A thoroughly researched and vivid re-creation of one of the most critical periods in the history of Western religion The life of Jesus, and the subsequent persecution of Christians during the Roman Empire, have come to define what many of us know about early Christianity. The fervent debate, civil...
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A thoroughly researched and vivid re-creation of one of the most critical periods in the history of Western religion The life of Jesus, and the subsequent persecution of Christians during the Roman Empire, have come to define what many of us know about early Christianity. The fervent debate, civil strife, and bloody riots within the Christian community as it was forming, however, is a story that is rarely told. Richard E. Rubenstein takes readers to the streets of the Roman Empire during the fourth century, where a divisive argument over the divinity of Jesus Christ was underway. Ruled by a Christian emperor, followers of Jesus no longer feared for the survival of their monotheistic faith, but they found themselves in different campsled by two charismatic menon the topic of Christian theology. Arius, an Alexandrian priest and poet, preached that Jesus, though holy, is less than God, while Athanasius, a brilliant and violent bishop, saw any diminution of Jesus godhead as the work of the devil. Between them stood Alexander, the powerful Bishop of Alexandria, in search of a solution that would keep the empire united and the Christian faith alive.from via
The Gospel narratives may suggest that Jesus was divine, but they do not insist upon it. Hundreds of years after Jesus death, the Church councils made Jesus divinity a central tenet of belief among many of his followers. When Jesus Became God: The Epic Fight over Christs Divinity in the Last Days of Rome by Richard Rubenstein is a narrative history of Christians early efforts to define Christianity by convening councils and writing creeds. Rubenstein is most interested in the battle between Arius, Presbyter of Alexandria, and Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. Arius said that Christ did not share Gods nature but was the first creature God created. Athanasius said that Christ was fully God. At the Council of Nicea in 325, the Church Fathers came down on Athanasiuss side and made Ariuss belief a heresy. Rubensteins brisk, incisive prose brings the councils 4th-century Roman setting fully alive, with riots, civil strife, and spectacular public debates. Rubenstein is also personally invested in the meaning of these councils for religious life today: he wrote this book, in part, because he grew up in a mixed Jewish Catholic neighborhood and was bewildered by animosity between the religious groups on his block. Digging back in history, Rubenstein learns that before the Arian controversy, Jews and Christians could talk to each other and argue among themselves about crucial issues like the divinity of Jesus. . . . They disagreed strongly about many things, but there was still a closeness between them. But when the controversy was settled, Rubenstein notes, that closeness faded. To Christians, God became a Trinity and heresy became a crime. Judaism became a form of infidelity. And Jews living in Christian countries learned not to think very much about Jesus and his message.