Author’s Note: There are so many people over the course of human history noted in this website that it is a challenging task to do justice to even some of them. The list below is far from extensive and focuses primarily on individuals who have made a significant impact on human society over the millennia. Historical figures in the modern secular nations of the world have been, by and large, left out. Those covered include founders of major religious movements, noteworthy Biblical figures, and several individuals who have contributed to the current zeitgeist in their interpretations of the material covered. As time passes and the content of the website grows I intend to add others to this list. Most of the material posted here is drawn from Wikipedia.
History begins at the point where monuments become intelligible and documentary evidence of a trustworthy character is forthcoming, but from this point onward the domain is boundless for Universal History as understood. Leopold von Ranke
Abraham, originally Abram, is the common patriarch of the three Abrahamic religions. In Judaism, he is the founding father of the Covenant, the special relationship between the Jewish people and God; in Christianity, he is the prototype of all believers, Jewish or Gentile; and in Islam he is seen as a link in the chain of prophets that begins with Adam and culminates in Muhammad.
The narrative in Genesis revolves around the themes of posterity and land. Abraham is called by God to leave the house of his father Terah and settle in the land originally given to Canaan but which God now promises to Abraham and his progeny. Various candidates are put forward who might inherit the land after Abraham; and, while promises are made to Ishmael about founding a great nation, Isaac, Abraham’s son by his half-sister Sarah, inherits God’s promises to Abraham. Abraham purchases a tomb (the Cave of the Patriarchs) at Hebron to be Sarah’s grave, thus establishing his right to the land; and, in the second generation, his heir Isaac is married to a woman from his own kin, thus ruling the Canaanites out of any inheritance. Abraham later marries Keturah and has six more sons; but, on his death, when he is buried beside Sarah, it is Isaac who receives “all Abraham’s goods”, while the other sons receive only “gifts” (Genesis 25:5–8).
The Abraham story cannot be definitively related to any specific time, and it is widely agreed that the patriarchal age, along with the exodus and the period of the judges, is a late literary construct that does not relate to any period in actual history. A common hypothesis among scholars is that it was composed in the early Persian period (late 6th century BCE) as a result of tensions between Jewish landowners who had stayed in Judah during the Babylonian captivity and traced their right to the land through their “father Abraham”, and the returning exiles who based their counter-claim on Moses and the Exodus tradition.
Adam and Eve
Adam (Hebrew: אָדָם, Modern: ʼAdam, Tiberian: ʼĀḏām; Arabic: آدَم, translit. ʾĀdam; Greek: Αδάμ, translit. Adám; Latin: Adam) is the name used in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis and in the Quran for the first man created by God, but it is also used in a collective sense as “mankind” and individually as “a human”. Biblical Adam (man, mankind) is created from adamah (earth), and Genesis 1-8 makes considerable play of the bond between them, for Adam is estranged from the earth through his disobedience.
Eve (/ˈiːv/; Hebrew: חַוָּה, Modern: Chava, Tiberian: Ḥawwāh; Arabic: حَوَّاء, translit. Ḥawwā’; Greek: Εύα, translit. Éva; Latin: Eva; Syriac: ܚܘܐ) is a figure in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible. According to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions, she was the first woman. In Islamic tradition, Eve is known as Adam’s wife and the first woman although she is not specifically named in the Quran but in the hadith.
According to the second chapter of Genesis, Eve was created by God (Yahweh) by taking her from the rib of Adam, to be Adam’s companion. She succumbs to the serpent’s temptation to eat the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She shares the fruit with Adam, and as a result the first humans are expelled from the Garden of Eden. Christian churches differ on how they view both Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God (often called the fall of man), and to the consequences that those actions had on the rest of humanity. Christian and Jewish teachings sometimes hold Adam (the first man) and Eve to a different level of responsibility for the fall, although Islamic teaching holds both equally responsible.
“Eve” in Hebrew is “Ḥawwāh” and is most commonly believed to mean “living one” or “source of life” as it is phonetically similar to “ḥāyâ“, “to live”. The name is traditionally assumed to derive from the Semitic root ḥyw. Genesis 3:20 reads, “And the man declared his wife’s name Chava, because she was the mother of all life.”
Thomas Aquinas OP (/əˈkwaɪnəs/; Italian: Tommaso d’Aquino, lit. “Thomas of Aquino”; 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican friar, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. He is an immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, within which he is also known as the Doctor Angelicus and the Doctor Communis. The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio, Italy.
He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology and the father of Thomism; of which he argued that reason is found in God. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy developed or opposed his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory. Unlike many currents in the Church of the time, Thomas embraced several ideas put forward by Aristotle—whom he called “the Philosopher”—and attempted to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity. His best-known works are the Disputed Questions on Truth (1256–59), the Summa contra Gentiles (1259–65), and the Summa Theologiae (1265–74). His commentaries on Scripture and on Aristotle also form an important part of his body of work. Furthermore, Thomas is distinguished for his eucharistic hymns, which form a part of the Church’s liturgy.
Thomas Aquinas is considered one of the Catholic Church’s greatest theologians and philosophers. Pope Benedict XV declared: “This (Dominican) Order … acquired new luster when the Church declared the teaching of Thomas to be her own and that Doctor, honored with the special praises of the Pontiffs, the master and patron of Catholic schools.” The English philosopher Anthony Kenny considers Thomas to be “one of the dozen greatest philosophers of the western world”
Aristotle (/ˈærɪˌstɒtəl/; Greek: Ἀριστοτέλης Aristotélēs, pronounced [aristotélɛːs]; 384–322 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist born in the city of Stagira, Chalkidiki, in the north of Classical Greece. Along with Plato, he is considered the “Father of Western Philosophy”. Aristotle provided a complex and harmonious synthesis of the various existing philosophies prior to him, including those of Socrates and Plato, and it was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its fundamental intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry. As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be central to the contemporary philosophical discussion.
In Buddhism, Buddha (/ˈbuːdə, ˈbʊdə/; Sanskrit: बुद्ध), “awakened one,” is a title for someone who is awake, and has attained nirvana and Buddhahood. The title is most commonly used for Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, who is often simply known as “the Buddha”. However, the title can also be used for others who have achieved enlightenment, such as the other human Buddhas who achieved enlightenment before Gautama, the five celestial Buddhas worshiped primarily by Vajrayana followers, and the bodhisattva named Maitreya, who will achieve enlightenment in the future and succeed Gautama Buddha as the supreme Buddha of the world.
Gautama Buddha (c. 563/480 – c. 483/400 BCE), also known as Siddhārtha Gautama (सिद्धार्थ गौतम) in Sanskrit or Siddhāttha Gotama (शिद्धत्थ गोतम) in Pali , Shakyamuni (i.e. “Sage of the Shakyas”) Buddha, or simply the Buddha, after the title of Buddha, was a monk (śramaṇa), mendicant, sage, and Teacher on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived and taught mostly in the northeastern part of ancient India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.
Gautama taught a Middle Way between sensual indulgence and the severe asceticism found in the śramaṇa movement common in his region. He later taught throughout other regions of eastern India such as Magadha and Kosala.
Gautama is the primary figure in Buddhism. He is believed by Buddhists to be an enlightened teacher who attained full Buddhahood and shared his insights to help sentient beings end rebirth and suffering. Accounts of his life, discourses and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarized after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition and first committed to writing about 400 years later.
Confucius (/kənˈfjuːʃəs/ kən-FEW-shəs; 551–479 BC) was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher of the Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history.
The philosophy of Confucius, also known as Confucianism, emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. His followers competed successfully with many other schools during the Hundred Schools of Thought era only to be suppressed in favor of the Legalists during the Qin dynasty. Following the victory of Han over Chu after the collapse of Qin, Confucius’s thoughts received official sanction and were further developed into a system known in the West as Neo-Confucianism, and later New Confucianism (Modern Neo-Confucianism).
Confucius is traditionally credited with having authored or edited many of the Chinese classic texts including all of the Five Classics, but modern scholars are cautious of attributing specific assertions to Confucius himself. Aphorisms concerning his teachings were compiled in the Analects, but only many years after his death.
Confucius’s principles have commonality with Chinese tradition and belief. He championed strong family loyalty, ancestor veneration, and respect of elders by their children and of husbands by their wives, recommending family as a basis for ideal government. He espoused the well-known principle “Do not do unto others what you do not want done to yourself”, the Golden Rule. He is also a traditional deity in Daoism.
Confucius is widely considered as one of the most important and influential individuals in shaping human history. His teaching and philosophy greatly impacted people around the world and remains influential today.
Darwin, Charles Robert
Charles Robert Darwin, FRS FRGS FLS FZS (/ˈdɑːrwɪn/; 12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding.
Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, overcoming scientific rejection of earlier concepts of transmutation of species. By the 1870s, the scientific community and a majority of the educated public had accepted evolution as a fact. However, many favored competing explanations and it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed in which natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. Darwin’s scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.
