Primary Source: The Nicene Creed (Introduction to Western Civilization 5.12)

The bishops at the Council of Nicaea wrote a short statement of Christian beliefs. This statement, called the Nicene Creed, is still recited by most Christians throughout the world at their worship services on Sunday morning. The words that are underlined below were not part of the original Creed written by the bishops at Nicaea. They were added later and became very popular among Christians in most of Europe. Today, most Christians include these words when they say the Creed, but members of the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches as well as a few other churches outside of Europe do not.


I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Primary Source: Luke 23:1-49 (Introduction to Western Civilization 5.5)

1 And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate.

And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.

And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.

Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man.

And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.

When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean.

And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.

And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.

Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.

10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.

11 And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.

12 And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.

13 And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people,

14 Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him:

15 No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him.

16 I will therefore chastise him, and release him.

17 (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)

18 And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:

19 (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.)

20 Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them.

21 But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.

22 And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.

23 And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.

24 And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required.

25 And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.

26 And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.

27 And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.

28 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.

29 For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.

30 Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.

31 For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?

32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.

33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.

36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,

37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.

38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This Is The King Of The Jews.

39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.

40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?

41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.

46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

47 Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.

48 And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.

49 And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.

The Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection (Introduction to Western Civilization 5.4)

In the next chapter, we will discuss the beginning of the spread of Christianity. Almost immediately after the death of Jesus, the apostles and other followers of Jesus spread out around the Mediterranean and beyond to teach people about him and his message. Before we study that history, however, we will first discuss what the message was that they spread out to teach.

The earliest Christians believed that Jesus was the messiah who had come to bring salvation to all people. Salvation, they said, is rescue from sin and its consequences. According to the early Christians, sin is more than just doing bad things, though doing bad things are certainly a part of sin. They said that sin is being something other than what God created human beings to be. The early Christians believed that God had made human beings to be his children. They should, then, love God as their father and love all other human beings as their brothers and sisters. And, of course, they should behave in a way that shows they love God and love all people.

People had sinned, however, by not loving God and not loving other people. Instead of worshiping God, people started to worship other gods. Instead of treating other people well and taking care of them, people had been greedy and selfish. They mistreated other people, hurt them, and stole from them. By doing these things, they had become something different from what God made them to be. They were not behaving like God’s children, but like his enemies.

The result of sin, said the early Christians, is that human beings became separated from God. Sin acted like a wall that made it impossible for God and humans to have the close relationship they are supposed to have. They believed that Jesus was the Son of God. Just as the son of a human being is a human being, the son of God is also God. By becoming a human being, God had broken down the wall that separated humans from God. The early Christians called this event, in which God became a human being, the Incarnation.

By the Incarnation, God defeated sin. He still had to destroy the consequence of sin, however. The early Christians said the consequence of sin was death. Because God is the source of all life, human beings died because they were separated from God. This, they said, is why it was necessary for Jesus to die and resurrect.

Jesus was able to die just like any other human being, but because he was God he was able to come back from the dead. By doing this, he defeated death. The Incarnation and the resurrection of Jesus were seen by the early Christians as the victory of God over sin and its consequences. He had finally brought salvation. Each human being, they said, can have salvation by believing in Jesus and behaving in the way he told people to behave. The early Christians called their message about Jesus the “Gospel,” a Greek word which means “good news.”


Review Questions

  1. According to the early Christians, what is the consequence of sin?
  1. According to the early Christians, how did Jesus defeat sin?
  1. According to the early Christians, how did Jesus defeat the consequence of sin?

Primary Source: Selections from Matthew 5-7 (The Sermon on the Mount) (Introduction to Western Civilization 5.3

Matthew 5

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.


Matthew 6

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Jesus Christ (Introduction to Western Civilization 5.2)

Through all that they experienced, the Jews continued to hope for a messiah. They believed that the messiah would be sent by God to set things right. He would finally put an end to all of the suffering of the Jewish people and would bring about a time of justice for all people. The Jews believed he would bring salvation, rescue from sin and its consequences. In about 30 AD, a man named Jesus, from a small town in Judea, began to preach to the people that he was that messiah.

The Gospels are the four books of the New Testament in the Bible that tell the story of the life of Jesus. The Gospels claim that Jesus’s mother, Mary, was a virgin who was visited by the angel Gabriel and told that she had been chosen to be the mother of the messiah. She gave birth nine months later in a cave in the village of Bethlehem. There, she and her new child were visited by shepherds who had been told of the birth of the messiah by angels. They were also visited by men called magi, who were priests from Persia. The magi had followed a star in the sky to the spot where Jesus was born.

