Aniconism in Islam
Aniconism is the avoidance of images of sentient beings in some forms of Islamic art. Islamic aniconism stems in part from the prohibition of idolatry and in part from the belief that creation of living forms is God's prerogative. Although the Quran does not explicitly prohibit visual representation of any living being, it uses the word musawwir as an epithet of God; the corpus of hadith contains more explicit prohibitions of images of living beings, challenging painters to "breathe life" into their images and threatening them with punishment on the Day of Judgment. Muslims have interpreted these prohibitions in different ways in different places. Religious Islamic art has been characterized by the absence of figures and extensive use of calligraphic and abstract floral patterns. However, representations of Muhammad and other religious figures are found in some manuscripts from lands to the east of Anatolia, such as Persia and India; these pictures were meant to illustrate the story and not to infringe on the Islamic prohibition of idolatry, but many Muslims regard such images as forbidden.
In secular art of the Muslim world, representations of human and animal forms flourished in nearly all Islamic cultures, although because of opposing religious sentiments, figures in paintings were stylized, giving rise to a variety of decorative figural designs. There were episodes of iconoclastic destruction of figurative art, such as the decree by the Umayyad caliph Yazid II in 721 CE ordering the destruction of all representational images in his realm. A number of historians have seen an Islamic influence on the Byzantine iconoclastic movement of the 8th century, though others regard this is as a legend that arose in times in the Byzantine empire; the Quran, the Islamic holy book, does not explicitly prohibit the depiction of human figures. Interdictions of figurative representation are present in the hadith, among a dozen of the hadith recorded during the latter part of the period when they were being written down; because these hadith are tied to particular events in the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, they need to be interpreted in order to be applied in any general manner.
Sunni exegetes or tafsir, from the 9th century onward saw in them categorical prohibitions against producing and using any representation of living beings. There are variations between religious madhhab and marked differences between different branches of Islam. Aniconism is common among fundamentalist Sunni sects such as Salafis and Wahhabis, less prevalent among liberal movements within Islam. Shia and mystical orders have less stringent views on aniconism. On the individual level, whether or not specific Muslims believe in aniconism may depend on how much credence is given to hadith, how liberal or strict they are in personal practice. Aniconism in Islam not only deals with the material image, but touches upon mental representations as well, it is a problematic issue, discussed by early theologians, as to how to describe God and other prophets, indeed, if it is permissible at all to do so. God is represented by immaterial attributes, such as "holy" or "merciful" known from His "Ninety-nine beautiful names".
Muhammad's physical appearance, however, is amply described in the traditions on his life and deeds recorded in the biographies known as Sirah Rasul Allah. Of no less interest is the validity of sightings of holy personages made during dreams. Titus Burckhardt sums up the role of aniconism in Islamic aesthetics as follows: The absence of icons in Islam has not a negative but a positive role. By excluding all anthropomorphic images, at least within the religious realm, Islamic art aids man to be himself. Instead of projecting his soul outside himself, he can remain in his ontological centre where he is both the viceregent and slave of God. Islamic art as a whole aims at creating an ambience which helps man to realize his primordial dignity. Nothing must stand between the invisible presence of God, thus Islamic art creates a void. In practice, the core of normative religion in Islam is aniconic, its embodiment are spaces such as the mosque and objects like the Quran or the white dress of pilgrims entering Mecca, deprived of figurative images.
