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Core Christian Teachings & Creeds


The Development of Core Christian Teachings:

Early Christian Beliefs and Creeds
by Felix Jus I. S,)" Ph.D,

The first disciples of Jesus not only passed on what he himself taught and did during his lifetime, but they also came to believe that this Jesus, a Jewish man born in Nazareth and executed in Jerusalem, was the long awaited "Messiah" or "Christ" (Mark 1:1). As we see in the canonical Gospels, these believers soon ascribed many other titles to Jesus, including "Lord" and "Son of God," and even began to think of him as the divine Word, who was not only from God, but was God (John 1:1~3; see Christological Titles).

Yet most early Christians also wanted to remain monotheists; they continued to believe that there was only one God, the God ofIsrael and creator of the world, whom Jesus had called "Father," But ifthere was only one God how could Jesus also be divine? What was the precise relationship between the Father and the Son? And if Jesus was divine, then how could he also be human? Such questions about the nature of Jesus and his relationship with God the Father were heftily debated in the first few Christian centuries with many different opinions and heated arguments all around. Some Core Teachings of Jesus (or attributed to Jesus): • Initial Message {ace, to Mark): "This is the time of fulfillment The kingdom of God is at hand, Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15) • The Golden Rule: "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you," (Malt 7:12; par, Luke 6:31) • The Greatest Commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with aU your mind, and with all your strength ... You shall love your neighbor as yourself," (Mark 12:30.31; par, Matt
22:37·39, Luke 10:27; citing Deut 6:4·5 & Lev 19:18)

• Love of EnemIes: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 8:27-28; par, Matt 5:4348) • Repentance & ForgIveness.: "If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him..And if he wrongs you seven Umesin one day and returns to you seven times saying, 'I am sorry,' you should forgive him," (Luke 17:34; cf. MaU18: 15c22) • Judging Others: "Stop judging, that you mal not be judged, For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you." (Matt 7.:1·2; par. Luke 6:37) • Fa.ith & Prayer: "Have faith in God .., Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, be.lievethat you will receive it and it shall be yours," (Mart 11:22.+24; ct. Malt 17:20; 21 :21; John 14: 1) • Jesus' Destiny: "The Son of Man must suff·ergreatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days." (Mark 8:31; ct Mark 9:31; 10:33-34; par, MatI 16:21·27; Luke 9:22·26) • Jesus' Identity: "Again the high priest asked him and said to him" 'Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?' Then Jesus answered, 'I am; and you will see the Son of Man seated althe right hand of the Power and coming with the douds of heaven.' " (Mark 14:61-62; cf. Matt 2.8:63·64) • Jesus and the Father: "After Jesus was baptized .., a voice came from the heavens, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Matt 3:16·17; par, Mark 1:9·11 ; Luke 3:21-22); "All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone 10 whom the Son wishes to reveal him," (Luke 10:22; par: M atll1 :27) • Jesus and the Holy Spirit: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord," (Luke 4:18·1.9, citing Isa 61:1·2)


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Core Christian Teachings & Creeds


A Compilation of the Apostles' Preaching: The apostles preach some or most of the following points in various speeches recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (see Acts 2:14-41; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 7:2-53; 8:26-38; 10:35-49; 13:16-41; 16:30-34; 17:22-34; 19:1-7; 20:17-35; 22:1-21; 23:1-6; 24:10-21; 26:1-23; 28:23-28): • Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Christ, sent by God, o as promised in the Scriptures, as foretold by the prophets, o for the forgiveness of sins, for the salvation of the world; • He was rejected by the people, condemned by the authorities; o he suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried. • Yet God exalted him on high, raised him up to new life; o and he will one day return to us in glory. • In response, people must repent, believe, be baptized, o receive the Holy Spirit and join the community of believers. Some Short Creedal Statements in the New Testament (NAB translations): • Matt 16:16 - Simon Peter said in reply. "You are the Messiah. the Son of the living God/' (cf. Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20) • John 1:49 - Nathanael answered him. "Rabbi. you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." • John 6:68·69 - Simon Peter answered him. "Master. to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." • John 11:25·27 - Jesus told her. "I am the resurrection and the Iffe; whoever believes in me. even if he dies. will live. and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?!! She said to him. "Yes. Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah. the Son of God. the one who is coming into the world." • John 20:28 - Thomas answered and said to him. "My Lord and my Godl • John 20:30·31 - Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his diSCiples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah. the Son of God. and that through this belief you may have life in his name. • Rom 1:3·4 - the gospel about his Son. descended from David according to the flesh. but established as Son of God in power according to the spiritof holiness through resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ our Lord. • Rom 10:9 - for. if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. you will be saved. • 1 Cor 8:6 - yet for us there is one God. the Father. from whom all things are and for whom we exist. and one Lord. Jesus Christ. through whom all things are and through whom we exist. • 1 Cor 12:3 - Therefore. I tell you that nobody speaking by the spirit of God says. "Jesus be accursed." And no one can say. IIJesus is Lord." except by the holy Spirit. • 1 Cor 15:3·5 - For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Kephas. then to the Twelve. • 2 Cor 13: 13 - The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you. • PhIl2:5-11- Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus. Who. though he was in the form of God. did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather. he emptied himself. taking the form of a slave. coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance. he humbled himself. becoming obedient to death. even death on a cross. Because of this. God greadyexalted him and bestowed


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Core Christian Teachings & Creeds


• • •

on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 1 Thess 4:14·17 - For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Tim 2:5·6a - For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all. 1 Tim 3:16 - Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion, Who was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed to the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory. Heb 6:1·2 - Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, instruction about baptisms and laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 1 John 4:2 - This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God.

