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The Many Faces of Jesus is an academic book directed at the layman. It is for the person who wants to understand where Christianity is coming from. To understand Christianity is to understand the cultural setting in which the religion was born. It is to understand the origin of the person we call Jesus. Where did Jesus get his sayings, parables, and pronouncements? More than this, it is to know how the religion evolved from its earliest beginnings and how the Church fathers of the second, third, and fourth centuries shaped the content and direction of the religion. Only by reading the Church fathers in their own words can this be done. For those who have had a curiosity about the Church fathers, such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and Augustine, this book presents a chance to be exposed directly to their thoughts. These thoughts have probed the questions that are still asked today. What is the nature of the Trinity? What is the afterlife like? How does the resurrection work, and who will be resurrected? Why is the Church considered to be the body of Christ? How does the Son of God differ from the Son of man? Why did the Church split into Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox parts? What was Constantine's role in the development of the Church?
Because the focus of the Christian religion is on Jesus Christ, the nature of Jesus is a central theme in the book and indeed forms the title of the book. Jesus has been an enigma, because there exists no direct evidence of his existence. Is it possible to gather enough evidence to piece together a historical Jesus? This requires an understanding of the times in which Jesus lived---the culture of the Greco-Roman world in the last two centuries BCE and the first century CE. It also requires an appreciation of the Jewish history of these times as recorded in I Maccabees of the Apocrypha and in the writings of the Roman historian Josephus. Irrespective of the historical perspective, the Jesus of the Gospels and of the epistles of Paul has an evolving nature that can be explored through the New Testament and through the writings of the early Christians. The early Christians include those who are now considered heretics, especially the Gnostic Christians. It is the aim of this book! to accomplish these ends.
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