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In Christianity, the Apostolic Age is the period from the death of Jesus until the death of the last of the Twelve Apostles (c. 33 – c. 100 AD). It holds special significance in Christian tradition as the age of the direct apostles of Jesus.
The earliest followers of Jesus were principally from apocalyptic Jewish sects during the late Second Temple period of the 1st century. They were Jewish Christians, who strictly adhered to the Jewish commands. Jerusalem had an early Christian community, which was led by James the Just, Peter, and John.
Paul the Apostle, a pious Jew who had persecuted the early Christians, converted c. AD 33–36 and started to proselytize among the gentiles. According to Paul, gentile converts could be allowed exemption from most Jewish commandments, arguing that all are justified by faith in Jesus. This led to a gradual split of early Christianity from Judaism, as Christianity became a predominantly gentile religion.
- 1 Apostolic period
- 2 Jewish Christianity
- 3 Early Christianity
- 4 Persecutions
- 5 Apostolic Fathers
- 6 Christian scriptures
- 7 Split of Early Christianity and Judaism
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Sources
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
The years following Jesus until the death of the last of the Twelve Apostles is called the Apostolic Age, after the missionary activities of the apostles. According to the Acts of the Apostles, the Jerusalem church began at Pentecost with some 120 believers, in an "upper room", believed by some to be the Cenacle, where the apostles received the Holy Spirit and emerged from hiding following the death and resurrection of Jesus to preach and spread his message.
Paul's conversion on the Road to Damascus is first recorded in Acts 9:13–16. Peter baptized the Roman centurion Cornelius, traditionally considered the first gentile convert to Christianity, in Acts 10. Based on this, the Antioch church was founded. According to Acts, that it was there that the term Christian was coined.
After the death of Jesus, "Christianity [...] emerged as a sect of Judaism in Roman Palestine." The first Christians were all Jews, either by birth or conversion ("proselytes" in Biblical terminology),[note 1] who constituted a Second Temple Jewish sect with an apocalyptic eschatology.
The Jerusalem ekklēsia
The New Testament's Acts of the Apostles and Epistle to the Galatians record that an early Jewish Christian community[note 2] centered on Jerusalem and that its leaders included Peter, James, the "brother of Jesus", and John the Apostle. Legitimised by Jesus' appearance, Peter was the first leader of the Jerusalem ekklēsia. He was soon eclipsed in this leadership by James the Just, "the Brother of the Lord," which may explain why the early texts contain scarce information about Peter. According to Lüdemann, in the discussions about the strictness of adherence to the Jewish Law, the more conservative faction of James the Just took the overhand over the more liberal position of Peter, who soon lost influence. The Jerusalem Church "held a central place among all the churches," as witnessed by Paul's writings. The relatives of Jesus were accorded a special position within this community, as displayed by the leadership of James the Just in Jerusalem.
Jewish Christians were fully faithful religious Jews, only differing in their acceptance of Jesus as the messiah. They believed Yahweh to be the only true God, the god of Israel, and considered Jesus to be the messiah (Christ), as prophesied in the Jewish scriptures, which they held to be authoritative and sacred. They held faithfully to the Torah,[note 3] including acceptance of gentile converts based on a version of the Noachide laws.[note 4] They employed mostly the Septuagint or Targum translations of the Hebrew scriptures.
The Book of Acts reports that the early followers continued daily Temple attendance and traditional Jewish home prayer. Other passages in the New Testament gospels reflect a similar observance of traditional Jewish piety such as fasting, reverence for the Torah and observance of Jewish holy days.
Liturgical services were based on repeating the actions of Jesus ("do this in remembrance of me"), using the bread and wine, and saying his words (known as the words of the institution). The rest of the liturgical ritual is rooted in the Jewish Passover, siddur, the Passover Seder, and synagogue services, including the singing of hymns (especially the Psalms) and reading from the scriptures. At first, Christians continued to worship alongside Jewish believers, but within twenty years of Jesus' death, Sunday (the Lord's Day) was being regarded as the primary day of worship.
