“Since the time of Jesus, when the only two known religions were Christianity and Judaism…”

Here’s another student’s compulsive history sketch-in. Why do they insist on doing this? Is it an effort to add a scholarly dimension to their comments, or some gravitas, or an air of authority? They just about never get the history right, undermining not only those hopes but also the credibility of whatever is going to come next.

Surely there were more than two “known” religions in “the time of Jesus.” What about those Romans, for a start, bosses in the same neighborhood?

We might even pick a nit or two and suggest that in the time of Jesus “Christianity” wasn’t a religion at all; Jesus claimed he was trying to purify or clarify the religion of the Hebrews, and most of his followers were Jews. Christianity as a cult, and then as a religion per se, developed after his death and resurrection.

But that was just the preparation for the rest of her sentence:

“Since the time of Jesus, when the only two known religions were Christianity and Judaism, the human race has come a long way and developed many other religions in which various people follow.”

Is it just a function of my place in the history of the world that when I hear “come a long way” I think of Virginia Slims, those elegant cigarettes designed to grace a woman’s hand (and bring the lung cancer statistics into gender balance)? Oh, sorry, be that as it may….

My student is somehow implying that having only two “known” religions is rather primitive: we’ve “come a long way” by developing a lot more religions. But what then of all those religions the Old-Testament Hebrews were trying so hard to stamp out? Did the world go backwards in getting down to two? What does she mean?

You’ll also notice the “in which” witch. Somewhere in the more recent past there must have been one hell of a teacher, pounding into thousands of student brains the notion that “which” cannot stand alone but always must be preceded by “in.” Even the Beatles had the notion “in this ever-changing world in which we live in.” I’m sure teachers were trying to teach no such thing: they wanted their students to stop ending sentences with prepositions, and so began conscientiously moving the “in” to stand before the “which” that usually lurked elsewhere in the sentence. But the students’ desire to put that beloved preposition at the end resulted in doubling it, putting one in front of the “which” and one at the end of the sentence. Now I even get sentences, like today’s, that require no preposition at all but throw “in” in front of “which” just the same. I also get sentences that use different prepositions but yet retain the “in”: “The college in which I went to,” for example. Maybe we need some ancient Hebrews to stamp that quasi-religious practice out!

My student does seem to have no doubt as to where religions come from: the human race “develops” them. So much for divine visitations. Well, we’ve done a great job, and now we’ve developed a lot of them, a veritable holy smorgasbord for “various” people to choose from. Or from which various people can choose.

I wish I had noted the actual subject of the essay from which this sentence came, because I can’t now imagine what point she might have been headed for.

But I must I say I like her suggestion that the more religions, the better off the human race is, and her evident belief that there’s no problem which religion “various” people choose to follow. If only we could all be so broad-minded.

About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

7 responses to ““Since the time of Jesus, when the only two known religions were Christianity and Judaism…”

  • philosophermouseofthehedge

    Cut and pasted phrases to make papers. Glued together ideas. Pretty grim if you consider a student’s compositions as a measure of their knowledge and understanding of the world.

  • RAB

    And I KNOW they had real teachers in K-12. I KNOW they had world history, for instance. Yet they swoop through the past with simplistic notions and bits of facts, confident that they’re saying something. How can they build real knowledge if the foundation they built out of the materials already presented to them are so flimsy?

  • linguischtick

    I just can’t accept that someone could be so narrow-minded, ignorant and unimaginative. Maybe we should read this sentence as an admission, rather than an assertion: “Since the time of Jesus, when the only two religions that I know of, Judaism and Christianity, existed…” rather than “Since the time of Jesus, when Judaism and Christianity were the only two religions known to any human culture…”.

  • RAB

    That would be kind, I think. But her assertion is completely in line with other students’ sweeping assertions about a past of which they evidently have some cartoon version rather than knowledge. If you look at all the posts I’ve tagged “Yore” you’ll see this sorry pattern. One student announced with confidence that “Jesus was of the Jewish religion; Socrates, of the Christian” (I haven’t written that one up yet.) The worst thing about this sort of nuttiness is that at least in most cases the sweeping “historical” generalization is not even necessary to the larger discussion the student is using it to launch. It’s just a foolish flourish. Alas.

  • Gilbert Woolley

    At the time of Christ there were two major religions in the Middle East -India area: Buddhism and Zoroastriansm. Buddhism was around 400 years old and Zoroasterism was much older, estimates vary wildly, from hundreds of years to thousands of years.

    During the lifetime of Christ, some form of early christianity seems to have been a Jewish cult. Note the stress on Jesus being descended from King David. a complete genealogy is given in one of the
    Gospels and is well established in modern Christian culture. See Christmas Carols, “While shepherds watched their flock by night “…is born of David’s line” and ” once in royal David’ city”. This line of descent
    through his mother’s husband, who, according to Christian orthodoxy was
    NOT his father since Mary was a virgin at the time of his birth. GOD was his father I had six years of Bible education at a Church of England school and this obvious discreppancy was never mentioned. The scholars who compiled and edited our Bible somehow missed it.

  • “Food has been around since the beginning of time.” « You Knew What I Meant

    […] is another student effort to invoke Yore. As I’ve noted before, students seem to find these quick-but-definitive historical pronouncements irresistible for opening statements. The one here is the single most profound, most resonant, most […]

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