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Origins of Christianity

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A depiction of Jesus appearing to his apostles after his resurrection.
A depiction of Jesus appearing to his apostles after his resurrection.

Early Christianity has its roots in Hellenistic Judaism and Jewish messianism of the first century. It started with Jewish eschatological expectations, and developed into the veneration of a deified Jesus after his earthly ministry, his crucifixion, and post–crucifixion experiences of his followers.

Early on, a number of related but divergent Christian communities and interpretations of the eschaton and Jesus' life and death developed during the first and early second century CE, which gradually departed from the Pharisees and other Jewish sects. From the former eventually arose "orthodox" Christianity, while the latter developed into Rabbinic Judaism.

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Transcription

Hi there my name’s John Green, this is Crash Course: World History and today we’re going to talk about Jesus. This is a Roman coin from around the time Jesus was born in the Roman Empire, and it calls Augustus, the emperor, the son of God. So let’s just state at the outset that in 4 BCE, being the son of God, or at least being the son of a god was not such an unusual thing. But a poor Jew being the son of God— that was news. [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] Any understanding of Christianity has to start with Judaism, because Jesus was born a Jew, and he grew up in the Jewish tradition. He was one of many teachers spreading his ideas in the Roman province of Judea at the time, and he was part of a messianic tradition that helps us understand why he was thought of not only teacher but something much, much more. Let’s go straight to the Thought Bubble today. The people who would become the Jews, were just one of many tribal peoples eeking out an existence in that not-very fertile crescent world of Mesopotamia after the agricultural revolution. The Hebrews initially worshipped many gods, making sacrifices to them in order to bring good weather and good fortune. But they eventually developed a religion centered around an idea that would become key to the other great western religions. This was monotheism, the idea that there is only one true god (or at least that if there are other gods around, they are total lameoids). The Hebrews developed a second concept that is key to their religion as well: the idea of the covenant, a deal with God. The main man in this, the big macher was Abraham. Not to make this too much of a scripture lesson, but it’s kind of hard to understand the Jews without understanding Abraham, or Abram as he was known before he had his big conversation with God, recorded in Genesis 17: When Abram was ninety years and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect." And I’m a make a covenant with you and a bunch of cool things will happen like you’re gonna have kids and your descendants will number the stars and you can have all the land of Canaan forever, it’s gonna be awesome. I’m paraphrasing by the way, Thought Bubble. So God promised that Abram would have kids with his wife even though the dude was already like 99, but there was a catch: This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. Keep it PG-13, Thought Bubble. Now that is asking a lot from a guy, especially a 99 year old geezer like Abram living in a time before general anesthesia. But those were the terms of the deal, and in exchange God had chosen Abraham and his descendants to be a great nation. From this we get the expression that the Jews are the Chosen people. Thanks for keeping it clean, Thought Bubble. So, some important things about this god: 1. Singularity. He—and I’m using the masculine pronoun because that’s what Hebrew prayers use—does not want you to put any gods before Him. He is also transcendent, having always existed and he is deeply personal – he chats with prophets, sends locusts, etc. But he doesn’t take corporeal form like the Greek and Roman Gods do. He is also involved in history, like he will destroy cities, and bring floods, and determine the outcomes of wars, and possibly football games. Stan, no! FOOTBALL games! Probably most important to us today, and certainly most important to Jesus, this god demands moral righteousness and social justice. So, this is the god of the Hebrews, Yahweh, and despite many ups and downs, the Jewish people have stuck with him for- according to the Hebrew calendar, at least- over 5700 years. And he has stuck by them too, despite the Jews being, on occasion, something of a disappointment to him, which leads to various miseries, and also to a tradition of prophets who speak for God and warn the people to get back on the right path lest there be more miseries. Which brings us back to our friends, the Romans. By the time that Jesus was born, the land of the Israelites had been absorbed into the Roman Empire as the province of Judea. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Judea was under the control of Herod the Great, best known for building the massive temple in Jerusalem, that the Romans would later destroy. And by the time Jesus died, an expanded Judea was under the rule of Herod Antipater. Also, unhelpfully, known as Herod. Both Herods ultimately took their orders from the Romans, and they both show up on the list of rulers who are oppressive to the Jews, partly because there’s never that much religious freedom in an empire. Unless you are, wait for it... The Mongols or the Persians. Also, they were Hellenizers, bringing in Greek theater and architecture, and rationalism. And in response to those Hellenistic influences, there were a lot of preachers trying to get the Jews to return to the traditions and the godly ways of the past, including the Sadducees, and the Pharisees, and the Essenes, and the Zealots. And one of those preachers, who didn’t fit comfortably into any of these four groups, was Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was a preacher who spread his message of peace, love and, above all, justice, across Judea over the course of his actually average-length life for his time. He was remarkably charismatic, attracting a small but incredibly loyal group of followers, and he was said to perform miracles—although it’s worth noting that miracles weren’t terribly uncommon at the time. Jesus’s message was particularly resonant to the poor and downtrodden and pretty radical in its anti-authoritarian stance. He said it was easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven, he said the meek were blessed, that the last would be first and the first would be last— All of which was kind of threatening to the powers that be, who accordingly had him arrested, tried and then executed in the normal method of killing rebels at that time, crucifixion. Also, just to put this question to bed, the Romans that crucified Jesus, because he was a threat to their authority. Later traditions saying that the Jews killed Jesus? Very unfortunate. Also, very untrue. We’re not going to discuss Jesus’s divinity, because 1. This isn’t a theology class, and 2. Flame wars on the Internet make me