History 104A, October 19: An Easter to Remember: The Beginnings of Christianity.
Last time we talked about the fall and rise of Rome. I'm not
sure they fully fall unless they're eliminated. Certainly their
cultures continue. In other words, did England fall during World War
I or is England still there? I think even in England, weren't
there -- the English still exist in something called the United
States, Australia, Canada. They perverted the whole world, even in
India. However, the glory that was Rome is, as the story goes,
certainly leaves a lot of curiosity as to why the greatness fell. And
as I indicated given, argued Christianity, and Pirrene argued Muslim,
Islam nobody blames the Jews for that anyway, everything else maybe.
In any case, other interpretations exist perhaps with a little more
basis for them, if it fell. And among those, with simply the
expansion of the Germanic peoples into Rome, putting pressure on the
empire, the bad administrative system which began to leave the city
itself undefended as well as the inability financially to provide
cleanup of the swamps. And people began to leave because of the fact
that the levy's didn't hold and therefore mosquitos began to expand
again and malaria became prevalent.
Another argument for decline and fall of Rome is the whole bread
and circuses, the sense that people were not given productive
employment. And tied to that is a theory by a name named Wallbank who
blamed it on slavery. The Romans simply didn't have to work. Slaves
did everything for them. While the Romans developed such technology
including such things as the windmill, there was no need to. You
could push some of the grinding stones and waterwheels with slave
labor and slaves abounded. And it was during the medieval period when
slavery began to totally decline, when Rome was no longer there, that
we began to see some of that Roman technology being put to use. So
the invasion from without though, I think has a lot to say with it.
Another argument is sort of the Sodom and Gomorrah argument. I
don't know in I touched on the whole issue of Sodom and Gomorrah and
the differences in interpretation, for example, between Jewish
scholars and Christian scholars. Christian scholars blame the
destruction on the immorality of sex. That's all we ever see when we
see pictures of Sodom and Gomorrah is the sexual activity going on.
But the Jewish scholars blame it on the lack of hospitality. They
didn't take care of their neighbors. They weren't neighborly. They
didn't provide health, education, and welfare. And again, that same
argument has been made for Rome. That while they provided bread and
circuses, they did not provide productive employment, a national
healthcare program, or anything of that kind of a nature. And of
course, many ultra conservatives who see that make ties to the United
States in its decline quote/unquote and fall often blame it on the
homosexuality, the excessive heterosexuality, whatever that means, and
often ignore the whole issue of health, education, and welfare.
Others blame that ignoring of people and seeing people as people may
well be the actual cause for a fall of the United States. Again, it's
hard to prove any of these factors. Probably the best one was Bury
who argued that it was a combination of factors. I tend to like that.
I tend to be somewhat eclectic in that I think all of the factors do
play a role.
I also mentioned the concept of the led in the pipes earlier and
how that prevented the Roman purity from going on, because in Rome
itself, they could not have a lot of children and reproduce, so
whoever came into the society, all those barbarians, those Chinese and
Indians, whoever came into your country and having a lot of kids while
the white people just aren't having enough kids, which of course is
not valid anyway. You hear these kinds of arguments being made today
certainly. And so there is definitely a racist argument that was made
for the decline of Rome by who else, Germanic scholars. And one of
the names of the scholars was a man named Frank.
Either way, during this period of time, as people become
frustrated as the money becomes inflated, as the coins become
literally ugly and not worth a lot of money, there is the expansion of
insecurity which breeds the need for security which breeds religion.
Once again, Christianity was not the only religion that was expanding
and offering salivation and offering a better life in the afterlife or
in some form of continuation of life. The question that of course
arises is, why did Christianity prevail? The answer for many of you
and obviously we're not going to argue it, is that Christianity is a
true faith, your true faith. And obviously people recognized it and
recognized the God. However, as a historian, sociologist,
anthropologist looking at it, we look at other perhaps causes,
forgetting the religious response of truth. And there were many
religions, as I indicated, in Rome. The Roman military followed the
Mithra derivation which is part of the Zoroastrian, the trend of the
male, the strength of fire, the strength of battle, very male oriented
very military oriented. It didn't seem to appeal to many outside the
Then there was a Isis/Osiris cult coming out of Egypt, which of
course emphasized the mother goddess. While it had a heaven, it had a
termination of life, accepted, there was no real hell. Zoroastrianism
itself had a hell to it, a burning fire. They may not have called it
hell. The question is, what did Christianity offer people? There was
also the philosophical offer of Neoplatonism. Ethical culture is also
exists more on the East Coast. I don't think I've met anybody from
the ethical culture religion faith? It's much more active along with
Unitarians. Again, while I've met one or two Unitarians, I haven't
met many in California. Anybody encounter Unitarians? Those are
religions that are more, shall we say, philosophical than they really
emphasize a sense of faith and afterlife and death.
