Split of early Christianity and Judaism
The split of early Christianity and Judaism took place during the first centuries CE. While the First Jewish–Roman War, and the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE was a main event, the separation was a long-term process, in which the boundaries were not clear-cut.
Emergence as separate religious communities
During the early first century CE there were many competing Jewish sects in the Holy Land, and those that became Rabbinic Judaism and Proto-orthodox Christianity were but two of these. There were Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots, but also other less influential sects, including the Essenes. The 1st century BCE and 1st century CE saw a growing number of charismatic religious leaders contributing to what would become the Mishnah of Rabbinic Judaism; and the ministry of Jesus, which would lead to Christianity.
Historians continue to debate the precise moment when Christianity established itself as a new religion, apart and distinct from Judaism. It is difficult to trace the process by which the two separated or to know exactly when this began. Jewish Christians continued to worship in synagogues for centuries. Some scholars have found evidence of continuous interactions between Jewish-Christian and rabbinic movements from the mid- to late second century CE to the fourth century CE. Philip S. Alexander characterizes the question of when Christianity and Judaism parted company and went their separate ways as "one of those deceptively simple questions which should be approached with great care."
According to historian Shaye J. D. Cohen, "the separation of Christianity from Judaism was a process, not an event," in which the church became "more and more gentile, and less and less Jewish."[note 1] According to Cohen, early Christianity ceased to be a Jewish sect when it ceased to observe Jewish practices, such as circumcision.
Daniel Boyarin proposes a revised understanding of the interactions between nascent Christianity and Judaism in late antiquity, viewing the two "new" religions as intensely and complexly intertwined throughout this period. According to Boyarin, Judaism and Christianity "were part of one complex religious family, twins in a womb," for at least three centuries.[note 3] Alan Segal also states that "one can speak of a 'twin birth' of two new Judaisms, both markedly different from the religious systems that preceded them."[note 4]
Dating of separation
According to Cohen, this process ended in 70 CE, after the great revolt, when various Jewish sects disappeared and Pharisaic Judaism evolved into Rabbinic Judaism, and Christianity emerged as a distinct religion. Other scholars argue that Christians and Pharisees broke decisively 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, according to Robert Goldenberg, 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'".[note 5]
Most historians agree that Jesus or his followers established a new Jewish sect, one that attracted both Jewish and gentile converts. 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. According to Dunn, four types of early Christianity can be discerned: Jewish Christianity, Hellenistic Christianity, Apocalyptic Christianity, and early Catholicism.
The first followers of Jesus were essentially all ethnically Jewish or Jewish proselytes. Jesus was Jewish, preached to the Jewish people, and called from them his first followers. According to McGrath, Jewish Christians, as faithful religious Jews, "regarded their movement as an affirmation of every aspect of contemporary Judaism, with the addition of one extra belief-that Jesus was the Messiah."
While 2nd century Marcionism rejected all Jewish influence on Christianity, Proto-orthodox Christianity instead retained some of the doctrines and practices of 1st-century Judaism while rejecting others.[note 6] They held the Jewish scriptures to be authoritative and sacred, employing mostly the Septuagint or Targum translations, and adding other texts as the New Testament canon developed. Christian baptism was another continuation of a Judaic practice.
Paul the Apostle was, before his conversion, the main antagonist of Christianity. Initially he persecuted the "church of God,"[note 7] then converted and adopted the title of "Apostle to the Gentiles" and started proselytizing among the gentiles. He opposed the strict applications of Jewish customs for converts, and argued with the leaders of the Jerusalem Church to allow gentile converts exemption from most Jewish commandments at the Council of Jerusalem.
Jewish and Christian Messianism
Most of Jesus's 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. While Christianity acknowledges only one ultimate Messiah, Judaism can be said to hold to a concept of multiple messiahs. The two most relevant are the Messiah ben Joseph and the traditional Messiah ben David. Some scholars have argued that the idea of two messiahs, one suffering and the second fulfilling the traditional messianic role, was normative to ancient Judaism, predating Jesus. Jesus would have been viewed by many as one or both.