The Great Commission is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples to spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. The most famous version of the Great Commission is in Matthew 28:16–20, where on a mountain in Galilee Jesus calls on his followers to make disciples of and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Christian missionary activity spread Christianity to cities in the predominantly Greek-speaking eastern half of the Roman Empire, and then throughout the Hellenistic world and even beyond the Roman Empire.[note 5]
Apostles and preachers traveled to Jewish communities around the Mediterranean Sea, and attracted Jewish converts. Within 10 years of the death of Jesus, apostles had spread Christianity from Jerusalem to Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Cyprus, Crete, Alexandria and Rome. Paul was responsible for bringing Christianity to Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, and Thessalonica. Over 40 churches were established by 100, most in Asia Minor, such as the seven churches of Asia, and some in Greece and Italy.
Early Christian beliefs were proclaimed in kerygma [preaching), some of which are preserved in New Testament scripture. The early Gospel message spread orally, probably originally in Aramaic, but almost immediately also in Greek. Christian groups and congregations first organized themselves loosely. In Paul's time there were no precisely delineated functions yet for bishops, elders, and deacons.
The sources for the beliefs of the early Christians include oral traditions (which included sayings attributed to Jesus, parables and teachings), the Gospels, the New Testament epistles and possibly lost texts such as the Q source and the writings of Papias. The texts contain the earliest Christian creeds expressing belief in the risen Jesus, such as 1 Corinthians 15:3–41:
 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,  and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day[note 6] in accordance with the scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
The creed has been dated by some scholars as originating within the Jerusalem apostolic community no later than the 40s, and by some to less than a decade after Jesus' death, while others date it to about 56. Other early creeds include 1 John 4:2, 2 Timothy 2:8 Romans 1:3–4 and 1 Timothy 3:16.
Two fundamentally different Christologies developed in the early Church, namely a "low" or adoptionist Christology, and a "high" or "incarnation Christology." The chronology of the development of these early Christologies is a matter of debate within contemporary scholarship.[web 2]
The "low Christology" or "adoptionist Christology" is the belief "that God exalted Jesus to be his Son by raising him from the dead," thereby raising him to "divine status."[web 3] According to the "evolutionary model" c.q. "evolutionary theories," the Christological understanding of Christ developed over time, as witnessed in the Gospels, with the earliest Christians believing that Jesus was a human who was exalted, c.q. adopted as God's Son, when he was resurrected. Later beliefs shifted the exaltation to his baptism, birth, and subsequently to the idea of his eternal existence, as witnessed in the Gospel of John. This evolutionary model was very influential, and the "low Christology" has long been regarded as the oldest Christology.[web 3][note 7]
The other early Christology is "high Christology," which is "the view that Jesus was a pre-existent divine being who became a human, did the Father’s will on earth, and then was taken back up into heaven whence he had originally come,"[web 3] and from where he appeared on earth. According to Hurtado, a proponent of an Early High Christology, the devotion to Jesus as divine originated in early Jewish Christianity, and not later or under the influence of pagan religions and gentile converts. The Pauline letters, which are the earliest Christian writings, already show "a well-developed pattern of Christian devotion [...] already conventionalized and apparently uncontroversial."
Early Christian beliefs regarding baptism probably predate the New Testament writings. It seems certain that numerous Jewish sects and certainly Jesus's disciples practised baptism. John the Baptist had baptized many people, before baptisms took place in the name of Jesus Christ. Paul likened baptism to being buried with Christ in his death.[note 8]
Communal meals and Eucharist
The early Church practiced communal meals. The Eucharist was often a part of the Lovefeast, but between the latter part of the 1st century AD and 250 AD the two became separate rituals. Thus, in modern times the Lovefeast refers to a Christian ritual meal distinct from the Lord's Supper.
The Eucharist (//; also called Holy Communion or the Lord's Supper, among other names) is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. According to the New Testament, the rite was instituted by Jesus during the Last Supper; giving his disciples bread and wine during the Passover Seder, Jesus commanded his followers to "do this in memory of me" while referring to the bread as "my body" and the cup of wine as "the new covenant in my blood". Through the Eucharistic celebration Christians remember both Christ's sacrifice of himself on the cross and his commission of the apostles at the Last Supper.