The basis for the expansion of Christianity perhaps is one and
perhaps most important of all, it's missionary zeal. Christ said, do
not leave your fire of life under a barrel; meaning, it is your job to
spread that faith. And Christians are militant almost in spreading
the faith. What that translates to is, many religions did not go out
to convert. Zoroastrians, as I indicated, you had to be basically
born into. Judaism, I guess we indicate an ego, believes you come to
them and then you spend a year studying. And that's a long time. And
most of all, for adult males to become a Jew and get that little piece
cut off, it's kind of hard for them to adapt to. Not very many men
want an operation in that certain section at that age. So this was a
difficult faith to join, if you will.
As I say, others dealt with female brains, male principles, but
they may have gone out -- they were the mystics, mystical faiths, the
Dionysian cults where wine, women, and song were celebrated, but it
didn't give that sense of the missionary zeal. The Christians had
something else in that zeal. They had a very simple story. It wasn't
like the secret cults where you joined and nobody else knew the secret
of the cult, the Scientology or the Mason, secret handshakes of there
was an openness to it. There was a faith that had a story about a man
who was God who died for everyone else's sins. And one that did have
some mystery, but that was not understandable.
The sacrifice therefore for man's sins certainly had a major role
to do with the expansion of Christianity. The faith itself appeal
today all classes of people, from slaves to the wealthy. People
adapted it because it gave them a sense of serenity. I haven't seen
the movie yet. And in part it had good salespeople candidly. The
best of all was Paul or Saul as his name was or not. It makes a
difference how well something is advertised and sold and that
missionary zeal went forth as well. There are those who claim that
Saul invented Christianity. A man Homer Smith, in A Man and His Gods,
using German historical research, argued that Paul, like many great
leaders for some strange reason, was epileptic and the argument is
that during certain epileptic fits people get visions and that Paul
received that vision on the road to Tarsus, Damascus, on the road to
Damascus, and there, who saw Christ which he had never met. And with
that, Saul who had been a persecutor of Christians previously, turned
around, converted to a faith that was, in a sense, at that time, a
cult of Judaism, and began the process of spreading the story of an
individual who died for people's sins. Of course the name Christ is a
Greek word meaning the messiah. And Saul himself, Paul, was living in
the Greek world of Damascus, Antioch, and Tarsus. The story I think
we're all familiar with or most of us are familiar with. And that is
that Christ went around claiming to be the king of kings, the son of
God, whether it was a capital S or a small S becomes questionable, but
seemed to fulfill the predictions in the Bible Isaiah and others of
the coming of the messiah of God on Earth. And he was challenged as
king of the Jews of the Sanhedrim. This was the Jewish council who
spoke to Herod as well to the Roman prefect Pontius Pilot who decided
to execute him by crucifixion. And a Roman soldier aided his death by
slitting open which side? The left side?
A Right side.
THE PROFESSOR: His body was buried and disappeared, put in a
cave and like a catacomb and then disappeared. Translation, the
belief being that he was resurrected. He was then seen wandering by a
number of witnesses afterwards for a short period of time.
I got a call the other day from an individual -- this is
absolutely off the subject but not totally -- who I hadn't seen in 20
some odd years from power lifting. They're making a movie like
pumping iron and they want to get me interviewed and was going to
propose that I be added to the hall of fame for some strange reason, I
don't know why. He was going back to stories, and I don't have good
memories of these kinds of things. One day we had a weight lifting
test on a Saturday and we went into Sunday which happened to be Easter
Sunday. And the audience up there was mainly Mexican American. And I
was doing the announcing on the microphone. And I got on the
microphone and it was about 12:30, look folks, I know this is Easter
Sunday and you're very concerned, but don't worry about it, they found
the body and cancelled easter. He was amazed that I wasn't hung by my
cahones. I was just out of it since '98. But it sounds like
something, as you all know, I can have said. I never question things
that people tell me I have done or said.
In any case, with the resurrection of Christ, which by the way
does not appear for whatever reason in Roman literature. There are
stories of a number of people who claim to be messiahs, if you will
saviors at the time but nothing that seems to deal with the large
impact that Christians today feel. It was probably a small group;
therefore, not the recognition that we tend to see. But what came out
of that group, a small group, a small cult if you will, was a mass
movement and perhaps a true faith, through in many ways, martyrdom.