so uncomfortable I have to turn to camera 2, Hi there camera 2, I’m here to remind you that 3. Fighting over such things, like fighting over whether the proverbial cake is a lie, rarely accomplishes anything, Plus 4. What matters to us is the historical fact that people at the time believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Anointed One, the son of God. And they believed that he would return some day to redeem the world. Which leads us to two questions about Christianity: First, Why did this small group of people believe this, and Why and how did that belief become so widespread? So why would people believe that Jesus was the Messiah? First, the Jews had a long tradition of believing that a savior who would come to them in a time of trouble. And Judea under the rule of Herod and the Romans… definitely a time of trouble. And many of the prophecies about this savior point to someone whose life looks a lot like Jesus'. For instance, Isaiah 53 says the person will be misunderstood and mistreated, just like Jesus was: “He was despised, and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and as one from whom men hide their face he was despised; and we didn't respect him.” And a lot of the prophecies like Daniel 7:14, for instance, explained that when the Messiah comes there will be this awesome new, everlasting kingdom. And that had to sound pretty good to people who’d had their autonomy taken away from them. So some religious Jews saw Jesus in those prophecies and came to believe either during his life or shortly thereafter, that he was the messiah. Most of them thought the new everlasting kingdom was right around the corner, which is probably why no one bothered to write down much about the life of Jesus for several decades, by which time it was clear that we might have to wait a bit for this brilliant new everlasting kingdom. I should note, by the way, that the idea of a messiah was not unique to the Jews at the time. Even the Romans got in on the action. For Instance, the Roman poet Vergil wrote of a boy who: “Shall free the earth from never-ceasing fear. He shall receive the life of gods, and see Heroes with gods commingling.” Sound familiar? But Vergil was writing about Emperor Augustus in that poem, not Jesus, which points again to the similarities between the two. Both called sons of God. Both sent to free the earth from never-ceasing fear. But one ruled the largest empire in the world; and the other believed that empire, and the world, needed to change dramatically. So why did the less wealthy and famous son of God become by far the more influential? Well, here are three possible historical reasons: Reason #1: The Romans continued to make things bad for the Jews. In fact, things got much worse for the Jews, especially after they launched a revolt between 66-73 CE, which did not go well. By the time the dust settled, the Romans had destroyed the Temple and expelled the Jews from Judaea, beginning what we now know as the Jewish Diaspora. And without a Temple or geographic unity, the Jews had to solidify what it meant to be a Jew and what the basic tenants of the religion were. This forced the followers of Jesus to make a decision; Were they going to continue to be Jews following stricter laws set forth by rabbis, or were they going to be something else. The decision to open up their religion to non-Jews, people who weren’t part of the covenant, is the central reason that Christianity could become a world religion instead of just a sect of Judaism. And it probably didn’t hurt that the main proponent of sticking with Judaism was James, Jesus’s brother, who was killed by the Romans. Reason #2: Is related to reason number 1 and it’s all about a dude named Saul. No, not that Saul. Yes, Saul of Tarsus, thank you. Saul, having received a vision on the road to Damascus, became Paul and began visiting and sending letters to Jesus followers throughout the Mediterranean. And it was Paul who emphatically declared that Jesus followers did NOT have to be Jews, that they did not have to be circumcised or keep to Jewish laws or any of that stuff. This opened the floodgates for thousands of people to convert to this new religion. And the other thing to remember about Paul is that he was a Roman citizen. Which meant that he could travel freely throughout the Roman Empire. This allowed him to make his case to lots of different people and facilitated the geographic spread of Christianity. Oh, it’s time for the open letter? Alright. An open letter, to the fish. But first, lets see what’s in the secret compartment today. Oh, Stan. [JCSS-esque music briefly plays] It’s my favorite album Jesus Christ Superstar, finally available in my favorite format, the cassette. Did I color-coordinate my shirt to Jesus Christ Superstar? Yes. Dear Ichthys, So check this out: In the first century when it was still super underground and hipster to be a Christian, you were a secret symbol of Christianity, used to kind of hide from the Romans. Ichthys, the Greek word for fish was an acronym and it was a super clever way to talk about religion without anyone knowing that you were talking about it. But you’ll never guess what happened- even in places where it’s completely fine to talk about Christianity now and to use, you know, regular Christian symbols, like the cross You have had a huge resurgence thanks to the plastic automobile decal industry. I mean seriously, Ichthys, I haven’t seen a comeback like this since Jesus. Best wishes, John Green And lastly, Christianity was born and flourished an empire with a common language that allowed for its spread. And crucially, it was also an Empire in decline. Like even by the end of the first century CE, Rome was on its way down. And for the average person, and even for some elites, things weren’t as good as they had been, if fact they were getting worse so fast that you might have thought the end of the world was coming. And Roman religion offered no promise of an afterlife, and a bunch of squabbling whiny gods- sorry if I offended adherents to Roman religion, but seriously, they squabble. So even though early Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire and sometimes fed to the lions and other animals, the religion continued to grow, albeit slowly. But then as the Roman decline continued, Emperor Constantine allowed the worship of Jesus and then eventually converted to Christianity himself. And then the religion really took off. I mean, Rome wasn’t what it used to be, but everybody still wanted to be like the Emperor. And soon enough there was a new son of God on coins. Thanks for watching. See you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller, our script supervisor is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history teacher Raoul Meyer and myself and our graphics team is Thought Bubble. As only 62 million of you guessed last week, the Phrase of the Week was "Chipotle Burrito" if you want to guess at this week’s Phrase of the Week or suggest future ones, you can do so in Comments where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will be answered, hopefully, by our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course, and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome. Ow... again.