Other spheres of religion exhibit in this regard significant variability. Aniconism in secular contexts is more fluctuating. Speaking, aniconism in Islamic societies is restricted in modern times to specific religious contexts. In the past, it was enforced only in some places; the representation of living beings in Islamic art is not just a modern phenomenon or because of current technology, Westernization or the cult of the personality. Frescos and reliefs of humans and animals adorned palaces of the Umayyad era, as on the famous Mshatta Facade now in Berlin. Figurative miniatures in books occur in most Islamic countries but somewhat less in Arabic-speaking areas; the human figure is central to the Persian miniature and other traditions such as the Ottoman miniature and Mughal painting, represents a good deal of the attractiveness of Islamic art for non-Muslims. The Persian miniature tradition began when Persian courts were Sunni but continued after the Shia Safav
Aniconism in Christianity
Christianity has not practised aniconism, or the avoidance or prohibition of types of images, but has had an active tradition of making and venerating images of God and other religious figures. However, there are periods of aniconism in Christian history, notably during the controversy of the Byzantine iconoclasm of the 8th century, following the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, when Calvinism in particular rejected all images in churches, this practice continues today in Reformed churches, as well as some forms of fundamentalist Christianity; the Catholic Church has always defended the use of sacred images in churches and homes, encouraging their veneration but condemning anyone who would worship them as if they were gods themselves. The use of religious icons and images continues to be advocated at the highest level by religious leaders of major Christian denominations such as Lutherans, Methodists and Catholics; the veneration of icons is a key element of the doxology of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church accept the church council which condemned iconoclasm and mandated the use of sacred images, the icons of saints, the crucifix in churches, public shrines, in homes. The explanation of the consistency of sacred images with the Christian religion was based on the arguments of St. John Damascene. Christian aniconism has only rarely covered general secular images, unlike aniconism in Islam. Several voices in Early Christianity expressed "grave reservations about the dangers of images", though contextualizing these remarks has been the source of fierce controversy, as the same texts were brought out at intervals in succeeding centuries. Ernst Kitzinger described the mentions of Christian views on Christian images before the mid-6th century as "scattered and spotty", of an earlier period wrote: It is a striking fact that when painting and sculpture first began to infiltrate Christian assembly rooms and cemeteries they did so unheeded by either opponents of or apologists for Christianity—engaged though these were in passionate disputes over idols and idolatry.
No literary statement from the period prior to the year 300 would make one suspect the existence of any Christian images other than the most laconic and hieroglyphic of symbols. — and yet from archaeology it is clear that the use of quite complex figurative Christian images was widespread by that date. There are mentions of images of Jesus from the 2nd century onwards; the Catacombs of Rome contain the earliest images painted, but including reliefs carved on sarcophagi, dating from the end of the 2nd century onwards. Jesus is represented by pictogram symbols, though he is portrayed. In the Dura-Europos church, of about 230-256, which of the early churches surviving is in the best condition, there are frescos of biblical scenes including a figure of Jesus, as well as Christ as the Good Shepherd; the traditional Protestant position on the history of images in places of worship however is expressed by Phillip Schaff,'Yet previous to the time of Constantine we find no trace of an image of Christ properly speaking except among the Gnostic Carpocratians and in the case of the heathen emperor Alexander Severus who adorned his domestic chapel as a sort of pantheistic Pantheon with representatives of all religions.
The above mentioned idea of the uncomely personal appearance of Jesus the entire silence of the Gospels about it and the Old Testament prohibition of images restrained the church from making either pictures or statues of Christ until the Nicene age when a great reaction in this respect took place though not without energetic and long continued opposition. Paul Corby Finney's analysis of Early Christian writing and material remains distinguishes three different sources of attitudes affecting Early Christians on the issue: "first that humans could have a direct vision of God; these derived from Greek and Near Eastern pagan religions, from Ancient Greek philosophy, from the Jewish tradition and the Old Testament. Of the three, Finney concludes that "overall, Israel's aversion to sacred images influenced early Christianity less than the Greek philosophical tradition of invisible deity apophatically defined", so placing less emphasis on the Jewish background of most of the first Christians than most traditional accounts.
