Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea

Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea

by Geza Vermes
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Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea by Geza Vermes

In this deeply learned and beautifully written book, Geza Vermes tells the enthralling story of early Christianity’s emergence

The creation of the Christian Church is one of the most important stories in the development of the world's history, but also one of the most enigmatic and little understood, shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding.

Through a forensic, brilliant reexamination of all the key surviving texts of early Christianity, Geza Vermes illuminates the origins of a faith and traces the evolution of the figure of Jesus from the man he was—a prophet recognizable as the successor to other Jewish holy men of the Old Testament—to what he came to represent: a mysterious, otherworldly being at the heart of a major new religion. As Jesus's teachings spread across the eastern Mediterranean, hammered into place by Paul, John, and their successors, they were transformed in the space of three centuries into a centralized, state-backed creed worlds away from its humble origins. Christian Beginnings tells the captivating story of how a man came to be hailed as the Son consubstantial with God, and of how a revolutionary, anticonformist Jewish subsect became the official state religion of the Roman Empire.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300205954
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 04/29/2014
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 886,710
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Geza Vermes was one of the world's greatest experts on early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations vii

Map x

Introduction xiii

1 Charismatic Judaism from Moses to Jesus 1

2 The Charismatic Religion of Jesus 28

3 Nascent Charismatic Christianity 61

4 The Christianity of Paul 87

5 Johannine Christianity 115

6 The Didache and Barnabas 134

7 The Apostolic Fathers: 1 and 2 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Hermas and Diognetus 155

8 Apologists and Theologians of the Second Century: Justin, Melito and Irenaeus 177

9 Three Pillars of Wisdom: Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Origen 200

10 Nicaea: Eusebius of Caesarea, Arius and Constantine 223

11 From Charisma to Dogma - A Bird's Eye View 235

Postscript 243

Select Bibliography 245

Index 257

What People are Saying About This

Stuart Kelly

This book represents the summation of [Vermes’s] thinking about the early history of Christianity. It is a challenging and engaging book that sets out to retrace the route by which a Jewish preacher in 1st-century Israel came to be declared as consubstantial and co-equal with the omnipotent, omniscient only God.—Stuart Kelly, Scotsman

Rowan Williams

Geza Vermes is the unchallenged doyen of scholarship in the English-speaking world on the Jewish literature of the age of Jesus, especially the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is a beautiful and magisterial book.—Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Guardian

Eric Ormsby

Geza Vermes's brilliant new study of Christian origins, at once a summation and a culmination of his several earlier works on the Jewish milieu in which Jesus lived and moved, . . . is both highly readable and very persuasive.—Eric Ormsby

Karen Armstrong

Over the course of his long, distinguished career, Geza Vermes, the first professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford university, has made a major contribution to our understanding of the historical Jesus. In this book, however, Vermes takes the story further, showing how the human figure of Jesus became increasingly other-wordly until, at the Council of Nicaea in 325, he was declared fully divine.—Karen Armstrong, Financial Times

Diarmaid MacCulloch

The subject is not exactly Christian Church, which makes an appearance effectively only half way through the text; it is Jesus – what he was, what he said he was, and what Christians said about him after his crucifixion. For anyone puzzling over such questions, this is an exciting and challenging port of call, sweeping aside much of the fuzzy thinking and special pleading that bedevils the study of sacred scripture. . . [a] courteously expressed and witty little book.—Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Times

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Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Shrdlu More than 1 year ago
A huge majority of Christians blithely accept Jesus as the Son of God without having any idea on how this belief came to be accepted by the Church. Geza Vermes, in his book Christian Beginnings, traces the progress of an internal debate among early believers that finally ended when early Christians produced the Nicene Creed in 325. The Council of Nicea produced two statements. One was short and spelled out the basic beliefs of Christianity including the statement that Jesus was the son of God; the other second a detailed statement of the beliefs of the church. Ninety percent of the Christian who read Vermes are bound to be astounded by the variety of positions taken by the contenders ranging from how could this itinerant preacher be the son of God? to total belief Jesus was just that. The fact that the argument was not settled for nearly 300 years is testimony to how deep the divisions were within the early church. Vermes goes beyond an outline of the arguments, identifying the leading figures and their positions. Even more impressive is his extensive identification of major supporters of the contenders and their beliefs. This writer urges readers who will be amazed at how many differing views were stated in this crucial early debate to look at the present state of Christianity and how wide the differences are among churches who profess to be Christian.
FrancescaFB More than 1 year ago
The author of CHRISTIAN BEGINNINGS: FROM NAZARETH TO NICAEA, Geza Vermes, describes to us in complete detail the early evolution of the Roman Catholic religion, from it’s infancy through to the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, and how this Council gathering of early church leaders helped formulate part of what is now doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. The origin of Jesus’ religion, which is based upon Jewish culture and history and upon Mosiac laws, is reviewed and brings to this discussion a better understanding of the beliefs the Jewish people of that time and of how a new religion could possibly have developed from this era. There has been fierce debate among the early Christians leaders as to Jesus’ divinity, which was at the forefront of the infancy stages of Christianity. These differences existed and were argued upon, from the original twelve Apostles, Paul and his followers, all through to the Council of Nicaea, during which the Nicene Creed (or Apostles’ Creed) was formulated (and still spoken during the Roman Catholic Mass today) and put forth as doctrine. The divinity of Jesus was debated for over 300 years, and it was decided. The consubstantiality of not just the Father and Son, but of the Holy Trinity was put into prayer. However, these men of the church decided what was to be church doctrine based upon their own agendas and not upon the actual events which occurred during the life of the historical Jesus, as was written in the original Gospels. Mr. Vermes brings us through all the politics, hidden agendas, and religious history of those first few centuries, and just how much it has deviated from Jesus’ teachings.