When they arrived in Judea, the magi went to the king, a man named Herod, who ruled on behalf of the Romans. They asked him where they would find the messiah who had been born. Herod was a jealous and angry man. He lied to the magi and told them he too wanted to worship the new messiah. If they found out where the child had been born, he said, they should come and tell him. The magi eventually did find out where Jesus was born and visited Jesus and his mother. They gave them gifts and worshiped the child. They had a bad feeling about Herod, though, so they returned home without telling him where the child was. Because he did not know which child it was, Herod ordered his soldiers to kill every baby boy born recently in his kingdom. Mary and Jesus, along with Mary’s husband Joseph, fled into Egypt until the death of Herod a few years later. The birth of Jesus is celebrated every year on December 25 by Christians around the world.

The Gospels do not say much about what life was like for Jesus and his family when they returned to Judea. One interesting story about his childhood records an event that happened when Jesus was 12 years old. He visited the temple in Jerusalem along with his family to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover. On the way home to Nazareth from Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary realized that Jesus was missing. They went back to Jerusalem and searched all over for him. They finally found him in the temple, discussing the Bible with Jewish religious leaders there, asking and answering questions as if he were a wise man, even though he was a young boy!

Most of the story told in the Gospels tells of the events in Jesus’s life after he turned 30 years old. It was then that Jesus began to travel all around Judea, preaching the message that he was the messiah. He said that now was the time to repent of past sins and to begin to live a more just and merciful life. He said that God wanted people to love him and to love each other.

The Gospels also record that everywhere he went he healed the diseases of sick people. According to the Gospels, Jesus performed many miracles, including giving sight to blind men, making deaf people able to hear, allowing paralyzed people to walk again, and even raising his friend Lazarus from the dead.

All of this activity attracted the attention of people who did not like what Jesus was saying and doing. The Jewish priests thought that Jesus’s claim to be the Son of God was blasphemy. They said that he was making it sound like he was equal to God. The Roman authorities also had a problem with Jesus’s teachings. They knew that the Jews believed the messiah would free the Jewish people and let them have their own kingdom again. To the Romans, Jesus’s claims that he was the messiah sounded like treason. They believed he would try to stir up the Jews to rebel against Roman rule.

Jesus had many followers, but he chose 12 men, called apostles, to follow him wherever he went and help him spread his message. On the night when the Jews celebrated Passover, Jesus gathered with his 12 apostles in a home just outside of Jerusalem. There, they celebrated the Passover meal together. During the meal, Jesus picked up the loaf of bread used to celebrate the Passover, said a prayer to bless it, broke it into pieces, and declared to his apostles, “This is my body, which is broken for you.” He then gave the pieces to his apostles to eat. After the meal, Jesus lifted up the cup of wine at the table and told his apostles, “This is my blood, which will be shed for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins.” He then gave the cup to all of his apostles to drink. Most Christians around the world remember this special meal every Sunday morning in their worship when they celebrate the Eucharist by eating and drinking blessed bread and wine.

After the meal, one of his apostles, a man named Judas, left the house where they had eaten. For 30 pieces of silver, he betrayed Jesus by telling them where he was. They went to the hillside where he and his apostles had gone after the meal and arrested Jesus. They took him first to the Jewish priests, who declared that he was guilty of the crime of blasphemy for claiming that he was equal to God. Jesus was then taken to the Roman authorities who found him guilty of the crime of treason for claiming that he was the messiah and the king of the Jews.

In afternoon the following day, a Friday, Jesus was crucified. Crucifixion is a Roman punishment which was used to put the very worst criminals to death. In crucifixion, a criminal’s hands and feet were nailed to pieces of wood placed in the shape of a lower-case t. We call this shape a cross. All of Jesus’s apostles except for one young boy, John, fled because they were afraid they too would be crucified along with him. While Jesus was crucified, John, Jesus’s mother, and a few women who were Jesus’s followers stood by the cross. After three hours on the cross, the Gospels say Jesus looked up into the sky and loudly shouted, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus then died.

His body was taken down from the cross and placed in a cave just outside of the city. Because Saturday was the Sabbath day on which Jews could not do any work, his body could not be prepared for burial until sunrise on Sunday morning. The Gospels say that four of the women who were followers of Jesus went to the tomb on Sunday morning, but found it empty. The bandages that Jesus’s body had been wrapped in were in the tomb but his body was gone. As they exited the tomb in confusion, Jesus himself appeared to the women and told them that he had resurrected, which means he had risen from the dead. Christians celebrate this event every year on the holiday of Easter.

According to the Gospels, Jesus spent the next 40 days visiting his followers and teaching them the meaning of his death and resurrection. At the end of the 40 days, his followers watched as Jesus ascended into heaven. A new religion, called Christianity, was born. This religion would spread from just a few followers in Judea to become the religion of the whole Roman Empire. Today, Christianity is still the largest religion in the world.


Review Questions

1. What event do Christians celebrate on Christmas?

2. What were the two crimes Jesus was convicted of?

3. How was he punished for these crimes?

4. What event do Christians celebrate on Easter?


Vocabulary Words

 Salvation – rescue from sin and its consequences