After reading the book Azazil by Youssef Zeidan, which revolves around the history of Christianity and created much controversy, I fired some question to my "history mentor" Jacques soliciting his valuable contribution. Jacques did not disappoint. I copy his response here and his invitation for further discussion.
First the word "Christ"; Many
people believe this is the "last name" of Jesus: Jesus Christ like Jacques
Leblanc !!! This is totally wrong. There are historical evidences of the
existence of a man known at the time as Jesus of Nazareth, named from the place
where he used to live his childhood. In his days, he was described as a prophet,
or as a philosopher or as a political activist. "Christ" is a greek word
meaning "anointed". It was not used by Jesus himself (he spoke only aramean) nor
by any one around him. It was introduced by the church as a greek translation of
the hebrew "mashiah" (anointed). As a non-believer, I prefer to call him Jesus
Whether Mary was the mother of Jesus
of Nazareth is generally accepted, but whether she was
the mother of God is another piece
of cake !!! It immediately raises a question that was hotly disputed for
centuries: the nature of Jesus, whether human or godly or both. This question
today leaves most people entirely indifferent but the people of the first five
centuries AD became wildly impassioned with it.
Upon Jesus's death around 30
AD some followers gathered together around two main beliefs: 1)Jesus was the
Messiah announced by the some of the prophets in the Bible and 2)Jesus came back
into life on the third day after he was put to death by the romans authorities
in Jerusalem. Those followers were not anything more than a sect among Judaism.
The turn was the result of Paul (or Saul) deciding to use the teaching of this
sect and preach it to the Gentiles. He was a jew but held an office in the roman
administration that was ruling the whole Mediterranean area.As a public officer
in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, he was using greek as his daily
language. The oldest christian writings we have are letters he wrote around 50
AD. Christianity could just as well have been called Paulinity since it is his
preaching which took this teaching beyond the limits of the jewish community.
the early writings, Jesus of Nazareth is reffered to as Messiah (Jesus of
Nazareth is supposed to have personally refused to be referred as such) or the
Son of Man (from Daniel's chapter in the Bible) or Son of God (a traditional
title of the kings of the Séleucide kingdom established after Alexander the
Great passed away in the 4th century BC; this kingdom used to cover Syria,
Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and probably Koweit. It disappeared in the 1st century BC,
when the Romans moved in) It is in the second century AD that the idea of the
godly nature of Jesus emerged in some circles. This was a touchy subject since
if Jesus is of a godly or divine nature, then several episodes of his life are
loosing significance: when he is tempted, sad, happy all humanly feelings of no
significance for a God. And, worst of all, he did not suffer when he was put to
death on the cross, God could not suffer, hence the whole concept of God coming
down to earth to suffer and redeem the sins of human kind was loosing sense.
In 312, Arius preached that Jesus is more human than divine and most of the
non-greek and non-roman christians followed him. The Council of Nicée (now
Iznik) in 325 decided that Jesus is totally God.
A century later, Nestorius,
archbishop of Constantinopolis (now Istambul) preached that Jesus has a human
nature and a divine nature. This is still the belief of some christians in Iraq
(the nestorian church). Cyrille, Archbishop of Alexandria (Egypt) and the
Council of Ephèse (Turkey) in 431 fought against Nestorius insisting that Jesus
has only one nature simultaneously human (he suffered) and divine (totally God).
Thus Mary, mother of Jesus, could be called "Théotokos", mother of God. This
was an outrage to those who said that God had been existing for ever and thus no
woman could be called His mother. Reports suggest that the day when the Council
in Ephèse approved the word "Théotokos", crowds fought in the streets of Ephèse
and left thousands of deads on the pavement. I believe, today, it would be
difficult to find people prepared to merely discuss the issue, let alone fight
for it. This insistence to a single nature of Jesus created the "monophysite"
church which remains in Egypt (coptics) and Ethiopia. The conclusion of Ephèse
were later fine tuned by the Council of Chalcédoine (now Kadikoy, Turkey) in 451
whose conclusions are still today the basis of both the orthodox and catholic
churches. The words "mother of God" are still present in prayers that are
repeated daily by many christians, but I believe most of them do not pay
attention to the problem.
is a concept that was progressively
elaborated over centuries. You remember from above that Jesus of Nazareth
was occasionaly referred to as Son of
God (from a greek tradition of the Séleucide hellenistic
kingdom) Jesus himself, when he was talking of God, would refer to Him as
"the Father who is in Heaven" Thus
it came naturaly to mind that God, although unique, consist of a father and a son.
The Council in Nicée (325)
introduced the third component: the Holy-Spirit, (or
Paraclet from the greek word for "intercessor) He appears as a
go-between or a messenger passing words from the Father to the human-kind. His
best known action is when all 12 apostles were together after Jesus death, the
Holy-Spirit is supposed to come and visit the apostles and send them to preach
christianity all over the world. This is a holy day we call White Sunday or
The Holy-Spirit is generally pictured as a white dove. But there has
been a lot of fights about the addition of the
Holy-Spirit and thus the invention of the Trinity and it is
finally the reason for the separation between the orthodoxe church (Greece,
Russia, most slavic countries and many countries in the Near and Middle-East)
and the catholic church in 1054. Orthodox (meaning in greek "the right faith")
insist that the Father is the most important of the three, Jesus and the
Holy-Spirit derive from the Father. Catholics (meaning in greek "Universal")
insist the Holy-Spirit derives from the Father and the Son
(in latin "filioque"), thus putting the father and the son on the same
I hope you found some answers to your questions in the few lines
above. And I hope it was not too boring. Do not hesitate to confront my answer
to other people who may have a more expert view on the topic. And let me know
their feed back if any.
Let me add that at the beginning of the Bible there
is a sentence reading approximately "God created man in His own image" I believe
that in Christianity like in many other religions, the sentence should be
reversed into "Men created God in his own image".