Contents

Jewish-Hellenistic background

Hellenism

Christianity arose in the syncretistic Hellenistic world of the first century CE, which was dominated by Roman law and Greek culture.[1] Hellenistic culture had a profound impact on the customs and practices of Jews, both in the Land of Israel and in the Diaspora. The inroads into Judaism gave rise to Hellenistic Judaism in the Jewish diaspora which sought to establish a Hebraic-Jewish religious tradition within the culture and language of Hellenism.

Hellenistic Judaism spread to Ptolemaic Egypt from the 3rd century BCE, and became a notable religio licita after the Roman conquest of Greece, Anatolia, Syria, Judea, and Egypt, until its decline in the 3rd century parallel to the rise of Gnosticism and Early Christianity.

According to Burton Mack, the Christian vision of Jesus' death for the redemption of mankind was only possible in a Hellenised milieu.[note 1] According to Price, "Once it reached Hellenistic soil, the story of Jesus attracted to itself a number of mythic motifs that were common to the syncretic religious mood of the era."[note 2]

Jewish sects

Judaism at this time was divided into antagonistic factions. The main camps were the Pharisees, Saducees, and Zealots, but also included other less influential sects, like the Essenes. The 1st century BCE and 1st century CE saw a number of charismatic religious leaders, contributing to what would become the Mishnah of Rabbinic Judaism, including Yohanan ben Zakkai and Hanina ben Dosa. The ministry of Jesus, according to the account of the Gospels, falls into this pattern of sectarian preachers or teachers with devoted disciples (students).[citation needed]

Although the gospels contain strong condemnations of the Pharisees, Paul the Apostle claims proudly to be a Pharisee, and there is a clear influence of Hillel's interpretation of the Torah in the Gospel-sayings.[2] Belief in the resurrection of the dead in the messianic age was a core Pharisaic doctrine.

Jesus

There is widespread disagreement among scholars on the details of the life of Jesus mentioned in the gospel narratives, and on the meaning of his teachings.[3] Scholars often draw a distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, and two different accounts can be found in this regard.[4]

According to Christian denominations the bodily resurrection of Jesus after his death is the pivotal event of Jesus' life and death, as described in the gospels and the epistles. According to the gospels, written decades after the events of his life, Jesus preached for a period of one to three years in the early 1st century. His ministry of teaching, healing the sick and disabled and performing various miracles culminated in his crucifixion at the hands of the Roman authorities in Jerusalem. After his death, he appeared to his followers, resurrected from death. After forty days he ascended to Heaven, but his followers believed he would soon return to usher in the Kingdom of God and fulfill the rest of Messianic prophecy such as the resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgment.

Critical scholarship has stripped away most narratives about Jesus as legendary, and the mainstream historical view is that while the gospels include many legendary elements, these are religious elaborations added to the accounts of a historical Jesus who was crucified under the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate in the 1st-century Roman province of Judea.[5][6] His remaining disciples later believed that he was resurrected.[7][8]

Five portraits of the historical Jesus are supported by mainstream scholars, namely the apocalyptic prophet,[note 3] the charismatic healer,[12] the Cynic philosopher, the Jewish Messiah, and the prophet of social change.[13][14]

Beliefs

Messiah/Christ

Early Christians regarded Jesus to be the Messiah, the promised king who would restore the Jewish kingdom and independence.

Jewish messianism has its root in the apocalyptic literature of the 2nd century BCE to 1st century BCE, promising a future "anointed" leader or messiah to restore the Israelite "Kingdom of God", in place of the foreign rulers of the time. This corresponded with the Maccabean Revolt directed against the Seleucids. Following the fall of the Hasmonean kingdom, it was directed against the Roman administration of Judea Province, which, according to Josephus, began with the formation of the Zealots and Sicarii during the Census of Quirinius (6 CE), although full scale open revolt did not occur till the First Jewish–Roman War in 66 CE.

Resurrection

According to the New Testament, some Christians reported that they encountered Jesus after his crucifixion. They argued that he had been resurrected (belief in the resurrection of the dead in the messianic age was a core Pharisaic doctrine), and would soon return to usher in the Kingdom of God and fulfill the rest of Messianic prophecy such as the resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgment.

Resurrection experiences

1 Corinthians 15:3-9 gives an early testimony, which was delivered to Paul,[15] of the atonement of Jesus and the appearances of the risen Christ to "Cephas and the twelve", and to "James [...] and all the apostles", possibly reflecting a fusion of two early Christian groups:

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4 and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures;
5 and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve;
6 then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep;
7 then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles;
8 and last of all, as to the [child] untimely born, he appeared to me also.[16]

According to Geza Vermes, the concept of resurrection formed "the initial stage of the belief in his exaltation", which is "the apogee of the triumphant Christ".[17] The focal concern of the early communities is the expected return of Jesus, and the entry of the believers into the kingdom of God with a transformed body.[18]

According to Ehrman, the resurrection experiences were a denial response to his disciples' sudden disillusionment following Jesus' death. According to Ehrman, some of his followers claimed to have seen him alive again, resulting in a multitude of stories which convinced others that Jesus had risen from death and was exalted to Heaven.[10][note 4]

According to Paula Fredriksen, Jesus's impact on his followers was so great that they could not accept the failure implicit in his death.[19] According to Fredricksen, before his death Jesus created amongst his believers such certainty that the Kingdom of God and the resurrection of the dead was at hand, that with few exceptions (John 20: 24-29) when they saw him shortly after his execution, they had no doubt that he had been resurrected, and the general resurrection of the dead was at hand. These specific beliefs were compatible with Second Temple Judaism.[20]

According to Johan Leman, the resurrection must be understood as a sense of presence of Jesus even after his death, especially during the ritual meals which were continued after his death.[21] His early followers regarded him as a righteous man and prophet, who was therefore resurrected and exalted.[22] In time, Messianistic, Isaiahic, apocalyptic and eschatological expectations were blended in the experience and understanding of Jesus, who came to be expected to return to earth.[22]

