Saturday, May 10, 2014

"unto him that was cured" - St. Peter's Mysterious Journey


St. Peter's Mysterious Journey 

There is a mystery about St. Peter.

He suddenly disappeared from descriptions of the Acts only to be considered to reach Rome and die there.

The author of the Acts of the Apostles portrays Peter as an extremely important figure within the early Christian community, with Peter delivering a significant open-air sermon during Pentecost. According to the same book, Peter took the lead in selecting a replacement for Judas Iscariot.[Acts 1:15] He was twice arraigned, with John, before the Sanhedrin and directly defied them.[Acts 4:7-22] [5:18-42] He undertook a missionary journey to Lydda, Joppa and Caesarea,[9:32-10:2] becoming instrumental in the decision to evangelise the Gentiles.[10] 
About halfway through, the Acts of the Apostles turns its attention away from Peter and to the activities of Paul, and the Bible is mostly silent on what occurred to Peter afterwards.
Acts 12:1-19   The narrative now skips a few years to 44AD. Peter (who is regarded as a radical Jew for mixing with Gentiles) is arrested in Jerusalem during the Passover festival on the orders of King Herod Agrippa I, who has recently beheaded the apostle James, the brother of John.

Peter is miraculously freed from prison during the night by an angel. He rejoins the believers – who are meeting at the home of John Mark in Jerusalem. He hands over the leadership of the Jerusalem church to the more traditional James (the brother of Jesus – see Galatians 1:19) and flees elsewhere for safety. St Mark's Church, in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, is believed to mark the site of John Mark's home.

Acts 15:1-21   Peter addresses the assembly of believers in Jerusalem in 49/50AD. James – as leader of the church – concludes that the Jewish believers shouldn't insist that Gentiles who have become believers in Jesus must adopt all the Jewish religious traditions (see Acts 15:12-21).
However, there is a document from which we can infer that St. Peter was preaching outside ancient Palestine with some followers while sometimes St. Peter was helped by Christ Jesus.
The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles
by Meera Lester 
This document, like so many of the Gnostic texts, relies heavily on allegory for its account of a pearl hawker who does not possess the gem he offers, but instead directs those interested in it to his city. Experts date the first part of the text to roughly the middle of the second century with the remainder dating to the end of the second or beginning of the third century. The beginning of this tractate (in Codex VI, 1 of the Nag Hammadi materials) is missing. 
When the story commences, Peter and the Apostles are on a trip to spread the gospel. After finding a ship to transport them upon the sea, they sailed a day and night. They arrived at a small city called Habitation. The Apostles sought lodging and met a man carrying a book cover in one hand and a wooden staff in the other. He began hawking pearls. Peter asked him about lodging but the man said he, too, was a stranger. The man called out the word “pearls,” and the rich men of the city looked at him, but not seeing a pouch or bag upon his body to contain valuables, they turned away from the hawker. The poor and the beggars heard the hawker's call, and they asked to see the pearl. The man told them that if they would go to his city they could not only see the treasure but he would give it to them for nothing.
The story shifts a little awkwardly to the next section where Peter and the others embark upon the journey to the city of the hawker. Peter was told that the inhabitants of the city were people who had endured. Lithargoel now appeared as a physician carrying an unguent box. A disciple followed with a bag of medicines. Peter asked the physician how to get to Lithargoel's house and was shocked when the man called Peter by his name. Jesus then disclosed his identity to Peter. The disciples fell on the ground and prostrated themselves before the Lord. The text says that they comprised eleven disciples (the title states twelve), but does not reveal the identity of the one absent. 
Jesus presented the box and pouch to Peter and told the Apostles to go back to the city of Habitation and give the poor what they required to live. Peter did not understand how they could possibly find food to feed all the poor. Jesus reminded Peter of the power of his name, telling him that the invocation of his name and the wisdom of God surpassed all riches. Jesus gave them the medicine pouch and told them to heal the sick. Peter feared questioning Jesus again, so he pushed John into speaking for the group. John asked Jesus how they could heal bodies since they had not been trained. Jesus said to heal the bodies of the people who believed in him — when you heal bodies without medicines, you can later heal the hearts because they will trust you. Jesus admonished them to stay away from the rich men. 
Certainly, early Christians could see the message here that the wealthy are so preoccupied with appearances (or lack of appearance, in the case of the hawker and the treasure that they could not see) that they would not hear Jesus' message nor know the great treasure that he offered to give them for free. The text also dispels doubt about the power of prayer and of invoking the names of the Father and Son.
More authentic documents back the legend that St. Peter surely reached Rome after all. 
Gal. 2:11-14   Peter meets Paul in Antioch in 50AD, shortly after the Council of Jerusalem (see 4 on Map 19). Paul accuses Peter of changing his mind and drawing back from eating with Gentiles – under pressure from the more traditional Hebraic Jewish believers from Jerusalem.