Darwin’s early interest in nature led him to neglect his medical education at the University of Edinburgh; instead, he helped to investigate marine invertebrates. Studies at the University of Cambridge (Christ’s College) encouraged his passion for natural science. His five-year voyage on HMS Beagle established him as an eminent geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell’s uniformitarian ideas, and publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author.
Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin began detailed investigations, and in 1838 conceived his theory of natural selection. Although he discussed his ideas with several naturalists, he needed time for extensive research and his geological work had priority. He was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay that described the same idea, prompting immediate joint publication of both of their theories. Darwin’s work established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. In 1871 he examined human evolution and sexual selection in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). His research on plants was published in a series of books, and in his final book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Actions of Worms (1881), he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.
Darwin has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history.
David is described in the Hebrew Bible as the second king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah after Saul and Ish-bosheth.
In the biblical narrative, David is a young shepherd who first gains fame as a musician and later by killing Goliath. He becomes a favorite of King Saul and a close friend of Saul’s son Jonathan. Worried that David is trying to take his throne, Saul turns on David. After Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle, David is anointed as King. David conquers Jerusalem, taking the Ark of the Covenant into the city, and establishing the kingdom founded by Saul. As king, David commits adultery with Bathsheba, leading him to arrange the death of her husband Uriah the Hittite. Because of this sin, God denies David the opportunity to build the temple, and his son Absalom tries to overthrow him. David flees Jerusalem during Absalom’s rebellion, but after Absalom’s death he returns to the city to rule Israel. Before his peaceful death, he chooses his son Solomon as successor. He is honored in the prophetic literature as an ideal king and an ancestor of a future Messiah, and many psalms are ascribed to him.
Historians of the Ancient Near East agree that David probably existed around 1000 BCE, but that there is little that can be said about him as a historical figure. There is no direct evidence outside of the Bible concerning David, but the Tel Dan Stele, an inscribed stone erected by a king of Damascus in the late 9th/early 8th centuries BCE to commemorate his victory over two enemy kings, contains the phrase ביתדוד, bytdwd, consisting of the Hebrew words “house” and “David”, which most scholars translate as “House (Dynasty) of David”. Ancient Near East historians generally doubt that the united monarchy as described in the Bible existed.
David is richly represented in post-biblical Jewish written and oral tradition, and is discussed in the New Testament. Early Christians interpreted the life of Jesus in light of the references to the Messiah and to David; Jesus is described as being descended from David. David is discussed in the Quran and figures in Islamic oral and written tradition as well. The biblical character of David has inspired many interpretations in fictional literature over centuries.
Dawkins, C. Richard
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS FRSL (born 26 March 1941) is an English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, and was the University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008.
Dawkins first came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which popularised the gene-centred view of evolution and introduced the term meme. With his book The Extended Phenotype (1982), he introduced into evolutionary biology the influential concept that the phenotypic effects of a gene are not necessarily limited to an organism’s body, but can stretch far into the environment. In 2006, he founded the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.
Dawkins is known as an outspoken atheist. In interviews, he has called himself an agnostic about many matters of religious faith, instead endorsing reason. He is well known for his criticism of creationism and intelligent design. In The Blind Watchmaker (1986), he argues against the watchmaker analogy, an argument for the existence of a supernatural creator based upon the complexity of living organisms. Instead, he describes evolutionary processes as analogous to a blind watchmaker, in that reproduction, mutation, and selection are unguided by any designer. In The God Delusion (2006), Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith is a delusion.
Dawkins was confirmed into the Church of England at the age of 13, but began to grow skeptical of the beliefs. After learning about Darwinism and the scientific reason why living things look as though they have been designed, Dawkins lost the remainder of his religious faith. He said that his understanding of science and evolutionary processes led him to question how adults in positions of leadership in a civilized world could still be so uneducated in biology, and is puzzled by how belief in God could remain among individuals who are sophisticated in science. Dawkins notes that some physicists use ‘God’ as a metaphor for the general awe-inspiring mysteries of the universe, which causes confusion and misunderstanding among people who incorrectly think they are talking about a mystical being who forgives sins, transubstantiates wine, or makes people live after they die. Dawkins became a prominent critic of religion and has stated his opposition to religion as twofold: religion is both a source of conflict and a justification for belief without evidence. He considers faith—belief that is not based on evidence—as “one of the world’s great evils”.
On his spectrum of theistic probability, which has seven levels between 1 (100% certainty that a God or gods exist) and 7 (100% certainty that a God or gods do not exist), Dawkins has said he is a 6.9, which represents a “de facto atheist” who thinks “I cannot know for certain, but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.” When asked about his slight uncertainty, Dawkins quips, “I am agnostic to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden.”
Stephen William Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA (8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018) was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author, who was director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge at the time of his death. He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009.
His scientific works included a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation. Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He was a vigorous supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.
Hawking achieved commercial success with several works of popular science in which he discusses his own theories and cosmology in general. His book A Brief History of Time appeared on the British Sunday Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks. Hawking was a fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. In 2002, Hawking was ranked number 25 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. In 1963, Hawking was diagnosed with an early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease (MND; also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis “ALS” or Lou Gehrig’s disease) that gradually paralysed him over the decades. Even after the loss of his speech, he was still able to communicate through a speech-generating device, initially through use of a hand-held switch, and eventually by using a single cheek muscle. He died on 14 March 2018 at the age of 76, after battling the disease for more than 50 years.
Religion and atheism
Hawking was an atheist and believed that “the universe is governed by the laws of science”. He stated: “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.” In an interview published in The Guardian, Hawking regarded “the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail”, and the concept of an afterlife as a “fairy story for people afraid of the dark”. In 2011, narrating the first episode of the American television series Curiosity on the Discovery Channel, Hawking declared: “We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realisation. There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.”
In September 2014, he joined the Starmus Festival as keynote speaker and declared himself an atheist. In an interview with El Mundo, he said: “Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.” In addition, Hawking has stated: “If you like, you can call the laws of science ‘God,’ but it wouldn’t be a personal God that you would meet and put questions to.”
Hippocrates of Kos (/hɪˈpɒkrətiːz/; Greek: Ἱπποκράτης ὁ Κῷος, translit. Hippokrátēs ho Kṓos; c. 460 – c. 370 BC), also known as Hippocrates II, was a Greek physician of the Age of Pericles (Classical Greece), who is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. He is often referred to as the “Father of Medicine” in recognition of his lasting contributions to the field as the founder of the Hippocratic School of Medicine. This intellectual school revolutionized medicine in ancient Greece, establishing it as a discipline distinct from other fields with which it had traditionally been associated (theurgy and philosophy), thus establishing medicine as a profession.
However, the achievements of the writers of the Corpus, the practitioners of Hippocratic medicine and the actions of Hippocrates himself were often commingled; thus very little is known about what Hippocrates actually thought, wrote, and did. Hippocrates is commonly portrayed as the paragon of the ancient physician, and credited with coining the Hippocratic Oath, which is still relevant and in use today. He is also credited with greatly advancing the systematic study of clinical medicine, summing up the medical knowledge of previous schools, and prescribing practices for physicians through the Hippocratic Corpus and other works.
Historians agree that Hippocrates was born around the year 460 BC on the Greek island of Kos; other biographical information, however, is likely to be untrue. Soranus of Ephesus, a 2nd-century Greek physician, was Hippocrates’ first biographer and is the source of most personal information about him. Later biographies are in the Suda of the 10th century AD, and in the works of John Tzetzes, Aristotle’s “Politics”, which date from the 4th century BC.
Soranus wrote that Hippocrates’ father was Heraclides, a physician, and his mother was Praxitela, daughter of Tizane. The two sons of Hippocrates, Thessalus and Draco, and his son-in-law, Polybus, were his students. According to Galen, a later physician, Polybus was Hippocrates’ true successor, while Thessalus and Draco each had a son named Hippocrates (Hippocrates III and IV).
Soranus said that Hippocrates learned medicine from his father and grandfather (Hippocrates I), and studied other subjects with Democritus and Gorgias. Hippocrates was probably trained at the asklepieion of Kos, and took lessons from the Thracian physician Herodicus of Selymbria. Plato mentions Hippocrates in two of his dialogues: in Protagoras, Plato describes Hippocrates as “Hippocrates of Kos, the Asclepiad”; while in Phaedrus, Plato suggests that “Hippocrates the Asclepiad” thought that a complete knowledge of the nature of the body was necessary for medicine. Hippocrates taught and practiced medicine throughout his life, traveling at least as far as Thessaly, Thrace, and the Sea of Marmara. Several different accounts of his death exist. He died, probably in Larissa, at the age of 83, 85 or 90, though some say he lived to be well over 100.