Bodily resurrection

A point of debate is how Christians came to believe in a bodily resurrection, which was "a comparatively recent development within Judaism."[23] According to Dag Øistein Endsjø, "The notion of the resurrection of the flesh was, as we have seen, not unknown to certain parts of Judaism in antiquity", but Paul rejected the idea of bodily resurrection, and it also can't be found within the strands of Jewish thought in which he was formed.[24] According to Porter, Hayes and Tombs, the Jewish tradition emphasizes a continued spiritual existence rather than a bodily resurrection.[25]

Nevertheless, the origin of this idea is commonly traced to Jewish beliefs,[26] a view against which Stanley E. Porter objected.[7] According to Porter, Jewish and subsequent Christian thought were influenced by Greek thoughts, were "assumptions regarding resurrection" can be found,[27] which were probably adopted by Paul.[note 5] According to Ehrman, most of the alleged parallels between Jesus and the pagan savior-gods only exist in the modern imagination, and there are no "accounts of others who were born to virgin mothers and who died as an atonement for sin and then were raised from the dead."[28]

Exaltation and deification

According to Ehrman, a central question in the research on Jesus and early Christianity is how a human came to be deified in a relatively short time.[29] Jewish Christians like the Ebionites had an Adoptionist Christology[30] and regarded Jesus as the Messiah while rejecting his divinity,[31] while other strands of Christian thought regard Jesus to be a "fully divine figure", a so-called "high Christology".[11] How soon the earthly Jesus was regarded to be the incarnation of God is a matter of scholarly debate.[29][11]

Philippians 2:6–11 contains the so-called Christ hymn, which portrays Jesus as an incarnated and subsequently exalted heavenly being:[32]

5 Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

6 who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men;
8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient [even] unto death, yea, the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name;
10 that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven and [things] on earth and [things] under the earth,
11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[33]

According to Dunn, the background of this hymn has been strongly debated. Some see it as influenced by a Greek worldview.[note 6] while others have argued for Jewish influences. According to Dunn, the hymn contains a contrast with the sins of Adam and his disobedience. Dunn further notes that the hymn may be seen as a three-stage Christology, starting with "an earlier stage of mythic pre-history or pre-existence," but regards the humility-exaltation contrast to be the main theme.[34]

This belief in the incarnated and exalted Christ was part of Christian tradition a few years after his death and over a decade before the writing of the Pauline epistles.[29][11] According to Dunn, the background of this hymn has been strongly debated. Some see it as influenced by a Greek worldview,[note 7]

According to the History of religions school there were various early Christian communities, Jewish Christian, Hellenistic Jewish Christian, and Gentile Christian, from which the belief in a fully divine Christ emerged, under the influence of mystery-cults in the Greek world.[11] According to Burton L. Mack the early Christian communities started with so-called "Jesus movements" new religious movements centering on a human teacher called Jesus. A number of these "Jesus movements" can be discerned in early Christian writings.[35] According to Mack, within these Jesus-movements developed within 25 years the belief that Jesus was the Messiah, and had risen from death.[1]

According to Erhman, the gospels show a development from a "low Christology" towards a "high Christology".[29] Yet, a "high Christology" seems to have been part of Christian traditions a few years after his death, and over a decade before the writing of the Pauline epistles, which are the oldest Christian writings.[11] According to Martin Hengel, as summarized by Jeremy Bouma, the letters of Paul already contain a fully developed Christology, shortly after the death of Jesus, including references to his pre-existence[11] According to Hengel, the Gospel of John shows a development which builds on this early high Christology, fusing it with Jewish wisdom traditions, in which Wisdom was personified an descended into the world. While this "Logos Christology" is recognizable for Greek metaphysics, it is nevertheless not derived from pagan sources, and Hengel rejects the idea of influence from "Hellenistic mystery cults or a Gnostic redeemer myth".[11]

Early Christian groups

According to Ehrman, a number of early Christianities existed in the first century CE, from which developed various Christian traditions and denominations, including proto-orthodoxy.[36] According to Dunn, four types of early Christianity can be discerned: Jewish Christianity, Hellenistic Christianity, Apocalyptic Christianity, and early Catholicism.[37]

Jewish Christianity

Jerusalem Church - James the Just

The Pauline letters incorporate creeds, or confessions of faith, of a belief in an exalted Christ that predate Paul,[1] and give essential information on the faith of the early Jerusalem Church around James, 'the brother of Jesus'.[38][39][40] This group venerated the risen Christ, who had appeared to several persons,[1] as in Philippians 2:6–11, the so-called Christ hymn, which portrays Jesus as an incarnated and subsequently exalted heavenly being.[41]

According to fourth-century church fathers Eusebius and Epiphanius, the Jerusalem Jewish Christians fled to Pella before the beginning of the first Jewish-Roman war (66-73 CE).[42]

Ebionites

The Ebionites were a Jewish Christian movement that existed during the early centuries of the Christian Era.[43] They regarded Jesus as the Messiah while rejecting his divinity and his virgin birth,[44] and insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law and rites.[45] They used the Gospel of the Ebionites, one of the Jewish–Christian gospels; the Hebrew Book of Matthew starting at chapter 3; revered James the brother of Jesus (James the Just); and rejected Paul the Apostle as an apostate from the Law.[46]

Distinctive features of the Gospel of the Ebionites include the absence of the virgin birth and of the genealogy of Jesus; an Adoptionist Christology,[note 8] in which Jesus is chosen to be God's Son at the time of his Baptism; the abolition of the Jewish sacrifices by Jesus; and an advocacy of vegetarianism.[note 9]