1 Cor. 1:12     When Paul writes to the Corinthian believers in 56AD, some believers in Corinth claim to follow Peter, while others claim to follow Paul or Apollos. Peter may, therefore, have escaped to Corinth between 44 and 49AD (see 5 on Map 19).

1 Pet. 1:1        In 66AD, Peter writes from Rome to the Jewish believers in the Roman provinces of Asia Minor – in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (see 6 on Map 19).

2 Pet. 1:14-15 In 67AD, Peter writes again from Rome, where he has been imprisoned and is about to be executed.

Probably somebody helped St. Peter write letters.  That somebody might be the very author of the Gospel of Mark.

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Joh 5:10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
Joh 5:11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.
Joh 5:12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?
Joh 5:13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.

"together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?"

Around Tokyo

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Act 5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
Act 5:4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
Act 5:5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
Act 5:6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
Act 5:7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
Act 5:8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
Act 5:9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
Act 5:10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

"called the children of God" - Another Poor Widow


Another Poor Widow

There is a similar story in Buddhist scriptures to an episode about a poor widow who donated all the money, though small, she had to  the temple.
Luk 21:1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
Luk 21:2 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
Luk 21:3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:
Luk 21:4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.
In a Buddhist scripture, an old woman heard that the Buddha was delivering holy preaching.  And, a king, rich merchants, and leading citizens were offering votive lights in a large quantity to the ceremonial place for the Buddha.  So, the old woman wanted to join this occasion as she wanted to be spiritually saved, gaining enlightenment.

She started to beg any little oil from people.  After waking around market and streets, she finally got some amount of oil for a light.  Then she sent it to the ceremonial place where the Buddha stayed.  With other votive lights, her humble light was lit while the Buddha was preaching.

When the preaching was over, the audience was dismissed.  The Buddha and his followers were waiting for all the voting lights to go out.  But, there was one light that continued to be lit for a long time.  However, till all the lights went out, the Buddha would not retire for the night.  So, Buddha's best disciple tried to put it off.  He pinched the wick of the light in vain.  Then, he used a fan to blow it off only in vain.  Finally he tried to crush the light only in vain again.  Finally the Buddha asked his best disciple, "What are you doing, Ananda?"  Ananda relied, "Sir, I cannot extinguish this small light."  Then, the Buddha said, "It is a light an old woman provided as she made a wish to be saved and achieve enlightenment.  You cannot put it off."  Accordingly, the small and humble light continued to burn and emit light so cleanly all through the night.

What this story means is, rather, that only a poor old woman could sincerely wish to be saved from a chain of tragic fates of a human being and cleansed of worldly sins so as to achieve eternal enlightenment.  

If a rich man donates big money or big candles to a preaching congregation held for a holy man, he cannot wish satisfactorily to be saved.  Strength and purity of his wish are far less than a poor old woman who can offer only a very small donation.

If you have no money, whatever donation you can make will be enough, if you get it by begging it from others.   But if you have an asset worth one million dollars, you will be required to donate one billion dollars.

The more you have, the more you will be unable.

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Mat 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

"Jesus, thou Son of the most high God?" - Why Early Christian Romans Prevailed

Around Tokyo

Why Early Christian Romans Prevailed

There is an enigma about development and deployment of Christianity, especially, at its early stage.

What was a decisive factor for its success in spreading among Roman citizens?
The total number of Christians who lost their lives because of these persecutions is unknown, but although early church historian Eusebius, whose works are the only source for many of these events, speaks of "great multitudes" having perished, he is thought by many scholars today to have exaggerated their numbers.[1][2]:217–233 
Although provincial governors in the Roman Empire had a great deal of personal discretion and power to do what they felt was needed in their jurisdiction, and there were local and sporadic incidents of persecution and mob violence against Christians, for most of the first three hundred years of Christian history Christians were able to live in peace, practice professions, and rise to positions of responsibility. Only for approximately ten out of the first three hundred years of the church's history were Christians executed due to orders from a Roman emperor.