Images were associated with the idolatry of the pagan Ancient Roman religion and other cults and religions around them, much early Christian polemic was devoted to attacking paganism for idolatry. In the 1st century the issues are discussed in the Letters of St. Paul and a prohibition of idolatry is included in the Apostolic Decree; the objections to "decorative and symbolic devices and didactic images", a description that encompasses much though not all of the earliest Christian art, were much less, as these were not plausibly capable of "idolatric abuse". Jocelyn Toynbee agrees:"In two-dimensional, applied art of this kind there was never any danger of idolatry in the sense of actual worship of cult-images and votive pictures". In the 4th century there are increased, if scattered, expressions of opposition to images. At the Spanish non-ecumenical Synod of Elvira bishops concluded, "Pictures are not to be placed in churches, so that they do not become objects of worship and adoration", the earliest such pr
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Eastern Orthodox Church the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with 200–260 million members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods, although half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia; the church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, the Near East. Eastern Orthodox theology is based on the Nicene Creed; the church teaches that it is the One, Holy and Apostolic church established by Jesus Christ in his Great Commission, that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles. It maintains, its patriarchates, reminiscent of the pentarchy, autocephalous and autonomous churches reflect a variety of hierarchical organisation.
Of its innumerable sacred mysteries, it recognises seven major sacraments, of which the Eucharist is the principal one, celebrated liturgically in synaxis. The church teaches that through consecration invoked by a priest, the sacrificial bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ; the Virgin Mary is venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church as the God-bearer, honoured in devotions. The Eastern Orthodox Church shared communion with the Roman Catholic Church until the East–West Schism in 1054, triggered by disputes over doctrine the authority of the Pope. Before the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, the Oriental Orthodox churches shared in this communion, separating over differences in Christology; the majority of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Southeast and Eastern Europe, Cyprus and other communities in the Caucasus region, communities in Siberia reaching the Russian Far East. There are smaller communities in the former Byzantine regions of the Eastern Mediterranean, in the Middle East where it is decreasing due to persecution.
There are many in other parts of the world, formed through diaspora and missionary activity. In keeping with the church's teaching on universality and with the Nicene Creed, Orthodox authorities such as Saint Raphael of Brooklyn have insisted that the full name of the church has always included the term "Catholic", as in "Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church"; the official name of the Eastern Orthodox Church is the "Orthodox Catholic Church". It is the name by which the church refers to itself in its liturgical or canonical texts, in official publications, in official contexts or administrative documents. Orthodox teachers refer to the church as Catholic; this name and longer variants containing "Catholic" are recognised and referenced in other books and publications by secular or non-Orthodox writers. The common name of the church, "Eastern Orthodox Church", is a shortened practicality that helps to avoid confusions in casual use. From ancient times through the first millennium, Greek was the most prevalent shared language in the demographic regions where the Byzantine Empire flourished, Greek, being the language in which the New Testament was written, was the primary liturgical language of the church.
For this reason, the eastern churches were sometimes identified as "Greek" before the Great Schism of 1054. After 1054, "Greek Orthodox" or "Greek Catholic" marked a church as being in communion with Constantinople, much as "Catholic" did for communion with Rome; this identification with Greek, became confusing with time. Missionaries brought Orthodoxy to many regions without ethnic Greeks, where the Greek language was not spoken. In addition, struggles between Rome and Constantinople to control parts of Southeastern Europe resulted in the conversion of some churches to Rome, which also used "Greek Catholic" to indicate their continued use of the Byzantine rites. Today, many of those same churches remain, while a large number of Orthodox are not of Greek national origin, do not use Greek as the language of worship. "Eastern" indicates the geographical element in the Church's origin and development, while "Orthodox" indicates the faith, as well as communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
There are additional Christian churches in the east that are in communion with neither Rome nor Constantinople, who tend to be distinguished by the category named "Oriental Orthodox". While the church continues to call itself "Catholic", for reasons of universality, the common title of "Eastern Orthodox Church" avoids casual confusion with the Roman Catholic Church; the first known use of the phrase "the catholic Church" occurred in a letter written about 110 AD from one Greek church to another. The letter states: "Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be as where Jesus may be, there is the universal Church." Thus from the beginning, Christians referred to the Church as the "One, Holy and Apostolic Church". The Eastern Orthodox Church claims that it is today the continuation and preservation of that same early Church. A number of other Christian churches make a similar claim: the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Assyrian Church and the Oriental Orthodox.