Homer (/ˈhoʊmər/; Ancient Greek: Ὅμηρος Greek pronunciation: [hómɛːros], Hómēros) is the legendary author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems that are the central works of ancient Greek literature. The Iliad is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek kingdoms. It focuses on a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles lasting a few weeks during the last year of the war. The Odyssey focuses on the journey home of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, around 20 years after the fall of Troy. Many accounts of Homer’s life circulated in classical antiquity, the most widespread being that he was a blind bard from Ionia, a region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey. Modern scholars consider them legends.
The Homeric Question – concerning by whom, when, where and under what circumstances the Iliad and Odyssey were composed – continues to be debated. Broadly speaking, modern scholarly opinion falls into two groups. One holds that most of the Iliad and (according to some) the Odyssey are the works of a single poet of genius. The other considers the Homeric poems to be the result of a process of working and reworking by many contributors, and that “Homer” is best seen as a label for an entire tradition. It is generally accepted that the poems were composed at some point around the late eighth or early seventh century BC.
Scholars continue to debate questions such as whether the Trojan War actually took place – and if so when and where – and to what extent the society depicted by Homer is based on his own or one which was, even at the time of the poems’ composition, known only as legend. The Homeric epics are largely set in the east and center of the Mediterranean, with some scattered references to Egypt, Ethiopia and other distant lands, in a warlike society that resembles that of the Greek world slightly before the hypothesized date of the poems’ composition.
In ancient Greek chronology, the sack of Troy was dated to 1184 BC. By the nineteenth century, there was widespread scholarly skepticism that the Trojan War had ever happened and that Troy had even existed, but in 1873 Heinrich Schliemann announced to the world that he had discovered the ruins of Homer’s Troy at Hissarlik in modern Turkey. Some contemporary scholars think the destruction of Troy VIIa circa 1220 BC was the origin of the myth of the Trojan War, others that the poem was inspired by multiple similar sieges that took place over the centuries.
Most scholars now agree that the Homeric poems depict customs and elements of the material world that are derived from different periods of Greek history. For instance, the heroes in the poems use bronze weapons, characteristic of the Bronze Age in which the poems are set, rather than the later Iron Age during which they were composed; yet the same heroes are cremated (an Iron Age practice) rather than buried (as they were in the Bronze Age). In some parts of the Homeric poems, heroes are accurately described as carrying large shields like those used by warriors during the Mycenaean period, but, in other places, they are instead described carrying the smaller shields that were commonly used during the time when the poems were written in the early Iron Age.
Isaiah was the 8th-century BC Jewish prophet for whom the Book of Isaiah is named.
Within the text of the Book of Isaiah, Isaiah himself is referred to as “the prophet”, but the exact relationship between the Book of Isaiah and any such historical Isaiah is complicated. The traditional view is that all 66 chapters of the book of Isaiah were written by one man, Isaiah, possibly in two periods between 740 BCE and c. 686 BCE, separated by approximately 15 years, and includes dramatic prophetic declarations of Cyrus the Great in the Bible, acting to restore the nation of Israel from Babylonian captivity. Another widely-held view is that parts of the first half of the book (chapters 1–39) originated with the historical prophet, interspersed with prose commentaries written in the time of King Josiah a hundred years later, and that the remainder of the book dates from immediately before and immediately after the end of the exile in Babylon, almost two centuries after the time of the historic prophet.
Jesus (c. 4 BC – c. AD 30 / 33), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. Widely described as the most influential person in history, he is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah (Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament.
Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed historically, although the quest for the historical Jesus has produced little agreement on the historical reliability of the Gospels and on how closely the Jesus portrayed in the Bible reflects the historical Jesus. Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was baptized by John the Baptist and subsequently began his own ministry, preaching his message orally and often being referred to as “rabbi”. Jesus debated with fellow Jews on how to best follow God, engaged in healings, taught in parables and gathered followers. He was arrested and tried by the Jewish authorities, turned over to the Roman government, and was subsequently crucified on the order of Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect. After his death, his followers believed he rose from the dead, and the community they formed eventually became the early Church.
The birth of Jesus is celebrated annually on December 25th (or various dates in January by some eastern churches) as a holiday known as Christmas. His crucifixion is honored on Good Friday, and his resurrection is celebrated on Easter. The widely used calendar era “AD”, from the Latin anno Domini (“in the year of the Lord”), and the equivalent alternative “CE”, are based on the approximate birth date of Jesus.
Christian doctrines include the beliefs that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born of a virgin named Mary, performed miracles, founded the Church, died by crucifixion as a sacrifice to achieve atonement for sin, rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, from where he will return. Most Christians believe Jesus enables people to be reconciled to God. The Nicene Creed asserts that Jesus will judge the living and the dead either before or after their bodily resurrection, an event tied to the Second Coming of Jesus in Christian eschatology. The great majority of Christians worship Jesus as the incarnation of God the Son, the second of three persons of the Trinity. A minority of Christian denominations reject Trinitarianism, wholly or partly, as non-scriptural.
Jesus also figures in non-Christian religions and new religious movements. In Islam, Jesus (commonly transliterated as Isa) is considered one of God’s important prophets and the Messiah. Muslims believe Jesus was a bringer of scripture and was born of a virgin, but was not the Son of God. The Quran states that Jesus himself never claimed divinity. Most Muslims do not believe that he was crucified, but believe that he was physically raised into Heaven by God. In contrast, Judaism rejects the belief that Jesus was the awaited Messiah, arguing that he did not fulfill Messianic prophecies, and was neither divine nor resurrected.
John the Apostle
John the Apostle (Aramaic: יוחנן שליחא Yohanān Shliḥā; Hebrew: יוחנן בן זבדי Yohanan ben Zavdi; Koine Greek: Ἰωάννης; Latin: Ioannes; c. AD 6 – c. 100) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament, which refers to him as Ἰωάννης. Generally listed as the youngest apostle, he was the son of Zebedee and Salome or Joanna. His brother was James, who was another of the Twelve Apostles. The Church Fathers identify him as John the Evangelist, John of Patmos, John the Elder and the Beloved Disciple, and testify that he outlived the remaining apostles and that he was the only one to die of natural causes. The traditions of most Christian denominations have held that John the Apostle is the author of several books of the New Testament.
Church tradition has held that John is the author of the Gospel of John and four other books of the New Testament — the three Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation. In the Gospel, authorship is internally credited to the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (ὁ μαθητὴς ὃν ἠγάπα ὁ Ἰησοῦς) in John 20:2. John 21:24 claims that the Gospel of John is based on the written testimony of the “Beloved Disciple”. The authorship of some Johannine literature has been debated since about the year 200.
Joseph is a masculine given name originating from Hebrew, recorded in the Hebrew Bible, as יוֹסֵף, Standard Hebrew Yossef, Tiberian Hebrew and Aramaic Yôsēp̄. The name can be translated from Hebrew יוסף יהוה yosef YHWH as signifying “Yahweh/Jehovah shall increase/add”.
The name appears in the book of Genesis: Joseph is Jacob’s eleventh son and Rachel’s first son, and known in the Jewish Bible as Yossef ben-Yaakov.
In the New Testament there are two others named Joseph: 1) Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus; and, 2) Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus who supplied the tomb in which Jesus was buried.
The form “Joseph” is used mostly in English, French and German-speaking countries. This spelling form is also used in the Nordic countries. In Persian the name is called “Yousef”. In Portuguese and Spanish, the name is called “José”. In Arabic, including in the Qur’an, the name is spelled يوسف or Yūsuf. The name has enjoyed significant popularity in its many forms in numerous countries, and Joseph was one of the two names, along with Robert, to have remained in the top 10 boys’ names list in the US from 1925 to 1972. It is especially common in contemporary Israel, as either “Yossi” or “Yossef”, and in Italy, where the name “Giuseppe” was the most common male name in the 20th century.
Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel (/ˈdʒoʊzɪf, -sɪf/; Hebrew: יוֹסֵף meaning “Increase”, Standard Yosef Tiberian Yôsēp̄; Arabic: يوسف Yūsuf or Yūsif; Ancient Greek: Ἰωσήφ Iōsēph) is an important figure in the Bible’s Book of Genesis.
Joseph lived in the land of Canaan with ten half-brothers, one full brother, and at least one half-sister. He was Rachel’s firstborn and Jacob’s eleventh son. Of all the sons, Joseph was preferred by his father, and this is represented by a “long coat of many colors”. When Joseph was seventeen years old he had two dreams that made his brothers plot his demise. In the first dream, Joseph and his brothers gathered bundles of grain, of which those his brothers gathered, bowed to his own. In the second dream, the sun (father), the moon (mother), and eleven stars (brothers) bowed to Joseph himself. These dreams, implying his supremacy, angered his brothers.
Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, he rose to become vizier, the second most powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh, where his presence and office caused Israel to leave Canaan and settle in Egypt. Joseph lived to the age of 110, living to see his great-grandchildren. Before he died, he made the children of Israel swear that when they left the land of Egypt they would take his bones with them, and on his death his body was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt. (Genesis 50:22-26)
The children of Israel remembered their oath, and when they left Egypt during the Exodus, Moses took Joseph’s bones with him. (Exodus 13:19) The bones were buried at Shechem, in the parcel of ground which Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor (Joshua 24:32), which has traditionally been identified with site of Joseph’s Tomb, before Jacob and all his family moved to Egypt. Shechem was in the land which was allocated by Joshua to the Tribe of Ephraim, one of the tribes of the House of Joseph, after the conquest of Canaan.
