Thursday, December 20, 2012

From Jews for Jesus to Gentile Christianity...

You can read here for one more article suggesting that the move from Jesus' followers to Gentile Christianity represents a later change, mostly associated with Paul.

In the New Testament, Jesus only preaches to a Jewish audience. Geza Vermes describes the mission of the 11 apostles to preach to “all the nations” (Matthew 28:19) as a “‘post-Resurrection’ idea.” After the crucifixion, the apostles began to champion a new faith in Jesus and the ranks of the Jesus movement (known as “the Way” at the time) swelled to 3,000 Jewish converts. At first, these followers were distinctly Jewish, following Mosaic law, Temple traditions and dietary customs.

Geza Vermes writes that “Acts identifies the demographic watershed regarding the composition of the Jesus movement. It began around 40 C.E. with the admission into the church of the family of the Roman centurion Cornelius in Caesarea (Acts 10). Later came the gentile members of the mixed Jewish-Greek church in Antioch (Acts 11:19–24; Galatians 2:11–14), as well as the many pagan converts of Paul in Syria, Asia Minor and Greece. With them the Jewish monopoly in the new movement came to an end. Jewish and gentile Christianity was born.”

Geza Vermes presents the late first century C.E. Jewish Christian Didache as an important text for understanding the Jewish Jesus movement. The Christian document focuses on Mosaic Law and the love of God and the neighbor, and describes the observance of Jewish traditions alongside baptism and the recitation of “Our Father.” The Didache treats Jesus as a charismatic prophet, referring to Jesus with the term pais, a word for servant or child that is also used for King David, rather than the “Son of God.”

By contrast, the early second century Epistle of Barnabas shows a distinctly gentile Christianity in its presentation of the Hebrew Bible as allegory instead of covenantal fact. The clearly divinized Jesus in this document is distanced from the Jewish Christians and the divide between the Christian communities continued to widen over time. Geza Vermes writes that after Hadrian’s suppression of the Second Jewish Revolt, the Jewish Christians quickly became a minority group in the newly established church. At this point we can see the origin of Christianity as a distinctly non-Jewish religion; late in the second century, the Jewish Christians either rejoined their Jewish peers or become part of the newly gentile Christian church. 

While the Jewish character of Christianity did certainly transform into a Gentile identity, whether or not this is seen as an imposition upon the Jewish Christian identity or its fullness realized is a different question.  As is fo often, the presumption here is that the more authentic Christianity is that which existed prior to the Gentile explosion.  In fact, Vermes does imply in the article that the "all nations" directive is isolated only to Matthew 28 and Mark's spurious ending and decidedly of Pauline influence and, perhaps, source.

Vermes posits that on the few occasions that Jesus ventured beyond the boundaries of his homeland, he never proclaimed his gospel to pagans, nor did his disciples do so during his lifetime -- and therefore the transformation to Gentile identity represented a break from Jesus' words and practice. 

My point is that this article, from Biblical Archeology, represents the constant skepticism of the critic who refuses to accept Scripture for what it says and believes, suspiciously, that the Christianity of the second century represents a break from Christianity of the first century.  And that, my friends, is the problem.

Scripture is pitted against Scripture and every sinister motive presumed.  It is the same kind of stuff we hear from the likes of Bart Ehrman and a host of others who find the speculative more interesting and more substantive than the concrete of the text itself.  As we head toward Christmas, these things seem to pop up in the media more and more.  The truth?  Hardly.  The truth lies with the Word that endures forever.  Do not be deceived,we can trust the Word.  Strangely, the orthodox Christians pay more attention to concrete evidence within and outside of Scripture than those who call themselves archeologists and scholars....


Janis Williams said...

It astonishes me that post-moderns simply cannot read (or believe what is written). Words mean nothing to them when they are in print. Yet they expect everyone to listen to and understand THEIR words.

Somehow, they also missed "One of These Things is Not Like The Other" on Sesame Street when they were growing up.

When Jesus Himself said "the uttermost parts of the earth" He didn't mean seek out the Jewish communities there. If He did, his disciples sure disobeyed Him. When Paul went to a new city, he went first to the synagogue, then to the Gentiles. This is obvious in his letters. Maybe Christ didn't seek out Gentiles in His ministry, but they somehow heard the Gospel, hope was born, and they came to Him for healing and salvation.

I know no self-respecting 'ehrmanite' would accept the weak argument of Jesus' very words (and Paul's actions), but there they are, in Holy Scripture.

SKPeterson said...

How does Vermes treat the Samaritan woman and the people of Sychar? They're obviously not Jews, but also not quite pagans.

Gerald Collins said...

In the biblical text there are only two kinds of people, A Hebrews and B those not Hebrews commonly referred to as gentiles. The Jews are not a special class of people but rather are self appointed gentile who assume to be the people of God. Jesus came only for the Hebrews of the house of Israel and not those of the house of Judah for she had never been divorced and sent away from the estate. Any one can become a christian but that does not make them a Hebrew of the house of Israel. The Jews of Jesus day were gentiles from the surround tribes of the Canaanites who had power for the past 135 years. When the Romans destroyed the temple and the city of Jerusalem in 70 AD those that escaped went to Russia and Spain. Jews are not Hebrews and Jesus was not a Jew. Jesus was from the house of Judah and he came only for the house of Israel.
Jesus has always been the redeemer of Israel. The Judahites never need salvation or to be rescued out of the heathen gentiles as did the house of Israel who had been divorced in Jeremiah 3.
The New Testament is only to the Hebrews of the house of Israel known in the Greek Letter Text as the ethnee. All others were known as the ethnoon those being gentiles.
Jerry Collins

Gerald Collins said...

The church is the center of all things called christians and their belief system that they to will spend eternity with Jesus.
Jesus never once referred to the gentiles other then by the name of wild animals or rejected objects such as wild rye which of course is not wheat to be taken in to the barn but rather to be bundled and burned in the furnace.
Jesus hated the gentiles from the foundation of the earth. When John was baptizing he said to the Pharisees and Sadducees "you children of the snake who has warned you of the wrath to come"
In the parable of the tares Jesus referres to the gentiles as the children of the wicked one, final he said you are of your father the Devil. Why would he want this trash to be in a perfect place by a some conversion in the gentile church of the deceived. The corrupt English translation as the corrupted manual to take believing gentiles who are never converted into Hebrews.
One born on the broad road of life will forever have to walk that road for their is no way off even if the church says their is a way by believing and confessing.
In the Old testament only the Hebrews are the central theme and yet some one should be alarmed for in the corrupted text of English gentiles are the central focus with the church that destroyed the invitation in Matthew 16:18 for the last 600 years.
See my web pages for more details at:
any one can email me from there.
Jerry Collins.