In the Eastern Orthodox v
Christmas music comprises a variety of genres of music performed or heard around the Christmas season. Music associated with Christmas may be purely instrumental, or in the case of many carols or songs may employ lyrics whose subject matter ranges from the nativity of Jesus Christ, to gift-giving and merrymaking, to cultural figures such as Santa Claus, among other topics. Performances of Christmas music at public concerts, in churches, at shopping malls, on city streets, in private gatherings is an integral staple of the Christmas holiday in many cultures across the world. Music associated with Christmas is thought to have its origins in 4th-century Rome, in Latin-language hymns such as Veni redemptor gentium. By the 13th century, under the influence of Francis of Assisi, the tradition of popular Christmas songs in regional native languages developed. Christmas carols in the English language first appear in a 1426 work of John Awdlay, an English chaplain, who lists twenty five "caroles of Cristemas" sung by groups of'wassailers' who would travel from house to house.
In the 16th century, various Christmas carols still sung to this day, including "The 12 Days of Christmas", "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen", "O Christmas Tree", first emerged. The Victorian Era saw a surge of Christmas carols associated with a renewed admiration of the holiday, including "Silent Night", "O Little Town of Bethlehem", "O Holy Night"; the first Christmas songs associated with Saint Nicholas or other gift-bringers came during 19th century, including "Up on the Housetop" and "Jolly Old St. Nicholas". Many older Christmas hymns were translated or had lyrics added to them during this period in 1871 when John Stainer published a influential collection entitled "Christmas Carols New & Old". Few notable carols were produced from the beginning of the 20th century until the Great Depression era of the 1930s, when a stream of songs of American origin were published, most of which did not explicitly reference the Christian nature of the holiday, but rather the more secular traditional Western themes and customs associated with Christmas.
These included songs aimed at children such as "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", as well as sentimental ballad-type songs performed by famous crooners of the era, such as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "White Christmas", the latter of which remains the best-selling single of all time as of 2018. Popular Christmas music produced from after World War II until the present day has remained thematically and instrumentally similar to the songs produced in the early 20th century. Since the dawn of the rock era in the mid-1950s, much of the Christmas music produced for popular audiences has had explicitly romantic overtones, only using Christmas as a setting; the 1950s featured the introduction of novelty songs that used the holiday as a target for satire and source for comedy. Exceptions such as "The Christmas Shoes" have re-introduced Christian themes as complementary to the secular Western themes, a plethora of traditional carol cover versions by various artists have explored all music genres.
Music was an early feature of its celebrations. The earliest examples are hymnographic works intended for liturgical use in observance of both the Feast of the Nativity and Theophany, many of which are still in use by the Eastern Orthodox Church; the 13th century saw the rise of the carol written in the vernacular, under the influence of Francis of Assisi. In the Middle Ages, the English combined circle called them carols; the word carol came to mean a song in which a religious topic is treated in a style, familiar or festive. From Italy, it passed to France and Germany, to England. Christmas carols in English first appear in a 1426 work of John Audelay, a Shropshire priest and poet, who lists 25 "caroles of Cristemas" sung by groups of wassailers, who went from house to house. Music in itself soon became one of the greatest tributes to Christmas, Christmas music includes some of the noblest compositions of the great musicians. During the Commonwealth of England government under Cromwell, the Rump Parliament prohibited the practice of singing Christmas carols as Pagan and sinful.