Some Johannine Texts Important for the Development of Christology: • Jesus and the Father: o In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1) o liMy Father is at work until now, so I am at work." For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God. (5:17-18) o 'The Father and I are one." (10:30) o "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. (14:9b-1 0) o "Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over alLpeople, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal lire, _ that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began." (17:1b-5) • The Holy Spirit: o ·On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.n (John 1:33) o "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth ..." (14:16-17) o "The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name--he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you." (14:26) o "When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me." (15:26) o "But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you ... But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. (16:7,13)


3/7/2012 10:35 AM

Core Christian Teaching; & Creeds


Cf. Matt 28:19 (the oldest IITrinitarian Formula" in the Bible): IIGo, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy SpirN."

Some 2nd and 3rd Century Controversies: In the first three centuries after the life and death of Jesus, the majority of Christians already came to agree that there was only one God (the God of Israel, the Father of Jesus) and that Jesus was both human and divine. These Christians came to be know as catholic and orthodox, not in the sense of the "Roman Catholic II or "Eastern Orthodox II institutional Churches (which only separated from one another centuries later), but in the root meaning of these words (catholic = "universal"; orthodox = "correct teaching"). Their opponents, those who held opinions rejected by the majority, came to be called heterodox ("other/false teaching") or heretics ("separatists; sectarians").
Heterodox Group Their OpinIons, Ultimately Rejected Orthodox Positions, Eventually Accepted Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, sent from God as King of Israel and Savior of the wortd (cf. aUfour Gospels) The God of the OT is one and the same as the God and Father of Jesus; both the OT and the NT contain God's revelation (cf. Matt 5:17-20). Jesus was divine from the moment of his birth; he was bom of Mary, but 'concelved by the Holy Spirit' (cf. luke 1:35) The universe created by God Is good (Gen 1), but sin later entered the world (Gen 3·11); Jesus preached openly to all people, wanting everyone to be free from sin and death. Jesus was divine, but also truly human; he was "like us In all things but sin" (cf. Heb 4:15).

( Jesus was not the Messiah; he was at best a ( Jews who don't great prophet, healer, and teacher; or at worst a believe in Jesus I blasphemer or a fraud. ] Marclonites The harsh God of the OT is not the same as the loving Father of Jesus seen in the NT; the former should be rejected and replaced by the latter. Jesus was bam as a man, who became divine only at his baptism, when he was ·adopted as God's son." The OT God Is the creator of the material world, which Is evO,from which people can be freed through the secret 'knowledge that Jesus revealed to a select few." Jesus was divine, but not really human; he only "appeared to be human so that people could see him and hear his message."




Note: The first line Is In square brackets because Jews of that time were obviously not a group of "Heterodox Christians,' even if most of them opposed the Christians' teachings about Jesus.

The Creeds of Nicea and Constantinople: In the early 4th century, the Roman persecutions of Christians ceased, the Emperor Constantine became Christian, and with imperial support Christianity grew rapidly. Yet the debates about the exact nature of Jesus and his relationship with God the Father continued. In order to resolve these issues and unify the Christian faith, the leaders (bishops) of the Christian Churches throughout the Mediterranean held several large meetings, called "Ecumenical Councils," at which they agreed on some short summary statements of what Christians believed. The "Creed" (from Latin credere = "to believe," or credo = "I believe") from the Council of Nice a was accepted but expanded upon by the Council of Constantinople. Nlcene Creed: AD 325
We believe In one God the Father Almighty, Maker of all thIngs visible and

Nlcene-Constantinopolltan 381

Creed: AD

Latin Version
Credo In unum Oeum, Patrem omnlpotentem, factorem coell et terrae, vlslblllum omnium, et InvlsibHium.

We II (4) believe In one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things


31712012 10:35 AM

Core Christian Teachlngs & Creeds


invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, that Is, of the substance (1) of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of the same substance (2) with the Father, through whom aDthings were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men and our salvation descended, was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the dead. And In the Holy Ghost.