Nazarenes

The Nazarenes originated as a sect of first-century Judaism. The first use of the term "sect of the Nazarenes" is in the Book of Acts in the New Testament, where Paul is accused of being a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes ("πρωτοστάτην τε τῆς τῶν Ναζωραίων αἱρέσεως").[note 10] The term then simply designated followers of "Yeshua Natzri" (Jesus the Nazarene),[note 11] but in the first to fourth centuries the term was used for a sect of followers of Jesus who were closer to Judaism than most Christians.[47] They are described by Epiphanius of Salamis and are mentioned later by Jerome and Augustine of Hippo,[48][49] who made a distinction between the Nazarenes of their time and the "Nazarenes" mentioned in Acts 24:5.[note 12]

The Nazarenes were similar to the Ebionites, in that they considered themselves Jews, maintained an adherence to the Law of Moses, and used only the Aramaic Gospel of the Hebrews, rejecting all the Canonical gospels. However, unlike half of the Ebionites, they accepted the Virgin Birth.[50][51]

The Gospel of the Hebrews was a syncretic Jewish–Christian gospel, the text of which is lost; only fragments of it survive as brief quotations by the early Church Fathers and in apocryphal writings. The fragments contain traditions of Jesus' pre-existence, incarnation, baptism, and probable temptation, along with some of his sayings.[52] Distinctive features include a Christology characterized by the belief that the Holy Spirit is Jesus' Divine Mother; and a first resurrection appearance to James, the brother of Jesus, showing a high regard for James as the leader of the Jewish Christian church in Jerusalem.[53] It was probably composed in Greek in the first decades of the 2nd century, and is believed to have been used by Greek-speaking Jewish Christians in Egypt during that century.[54]

The Gospel of the Nazarenes is the title given to fragments of one of the lost Jewish-Christian Gospels of Matthew partially reconstructed from the writings of Jerome.

Hellenistic Christianity - Paul

Artist depiction of Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, 16th century (Blaffer Foundation Collection, Houston, Texas)
Artist depiction of Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, 16th century (Blaffer Foundation Collection, Houston, Texas)

The Apostle Paul presents, in his epistles, a Hellenised Christianity.[55][note 13] According to Ehrman, "Paul's message, in a nutshell, was a Jewish apocalyptic proclamation with a seriously Christian twist."[8]

The early Christian community in Jerusalem, led by James the Just, had a strong influence on Paul.[35] Fragments of their beliefs in an exalted and deified Jesus, what Mack called the "Christ cult," can be found in the writings of Paul.[35][note 14] According to the New Testament, Saul of Tarsus first persecuted the early Jewish Christians, but then converted. He adopted the name Paul and started proselytizing among the Gentiles, adopting the title "Apostle to the Gentiles." He persuaded the leaders of the Jerusalem Church to allow Gentile converts exemption from most Jewish commandments at the Council of Jerusalem, which opened the way for a much larger Christian Church, extending far beyond the Jewish community.

While Paul was inspired by the early Christian apostles, his writings elaborate on their teachings, and also give interpretations which are different from other teachings as documented in the canonical gospels, early Acts and the rest of the New Testament, such as the Epistle of James.[56][57]

Jewish Christians, including the Ebionites and Nazarenes, rejected Paul for straying from normative Judaism.[1]

Hellenistic influences

Talmud scholar Daniel Boyarin has argued that Paul's theology of the spirit is more deeply rooted in Hellenistic Judaism than generally believed. In A Radical Jew, Boyarin argues that the Apostle Paul combined the life of Jesus with Greek philosophy to reinterpret the Hebrew Bible in terms of the Platonic opposition between the ideal (which is real) and the material (which is false). Judaism is a material religion, in which membership is based not on belief but rather descent from Abraham, physically marked by circumcision, and focusing on how to live this life properly. Paul saw in the symbol of a resurrected Jesus the possibility of a spiritual rather than corporeal messiah. He used this notion of messiah to argue for a religion through which all people — not just descendants of Abraham — could worship the God of Abraham. Unlike Judaism, which holds that it is the proper religion only of the Jews, Pauline Christianity claimed to be the proper religion for all people.[58]

By appealing to the Platonic distinction between the material and the ideal, Paul showed how the spirit of Christ could provide all people a way to worship the God who had previously been worshipped only by Jews and Jewish proselytes, although Jews claimed that he was the one and only God of all. Boyarin roots Paul's work in Hellenistic Judaism and insists that Paul was thoroughly Jewish, but argues that Pauline theology made his version of Christianity appealing to Gentiles. Boyarin also sees this Platonic reworking of both Jesus's teachings and Pharisaic Judaism as essential to the emergence of Christianity as a distinct religion, because it justified a Judaism without Jewish law.[59]

Proto-Gnosticism - Marcionites

Marcionism was an Early Christian dualist belief system that originated in the teachings of Marcion of Sinope at Rome around the year 144.[60] Marcion asserted that Paul was the only apostle who had rightly understood the new message of salvation as delivered by Christ.[1]

Marcion believed Jesus was the savior sent by God, and Paul the Apostle was his chief apostle, but he rejected the Hebrew Bible and the God of Israel. Marcionists believed that the wrathful Hebrew God was a separate and lower entity than the all-forgiving God of the New Testament. This belief was in some ways similar to Gnostic Christian theology; notably, both are dualistic, that is, they posit opposing gods, forces, or principles: one higher, spiritual, and "good", and the other lower, material, and "evil" (compare Manichaeism). This dualism stands in contrast to other Christian and Jewish views that "evil" has no independent existence, but is a privation or lack of "good",[61] a view shared by the Jewish theologian Moses Maimonides.[62]

Split of early Christianity and Judaism

Jesus vertreibt die Händler aus dem Tempel, a depiction of Jesus' Cleansing of the Jewish Temple, by Giovanni Paolo Pannini
Jesus vertreibt die Händler aus dem Tempel, a depiction of Jesus' Cleansing of the Jewish Temple, by Giovanni Paolo Pannini

Several Jewish sects are known to have existed during the 1st century CE: the Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Christians. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, most of these sects vanished, but Christianity and the Pharisees survived, with Christianity gradually becoming a separate religion, and the Pharisees developing into Rabbinic Judaism, or simply Judaism.[note 15] Rather than a sudden split, there was a slowly growing chasm between Christians and Jews in the 1st centuries, and it took centuries for a complete break to manifest.