Translation, Christians in their solid belief faced death openly
quote/unquote turning the other cheek for their faith. When people
saw that willingness to put forth their lives much in many ways like
Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi and a nonviolent civil disobedient
way -- and I personally think that that's what's lost on some of our
movements today, that sense of moral height an ethical height where
you know you're right and you accept law or you die for your cause
without crying or bitching or exchange or suing.
A And the Tibetans do. They have done nonviolent protests for 53
THE PROFESSOR: Well, maybe it's gotten them to a better
afterlife -- I'm sorry, reincarnation, or maybe they went directly. I
don't know. I wouldn't say it's gotten them nowhere. And the Dali
Llama has received a lot of respect throughout the world. There's a
lot of empathy for the cause. It may not have gotten them their
independence, but it's perhaps provided a salivation. I have no doubt
that if rebellion had broken out in Tibet, the Chinese communists
would have done what they did on Tiennemen Square on the worse levels.
I think that sense of the world's respect for the Tibetans was in many
ways, the respect that was given for Christianity. And not only that,
I think that knowing all of these quote/unquote liberals in this
country who have adopted the Dali Llama as a spiritual leader, I'm
talking about white liberals who pay a fortune to hear him whenever he
comes to this country, is an indication of a spread of the faith that
we probably would have known nothing about except that they would have
been wiped out except for that passive resistance. But that's, you
know, the way I view it. Sorry. Don't get me wrong. I'm a violent
person, so I could not function that way. I go by George Bernard Shaw
that says, martyrdom is the only way a man can become famous without
ability. I respect it, by all means.
And again, if Christ were crucified and resurrected in 33 ADCE,
it really wasn't until the fourth century that you really begin to see
that spread of Christianity. And here I don't know if you can see
these pentagons or whatever they are -- five shaped figures. If you
look here, this is the spread in the fifth century. In the first
century of Christianity, you pretty much see it in a very small narrow
area of the Middle East and partly into Egypt. So you're talking
about 300 years. And so 50 years is nothing historically dealing with
the Tibetans. What we're talking about is a movement that takes
hundreds of years for people to adapt to. Of course part of that
adaption comes about with the quote/unquote the decline and fall of
Rome. People see something else, a higher sect and join in; or again
based, on your views, the true faith.
In dealing with that expansion itself, the first -- I pointed out
that while Christianity is expanding, it really doesn't get its depth
in Rome until that's fourth century or in the Mediterranean when
Constantine allows after the edict of Milan, the ability of Christians
to worship freely in the Roman empire both East and West. And then
with Theodosus at around the end of the fourth century, making it the
faith of the Roman empire.
I know what else I forget to mention. Another element of
Christianity at that time, not so perhaps today, but certainly of the
early Christian faith, salivation came through only seven sacraments.
You didn't have to read, study, but there were seven sacraments which
are an outward signs of an inward gains. They include such things as
baptism, picked up perhaps from John the Baptist, confirmation,
marriage, holy blessed rights they used to be called. There's seven.
And the acceptance of those became the basis of the passing on of
salivation itself. In any case, the other faiths are still there.
And we begin to see some organism of the church and certainly
taking up the posts in the Roman cities where they begin to set up the
bishops and Rome itself is emptied by the Romans. And as I indicate,
they head off as a capital to Ravenna which is better defended and
Rome is left under the administration of the Pope and certainly Leo
who some may have said is the first of the Popes having and convincing
Attila of the Hun to leave that area in the fifth century in 451. And
as we can see here, it replaces Rome around the Mediterranean sea.
This area does become Christian by the fifth century. And within this
base and within the faith they pick up on some other religious
elements, one of which is being hermits, hermitage. It was pretty
common in the orient for people to go out in the wilderness and live
in a cave, much like Mohammed did, to find religion, to find God. And
the weather there allows for it. And of course they followed the
sense of Christ going out in the dessert for 40 days. And that sense
of being creates some very strange actions on the faith.
One guy, Simon Stylus was the name given to him because he lived
on the poll, literally on top of the poll for 40 years. Food was
brought up to me. We've had some strange tree huggers go up in the
trees and live up there for a long period of time too. Others went
off to caves, and again, showed their dedication which spread to
And then in the north because the weather wasn't quite as
favorable to individuals going out and living on their own, it needs
more community, we develop what's known as the monastic movements.