visible and Invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and bam of the Father before aUages. (God of God,J Light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom aDthings were made. Who for us men and for our salvation carne down from heaven. And was Incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Vrrgin Mary and was made man; was crucified also for us under Pontius PHate, suffered and was buried; and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures. And ascended Into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, and shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, of whose Kingdom there shall be no end. And [I believeJ In the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son] (5), who together w~h the Father and the Son is to be adored and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets. And one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We [IJ confess one baptism for the remission of sins. And we [I] look for the resurrection of the dead and the rife of the world to come. Amen. Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum, FiOum Del unigenltum. Et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula. Deum de Dea, lumen de lumlne, Deum verum de Deo vero. Genltum, non factum, consubstantialem Patn: per quem omnia facta sunt. Qui propter nos homines, et propter nostram salutem descendlt de coeUs. Et incamatus est de splritu sancto ex Maria Virglne: et homo factus est. Crucifixus etiam pro nobis, sub Pontio Pilato passus, et sepuftus est. Et resurrexlt tertia die, secundum Scripturas. Et ascendlt In coelum: sedet ad dexteram Patris. Et iterum venturus est cum gloria, judicare vivos et mortuos: cujus regnl non erit finis. Et in Splritum Sanctum, Domlnum et vlvlflcantem: qui ex Patre FlIloque procedlt. Qui cum Patre et Filio slm ul adoratur et conglonficatur: qui Iocutus est per prophetas. Et unam, sanctam, cathollcam et apostollcam Eccleslam. Confiteor unum baptism a In remisslonem peccatorum. Et exspecto resurrection em mortuorum. Et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen.

Those who say: There was a time when He was not, and He was not before He was begotten; and that He was made out of nothing (3); or who maintain that He is of another hypostasis ~ or another substance (than the Fathe~, or that the Son of God is created, or mutable, or subject to change, the Cathoftc Church anathematizes.

Notes: 0: Texts obtalned from New Advent Website: Creeds of Nicea and Constantinople 1: ·of the substance (ek tes ous/as) of the Father" 2: ·of the same substance with the Father" (homoousion to patn) 3: that He was made ·out of nothing· (ex ouk onton) 4: Some versions and translations use the plural·We·; others use slngluar ·1"; other slight variations in the ancient texts are Indicated in square brackets throughout. 5: The addition of the phrase "and the Son" (filioqua) has been a major disagreement between the Eastem Orthodox and Westem Catholic Churches, even before AD 1054.

Western Creeds:


317/2012 10:35 AM

Core Christian Teachings & Creeds

http :/lcalhol ic- resources .orgiChurchDocs/Creeds.htlll


Symbol of St. Ambrose (d..397)
I believe in God, the Falher almighty,

Apostles' Creed (ea. 10th Century)
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. (1) And in Jesus CMs!. His only Son, our Lord. (2) who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, bom of the Virgin Mary, (3) suffered under Pontius Pilate, was erucfied, died, and was burled. He went down to the dead (adinfema). (4) On the third day He rose again from the dead.

Apostles' Creed (Modern Tra n slatlon)
I believe in God, the Father alm~hty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ. His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and bom of the Vlrgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate,. was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third' day He rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is sealed at the right hand of the Father. He will come 10 judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting, Amen,

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirtt, . who suffered under Pontius Pilate, died and was burled. On Ihe third day He rose agaIn from Ihe dead. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, wherefrom He shall come to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Church, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection of the body.

He ascended to the heavens, and ,isseated alllle ri.ghthand of God, the Father almighty, (6) wherefrom He shall come agaIn to judge the living and Ihe dead. (7) I believe in the Holy Spirit (8) the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, (9) the forgtveness of sins, (10) the resurrection of the body, (11) and the I~e everlasting. (12)

Notes: 1-12: A m edievallegend claims that w hen the twelve apostles met to discuss their faith, each of them contributed one art.icle, as nurnbered above, to their com mon creed.

Related InternetReso


• The Twenty-One Ecumenical Councils • Creeds of Christendom

Retumto my collection. of Catholic Church Documents rclat.edto "Biblical Studies Return to the HOME PAGE of Felix Just, S.J. This page was last updated on April 24, 2010 7.669.145

6 of6


10:35 AM

Ecumenical Councils of the Church


ic- resources .org/Churchljocs/Ecumenical

Counc ils, htrn

The Development of Core Christian Teachings: Ecumenical Councils
by Felix
JuSI, SJ.,


Who is Jesus? How can one describe his relationship with God? What is the role of the Holy Spirit? What do Christians believe about Mary, and the saints? What about life and the after-life? What is the relationship of Christianity to Judaism? What books belong in the Bible? What is the; Church and how should it be organized? What is the role of the bishops, esp. the bishop of Rome (the Pope)? Such questions and many others have occupied Christians from the earliest generations. For the first few centuries after the life and death of Jesus, as Christianity slowly grew and spread throughout the Roman Empire, Christian teachings were developed and passed on by wandering preachers and local community leaders. Sometimes the leaders would hold local or regional meetings to discuss problems and debate issues, but large-scale meetings were rarely if ever possible in the first 300 years, due to the great distances, traveling difficulties, and sporadic persecutions of Christians by the Roman Empire.

The First Eight Ecumenical Councils:
After Christianity became a legal religion within the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine (AD 312), the leaders (bishops) of the Christian communities throughout the Mediterranean world could more easily meet to discuss important issues, debate current questions, reject heterodox opinions, and more clearly define their faith. These large meetings of bishops, called "Ecumenical Councils," also produced some of the earliest and most concise statements of belief (called "Creeds"), which are still foundational for the Christian religion. The first eight councils are recognized by most Christians throughout the world today.
Council Name Dates Teachers and Teachings Rejected Arians: Jesus was divine, but slightly inferior 10 the Father; Jesus was the first being created in time by ~ God; slogan: "there was a time when he was not." Orthodox Doctrines Decreed Influential Leaders

I Location

# Attend
Jesus [s divine, 'of the same substance' (homoousios) as the Father, and was with the Father from the very first moment of creation. Sunday was fixed as the date for celebration of Easter. The 'Nicene Creed" was written and adopted. The teachings of Nicea were confirmed and expanded; the Holy Spirit is also fully divine; thus the Trinity has one divine "nature," but three distinct "persons."