Joseph, saint (Hebrew: יוֹסֵף, translit. Yosef; Greek: Ἰωσήφ, translit. Ioséph) is a figure in the Gospels who was married to Mary, Jesus’ mother, and was Jesus’s legal father. Joseph is venerated as Saint Joseph in the Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, Lutheranism, and Methodism. Some differing views are due to theological interpretations versus historical views.
In both Catholic and Protestant traditions, Joseph is regarded as the patron saint of workers and is associated with various feast days. Pope Pius IX declared him to be both the patron and the protector of the Catholic Church, in addition to his patronages of the sick and of a happy death, due to the belief that he died in the presence of Jesus and Mary. In popular piety, Joseph is regarded as a model for fathers and has also become patron of various dioceses and places.
Several venerated images of Saint Joseph have been granted a canonical coronation by a Pope. In popular religious iconography he is associated with lilies or a spikenard. With the present-day growth of Mariology, the theological field of Josephology has also grown and since the 1950s centers for studying it have been formed.
In the Apocrypha, Joseph was the father of James, Joses, Jude, Simon, and at least two daughters. According to Epiphanius and the apocryphal History of Joseph the Carpenter, these children were from a marriage which predated the one with Mary, a belief that is accepted by some select Christian denominations.
Joseph of Arimathea was, according to all four canonical Christian Gospels, the man who assumed responsibility for the burial of Jesus after his crucifixion. A number of stories that developed during the Middle Ages connect him with Glastonbury, where the stories said he founded the earliest Christian oratory, and also with the Holy Grail legend.
Matthew 27:57 described him simply as a rich man and disciple of Jesus, but according to Mark 15:43 Joseph of Arimathea was “a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God”; and Luke 23:50–56 adds that he “had not consented to their decision and action”.
According to John 19:38, upon hearing of Jesus’ death, this secret disciple of Jesus “asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission.” Joseph immediately purchased a linen shroud (Mark 15:46) and proceeded to Golgotha to take the body of Jesus down from the cross. There, according to John 19:39-40, Joseph and Nicodemus took the body and bound it in linen cloths with the spices that Nicodemus had bought. The disciples then conveyed the prepared corpse to a man-made cave hewn from rock in a garden of his house nearby. The Gospel of Matthew alone suggests that this was Joseph’s own tomb (Matthew 27:60). The burial was undertaken speedily, “for the Sabbath was drawing on”.
Many Christians interpret Joseph’s role as fulfilling Isaiah’s prediction that the grave of the “Suffering Servant” would be with a rich man (Isaiah 53:9), assuming that Isaiah was referring to the Messiah. The prophecy in Isaiah chapter 53 is known as the “Man of Sorrows” passage: He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Lao Tzu (or Laozi)
Laozi (UK: /ˈlaʊˈzɪə/; US: /ˈlaʊˈtsiː/; Chinese: 老子; literally “Old Master”; also rendered as Lao Tzu (/ˈlaʊˈtsuː/ or /ˈlaʊˈdzʌ/) and Lao-Tze (/ˈlaʊˈdzeɪ/)) was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, the founder of philosophical Taoism, and a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions.
A semi-legendary figure, Laozi was usually portrayed as a 6th-century BC contemporary of Confucius, but some modern historians consider him to have lived during the Warring States period of the 4th century BC. A central figure in Chinese culture, Laozi is claimed by both the emperors of the Tang dynasty and modern people of the Li surname as a founder of their lineage. Laozi’s work has been embraced by both various anti-authoritarian movements and Chinese Legalism.
Laozi itself is a honorific title: 老 (Old *rˤu ʔ, “old, venerable”) and 子 (Old *tsəʔ, “master”). It has been romanized numerous ways, sometimes leading to confusion. The most common present form is Laozi or Lǎozǐ, based on the Hanyu Pinyin system adopted by Mainland China in 1958 and by Taiwan in 2009. During the 20th century, Lao-tzu was more common, based on the formerly prevalent Wade–Giles system. In the 19th century, the title was usually romanized as Lao-tse. Other forms include the variants Lao-tze and Lao-tsu.
As a religious figure, he is worshiped under the name “Supreme Old Lord” (太上老君, Tàishàng Lǎojūn) and as one of the “Three Pure Ones.” During the Tang dynasty, he was granted the title “Supremely Mysterious and Primordial Emperor” (太上玄元皇帝, Tàishàng Xuānyuán Huángdì).
According to Chinese legend, Laozi left China for the west on a water buffalo. In the mid-twentieth century, a consensus emerged among scholars that the historicity of the person known as Laozi is doubtful and that the Tao Te Ching was “a compilation of Taoist sayings by many hands”. Alan Watts urged more caution, holding that this view was part of an academic fashion for skepticism about historical spiritual and religious figures and stating that not enough would be known for years – or possibly ever – to make a firm judgment.
The earliest certain reference to the present figure of Laozi is found in the 1st‑century BC Records of the Grand Historian collected by the historian Sima Qian from earlier accounts. In one account, Laozi was said to be a contemporary of Confucius during the 6th or 5th century BC. His surname was Li and his personal name was Er or Dan. He was an official in the imperial archives and wrote a book in two parts before departing to the west. In another, Laozi was a different contemporary of Confucius titled Lao Laizi (老莱子) and wrote a book in 15 parts. In a third, he was the court astrologer Lao Dan who lived during the 4th century BC reign of Duke Xian of the Qin Dynasty. The oldest text of the Tao Te Ching so far recovered was written on bamboo slips and dates to the late 4th century BC;
According to traditional accounts, Laozi was a scholar who worked as the Keeper of the Archives for the royal court of Zhou. This reportedly allowed him broad access to the works of the Yellow Emperor and other classics of the time. The stories assert that Laozi never opened a formal school but nonetheless attracted a large number of students and loyal disciples. There are many variations of a story retelling his encounter with Confucius, most famously in the Zhuangzi.
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci; 15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519), more commonly Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian polymath of the Renaissance whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and he is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter, and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal.
Many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the “Universal Genius” or “Renaissance Man”, an individual of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination”, and he is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived. According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent in recorded history, and “his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, while the man himself mysterious and remote”. Marco Rosci notes that, while there is much speculation regarding his life and personality, his view of the world was logical rather than mysterious, although the empirical methods he employed were unorthodox for his time.
Leonardo was born out of wedlock to notary Piero da Vinci and a peasant woman named Caterina in Vinci in the region of Florence, and he was educated in the studio of Florentine painter Andrea del Verrocchio. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan. He later worked in Rome, Bologna, and Venice, and he spent his last years in France at the home awarded to him by Francis I of France.
Leonardo is renowned primarily as a painter. The Mona Lisa is the most famous of his works and the most parodied portrait, and The Last Supper is the most reproduced religious painting of all time. His drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also regarded as a cultural icon, being reproduced on items as varied as the euro coin, textbooks, and T-shirts. His painting Salvator Mundi sold for $450.3 million at a Christie’s auction in New York on 15 November 2017, the highest price ever paid for a work of art. Perhaps 15 of his paintings have survived. Nevertheless, these few works compose a contribution to later generations of artists rivaled only by that of his contemporary Michelangelo, together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting.
Leonardo is revered for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualized flying machines, a type of armored fighting vehicle, concentrated solar power, an adding machine, and the double hull. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or even feasible during his lifetime, as the modern scientific approaches to metallurgy and engineering were only in their infancy during the Renaissance. Some of his smaller inventions, however, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire. A number of his most practical inventions are displayed as working models at the Museum of Vinci. He made substantial discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, geology, optics, and hydrodynamics, but he did not publish his findings and they had no direct influence on later science.
Luke the Evangelist (Latin: Lūcās, Ancient Greek: Λουκᾶς, Loukâs, Hebrew: לוקאס, Lūqās, Aramaic: לוקא, Lūqā’) is one of the Four Evangelists—the four traditionally ascribed authors of the canonical Gospels. The Early Church Fathers ascribed to him authorship of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, which would mean Luke contributed over a quarter of the text of the New Testament, more than any other author. Prominent figures in early Christianity such as Jerome and Eusebius later reaffirmed his authorship, although the fragile evidence of the identity of the author of the works has led to discussion in scholarly circles, both secular and religious.
The New Testament mentions Luke briefly a few times, and the Pauline Epistle to the Colossians refers to him as a physician (from Greek for ‘one who heals’); thus he is thought to have been both a physician and a disciple of Paul. Since the faith’s early years, Christians have regarded him as a saint. He is believed to have been a martyr, reportedly having been hanged from an olive tree, though some believe otherwise.
- The Roman Catholic Church and other major denominations venerate him as Saint Luke the Evangelist and as a patron saint of artists, physicians, bachelors, surgeons, students and butchers; his feast day takes place on 18 October.
Many scholars believe that Luke was a Greek physician who lived in the Greek city of Antioch, Turkey in Ancient Syria, although some other scholars and theologians think Luke was a Hellenic Jew. Bart Koet, a researcher and professor of theology, has stated that it was widely accepted that the theology of Luke–Acts points to a gentile Christian writing for a gentile audience, although he concludes that it is more plausible that Luke–Acts is directed to a community made up of both Jewish and gentile Christians because there is stress on the scriptural roots of the gentile mission (see the use of Isaiah 49:6 in Luke–Acts).
If one accepts that Luke was indeed the author of the Gospel bearing his name and also the Acts of the Apostles, certain details of his personal life can be reasonably assumed. While he does exclude himself from those who were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry, he repeatedly uses the word “we” in describing the Pauline missions in Acts of the Apostles, indicating that he was personally there at those times. There is similar evidence that Luke resided in Troas, the province which included the ruins of ancient Troy, in that he writes in Acts in the third person about Paul and his travels until they get to Troas, where he switches to the first person plural. The “we” section of Acts continues until the group leaves Philippi, when his writing goes back to the third person. This change happens again when the group returns to Philippi. There are three “we sections” in Acts, all following this rule. Luke never stated, however, that he lived in Troas, and this is the only evidence that he did.
Luke as depicted in the head-piece of an Armenian Gospel manuscript from 1609 held at the Bodleian Library. The composition of the writings, as well as the range of vocabulary used, indicate that the author was an educated man. A quote in the Epistle to the Colossians differentiates between Luke and other colleagues “of the circumcision.”
- My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. … Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Colossians 4:10–11, 14
This comment has traditionally caused commentators to conclude that Luke was a gentile.
Martin Luther, O.S.A. (/ˈluːθər/; German: [ˈmaɐ̯tiːn ˈlʊtɐ]; 10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, monk, and a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation.
Luther came to reject several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. He strongly disputed the Catholic view on indulgences. Luther proposed an academic discussion of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in his Ninety-five Theses of 1517. His refusal to renounce all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the Pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor.
Luther taught that salvation and, consequently, eternal life are not earned by good deeds but are received only as the free gift of God’s grace through the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority and office of the Pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge from God and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood. Those who identify with these, and all of Luther’s wider teachings, are called Lutherans, though Luther insisted on Christian or Evangelical (German: evangelisch) as the only acceptable names for individuals who professed Christ.
His translation of the Bible into the German vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to the laity, an event that had a tremendous impact on both the church and German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant clergy to marry.
In two of his later works, Luther expressed antagonistic views towards Jews. His rhetoric was not directed at Jews alone, but also towards Roman Catholics, Anabaptists, and nontrinitarian Christians. Martin Luther died in 1546, with his decree of excommunication by Pope Leo X still effective. On his deathbed, Luther was asked: “Are you ready to die trusting in your Lord Jesus Christ and to confess the doctrine which you have taught in his name?” He answered “Yes”, before taking his final breath.
Saint Mark the Evangelist (Latin: Mārcus; Greek: Μᾶρκος, translit. Mârkos; Hebrew: מרקוס Marqos; Arabic: مَرْقُس Marqus; Amharic: ማርቆስ Marḳos) is the traditionally ascribed author of the Gospel of Mark. Mark is said to have founded the Church of Alexandria, one of the most important episcopal sees of Early Christianity. His feast day is celebrated on April 25, and his symbol is the winged lion.
Evidence for Mark the Evangelist’s authorship of the Gospel that bears his name originates with Papias. Scholars of the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School are “almost certain” that Papias is referencing John Mark. Catholic scholars have argued that identifying Mark the Evangelist with John Mark and Mark the Cousin of Barnabas has led to the downgrading of the character of Barnabas from truly a “Son of Comfort” to one who favored his blood relative over principles. Identifying Mark the Evangelist with John Mark also led to identifying him as the man who carried water to the house where the Last Supper took place (Mark 14:13), or as the young man who ran away naked when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51–52).
The Coptic Church accords with identifying Mark the Evangelist with John Mark, as well as that he was one of the Seventy Disciples sent out by Christ (Luke 10:1), as Hippolytus confirmed. Coptic tradition also holds that Mark the Evangelist hosted the disciples in his house after Jesus’ death, that the resurrected Jesus Christ came to Mark’s house (John 20), and that the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost in the same house. Furthermore, Mark is also believed to have been among the servants at the Marriage at Cana who poured out the water that Jesus turned to wine (John 2:1–11).
According to the Coptic tradition, Saint Mark was born in Cyrene, a city in the Pentapolis of North Africa (now Libya). This tradition adds that Mark returned to Pentapolis later in life, after being sent by Paul to Colossae (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24. Some, however, think these actually refer to Mark the Cousin of Barnabas), and serving with him in Rome (2 Tim 4:11); from Pentapolis he made his way to Alexandria. When Mark returned to Alexandria, the pagans of the city resented his efforts to turn the Alexandrians away from the worship of their traditional gods. In AD 68, they placed a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he was dead.
Mary, Jesus’ mother, was a 1st-century BC Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth, and the mother of Jesus, according to the New Testament and the Quran.
The gospels of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament and the Quran describe Mary as a virgin; according to Christian theology she conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit while still a virgin. The miraculous conception took place when she was already betrothed to Joseph. She accompanied Joseph to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.
The Gospel of Luke begins its account of Mary’s life with the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced her divine selection to be the mother of Jesus. According to canonical gospel accounts, Mary was present at the crucifixion and is depicted as a member of the early Christian community in Jerusalem. According to Catholic and Orthodox teachings, at the end of her earthly life her body was raised directly into Heaven; this is known in the Christian West as the Assumption.
Mary has been venerated since early Christianity, and is considered by millions to be the most meritorious saint of the religion. She is claimed to have miraculously appeared to believers many times over the centuries. The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches believe that Mary, as mother of Jesus, is the Mother of God (Greek: Θεοτόκος, translit. Theotokos, lit. ‘God-bearer’). There is significant diversity in the Marian beliefs and devotional practices of major Christian traditions. The Catholic Church holds distinctive Marian dogmas, namely her status as the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her perpetual virginity, and her Assumption into heaven. Many Protestants minimize Mary’s role within Christianity, basing their argument on the relative brevity of biblical references. Mary also has a revered position in Islam, where one of the longer chapters of the Quran is devoted to her.
In Christianity, Mary is commonly referred to as the Virgin Mary, in accordance with the belief that she conceived Jesus miraculously through the Holy Spirit without her husband’s involvement. Among her many other names and titles are the Blessed Virgin Mary (often abbreviated to “BVM”), Saint Mary (occasionally), the Mother of God (primarily in Western Christianity), the Theotokos (primarily in Eastern Christianity), Our Lady (Medieval Italian: Madonna), and Queen of Heaven (Latin: Regina Coeli), although the title “Queen of Heaven” was also a name for a pagan goddess being worshipped during the prophet Jeremiah’s lifetime. Titles in use vary among Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Mormons, and other Christians.
Mary Magdalene, sometimes called simply the Magdalene, was a Jewish woman who, according to the four canonical gospels, traveled with Jesus as one of his followers and was a witness to his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. She is mentioned by name twelve times in the canonical gospels, more than most of the apostles. Mary’s epithet Magdalene most likely means that she came from the town of Magdala, a fishing town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The Gospel of Luke 8:2–3 lists Mary as one of the women who traveled with Jesus and helped support his ministry “out of their resources”, indicating that she was probably relatively wealthy. The same passage also states that seven demons had been driven out of her, a statement which is repeated in the longer ending of Mark. In all four canonical gospels, she is a witness to the crucifixion of Jesus and, in the Synoptic Gospels, she is also present at his burial. All four gospels identify her, either alone or as a member of a larger group of women, as the first witness to the empty tomb, and the first to testify to Jesus’s resurrection. For these reasons, she is known in many Christian traditions as the “apostle to the apostles”. Mary is a central figure in later apocryphal Gnostic Christian writings, including the Dialogue of the Savior, the Pistis Sophia, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Mary. These texts, which scholars do not regard as containing accurate historical information, portray her as Jesus’s closest disciple and the only one who truly understood his teachings. In the Gnostic gospels, Mary Magdalene’s closeness to Jesus results in tension with the other disciples, particularly Simon Peter.
During the Middle Ages, Mary Magdalene was conflated in western tradition with Mary of Bethany and the unnamed “sinful woman” who anoints Jesus’s feet in Luke 7:36–50, resulting in a widespread but inaccurate belief that she was a repentant prostitute or promiscuous woman. Elaborate medieval legends from western Europe tell exaggerated tales of Mary Magdalene’s wealth and beauty, as well as her alleged journey to southern France. The identification of Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany and the unnamed “sinful woman” was a major controversy in the years leading up to the Reformation and some Protestant leaders rejected it. During the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church used Mary Magdalene as a symbol of penance.
