Junior Cert Revision – Section B

Hello third years

Keep up the good studying! Keep revising Section D, but now we’ll also add Section B – Foundations of Religion – Christianity – to the study load.

Read the brief summary of each chapter given here below, then study the chapter in detail. Study the blue notes connected with each chapter.

The Foundations of Religion – Christianity – deals with:

Chapter 5: The Context of Jesus’ Birth – the Holy Land (know map) – The Roman Empire (reasons why Jews and Romans did not get along) – Messianic Expectation – Political and Religious Structures at the time – the Sanhedrin – Tax Collectors – The Temple – The Synagogue

The Holy Land

The country where Jesus lived is known as the Holy Land. This is because the origins of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are found there. At the time of Jesus, the Holy Land was called Palestine. (Today, this country is known as Israel.) Palestine was small, about the size of Northern Ireland. It consisted of three main provinces (regions): Galilee, Samaria and Judaea. It had two lakes: the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The River Jordan connected these two lakes. The capital city of Palestine was Jerusalem, in the province of Judaea. There were several small villages and towns, for example, Nazareth and Capernaum in Galilee, and Bethlehem and Jericho in Judaea.

Palestine at the Time of Jesus

Life under Roman Rule

In 63 BC, Palestine was conquered by the Romans and became part of the Roman Empire. The decision to take control of Palestine was a very profitable one for the Romans, as Palestine produced food and other goods for export, including fruit, oil, wine, fish, perfumes and skins. The Romans also imposed heavy taxes on the people to pay for the upkeep of the empire and its armies. The Romans did bring some advantages to Palestine, for example, they built new roads, they improved the water supply in Jerusalem and they constructed many buildings. Under Roman rule, there was also a certain amount of political stability.

Ancient Judaism

Jesus was born into the Jewish faith. The Jewish faith has its origins in God’s special relationship with Abraham and later with Moses. God called Abraham to lead the people from the city of Ur in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) to the land of Canaan. God made a covenant with Abraham whereby Abraham and his followers would be God’s chosen people. In return for this, the people would be asked to obey God’s law.

Abraham’s descendants settled in Canaan, but eventually they moved down to Egypt, where as time went by, they were persecuted and treated as slaves. Hundreds of years later, God sent them a leader, Moses, to free them from slavery. In the book of Exodus, we read of how Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and on towards the Promised Land (modern-day Israel). The story of ancient Judaism, of Abraham and Moses, would have been very familiar to Jesus.

Political Structures in the Time of Jesus

Over the centuries, the Israelites had many rulers; first they were ruled by prophets called judges, then by kings, beginning with Saul, then David, then David’s son Solomon. After Solomon’s death, the land was divided into two kingdoms; the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judaea. In 63 BC, the Romans conquered the land and called it Palestine. In 40 BC, they appointed Herod as king. Because Herod was not a Jew, the Jewish people never accepted him. At the time of Jesus, Palestine (the Holy Land) was still part of the Roman Empire, and Roman laws and customs were being imposed on the Jewish people. The Jews didn’t like the Romans and there was always a great deal of tension between them. The Roman emperor was called Caesar. He allowed Herod to continue as a token leader (i.e. without any real power), but he sent governors to Palestine to take care of his interests and, therefore, the real power was firmly held by Rome. Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor (procurator) from AD 26 to 36. His job was to keep law and order in Palestine and make sure the Jewish people paid their taxes.

Religious Structures in the Time of Jesus

The Romans found the Jewish faith baffling. They were polytheists and the Jews were monotheists. The Jews called their God Yahweh. (The name ‘Yahweh’ is considered so sacred that it is never said out loud.) The Romans allowed the Jewish people to continue to practise their religion. They saw this as a way of keeping the people happy and so making it easier for them to govern Palestine.

The Sanhedrin

The Sanhedrin was the religious governing body located in Jerusalem. It also served as the highest court of Jewish law in Palestine. The High Priest was president of the Sanhedrin and its members were made up of the Sadducees and Pharisees, two religious groups who disagreed on many issues.

The Romans allowed the Sanhedrin to

            act as a court of law

            punish Jewish people who broke the Jewish law

            keep its own guards who maintained order

This was quite a cunning plan on behalf of the Romans because now they had a situation where the two main Jewish groups were fighting and disagreeing amongst each other and inflicting punishment on their own people for not upholding the strict Jewish laws.

The Temple

All Jewish people wanted to visit the Temple in Jerusalem at least once a year because it was considered the dwelling place of God and Judaism’s most sacred building. The chief authority of the Temple was the High Priest.

The Synagogue

By the time Jesus was born, all towns and cities in Palestine had synagogues. The synagogue was a meeting place for prayer and the study of the Law, and it was run by the elders in the Jewish community. Services were held on the Sabbath and on feast days. Jesus attended the synagogue regularly.

The Sabbath

The Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday evening and ends on Saturday evening. It is considered a holy day and a day of rest. Traditionally, it is traced back to the Ten Commandments given to Moses: ‘Remember to keep holy the Sabbath Day’ (Exodus 20).