1 Nicea


Emperor Constantine, Athanasius of Alex.andria





Apoflinarians: divided human & divine parts of Jesus; Arianism also still prominent; and followers of Macedonius said the Holy Spirit was a divine messenger, but not fully God. Neslorians: Mary is the "Mother of Christ,' but should not be called the "Mother of God," so that Jesus' humanity is not


Em peror Theodosius, Pope Damasus, Cappadocian Fathers




Mary is traditionally and prope~y called the 'Mother of God"; Jesus has both a divine and human nature, but united in his one person.


Cyril of Alexandria

1 of4



Ecwnenical Councils of the Church



4 Chalcedon


Monophysitss: Jesus was both human and divine, but he had only none nature"; his dIvinity totally replaced his human nature. Various S1101S of Origen, Theodoret, Theodore of Mopsuestla, and Ibas of Edessa. only one divine ·wiD.•

The earthly Jesus was both fully human and fully divine; hIs two natures and two wills were perfectly united In his one person. The teachings of the first four Councils, esp. Chalcedon, are reconfirmed Christ has both a human and a divine wHL The veneration of icons and images is pennitted. This council was ultimately unsuccessful; no further councils were hekl in the East.


Pope Leo the Great

5 Constantinople II



6 Constantinople III 680-681 Monoths/stism: Christ has 7 Nicea II 8 Constantinople IV 787 869
Iconoclasm: aOimages should be destroyed Photi8n Schism: defenders vs. detractors of Bishop Photius

-175 300+ -110
Pope Adrian II

The Rest of the 21 Ecumenical Councils: After tensions had been building for centuries, the "Great Schism" of 1054 led to the separation of Eastern and Western Christians. Orthodox Christians of the East do not accept the legitimacy of any further councils, believing that the Christian faith was sufficiently defined through the decisions and documents of the first eight councils. After a gap of several centuries, however, the bishops of the Western Church continued holding periodic councils to debate new issues, address contemporary problems, promulgate new reforms, and defme Christian teachings more precisely:
fI Council Nama I Location Datas MaIn Topics I Results flAttand PresIding Pope(s) Callistus II

9 Lateran I

10 Lateran II 11 Lateran III 12 Lateran IV 13 Lyons I 14 Lyons II 15 Vienne 16 Constance 17 Ferrara
Basel (&

Ended 1123 called athe practice of Lay Investiture; implemented other reforms; crusade. 1139 Condemned the errors of Amokl of Brescia


-1000 Innocent II -300 Alexander '"

1179 Condemned the A1bigensians and Waldensians; issued other
deaees for moral reforms.


Again condemned errors of A1bi9ensians and others; issued over deaees for wlde-ranging reforms. crusade.


-1300 Innocent III -140
Innocent IV

1245 Excommunicated and deposed Emperor Frederick II; caOed a new 1274 Temporarily reunned the Greek and Roman Churches; set rules for papal elections.
Addressed problems of the Knights Templar, Beguines, other 1311·13 groups; planned for another crusade and Instttuted more clerglcal and educational reforms.

-1500 Gregory X -300
? ? Clement V


Ended the Westem Schism; elected Pope Martin V; issued decrees against John Wycliff & Johan Hus.

Gregory XI Eugene IV

& Florence)

1431·39 Addressed problems In Bohemia; attempted reunion with the Eastem Church.


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E~umenical C01.D1CilS the Church of


18 Lateran V 19 Trent


Issued minor discipfinary decrees; planned another crusade against the Turks. Addressed the challenges of Luther and other Reformers;

-100 -450

Julius II & Leo X Paul III, Julius III, Pius IV

1545·63 Issued many decrees to define Church doctrine and reform Church
discipline. Three sessions were planned, but only the first was held, due to wars in Europe; 1869-70 formally defl1led the infallibil~y of the Pope when he teaches "ex cathedra.· Updated the Church for the 20th Century, by rediscovering our roots In Early Christian~; finished and expanded the agenda of Vatican I, focusing not only on 1962-65 the Pope but on all Christians; Issued 16 documents (4·Constitutions,· 9 ·Deaees,· 3 ·Dedarations·) 2Oxx? Updating the Church for the 21st Century?

