History of early Christianity

Last updated
Funerary stele of Licinia Amias on marble. One of the earliest Christian inscriptions found, it comes from the early 3rd-century Vatican necropolis area in Rome. Stele Licinia Amias Terme 67646.jpg
Funerary stele of Licinia Amias on marble. One of the earliest Christian inscriptions found, it comes from the early 3rd-century Vatican necropolis area in Rome.

The history of early Christianity covers the Apostolic Age (1st century, CE) and the Ante-Nicene Period (c.100-325 CE), to the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE.

First Council of Nicaea council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in 325

The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in the Bithynian city of Nicaea by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325.

Contents

The earliest followers of Jesus comprised an apocalyptic, Second Temple Jewish sect of Jewish Christians. Eventually, the inclusion of Gentile God-fearers lead to a departure from Jewish customs, the establishment of Christianity as an independent religion, and the condemnation of Jewish Christians as heretics.

Jesus The central figure of Christianity

Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah (Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament.

Apocalypticism Religious belief in an imminent end of the world

Apocalypticism is the religious belief that there will be an apocalypse, a term which originally referred to a revelation, but now usually refers to the belief that the end of the world is imminent, even within one's own lifetime. This belief is usually accompanied by the idea that civilization will soon come to a tumultuous end due to some sort of catastrophic global event. These views and movements often focus on cryptic revelations about a sudden, dramatic, and cataclysmic intervention of God in history; the judgment of all men; the salvation of the faithful elect; and the eventual rule of the elect with God in a renewed heaven and earth. Arising initially in Zoroastrianism apocalypticism was developed more fully in Judaic, Christian, and Islamic eschatological speculation.

Second Temple Judaism is Judaism between the construction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, c. 515 BCE, and its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE. The development of the Hebrew Bible canon, the synagogue, Jewish apocalyptic expectations for the future, and the rise of Christianity can all be traced to the Second Temple period.

In the Ante-Nicene Period (literally before Nicaea) following the Apostolic Age, both incredible diversity and unifying characteristics lacking in the apostolic period emerged simultaneously. [ citation needed ] Part of the unifying trend was an increasingly harsh rejection of Judaism and of Jewish practices.

Anti-Judaism is the "total or partial opposition to Judaism—and to Jews as adherents of it—by persons who accept a competing system of beliefs and practices and consider certain genuine Judaic beliefs and practices as inferior."

Judaizers are Christians who teach it is necessary to adopt Jewish customs and practices, especially those found in the Law of Moses, to be saved. The term is derived from the Koine Greek word Ἰουδαΐζειν (Ioudaizein), used once in the Greek New Testament, when Paul publicly challenges Peter for compelling Gentile converts to Early Christianity to "judaize". This episode is known as the incident at Antioch.

By the beginning of the Nicene period, the Christian faith had spread throughout Western Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, and to North Africa and the East. Historians commonly use the First Council of Nicaea in 325 and Emperor Constantine I's toleration and promotion of Christianity in the Roman Empire to mark the end of early Christianity and the beginning of the era of the first seven ecumenical councils.

Western Europe region comprising the westerly countries of Europe

Western Europe is the region comprising the western part of Europe. Though the term Western Europe is commonly used, there is no commonly agreed-upon definition of the countries that it encompasses.

Mediterranean Basin Region of lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate

In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin is the region of lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, which supports characteristic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub vegetation.

North Africa Northernmost region of Africa

North Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in the west, to Egypt's Suez Canal and the Red Sea in the east. Others have limited it to the countries of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, a region that was known by the French during colonial times as "Afrique du Nord" and is known by Arabs as the Maghreb. The most commonly accepted definition includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Sudan, the 6 countries that shape the top North of the African continent. Meanwhile, "North Africa", particularly when used in the term North Africa and the Middle East, often refers only to the countries of the Maghreb and Libya. Egypt, being also part of the Middle East, is often considered separately, due to being both North African and Middle Eastern at the same time.

