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Jesus Christ in World History

His Presence and Representation in Cyclical and Linear Settings- With the Assistance of Robert T. Coote


Jan A.B. Jongeneel

Jesus of Nazareth influenced – and continues to influence – the human community more than anybody else. This study describes and analyzes the perceptions and receptions of Jesus as the Messiah/Christ in six continents from the beginning of the Common Era until today. He appears to be present both within and beyond the traditional borders of Christianity. Individuals and peoples represent him and/or misrepresent him in their cyclical and/or linear settings.


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5 From the Birth of Christianity to the Rise of Islam 78


78 Chapter 5 From the Birth of Christianity to the Rise of Islam ear the end of the second century of the Common Era, Bardaisan of Edessa, a Gnostic scholar and poet, declared of the followers of Christ, “In what- ever place they are, and wherever they find themselves, the local laws cannot force them to give up the law of their Christ.”1 In the middle of the fourth cen- tury the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate, who had rejected the Christian faith of his childhood, derided Christians: “You adore the wood of the Cross and draw its likeness on your foreheads and engrave it on your housefronts.”2 These testimoniesone admiring, the other contemptuouspoint to the widespread response to the Christian faith in the first centuries of the Common Era. By the fall of the Roman Empire in 476,3 Christianity had penetrated beyond the borders of the empire into Arabia, Armenia, Persia, India, Ethiopia, North Africa, central Europe, Britain, and Ireland. In the process of this expan- sion, many divergent views of Jesus Christ came to the fore, ranging from the opposition of Zoroastrian, Jewish, and other religious leaders, to the adoration of simple slaves, the commitment of sophisticated intellectuals, and the fervor of popular syncretists. Distinctions must be made between legends and facts about early Christian expansion. The supposed letter of Jesus to Abgar, the king of Edessa, in re- sponse to the latter’s appeal to Jesus to come to Edessa to cure his malady, is...

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