20 Vatican I


Pius IX

21 Vatican II


John XXIII & Paul IV

22 Vatican III ?



The Documents of the Second Vatican Council: The bishops assembled at Vatican II debated, amended, voted on, and eventually approved and published sixteen documents covering a wide variety of topics, some on internal ecclesial issues and some on the relationship of the Church to various other people in our world. The four largest and most important documents are called "Constitutions," while the shorter documents dealing with more particular issues are either called "Decrees" or "Declarations." These documents are foundational for a proper understanding of Catholic Christianity today, but are still in the process of being implemented fully. Document Title In English Constitution on Sacred Liturgy Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Pastoral Constitution on the Church In the Modem World Decree on Means of Social Communication Decree on the Churches of the Eastern Rite Decree on Ecumenism Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops Decree on Renewal of Religious Life Decree on PrlesUy Training Decree on Apostolate of Laity Decree on Mission Activity of the Church Decree on Ministry of Priests Declaration on Christian Education Official Title In Latin Sacrosanctum Concilium Lumen Gentium Dei Verbum Gaudium et Spes Inter Mirifica Orientalium Ecclesiarum Unitatis Redintegratio Christus Dominus Perfectae Caritatis Optatum Totius Aposto/icam Actuositatem Ad Gentes Presbyterofum Ordinis Gravissum Educationis Date Approved 1214/1963 11121/1964 11/18/1965 1217/1965 1214/1963 11121/1964 1112111964 10128/1965 10128/1965 10128/1965 11/18/1965 1217/1965 1217/1965 10128/1965


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Ecumenical Councils of the Church


Is. btm

Declaration on the Relation to Non-Christian Religions Declaration on Religious Freedom

Nostra Aelate Dignitatis Humanae

10/28/1965 12f1/1965


See the Vatican Website for the full texts of the Documents of Vatican II. See also my comparison of the Outlines of Dei Verbumand the Catechism ofthe Catholic Church.

Rei urn to .my colle ctio nor Cal holie ChlU'ch Boeume Ills related to Biblica I.51udies

Return to the I-1QIv1E PAGE of Felix Just, S.J. This page was last updated on February 12,2007




OrtlJOtJo:+ Cmter
(Exaggerations of'the humanity of Christ) Ignatms of Antioch (d.c. 107): If Jesus were notfully human. like us, he could not have saved us, that which is not assumed is not redeemed.


(Exaggerations ofth.e" .
divinity of Christ) Docetlsm (Christ only "seemed" to be human) Gllosticism (The humanity" of Christ is only incidental to salvation)

ElJonitism (Jesus is the adopted Son
efGod) Suhordinatitmism (The Word is lower in rank than the Father) Arianism (The Son is only the greatest of creatures)

Irenaeus of Lyons (d,e .. 0Q): IfJesns 2 were not "of God," he could not have saved us -folly divine.

Council of Nieea (325): Jesus is "homoousios, .. cf the same substance, with the Father, "true God from true God, begotten, not made." Council o/Constantinople Jesus had a human soul. (381);

School a/Antioch Logos-antkropes (Word-human) approach: The Word became a human being.

School of Alexandria
Logos-sarx (Word-flesh) approach: The Word became flesh.

Divinity of Holy Spirit
Council of Ep!Jesus (431): In Christ there is only one divine person. Mazy is the Mother ofGcid, Theotokos, Communication of Idioms. Formula of Union (433): Antioch & Alexandria reconciled. Double consubstantiality affirmed, Cyril of Alexandria's 2ndLetter to Nestorins, and John of Antioch. Council of Chaicedon (451): In Christ there are two natures, human and divine, untied hypostatically in one divine person, without cen:firsioIl, change, division or separation.


(There is no huma;

Nestorianism" (In Christ there are
two natures, one" divine and one human. Mary is the mother of Jesus, not the Mother of God), misunderstanding in. language with School of Alexandria. (Theodore of Mopsuestia et al., The Three Chapters, one personftwo natures, Dot two persons as assumed.)

soul in Christ)

lJIIOJJophysitism (In Christ there is only one divine nature. The human nature is absorbed into the divine.)

* November, 1994. Common Christological Agreement wfth the Assyrian"
Church. of the East. The expression
Christakos .- Mary" ''the mother of Christ our God and Savior" is equivalent to Theotokos, The reality of'two aatnres in one person is a:ffiJ:medby both expressions. Nestorious (Scbool of Antioch) accepted Chaleedon, 45 L

Second Council of Constantinople
(553); Reaffirmed Chalcedon, especially against Nestorianism ..

Third Couneii of Constall.tinopJe
(6"80-681): There are two wills In" Christ, just as 'there are two natures.

lJ-fOllo'lhelitiSm (In Christ, there is .

only one divine will)
Monenergism (In. Christ there is on one divine energy. or action)

Misunderstanding healed with Caiholic


.~ -. ...



Chart #1: Genealogy of the Creeds
Baptismal Creeds
ca. 100 Follows the tripartite pattern of Matt. 28:19. Firmed up over the first four centuries

Old Roman Creed
ca. 110 earliest plausible date . 145 farthest backit can be traced textually Baptismal creed of the Church of Rome.

Apostles Creed
ca. 215 takes a, similar form to the modern one 390 first known by the name . 8th century oldest extant text An expanded and standardized verslon of the Old Roman Creed. It is essentially what we use tpday.

Caesarean Creed
ca. 250 Catechetlcal/baptlsrnal creed of the Caesarean episcopale, It Is proposed by Etrseblus at Ni.ce'iI.

