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Seminary Papers

Intellectual and Religious Cultural Influences on Early Christianity

As Christianity continued to spread throughout the ancient world its adherents were both influenced and challenged by religious and philosophical ideas such as astrology, Stoicism, Neo-Platonism and Gnosticism. Sometimes Christian apologists tried to reconcile these various ideas into a unified whole, while at others they challenged their influence, refuting some ideas as heretical.

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Apologetics in the Early Church

As the early Christians interacted with faiths differing from their own they began to develop apologies to explain their religious convictions and to persuade their readers of the validity of their newfound faith. Rather than beginning from a totally alien proposition, the two apologists that we have read, Mathetes, or the “disciple” ("mathetes"), and Justin Martyr, attempted to identify points of contact between their own faith and those of their readers. Among their claims are an assurance that Christians are much like their non-Christian neighbors in matters of culture and custom, appeals to reason, and acknowledgement of the accomplishments of the Greek philosophers and historians.

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Final One-page Reflection: Who is Jesus?

The Good Shepherd & the ScapegoatOver the course of the semester we have examined various images of Jesus.  I find myself drawn a few in particular to Denny Weaver’s Narrative Christus Victor, with its nonviolent overcoming of the systemic evils of the world and to the empathic subjective view of the atonement through which the sacrifice of Jesus and his ability to identify with the suffering of humanity elicit a response of love and transformation.

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The Christological Symbolism of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

"He is afraid. He is alone. He is three million light years from home." The Christ figure in this Steven Spielberg film is none other than the title character, E.T. – a squat, wrinkled alien no more than three feet tall. [Instructor Comment: So, not ontologically human.] It is clear that he would never pass for human. Suggested likenesses offered in the film range from coyote to iguana, leprechaun to goblin. His chest cavity is transparent, revealing a "heart light" that shines when he is in communication with his mother ship. Finally, when using his special ability to cure sickness and restore life, E.T. touches his subject with an index finger that glows brightly.[1] Yet even in his difference, there is enough of what makes us human found within this alien frame to make us feel secure and at home in his presence. Though the physical strangeness of this character could be off-putting, Spielberg went to great lengths to ensure that E.T. would have many human expressions and gestures.  [Instructor Comment:  Psychologically human-like?]

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What is the Old Testament Good For?

As I reflect on two semesters of study of the Hebrew Bible I think about the ways in which the Old Testament has contributed to our culture at large. Countless biblical allusions are embedded in our speech:  Adam and Eve, my brother’s keeper, manna from heaven, the scapegoat, and feet of clay.  The stories of the Old Testament have provided inspiration for beautiful works of art.  Words from the Psalms have provided solace and comfort in times of trouble.  The Prophets of old with their attention to the helpless and the oppressed have called us to act on behalf of those who are marginalized in our own day.  These are some of the most basic ways in which we are affected by the legacy we have received.

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King over All the Sons of Pride

Whoever confronts me, I will repay.  Under the heavens, he is mine!
– Leviathan, Job 42:10b-11 (Newsom, Book 623)

Leviathan…  On earth, we are told, he has no equal.  A creature without fear, who surveys all that is lofty.  At the climactic height of Yahweh’s response from the whirlwind, this mythic creature, the embodiment of primordial chaos, serves as the final word to a man’s [Instructor’s Comment:  no inclusive language?] complaint against God.  And then, like poetry in motion, Leviathan plunges into the depths and disappears, a shining wake marking his passing.

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Jesus the Vine

I am the Vine.  You are the branches.In John 15:1-7 we find Jesus delivering a monologue in which he describes a scene common to first-century Palestinians: a vineyard in which a vine is cultivated to produce fruit.  Drawing out the analogy, the disciples are branches who draw their life sustenance from their connection to the vine.  This image aligns well with the metaphor of Jesus the Life-Giver.  [Instructor Comment:  Right.]  As he continues to explain, those who remain in him will bear much fruit.  Inversely, those who are separated from him can do nothing without the life that he provides.

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History from a Perspective

As a general rule most readers approach a text differently depending on its perceived genre.  When reading a poem we often assign value to alliteration, wordplay, meter and the author’s ability to convey maximum imagery or meaning in a succinct form.  Novels are evaluated for their settings, character development, narrative technique and other literary attributes.  When presented with a research article or a nonfiction book we may look for coherent and convincing argumentation or a clear exposition of a body of facts.  In addition, the reader must make a decision about how to read the material.  Will the information presented be taken at face value or critically examined and perhaps questioned?

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