Like other customs associated with popular Catholic Christianity, it earned the disapproval of Protestant Puritans. Famously, Cromwell's interregnum prohibited all celebrations of the Christmas holiday; this attempt to ban the public celebration of Christmas can be seen in the early history of Father Christmas. The Westminster Assembly of Divines established Sunday as the only holy day in the calendar in 1644; the new liturgy produced for the English church recognised this in 1645, so abolished Christmas. Its celebration was declared an offence by Parliament in 1647. There is some debate as to the effectiveness of this ban, whether or not it was enforced in the country. Puritans disapproved of the celebration of Christmas—a trend which continually resurfaced in Europe and the USA through the eighteenth and twentieth centuries; when in May 1660 Charles II restored the Stuarts to the throne, the people of England once again practiced the public singing of Christmas carols as part of the revival of Christmas customs, sanctioned by the king's own celebrations.
William Sandys's Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, contained the first appearance in print of many now-classic English carols, contributed to the mid-Victorian revival of the holiday. Singing carols in church was instituted on Christmas Eve 1880 in Truro Cathedral, England, now seen in churches all over t
Although the Reformation was a religious movement, it had a strong impact on all other aspects of life: marriage and family, the humanities and sciences, the political and social order, the economy, the arts. All Protestant churches allow their clergy to marry, in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church; this meant that the families of many members of the Protestant clergy were able to contribute to the development of intellectual elites in their countries from about 1525, when the theologian Martin Luther was married. The role of women in church life, the Protestant clergy, as theologians remained limited; the role of women expanded over time and was associated with the movements for universal education and women's suffrage. Political and social movements for suffrage and sobriety in the English-speaking world of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were associated with Protestant Christian women's organizations. While particular Protestant churches such as the Methodists involved women as clergy or assistants since the late 1700s, the ordination of women as clergy dates from the 1970s in the Anglican Communion.
Since about 1990, many more women have assumed senior leadership roles in several Protestant churches, including the Anglican Communion and the Church of England. Since the 1990s Protestant churches have encountered controversy regarding the Church's response to persons of minority sexual orientations; the sometimes divisive nature of these discussions was exemplified by the formation of dissenting groups within the Anglican Communion that rejected reforms that were intended to make the Church more inclusive. Since Reformers wanted all members of the church to be able to read and study the Bible and catechisms, support for education at all levels increased over time in Europe, the Americas, in other parts of the world that were influenced by contact with European educators and missionaries. Compulsory education for both boys and girls was introduced. For example, the Puritans who established Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1628 founded Harvard College only eight years later. About a dozen other American colleges followed including Yale University.
Pennsylvania became a centre of learning. By initiating translations of the Bible into various national languages, Protestantism supported the development of national literatures; some of the first colleges and universities in America, including Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, Bowdoin and Amherst, all were founded by mainline Protestant denominations. The Protestant concept of God and man allows believers to use all their God-given faculties, including the power of reason; that means that Protestant believers are encouraged to explore God's creation and, according to Genesis 2:15, make use of it in a responsible and sustainable way. Thus a cultural climate was created that enhanced the development of the humanities and the sciences. Another consequence of the Protestant understanding of man is that the believers, in gratitude for their election and redemption in Christ, are to follow God's commandments. Industry, calling, a strong sense of responsibility are at the heart of their moral code. In particular, John Calvin rejected luxury.
Therefore, craftsmen and other businessmen were able to reinvest the greater part of their profits in the most efficient machinery and the most modern production methods that were based on progress in the sciences and technology. As a result, productivity grew, which led to increased profits and enabled employers to pay higher wages. In this way, the economy, the sciences, technology reinforced each other; the chance to participate in the economic success of technological inventions was a strong incentive to both inventors and investors. The Protestant work ethic was an important force behind the unplanned and uncoordinated mass action that influenced the development of capitalism and the industrial revolution; this idea is known as the "Protestant ethic thesis."Some mainline Protestant denominations such as Episcopalians and Congregationalists tend to be wealthier and better educated than most other religious groups in America, having a higher proportion of graduate and post-graduate degrees per capita.