. Nicene Creed
325 A centrIst statement of faith that draws he<\vlly on the Caesarean Creed. It is ratified at the Council of Nkea,

381 A modificaUon/gxpans!onof the Nioone

It is

eS5entlally what we use today,

Modern Apostles Creed

Modern Nicene Creed


Hippolytus ~ account oftbe baptismal service, ca. 215 AD/CE Whenthe person being baptized goes down into the water, he who baptizes him, putting his hand on him, shall say: "Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty?" And the person being baptized shall say: III believe. II Then holding his hand on his head, he shall baptize him once. And then he shall say: .,D you believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was b om of the Virgin Mary, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and was dead and buried, and 1'05e again the third day, alive from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat at the right band of the Father, and will come to judge the living and the dead?" And when he says: "I believe," he is baptized again . .And again he shall say: "Do.you believe in the Holy Spirit, in the holy church, and the resurrection of the body?" The person being baptized shall say: "I believe," and then he is baptized a third time. Hippolytus, early third century


Apostles Creed_(Roman Creed), ca. 200-700' Jesus is fully human. Modern English Version I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. Ibelieve in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead (Sheol/Hades/Hell). On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. AMEN. Nicene Creed, 325 AD/CE (Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381; Jesus is fully divine. We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly buman. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again 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. (Constantinople 381) We 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 worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen Chalcedonian Definition, 452 Ad/CE; Divini & Humani are united in Jesus. Following. then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually mall, with a rational soul {meaning human soul} and a body. He is of the same reality (consubstantial) as God as far as his deity is concerned & of the same reality (consubstantial) as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted. Before time began he was begotten of the Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these "last days," for us and behalf of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of his humanness. We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function", The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the "properties" of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one "person" and in one reality {hypostasis}. They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-begotten Word {Logos} of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ himselftaught us; thus the Symbol of Fathers {the Nicene Creed} has handed down to us . .;.In Christ there are two natures, human & divine, united hyposaticaUy in one divine person, without confusion or change; without division or separation.

of the


Church, Peterson. 1999 & Felix Just/ Catholicltesourccs.com)

I"";' •







The Real Story of the Council of Nicea
St. Athanasius, Frodo-like, resisted the Arian powers.
BY JOHN D. HAGEN JR. ic than the fantasy promoted by Dan Brown. And the gist of the story is almost exactly the reverse of Brown's account. For decades after Nicea, the power of the Roman state was used against supporters of the creed adopted by the council. Constantine and his successors repeatedly intervened on the side of the Arian heretics, the deniers of Christ's divinity. The hero of the story is St. Athanasius of Alexandria.
DA VINCI CODE IS A SYSTEMATIC attack on the divinity of Jesus Christ. The book's author, Dan Brown, pursues his quany with an obsessiveness that overrides good storytelling teclmique. And Brown's characters (supposedly in mortal danger, always just one step ahead of being captured) continually take time out to utter rambling sermons and pedantic lectures. Brown's lectures incorporate all sorts of bizarre counterfactual propositions. The most egregious center around the Roman emperor Constantine. Brown claims that Constantine invented Jesus' divinity and imposed it through "a relatively close vote" at the Council of Nicea, which was convened in 325 AD. This is preposterous. The doctrine adopted at Nicea had been discussed since the time of the apostles, and the "relatively close vote" was 316 to 2! But tens of millions of people have read Dan Brown's version of the matter-including millions who recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday morning. And, sadly,millions more will absorb it in movie theaters in the weeks ahead. As Hollywood's recension of The Da Vinci Code descends on us, we should recall the authentic story of the Nicene Creed. HE


The Little Hero The true story is much more dramatJOHN D. HAGEN JR., an attorney Minneapolis, In

Minn., has served as a

Vista lawyer for Native Americans and is currently engaged In pro bono work for crisis pregnancy centers.


America June 5-12, 2006 ----------

Athanasius was a little man (the Romans were contemptuous of his short stature) and only a youth when he came to prominence. He may even have looked a bit like J. R. R. Tolkien's Frodo Baggins, the hobbit hero of The Lord of the Rings. Like Frodo, he was drawn into conflict with a menacing imperial power. And, improbably, he won. The Arian crisis began around 318, when Arius, a priest of Alexandria, began teaching thatJesus Christ is not God. He reasoned as follows: the biblical concept of "son, "begotten of the Father," implies a beginning of existence. Therefore the son is not eternal, but was created out of nothing-a being prior to other creatures, but a creature nevertheless, different in nature from God the Father, and adopted by God as we are. Now if Athanasius resembled Frodo Baggins, Arius seems to have resembled Tolkien's evil wizard Saruman. An ancient writer described Arius as "very tall in stature, with downcast countenance, counterfeited like a guileful serpent, and well able to deceive any unsuspecting heart through a

cleverly designed appearance ...he spoke gendy, and people found him persuasive and flattering." Arius also seems to have been a promotional genius. He . set his ideas to popular drinking songs to facilitate their spread. Arius's opponents believed him to be acting in bad faith, in part because he set theology to flippant-sounding meters (like the meter of a modern limerick). In time, the bishops of Egypt and Libya debated' the matter and excommunicated Arius. The disgraced heretic then fled to Palestine, where he had powerful friends, including prominent bishops who called synods and wrote letters in his support.
The Emperor Strikes