Etymology

Early Jewish Christians referred to themselves as 'The Way' (ἡ ὁδός), probably coming from Isaiah 40:3, "prepare the way of the Lord." [web 1] [note 1] According to Acts 11:26, the term "Christian" (Greek : Χριστιανός) was first used in reference to Jesus's disciples in the city of Antioch, meaning "followers of Christ," by the non-Jewish inhabitants of Antioch. [6] The earliest recorded use of the term "Christianity" (Greek: Χριστιανισμός) was by Ignatius of Antioch, in around 100 AD. [7]

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Disciple (Christianity) followers of Jesus, Christian perspective

In Christianity, disciple primarily refers to a dedicated follower of Jesus. This term is found in the New Testament only in the Gospels and Acts. In the ancient world a disciple is a follower or adherent of a teacher. It is not the same as being a student in the modern sense. A disciple in the ancient biblical world actively imitated both the life and teaching of the master. It was a deliberate apprenticeship which made the fully formed disciple a living copy of the master.

Ignatius of Antioch Early Christian writer, Patriarch of Antioch and martyr saint

Ignatius of Antioch, also known as Ignatius Theophorus or Ignatius Nurono, was an early Christian writer and bishop of Antioch. En route to Rome, where he met his martyrdom, Ignatius wrote a series of letters. This correspondence now forms a central part of the later collection known as the Apostolic Fathers, of which he is considered one of the three chief ones together with Pope Clement I and Polycarp. His letters also serve as an example of early Christian theology. Important topics they address include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.

Origins

Jewish-Hellenistic background

Christianity "emerged as a sect of Judaism in Roman Palestine" [8] in the syncretistic Hellenistic world of the first century CE, which was dominated by Roman law and Greek culture. [9] 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. [web 2] [web 3] The first century BCE and first 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 the emergence of the first Jewish Christian community. [web 2] [web 3]

Holy Land Term used by Jews, Christians, and Muslims to describe the Land of Israel and Palestine

The Holy Land is an area roughly located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea that also includes the Eastern Bank of the Jordan River. Traditionally, it is synonymous both with the biblical Land of Israel and with the region of Palestine. The term "Holy Land" usually refers to a territory roughly corresponding to the modern State of Israel, the Palestinian territories, western Jordan, and parts of southern Lebanon and of southwestern Syria. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all regard it as holy.

Rabbinic Judaism, also called Rabbinism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanites, has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century CE, after the codification of the Babylonian Talmud. Growing out of Pharisaic Judaism, Rabbinic Judaism is based on the belief that at Mount Sinai, Moses received from God the Written Torah (Pentateuch) in addition to an oral explanation, known as the "Oral Torah," that Moses transmitted to the people.

Proto-orthodox Christianity

The term proto-orthodox Christianity or proto-orthodoxy was coined by New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman and describes the Early Christian movement which was the precursor of Christian orthodoxy. Ehrman argues that this group from the moment it became prominent by the end of the third century, "stifled its opposition, it claimed that its views had always been the majority position and that its rivals were, and always had been, 'heretics', who willfully 'chose' to reject the 'true belief'." In contrast, Larry W. Hurtado argues that proto-orthodox Christianity is rooted in first century Christianity.

A central concern in 1st century Judaism was the covenant with God, and the status of the Jews as the chosen people. [10] Many Jews believed that this covenant would be renewed with the coming of the Messiah. The Law was given by God to guide them in their worship of the Lord and in their interactions with each other, "the greatest gift God had given his people." [11]

The Jewish messiah concept has its root in the apocalyptic literature of the 2nd century BC to 1st century BC, promising a future leader or king from the Davidic line who is expected to be anointed with holy anointing oil and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age and world to come. [web 4] [web 5] [web 6] The Messiah is often referred to as "King Messiah" (Hebrew : מלך משיח, romanized: melekh mashiach) or malka meshiḥa in Aramaic. [web 7]

Jesus

New Testament

In the Synoptic Gospels Jewish eschatology stands central. [web 8] After being baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus teaches extensively for a year, or maybe just a few months, [web 8] [note 2] about the Kingdom of God (or, in Matthew, the Kingdom of Heaven), in aphorisms and parables, using similes and figures of speech. [12] [web 8] In the Gospel of John, Jesus himself is the main subject. [web 8]

The Kingdom is essentially described as eschatological, becoming reality in the near future. [web 8] Jesus talks as expecting the coming of the "Son of Man" from heaven, an apocalyptic figure who would initiate "the coming judgment and the redemption of Israel." [web 8] According to Davies, the Sermon on the Mount presents Jesus as the new Moses who brings a New Law, the Messianic Torah. [13]