Early Christians continued to pray and rest on the seventh day. By the 2nd century AD some Christians also observed Sunday, the day of the week on which Jesus had risen from the dead and on which the Holy Spirit had come to the apostles. Paul the Apostle and the Christians of Troas, for example, gathered on Sunday "to break bread". Soon some Christians were observing only Sunday and not the Sabbath. Patristic writings attest that by the second century, it had become commonplace to celebrate the Eucharist in a corporate day of worship on the first day. A Church Father, Eusebius, stated that for Christians, "the sabbath had been transferred to Sunday".
In his book From Sabbath to Sunday, Adventist theologian Samuele Bacchiocchi contended that the transition from the Saturday Sabbath to Sunday in the early Christian church was due to pagan and political factors, and the decline of standards for the Sabbath day.
Paul's influence on Christian thinking is said to be more significant than that of any other New Testament author. 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."
Paul was in contact with the early Christian community in Jerusalem, led by James the Just. According to Mack, Paul may have been converted to another early strand of Christianity, with a High Christology. Fragments of their beliefs in an exalted and deified Jesus, what Mack called the "Christ cult," can be found in the writings of Paul.[note 9] Yet, Hurtado notes that Paul valued the linkage with "Jewish Christian circles in Roman Judea," which makes it likely that his Christology was in line with, and indebted to, their views. Hurtado further notes that "[i]t is widely accepted that the tradition that Paul recites in [Corinthians] 15:1-71 must go back to the Jerusalem Church."
Inclusion of gentiles
Paul was responsible for bringing Christianity to Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, and Thessalonica. According to Krister Stendahl, the main concern of Paul's writings on Jesus' role, and salvation by faith, is the problem of the inclusion of gentile (Greek) Torah observers into God's covenant.[web 5] The inclusion of gentiles into early Christianity posed a problem for the Jewish identity of the early Christians. Many of the Jewish Christians were fully faithful religious Jews, only differing in their acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. Observance of the Jewish commands, including circumcision, was regarded as a token of the membership of this covenant, and the early Jewish Christians insisted on keeping those observances. Gentiles were, by definition, not part of Israel, God's chosen people, and the new converts did not follow all "Jewish Law"[note 10] and refused to be circumcised, as circumcision was considered repulsive during the period of Hellenization of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Paul objected strongly to the insistence on keeping all of the Jewish commands, considering it a great threat to his doctrine of salvation through faith in Jesus. According to Fredriksen, Paul's opposition to male circumcision for gentiles is in line with Old Testament predictions that "in the last days the gentile nations would come to the God of Israel, as gentiles (e.g., Zechariah 8:20-23), not as proselytes to Israel."[web 1] For Paul, gentile male circumcision was therefore an affront to God's intentions.[web 1] According to Hurtado, "Paul saw himself as what Munck called a salvation-historical figure in his own right," who was "personally and singularly deputized by God to bring about the predicted ingathering (the “fullness”) of the nations (Romans 11:25)."[web 1]
For Paul, Jesus' death and resurrection solved this problem of the exclusion of the gentles from God's covenant, since the faithfull are redeemed by participation in Jesus' death and rising. According to Sanders, Paul argued that "those who are baptized into Christ are baptized into his death, and thus they escape the power of sin [...] he died so that the believers may die with him and consequently live with him."[web 6] By this participation in Christ's death and rising, "one receives forgiveness for past offences, is liberated from the powers of sin, and receives the Spirit." Paul insists that salvation is received by the grace of God; according to Sanders, this insistence is in line with Judaism of ca. 200 NCE until 200 CE, which saw God's covenant with Israel as an act of grace of God. Observance of the Law is needed to maintain the covenant, but the covenant is not be earned by observing the Law, but by the grace of God.[web 7]
These divergent interpretations have a prominent place in both Paul's writings and in Acts. According to Paul, fourteen years after his conversion he visited the "Pillars of Jerusalem" to compare his Gospel with theirs. According to Paul, in his letter to the Galatians,[note 11] they agreed that his mission was to be among the gentiles. According to Acts, Paul made an argument that circumcision was not a necessary practice, vocally supported by Peter, as documented in Acts 15.[note 12]
The inclusion of gentiles is reflected in Luke-Acts, which is an attempt to answer a theological problem, namely how the Messiah of the Jews came to have an overwhelmingly non-Jewish church; the answer it provides, and its central theme, is that the message of Christ was sent to the gentiles because the Jews rejected it.
Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire occurred sporadically over a period of over two centuries. For most of the first three hundred years of Christian history, Christians were able to live in peace, practice their professions, and rise to positions of responsibility. Sporadic persecution took place as the result of local pagan populations putting pressure on the imperial authorities to take action against the Christians in their midst, who were thought to bring misfortune by their refusal to honour the gods.
Only for approximately ten out of the first three hundred years of the church's history were Christians executed due to orders from a Roman emperor. The first persecution of Christians organised by the Roman government took place under the emperor Nero in 64 AD after the Great Fire of Rome. There was no empire-wide persecution of Christians until the reign of Decius in the third century.[web 8] The Edict of Serdica was issued in 311 by the Roman emperor Galerius, officially ending the Diocletianic persecution of Christianity in the East. With the passage in 313 AD of the Edict of Milan, in which the Roman Emperors Constantine the Great and Licinius legalised the Christian religion, persecution of Christians by the Roman state ceased.[web 9]
The Church Fathers are the early and influential theologians and writers in the Christian Church, particularly those of the first five centuries of Christian history. The earliest Church Fathers, within two generations of the Twelve apostles of Christ, are usually called Apostolic Fathers for reportedly knowing and studying under the apostles personally. Important Apostolic Fathers include Clement of Rome (d. AD 99), Ignatius of Antioch (d. AD 98 to 117) and Polycarp of Smyrna (AD 69-155). Their writings include the Epistle of Barnabas and the Epistles of Clement. The Didache and Shepherd of Hermas are usually placed among the writings of the Apostolic Fathers although their authors are unknown.
In his letter 1 Clement, Clement of Rome calls on the Christians of Corinth to maintain harmony and order. Some see his epistle as an assertion of Rome's authority over the church in Corinth and, by implication, the beginnings of papal supremacy. Clement refers to the leaders of the Corinthian church in his letter as bishops and presbyters interchangeably, and likewise states that the bishops are to lead God's flock by virtue of the chief shepherd (presbyter), Jesus Christ.
The Didache (late 1st century) is an anonymous Jewish-Christian work. It is a pastoral manual dealing with Christian lessons, rituals, and Church organization, parts of which may have constituted the first written catechism, "that reveals more about how Jewish-Christians saw themselves and how they adapted their Judaism for gentiles than any other book in the Christian Scriptures."
The early Christians likely did not have their own copy of Scriptural and other church works. Much of the original church liturgical services functioned as a means of learning Christian theology later expressed in these works.
The Old Testament is the first section of the two-part Christian biblical canon; the second section is the New Testament. The Old Testament includes the books of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) or protocanon, and in various Christian denominations also includes deuterocanonical books. Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Protestants use different canons, which differ with respect to the texts that are included in the Old Testament.
Martin Luther, holding to Jewish and other ancient precedent, excluded the deuterocanonical books from the Old Testament of his translation of the Bible, placing them in a section he labeled "Apocrypha" ("hidden"). To counter Luther's "heresy", the fourth session of the Catholic Council of Trent in 1546 confirmed that the deuterocanonical books were equally as authoritative as the protocanonical in the Canon of Trent in the year Luther died, reconfirming the inclusion of the deuterocanonical books made almost a century earlier at the Council of Florence. Following Jerome's Veritas Hebraica (Truth of the Hebrew) principle, the Protestant Old Testament consists of the same books as the Hebrew Bible, but the order and division of the books are different. Protestants number the Old Testament books at 39, while the Hebrew Bible numbers the same books as 24. The Hebrew Bible counts Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles as one book each, and the 12 minor prophets are one book, and also Ezra and Nehemiah form a single book.
The Biblical canon began with the Jewish scriptures. The Koine Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures, later known as the Septuagint' and often written as "LXX," was the dominant translation. It arose from Hellenistic Judaism, and included the biblical apocrypha.[note 13] The first five books of the Septuagint, known as the Torah or Pentateuch, were translated mid-3rd century BCE, and the remaining texts were translated in the 2nd century BCE. Eventually, the texts became also available as Aramaic Targums.