Protestants are disproportionately represented in the upper reaches of American business and politics the Republican Party. Large numbers of the most wealthy and affluent American families such as the Vanderbilts and Astors, Rockefeller, Du Pont, Forbes, Whitneys and Harrimans are Mainline Protestant families. According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, Episcopalians ranked as the third most financially successful religious group in the United States, with 35% of Episcopalians living in households with incomes of at least $100,000, while and Presbyterians ranked as the fourth most financially successful religious group in the United States, with 32% of Presbyterians living in households with incomes of at least $100,000. According to the same study there is correlation between education and income, about 59% of American Anglican have a graduate and post-graduate degree, followed by Episcopalians and Presbyterians. Protestantism had an important influence on science. According to the Merton Thesis, there was a positive correlation between the rise of Puritanism and Protestant Pietism on the one hand and early experimental science on the other.
The Merton Thesis has two separate parts: Firstly, it presents a theory that science changes due to an accumulation of observations and improvement in experimenta
Jesus referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity, is described as the most influential person in history. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. All modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed although the quest for the historical Jesus has produced little agreement on the historical reliability of the Gospels and on how the Jesus portrayed in the Bible reflects the historical Jesus. Jesus was a Galilean Jew, baptized by John the Baptist and began his own ministry, he preached orally and was 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, crucified on the order of Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect. After his death, his followers believed he rose from the dead, the community they formed became the early Church.
The birth of Jesus is celebrated annually on December 25th as Christmas. His crucifixion is honored on his resurrection on Easter; the used calendar era "AD", from the Latin anno Domini, the equivalent alternative "CE", are based on the approximate birthdate 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 Christian Church, died by crucifixion as a sacrifice to achieve atonement for sin, rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, from where he will return. Most Christians believe; 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 as non-scriptural. Jesus figures in non-Christian religions and new religious movements.
In Islam, Jesus is considered one of 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. Most Muslims do not believe that he was crucified, but 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, was neither divine nor resurrected. A typical Jew in Jesus' time had only one name, sometimes followed by the phrase "son of <father's name>", or the individual's hometown. Thus, in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as "Jesus of Nazareth". Jesus' neighbors in Nazareth refer to him as "the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon", "the carpenter's son", or "Joseph's son". In John, the disciple Philip refers to him as "Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth"; the name Jesus is derived from the Latin Iesus, a transliteration of the Greek Ἰησοῦς. The Greek form is a rendering of the Hebrew ישוע, a variant of the earlier name יהושע, or in English, "Joshua", meaning "Yah saves".
This was the name of Moses' successor and of a Jewish high priest. The name Yeshua appears to have been in use in Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus; the 1st-century works of historian Flavius Josephus, who wrote in Koine Greek, the same language as that of the New Testament, refer to at least twenty different people with the name Jesus. The etymology of Jesus' name in the context of the New Testament is given as "Yahweh is salvation". Since early Christianity, Christians have referred to Jesus as "Jesus Christ"; the word Christ was a office, not a given name. It derives from the Greek Χριστός, a translation of the Hebrew mashiakh meaning "anointed", is transliterated into English as "Messiah". In biblical Judaism, sacred oil was used to anoint certain exceptionally holy people and objects as part of their religious investiture. Christians of the time designated Jesus as "the Christ" because they believed him to be the Messiah, whose arrival is prophesied in the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament.
In postbiblical usage, Christ became viewed as a name—one part of "Jesus Christ". The term "Christian" has been in use since the 1st century; the four canonical gospels are the foremost sources for the message of Jesus. However, other parts of the New Testament include references to key episodes in his life, such as the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23. Acts of the Apostles refers to the early ministry of its anticipation by John the Baptist. Acts 1:1 -- 11 says more about the Ascension of Jesus. In the undisputed Pauline letters, which were written earlier than the gospels, the words or instructions of Jesus are cited several times; some early Christian groups had separate descriptions of the life and teachings of Jesus that are not included in the New Testament. These include the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel