Disciple (Christianity)

In Christianity, disciple primarily refers to a dedicated follower of Jesus. This term is found in the New Testament only in the Gospels and Acts. In the ancient world a disciple is a follower or adherent of a teacher. It is not the same as being a student in the modern sense. A disciple in the ancient biblical world actively imitated both the life and teaching of the master.[1] It was a deliberate apprenticeship which made the fully formed disciple a living copy of the master.[2]

The New Testament records many followers of Jesus during his ministry. Some disciples were given a mission, such as the Little Commission, the commission of the seventy in Luke's Gospel, the Great Commission after the resurrection of Jesus, or the conversion of Paul, making them apostles, charged with proclaiming the gospel (the Good News) to the world. Jesus emphasised that being his disciples would be costly.

Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles
Jesus giving the Farewell Discourse (John 14-17) to his disciples, after the Last Supper, from the Maesta by Duccio, 1308-1311.

Background of the term

The term "disciple" represents the Koine Greek word mathētḗs (μαθητής),[3] which generally means "one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice" [4] or in religious contexts such as the Bible, "one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent."[5] The word "disciple" comes into English usage by way of the Latin discipulus meaning a learner, but given its biblical background, should not be confused with the more common English word 'student.'

A disciple is different from an apostle, which instead means a messenger. More specifically "messengers with extraordinary status, especially of God’s messenger, envoy"[6] but predominately in the New Testament it is used of "a group of highly honored believers with a special function as God’s envoys"[7][8] While a disciple is one who learns and apprentices under a teacher or rabbi, an apostle is one sent as a missionary to proclaim the good news and to establish new communities of believers.

The meaning of the word 'disciple' is not derived primarily from its root meaning or etymology but from its widespread usage in the ancient world. Disciples are found in the world outside of the Bible. For example among the ancient Greek philosophers, disciples learned by imitating the teacher’s entire way of life and not just by remembering the spoken words of the teacher.

The first-century philosopher Seneca appeals to the "living voice and intimacy of common life" of the disciple–teacher relationship of many different philosophers:

Cleanthes could not have been the express image of Zeno, if he had merely heard his lectures; he also shared in his life, saw into his hidden purposes, and watched him to see whether he lived according to his own rules. Plato, Aristotle, and the whole throng of sages who were destined to go each his different way, derived more benefit from the character than from the words of Socrates.[9]

In the world of the Bible, a disciple was a person who followed a teacher, or rabbi, or master, or philosopher.[10] The disciple desired to learn not only the teaching of the rabbi, but to imitate the practical details of their life.[2] A disciple did not merely attend lectures or read books, they were required to interact with and imitate a real living person. A disciple would literally follow someone in hopes of eventually becoming what they are.[11]

A Christian disciple is a believer who follows Christ and then offers his own imitation of Christ as model for others to follow (1 Corinthians 11:1). A disciple is first a believer who has exercised faith (Acts 2:38).[12] This means they have experienced conversion and put Jesus at the center of their life and participated in rites of Christian imitation. A fully developed disciple is also a leader of others who attempts to pass on this faith to his followers, with the goal of repeating this process.(1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Timothy 2:2). A special form of passing on leadership through discipleship is called apostolic succession.

Great crowd and the seventy

In addition to the Twelve Apostles there is a much larger group of people identified as disciples in the opening of the passage of the Sermon on the Plain. [Luke 6:17] In addition, seventy (or seventy-two, depending on the source used) people are sent out in pairs to prepare the way for Jesus (Luke 10). They are sometimes referred to as the "Seventy" or the "Seventy Disciples". They are to eat any food offered, heal the sick and spread the word that the Kingdom of God is coming.

Undesirables

Jesus practiced open table fellowship, scandalizing his critics by dining with sinners, tax collectors, and women.

Sinners and tax collectors

The gospels use the term "sinners and tax collectors" to depict those he fraternized with. Sinners were Jews who violated purity rules, or generally any of the 613 mitzvot, or possibly Gentiles who violated Noahide Law, though halacha was still in dispute in the 1st century, see also Hillel and Shammai and Circumcision controversy in early Christianity. Tax collectors profited from the Roman economic system that the Romans imposed in Iudaea province, which was displacing Galileans in their own homeland, foreclosing on family land and selling it to absentee landlords. In the honor-based culture of the time, such behavior went against the social grain.

Samaritans

Samaritans, positioned between Jesus' Galilee and Jerusalem's Judea, were mutually hostile with Jews. In Luke and John, Jesus extends his ministry to Samaritans.

Women who followed Jesus

In Luke (10:38–42), Mary, sister of Lazarus, is contrasted with her sister Martha, who was "cumbered about many things" while Jesus was their guest, while Mary had chosen "the better part," that of listening to the master's discourse. John names her as the "one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair" (11:2). In Luke, an unidentified "sinner" in the house of a Pharisee anoints Jesus' feet. Luke refers to a number of people accompanying Jesus and the twelve. From among them he names three women: "Mary, called Magdalene, ... and Joanna the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources" (Luke 8:2-3). Mary Magdalene and Joanna are among the women who went to prepare Jesus' body in Luke's account of the resurrection, and who later told the apostles and other disciples about the empty tomb and words of the "two men in dazzling clothes". Mary Magdalene is the most well-known of the disciples outside of the Twelve. More is written in the gospels about her than the other female followers. There is also a large body of lore and literature covering her.

Other gospel writers differ as to which women witness the crucifixion and witness to the resurrection. Mark includes Mary, the mother of James and Salome (not to be confused with Salomé the daughter of Herodias) at the crucifixion and Salome at the tomb. John includes Mary the wife of Clopas at the crucifixion.

Cleopas and companion on the road to Emmaus

In Luke, Cleopas is one of the two disciples to whom the risen Lord appears at Emmaus (Luke 24:18). Cleopas, with an unnamed disciple of Jesus' are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the day of Jesus' resurrection. Cleopas and his friend were discussing the events of the past few days when a stranger asked them what they spoke of. The stranger is asked to join Cleopas and his friend for the evening meal. There the stranger is revealed, in blessing and breaking the bread, as the resurrected Jesus before he disappears. Cleopas and his friend hastened to Jerusalem to carry the news to the other disciples, to discover that Jesus had appeared there also and would do so again. The incident is without parallel in Matthew, Mark, or John.

Discipleship

"Love one another"

A definition of disciple is suggested by Jesus' self-referential example from the Gospel of John 13:34-35: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (NRSV) Further definition by Jesus can be found in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 14. Beginning with a testing trap laid out by his adversaries regarding observance of the Jewish Sabbath, Jesus uses the opportunity to lay out the problems with the religiosity of his adversaries against his own teaching by giving a litany of shocking comparisons between various, apparent socio-political and socio-economic realities versus the meaning of being his disciple.

"Be transformed"

"Discipleship" and "following Christ" are used synonymously. The canonical Gospels, Acts, and Epistles urge disciples to be imitators of Jesus Christ or of God himself. Being imitators requires obedience exemplified by moral behavior.[13] With this biblical basis, Christian theology teaches that discipleship entails transformation from some other World view and practice of life into that of Jesus Christ, and so, by way of Trinitarian theology, of God himself.[14]

The Apostle Paul stressed transformation as a prerequisite for discipleship when he wrote that disciples must "not be conformed to this world" but must "be transformed by the renewing of [their] minds" so that they "may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2 NRSV) Therefore, a disciple is not simply an accumulator of information or one who merely changes moral behavior in conformity with the teachings of Jesus Christ, but seeks a fundamental shift toward the ethics of Jesus Christ in every way, including complete devotion to God.[15]

In several Christian traditions, the process of becoming a disciple is called the Imitation of Christ. This concept goes back to the Pauline Epistles: "be imitators of God" (Ephesians 5:1) and "be imitators of me, as I am of Christ"(1 Corinthians 11:1).[16] The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis promoted this concept in the 14th century.

The Great Commission

Ubiquitous throughout Christianity is the practice of proselytization, making new disciples. In Matthew, at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, when calling his earliest disciples Simon Peter and Andrew, he says to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). Then, at the very end of his ministry Jesus institutes the Great Commission, commanding all present to "go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20a). Jesus has incorporated this practice into the very definition of being a disciple and experiencing discipleship.

Family and wealth

Jesus called on disciples to give up their wealth and their familial ties. In his society, family was the individual's source of identity, so renouncing it would mean becoming virtually nobody. In Luke 9:58-62, Jesus used a hyperbolic metaphor to stress the importance of this, and another in Luke 14:26: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple." There are different interpretations of this text on counting the cost of discipleship.[17]

Discipleship Movement

The "Discipleship Movement" (also known as the "Shepherding Movement") was an influential and controversial movement within some British and American churches, emerging in the 1970s and early 1980s. The doctrine of the movement emphasized the "one another" passages of the New Testament, and the mentoring relationship prescribed by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 of the Holy Bible. It was controversial in that it gained a reputation for controlling and abusive behavior, with a great deal of emphasis placed upon the importance of obedience to one's own shepherd. The movement was later denounced by several of its founders, although some form of the movement continues today.[18]

Radical discipleship

Radical discipleship is a movement in practical theology that has emerged from a yearning to follow the true message of Jesus and a discontentment with mainstream Christianity.[19] Radical Christians, such as Ched Myers and Lee Camp, believe mainstream Christianity has moved away from its origins, namely the core teachings and practices of Jesus such as turning the other cheek and rejecting materialism.[20][21] Radical is derived from the Latin word radix meaning "root", referring to the need for perpetual re-orientation towards the root truths of Christian discipleship.

Radical discipleship also refers to the Anabaptist Reformation movement beginning in Zurich, Switzerland in 1527. This movement grew out of the belief that the Protestant Reformers such Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli were not going far enough in their respective reforms. Several existing denominational bodies may be regarded as the successors of the original Anabaptists: Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, Mennonites and to some extent the Bruderhof Communities.[22][23]

See also

References

  1. ^ Köstenberger, Andreas J. (1998). ""Jesus as Rabbi in the Fourth Gospel,"" (PDF). Bulletin for Biblical Research. 8: 97–128.
  2. ^ a b Sri, Edward (2018). "In the Dust of the Rabbi: Clarifying Discipleship for Faith Formation Today". The Catechetical Review. Issue #4.2: online edition.
  3. ^ "μαθητής".
  4. ^ Danker, Arndt, W., W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 609.
  5. ^ Ibid.
  6. ^ A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature., p. 122.
  7. ^ Ibid.
  8. ^ "Christian History: The Twelve Apostles". Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  9. ^ Seneca,. Epistles 1-65,. Trans Richard M Gummere, Loeb Classical Library 75. pp. Epist. 6.5–6.6, p. 27–28.
  10. ^ Talbert, Charles H. and Perry L. Stepp. ""Succession in Mediterranean Antiquity, Part I: The Lukan Milieu" Society of Biblical Literature 1998 Seminar Papers: and "Succession in Mediterranean Antiquity, Part 2: Luke-Acts"". Society of Biblical Literature 1998 Seminar Papers: 148–168 and 169–179.
  11. ^ McKellar, Scott (2014). "Taking on the "Smell of the Sheep": The Rabbinic Understanding of Discipleship". The Sower. Issue #35.2, April–June: 8–9.
  12. ^ Born again#Catholicism
  13. ^ Richard N. Longenecker, ed., Patterns of Discipleship in the New Testament (Eerdman’s, 1996) 1, 5, 141.
  14. ^ "Rick Warren’s Definition of Disciple" at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2013-11-26.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ Tyndale Bible Dictionary (Tyndale House, 2001), s.v. "Disciple."
  16. ^ The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology by Alan Richardson, John Bowden 1983 ISBN 978-0-664-22748-7 s.v. "Imitation of Christ, The," 285-286.
  17. ^ Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity: Chapter I Archived June 25, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Vatican Council
  18. ^ "Charismatic Leaders Concede They Went Too Far: `Shepherding' was often accused by outsiders and former members of being cultlike in requiring members to obey leaders in all aspects of their personal lives". Los Angeles Times. March 24, 1990.
  19. ^ Dancer, Anthony (2005). William Stringfellow in Anglo-American Perspective. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 16–18.
  20. ^ Myers, Ched (1988). Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus. Orbis Books.
  21. ^ Camp, Lee C. (2003). Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World. Brazos Press.
  22. ^ "About Us". Plough. Retrieved 2017-05-24.
  23. ^ "Life Among The Bruderhof". The American Conservative. Retrieved 2017-12-14.