According to historian Shaye Cohen, the separation of Christianity from Judaism was a process, not an event, in which the church was becoming more and more gentile, and less and less Jewish.[64] According to Cohen, early Christianity ceased to be a Jewish sect when it ceased to observe Jewish practices.[65] According to Cohen, most of Jesus' teachings were intelligible and acceptable in terms of Second Temple Judaism; what set Christians apart from Jews was their faith in Christ as the resurrected messiah.[66] Belief in a resurrected messiah is unacceptable to Rabbinic Judaism, and Jewish authorities have long used this to explain the break between Judaism and Christianity. Jesus' failure to establish the Kingdom of God and his death at the hands of the Romans invalidated his messianic claims for Hellenistic Jews (see for comparison: prophet and false prophet).[65]

According to Cohen, this process ended in 70 CE, after the first Jewish-Roman war, when various Jewish sects disappeared and Pharisaic Judaism evolved into Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity emerged as a distinct religion.[67] Many historians argue that the gospels took their final form after the Great Revolt and the destruction of the Temple, although some scholars put the authorship of Mark in the 60s, and need to be understood in this context.[68][69][70][71] They view Christians as much as Pharisees as being competing movements within Judaism that decisively broke only after the Bar Kokhba's revolt, when the successors of the Pharisees claimed hegemony over all Judaism, and – at least from the Jewish perspective – Christianity emerged as a new religion.

Yet, Robert Goldenberg asserts that it is increasingly accepted among scholars that at the end of the 1st century CE there were not yet two separate religions called "Judaism" and "Christianity".[72] According to Philip Jenkins, as late as the end of the second century, Christianity and Judaism had a lot in common, and Christian denominations were still strongly divided on the meaning and interpretation of their own faith.[73]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 136: "Burton Mack argues that Paul’s view of Jesus as a divine figure who gives his life for the salvation of others had to originate in a Hellenistic rather than a Jewish environment. Mack writes, "Such a notion [of vicarious human suffering] cannot be traced to old Jewish and/ or Israelite traditions, for the very notion of a vicarious human sacrifice was anathema in these cultures. But it can be traced to a Strong Greek tradition of extolling a noble death." More specifically, Mack argues that a Greek "myth of martyrdom" and the "noble death" tradition are ultimately responsible for influencing the hellenized Jews of the Christ cults to develop a divinized Jesus."
    Eddy & Boyd (2007), p. 93further note that "The most sophisticated and influential version of the hellenization thesis was forged within the German Religionsgeschichtliche Schule of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—now often referred to as the “old history of religions school.” Here, the crowning literary achievement in several ways is Wilhelm Bousset’s 1913 work Kyrios Christos. Bousset envisions two forms of pre-Pauline Christianity: [1. In the early Palestinian community, and 2. In the Hellenistic communities.]"
  2. ^ Price (2000), pp. 88, 92, 94, n. 17, §. The Christ Cults: "[Per] banquets held in honor of the gods, e.g., “Pray come dine with me today at the table of the Kyrios Serapis.” It is no doubt such social events [as these] which trouble Paul in 1 Cor. 8–11, where he admits that indeed “there are gods aplenty and Kyrioi aplenty” (1 Cor. 8:5), but seems to need to remind his Corinthian Christians that “for us there is but one God, the Father, who created all things, and one Kyrios, through whom all things were made” (1 Cor. 8:6). [Wilhelm Bousset, Kyrios Christos: A History of the Belief in Christ from the Beginnings of Christianity to Irenaeus, trans. John E. Steely (New York: Abingdon Press, 1970), pp. 119–152.] [...] Richard Reitzenstein and Wilhelm Bousset were two scholars who did manage to grasp the relevance of these ancient faiths for the study of early Christianity. Their conclusion was a simple and seemingly inevitable one: Once it reached Hellenistic soil, the story of Jesus attracted to itself a number of mythic motifs that were common to the syncretic religious mood of the era."
  3. ^ The notion of Apocalyptic prophet is shared by E. P. Sanders,[9] a main proponent of the New Perspective on Paul, and Bart Ehrman.[10][11]
  4. ^ Ehrman: "What started Christianity was the Belief in the Resurrection. It was nothing else. Followers of Jesus came to believe he had been raised. They did not believe it because of “proof” such as the empty tomb. They believed it because some of them said they saw Jesus alive afterward. Others who believed these stories told others who also came to believe them. These others told others who told others – for days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, and now millennia. Christianity is all about believing what others have said. It has always been that way and always will be.