Jewish messianism has its root in the apocalyptic literature of the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE, promising a future "anointed" leader or Messiah to resurrect the Israelite "Kingdom of God", in place of the foreign rulers of the time. According to Shaye J.D. Cohen, Jesus's failure to establish an independent Israel, and his death at the hands of the Romans, caused many Jews to reject him as the Messiah.[note 8] Jews at that time were expecting a military leader as a Messiah, such as Bar Kohhba.
First Jewish-Roman War and the destruction of the Temple
The First Jewish-Roman war, and the destruction of the Temple, was a main event in the development of both early Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. Full scale open revolt against the Romans occurred with the First Jewish–Roman War in 66 CE. In 70 CE the Temple was destroyed. The destruction of the Second Temple was a profoundly traumatic experience for the Jews, who were now confronted with difficult and far-reaching questions.[note 9] After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, sectarianism largely came to an end. The Zealots, Sadducees, and Essenes disappeared, while the Early Christians and the Pharisees survived, the latter transforming into Rabbinic Judaism, today known simply as "Judaism". The term "Pharisee" was no longer used, perhaps because it was a term more often used by non-Pharisees, but also because the term was explicitly sectarian, and the rabbis claimed leadership over all Jews.
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; this could help one understand their context.. Strack theorizes that the growth of a Christian canon (the New Testament) was a factor that influenced the rabbis to record the oral law in writing.[note 10]
A significant contributing factor to the split was the two groups' differing theological interpretations of the Temple's destruction. Rabbinic Judaism saw the destruction as a chastisement for neglecting the Torah. The early Christians however saw it as God’s punishment for the Jewish rejection of Jesus, leading to the claim that the 'true' Israel was now the Church. Jews believed this claim was scandalous. According to Fredriksen, since early Christians believed that Jesus had already replaced the Temple as the expression of a new covenant, they were relatively unconcerned with the destruction of the Temple during the First Jewish-Roman War.
- Cohen: "The separation of Christianity from Judaism was a process, not an event. The essential part of this process was that the church was becoming more and more gentile, and less and less Jewish, but the separation manifested itself in different ways in each local community where Jews and Christians dwelt together. In some places, the Jews expelled the Christians; in other, the Christians left of their own accord."
- Robert M. Price: "Thus Christianity as we know it and Judaism as we know it never in fact separated from one another in the manner of, say, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity in the eleventh century. Rather, each is a finally dominant form at the end of its own branch of the tree of religious evolution."
- Boyarin: "...for at least the first three centuries of their common lives, Judaism in all of its forms and Christianity in all of its forms were part of one complex religious family, twins in a womb, contending with each other for identity and precedence, but sharing with each other the same spiritual food."
- 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."
- Boyarin adds that "Without the power of the orthodox Church and the rabbis to declare people heretics and outside the system it remained impossible to declare phenomenologically who was a Jew and who was a Christian. At least as interesting and significant, it seems more and more clear that it is frequently impossible to tell a Jewish text from a Christian text. The borders are fuzzy, and this has consequences. Religious ideas and innovations can cross borders in both directions.
- See the Historical background to the issue of Biblical law in Christianity and Early Christianity.
- Galatians 1:13. According to Dunn, Paul persecuted the "Hellenists" of Acts 6. According to Larry Hurtado, there was no theological divide between "Hellenists" (greek speaking Jews from the diasopra who had returned to Jerusalem) and their fellow Jesus-followers; Paul's persecution was directed against the Jesus-movement in general, because it offended his Phariseic convictions.
- See for comparison: prophet and false prophet.
- Such as:
- How to achieve atonement without the Temple?
- How to explain the disastrous outcome of the rebellion?
- How to live in the post-Temple, Romanized world?