In the first century AD, when the apostles Peter and Paul came to Rome, the Christian community in Rome was still small, perhaps as few as some hundreds or a thousand followers at best. Probably the best source of knowledge about that period comes from the Bible itself and in particular "Acts" and Paul's letter to the Romans ("The Epistles"). 
Being a new religion, with different ideas from the established pagan religions, it was not surprising that the Christians were persecuted on a number of occasions. One obvious problem was that being a monotheist religion (one God and no other) they, like the Jews, were prone to being called traitors. At the time of Claudius the Jewish and Christian cults were regarded as illicit and this meant that it was illegal for them to have public meetings and reunions therefore implying that their most likely meeting places would have been private homes. 
In spite of the widely held belief that Nero's persecution of the Christians was a political move to divert attention from his own guilt, modern historians are beginning to look at the possibility that the Christians were indeed involved in the burning of the city. This may have been partly inspired by the uprisings in Palestine and partly by a fervent belief in the imminence of judgement day. Although there doesn't seem to be proof either way there are certainly accounts of persons preventing others from fighting the fire which was burning Rome. On whose behalf these persons were acting is difficult to tell. 
In spite of the alternating periods of tolerance and persecution, the number of Christians in the city grew, particularly as the power and integrity of the empire decayed and the people of Rome lost faith in the old gods. By the middle of the second century the Christians numbered some 15,000 and a century later they were about twice as many.

By the end of the fourth century—400 years after the birth of Jesus, there were about 500,000 people living in Antioch and half the population was Christian. By the middle of the third century, there were 30,000 Christians living in Rome. 
However, Christianity did not spread as quickly to the West as it did to the East. France (or Gaul as it was known then) only had one known church, based in Lyon, by the middle of the first century, and there were only a few churches in Spain, despite Paul's work.
Since Cadoux and Yoder first published their views some decades ago, archaeology has shed new light on Christians in the Roman Army in the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries. A number of gravestones have been found that list a soldier’s religion as well as his unit. H. Leclerq recorded 8 pre-Constantian Christian gravestones of soldiers. The earliest is a gravestone of a Christian who served in Legio II Parthia and died in 201. This makes it not only the earliest Christian soldier’s inscription, but one of the oldest known Christian inscriptions period.[7] Legio II was raised by Septimius Severus in 197 in preparation for his invasion of Parthia, so the soldier in question cannot have served long before his death.
Early Christian art used symbolic and allegorical images mainly, partly no doubt to avoid drawing attention during the persecution of early Christians in the Roman Empire.[citation needed] In the Catacombs of Rome Jesus was represented indirectly by pictogram symbols such as the Ichthys (fish), peacock, Lamb of God, or an anchor (the Labarum or Chi-Rho was a later development). Later, personified symbols were used, including Jonah, whose three days in the belly of the whale pre-figured the interval between Christ's death and Resurrection, Daniel in the lion's den, or Orpheus charming the animals. 
The image of "The Good Shepherd", a beardless youth in pastoral scenes collecting sheep, was the most common of these images, and was probably not understood as a portrait of the historical Jesus. The depiction of Jesus already from the 3rd century included images very similar to what became the traditional image of Jesus, with a longish face and long straight hair. As the Church increased in size and popularity, the need to educate illiterate converts led to the use of pictures which portrayed biblical stories, along with images of saints, angels, prophets, and the Cross (though only portrayed in a bejewelled, glorified state). 
After the end of persecution, and the adoption of Christianity by Constantine, large churches were built and from the start decorated with elaborate images of Jesus and saints in mosaic.
There were no records or documents on early Christians in Rome that could be comparable to the Gospels.  No great individual Roman citizens who experienced a drastic incident leading to their conversion to Christianity were known.  Christianity spread so silently and humbly in Rome in the first, second, and third centuries without dramatic legends except occasional martyrdom.

But one thing sure is that those early Christians in Rome must have looked different among contemporary Romans, since their minds and hearts were directed to Heaven while other citizens were entirely bothered by worldly matters.

