This is the essay for the 12th week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. In this blog post, I will be comparing the teachings of Christianity to values cherished by previous Civilizations and ancient thinkers.
What are some differences between the teachings of Christianity, as described in the New Testament, to the values cherished by earlier civilizations?
There is one clear difference between Christianity and the religions that were served by earlier civilizations. The civilizations I’m referring to are the ancient Greeks and Romans. In Greece and Rome, the gods supported obedience. You just had to follow the rules and then you would be fine. All you had to do was to give them an offering at a temple. The offerings mostly consisted of animals. Due to this type of religion, a lot of people could be passed off as good and loyal people towards the gods, while in their heart they could be completely unloyal.
Christianity was more balanced in a sense. The religion wasn’t completely focused on religious practice like the Greek and Roman religion was. In Christianity, religious practice was still important but the mental devotion to god was even more important. This can also be seen in the New Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus disapproved of a group of people called the Pharisees. Who are the Pharisees? The Pharisees were a group of about 6 000 people. (Around the time Jesus was alive) They created a whole tradition so nobody would break the rules of God. They made sure that everybody followed these rules and told everybody that the rules must be obeyed at all costs. This all seems a little familiar, right? There was also another example of the Jews straying away from the spiritual loyalty to god. After Jesus was revealed to be the Messiah, a large section of the Jewish community were happy but for the wrong reason. These Jews wanted the Messiah to be a strong and capable military leader, able to free the Jews from Roman captivity. When these Jews found out that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah they had hoped for but instead was a religious preacher, they were mad. They got so mad that these Jews told the Romans in Israel that Jesus was the king of the Jews. (This claim was a false spin on the prophecies of the Messiah) The Romans didn’t like that somebody other than the Emperor was the king of the Jews, so they crucified Jesus.
The reason I keep saying “these Jews” is because there were two types of Jews. There was the Jewry of the Dispersion, who were the Jews that didn’t return to Israel after they were released from Babylonian captivity. The Jewry of the Dispersion were supporting Jesus as a preacher and also that Judaism should be spread around the world for everybody to enjoy. The Jewry of Palestine were the Jews who came back to Israel after the Babylonian captivity. The Jewry of Palestine wanted Jesus to be a military leader and also that Judaism should stay in Israel.
Is there anything in common between Christianity and some great ancient thinkers?
Ancient thinkers from Greece shared similar ideas with Christians. Both were focused on how to make people better human beings. They taught this by telling people that following rituals and prayers were less important than what they thought about the world in their heads. They had this in common but the way both groups went about doing this, was completely different. Greek thinkers used philosophy to make people better human beings. The Christians used alliance and loyalty to God as a way of doing this.