The Religious Groups of Ancient Judaism

The Sadducees

Who?                                       Wealthy aristocracy (many of whom where priests)

Do?                                          Controlled the office of the High Priest

Accept?                                   The Torah – the written Law of Judaism

Reject?                                     The ancient traditions of the Pharisees

Why unpopular with poor?        Too powerful and co-operated with the Romans

Believe what about Messiah?    Not waiting for a Messiah; did not believe in resurrection or afterlife of any kind; did not expect to be freed from Romans

The Pharisees

Who?                                       Group of learned laymen who rejected Roman rule

Do?                                          Religious leaders/teachers in local synagogues

Accept?                                   The Torah – the written Law of Judaism

Reject?                                     Those who did not follow the strict law of Torah

Why unpopular with poor?        Too pious and laws too strict

Believe what about Messiah?    Believed in an afterlife, a final judgement day and freedom from Roman rule; expected the Messiah that was promised in Hebrew Scriptures

The Zealots

Who?                                       A revolutionary group

Do?                                          Fought to rid Palestine of Roman authorities

Accept?                                   A violent and military route to freedom

Reject?                                     Romans, peaceful protest, paying taxes

Why unpopular with poor?        Used violence to achieve their goals

Believe what about Messiah?    The Zealots believed that a militant Messiah (one who favoured violence) would come to their rescue and free them from Roman rule; today Zealots would be called terrorists

The Essenes

Who?                                       A community of monks – quiet and prayerful life

Do?                                          Left society to live and pray in the desert

Accept?                                   A peaceful and prayerful religious life

Reject?                                     Corruption and religious carelessness amongst Jews

Why unpopular with poor?        Removed themselves from the rest of society

Believe what about Messiah?    Believed that a Messiah of David would come and bring with him a new kingdom

Messianic Expectation – Waiting for the Messiah

The Jewish people had great hope and expectation. Their hope for the future centred on the arrival of the Messiah. ‘Messiah’ means ‘someone who has been anointed’. In their sacred scriptures, especially in the writings of the prophets, the Jewish people read of the ‘anointed one’ who would be sent by God to bring everlasting peace. It is easy to understand their excitement at the thought of the coming of the Messiah.

Opinions were mixed as to who the Messiah would be. Many believed that he would be a descendant of the great King David, a mighty leader born into luxury and wealth, who would bring them prosperity and liberate them from the Romans. Others looked forward to a savior who would use force if necessary in order to drive the Romans out of Palestine.

Jesus, the Christ

In the beginning, the apostles did not recognise Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. Because of the different Jewish interpretations of what the messiah would be like, Jesus did not like to use the term. As they got to know Jesus better, the apostles began to think he might be the Messiah, so they called him ‘Jesus, the Christ’. (‘Christ’ also means ‘the anointed one’.)

It was only after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, that they fully recognised him as the Son of God.

Chapter 6: Evidence about Jesus – Bible as a source of evidence – The Old Testament and The New Testament – The three stages of writing the Gospels (Life of Jesus, Oral Tradition & Preaching of Disciples, Written Tradition) – Documents of Faith (not a history book) – Historical Documents: Josephus and Tacitus – The Four Evangelists (Details of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) – the three Synoptics – How John is different

The Bible

The word ‘Bible’ comes from the Greek word biblia, meaning ‘books’. The Bible is like a library of books. It is divided into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. Each of these parts contains many different books. The Old Testament and the New Testament are closely linked because, when put together, they tell a single story. 

Old Testament                       46 Books                                New Testament          27 Books

Torah (5)                                                                                  Gospels (4)

Historical Books (16)                                                               Acts (1)

Wisdom Books (7)                                                                   Letters (21)

Prophetic Books (18)                                                               Revelation (1)

The Old Testament tells the story of God’s relationship with the Jewish people before the coming of Jesus. Jewish people call the Old Testament the Hebrew Scriptures.

The New Testament tells the story of the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, and of the earliest followers of Christianity. The Gospels belong to the New Testament.

The Bible was written over hundreds of years by different people from different backgrounds. They all had one thing in common: they were inspired by God to put words on what God wanted people to know. For Christians the Bible is a sacred text because they believe that it truly is the Word of God.

Chapter 7: The Person and Preaching of Jesus – The Kingdom of God – Parables – Why Jesus used them – Example and message of at least two – Miracles – four types – Reason Jesus used them – example and meaning of at least two – Table Fellowship: then and now – Discipleship, Beatitudes – Vocation – Mission

The Kingdom of God

Jesus knew that he was called by God to proclaim the idea of God’s rule of the people in a new and radical way. He understood that the Kingdom of God was not a particular place or country; rather, it was a way of life that would create the kind of world that God wants for everybody. The whole world would become one kingdom – the Kingdom of God. The KOG is characterised by TRUTH, JUSTICE, PEACE and LOVE.


Like all great teachers, Jesus knew the value of stories in helping people to understand something new or different. So he told short stories – parables, using examples from the daily lives of the listeners – farmers, fishermen, housewives.