Perhaps the earliest Christian canon is the Bryennios List, dated to around 100, which was found by Philotheos Bryennios in the Codex Hierosolymitanus. The list is written in Koine Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. In the 2nd century, Melito of Sardis called the Jewish scriptures the "Old Testament" and also specified an early canon.
Writings attributed to the Apostles circulated among the earliest Christian communities. The Pauline epistles were circulating, perhaps in collected forms, by the end of the 1st century AD.[note 14] Justin Martyr, in the mid–2nd century, mentions "memoirs of the apostles" as being read on "the day called that of the sun" (Sunday) alongside the "writings of the prophets." A defined set of four gospels (the Tetramorph) was asserted by Irenaeus, c. 180, who refers to it directly. The original texts were written by various authors, most likely sometime between c. AD 45 and 120 AD, in Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the eastern part of the Roman Empire, although there is also a minority argument for Aramaic primacy. The name was given by either by Tertullian or Marcion in the 2nd century, but they were not defined as "canon" until the 4th century.
The canon of the New Testament is the set of books Christians regard as divinely inspired and constituting the New Testament of the Christian Bible. For most, it is an agreed-upon list of twenty-seven books that includes the canonical Gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation. The books of the canon of the New Testament were written before 120 AD.
For Orthodox Christianity, the recognition of these writings as authoritative was formalized in the Second Council of Trullan of 692. The Catholic Church made dogmatic definition upon its Biblical canon in 382 at the Council of Rome as well as at the Council of Trent of 1545, reaffirming the Canons of Florence of 1442 and North African Councils (Hippo and Carthage) of 393–419. For the Church of England, it was made dogmatic on the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563; for Calvinism, on the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647.
Split of Early Christianity and Judaism
There was a slowly growing chasm between Christians and Jews, rather than a sudden split. Even though it is commonly thought that Paul established a gentile church, it took centuries for a complete break to manifest. However, certain events are perceived as pivotal in the growing rift between Christianity and Judaism.
The destruction of Jerusalem and the consequent dispersion of Jews and Jewish Christians from the city (after the Bar Kokhba revolt) ended any pre-eminence of the Jewish-Christian leadership in Jerusalem. Early Christianity grew further apart from Judaism to establish itself as a predominantly gentile religion, and Antioch became the first gentile Christian community with stature.
The Council of Jamnia c. 85 is often stated to have condemned all who claimed the Messiah had already come, and Christianity in particular. However, the formulated prayer in question (birkat ha-minim) is considered by other scholars to be unremarkable in the history of Jewish and Christian relations. There is a paucity of evidence for Jewish persecution of "heretics" in general, or Christians in particular, in the period between 70 and 135. It is probable that the condemnation of Jamnia included many groups, of which the Christians were but one, and did not necessarily mean excommunication. That some of the later church fathers only recommended against synagogue attendance makes it improbable that an anti-Christian prayer was a common part of the synagogue liturgy. Jewish Christians continued to worship in synagogues for centuries.
During the late 1st century, Judaism was a legal religion with the protection of Roman law, worked out in compromise with the Roman state over two centuries.[note 15] Observant Jews had special rights, including the privilege of abstaining from civic pagan rites. Christians were initially identified with the Jewish religion by the Romans, but as they became more distinct, Christianity became a problem for Roman rulers. Around the year 98, the emperor Nerva (AD 98) decreed that Christians did not have to pay the annual tax upon the Jews, effectively recognizing them as distinct from Rabbinic Judaism. This opened the way to Christians being persecuted for disobedience to the emperor, as they refused to worship the state pantheon.
From c. 98 onwards a distinction between Christians and Jews in Roman literature becomes apparent. For example, Pliny the Younger postulates that Christians are not Jews since they do not pay the tax, in his letters to Trajan. Christianity was not legalized until the 313 Edict of Milan.