Further reading

  • Barton, S.C. (2005). Discipleship and Family Ties in Mark and Matthew. Monograph series / Society for New Testament Studies. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-01882-1.
  • Mattes, M. (2012). "Discipleship in Lutheran perspective" (PDF). Lutheran Quarterly. 26: 142–163.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Souvay, Charles Léon (1909). "Disciple" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  • Stassen, Glen H. and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, InterVarsity Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8308-2668-8.
  • Stassen, Glen H. Living the Sermon on the Mount: A Practical Hope for Grace and Deliverance, Jossey-Bass, 2006. ISBN 0-7879-7736-5.
  • Weddell, Sherry. Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus. ISBN 978-1-61278-590-5.
  • Wilkins, M. J. (2004). Unique discipleship to a unique master: Discipleship in the Gospel according to Mark. Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, 8(3), 50-65.
  • Vaage, Leif E. (2009). "An Other Home: Discipleship in Mark as Domestic Asceticism". Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 71 (4): 741–761. JSTOR 43726614.
Baptism

Baptism (from the Greek noun βάπτισμα baptisma; see below) is a Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. The synoptic gospels recount that John the Baptist baptised Jesus. Baptism is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. Baptism is also called christening, although some reserve the word "christening" for the baptism of infants. It has also given its name to the Baptist churches and denominations.

The usual form of baptism among the earliest Christians involved the candidate's immersion, either totally (submerged completely under the water) or partially (standing or kneeling in water while water was poured on him or her). John the Baptist's use of a deep river for his baptising suggests immersion: The fact that he chose a permanent and deep river suggests that more than a token quantity of water was needed, and both the preposition 'in' (the Jordan) and the basic meaning of the verb 'baptize' probably indicate immersion. In v. 16, Matthew will speak of Jesus 'coming up out of the water'. Phillip and the Eunuch also went down and came up out of water (Acts 8:38–39). Baptism is likened unto a burial in Romans 6:3. "Dip" is translated from baptō (βάπτω). The traditional depiction in Christian art of John the Baptist pouring water over Jesus' head may therefore be based on later Christian practice. Pictorial and archaeological evidence of Christian baptism from the 3rd century onward indicates that a normal form was to have the candidate stand in water while water was poured over the upper body. Other common forms of baptism now in use include pouring water three times on the forehead, a method called affusion.

Martyrdom was identified early in Church history as "baptism by blood", enabling the salvation of martyrs who had not been baptized by water. Later, the Catholic Church identified a baptism of desire, by which those preparing for baptism who die before actually receiving the sacrament are considered saved. As evidenced also in the common Christian practice of infant baptism, Christians universally regarded baptism as in some sense necessary for salvation, until Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531) denied its necessity in the 16th century.Quakers and the Salvation Army do not practice baptism with water. Among denominations that practice baptism by water, differences occur in the manner and mode of baptizing and in the understanding of the significance of the rite. Most Christians baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (following the Great Commission), but some baptize in Jesus' name only. Much more than half of all Christians baptize infants; many others regard only believer's baptism as true baptism.

The term "baptism" has also been used metaphorically to refer to any ceremony, trial, or experience by which a person is initiated, purified, or given a name.

Formation in the Catholic Church

Formation is the personal preparation that the Catholic Church offers to people with a defined mission, such as the priesthood or membership of a religious order such as the Society of Jesus. Such formation involves a program of spiritual and academic training. In the case of priestly formation, the typical location concerned is the seminary either operated by a Diocese for the purposes of training Diocesan or Secular clergy or operated by a religious order for the purpose of preparing its members for priestly ordination.

History of baptism

John the Baptist, who is considered a forerunner to Christianity, used baptism as the central sacrament of his messianic movement. Christians consider Jesus to have instituted the sacrament of baptism. The earliest Christian baptisms were probably normally by immersion, though other modes may have also been used. By the third and fourth centuries, baptism involved catechetical instruction as well as chrismation, exorcisms, laying on of hands, and recitation of a creed. In the West, Affusion became the normal mode of baptism between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, though immersion was still practiced into the sixteenth. In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther retained baptism as a sacrament, but Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli considered baptism and the Lord's supper to be symbolic. Anabaptists denied the validity of infant baptism, which was the normal practice when their movement started and practiced believer's baptism instead. Several groups related to Anabaptism, notably the Baptists and Dunkards, soon practiced baptism by immersion as following the Biblical example.

