Identifiable Christianity?

(1) “In the case of Christianity, however, from the late 1st Century onwards the inculturation process was handled by Gentiles only superficially acquainted with the Jewish religion of Jesus. As might be expected, within a relatively short time no Jew was able to find acceptable the new incultured doctrinal legacy of Jesus. In fact, I think he himself would have failed to acknowledge it as his own.” (‘The Changing Face of Jesus’, pg 265, Geza Vermes)

Vermes makes some comparions to these 4 Hasim fellows of the same inter-testamental period as comparison of what is happening (spiritually) within Jesus time frame and within Galilee.

  • Honi
  • Abba Hilkiah (Honi’s son) – could control the rain via prayer (Elisha/Elijah like)
  • Hanan the Hidden (Honi’s son) – could also control the rain via prayer
  • Hanina

Just to show how much we Christians really don’t know about the spiritual movements of that time and where a person like Jesus may perhaps fit in or how the writer’s may have seen this historic person.  

(2) “Luther, a notorious anti-semite, and in some ways prefigured the oratory of the 20th century Nazi’s and the wicked and vulgar caricatures of their weekly magazine, Der Sturmer

*Footnote to that passage on Der Sturmer: “The editor of this Nazi journal, Julius Streicher, pleaded during his trial by the Allies that if he was guilty of anti-semitism, so was Martin Luther, whose anti-Jewish slogans his magazine was repeating” (‘The Changing Face of Jesus’, pg 266, Geza Vermes)

Talking about the repeated loss of the Jewish voice into the persona of Jesus – the reformation, even with it’s good aspects, failed to repeal one aspect that continued from John Chrysostom, Augustine, and St Jerome of Hippo…anti-semitic beliefs formed from the gospels.

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6 thoughts on “Identifiable Christianity?

  1. “anti-semitic beliefs formed from the gospels.”

    I would agree with you concerning the gospel of John. It was very anti-semitic. But given its late authorship, I think it is understandable why it was so. However, doesn’t scholarship generally say that Matthew’s gospel was the most “Jewish” of the gospels, with his prophetic bent of matching up events in Jesus’ life with prophecy from the OT? Matthew’s attempt to match the various Jewish celebrations throughout the year to particular times in Jesus’ life seems to indicate this bent. I think Matthew’s gospel also gives us a particularly good picture of the audience to which the author was aiming his gospel. I do agree that later gospels have a more anti-semitic character than say Mark or Matthew. Could that be the result of the Jewish tendency to regard the followers of “The Way” as becoming more and more Gentile centered? I believe that by the time the gospel of John was written or during its compilation, the followers of “The Way” were literally forbidden to enter the synagogues any longer. I don’t feel that most Christians have any feel for the anti-Semitic attitudes that appeared so early in the movement. This was, as you pointed out, magnified by some of the best known names in the history of Christianity. Good post!

  2. “However, doesn’t scholarship generally say that Matthew’s gospel was the most “Jewish” of the gospels, with his prophetic bent of matching up events in Jesus’ life with prophecy from the OT?” (Don)

    According to Geza Vermes, and likely many others prior and after him, here is how those 4 gospels shake up:

    Mark – most reliable linguistically (uses Aramaic words even)- also quite Jewish in language

    Matthew – Most Jewish sentiments (also has some anti-Jewish sentiments – which may have been added in later)

    Luke – Most Gentile natured gospel – was written for this purpose

    John – Least reliable since it is very late and adds in a whole new dialogue the previous 3 were not even addressing (also quite anti-semitic in verbage); Reveals the Gentile take-over of the theology of the early church

    “Could that be the result of the Jewish tendency to regard the followers of “The Way” as becoming more and more Gentile centered? I believe that by the time the gospel of John was written or during its compilation, the followers of “The Way” were literally forbidden to enter the synagogues any longer” (Don)

    I think there was some disparage between the followers of Jesus and the Pharisee’s they were hanging around with (ie: Acts 15). The main issue could very well have been the inclusion of the gentiles via Paul’s ministry…which seems accurate according to Paul’s own words in his letters (constant debate with the idea of circumcision and food laws for the non-Jews). This seems to be the beginning of the problem.

