Recommended Reading: When Jesus Became God

When I picked up Richard Rubenstein’s When Jesus Became God: The Epic Fight over Christ’s Divinity in the Last Days of Rome (Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1999), I was stirred wide awake and remained so from start to finish. This is an account of one of the greatest doctrinal battles of early Christianity, and Rubenstein’s lively telling reads like a political thriller. My fascination with this book prompted me to interview the distinguished professor from George Mason University. I wanted to know: how did a secular Jew, a sociologist by training, whose area of expertise centers on Conflict Resolution and Public Affairs, become embroiled in the internecine warfare of Christians in the Fourth Century of the Common Era?

Equipped to parse intricate social and political tensions, Dr. Rubenstein first called into question prevailing models of sociological analysis when he noted that among his colleagues the enduring power of religion had not figured prominently in their analysis of the Iranian Revolution. The ensuing eruptions in Algeria, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, and especially Bosnia confirmed Rubenstein’s assessment: the modernist assumption that religion was in decline and no longer merited sustained and systematic attention has proven dead wrong. Suspecting that the American and European public also tended to view noxious outbursts of doctrinal fanaticism as alien to their own civilizations, Dr. Rubenstein decided to unearth and expose a theological division that helped define the religious and political core of Western culture.

The conflict at the center of Rubenstein’s book is known as Arianism, a fourth-century movement that was eventually declared to be heretical. Arius, an Alexandrian priest from whom the movement derived its name, wanted, above all, to preserve an essential distinction between Jesus and God. In continuity with ancient Jewish belief, he taught that the chief characteristic of God is to be “unbegotten,” that is, not created. In other words, there never was a time when God was not. Jesus, on the other hand, by virtue of his humanity, was begotten. There was a time when Jesus was not. For Arius and his followers, any other teaching would be contrary to monotheism.

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Author: Christopher M. Leighton

Keywords: Athenasus, Athenasios, Athenasius, Athanasous, Athanasian Creed, Deity of Jesus, Divinity of Jesus, Trinity, Athanasius of Alexandria, Athanasius, Nicene, Creed, Church creeds, Nicene Creed, Nicean Creed, Nicea, Nicaea, Council of Nicaea, 325 AD, Council of Nicea, homoiousios, Homoousios, Homoiousian, Arius, Arian, Arian heresy, Arian controversy, Arianism, First council of Nicea, First council of Nicaea, Constantine, Trinitarian, God in three persons, When Jesus became God

Bible reference(s): Deuteronomy 6:4, Psa 110:1, Matthew 28:19, Mark 12:32, Luk 20:42, John 1:1-3, Joh 10:30, Joh 8:58, John 10:33-36, Joh 20:28, Acts 2:34, 1 Corinthians 8:6, 1 Timothy 2:5, 1 John 5:7-8

Source: “Recommended Reading, When Jesus Became God,” Institute for Islamic-Christian-Jewish Studies.

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