. My guess it was in rural and economically depressed areas. I believe this was true during the Second Great Awakening in the 19th C:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Great_Awakening

As the most effective form of evangelizing during this period, revival meetings cut across geographical boundaries... The Methodists had an efficient organization that depended on itinerant ministers, known as "circuit riders", who sought out people in remote frontier locations. The circuit riders came from among the common people, which helped them establish rapport with the frontier families they hoped to convert.

Evangelizing helped bring in the money, and the money helped shape the message and determine the audiences and locations of the evangelizing. I have no doubt that Paul was running revival shows around the Roman Empire in order to build audiences and get money. I think theology played a secondary role to those two things, in both ancient and modern Christianity.
It is really important, in life, to concentrate our minds on our enthusiasms, not on our dislikes. -- Roger Pearse

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Re: A modern analogy to ancient Christian roots.

Post by Giuseppe » Mon Nov 11, 2019 4:49 am

Nazarenes/Nazoraeans, the Way, the Twelve, the brethren of the Lord, the apostles, Galileans, and so on. Adjacent to those possibly formative groups lurk other groups which may or may not have had an input: Hemerobaptists, Gnostics, Essenes, the so called Fourth Philosophy, and others.
I disagree insofar I doubt that we have evidence of the Nazarenes/Nazoraeans, the Way, the Twelve, the brethren of the Lord, the apostles, Galileans insofar these names were all derived from the Gospel tradition and hence from the Earliest Gospel (that is a very late tradition in comparison to a Josephus mentioning Essenes, and these names are without independent evidence, differently from the Gnostics of which the existence is proved simply by the hostility addressed against them by the Fathers of Church).
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: A modern analogy to ancient Christian roots.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:18 am

Giuseppe wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 4:49 am
Nazarenes/Nazoraeans, the Way, the Twelve, the brethren of the Lord, the apostles, Galileans, and so on. Adjacent to those possibly formative groups lurk other groups which may or may not have had an input: Hemerobaptists, Gnostics, Essenes, the so called Fourth Philosophy, and others.
I disagree insofar I doubt that we have evidence of the Nazarenes/Nazoraeans, the Way, the Twelve, the brethren of the Lord, the apostles, Galileans insofar these names were all derived from the Gospel tradition and hence from the Earliest Gospel (that is a very late tradition in comparison to a Josephus mentioning Essenes, and these names are without independent evidence, differently from the Gnostics of which the existence is proved simply by the hostility addressed against them by the Fathers of Church).
Nazarenes/Nazoraeans, the Way, Galileans ⁠— from the gospels (or the acts).
Apostles, the Twelve (?), the brethren of the Lord ⁠— from the epistles (or the apocalypse).

I know your reconstruction differs, but this is what we have in our texts, and I disagree pretty thoroughly with your reconstruction.
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Re: A modern analogy to ancient Christian roots.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:24 am

GakuseiDon wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:54 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:12 am
The movements, developments, and influences of various groups on and into other groups in both cases look similar to me, as well.

In both cases, creative people inside the movement could draw upon inspirations from outside the movment. Early Christians, for example, could draw from pagan myths or from gnostic wisdom or from varieties of Judaism other than the kind(s) which had produced the movement in the first place; charismatics may draw (and have drawn) from the Catholic mystics or from Buddhist meditation. These borrowings do not alter the roots of the movement, but they certainly change the character of the most up to date manifestation of it.
I think another important parallel is that money could be made by people promoting the new spirituality, and this helped to push the message to new audiences, working to change the message to cater to those new audiences. I suspect that a lot of preachers in both early and modern Christianity eventually focused on accumulating wealth, either initially for devout purposes or for more cynical personal-enrichment purposes. The more cynical of them would have had no problems pulling in pagan myths and mystery religion-style activities into their shows.
Why, GDon, I had no idea that you were so cynical. :D But I agree; this almost certainly took place.
Indeed, according to my 'head canon', early Christians were accused of holding orgies and killing babies during their secret ceremonies because some really DID hold orgies and kill babies during their ceremonies, in an effort to get donations.
Wow, that escalated quickly. So dark. Not sure I am there myself. But I agree, it is possible.
I'd be interested to know what the economic conditions were like in the areas that the ancient/19th C evangelicals moved into. My guess it was in rural and economically depressed areas.
Yes, I believe this is mostly correct. There will almost always be a few wealthier people involved, but the appeal would be to the lower classes.
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Re: A modern analogy to ancient Christian roots.

Post by Giuseppe » Mon Nov 11, 2019 6:30 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:18 am
Nazarenes/Nazoraeans, the Way, Galileans ⁠— from the gospels (or the acts).
Apostles, the Twelve (?), the brethren of the Lord ⁠— from the epistles (or the apocalypse).

I know your reconstruction differs, but this is what we have in our texts, and I disagree pretty thoroughly with your reconstruction.
This information is new. I mean: you have never made clear, before now, that you believe that there were historical Galilean Christians, historical 12, a historical institution of Brothers of Lord (beyond their reason), a sect of Christians called Nazarenes.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: A modern analogy to ancient Christian roots.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Nov 11, 2019 8:19 am

Giuseppe wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 6:30 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:18 am
Nazarenes/Nazoraeans, the Way, Galileans ⁠— from the gospels (or the acts).
Apostles, the Twelve (?), the brethren of the Lord ⁠— from the epistles (or the apocalypse).

I know your reconstruction differs, but this is what we have in our texts, and I disagree pretty thoroughly with your reconstruction.
This information is new. I mean: you have never made clear, before now, that you believe that there were historical Galilean Christians....
Historical Galilean sectarians. I would not classify (m)any of them as Christians.
...historical 12....
I am completely undecided on the historicity of the Twelve.
...a historical institution of Brothers of Lord....
I am not decided on this group, either, but my model can easily accommodate the existence of such a group (not biological brothers, but brethren in a missionary sect).
...a sect of Christians called Nazarenes.
I think they were called Nazoraeans. Nazarenes came about as a misunderstanding between Nazoraeans and Nazirites.

Not all of this is new, incidentally. I posted not long ago about the brethren of the Lord, for example. But you are under no obligation to read all of my posts.
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Re: A modern analogy to ancient Christian roots.

Post by GakuseiDon » Tue Nov 12, 2019 1:17 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:24 am
Why, GDon, I had no idea that you were so cynical. :D But I agree; this almost certainly took place.
I don't think that it is a question of being cynical or not, but through what lens to read Paul and other early letter writers. It's hard to know from our time whether we should be reading Paul as though he were an ancient Benny Hinn as opposed to an ancient Alvin Plantinga, or something in-between. I don't doubt that there were sincere evangelists as well as more 'worldly' ones in both the 19th C and in ancient times.

I tend to think that 2000 years of Christianity means we put too much weight on how seriously we view Paul's writings. We look to find coherence in his writings that Paul himself probably didn't worry too much about. Personally I see Paul as more of a Benny Hinn type, writing to give maximum impact to his audience and to get that donation money. That's how I read him, anyway. (I guess I really am cynical! :D )

(ETA) Here is St Paul being heckled by a Jewish Christian at an airport recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hV88GrTjrkg (1 min 50 secs)
It is really important, in life, to concentrate our minds on our enthusiasms, not on our dislikes. -- Roger Pearse

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