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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jesus The Christ

Series takes a look at early Christianity

By Misty Watson
Dalton Daily Citizen

Christ is not Jesus’ last name.

So to say “Jesus Christ” is incorrect, said the Rev. Dr. Lee Humphreys.

“It is Jesus the Christ,” he said. “Christ is not his last name. It is his title ... It’s not appropriate to say Jesus Christ. I bet you the majority of Christians in the world today do not know what they are saying when they say ‘Jesus Christ.’”

Christ comes from the Greek cristos, which means “the anointed one,” Humphreys said.

For Christians today, Humphreys said, the real question is “what is Jesus?” Understanding the language which formed phrases used to describe him will help Christians to understand what Jesus is — messiah, the son of God, high priest, lamb of God, Lord and prince of peace.

Humphreys, former chairman of the Department of Religion at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, is leading a Lenten lecture series on early Christianity at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Sunday evenings through March 21. The first in the series was Sunday when Humphreys focused on defining Jesus and how Christianity grew out of Judaism.

Humphreys said it’s not enough to know who Jesus is — a Jew, a rabbi, a carpenter — but what he is.

“That is the fundamental question with which Christians wrestle for the first three centuries of their history,” he said.

“Christianity went from a reforming Jewish sect to a full-blown Gentile religion, Humphreys said. “Christianity began with Judaism and over the first century and a half, it left significant parts of its Jewish roots behind. It did not leave behind the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament for Christians.)”

By the end of the third century, most of Christianity had been defined, he said.

“The canon was closed; nothing else would be added (to the Bible),” Humphreys said. “By the end of the third century, it had a clearly defined leadership. We’ll look at the church, which transforms itself from an institution where women played many central roles, including many roles of leadership to an institution where they were excluded from leadership.

“We’ll see the development of what I call the ‘three C’s’ — creed, canon and clergy — all of which, by the end of the three centuries, has come to fundamentally characterize the church,” Humphreys said.

Carol Taylor said she thinks it’s important for Christians to learn the early history of the church for several reasons.

“I think there’s an assault from the secular world challenging Christians,” she said.

Early Christians underwent many trials and persecution and were put to death for their beliefs.

“If we learn the history we’re better prepared to deal with it,” she said. “You can understand and help others to understand.”

Taylor said she enjoyed Sunday’s lecture and learned many points in the history of the church. She especially enjoys learning about how language influences people to understand Jesus.

Michelle Underwood was raised attending both Temple and an Episcopalian church.

“My family is originally Jewish,” she said. “I went to Temple on Friday evenings and to church on Sundays.”

For Underwood, the lecture series is especially interesting to see how her heritage of both Christian and Jewish faith tie in together.

“I thought it was very informative,” she said.
The Lenten lecture series by the Rev. Dr. Lee Humphreys will continue each Sunday night at 6 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church through March 21. The series is focusing on Christianity from its birth through the third century.

You are never to old to learn. I learn something new every day.

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