In 1969, the identification of Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany and the “sinful woman” was removed from the General Roman Calendar, but the view of her as a former prostitute has persisted in popular culture. Mary Magdalene is considered to be a saint by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches—with a feast day of July 22. Other Protestant churches honor her as a heroine of the faith. The Eastern Orthodox churches also commemorate her on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, the Orthodox equivalent of one of the Western Three Marys traditions. Speculations that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’s wife or that she had a sexual relationship with him are regarded by most historians as highly dubious.
Matthew the Apostle (Hebrew: מַתִּתְיָהוּ Mattityahu or מתי Matt, متى Arabic “Gift of YHVH”; Greek: Μαθθαῖος, translit. Maththaîos; also known as Saint Matthew and as Levi) was, according to the Christian Bible, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to Christian tradition, one of the four Evangelists.
Among the early followers and apostles of Jesus, Matthew is mentioned in Matthew 9:9 and Matthew 10:3 as a publican who, while sitting at the “receipt of custom” in Capernaum, was called to follow Jesus. He is also listed among the twelve, but without identification of his background, in Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. In passages parallel to Matthew 9:9, both Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 describe Jesus’ calling of the tax collector Levi, the son of Alphaeus, but Mark and Luke never explicitly equate this Levi with the Matthew named as one of the twelve.
The New Testament records that as a disciple, he followed Jesus, and was one of the witnesses of the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus. Afterwards, the disciples withdrew to an upper room (Acts 1:10–14) (traditionally the Cenacle) in Jerusalem. The disciples remained in and about Jerusalem and proclaimed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
The Gospel of Matthew is anonymous: the author is not named within the text, and the superscription “according to Matthew” was added some time in the second century. The tradition that the author was the disciple Matthew begins with the early Christian bishop Papias of Hierapolis (c. 100–140 CE), who is cited by the Church historian Eusebius (260–340 CE), as follows: “Matthew collected the oracles (logia: sayings of or about Jesus) in the Hebrew language (Hebraïdi dialektōi), and each one interpreted (hērmēneusen – perhaps “translated”) them as best he could.” On the surface, this has been taken to imply that Matthew’s Gospel itself was written in Hebrew or Aramaic by the apostle Matthew and later translated into Greek, but nowhere does the author claim to have been an eyewitness to events, and Matthew’s Greek “reveals none of the telltale marks of a translation”. Scholars have put forward several theories to explain Papias: perhaps Matthew wrote two gospels, one, now lost, in Hebrew, the other our Greek version; or perhaps the logia was a collection of sayings rather than the gospel; or by dialektōi Papias may have meant that Matthew wrote in the Jewish style rather than in the Hebrew language. The consensus is that Papias does not describe the Gospel of Matthew as we know it, and it is generally accepted that Matthew was written in Greek, not in Aramaic or Hebrew.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni or more commonly known by his first name Michelangelo (/ˌmaɪkəlˈændʒəloʊ/; Italian: [mikeˈlandʒelo di lodoˈviːko ˌbwɔnarˈrɔːti siˈmoːni]; 6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564) was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the High Renaissance born in the Republic of Florence, who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. Considered by many the greatest artist of his lifetime, and by some the greatest artist of all time, his artistic versatility was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with his rival, the fellow Florentine and client of the Medici, Leonardo da Vinci.
A number of Michelangelo’s works of painting, sculpture and architecture rank among the most famous in existence. His output in these fields was prodigious; given the sheer volume of surviving correspondence, sketches and reminiscences, he is the best-documented artist of the 16th century. He sculpted two of his best-known works, the Pietà and David, before the age of thirty. Despite holding a low opinion of painting, he also created two of the most influential frescoes in the history of Western art: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and The Last Judgment on its altar wall. His design of the Laurentian Library pioneered Mannerist architecture. At the age of 74, he succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica. He transformed the plan so that the western end was finished to his design, as was the dome, with some modification, after his death.
Michelangelo was the first Western artist whose biography was published while he was alive. In fact, two biographies were published during his lifetime. One of them, by Giorgio Vasari, proposed that Michelangelo’s work transcended that of any artist living or dead, and was “supreme in not one art alone but in all three”.
In his lifetime, Michelangelo was often called Il Divino (“the divine one”). His contemporaries often admired his terribilità—his ability to instill a sense of awe. Attempts by subsequent artists to imitate Michelangelo’s impassioned, highly personal style resulted in Mannerism, the next major movement in Western art after the High Renaissance.
Moses (/ˈmoʊzɪz, -zɪs/) was a prophet in the Abrahamic religions, according to their holy books; however, scholarly consensus sees Moses as a legendary figure and not a historical person. Jerome gives 1592 BCE, and James Ussher 1571 BCE as Moses’ birth year. According to the Hebrew Bible, he was adopted by an Egyptian princess, and later in life became the leader of the Israelites and lawgiver, to whom the authorship of the Torah, or acquisition of the Torah from Heaven is traditionally attributed. Also called Moshe Rabbenu in Hebrew (מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ, lit. “Moses our Teacher”), he is the most important prophet in Judaism. He is also an important prophet in Christianity, Islam, the Bahá’í Faith, and a number of other Abrahamic religions.
According to the Book of Exodus, Moses was born in a time when his people, the Israelites, an enslaved minority, were increasing in numbers and the Egyptian Pharaoh was worried that they might ally themselves with Egypt’s enemies. Moses’ Hebrew mother, Jochebed, secretly hid him when the Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed in order to reduce the population of the Israelites. Through the Pharaoh’s daughter (identified as Queen Bithia in the Midrash), the child was adopted as a foundling from the Nile river and grew up with the Egyptian royal family. After killing an Egyptian slavemaster (because the slavemaster was smiting a Hebrew), Moses fled across the Red Sea to Midian, where he encountered The Angel of the Lord, speaking to him from within a burning bush on Mount Horeb (which he regarded as the Mountain of God).
God sent Moses back to Egypt to demand the release of the Israelites from slavery. Moses said that he could not speak eloquently, so God allowed Aaron, his brother, to become his spokesperson. After the Ten Plagues, Moses led the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, after which they based themselves at Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. After 40 years of wandering in the desert, Moses died within sight of the Promised Land on Mount Nebo.
Moses is mentioned more often in the New Testament than any other Old Testament figure. For Christians, Moses is often a symbol of God’s law, as reinforced and expounded on in the teachings of Jesus. New Testament writers often compared Jesus’ words and deeds with Moses’ to explain Jesus’ mission. In Acts 7:39–43, 51–53, for example, the rejection of Moses by the Jews who worshiped the golden calf is likened to the rejection of Jesus by the Jews that continued in traditional Judaism.
Moses also figures in several of Jesus’ messages. When he met the Pharisee Nicodemus at night in the third chapter of the Gospel of John, he compared Moses’ lifting up of the bronze serpent in the wilderness, which any Israelite could look at and be healed, to his own lifting up (by his death and resurrection) for the people to look at and be healed. In the sixth chapter, Jesus responded to the people’s claim that Moses provided them manna in the wilderness by saying that it was not Moses, but God, who provided. Calling himself the “bread of life”, Jesus stated that He was provided to feed God’s people.
Moses, along with Elijah, is presented as meeting with Jesus in all three Synoptic Gospels of the Transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9, respectively. Jesus refers to the scribes and the Pharisees of the Temple as “seated in the chair of Moses” (Greek: επι της μωυσεως καθεδρας, epi tēs Mōuseōs kathedras).
Moses is mentioned more in the Quran than any other individual and his life is narrated and recounted more than that of any other Islamic prophet. In general, Moses is described in ways which parallel the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Public Usage in American History
In a metaphorical sense in the Christian tradition, a “Moses” has been referred to as the leader who delivers the people from a terrible situation. Among the Presidents of the United States known to have used the symbolism of Moses were Harry S. Truman, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who referred to his supporters as “the Moses generation.”
References to Moses were used by the Puritans, who relied on the story of Moses to give meaning and hope to the lives of Pilgrims seeking religious and personal freedom in America. John Carver was the first governor of Plymouth colony and first signer of the Mayflower Compact, which he wrote in 1620 during the ship Mayflower’s three-month voyage. He inspired the Pilgrims with a “sense of earthly grandeur and divine purpose,” notes historian Jon Meacham, and was called the “Moses of the Pilgrims.” Early American writer James Russell Lowell noted the similarity of the founding of America by the Pilgrims to that of ancient Israel by Moses.
On July 4, 1776, immediately after the Declaration of Independence was officially passed, the Continental Congress asked John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin to design a seal that would clearly represent a symbol for the new United States. They chose the symbol of Moses leading the Israelites to freedom. The Founding Fathers of the United States inscribed the words of Moses on the Liberty Bell: “Proclaim Liberty thro’ all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof.” (Leviticus 25) Upon the death of George Washington in 1799, two thirds of his eulogies referred to him as “America’s Moses,” with one orator saying that “Washington has been the same to us as Moses was to the Children of Israel.”