By 324, when Constantine took power in the East and became sole emperor, the Arian crisis was full blown. Christians of all ranks, from bishops to laborers, were arguing over the issue. Constantine (whose overriding concern was for the social order and unity of his empire) reproved both sides for quarreling over an "idle question." Arius's opponents knew the question was not an idle one. If Christ is not God, then the Gospel message is no longer compellingGod did not so love humanity as to enter the world and rescue it; we are not redeemed at the price of God's self-sacrifice; the Eucharist is not God's abiding presence. Had Arius prevailed, Christianity might have shriveled after the manner of all the Neoplatonic and Gnostic cults that then pervaded the Mediterranean region. Contrary to The Da Vinci Code, Ariuss theology was a radical departure from Christian tradition. The Gospel of John, for example, explicidy affirms that Jesus is God again and again. ("Before Abraham came to be, I am"; "The Father and I are one"; "My Lord and my God"). The synoptic Gospels call him Lord (a .tide reserved to Yahweh) and repeatedly show him asserting divine prerogatives (changing the Law of Sinai, forgiving sins and so on). And Jesus' divinity was affirmed repeatedly by pre-Nicene church fathers-notably Ignatius of Antioch around the year 110,Justin Martyr, Tertullian and Origen. Constantine's remonstrances to the contrary, the dispute did not abate. So the emperor invited all the world's bishops to Nicea in 325 to resolve the issue. Some 318 bishops appeared. An eyewitness states that they "looked like an assembled army of martyrs,"

June 5-12,2006


many bearing scars from the Roman persecutions-"some had the right eye dug out; others had lost the right arm." One "had been deprived of the use of both hands by the application of a red-hot iron." The vast majority of the bishops were adamantly hostile to Arius's doctrine. The Do Vinci Code's statement that there was "a relatively close vote" is absurd. Of the 318 bishops at Nicea, the Arians apparently numbered 17. Their leader, Eusebius of Nicomedia, was a politically powerful figure and the bishop of Constantine's court city. But when Eusebius proposed an Arian creed, the whole council rose in furious protest against it, and tore up the heretical document. When the orthodox Creed of Nicea was placed before the council, only two Arians had the nerve to dissent. The creed that was approved at Nicea was later revised to produce the Nicene Creed that we say today. But the original version contained the great Christological formula that has been repeated from that day to this: "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father, that is of the substance of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father." This great affirmation of Christ's divinity resounds down the centuries, emphatically rejecting notions of Jesus like those promoted by Dan Brown. But the Council of Nicea was only the beginning of the

battle over the Creed, for the imperial court was full of Arians. Through crafty plotting, they induced Constantine to banish the Nicene leaders. Later, two Arian emperors (Constantine's son Constantius and Valens) systematically persecuted Nicene Christians. For nearly five decades, the coercive power of the Roman state was used to suppress the belief that Jesus is God. Athanasius, who had distinguished himself at Nicea in debate against the Arians, intrepidly led the resistance to this imperial persecution. Soon after the council, the little man was elected bishop of Alexandria and promptly became the principal target of the Arian plots and schemes. The Mummy's Hand The Arians concocted fantastic charges against Athanasius. The most bizarre was the affair of Arsenius's hand. The Arians concealed Arsenius (a schismatic bishop in Egypt) and accused Athanasius of having murdered him. They further accused him of dismembering the body and of using Arsenius's hand to practice magic. To give this tale credence, they obtained a mummified hand, which they brandished as evidence. Constantine ordered that the matter should be tried by a synod of bishops. The Arians organized and packed the synod, displayed "Arsenius's hand," and triumphantly prepared to condemn Athanasius. To their consternation, the little man ushered in Arsenius alive (opportunely captured by Athanasius' supporters) with both hands demonstrably intact. But the kangaroo, court proceedings resumed on other false charges. When the synod condemned Athanasius, Constantine banished him to Gaul. This was the first of five exiles imposed on Athanasius by four emperors over the course of 30 years. During most of these episodes, he was forced tohide in the Egyptian desert, fully aware of the price on his head. As each successive emperor died, Athanasius would return to Alexandria amid scenes of public rejoicing. Then the new emperor would order him arrested, and Athanasius would return to exile. The Egyptians, who revered their bishop, resolutely defied these persecutions. On several occasions, the Alexandrian populace poured out in vast crowds to prevent the arrest of Athanasius. These episodes read like accounts of members of the Solidarity movement defying the Polish Communist leaders. Nothing could be further from the picture of ecclesiastical docility depicted by Dan Brown. On one dramatic night, 5,000 troops surrounded a church where Atbanasius was leading a vigil service. The minions of Constantius, Constantine's son and the new emperor, broke down the doors and forced their way through the congregation, manhandling and murdering many worshippers. The faithful crowd then snatched up the tiny bishop, whisked him out a back door, submerged him
America June 5-12,2006