Rejection of Jewish Christianity
Jewish Christians constituted a separate community from the Pauline Christians but maintained a similar faith, differing only in practice. In Christian circles, "Nazarene" later came to be used as a label for those faithful to Jewish law, in particular for a certain sect. These Jewish Christians, originally the central group in Christianity, were not at first declared to be unorthodox but were later excluded and denounced. The Nazarenes, holding to orthodoxy except in their adherence to Jewish law, were not deemed heretical until the dominance of orthodoxy in the 4th century.
The Ebionites may have been a splinter group of Nazarenes, with disagreements over Christology and leadership. They were considered by gentile Christians to have unorthodox beliefs, particularly in relation to their views of Christ and gentile converts. After the condemnation of the Nazarenes, "Ebionite" was often used as a general pejorative for all related "heresies".
There was a post-Nicene "double rejection" of the Jewish Christians by both gentile Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. It is believed that there was no direct confrontation or persecution between gentile and Judaic Christianity. However, by this time the practice of Judeo-Christianity was diluted both by internal schisms and external pressures. The true end of ancient Jewish Christianity occurred only in the 5th century. Gentile Christianity remained the sole strand of orthodoxy and imposed itself on the previously Jewish Christian sanctuaries, taking full control of those houses of worship by the end of the 5th century.[note 16]
- Christian martyrs
- Christian monasticism
- Christianity in the 2nd century
- Chronological list of saints in the 1st century
- Development of the New Testament canon
- Early history of Christianity
- Great Church
- History of Christian theology
- History of Christianity
- History of early Christianity
- History of the Eastern Orthodox Church
- History of the Roman Catholic Church
- Timeline of Christian missions
- Timeline of Christianity
- Timeline of the Catholic Church
- Catholic Encyclopedia: "Proselyte": "The English term 'proselyte' occurs only in the New Testament where it signifies a convert to the Jewish religion (Matthew 23:15; Acts 2:11; 6:5; etc.), though the same Greek word is commonly used in the Septuagint to designate a foreigner living in Judea. The term seems to have passed from an original local and chiefly political sense, in which it was used as early as 300 BC, to a technical and religious meaning in the Judaism of the New Testament epoch."
- Hurtado: "She refrains from referring to this earliest stage of the 'Jesus-community' as early 'Christianity' and comprised of 'churches,' as the terms carry baggage of later developments of 'organized institutions, and of a religion separate from, different from, and hostile to Judaism' (185). So, instead, she renders ekklēsia as 'assembly' (quite appropriately in my view, reflecting the quasi-official connotation of the term, often both in the LXX and in wider usage)."[web 1]
- Perhaps also Jewish law which was being formalized at the same time
- Acts 15 and Acts 21
- Ecclesiastical historian Henry Hart Milman writes that in much of the first three centuries, even in the Latin-dominated western empire: "the Church of Rome, and most, if not all the Churches of the West, were, if we may so speak, Greek religious colonies [see Greek colonies for the background]. Their language was Greek, their organization Greek, their writers Greek, their scriptures Greek; and many vestiges and traditions show that their ritual, their Liturgy, was Greek."
- See Why was Resurrection on “the Third Day”? Two Insights for explanations on the phrase "third day." According to Pinchas Lapide, "third day may refer to Hosea 6:1–2:
"Come, let us return to the Lord;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him."
See also 2 Kings 20:8: "Hezekiah said to Isaiah, 'What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord on the third day?'"
* "The earliest Christians held exaltation Christologies in which the human being Jesus was made the Son of God—for example, at his resurrection or at his baptism—as we examined in the previous chapter."
* Here I’ll say something about the oldest Christology, as I understand it. This was what I earlier called a “low” Christology. I may end up in the book describing it as a “Christology from below” or possibly an “exaltation” Christology. Or maybe I’ll call it all three things [...] Along with lots of other scholars, I think this was indeed the earliest Christology.[web 4]
- Romans 6:3–4; Colossians 2:12
- According to Mack, "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."
- Generally understood to mean Mosaic Law as the Halakha was still being formalized at the time
- Four years after the Council of Jerusalem, Paul wrote to the Galatians about the issue, which had become a serious controversy in their region. There was a burgeoning movement of Judaizers in the area that advocated adherence to traditional Mosaic laws, including circumcision. According to McGrath, Paul identified James the Just as the motivating force behind the movement. Paul considered it a great threat to his doctrine of salvation through faith and addressed the issue with great detail in Galatians 3.
