Portal:Christianity/Selected article/2007

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January and February 2007

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes referred to as the LDS Church or the Mormon Church, describes itself as the restoration of the original church established by Jesus Christ. It claims to be a Christian church, but separate from the Catholic or Protestant traditions.

The church teaches that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, Jr. and called him to be a prophet and to restore the original church as established by Jesus Christ through a restoration of elements that had been missing from Christianity since the early days of Christianity due to apostasy. This restoration included the return of priesthood authority, new sacred texts, and the calling of twelve apostles. The Church was organized under the leadership of Joseph Smith in Fayette, New York, on April 6, 1830, following his translation of the Book of Mormon from which adherents—also called Latter-day Saints—get their nickname Mormons.

Joseph Smith led the church until his violent death in 1844. After a period of confusion where the church was led by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and various claims of succession were made, Brigham Young led a group of Mormon pioneers away from the former church headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois, and eventually to the Salt Lake Valley of Utah in July 1847. Brigham Young was sustained as President of the Church at General Conference in December 1847.

Now an international organization, the church has its world headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah where Gordon B. Hinckley serves as its fifteenth LDS Church president. The church sends tens of thousands of missionaries throughout the world, and in 2005 reported a worldwide membership of over 12.5 million.

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March 2007

Gordon Clark was a famous apologist

Presuppositional apologetics is a field of Christian theology that (1) presents a rational basis for the Christian faith, (2) defends the faith against objections, and (3) exposes the flaws of other worldviews. Presuppositional apologetics is especially concerned with the third aspect of this discipline, though it generally sees the trifold distinction as a difference in emphasis rather than as delineating three separate endeavors. Presuppositional apologetics was developed and is most commonly advocated within Reformed circles of Christianity.

The key discriminator of this school is that it maintains that the Christian apologist must assume the truth of the supernatural revelation contained in the Bible (that is, the Christian worldview) because there can be no set of neutral assumptions from which to reason with a non-Christian, and apart from such "presuppositions" one could not make sense of any human experience. In other words, presuppositionalists say that a Christian cannot consistently declare his belief in the necessary existence of the God of the Bible and simultaneously argue on the basis of a different set of assumptions (presumably those of the non-Christian) in which God may or may not exist, and which leave human experience unintelligible.

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April 2007

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Fr. Michael J. McGivney
Knights of Columbus founder

The Order of the Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Roman Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded in the United States in 1882, it is named in honor of Christopher Columbus and dedicated to the principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism. There are more than 1.7 million members in 14,000 councils, with nearly 200 councils on college campuses. Membership is limited to practical Catholic men aged 18 or older.

Councils have been chartered in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, the Philippines, Guam, Saipan, and most recently in Poland. The Knights' official junior organization, the Columbian Squires, has over 5,000 Circles. All the Order's ceremonials and business meetings are restricted to members though all other events are open to the public. A promise not to reveal any details of the ceremonials except to an equally qualified Knight is required to ensure their impact and meaning for new members; an additional clause subordinates the promise to that Knight's civil and religious duties.

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May 2007

The Ebionites (from Hebrew; אביונים, Ebyonim, "the Poor Ones") were an early sect of mostly Jewish disciples of Jesus, who flourished in and around the land of Israel, as one of several Jewish Christian communities coexisting from the 1st to the 5th century of the Common Era. Where they took their name from is unclear, since the word appears in several religious texts, such as the Dead Sea scrolls, the Epistle of James, and the Gospel of Luke which features one of Jesus' most well-known blessings: "Congratulations, you poor! God's domain belongs to you."

Since there is no authenticated archaeological evidence for the existence of the Ebionites, their nature and history cannot be definitely reconstructed from surviving references. The little that is known about them comes from critical references by early and influential theologians and writers in the Christian Church, who considered them to be "heretics" and "Judaizers". However, according to the few modern scholars who have studied their historicity, the Ebionites existed as a community distinct from early Christianity before and after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., but were marginalized and persecuted by gentile Christians despite the possibility that they may have been more faithful than Paul of Tarsus to the authentic teachings of the historical Jesus.

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June 2007

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The Roman Catholic Church or Catholic Church (see terminology) is the Christian church in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, currently Pope Benedict XVI. It traces its origins to the original Christian community founded by Jesus Christ and led by the Twelve Apostles, in particular Saint Peter.

The Catholic Church is by far the largest Christian church and the largest organized body of any world religion. According to the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, the Catholic Church's worldwide recorded membership at the end of 2005 was 1,114,966,000, approximately one-sixth of the world's population.