And monasteries begin to clear the land. They worked together as part
of the faith. And we create monastic orders. Of course perhaps the
most famous was the Benediction, the sense of work, faith, celibacy.
By the way, a monk is someone who lives under an order. And they are
usually not priests in that they cannot give the sacraments. They are
cloistered, meaning they live within the monastery. They can teach
but people come to the monastery where their main element is working
for Christ. And a lot of the innovations, especially in agriculture,
came out of these northern monasteries. And of course we continue
that tradition, not just from fourth century, fifth century on, but
some of you may remember from your genetics, Mendel and his work with
chick peas as a monk and the whole basis of genetics at the end of the
19th century. So it is not something that just stays and -- you know.
It is also argued that because of the spread of monasticism and
the spread of Christianity that is less of a reverence for nature,
that primitive people lived with nature and feared it. They feared
those little trolls and elves and fairies and, you know, in the
forests, the gargoyles, scare them away. Did you read about those
people found in Indonesia that was only about 12,000 years old and
they were apparently only about 3 feet tall? They were now calling
them Lord of the Rings or something. How many people read about that?
Interesting little tidbits that maybe there is some truth to. Oh
well -- with big feet. We don't know if they were hairy or not.
It is argued that the lack of reverence for nature because
Christianity had one God, allowed for the devastation of the forests
and the lands and that the hard work interfered with environmentalism.
We'll let you go from there on that one.
In any case, that expansion itself that faith that isolation
later leads to a different kind of monastic order which is basically
the development of convents, and that is friars and sisters rather
than nuns. Friars live under an order but they go out and they
preach. They go out and they teach. They work in the community, the
dominions certainly 13th century AD right next door here are sisters.
They are not totally cloistered. They spend some time in the
cloisters in the convent, but they can go forth and work in the
community. The nuns and the monks today also get out into the
communities as well. And of course there are individuals besides,
during this period of time, whose names become important for their
teaching such as St. Augustine and his City of God coming out of the
Alexandria area here. And certainly the stories of other teachers
from mostly the areas in here that begin to develop some of the
theory; St. Augustine the City of God, famous work dealing with the
concept of church and honor and to some extent perhaps the identity
with Rome. That's certainly a questionable level.
The primacy of Rome coming out of it, if you will, meaning how
come Rome becomes the center of the church. And of course, as I
indicated before, by the seventh century, the other major cities with
their Popes, disputes over who was in control or their bishops --
Alexandria, Antioch, Rome, Damascus, and Constantinople. What happens
is Constantinople becomes very isolated and develops a different what,
we call the eastern religion, the Aryan faith. And of course by 1453
disappears as a Christian city. And so Rome is pretty much left to
dominate the center of Christianity and remains the center of western
Christianity until the year 1517 when a man by the name of Martin
Luther, not Martin Luther King Junior please, Martin Luther, posted on
Halloween, all hallows night, October 31st they have arguments against
what he believed the Catholic church was preaching, which started what
we know as the Protestant reformation. It succeeded. Many of the
theories and ideas that we presented previously as philosophy had been
presented previously. His sunk in because of the times and because of
the age itself.
I've got the seven sacraments here: Baptism; confirmation;
matrimony; the Eucharist, where the bread and wine enters into a
mystic communication as the blood and body of the Christ; extreme
angst, which as I indicated, are the last rights; and ordination, a
Christian becoming a priest. I mentioned St. Jerome and St.
What I would like to do is some of you have your packets with you
and in the back of your packet, the one that has the booklet on it, if
you have it, if not, it's okay, you can follow me. On page 23 there
is a cross to bear, if you will. We have a group meeting on Friday --
as the Roman citizen in the first or second century, would you have
converted to Christianity, why or why not. For those that have the
cross, it's one of those nice little gimmicks for aiding you in
understanding perhaps, to have some of the power of the church and the
reasons for that power. I want to go around and explain it in part.
We'll start at the top and go to the left. Tithe -- what is the
A It's a tax.
THE PROFESSOR: It's a tax placed on people who are members of
the church. 10 percent of a person's income was given, collected for
the church. That is still part and parcel of some faiths today,
certainly the Mormon faith is one. The World Church of God not only
collects 10 percent of year, but on the third year collects an extra
10 percent. Many churches, including like Jewish temples, base a
percentage on your income to become a member. Obviously, the power it
wields is wealth. The money that went to the church can be used for
church preachings, buildings, teaching, education, et cetera.