- How to connect present and past traditions?
- The theory that the destruction of the Temple and subsequent upheaval led to the committing of Oral Law into writing was first explained in the Epistle of Sherira Gaon and often repeated. See, for example, Grayzel, A History of the Jews, Penguin Books, 1984, p. 193.
- Wylen (1995). Pg 190.
- Berard (2006). Pp 112–113.
- Wright (1992). Pp 164–165.
- See for instance: Lily C. Vuong, Gender and Purity in the Protevangelium of James, WissenschaftlicheUntersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2.358 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck,2013), 210-13; Jonathan Bourgel, "The Holders of the “Word of Truth”: The Pharisees in Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1.27–71," Journal of Early Christian Studies 25.2 (2017) 171-200.
- James D. G. Dunn, Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, Durham-Tubingen Research Symposium on Earliest Christianity and Judaism 1992 (2nd: 1999: Wm. B. Eerdmans)
- Cohen 1987, p. 228.
- Cohen 1987, p. 168.
- Robert M. Price "Christianity, Diaspora Judaism, and Roman Crisis"
- Daniel Boyarin, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999
- Alan F. Segal, Rebecca's Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986.
- Cohen, Shaye J.D. (1988). From the Maccabees to the Mishnah ISBN 0-664-25017-3 pp. 224–225
- 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
- Daniel Boyarin. Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism. cit. p. 15.
- Ehrman 2005.
- Dunn 2006, p. p=253-255.
- McGrath, Alister E., Christianity: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing (2006). ISBN 1-4051-0899-1. Page 174: "In effect, they [Jewish Christians] seemed to regard Christianity as an affirmation of every aspect of contemporary Judaism, with the addition of one extra belief—that Jesus was the Messiah. Unless males were circumcised, they could not be saved (Acts 15:1)."
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Baptism: "According to rabbinical teachings, which dominated even during the existence of the Temple (Pes. viii. 8), Baptism, next to circumcision and sacrifice, was an absolutely necessary condition to be fulfilled by a proselyte to Judaism (Yeb. 46b, 47b; Ker. 9a; 'Ab. Zarah 57a; Shab. 135a; Yer. Kid. iii. 14, 64d). Circumcision, however, was much more important, and, like baptism, was called a "seal" (Schlatter, "Die Kirche Jerusalems," 1898, p. 70).
- Dunn 2006, p. 294.
- Dunn 2006, p. 289.
- Larry Hurtado's blog (November 11, 2014) Paul’s “Persecution” of Jewish Jesus-Followers: Nature & Cause(s)
- Larry Hurtado's blog (November 12, 2014) The “Hellenists” of Acts: Dubious Assumptions and an Important Publication
- Cohen 1987, p. 167–168.
- Daniel Boyarin (2012). The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ. New Press. ISBN 9781595584687. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- Israel Knohl (2000). The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520928749. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- Alan J. Avery-Peck, ed. (2005). The Review of Rabbinic Judaism: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 91–112. ISBN 9004144846. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- Peter Schäfer (2012). The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other. Princeton University Press. pp. 235–238. ISBN 9781400842285. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- Jacob Neusner 1984 Toah From our Sages Rossell Books. p. 175
- Cook, Michael J. (2008) Modern Jews Engage the New Testament, Jewish Lights Press ISBN 978-1-58023-313-2 p. 19
- Fredriksen, Paula (1988. From Jesus to Christ ISBN 0-300-04864-5 p.5
- 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
- Sanders, E.P. (1987). Jesus and Judaism, Fortress Press ISBN 0-8006-2061-5 p.60
- Raymond Apple, "Jewish attitudes to Gentiles in the First Century"
- Paula Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ
- Cohen, Shaye J.D. (1988), From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, The Westminster Press., ISBN 0-664-25017-3
- Dunn, James D.G. (2006) , Unity and diversity in the New Testament, scm press
- Ehrman, Bart (2005), Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-518249-1