Benjamin Franklin, in 1788, saw the difficulties that some of the newly independent American states were having in forming a government, and proposed that until a new code of laws could be agreed to, they should be governed by “the laws of Moses,” as contained in the Old Testament. He justified his proposal by explaining that the laws had worked in biblical times: “The Supreme Being… having rescued them from bondage by many miracles, performed by his servant Moses, he personally delivered to that chosen servant, in the presence of the whole nation, a constitution and code of laws for their observance.
John Adams, 2nd President of the United States, stated why he relied on the laws of Moses over Greek philosophy for establishing the United States Constitution: “As much as I love, esteem, and admire the Greeks, I believe the Hebrews have done more to enlighten and civilize the world. Moses did more than all their legislators and philosophers.”
Historian Gladys L. Knight describes how leaders who emerged during and after the period in which slavery in the United States was legal often personified the Moses symbol. “The symbol of Moses was empowering in that it served to amplify a need for freedom.” Therefore, when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 after the passage of the amendment to the Constitution outlawing slavery, Black Americans said they had lost “their Moses”. Lincoln biographer Charles Carleton Coffin writes, “The millions whom Abraham Lincoln delivered from slavery will ever liken him to Moses, the deliverer of Israel.” Similarly, Harriet Tubman, who rescued approximately seventy enslaved family and friends, was also described as the “Moses” of her people.
In the 1960s, a leading figure in the civil rights movement was Martin Luther King Jr., who was called “a modern Moses,” and often referred to Moses in his speeches: “The struggle of Moses, the struggle of his devoted followers as they sought to get out of Egypt. This is something of the story of every people struggling for freedom.”
Muhammad (Arabic: مُحمّد, pronounced [muħammad]; c. 570 CE – 8 June 632 CE) was the founder of Islam. According to Islamic doctrine, he was a prophet, sent to present and confirm the monotheistic teachings preached previously by Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. He is viewed as the final prophet of God in all the main branches of Islam, though some modern denominations diverge from this belief. Muhammad united Arabia into a single Muslim polity, with the Quran as well as his teachings and practices forming the basis of Islamic religious belief.
Born approximately 570 CE (Year of the Elephant) in the Arabian city of Mecca, Muhammad was orphaned at six years old. He was raised under the care of his paternal uncle Abu Talib and Abu Talib’s wife Fatimah bint Asad. Periodically, he would seclude himself in a mountain cave named Hira for several nights of prayer; later, at age 40, he reported being visited by Gabriel in the cave, where he stated he received his first revelation from God. Three years later, in 610, Muhammad started preaching these revelations publicly, proclaiming that “God is One”, that complete “submission” (islām) to God is the right course of action (dīn), and that he was a prophet and messenger of God, similar to the other prophets in Islam.
Muhammad gained few early followers, and experienced hostility from Meccan polytheists. To escape ongoing persecution, he sent some followers to Abyssinia in 615, before he and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina (then known as Yathrib) later in 622. This event, the Hijra, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, also known as the Hijri Calendar. In Medina, Muhammad united the tribes under the Constitution of Medina. In December 629, after eight years of intermittent wars with Meccan tribes, Muhammad gathered an army of 10,000 Muslim converts and marched on the city of Mecca. The conquest went largely uncontested and Muhammad seized the city with little bloodshed. In 632, a few months after returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage, he fell ill and died. By his death, most of the Arabian Peninsula had converted to Islam.
The revelations (each known as Ayah, lit. “Sign [of God]”), which Muhammad reported receiving until his death, form the verses of the Quran, regarded by Muslims as the verbatim “Word of God” around which the religion is based. Besides the Quran, Muhammad’s teachings and practices (sunnah), found in the Hadith and sira (biography) literature, are also upheld and used as sources of Islamic law (Sharia).
In Abrahamic religions, Noah[a] (/ˈnoʊ.ə/ NOH-ə) was the tenth and last of the pre-Flood Patriarchs. The primary account of Noah in the Bible is in the Book of Genesis. The story of Noah’s Ark is told in the Bible’s Genesis flood narrative. His father was Lamech and his mother is not named in the biblical accounts. When Noah was five hundred years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth (Genesis 5:32).
The Genesis flood narrative makes up chapters 6–9 in the Book of Genesis, in the Bible. The narrative, one of many flood myths found in human cultures, indicates that God intended to return the Earth to its pre-Creation state of watery chaos by flooding the Earth because of humanity’s misdeeds and then remake it using the microcosm of Noah’s ark. Thus, the flood was no ordinary overflow but a reversal of creation. The narrative discusses the evil of mankind that moved God to destroy the world by the way of the flood, the preparation of the ark for certain animals, Noah, and his family, and God’s guarantee (the Noahic Covenant) for the continued existence of life under the promise that he would never send another flood.
In addition to the Book of Genesis, Noah is mentioned in the Old Testament in the First Book of Chronicles, and the books of Tobit, Wisdom, Sirach, Isaiah, Ezekiel, 2 Esdras, 4 Maccabees; in the New Testament, he is mentioned in the gospels of Matthew, and Luke, the Epistle to the Hebrews, 1st Peter and 2nd Peter. Noah was the subject of much elaboration in the literature of later Abrahamic religions, including the Quran.
2 Peter 2:5 refers to Noah as a “preacher of righteousness”. In the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke, Jesus compares Noah’s flood with the coming Day of Judgment: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
The First Epistle of Peter compares the saving power of baptism with the Ark saving those who were in it. In later Christian thought, the Ark came to be compared to the Church: salvation was to be found only within Christ and his Lordship, as in Noah’s time it had been found only within the Ark. St Augustine of Hippo (354–430), demonstrated in The City of God that the dimensions of the Ark corresponded to the dimensions of the human body, which corresponds to the body of Christ; the equation of Ark and Church is still found in the Anglican rite of baptism, which asks God, “who of thy great mercy didst save Noah,” to receive into the Church the infant about to be baptized.
In medieval Christianity, Noah’s three sons were generally considered as the founders of the populations of the three known continents, Japheth/Europe, Shem/Asia, and Ham/Africa.
Paul the Apostle
Paul the Apostle (Latin: Paulus; Greek: Παῦλος, translit. Paulos; c. 5 – c. 64 or 67), commonly known as Saint Paul and also known by his Jewish name Saul of Tarsus (Hebrew: שאול התרסי, translit. Sha’ūl ha-Tarsī; Greek: Σαῦλος Ταρσεύς, translit. Saũlos Tarseús), was an apostle (though not one of the Twelve Apostles) who taught the gospel of Christ to the first-century world.
Paul is generally considered one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age and in the mid-30s to the mid-50s AD he founded several churches in Asia Minor and Europe. He took advantage of his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen to minister to both Jewish and Roman audiences.
According to writings in the New Testament and prior to his conversion, Paul was dedicated to persecuting the early disciples of Jesus in the area of Jerusalem. In the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles (often referred to simply as Acts), Paul was traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission to “arrest them and bring them back to Jerusalem” when the resurrected Jesus appeared to him in a great light. He was struck blind, but after three days his sight was restored by Ananias of Damascus and Paul began to preach that Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God. Approximately half of the book of Acts deals with Paul’s life and works.
Thirteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament have traditionally been attributed to Paul. Seven of the epistles are undisputed by scholars as being authentic, with varying degrees of argument about the remainder. Pauline authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews is not asserted in the Epistle itself and was already doubted in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It was almost unquestioningly accepted from the 5th to the 16th centuries that Paul was the author of Hebrews, but that view is now almost universally rejected by scholars. The other six are believed by some scholars to have come from followers writing in his name, using material from Paul’s surviving letters and letters written by him that no longer survive. Other scholars argue that the idea of a pseudonymous author for the disputed epistles raises many problems.
Today, Paul’s epistles continue to be vital roots of the theology, worship and pastoral life in the Catholic and Protestant traditions of the West, as well as the Orthodox traditions of the East. Paul’s influence on Christian thought and practice has been characterized as being as “profound as it is pervasive”, among that of many other apostles and missionaries involved in the spread of the Christian faith. Augustine of Hippo developed Paul’s idea that salvation is based on faith and not “works of the law”. Martin Luther’s interpretation of Paul’s writings influenced Luther’s doctrine of sola fide.