The worldwide Catholic Church is made up of one Western or Latin and 22 Eastern Catholic particular churches, all of which look to the Bishop of Rome, alone or along with the College of Bishops, as their highest authority on earth for matters of faith, morals and church governance. It is divided into jurisdictional areas, usually on a territorial basis. The standard territorial unit, each of which is headed by a bishop, is called a diocese in the Latin church and an eparchy in the Eastern churches. At the end of 2006, the total number of all these jurisdictional areas (or "Sees") was 2,782.

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July 2007

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The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is an English translation of the Bible that was popular in the mid-20th century and posed the first serious challenge to the King James Version (KJV) owing to its aim to be both a readable and literally accurate modern English translation of the Bible.

The RSV is a comprehensive revision of the King James Version of 1611, the English Revised Version of 1881-1885, and the American Standard Version of 1901, with the ASV text being the most consulted. It sought not only to clearly bring the Bible to the English-speaking church, but to "preserve all that is best in the English Bible as it has been known and used through the centuries."

The copyright to the ASV was acquired by the International Council of Religious Education in 1928, and this Council renewed the ASV copyright the next year. In 1935, a two-year study began to decide the question of a new revision, and in 1937, it was decided that a revision would be done and a panel of 32 scholars was put together for that task. The decision, however, was delayed by the Great Depression. Funding for the revision was assured in 1936 by a deal that was made with Thomas Nelson & Sons. The deal gave Thomas Nelson & Sons the exclusive rights to print the RSV for ten years. The translators were to be paid by advance royalties.

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August 2007

The Shroud of Turin (or Turin Shroud) is an ancient linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have been physically traumatized in a manner consistent with crucifixion. The image can not be seen on the shroud with the naked eye and for several centuries the shroud had been displayed without it. The image was first observed in 1898 on the reverse photographic plate when amateur photographer Secondo Pia was unexpectedly allowed to photograph it.

The shroud is presently kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. The Roman Catholic Church has approved this image in associatiion with the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. Some believe it is the cloth that covered Jesus when he was placed in his tomb and that his image was somehow recorded as a photographic negative on its fibers, at or near the time of his proclaimed resurrection. Skeptics contend the shroud is a medieval hoax or forgery — or even a devotional work of artistic verisimilitude. It is the subject of intense debate among some scientists, believers, historians and writers, regarding where, when and how the shroud and its images were created.

Arguments and evidence cited for the shroud's being something other than a medieval forgery include textile and material analysis pointing to a 1st-century origin; the unusual properties of the image itself which some claim could not have been produced by any image forming technique known before the 19th century; objective indications that the 1988 radiocarbon dating was invalid due to improper testing technique; a 2005 study proving that the sample used in the 1988 radiocarbon dating came from a medieval patch and not the original Shroud; and repeated peer-reviewed analyses of the image mode which contradict McCrone's assertions. Also, pollen from many places the shroud was said to have gone through are found, such as pollen from plants that exist only in certain areas near Jerusalem.

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September 2007

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Adam and Eve were the first man and woman created by God according to the Torah and later the Bible and the Qur'an.

This story is told in the book of Genesis, chapters 1, 2 and 3, with some additional elements in chapters 4 and 5. God creates Adam from the dust of the earth and breathes life into him, making him a living being (nephesh). God then creates the animals, and Adam names them. Finally, God makes Adam a helpmate fashioned from his rib. God forbids Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, warning that they will die if they do. The serpent tempts Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, and she gives the fruit to Adam, too.

They become aware of their nakedness, and when God sees the clothes they have made for themselves, he knows they've disobeyed his command. God expels them both from the Garden of Eden and curses them. The man is cursed to labor, and the woman is cursed to submit to her husband and to bear children in pain. God also curses the serpent to crawl and to eat dust, and he puts enmity between people and serpents. God posts an angel to guard the entrance to the garden.

October 2007

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An angel prevents the sacrifice of Isaac.
Abraham and Isaac, Rembrandt, 1634

Abraham is a figure in the Torah, Bible, and Quran whom Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers regard as the founding patriarch of the Israelites, Arabs and Edomite peoples. In what is thus called Abrahamic religious tradition, Abraham is the forefather of these peoples.

According to the Torah, Abraham was brought by God from Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan, around 2000 BCE. There, he entered into a covenant: in exchange for sole recognition of Yahweh as supreme universal deity and authority, Abraham will be blessed with innumerable progeny. His life as narrated in the Book of Genesis (chapters 11–25) may reflect various traditions.

His original name was Abram (Hebrew: אַבְרָם‎, Standard  Avram Tiberian ʾAḇrām) meaning either "exalted father" or "[my] father is exalted" (compare Abiram). For the latter part of his life, he was called Abraham (see retroactive nomenclature), often glossed as av hamon (goyim) "father of many (nations)" per Genesis 17:5, although it does not have any literal meaning in Hebrew.