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in the crowd and somehow smuggled him out through the

cordon of soldiers. Meanwhile, the Arians set out to impose.their heresy on the world. Constantius flagrantly intimidated bishops throughout his domains. He summoned them to regional synods, demanded that they sign Arianizing creeds, held them under house arrest, bullied and threatened them, and banished any dissenters. The great majority finally gave in. In St. Jerome's famous phrase, "The world groaned in wonder to find itself Arian." In Egypt, however, the fugitive Athanasius evaded capture and marshaled orthodox resistance. 'With indefatigable energy, he wrote letters and essays urging Christians to uphold the Nicene Creed. In response, imperial agents scoured the earth for Athanasius, invading monasteries, peering into tombs and ransacking houses, much like Black Riders from The Lord of the Ringr. Year after year, Athanasius eluded them. His writings and his heroic example steeled the will of clergy and laity allover the Christian world. Thus, despite what the emperor said, the vast majority of Christians continued to believe in Jesus' divinity. Following the deaths of Constantius and, later, of the Emperor Valens, the Arian dominance melted away. Athanasius' long labor was carried forward by Basil the Great and the Young Nicenes, who refined the theology of

Nicea. In 381, the Council of Constantinople reaffirmed the Nicene Creed in a revised and expanded form. This creed (with the addition of the filioque clause in the West) is still recited in churches around the world.
The People's Creed

In short, the story of the Creed is just the opposite of the story told by Dan Brown. The Arians were the party of the imperial court and of the cultural elite. The coercive power of the Roman state was repeatedly employed on their side. The Nicene party was the party of the people. The Creed reflected the faith of ordinary worshippers all over Christendom-and that is why Athanasius prevailed. Even when Constantius had beaten down all resistance, banishing every bishop whom he could not intimidate, the vast majority of Christians continued believing that Jesus is divine. These stories are hardly remembered today. The Do Vinci Code is, at heart, an Arian manifesto, promoted with all the cleverness that Hollywood can bring to bear. Now as in the fourth century, it is crucial for Christians everywhere to speak out in conversations with friends and neighbors against this cultural juggernaut. To steel our conviction as we do so, we should look to the dramatic story of St. Athanasius and his comrades in their 50-year fight for the Great Creed.


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He was born In en obscure village The child ofapeasant woman He grew up In another obscure 'village Where he worked in a carpenter shop Until he was thirty He never wrote a book He never held an office He never went to college He never visited a big city He J1eVertravelled more than two hundred miles . From theplacewherehewasbQm He did none oftbe things Usually associated With greatness He had no credentials but himself He was onlythirly three

His friends. ra~away One of them denied him He was tumedoverto his enelllies And went through the mockery of a ·trlal He wasoalled to a cross between two thieves While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing The only property he had on earth
When he was dead He was laid in a borrowed grave Through the pltyofa friend Nineteen centuries have c()meandgone. And today Jesus Is the ce.ntl'al figure of the human race And the leader of mankind's progress All the armies that have ever marched All the navies that have ever sailed All the parlial1lenf.stlfat have ever sat All the kings that ever reigned put together Have not affecWd·~e life of mankind 'on earth As powerfullyas'ti1at one. SOlitary life

Following the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, this period of time in your journey has a different focus. We go from sessions exploring the fullness of the Christian community as expressed in the Catholic Tradition to a time of prayer and reflection. Those who are baptized will experience the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Please contact Fr. Jim or Fr. Mike with any questions you may have.
March 14 and 28

Note that on these Wednesdays, we have the opportunity to attend a parish retreat. We do not meet in the PLC as we normally do. Beginning at 6:30, we meet in the church for a reflection by visiting priests followed by Mass. We encourage sharing these two evenings with your godparent or sponsor, if it's possible.
March 21

Fr. Mike leads our session. We will meet in the classroom next to the cafeteria in the school building.
April 4

This is Wednesday of Holy Week. We meet in the church to practice for the Easter Vigil. We will also explore what the "Holiest of all weeks" is about with a focus on the Triduum.

Celebrated on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent at the noon Mass
Webster's - scrutiny: critical observation or examination As one deepens in one's awareness of the graciousness of the gift of God's love, one also becomes more sensitive to the barriers that keep this love from transforming and recreating life: the barriers of sin and evil. The scrutinies take very seriously the transforming love of God. To prepare: explore and identify your areas of strength and weakness in relationship to life with God. Pray about it. Remember our intercessions at Mass always include our elect. Procedure for Sundays of Scrutinies: All arrive at 11:30. You will be seated up front. After the homily, Fr. Jim or Fr. Mike will recognize the RCIA members as the Elect. The priest will ask you to stand at your place with your godparent or sponsor. March 11 - First Scrutiny: presentation of the Creed - proclamation of our belief March 18 - Second Scrutiny March 25 - Third Scrutiny: presentation of the Lord's Prayer - pay attention to the pattern of prayer Jesus taught.


Journe_y ... 2011 - 2012

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John 2:13.. 5 2 The Cleansing of the Temple When does this Gospel reading occur in the life of Jesus?


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March 7,2012 Third Sunday of Lent John 2: 13-25
Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace." His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews said, "Thls temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken. While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.

March 7, 2012 Third Sunday of Lent John 2: 13-25

• How might this once useful practice of selling sacrificial animals have deteriorated into a racket! Why else was jesus angry (Ps 69: I0) 1 • As one of the sellers, how would you feel about jesus' actions! As one of the disciples, how would you feel? • How is jesus challenged (v 18)?Why? • What effect does his response have on them? • Why doesn't jesus entrust himself to the crowd in verses 23-251
(Source: Cotho/lc Serendipity Bible)

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