Peter the Apostle
Saint Peter (Syriac: ܫܸܡܥܘܿܢ ܟܹ݁ܐܦ݂ܵܐ, Šemʿōn Kēp̄ā; Hebrew: שמעון בר יונה Šimʿōn bar Yōnāh; Greek: Πέτρος, translit. Petros; Latin: Petrus; r. AD 30; died between AD 64 and 68), also known as Simon Peter, Simeon, or Simon, according to the New Testament, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, leaders of the early Christian Great Church. Pope Gregory I called him repeatedly the “Prince of the Apostles”. According to Catholic teaching, Jesus promised Peter in the “Rock of My Church” dialogue in Matthew 16:18 a special position in the Church. He is traditionally counted as the first Bishop of Rome—or pope—and also by Eastern Christian tradition as the first Patriarch of Antioch. The ancient Christian churches all venerate Peter as a major saint and as the founder of the Church of Antioch and the Roman Church, but differ in their attitudes regarding the authority of his present-day successors (the primacy of the Bishop of Rome).
The New Testament indicates that Peter’s father’s name was John (or Jonah or Jona) and was from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee or Gaulanitis. His brother Andrew was also an apostle. According to New Testament accounts, Peter was one of twelve apostles chosen by Jesus from his first disciples. Originally a fisherman, he played a leadership role and was with Jesus during events witnessed by only a few apostles, such as the Transfiguration. According to the gospels, Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah, was part of Jesus’s inner circle, thrice denied Jesus and wept bitterly once he realized his deed, and preached on the day of Pentecost.
According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus. Tradition holds that he was crucified at the site of the Clementine Chapel. His remains are said to be those contained in the underground Confessio of St. Peter’s Basilica, where Pope Paul VI announced in 1968 the excavated discovery of a first-century Roman cemetery. Every 29 June since 1736, a statue of Saint Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica is adorned with papal tiara, ring of the fisherman, and papal vestments, as part of the celebration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. According to Catholic doctrine, the direct papal successor to Saint Peter is the incumbent pope, currently Pope Francis.
Two general epistles in the New Testament are ascribed to Peter, but modern scholars generally reject the Petrine authorship of both. The Gospel of Mark was traditionally thought to show the influence of Peter’s preaching and eyewitness memories.
Plato (/ˈpleɪtoʊ/; Greek: Πλάτων[a] Plátōn, pronounced [plá.tɔːn] in Classical Attic; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a philosopher in Classical Greece and the founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. He is widely considered the pivotal figure in the development of Western philosophy. Unlike nearly all of his philosophical contemporaries, Plato’s entire work is believed to have survived intact for over 2,400 years.
Along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle, Plato laid the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Alfred North Whitehead once noted: “the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” In addition to being a foundational figure for Western science, philosophy, and mathematics, Plato has also often been cited as one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality.
Plato was the innovator of the written dialogue and dialectic forms in philosophy. Plato appears to have been the founder of Western political philosophy, with his Republic, and Laws among other dialogues, providing some of the earliest extant treatments of political questions from a philosophical perspective. Plato’s own most decisive philosophical influences are usually thought to have been Socrates, Parmenides, Heraclitus and Pythagoras, although few of his predecessors’ works remain extant and much of what we know about these figures today derives from Plato himself.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes Plato as “…one of the most dazzling writers in the Western literary tradition and one of the most penetrating, wide-ranging, and influential authors in the history of philosophy. … He was not the first thinker or writer to whom the word “philosopher” should be applied. But he was so self-conscious about how philosophy should be conceived, and what its scope and ambitions properly are, and he so transformed the intellectual currents with which he grappled, that the subject of philosophy, as it is often conceived—a rigorous and systematic examination of ethical, political, metaphysical, and epistemological issues, armed with a distinctive method—can be called his invention. Few other authors in the history of Western philosophy approximate him in depth and range: perhaps only Aristotle (who studied with him), Aquinas and Kant would be generally agreed to be of the same rank.”
Rahab (/ˈreɪhæb/; Hebrew: רָחָב, Modern: Raẖav, Tiberian: Rāḥāḇ, “broad,” “large.” Arabic: رحاب, a vast space of a land) was, according to the Book of Joshua, a woman who lived in Jericho in the Promised Land and assisted the Israelites in capturing the city by betraying her people (Joshua 2:1-24). In the New Testament, she is lauded both as an example of a saint who lived by faith, and as someone “considered righteous” for her works.
Although the King James Version renders the name as Rachab in Matthew 1:5, most modern versions render it as Rahab instead. Matthew’s genealogy records her as one of the ancestors of Jesus.
The Hebrew אשה זונה (ishah zonah), used to describe Rahab in Joshua 2:1, literally means “a prostitute woman” The Hebrew zōnâ may refer to secular or cultic prostitution, and the latter is widely believed to have been an invariable element of Canaanite religious practice, although recent scholarship has disputed this. However, there was a separate word, qědēšâ, that could be used to designate prostitutes of the cultic variety.
Josephus mentions that Rahab kept an inn but is silent as to whether merely renting out rooms was her only source of income. It was not uncommon for both an inn and a brothel to operate within the same building; thus entering Rahab’s quarters was not necessarily a deviation from Joshua’s orders. Indeed, as Robert Boling notes, such an establishment might have represented an ideal location for spies to gather intelligence. A number of scholars have noted that the narrator in Joshua 2 may have intended to remind the readers of the “immemorial symbiosis between military service and bawdy house”.
In the Christian New Testament, the Epistle of James and the Epistle to the Hebrews follow the tradition set by the translators of the Septuagint in using the Greek word “πόρνη” (pórnē, which is usually translated to English as “harlot” or “prostitute”) to describe Rahab.
William L. Lyons observed that biblical interpreters have viewed Rahab as a model of hospitality, mercy, faith, patience, and repentance in her interaction with Joshua’s spies. Thus the harlot of Jericho became a paragon of virtue.
Ruth (/ruːθ/; Hebrew: רוּת, Modern: Rut, Tiberian: Rūθ), is the title character of the Book of Ruth. In the narrative, she is not an Israelite but rather is from Moab; she marries an Israelite. Both her husband and her father-in-law die, and she helps her mother-in-law, Naomi, find protection. The two of them travel to Bethlehem together, where Ruth wins the love of Boaz through her kindness.
Ruth is one of five women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew, alongside Tamar, Rahab, the “wife of Uriah” (Bathsheba), and Mary. Katharine Doob Sakenfeld argues that Ruth is a model of loving-kindness (hesed): she acts in ways that promote the well-being of others. In Ruth 1:8–18, she demonstrated hesed by not going back to Moab but accompanying her mother-in-law to a foreign land. She chose to glean, despite the danger she faced in the field (Ruth 2:15) and the lower social status of the job. Finally, Ruth agrees with Naomi’s plan to marry Boaz, even though she was free of family obligations, once again demonstrating her loyalty and obedience (Ruth 3:10).
Socrates (/ˈsɒkrətiːz/; Ancient Greek: Σωκρᾰ́της, translit. Sōkrátēs, [sɔːkrátɛːs]; c. 470 – 399 BC) was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher, of the Western ethical tradition of thought. An enigmatic figure, he made no writings, and is known chiefly through the accounts of classical writers writing after his lifetime, particularly his students Plato and Xenophon. Other sources include the contemporaneous Antisthenes, Aristippus, and Aeschines of Sphettos. Aristophanes, a playwright, is the only source to have written during his lifetime.
Plato’s dialogues are among the most comprehensive accounts of Socrates to survive from antiquity, though it is unclear the degree to which Socrates himself is “hidden behind his ‘best disciple'”. Through his portrayal in Plato’s dialogues, Socrates has become renowned for his contribution to the fields of ethics and epistemology. It is this Platonic Socrates who lends his name to the concepts of Socratic irony and the Socratic method, or elenchus.
Socrates exerted a strong influence on philosophers in later antiquity and in the modern era. Depictions of Socrates in art, literature and popular culture have made him one of the most widely known figures in the Western philosophical tradition.
Zacchaeus, or Zaccheus (Greek: Ζακχαῖος, Zakchaios; Hebrew: זכי, “pure”, “innocent”, was a chief tax-collector at Jericho, mentioned only in the Gospel of Luke. A descendant of Abraham, he was an example of Jesus’ personal, earthly mission to bring salvation to the lost. Tax collectors were despised as traitors (working for the Roman Empire, not for their Jewish community), and as being corrupt.
Because the lucrative production and export of balsam was centered in Jericho, his position would have carried both importance and wealth. In the account, he arrived before the crowd who were later to meet with Jesus, who was passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. He was short in stature and so was unable to see Jesus through the crowd (Luke 19:3). Zachaeus then ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree along Jesus’ path. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up at the sycamore tree (actually a sycamore-fig ficus sycomorus), addressed Zacchaeus by name, and told him to come down, for he intended to visit his house. The crowd was shocked that Jesus, a religious teacher/prophet, would sully himself by being a guest of a sinner.
The story of Zacchaeus is used by some to illustrate the saying of Jesus: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” Matthew 5:8, because the name Zacchaeus means ‘pure’. Zacchaeus also becomes a contrast of character with the Rich Young Ruler Luke 18:18-23. Both Zacchaeus and the Rich Young Ruler were wealthy men, but one was self-righteous and would not give up his possessions, while the other gave half his possessions to feed the poor.