Abraham was the third son of Terah and the grandson of Nahor. Abraham's older brothers were named Nahor and Haran. (The city of Ḥaran was not named after this brother and is spelled differently in Hebrew.)

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are sometimes referred to as the "Abrahamic religions", because of the role Abraham plays in their holy books. In the Jewish tradition, he is called Avraham Avinu or "Abraham, our Father". God promised Abraham that through his offspring, all the nations of the world will come to be blessed (Genesis 12:3), interpreted in Christian tradition as a reference to Christ. Jews, Christians, and Muslims consider him father of the people of Israel through his son Isaac (cf. Exodus 6:3, Exodus 32:13). For Muslims, he is a prophet of Islam and the ancestor of Muhammad through his other son Ishmael. By his concubine , Keturah, (Genesis 25) Abraham is also a progenitor of the Semitic tribes of the Negev who trace their descent from their common ancestor Sheba (Genesis 10:28).

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November 2007

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Icon of the Transfiguration
(15th century, Novgorod)

The Transfiguration of Jesus is an event reported by the Synoptic Gospels in which Jesus was transfigured upon a mountain (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:1-8, Luke 9:28-36). Jesus becomes radiant, speaks with Moses and Elijah, and is called "Son" by God. The transfiguration put Jesus on par with the two preeminent figures of Judaism: Moses and Elijah. It also supports His identity as the Son of God. In keeping with the Messianic secret, Jesus tells the witnesses not to tell others what they saw.

In general, the events in Jesus's life that are said to have taken place in secret, such as the transfiguration, are given less weight by scholars of the historical Jesus than public events.

The original Greek term in the Gospels is metamorphothe, describing Jesus as having undergone metamorphosis.

The Synoptic Gospels, 2 Peter and the Gospel of John briefly allude to the event in their writings (2 Peter 1:16-18, John 1:14). Peter describes himself as an eyewitness "of his sovereign majesty." Neither account identifies the "high mountain" of the scene by name. The earliest identification of the mountain as Tabor is in the 5th century Transitus Beatae Mariae Virginis. In the apocryphal Gospel of the Hebrews, Jesus tells how his mother lifted him up by the hair and lifted him to Mount Tabor, which led Origen to identify the Holy Spirit as the Mother of Jesus.

Symbolic readings take Moses and Elijah to represent the Law and the Prophets respectively, and their recognition of and conversation with Jesus symbolize how Jesus fulfils "the law and the prophets" (Matthew 5:17-19, see also Expounding of the Law).

In the narrative, after the cloud dissipates, Elijah and Moses disappear, and Jesus and the three Apostles head down the mountain, Jesus telling his Apostles to keep the event a secret until the "Son of Man" had risen from the dead. The Apostles are described as questioning among themselves as to what Jesus meant by "risen from the dead" (Mark 9:9-10) The Apostles are also described as questioning Jesus about Elijah, and he as responding "...Elijah comes first, and restores all things ... but ... Elijah has come indeed ..." (Mark 9:12-13). It was commonly believed that Elijah would reappear before the coming of the Messiah, as predicted in the Book of Malachi (Malachi 4), and the three Apostles are described as interpreting Jesus' statement as a reference to John the Baptist.

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December 2007

Saint Nicholas (Greek: Άγιος Νικόλαος , Agios Nikolaos, "victory of the people") is the common name for Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (in modern-day Antalya province, Turkey), a Lycian saint who had a reputation for secret gift-giving, but is now commonly identified with Santa Claus. In 1087 his remains were abducted and removed to Bari in southern Italy, so that he is also Saint Nicholas of Bari. Among Orthodox Christians, the historical Saint Nicholas is remembered and revered. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, children, and students in Greece, Belgium, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, the Republic of Macedonia, Slovakia, Serbia and Montenegro. He is also the patron saint of Barranquilla (Colombia), Bari (Italy), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Beit Jala in the West Bank of Palestine and Russia. In 1809, the New York Historical Society convened and named Sancte Claus the patron saint of Nieuw Amsterdam, the Dutch name for New York. Thus, Saint Nicholas could also be considered as the patron saint of New York.

Nicholas was born in Asia Minor during the third century in the Greek colony of Patara in the Roman province of Lycia- today Antalya, Turkey, at a time when the region was Hellenistic in its culture and outlook. Nicholas became bishop of the city of Myra. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity. According to legend, Nicholas was said to have rigorously observed the canonical fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays, even when an infant, by abstaining on those days from his mother's breasts. Nicholas is said to have been born to relatively affluent Christian parents in Patara, Lycia, where he also received his early schooling.

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