His ministry was ended by his execution by crucifixion. His early followers believed that three days after his death, Jesus rose bodily from the dead and was exalted to Divine status. [14] Paul's letters and the Gospels document a number of post-resurrection appearances, [14] and the resurrection of Jesus "signalled for earliest believers that the days of eschatological fulfilment were at hand." [web 9] The resurrection was also seen as the exaltation of Jesus to the status of divine Son and Lord. [web 9] His followers expected Him to return in the near future, ushering in the Kingdom of God. [web 8]

Scholarly views

Since the 18th century, three scholarly quests for the historical Jesus have taken place, each with distinct characteristics and based on different research criteria, which were often developed during each specific phase. [15] [16] [17] Scholars involved in the third quest for the historical Jesus have constructed a variety of portraits and profiles for Jesus, [18] [19] [20] most prominently that of Jesus as a Jewish apocalyptic prophet or eschatological teacher. [21] [note 3]

Apostolic Age (1st century)

Apostolic

The Cenacle on Mount Zion, claimed to be the location of the Last Supper and Pentecost. Bargil Pixner claims the original Church of the Apostles is located under the current structure. Jerusalem Cenacle BW 5.JPG
The Cenacle on Mount Zion, claimed to be the location of the Last Supper and Pentecost. Bargil Pixner claims the original Church of the Apostles is located under the current structure.

The first part of the period, named after the lifetimes of the Twelve Apostles as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, is called the Apostolic Age. 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.

Jewish Christianity

After the death of Jesus, "Christianity [...] emerged as a sect of Judaism in Roman Palestine." [8] The first Christians were all Jews, either by birth or conversion ("proselytes" in Biblical terminology), [note 4] who constituted a Second Temple Jewish sect with an apocalyptic eschatology.

The New Testament's Acts of the Apostles and Epistle to the Galatians record the existence of a Christian community centered on Jerusalem, and that its leaders included Peter, James, the "brother of Jesus", and John the Apostle. [26] [note 5] The Jerusalem Church "held a central place among all the churches," as witnessed by Paul's writings. [27]

Emerging Church

Growth of early Christianity

Spread of Christianity in 100 C.E. Krist spred 1.jpg
Spread of Christianity in 100 C.E.

Christian missionary activity spread Christianity to cities throughout the Hellenistic world and even beyond the Roman Empire. [28] [29] [30] [31] Over forty existed by the year 100, [29] most in Asia Minor, such as the seven churches of Asia, and some in Greece and Italy.

Paul and the inclusion of Gentiles

Paul's influence on Christian thinking is said to be more significant than that of any other New Testament author. [32] 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, calling himself "Apostle to the Gentiles."

According to Krister Stendahl, the main concern of Paul's writings on Jesus' role, and salvation by faith, is not the individual conscience of human sinners, and their doubts about being chosen by God or not, but the problem of the inclusion of gentile (Greek) Torah observers into God's covenant. [33] [34] [35] [web 10] The inclusion of Gentiles posed a problem for the early Christian community, since the new converts did not follow all "Jewish Law" and refused to be circumcised, [36] as circumcision was considered repulsive in Hellenistic culture. [web 11] According to Fredriksen, Paul's opposition to male circumcison 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 12] For Paul, Gentile male circumcision was therefore an affront to God's intentions. [web 12] 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 12]

For Paul, Jesus' death and resurrection solved this problem of the exclusion of the gentiles from God's covenant, [37] since the faithful are redeemed by participation in Jesus' death and rising. According to Galatians 2:1–10 and Acts chapter 15,, Paul discussed the issue with the leaders of the Jerusalem ekklēsia, agreeing to allow Gentile converts exemption from most Jewish commandments, which opened the way for a much larger Christian Church, extending far beyond the Jewish community.

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. [38] 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." [39]

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. [40]

Split of early Christianity and Judaism

Coin of Nerva "The blackmail of the Jewish tax lifted" Nerva Fiscus Iudaicus coin.jpg
Coin of Nerva "The blackmail of the Jewish tax lifted"

Split between Christians and Jews

There was a slowly growing chasm between Christians and Jews, rather than a sudden split. Growing tensions led to a starker separation that was virtually complete by the time Christians refused to join in the Bar Khokba Jewish revolt of 132. [41] 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. [42] The Jewish Council of Jamnia (c. 85) may have been the occasion when the Jewish authorities decided to exclude believers in Jesus as the Messiah from synagogue attendance. [43] [44] [45]

