Judaism and the Early Church Conclusion and Bibliography

Conclusion: Jesus as completion

Rabbinic materials point—clearly and perhaps surprisingly—to Jewish believers in Galilee in the second and third centuries living side-by-side with other Jews, socializing, attending the same synagogues, discussing and arguing with each other. Rabbinic leadership attempted defensively to separate and to marginalize the believers, but this was achieved only in the fourth and fifth centuries. Historical circumstances were frequently determinative: the Jewish-Roman wars, the Roman tax on Jews, and the messianic claims associated with Bar Kokhba pushed Jewish believers toward distinguishing themselves from other Jews. Christological disputes, like the one displayed in the Fourth Gospel, were frequently "framed by the Christian- Jewish quarrels, in which Jewish believers in Jesus play a deciding role."[1]

The key doctrine that appears through-out the entire historic relationship of Judaism and the church is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Messiah and Savior who came as God in flesh to the earth, fulfilled prophecy and died for humanity and their sins. Jesus regarded personal holiness as more important than following any of the laws. He challenged the perceived authority of the Pharisees and ignored them when they accused his disciples of violating rabbinical tradition; this is not Biblical law though. Jesus not only called the Pharisees out on their control and authority but on their legalism. Jesus wanted disciples and relationships not arrogant rule-abiding followers.

Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the Law but instead to fulfill. He calls the disciples to be righteous and obedient to the Laws.[2] Jesus Christ is the fulfillment and completion to Judaism. He is the Savior that they are looking for. Unbelieving Jews wanted supernatural signs, yet they refused to accept the most glorious of all supernatural sign, the Word of God to bring Jesus to earth by a virgin, see Him perform all the miracles that He did on earth, then to watch Him (who was innocent, holy and pure) die crucified on the cross, then to be resurrected, clearly as Messiah. The Jews missed it or ignored it. The sign was a stumbling block to them. Jesus is the way.[3]


Fergusson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity 3rd Ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.

Freedman, David Noel. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Electronic Ed. New York: Doubleday, 1996.

Jeffers, James S. The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament.Downers Groves: Intervarsity Press, 1999.

Hindson, Ed and Caner, Ergun, eds. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: Surveying the Evidence for the Truth of Christianity. Eugene, Or: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Elwell, Walter, Ed, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Ed,,Grand Rapids, Mi: Baker Academic, 2007.

Wilson, Marvin R. Our Father Abraham. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989.

ME´ GIER, ELI SABETH. “Jewish Converts in the Early Church and Latin Christian Exegetes of Isaiah, c. 400–1150 Journal of Ecclesiastical History”, Vol. 59, No. 1, January 2008.

Kogan, Michael S, “TOWARD A JEWISH THEOLOGY OF CHRISTIANITY”, Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 32:1, Winter 1995.

Kerr, Fergus, “Rage against Jesus (Luke 4:21-30)” Expository Times. Volume ii8 Number 3.

Weaver, Denny. “Footnote on Jesus,” Crosscurrents Magazine, Winter 2007.

Georgi, Dieter. “The Early Church: Internal Jewish Migration or New Religion?,” HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW 88:1, 1995.

Skarsaune, Oskar and Hvalvik, Reidar, eds, JEWISH BELIEVERS IN JESUS: THE EARLY CENTURIES. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2007.

Wright, Fred. Manners and Customs of Bible Lands. Chicago, Il: Moody Press, 1981.

Josephus, War of the Jews II.14.5

Unknown. “The Influence of Jewish Worship on Christian WorshipLiving the Good News: Winter C • 2009-10.

Bruce, F.F, "The Early Church in the Roman Empire," The Bible Student. Bangalore, India, 56 March-April, 1933: 30-32.

Harman, Chris, A people’s history of the world. London, England: Bookmarks Publications, 2002.

MacArthur, John, 1 Corinthians: Godly Solutions for Church Problems. Nashville, Tn: Nelson Impact, 2006.

[1] Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik, eds, JEWISH BELIEVERS IN JESUS: THE EARLY CENTURIES, 238.

[2] Matthew 5:17-20, NASB

[3] John MacArthur,1 Corinthians: Godly Solutions for Church Problems.( Nashville, Tn: Nelson Impact, 2006), 17.


Judaism and the Early Church The Rise of Christianity

The Rise of Christianity and the split of Judaism

Jewish –Roman Wars

If all of this was not enough to split two sister faiths apart one more conflict arose that really put the nail in the coffin. This conflict is known as the Jewish-Roman wars. The first Jewish war, the great revolt, broke out in 66 CE[1]. According to Josephus, the revolt, which began was provoked by Greeks sacrificing birds in front of a local synagogue.[2] The Jews protested and rebelled. The Romans besieged Jerusalem, this lead to the destruction of the Temple and Hellenistic Jewish Diaspora. Yet the Jews did not give up. The Kitos War[3] occurred from 115–117 A.D. This war was made up of several major revolts by diasporic Jews in Cyrene (Cyrenaica), Cyprus, Mesopotamia and Aegyptus. The revolts spiraled out of control resulting in a wide spread slaughter of Roman citizens and others by the Jewish rebels. The rebellions were finally crushed by Roman legionary forces.