On the surface parables were straight forward, but they had a deeper meaning and were intended to make the people stop and think. They all had a common thread – life in the Kingdom of God.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan:

  • ·        Being a good neighbour has nothing to do with the colour of your skin, the clothes you wear or your religion.
  • ·        It is often the most unlikely person that will come to our aid at the end of the day.

The Parable of the Talents

  • ·        We should use our talents wisely.
  • ·        God loves everyone, even with few or many talents.
  • ·        Using talents wisely leads to happiness with God.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

  • ·        The Kingdom of God has small beginnings, but will grow into something wonderful.
  • ·        The seed is God’s gift in our hearts – doing something good shows God’s love in our hearts.
  • ·        God is at work all around us.


The Miracles of Jesus

The miracles that Jesus performed are called ‘signs’ in the Gospel of John and this gives a very good indication of their real meaning. The mighty deeds of Jesus are signs of God’s presence in the world bringing an end to suffering and injustice. The miracles are not magic and they are not done for approval – they are signs of the Kingdom.

 Types of Miracles

Miracles of Healing


Miracles of Nature

Restoration to Life


Miracles of Healing – Compassion for the suffering of others

Exorcisms – Directly confronting the power of evil and the suffering it causes

Miracles of Nature – There is no power greater than God in the world

Restored to Life – The love of God

Why was it necessary for Jesus to perform miracles?

Evidence of Jesus’ power over sin, suffering and death was needed, or else his Jewish audience would have ignored his teachings about the Kingdom of God.

  • ·        At that time, most Jews regarded physical suffering as punishment from God for sins
  • ·        They would only believe a person was forgiven if s/he was cured
  • ·        By healing a person, Jesus showed he had authority to forgive sins and that his power to heal came from God and that what he preached to them was true

 Three reasons Jesus worked miracles:

  • ·        To strengthen the faith of those people who already believed in him
  • ·        To reveal God’s power in order to show people that the Kingdom of God had begun in him
  • ·        To demonstrate God’s unlimited love for each and every human being, regardless of their race or religion

The Beatitudes

In the eight Beatitudes, Jesus outlines 2 dimensions of the Kingdom of God:

1.        In the first four, he mentions certain situations that are to be found in this world but will be reversed in the Kingdom of God. Those who are poor, sad and downtrodden will not be forgotten by God.

2.        In the second four, Jesus outlines the attitudes and behaviour that will help bring about the Kingdom. Followers of Jesus are encouraged to be compassionate, dedicated to God, and to work for justice and peace.


Chapter 8: The Death and Resurrection of Jesus – Conflict with Authority – Jesus and the Sadducees – Jesus and the Pharisees – the first Holy Week – the first Palm Sunday – Jesus in the Temple – Sadducees felt worried and threatened – Judas’ deal – The Last Supper – similarities with Passover meal: memorial and sacrifice – The arrest of Jesus – the Religious Trial (Sanhedrin) – The Political Trial (Pontius Pilate) – The Whipping and Humiliation of Jesus – His journey to death – How the disciples felt – The Resurrection: what the Gospels tell us – The Road to Emmaus – Presence – Transformation

Jesus enters Jerusalem

After a number of years of preaching and miracles, mainly in Galilee (Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, Cana etc), Jesus made a very conscious and deliberate decision to go to Jerusalem (in Judaea) and proclaim the kingdom in word and deed there. He was aware of growing opposition to his teaching.

For Jews, Jerusalem was not only their capital city but also the site of the Temple which they considered to be the holiest place on earth – a meeting point between God and the people. It was also a place of hope, for the Jewish people believed that the Messiah would reveal himself in Jerusalem.

It was in the spring of 33AD that Jesus travelled to Jerusalem, to be one of the estimated 200,000 people who celebrated the annual feast of Passover in the city. At Passover, the Jewish people celebrated their ancestor’s escape from Egypt to become God’s chosen people.

What occurred in Jerusalem over the next eight days is dealt with in detail in each of the four Gospels, and is celebrated each year by Christians as the cornerstone of their faith. It is known as HOLY WEEK.

Chapter 9: Faith in Christ – Events after the Resurrection – Ascension – Pentecost – Missionary Work (Acts of the Apostles) – Characteristics of the First Christian Communities – Dangers they faced – St Stephen: one of the first Christian Martyrs – Saul to Paul – Paul’s Missionary Journeys and Letters – The People of God

This ‘prezi’ (online presentation) may be useful for some aspects of Chapter 9: http://prezi.com/prjbfwctahc9/the-formation-of-the-early-church/

Chapter 9: Titles for Jesus (Higher Level) – Son of Man – Son of God – New Creation – Christ/Messiah

This prezi is a brief (lacks essential details) summary of the titles of Jesus: http://prezi.com/fiaixkg6b-fj/different-titles-for-jesus/

Good luck everybody with all the revision. Make sure you know every detail of Section B. (Don’t forget to keep revising Section D.)

I will post some past exam questions dealing with Section B before 5pm on Tuesday 10th April. Keep studying hard!!

Best wishes everyone and Happy Easter!

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