- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (July 10, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0156013150
- ISBN-13: 978-0156013154
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 194 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity during the Last Days of Rome 1st Edition
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The Gospel narratives may suggest that Jesus was divine, but they do not insist upon it. Hundreds of years after Jesus' death, the Church councils made Jesus' divinity a central tenet of belief among many of his followers. When Jesus Became God: The Epic Fight over Christ's Divinity in the Last Days of Rome by Richard Rubenstein is a narrative history of Christians' early efforts to define Christianity by convening councils and writing creeds. Rubenstein is most interested in the battle between Arius, Presbyter of Alexandria, and Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. Arius said that Christ did not share God's nature but was the first creature God created. Athanasius said that Christ was fully God. At the Council of Nicea in 325, the Church Fathers came down on Athanasius's side and made Arius's belief a heresy.
Rubenstein's brisk, incisive prose brings the councils' 4th-century Roman setting fully alive, with riots, civil strife, and spectacular public debates. Rubenstein is also personally invested in the meaning of these councils for religious life today: he wrote this book, in part, because he grew up in a mixed Jewish Catholic neighborhood and was bewildered by animosity between the religious groups on his block. Digging back in history, Rubenstein learns that before the Arian controversy, "Jews and Christians could talk to each other and argue among themselves about crucial issues like the divinity of Jesus.... They disagreed strongly about many things, but there was still a closeness between them." But when the controversy was settled, Rubenstein notes, "that closeness faded. To Christians, God became a Trinity and heresy became a crime. Judaism became a form of infidelity. And Jews living in Christian countries learned not to think very much about Jesus and his message." --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The Gospel stories of Jesus' life, death and resurrection are familiar tales in Western literature. Yet, the Gospel narratives do not themselves pose or answer the theological question of Jesus' divinity. None of the disciples become engaged in disputations about whether Jesus is fully God or fully human. It took almost 300 years for these questions to be raised in such a serious way that Christianity was changed forever. Rubenstein, a Jew who proclaimed in a now famous book (After Auschwitz, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992) that God died "after Auschwitz," examines the details of the fractious period in early Christian history when Christianity was defining itself against other religious sects through a number of councils and creeds. Although he focuses on several of the controversies surrounding the divinity of Jesus, Rubenstein zeroes in on the fiery battle between Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria, and Athanasius, who was Bishop of Alexandria. Arius contended that Christ did not share God's nature but was simply the first creature created by God the Father. Athanasius, on the other hand, argued that Christ was fully God, asserting that the incarnation of God in Jesus restored the image of God to fallen humanity. With a storyteller's verve, Rubenstein brings to life the times and deeds of these two leaders as well as the way that the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 established the Christian orthodoxy that was later used to judge and exile Arius as a heretic. As a result of Nicea, the author says, "To Christians God became a Trinity. Heresy became a crime. Judaism became a form of infidelity." Rubenstein's lively historical drama offers a panoramic view of early Christianity as it developed against the backdrop of the Roman Empire of the fourth century. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The author is to be applauded for this important addition to understanding history of the church and Christianity, which even today has too much infighting and unbiblical doctrines and failure to follow God in spirit and truth. In today's Christianity, settled and sound doctrines that were settled and common practice have become lost, forgotten, countered or labeled heretic; such as not only that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (thinking he was God was unthinkable in the Book of Acts period), as well as speaking in tongues and the other manifestations of holy spirit. When Constantine took over the church, he persecuted any other doctrines and practices which became institutionalized in what became the Catholic church. The oneness of God and that Jesus is in subjection to God (not co-equal, co-eternal), speaking in tongues and other common practices of the first century church went underground or practically disappeared, replaced by a dogmatic institution of a system of priests and nuns, destroying the one body of Christ and other principles as stated by the Apostle Paul in his seven church epistles.
But reaching the top brings its problems. Church politics--nasty enough, at times--had suddenly merged with the politics of Empire. The Emperor's favor came at a price, and Constantine sat in Church councils fully expecting his word to carry authority. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, was given great political power--and used it to blackmail Constantine, earning himself exile twice.
``When Jesus Became God'' is a gripping history of the ``Arian controversy'': a theological debate which was bursting with political consequences. Who should rule the church? What is its relation to the state? How should the church deal with its ``heretics''?
This debate became a turning point in history: when the church went from illegal to legal; from persecuted to persecutor; from anti-state to a political force which outlived the state itself, reigning as mistress of the world until the 19th century.
Rubenstein captures all of this and more in his gripping account, ``When Jesus became God.''
I knew from the many reviews on this title that this book has hit on a lot of passions within the Christian, Jewish, and secular community. What I didn't expect to see was that many of the passions of my fellow Amazon reviewers would in fact reveal themselves in this book. Granted, no one is plotting murder, providing false witness (at least not to my knowledge), or threatened with being excommunicated from Amazon (thank God we are all more mature than that), but I was shocked at how history often repeats itself within us. Although in our case it's just the war of ideas. It's too bad the main players during this time period didn't do the same.
I honestly feel that every Christian should read this book. Some pro-Trinitarians I have spoken with despise this book with a passion. I would ask why? The epistles clearly speak about false Christianities popping up long before the events in this book ever transpired. Should we be persuaded by the conclusions of the counsel of Nicea or any other counsel during this time? What if emperor Valens (the pro Arian) had not died? What if a pro-Arian faith developed that eventually looked more like modern day Unitarianism? Would we be calling Trinitarians heretics? The main players that lived during this period of time showed very little similarities (if at all) to the apostles of The Bible. The word of God is where every Christian should draw his/her conclusions from.
Much has been said to Richard Rubenstein's ability to be unbiased. Well he's not unbiased. As a matter of fact no one is! The reader must be willing to draw from the facts written, and not confuse the author's conclusions as fact (though they are often very helpful). I have never read any work where the author has not at least attempted to draw conclusions, or sum up the main points concerning a particular event. No one says you have to come to his same conclusions. This should not discredit this book.
Richard Rubenstein truly brings a religious conflict to life. Christians murdering Christians, false witnesses, scandals, and men running churches who no one in their right mind would trust to watch their dog. Many of the men from this time looked, resembled, and sounded more like the Pharisees and Sadducees that crucified our Lord Jesus Christ than holy men of God. This is a book that you should read, draw your OWN CONCLUSIONS from based on scripture, and use to recognize these same attributes in others. This is a worthy read.
I give Mr. Rubenstein 3 stars for lack of clarity. This book is badly in need of multiple appendices not just a who's who in the back. The historical events happen so quickly as you move through the book it can be difficult to keep the minor players, and movements straight. A chart with a time-line is really needed. I could have moved much quicker through the book with a little more help. That aside Mr. Rubenstein gets the honor of being the only 3 star book I consider a must read.