Another point is that there must have been strong merit in being a Christian in Rome in those centuries.  For example, while others lost hope as they faced trials and tribulations in their living in Rome, those early Christians must have been able to stand predicaments well due to their faith and support and embrace other believers to survive together.  Faith in Christianity must have given great endurance to those Christians.  And other Roman citizens observed it in wonder.

Like Judaists today are a remarkable people with a great record of success in science and business, early Christians in Rome must have been a remarkable people with great merit in their personality and humanity.  Accordingly, others gradually came to respect Christians and eventually join them in Rome in the first few centuries of these two millenniums.

The key to solving the mystery of growth of Christianity in ancient Rome must lie in the minds of those early Christians as well as their concrete behaviors when facing difficulty of their lives.

But do Judaists today look similar to those early Christians?

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Mar 5:7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

"and their net brake" - Around 1492

Around Tokyo

Around 1492

The history of mankind in these 5,000 years can be divided into several epochs.  But the most decisive incident that put critical breakpoint is the discovery of the New World by Columbus in 1492.

However, the adventure of Columbus was preceded by great voyages by Zheng He (1371–1433), explorer and diplomat of China's Ming Dynasty. Zheng commanded expeditionary voyages to Southeast Asia,South Asia, the Middle East, and East Africa from 1405 to 1433. In his first voyage, Zheng led more than 60 ships, one of which was 137 meters long, carrying 28,000 crews.

Nonetheless, China could not or would not conquer the world.  On the other hand, in the West the last remnant of the ancient glory of Romans vanished, namely the Fall of Constantinople, heralding the coming of something new.  But what was it? 

1405–1433: Zheng He of China sails through the Indian Ocean to India, Arabia, and East Africa to spread China's influence and sovereignty.

1453: The Fall of Constantinople marks the end of the Byzantine Empire and the death of the last Roman Emperor Constantine XI and the beginning of the Growth of the Ottoman Empire.

1467–1615: The Sengoku period is one of civil war in Japan.

1481: Spanish Inquisition begins in practice with the first auto-da-fé.

1488: Portuguese Navigator Bartolomeu Dias sails around the Cape of Good Hope.

1492: Jews expelled from Spain.

1492: Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas from Spain.

1494: Spain and Portugal sign the Treaty of Tordesillas and agree to divide the World outside of Europe between themselves.

1499: Ottoman fleet defeats Venetians at the Battle of Zonchio.

1500: Islam becomes Indonesia's dominant religion.

1502: First reported African slaves in The New World

1503: Spain defeats France at the Battle of Cerignola. Considered to be the first battle in history won by gunpowder small arms.

1503: Leonardo da Vinci begins painting the Mona Lisa and completes it three or four years later.

1503: Nostradamus was born on either December 14, or December 21.

1506: Christopher Columbus dies in Valladolid, Spain.

1509: The Portuguese king sends Diogo Lopes de Sequeira to find Malacca, the eastern terminus of Asian trade.

1512: Copernicus writes Commentariolus, and moves the sun to the center of the solar system.

1517: The Protestant Reformation begins when Martin Luther posts his 95 Theses in Saxony.

1519: Leonardo da Vinci dies of natural causes on May 2.

1521: Philippines encountered by Ferdinand Magellan. He was later killed in battle in central Philippines in the same year.

1521: Martin Luther translated the Gospels into German. 

1526: Mughal Empire, founded by Babur, rules India until 1857.

1531–32: The Church of England breaks away from the Roman Catholic Church and recognizes King Henry VIII as the head of the Church.

1532: Francisco Pizarro leads the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire.

1534: Jacques Cartier claims Quebec for France.

1534: The Ottomans capture Baghdad.

1536: John Calvin launches Protestant Reformation movement. 

1538: Spanish–Venetian fleet is defeated by the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Preveza.

1541: Amazon River is encountered and explored by Francisco de Orellana.

1543: Copernicus publishes his theory that the Earth and the other planets revolve around the Sun.

1543: The Nanban trade period begins after Portuguese traders make contact with Japan.

1548: The Ming Dynasty government of China issues a decree banning all foreign trade and closes down all seaports along the coast; these Hai jin laws came during the Wokou wars with Japanese pirates.

1551: North African pirates enslave the entire population of the Maltese island Gozo, between 5,000 and 6,000, sending them to Libya.

1552: Russia conquers the Khanate of Kazan.

1557: The Portuguese settle in Macau.