    Easter is the celebration of the first proclamation that Jesus did not remain dead. It is not that his body was resuscitated after a Near Death Experience. God had exalted Jesus to heaven never to die again; he will (soon) return from heaven to rule the earth. This is a statement of faith, not a matter of empirical proof. Christians themselves believe it. Non-Christians recognize it as the very heart of the Christian message. It is a message based on faith in what other people claimed and testified based on what others claimed and testified based on what others claimed and testified – all the way back to the first followers of Jesus who said they saw Jesus alive afterward.[10]
  5. ^ Porter, Hayes and Tombs: "Stanley Porter's paper brings together a body of literature, hitherto largely neglected, which highlights the fact that the Greeks, contrary to much scholarly opinion, did have a significant tradition of bodily resurrection, and that the Jewish tradition emphasizes a continued spiritual existence rather than a bodily resurrection. Thus, Paul in the New Testament probably adopted Graeco-Roman assumptions regarding the resurrection, although he was not blindly derivative in developing his conceptual framework."[25]
  6. ^ Several authors have even argued for influences from a "pre-Christian Gnostic redeemer myth". According to Dunn, this interpretation is dated, and based on "a most questionable historical foundation.[34]
  7. ^ Several authors have even argued for influences from a "pre-Christian Gnostic redeemer myth". According to Dunn, this interpretation is dated, and based on "a most questionable historical foundation.[34] while others have argued for Jewish influences. According to Dunn, the hymn contains a contrast with the sins of Adam and his disobedience. Dunn further notes that the hymn may be seen as a three-stage Christology, starting with "an earlier stage of mythic pre-history or pre-existence," but regards the humility-exaltation contrast to be the main theme.[34]
  8. ^ Kloppenborg 1994, pp. 435–9; p. 435 – "This belief, known as "adoptionism", held that Jesus was not divine by nature or by birth, but that God chose him to become his son, i.e., adopted him."
  9. ^ Vielhauer & Strecker 1991, pp. 166–71; p. 168 – "Jesus' task is to do away with the 'sacrifices'. In this saying (16.4–5), the hostility of the Ebionites against the Temple cult is documented."
  10. ^ Acts 24:5 "For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes."
  11. ^ As the Hebrew term נוֹצְרִי (nôṣrî) still does
  12. ^ Edward Hare The principal doctrines of Christianity defended 1837 p318: "The Nazarenes of ecclesiastical history adhered to the law of their fathers; whereas when Tertullus accused Paul as 'a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes', he accused him as one who despised the law, and 'had gone about to the temple', Acts xxiv, 5, 6. "
  13. ^ The term "Pauline Christianity" is generally considered a pejorative by mainstream Christianity, as it carries the implication that Christianity is a corruption of the original teachings of Jesus, as for example in the belief of a Great Apostasy as found in Restorationism.[citation needed] Most of orthodox Christianity relies heavily on these teachings and considers them to be amplifications and explanations of the teachings of Jesus.[citation needed]
  14. ^ According to MackMack (1988), p. 98, "Paul was converted to a Hellenized form of some Jesus movement that had already developed into a Christ cult. [...] Thus his letters serve as documentation for the Christ cult as well." Price (2000), p. 75, §. The Christ Cults comments: "By choosing the terminology “Christ cults,” Burton Mack means to differentiate those early movements that revered Jesus as the Christ from those that did not. [...] Mack is perhaps not quite clear about what would constitute a Christ cult. Or at least he seems to me to obscure some important distinctions between what would appear to be significantly different subtypes of Christ movements."
  15. ^ Segal: "one can speak of a 'twin birth'" of two new Judaisms, both markedly different from the religious systems that preceded them. Not only were Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity religious twins, but, like Jacob and Esau, the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca, they fought in the womb, setting the stage for life after the womb."[63]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Mack 1995.
  2. ^ Leman 2015, p. 145-146.
  3. ^ Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee by Mark Allan Powell 1998 ISBN 0-664-25703-8 page 181
  4. ^ Graham Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus (2nd ed.), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) p. xxiii
  5. ^ Ehrman (2012)
  6. ^ Stanton (2002), pp. 143ff.
  7. ^ a b Porter 1999.
  8. ^ a b Ehrman, The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden religion swept the World
  9. ^ E.P. Sanders (1993). The Historical Figure of Jesus
  10. ^ a b c Bart Ehrman (1 April 2018), An Easter Reflection 2018
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Bouma, Jeremy (27 March 2014). "The Early High Christology Club and Bart Ehrman — An Excerpt from "How God Became Jesus"". Zondervan Academic Blog. HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  12. ^ group
  13. ^ The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament by Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum 2009 ISBN 978-0-8054-4365-3 pages 124-125
  14. ^ The Cambridge History of Christianity, Volume 1 by Margaret M. Mitchell and Frances M. Young (Feb 20, 2006) ISBN 0521812399 page 23
  15. ^ Creeds of the Churches, Third Edition by John H. Leith (1982) ISBN 0804205264 p. 12.
  16. ^ 1 Corinthians 15:3-9
  17. ^ Vermes 2008, p. 138-139.
  18. ^ Vermes 2008, p. 139.
  19. ^ Paula Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ
  20. ^ Paula Fredricksen, From Jesus to Christ Yale university Press. pp. 133–134
  21. ^ Leman 2015, p. 167-183.
  22. ^ a b Leman 2015, p. 173-174.
  23. ^ Stanley E. Porter, The Pagan Christ, p.91
  24. ^ Dag Øistein Endsjø, Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Christianity, p.169
  25. ^ a b Stanley E. Porter, Michael A. Hayes and David Tombs (1999), Foreword, p.18. In: Resurrection, edited by Stanley E. Porter, Michael A. Hayes and David Tombs, Sheffield Academic Press
  26. ^ Dag Øistein Endsjø, Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Christianity, p.12
  27. ^ Stephen J. Bedard, Hellenistic Influence on the Idea of Resurrection in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature, responds to Porter's thesis, referencing Porter as stating such.
  28. ^ Bart Ehrman (2012), Did Jesus Exist?, Huffington Post
  29. ^ a b c d Ehrman 2014.
  30. ^ Kloppenborg 1994, pp. 435–9.
  31. ^ "Ebionites". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  32. ^ Price (2003), pp. 351–355, §. Conclusion: The Name of the Lord – The Name Above All Names
  33. ^ Philippians#2:6–11
  34. ^ a b c d Dunn 2006, p. 146-147.
  35. ^ a b c Mack 1997.
  36. ^ Ehrman 2005.
  37. ^ Dunn 2006, p. p=253-255.
  38. ^ Colin G. Kruse (2012), Paul's Letter to the Romans ISBN 0802837433 pp. 41–42
  39. ^ David E. Aune (ed.)(2010), The Blackwell Companion to The New Testament ISBN 1405108258 p. 424
  40. ^ Ralph P. Martin (1975), Worship in the Early Church, ISBN 0802816134, pp. 57–58
  41. ^ Price (2003), pp. 351–355, §. Conclusion: The Name of the Lord – The Name Above All Names
  42. ^ Eusebius, Church History 3, 5, 3; Epiphanius, Panarion 29,7,7-8; 30, 2, 7; On Weights and Measures 15. See: Craig Koester, "The Origin and Significance of the Flight to Pella Tradition", Catholic Biblical Quarterly 51 (1989), p. 90-106; P. H. R. van Houwelingen, "Fleeing forward: The departure of Christians from Jerusalem to Pella", Westminster Theological Journal 65 (2003); Jonathan Bourgel, "The Jewish Christians’ Move from Jerusalem as a pragmatic choice", in: Dan Jaffe (ed), Studies in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity, (Leyden: Brill, 2010), p. 107-138 (https://www.academia.edu/4909339/THE_JEWISH_CHRISTIANS_MOVE_FROM_JERUSALEM_AS_A_PRAGMATIC_CHOICE).
  43. ^ Cross, EA; Livingston, FL, eds. (1989). "Ebionites". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford University Press.
  44. ^ "Ebionites". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  45. ^ Kohler, Kaufmann (1901–1906). "Ebionites". In Singer, Isidore; Alder, Cyrus. Jewish Encyclopedia.
  46. ^ Hyam Maccoby (1987). The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity. HarperCollins. pp. 172–183. ISBN 0-06-250585-8., an abridgement
  47. ^ David C. Sim The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism 1998 p182 "The Nazarenes are first mentioned by Epiphanius who records that they upheld the Torah, including the practice of circumcision and sabbath observance (Panarion 29:5.4; 7:2, 5; 8:1-7), read the Hebrew scriptures in the original Hebrew"
  48. ^ Petri Luomanen "Nazarenes" in A companion to second-century Christian "heretics" pp279
  49. ^ Memoirs of Dr. Joseph Priestley - Page 670 The term Ebionites occurs in Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and Eusebius but none makes any mention of Nazarenes. They must have been even more considerable in the time of these writers,
  50. ^ Krauss, Samuel. "Nazarenes". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-08-23.
  51. ^ Hegg, Tim (2007). "The Virgin Birth – An Inquiry into the Biblical Doctrine" (PDF). TorahResource. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
  52. ^ Cameron 1992, pp. 105–6.
  53. ^ Koch 1990, p. 364.
  54. ^ Lapham 2003, pp. 159,163.
  55. ^ Dunn 2006.
  56. ^ Mack 1995.
  57. ^ Maccoby 1986.
  58. ^ Boyarin 1999 (?)
  59. ^ Boyarin 1999 (?)
  60. ^ (115 years and 6 months from the Crucifixion, according to Tertullian's reckoning in Adversus Marcionem, xv)
  61. ^ St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae Prima Pars, Q. 14 A. 10; Q. 49 A. 3.; Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, On the Divine Names, 4; iv. 31
  62. ^ Guide for the Perplexed 3,10
  63. ^ Alan F. Segal, Rebecca's Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986.Page= ???
  64. ^ Cohen, Shaye J.D. (1988). From the Maccabees to the Mishnah ISBN 0-664-25017-3 p. 228
  65. ^ a b Shaye J.D. Cohen 1987 From the Maccabees to the Mishnah Library of Early Christianity, Wayne Meeks, editor. The Westminster Press. 168
  66. ^ Shaye J.D. Cohen 1987 From the Maccabees to the Mishnah Library of Early Christianity, Wayne Meeks, editor. The Westminster Press. 167-168
  67. ^ Cohen, Shaye J.D. (1988). From the Maccabees to the Mishnah ISBN 0-664-25017-3 pp. 224-225
  68. ^ Michael Cook 2008 Modern Jews Engage the New Testament Jewish Lights Press ISBN 978-1-58023-313-2 p. 19
  69. ^ Fredriksen, Paula (1988. From Jesus to Christ ISBN 0-300-04864-5 p.5
  70. ^ Meier, John (1991), A Marginal Jew, Rethinking the Historial Jesus Volume I: The Roots of the Problem and the Person,. Doubleday Press. pp. 43–4
  71. ^ Sanders, E.P. (1987). Jesus and Judaism, Fortress Press ISBN 0-8006-2061-5 p.60
  72. ^ Robert Goldenberg. Review of "Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism" by Daniel Boyarin in The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 92, No. 3/4 (Jan. - Apr., 2002), pp. 586-588
  73. ^ Philip Jenkins (2018), When the Jesus Movement Became the Christian Church

Sources

Further reading

  • Mack, Burton L. (1995), Who wrote the New Testament? The making of the Christian myth, HarperSan Francisco, ISBN 978-0-06-065517-4
  • Ehrman, Bart (2014), How Jesus became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, Harper Collins

External links

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