- According to 19th-century German theologian F. C. Baur early Christianity was dominated by the conflict between Peter who was law-observant, and Paul who advocated partial or even complete freedom from the law. Scholar James D. G. Dunn has proposed that Peter was the "bridge-man" between the two other prominent leaders: Paul and James the Just. Paul and James were both heavily identified with their own "brands" of Christianity. Peter showed a desire to hold on to his Jewish identity, in contrast with Paul. He simultaneously showed a flexibility towards the desires of the broader Christian community, in contrast to James. Marcion and his followers stated that the polemic against false apostles in Galatians was aimed at Peter, James and John, the "Pillars of the Church", as well as the "false" gospels circulating through the churches at the time. Irenaeus and Tertullian argued against Marcionism's elevation of Paul and stated that Peter and Paul were equals among the apostles. Passages from Galatians were used to show that Paul respected Peter's office and acknowledged a shared faith.
- Jerome (347-420) expressed his preference for adhering strictly to the Hebrew text and canon, but his view held little currency even in his own day. It was not until the Protestant Reformation that substantial numbers of Christians began to reject those books of the Septuagint which are not found in the Jewish Masoretic Text, referring to them as biblical apocrypha. In addition, some New Testament books were also disputed, known as the Antilegomena.
- Three forms are postulated, from Gamble, Harry Y, "18", The Canon Debate, p. 300, note 21,
(1) Marcion's collection that begins with Galatians and ends with Philemon; (2) Papyrus 46, dated about 200, that follows the order that became established except for reversing Ephesians and Galatians; and (3) the letters to seven churches, treating those to the same church as one letter and basing the order on length, so that Corinthians is first and Colossians (perhaps including Philemon) is last.
- See Anti-Judaism in the Roman Empire for details.
- Jewish Virtual Library: "A major difficulty in tracing the growth of Christianity from its beginnings as a Jewish messianic sect, and its relations to the various other normative-Jewish, sectarian-Jewish, and Christian-Jewish groups is presented by the fact that what ultimately became normative Christianity was originally but one among various contending Christian trends. Once the "gentile Christian" trend won out, and the teaching of Paul became accepted as expressing the doctrine of the Church, the Jewish Christian groups were pushed to the margin and ultimately excluded as heretical. Being rejected both by normative Judaism and the Church, they ultimately disappeared. Nevertheless, several Jewish Christian sects (such as the Nazarenes, Ebionites, Elchasaites, and others) existed for some time, and a few of them seem to have endured for several centuries. Some sects saw in Jesus mainly a prophet and not the "Christ," others seem to have believed in him as the Messiah, but did not draw the christological and other conclusions that subsequently became fundamental in the teaching of the Church (the divinity of the Christ, trinitarian conception of the Godhead, abrogation of the Law). After the disappearance of the early Jewish Christian sects and the triumph of gentile Christianity, to become a Christian meant, for a Jew, to apostatize and to leave the Jewish community.[web 10]
- Hebrews 8:6
- "Sermon on the Mount." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
- Bromiley, Geoffrey William (1979). International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: A-D (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (W.B.Eerdmans)). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 689. ISBN 0-8028-3781-6.
- Barnett, Paul (2002). Jesus, the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times. InterVarsity Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-8308-2699-8.
- L. Niswonger, Richard (1993). New Testament History. Zondervan Publishing Company. p. 200. ISBN 0-310-31201-9.
- Bargil Pixner, The Church of the Apostles found on Mount Zion, Biblical Archaeology Review 16.3 May/June 1990, centuryone.org
- August Franzen, Kirchengeschichte, Freiburg, 1988: 20
- Acts 1:13-15
- Vidmar 2005, p. 19–20.
- Schreck, The Essential Catholic Catechism (1999), p. 130
- Acts 11:26
- Burkett 2002, p. 3.
- Galatians 2:9, Acts 1:13
- Pagels 2005, p. 45.
- Lüdemann & Özen 1996, p. 116.
- Pagels 2005, p. 45-46.
- Lüdemann & Özen 1996, p. 116-117.