Sacraments -- gave people a belief that they could achieve
salivation. And following basically six rules, not a lot of
complexity to it. But the power of the church, it was only the
priests and the church that could issue those sacraments. If you were
not a member of the church and the sacraments were cut off, you were
doomed at least for God knows how long. And I guess that's literal,
in purgatory, meaning between hell and heaven. One of the things that
Catholic Church, by the way, eliminated back in 1963 was something
known as limbo, not the dance under the bar. That was the place where
people who did not know Christianity would wait until judgment day.
They were outside of hell, purgatory, and Heaven. Somehow it was
decided that was not a proper interpretation of Biblical teaching.
Missionary zeal -- the spreading of the gospel. Perhaps the Pope
that was most active in pushing missionaries was Gregory the Great as
a Pope in the end of the sixth century and the beginning of the
seventh century. Perhaps the strongest of the Popes in medieval times
in the early medieval times, famous also for the Gregorian chants, but
sending out to the Germanic tribes, sending out to the Visigoths to
the galls or franks and sending out visionaries as far as Ireland. It
is also believed that some of those missionaries may well have reached
the new world.
Church courts -- perhaps similar to the old military courts.
People who were priests were tried not in civil courts but in church
courts. Anything dealing with the church was tried within special
courts that were run by the priests, the bishops. I haven't used the
term cardinals because cardinals don't come into effect until later in
the medieval period. Perhaps the most infamous of those courts
becomes the papal court, starting in the 13th century, which we know
as the inquisition that reaches its full power in the 15th century,
the Spanish inquisition, where people who's faith is questionable are
brought before the court and forced to confess. If they don't
confess, they're crushed to death, beaten until they confess in some
way. And of course we know in Joan of Arch and others who are placed
in the fires of purity that are called the auto de fe A-U-T-O D-E F-E,
the testing of faith to purify. And I think I talked about it
earlier, didn't I, how if you confessed to your crime, to your sin,
you were garreted, strangled before you were burned. But if you
refused to confess, you were burned alive. Either way, you went to
Education -- up until basically the 18th century, the church
controlled what you learned, the knowledge you received. I pointed
out that people got their education by going to the monasteries and
often what we might call elementary schools were held within the
monasteries. Priests taught philosophy, learning, education of
various forms, and people came to them. And by the 13th century,
1200, we began to see the formation of a higher educational system
called the universities that were under the cathedrals. And the
cathedrals, the bishops appointed a rector, a president rather, a
chancellor to run those universities who was a member of the clergy.
And we'll talk further about some of those individuals. Obviously
knowledge is power. And if the church controlled the knowledge, it
had the power over people's lives.
Anointing of kings -- kings claimed to be God given. And prove
that they were God directed, God driven, they received their crown
from the hands of the bishop. The bishops placed the crown on the
king's head literally. Much like -- we mentioned Charlemaigne who had
the Pope come to Aachen in Germany or the holy Roman empire and crown
him holy Roman emperor. Therefore, the church, when it didn't like a
king, could take that power away by removing their sanction of that
king. We'll talk more about that under excommunication and interdict.
I also identified the power and strength and role of the church
came from its technological advances in farming. It developed such
things as the three field system of agriculture where one field was
left fallow, not to be grown to help the land. What's the word I'm
looking for? Re-fertilize itself. That's not the world. And of
course from these monasteries there created a whole system of
excessive wealth because they began to sell their goods and they began
to invest it in the land. And some of the monasteries became
extremely wealthy from their farming and farming innovations. In the
ninth century or in the tenth century, 900s, the Cistercians were very
much involved in also creating bookkeeping that later is going to be
used in the development of capitalism. That's getting ahead of the
Excommunication -- church didn't like you, felt you were a
heretic, you spoke out, you were removed from the church,
excommunicated. You became an outcast. You were ostracized. What it
meant was, you could not get the sacraments. If you were not
receiving any of the sacraments, communion, baptism, confirmation,
whatever, then you were doomed for damnation. And you said who gives
a shit? The answer is, people did because they believed it. It was
an absolute faith. Many of you wouldn't in a sense being concerned.
Maybe even being kicked out of America couldn't concern you. But when
people had a sincere faith, this was damage to their existence. And
so the threat of excommunication, which by the way still goes on
today, as you know, not just the Catholic church, but other churches
use excommunication, was the means of removing people who are heretics
or in opposition to the church philosophy.
I'll pick up for the second half and then go into the group
meeting. If you don't bring it with you, you might want to bring it
with you next time. See you on Friday. Group meeting Friday.