The third and final of the Jewish-Roman Wars is known as the Bar Kokhba revolt. It occurred from 132–136 A.D. This conflict had the most significant impact on the Jewish-Christian relations. Simon bar Kokhba, the commander of the revolt, was acclaimed as a Messiah, a heroic figure who could restore Israel. The revolt established an independent state of Israel over parts of Judea for over two years, but a Roman army of 12 legions with auxiliaries finally crushed it. The Romans then barred Jews from Jerusalem. Jewish Christians hailed Jesus as the Messiah and did not support Bar Kokhba still they also were barred from Jerusalem along with the rest of the Jews. The war and its aftermath helped differentiate Christianity as a religion distinct from Judaism.

The Jewish groups that gained the upper hand in the reconstruction of Judaism after the war as well as various circles of the church around the turn of the first to the second century CE were increasingly of the opinion that either the Jesus tradition or the Jewish tradition without Jesus would be judged by the Romans as a liability. Those circles at the core of what would become either mainstream Judaism or mainstream Christianity saw each other as competing interests, since both were trying to avert Roman hostility and court the favor of the powers of state and society at each others expense. Thus the split occurred and the gap widened between traditional Jews and mainstream Christianity. [4]

Besides the split from Judaism, Christianity’s rise in the fourth century was also due to several other factors. First, the church was challenged to fight heresies within the church. This made the church stronger because it forced them to study the Word and know what they really believe. The church leaders meet in councils to clarify certain doctrines. Secondly, even after Judaism denounced and Roman persecution ensued, the church grew because outsiders of the church saw how strong of a faith believers had. The witness of a saint dying for what he/she believes in is the strongest witness. Many converts came to Christianity because of this witness.[5]

Finally in three-hundred-thirteen A.D. Roman emperor Constantine announced toleration of Christianity in the Edict of Milan, which removed penalties for professing Christianity. While Constantine was not the best example of a “Christ follower,” this edict put Christianity as an equal to other pagan religions at the time. The Christians who were once persecuted were tolerated. In the short-term this had a lot of positives for the church. Although it also had many consequences, since pagan worship and Christianity were being mixed the church and doctrines became unsound. In the fourth Century, when the church got off track, church leaders began monasteries to keep members of the early church doctrinally sound and pure. Monasteries revolutionized and revived the doctrines of the church.[6]

[1] Dieter Georgi. “The Early Church: Internal Jewish Migration or New Religion?” HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW 88:1, (1995),52.

[2] Josephus, War of the Jews II.14.5

[3] Translates to “rebellion of the exile.”

[4] Dieter Georgi. “The Early Church: Internal Jewish Migration or New Religion?,”65- 66.

[5] Chris Harman, A people’s history of the world. (London, England: Bookmarks Publications, 2002), 96.

[6] Ibid, 99.


Judaism and the Early Church The Jewish Opposition

The Jewish Opposition

Jesus took his message to others because he was rejected by his own as that he is rejected by his own because he tells them that it is God's will and his own mission to go beyond the confines of their - and his own –Jewish faith.[1] Jesus Christ taught both Jews and Gentiles that he was the way, the truth and the life.[2] Some Jews believed and followed, the disciples, for instance, but many Jews rejected the teachings of Jesus Christ. Even beyond the life, death and resurrection of Christ, Jews continued to reject Jesus.

The Theology of Jews and Jesus

Jesus Himself and His first followers were Jews. He instructed them in a fashion very reminiscent of first century itinerant Jewish rabbis. It is not surprising to find the primitive church after Pentecost (around AD 30) composed almost exclusively of Jews from Palestine and from the Jewish Diaspora.[3] Jesus came as a Jew but He died for all men, not just Jews. Paul in his missionary activity in Acts is first directed toward the Jews. Jews are exhorted to convert.[4]

It is interesting to point out that Jesus knew that not everyone, Jews in particular, would accept Him as God and Savior.

Jesus and Christology are presumed to be the decisive dividing point between Christians and Jews. [5] For many Jews, Jesus was a good teacher but they reject “Messiah” status and do not believe that Jesus has literally fulfilled all the prophecies in the first century. [6] Other Jews have a problem with the incarnation of God in Jesus, the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. [7] This boils down again to the Christology and Lordship of Jesus. Unfortunately, Christians have turned this into a battle that “they” have won by de-legitimating Jews and Judaism. Some Christians say that Jews were made so arrogant by their experience of being the chosen people that they “missed” the message of Jesus. They have portrayed Jews as Christ killers amongst other things. Judaism has reciprocated such contempt. Jews have called out Christianity as unbelievable and idolatry. Two kindred faiths have blown up into enemies.

[1] Fergus Kerr. “Rage against Jesus (Luke 4:21-30)” Expository Times. Volume ii8 Number 3 Pages 139-140

[2] John 14:6

[3] Marvin R. Wilson, Our Father Abraham (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989) p 40-41.

[4] Dieter Georgi. “The Early Church: Internal Jewish Migration or New Religion?,”65- 66.

[5] Denny Weaver, “Footnote on Jesus,” Crosscurrents Magazine, Winter 2007, 1.

[6] Ed Hindson, and Ergun Caner, eds. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, 300.