Around the year 98, the emperor Nerva 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. [46] [47] [48] From c. 98 onwards a distinction between Christians and Jews in Roman literature becomes apparent. [49] [50]

Rejection of Jewish Christianity

According to Dauphin, Jewish Christians constituted a separate community from the Pauline Christians but maintained a similar faith, differing only in practice. He argues that in Christian circles, "Nazarene" later came to be used as a label for those faithful to Jewish law, in particular for a certain sect. Moreover, he posits that these Jewish Christians, originally the central group in Christianity, and 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". [51] [52]

Dunn posits that there was a post-Nicene "double rejection" of the Jewish Christians by both Gentile Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, and that the true end of ancient Jewish Christianity occurred only in the 5th century. [53] Dauphin concluded that 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. [54] [note 6]

Ante-Nicene Period (c.100-325)

The 2nd and 3rd centuries saw a sharp divorce from its early roots. There was an explicit rejection of then-modern Judaism and Jewish culture by the end of the 2nd century, with a growing body of adversus Judaeos literature. Fourth- and 5th-century Christianity experienced imperial pressure and developed strong episcopal and unifying structure. The ante-Nicene period was without such authority and was more diverse. Many variations in this time defy neat categorizations, as various forms of Christianity interacted in a complex fashion to form the dynamic character of Christianity in this era. [55]

Diversity and proto-orthodoxy

The development of doctrine, the position of orthodoxy, and the relationship between the various opinions is a matter of continuing academic debate. Since the Nicene Creed came to define the Church, the early debates have long been regarded as a unified orthodox position against a minority of heretics. Walter Bauer, drawing upon distinctions between Jewish Christians, Pauline Christians, and other groups such as Gnostics and Marcionites, argued that early Christianity was fragmented, with various competing interpretations. According to Bauer, orthodoxy and heresy do not stand in relation to one another as primary to secondary, but in many regions heresy was the original manifestation of Christianity. [56]

Variant Christianities

The Ante-Nicene period saw the rise of a great number of Christian sects, cults and movements with different interpretations of Scripture, particularly the divinity of Jesus and the nature of the Trinity. These were called heresies by the leaders of the Proto-orthodox church, but many were very popular and had large followings. Some of the major movements were:

Proto-orthodoxy

Developing Church-hierarchy

A Church hierarchy seems to have developed by the late 1st century and early 2nd century. [57] (see Pastoral Epistles, c. 90–140 [57] ) Robert Williams posits that the "origin and earliest development of episcopacy and monepiscopacy and the ecclesiastical concept of (apostolic) succession were associated with crisis situations in the early church." [58]

Roger Haight posits the development of ecclesiology in the form of "Early Catholicism" as one response to the problem of church unity. Thus, the solution to division arising from heterodox teaching was the development of "tighter and more standardized structures of ministry. One of these structures is the tri-partite form of church leadership consisting of episkopoi (overseers); presbyteroi (elders), [59] as was the case with Jewish communities; and diakonoi (ministerial servants). Presbyters were ordained and assisted the bishop; as Christianity spread, especially in rural areas, the presbyters exercised more responsibilities and took distinctive shape as priests. Deacons also performed certain duties, such as tending to the poor and sick.

Ignatius of Antioch urged churches to adopt this structure, writing that "You cannot have a church without these." In the 2nd century this structure was supported by teaching on apostolic succession, where a bishop becomes the spiritual successor of the previous bishop in a line tracing back to the apostles themselves. Over the course of the second century, this organizational structure became universal and continues to be used in the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches as well as in some Protestant denominations. [60]

Important Church centers

Jerusalem was the first church and an important church center up to 135. [61] The First Council of Nicaea recognized and confirmed the tradition by which Jerusalem continued to be given "special honour", but did not assign to it even metropolitan authority within its own province, still less the extraprovincial jurisdiction exercised by Rome and the other sees mentioned above. [62]

Constantinople came into prominence only after the early Christian period, being founded officially in 330, five years after the First Council of Nicaea, though the much smaller original city of Byzantium was an early center of Christianity largely due to its proximity to Anatolia.

