Hvor lidt vi ved
Næsten intet vides om Jesus ud over de bibelske beretninger, selv om vi ved en hel del mere om de kulturen og politik i den periode, hvor han levede - for eksempel Jerusalem i det første århundrede. Det følgende er et introducerende historisk sammendrag af Kristendommen. Det er næppe nødvendigt at sige, at der er mange forskellige fortolkninger og uenigheder blandt historikere.

The Good Shepherd, The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, 425 C.E., mosaic, Ravenna, Italy

Jesus v. Rome

Den bibelske Jesus, der er beskrevet i evangelierne som søn af en tømrer, var jøde og forkæmper for de socialt svage. Han gjorde oprør mod den romerske regering som havde besat det daværende Palæstina (på dette tidspunkt strakte det romerske imperium sig over hele Middelhavsområdet). Han blev korsfæstet for at forstyrre samfundsordenen samt for at udfordre myndigheden, der bestod af romerne og deres lokale jødiske ledere. Romerne korsfæstede Jesus, hvilket var en almindelig metode til henrettelse; især for person, som var anklaget for forbrydelser mod regeringen.
Jesus' tilhængere hævder, at Jesus efter tre dage genopstod fra sin grav og senere forsvandt op i himlen. Hans oprindelige tilhængere, kendt som disciple eller apostle, rejste langt for at sprede Jesus' budskab. Hans liv er beskrevet i evangelier af Mattæus, Mark, Lukas og Johannes, som findes i Det Nye Testamente. "Kristus" betyder Messias eller frelser (denne tro om en frelser er en traditionel del af den jødiske teologi).

Old and New Testaments

Early on, there were many ways that Christianity was practiced and understood, and it wasn’t until the 2nd century that Christianity began to be understood as a religion distinct from Judaism (it's helpful to remember that Judaism itself had many different sects). Kristne til tider stærkt forfulgt af romerne. I begyndelsen af det fjerde århundrede oplevede den romerske kejser Constantin en mirakuløs konvertering og gjorde det derefter juridisk acceptabelt at være kristen. Mindre end hundrede år senere, gjorde den romerske kejser Theodosius kristendommen til den officielle statsreligion.
The first Christians were Jews (whose bible we refer to as the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible). Men snart begyndte hedninge også at konvertere til denne nye religion. Christians saw the predictions of the prophets in the Hebrew Bible come to fulfillment in the life of Jesus Christ—hence the “Bible” of the Christians includes both the Hebrew Bible (or the Old Testament) and the New Testament.
Ud over opfyldelsen af profetien så kristne også paralleller mellem begivenhederne i Det Gamle Testamente og Det Nye Testamente. Disse paralleller kaldes typologi. One example would be Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and the later sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Vi ser ofte disse sammenligninger i kristen kunst som en åbenbaring af Guds plan for menneskehedens frelse.

Forskellige kristendomme

I modsætning til græske og romerske religioner (hvor der både var en officiel "statsreligion" samt andre sekter), fokuserede kristendommen på tro og et personligt forhold til Gud. The doctrines, or main teachings, of Christianity were determined in a series of councils in the early Christian period, such as the Council of Nicea in 325. This resulted in a common statement of belief known as the Nicene Creed, which is still used by some churches today.
Nevertheless, there is great diversity in Christian belief and practice. This was true even in the early days of Christianity, when, for example, Arians (who believed that the three parts of the Holy Trinity were not equal) and Donatists (who held that priests who had renounced their Christian faith during periods of persecution could not administer the sacraments), were considered heretics (someone who goes against official teaching). Today there are approximately 2.2 billion Christians who belong to a multitude of sects.
The two dominant early branches of Christianity were the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, rooted in Western and Eastern Europe respectively. Protestantism (and its different forms) emerged only later, at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Before that there was essentially just one church in Western Europe—what we would call the Roman Catholic church today (to differentiate it from other forms of Christianity in the West such as Lutheranism, Methodism etc.). Christianity spread throughout the world. In the 16th century, the Jesuits (a Catholic order), sent missionaries to Asia, North and South America, and Africa often in concert with Europe’s colonial expansion.

Doktriner

Christianity holds that God has a three-part nature—that God is a trinity (God the father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ)* and that it was Jesus’s death on the cross—his sacrifice—that allowed for human beings to have the possibility of eternal life in heaven. In Christian theology, Christ is seen as the second Adam, and Mary (Jesus's mother) is seen as the second Eve. The idea here is that where Adam and Eve caused original sin, and were expelled from paradise (the Garden of Eden), Mary and Christ made it possible for human beings to have eternal life in paradise (heaven), through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Christian practice centers on the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is sometimes referred to as Communion. Kristne spiser brød og drikker vin for at huske Kristus offer for menneskehedens synder. Christ himself initiated this practice at the Last Supper. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believe that the bread and wine literally transform into the body and blood of Christ, whereas Protestants and other Christians see the Eucharist as symbolic reminder and re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice.
Christians demonstrate their faith by engaging in good (charitable) works (works of art—like the frescos by Giotto in the Arena Chapel—were often created as good works). They often engage in rituals (sacraments) such as partaking of the Eucharist or being baptized. Traditional Christian churches have a hierarchical structure of clergy. Devout men and women sometimes become nuns or monks and may separate themselves from the world and live a cloistered life devoted to prayer in a monastery.
*There are also nontrinitian Christians.
Essay by Drs. Nancy Ross, Beth Harris and Steven Zucker
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