    After Peter, James, and John are gone from Jerusalem and the temple is destroyed in the first war – there really wasn’t any room for the Christians since Judaism was piecing itself together at the time. What happened over the next 50 years seems to be 2 things:

    (a) Christians becoming more and more Greco/Roman theologically making a bigger gap between them and Judaism; They forget that there were 2 strands of this faith – Paul and the Jerusalem council – and it starts to become one single unit – Gentile alone (John’s gospel begins to reveal their slant on Jesus).

    (b) Judaism had kicked the Christians out of the synagogues (during Paul’s life I believe) – with no real Jewish representation in the church anymore (Peter, James, and John gone) the divide became too big theologically over the messiah issue (due to the Pauline community).

    Eventually what we see is Christians starting to decry Judaism as not of God anymore and trying to usurp their history as their own…Christians as the legitimate faith from the God of Sinai. The problem was the Gentile community (and all those after them) could not see the original faith of Jesus was Judaism and that of Peter, James, John, and even Paul. It was Paul’s wording (and a few gospel passages), depending on how it is used, that kind of set that path in motion.

    Personally, I think the church has Paul all wrong…I think he fought for Gentile rights to be part of the faith and made exagerrative statements to make his point clear (in his letters). However, Paul himself followed Judaism and never did convert to being a Gentile type follower.

    • My source said that the followers of Jesus were removed from the synagogues around 88CE….
      I like your a) and b).
      I think you are right that the followers of Jesus began to usurp Jewish history as their own, but can’t for the life of me understand how they could do that without seeing Jesus’ place in Judaism. Good Post! Thanks for the dialogue.

  3. “My source said that the followers of Jesus were removed from the synagogues around 88CE…” (Don)

    That’s probably more accurate than during Paul’s lifetime – I just didn’t know there was date on when they looked into this…I was figuring after the first war though (but didn’t want to guess too much into it).

    “but can’t for the life of me understand how they could do that without seeing Jesus’ place in Judaism” (Don)

    I think it logistically probably pretty easy. Three factors:

    (1) The Jerusalem council, for all we know, likely disbanded during the death of James, Peter, and John (if he died – we’ll never really know)…sometime during 64 CE or around that time period. The war and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem likely finished them off (remnants probably only remained). There goes all the people that actually knew Jesus first-hand.

    (2) Paul was really one of the only one’s building these Christian communities in Gentile territory…the originals stayed in Jerusalem. After a while, and with the death of the originals, we are left with Gentiles to simply piece together the wording of the messages from the disciples they had (about Jesus). It doesn’t take rocket science to see wording in the synoptics was based on terms in Judaism that Gentiles could easily lose interpretation of (ie: son of God). Add that to the date of 88 CE and no synagogue influence…new interpretations arise based on the cultures these people came from (Greco/Roman in nature).

    (3) After that war in Jerusalem the big question might be – how many of these Gentile communities Paul founded wanted to be seen in partnership with that? Christians were likely turning away from Judaism as much as Judaism was turning from them – if one looks at history and the Bar Kohkba revolution (162 CE?)…there were still some dangers in being affiliated with a movement that was producing these revolutionaries – namely for a religion that taught ‘non violence’.

  4. “anti-semitic beliefs formed from the gospels.”

    yeah dawg, this is quite a statement. i read more luther and get your points that you were making back with reformation the sitcom was happening. some of this can be read as one group trying to define it’s boundaries over and against another similar religious group…. yet, in light of what happened in Germany, luther’s words seem like a loaded gun… even the gospels as well.

    something everyone has to wrestle with. Jews with Joshua and the treatment of the Cananites… Muslims with the Koran and it’s alternating views on “people of the Book good, give them the sword if they don’t agree.” and Christians included.

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