By the end of the early Christian period, the church within the Roman Empire had hundreds of bishops, some of them (Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, "other provinces") holding some form of jurisdiction over others. [63]

Spread of Christianity

Spread of Christianity to AD 325
Spread of Christianity to AD 600 Spread of Christianity to AD 600 (1).png
  Spread of Christianity to AD 325
  Spread of Christianity to AD 600

Christianity spread to Aramaic-speaking peoples along the Mediterranean coast and also to the inland parts of the Roman Empire, [64] and beyond that into the Parthian Empire and the later Sasanian Empire, including Mesopotamia, which was dominated at different times and to varying extents by these empires, and possibly into India. [65] In AD 301, the Kingdom of Armenia became the first to declare Christianity as its state religion, following the conversion of the Royal House of the Arsacids in Armenia.

Various theories attempt to explain how Christianity managed to spread so successfully prior to the Edict of Milan (313). According to Rodney Stark, Christianity replaced paganism chiefly because it improved the lives of its adherents in various ways. [66] According to Endsjø, another factor was the way in which Christianity combined its promise of a general resurrection of the dead with the traditional Greek belief that true immortality depended on the survival of the body, with Christianity adding practical explanations of how this was going to actually happen at the end of the world. [67] According to Will Durant, the Christian Church prevailed over paganism because it offered a much more attractive doctrine, and because the church leaders addressed human needs better than their rivals. [68] According to Bart D. Ehrman, Christianity offered a powerful alternative to the Roman religions, with its promise of salvation and a better, eternal life, and its powerful God. Its demand for exclusive adherence, and conversions of whole households, also contributed to its strength. [69]

See also

Notes

  1. It appears in the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 9:2, Acts 19:9 and Acts 19:23. Some English translations of the New Testament capitalize 'the Way' (e.g. the New King James Version and the English Standard Version), indicating that this was how 'the new religion seemed then to be designated' [1] whereas others treat the phrase as indicative—'the way', [2] 'that way' [3] or 'the way of the Lord'. [4] The Syriac version reads, "the way of God" and the Vulgate Latin version, "the way of the Lord". [5]
  2. Sanders and Pelikan: "Besides presenting a longer ministry than do the other Gospels, John also describes several trips to Jerusalem. Only one is mentioned in the Synoptics. Both outlines are plausible, but a ministry of more than two years leaves more questions unanswered than does one of a few months." [web 8]
  3. Christian eschatology relates to 'last things', such as death, the end of the world and the judgement of humanity. Eschatological passages are found in the Old Testament Prophets, such as Isaiah and Daniel; and in the New Testament, such as the Olivet discourse and the parable of The Sheep and the Goats in the Gospel of Matthew, in the General epistles, the Pauline epistles, and the Book of Revelation. Jesus prophesied that the end of the world and the Day of Judgement were imminent in sayings such as, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," (Matthew 3:2, Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15) [22] [23] and "this generation will not pass away until all these things take place" [24]
  4. 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."
  5. See also Historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles
  6. 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 3]

Related Research Articles

Acts of the Apostles Book of the New Testament

The Acts of the Apostles, often referred to simply as Acts, or formally the Book of Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; it tells of the founding of the Christian church and the spread of its message to the Roman Empire.

Gospel of Luke Book of the New Testament

The Gospel According to Luke, also called the Gospel of Luke, or simply Luke, is the third of the four canonical Gospels. It tells of the origins, birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Paul the Apostle Early Christian apostle and missionary

Paul the Apostle, commonly known as Saint Paul and also known by his Jewish name Saul of Tarsus, was an apostle who taught the gospel of Christ to the first-century world. Paul is generally considered one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age and in the mid-30s to the mid-50s AD he founded several churches in Asia Minor and Europe. He took advantage of his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen to minister to both Jewish and Roman audiences.

Resurrection of Jesus Christian belief that God raised Jesus after his crucifixion

The resurrection of Jesus, or anastasis is the Christian belief that God raised Jesus after his crucifixion as first of the dead, starting his exalted life as Christ and Lord. In Christian theology, the death and resurrection of Jesus are the most important events, a foundation of the Christian faith, and commemorated by Easter. His resurrection is the guarantee that all the Christian dead will be resurrected at Christ's parousia. For the Christian tradition, the bodily resurrection was the restoration to life of a transformed body powered by spirit, as described by Paul and the Gospels, that led to the establishment of Christianity.