1558–1603: The Elizabethan era is considered the height of the English Renaissance.

This epoch of 100 years from the middle of the 15th century to the middle of the 16th century is very important.  It is not only because Columbus (advanced geographical/political expansion), da Vinci (advanced art), Martin Luther (advanced religious movement), and Copernicus (advanced science) all lived and played remarkable roles in this period, but also because the world came to be under aggressive influences of Europe.

Indeed, at the beginning of this epoch China could have occupied so many territories from South East Asia to West Asia and Africa.  But at the end of this epoch, China started to isolate itself from the global trend.  Japan also encountered Europeans in later years in this period, but in a century it would also decide to close the nation against Europeans with an exception to the Dutch.

The most important question is whether this expansion of the European civilization to other regions of the world is blessed by God or not.  And how much could Christianity be justification for their expansion.  Or was it necessary evil for Christianity to spread to the whole world?  

We have to carefully check the above chronological table, again.

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Luk 5:5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
Luk 5:6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
Luk 5:7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.

Monday, May 05, 2014

”the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts” - Son of Man


Son of Man

Meta-Religion = Christ Involved Religions + Christ Excluded Religions

Christ Involved Religions = One with Christ as God + One with Christ as Prophet + One with Christ as Man

If God is almighty, He must make possible all the religions without losing His universality.  And indeed, God is perfect in this context as He allows religion of men to be as above stated with the key figure of Christ.

Meta-Religion = Christ Involved Religions (or Christianity + Islam + Judaism) + Christ Excluded Religions

Accordingly, a man can have a religion chosen from the above elements.  But before he choose a religion, he is in a state of Meta-Religion.  As he grows up in the world, external and internal conditions make him choose one of the elements.  This scenario is as follows:

1. A man is born in the world where Meta-Religion exists.

Man ← Meta Religion

2. His internal propensities and external environment make him choose one of elements.

Inside/Outside Conditions → (Man ← Meta Religion)
3. So, he becomes a follower of a religion.

Man → Man with Christianity or another

The point at issue is that this scheme is as perfect as God.  And it is realized with the key figure of Christ.

Perfection of God ← Completeness of Meta-Religion ← Meta-Religion Realized with Christ as Key

In this context, we can understand why Christ Jesus called Himself a "son of man."  This "son of man" corresponds to Judaism  where Christ Jesus is regraded as a mere man, that is, a son of a man.  So, by calling Himself a son of man, Christ Jesus forever takes Judaism as His religion or a religion including Him.

"Son of man" is the translation of various Hebrew and Greek phrases used in both the Tanakh and the New Testament. In Judaism it refers to normal human beings. In Christianity it is a title given to Jesus. Christians also believe that the Son of Man is a prophesied spiritual divine external ruler who can be found in the Old Testament.
The Hebrew expression "son of man" (בן–אדם i.e. ben-'adam) appears one hundred and seven times in the Hebrew Bible.[1] This is the most common Hebrew construction for the singular but is used mostly in Ezekiel (93 times) and 14 times elsewhere.[2] In thirty two cases the phrase appears in intermediate plural form "sons of men", i.e. human beings.[1] As generally interpreted by Jews, it denotes humankind generally.

For centuries, the Christological perspective on Son of Man has been a natural counterpart to that of Son of God and just as Son of God affirms the divinity of Jesus, in many cases Son of man affirms his humanity.[9]
However, while the profession of Jesus as the Son of God has been an essential element of Christian creeds since the Apostolic age, such professions do not apply to Son of Man and the proclamation of Jesus as the Son of Man has never been an article of faith in Christianity.[4]

James D. G. Dunn and separately Delbert Burkett state that the interpretation of the use of "the Son of Man" in the New Testament is a prime example of the limits of biblical interpretation in that after 150 years of debate no consensus on the issue has emerged.[5][6]
In addition, as I once discussed, the title of a son of man can be claimed by any man or even the poorest man without any social titles and positions in the world.  This title is for the poorest man in the world.  And to make His glory perfect or prove his Perfection, Christ Jesus dared to opt to use it before Israelites including the poorest among them.  It is for love as well as for His omnipotence.

Even from people like stones wayside, a descendant of Abraham can emerge.

Completeness = (Completeness - Incompleteness) + Incompleteness

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Rom 5:5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Rom 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Rom 5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
Rom 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.