- Hurtado 2005, p. 160.
- Taylor 1993, p. 224.
- Eusebius, Church History 3, 5, 3; Epiphanius, Panarion 29,7,7–8; 30, 2, 7; On Weights and Measures 15. On the flight to Pella see: Bourgel, Jonathan, "The Jewish Christians’ Move from Jerusalem as a pragmatic choice", in: Dan Jaffe (ed), Studies in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity, (Leyden: Brill, 2010), pp. 107–138 (https://www.academia.edu/4909339/THE_JEWISH_CHRISTIANS_MOVE_FROM_JERUSALEM_AS_A_PRAGMATIC_CHOICE); P. H. R. van Houwelingen, "Fleeing forward: The departure of Christians from Jerusalem to Pella," Westminster Theological Journal 65 (2003), 181–200.
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- Ehrman 2012, pp. 87–90.
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- Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.
- Ronald Y.K. Fung as cited in John Piper; Wayne Grudem (8 August 2006). Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Crossway. p. 254. ISBN 978-1-4335-1918-5. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
- Despite its mention of bishops, there is no clear evidence in the New Testament that supports the concepts of dioceses and monepiscopacy, i.e. the rule that all the churches in a geographic area should be ruled by a single bishop. According to Ronald Y. K. Fung, scholars point to evidence that Christian communities such as Rome had many bishops, and that the concept of monepiscopacy was still emerging when Ignatius was urging his tri-partite structure on other churches.
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- Dunn, James D. G., Jesus Remembered, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003, ISBN 978-0-8028-3931-2, "Oral Tradition", pp. 192–210
- Mournet, Terence C., Oral Tradition and Literary Dependency: Variability and Stability in the Synoptic Tradition and Q, Mohr Siebeck, 2005, ISBN 978-3-16-148454-4, "A Brief History of the Problem of Oral Tradition", pp. 54–99
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- oremus Bible Browser, 1 Corinthians 15:3–15:41
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For the early Christians, the agape signified the importance of fellowship. It was a ritual to celebrate the joy of eating, pleasure and company.
- Burns, Jim (10 July 2012). Uncommon Youth Parties. Gospel Light Publications. p. 37. ISBN 9780830762132.
During the days of the Early Church, the believers would all gather together to share what was known as an agape feast, or "love feast." Those who could afford to bring food brought it to the feast and shared it with the other believers.
- Walls, Jerry L.; Collins, Kenneth J. (17 October 2010). Roman but Not Catholic: What Remains at Stake 500 Years after the Reformation. Baker Academic. p. 169. ISBN 9781493411740.
So strong were the overtones of the Eucharist as a meal of fellowship that in its earliest practice it often took place in concert with the Agape feast. By the latter part of the first century, however, as Andrew McGowan points out, this conjoined communal banquet was separated into "a morning sacramental ritual [and a] prosaic communal supper."
- Davies, Horton (29 January 1999). Bread of Life and Cup of Joy: Newer Ecumenical Perspectives on the Eucharist. Wipf & Stock Publishers. p. 18. ISBN 9781579102098.
Agape (love feast), which ultimately became separate from the Eucharist...
- Daughrity, Dyron (11 August 2016). Roots: Uncovering Why We Do What We Do in Church. ACU Press. p. 77. ISBN 9780891126010.
Around AD 250 the lovefeast and Eucharist seem to separate, leaving the Eucharist to develop outside the context of a shared meal.
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Significantly, the first Christian writer to suggest that the sabbath had been transferred to Sunday is Eusbius of Caesarea (post 330).
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The New Testament contains twenty-seven books, written in Greek, by fifteen or sixteen different authors, who were addressing other Christian individuals or communities between the years 50 and 120 (see box 1.4). As we will see, it is difficult to know whether any of these books was written by Jesus' own disciples.
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- Schaff's History of the Christian Church, Volume I, Apostolic Christianity
- Christianity in the apostolic age
- A history of Christianity in the apostolic age
- New Testament Reading Room Extensive online NT resources (incl. commentaries), Tyndale Seminary
- Scholarly articles on the New Testament from the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Library
- Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins
- Guide to Early Church Documents