John Howard Yoder

John Howard Yoder (1927–1997) was an American theologian and ethicist best known for his defense of Christian pacifism. His most influential book was The Politics of Jesus, which was first published in 1972. Yoder was Mennonite and wrote from an Anabaptist perspective. He spent the latter part of his career teaching at the University of Notre Dame.

In 1992 media reports emerged that Yoder had sexually abused women in preceding decades, with as many as over 50 complainants. The Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary acknowledged in a statement from 2014 that sexual abuse had taken place.

Outline of Christianity

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Christianity:

Christianity – monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the New Testament. The Christian faith is essentially faith in Jesus as the Christ (or Messiah), the Son of God, the Savior, and, according to Trinitarianism, God the Son, part of the Trinity with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Revelation

In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing of some form of truth or knowledge through communication with a deity or other supernatural entity or entities.

Sinner's prayer

The Sinner's Prayer (also called the Consecration Prayer and Salvation Prayer) is an evangelical Christian term referring to any prayer of repentance, prayed by individuals who feel convicted of the presence of sin in their lives and have the desire to form or renew a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is a popular phenomenon in evangelical circles. It is not intended as liturgical like a creed or a confiteor, but rather, is intended to be an act of initial conversion to Christianity. While some Christians see reciting the sinner's prayer as the moment defining one's salvation, others see it as a beginning step of one's lifelong faith journey.It also may be prayed as an act of "re-commitment" for those who are already believers in the faith. Often, at the end of a worship service, in what is known as an altar call, a minister or other worship leader will invite those desiring to receive Christ (thus becoming born again) to repeat with him or her the words of some form of a sinner's prayer. It also is frequently found on printed gospel tracts, urging people to "repeat these words from the bottom of your heart".The "Sinner’s Prayer" takes various forms, all of which have the same general thrust. Since it is considered a matter of one's personal will, it can be prayed silently, aloud, read from a suggested model, or repeated after someone modeling the prayer role. There is no formula of specific words considered essential, although it usually contains an admission of sin and a petition asking that Jesus enter into the person's heart (that is to say, the center of their life). The use of the sinner's prayer is common within some Protestant denominations, such as Baptist Churches and Methodist Churches, as well as in movements that span several denominations, including evangelical, fundamental, and charismatic Christianity. It has also been used, though not as widely, by some Anglicans, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics. It is sometimes uttered by Christians seeking redemption or reaffirming their faith in Christ during a crisis or disaster, when death may be imminent.

The "Sinner’s Prayer" is not without its critics. Because no such prayer or conversion is found in the Bible, some biblical scholars have even labeled the sinner's prayer a "cataract of nonsense" and an "apostasy". David Platt has raised questions over the authenticity of the conversions of people using the sinner's prayer based on research by George Barna.

Urbana (conference)

Urbana is a major Christian student missions conference sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. The event is designed to inform Christian students about global issues and issues around the world that missionaries face. The conference also encourages students to explore the biblical mandate for cross-cultural missions and encourages them to participate in missions.Each Urbana lasts for 5 days at the end of December and ends with a final communion on New Year's Eve. In addition to the main speakers, participants are offered a choice of dozens of seminars offered throughout the week, relating to specific topics within the general theme of the university and international missions. Worship is also a major highlight of the conference; special attention is paid to incorporating diverse worship styles, even including songs in foreign languages.

The first Urbana was held in 1946 in Toronto, and since then, it has generally been held every three years. From 1948–2003, Urbana took place at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, with the primary venue after 1963 being the Assembly Hall (now State Farm Center), the school's basketball arena. Because of insufficient space at the University of Illinois campus, Urbana 06 was moved to St. Louis, Missouri, at The Americas Center and the Edward Jones Dome. Urbana continues to be held in the same location. The most recent Urbana Conference was held from December 27–31, 2018, with the next expected to be held in late December 2021.

New Testament people
Jesus Christ
Gospels
Apostles
Acts
Epistles
Revelation
Virgin Mary
Apostles
Archangels
Confessors
Disciples
Doctors
Evangelists
Church
Fathers
Martyrs
Patriarchs
Popes
Prophets
Virgins
See also

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