Messianic Judaism is a modern syncretic religious movement that combines Christianity—most importantly, the belief that Jesus is the Jewish messiah—with elements of Judaism and Jewish tradition. It emerged in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ebionites Jewish Christian movement that existed during the early centuries of the Christian Era

Ebionites is a patristic term referring to a Jewish Christian movement that existed during the early centuries of the Christian Era. They regarded Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah while rejecting his divinity and his virgin birth and insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law and rites. They used only one of the Jewish–Christian gospels, the Hebrew Book of Matthew starting at chapter three; revered James, the brother of Jesus ; and rejected Paul the Apostle as an apostate from the Law. Their name suggests that they placed a special value on voluntary poverty. Ebionim was one of the terms used by the sect at Qumran who sought to separate themselves from the corruption of the Temple. Many believe that the Qumran sectarians were Essenes.

James, brother of Jesus Important figure in Early Christianity

James the Just, or a variation of James, brother of the Lord, was an early leader of the Jerusalem Church of the Apostolic Age, to which Paul was also affiliated. He died in martyrdom in 62 or 69 AD.

The Nazarenes were an early Christian sect in first-century Judaism. The first use of the term is found in the Acts of the Apostles of the New Testament, where Paul the Apostle is accused of being a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes before the Roman procurator Antonius Felix at Caesarea Maritima by Tertullus. At that time, the term simply designated followers of Jesus of Nazareth, as the Hebrew term נוֹצְרִי still does.

Pauline Christianity beliefs espoused by Paul the Apostle

Pauline Christianity or Pauline theology is the theology and Christianity which developed from the beliefs and doctrines espoused by Paul the Apostle through his writings. Paul's beliefs were strongly rooted in the earliest Jewish Christianity, but deviated from some of this Jewish Christianity in their emphasis on inclusion of the gentiles into God's New Covenant, and his rejection of circumcision as an unnecessary token of upholding the Law.

Council of Jerusalem synod

The Council of Jerusalem or Apostolic Council was held in Jerusalem around AD 50. It is unique among the ancient pre-ecumenical councils in that it is considered by Catholics and Orthodox to be a prototype and forerunner of the later ecumenical councils and a key part of Christian ethics. The council decided that Gentile converts to Christianity were not obligated to keep most of the Law of Moses, including the rules concerning circumcision of males. The Council did, however, retain the prohibitions on eating blood, meat containing blood, and meat of animals not properly slain, and on fornication and idolatry, sometimes referred to as the Apostolic Decree or Jerusalem Quadrilateral.

Jewish Christian Members of the Jewish movement that later became Christianity

Early Christianity had its roots in Hellenistic Judaism and the Jewish messianism of the first century and Jewish Christians were the first Christians. Christianity started with Jewish eschatological expectations, and it developed into the veneration of a deified Jesus after his earthly ministry, his crucifixion, and the post–crucifixion experiences of his followers.

Historical background of the New Testament

Most scholars who study the historical Jesus and early Christianity believe that the canonical gospels and the life of Jesus must be viewed within their historical and cultural context, rather than purely in terms of Christian orthodoxy. They look at Second Temple Judaism, the tensions, trends, and changes in the region under the influence of Hellenism and the Roman occupation, and the Jewish factions of the time, seeing Jesus as a Jew in this environment; and the written New Testament as arising from a period of oral gospel traditions after his death.

Early Christianity Christianity up to 325 CE

Early Christianity covers the period from its origins until the First Council of Nicaea (325). This period is typically divided into the Apostolic Age and the Ante-Nicene Period.

Christ myth theory Theory that the Jesus of Paul and later authors never existed

The Christ myth theory is the view that "the story of Jesus is a piece of mythology", possessing no "substantial claims to historical fact". Alternatively, in terms given by Bart Ehrman paraphrasing Earl Doherty, "the historical Jesus did not exist. Or if he did, he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity."

Post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus

The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus are the earthly appearances of Jesus to his followers after his death and burial. Believers point to them as proof of his resurrection and identity as Messiah, seated in heaven on the right hand of God.

Paul the Apostle and Jewish Christianity

Paul the Apostle has been placed within Second Temple Judaism by recent scholarship since the 1970s. A main point of departure with older scholarship is the understanding of Second Temple Judaism, and the covenant with God and the role of works, as a means to either gain, or to keep the covenant.

Christianity in the 1st century Christianity-related events during the 1st century

Christianity in the 1st century covers the formative history of Christianity, from the start of the ministry of Jesus to the death of the last of the Twelve Apostles. According to Christian tradition, the period from Jesus's death, resurrection, and the Great Commission is distinguished as the Apostolic Age.

Christianity in the 2nd century Christianity-related events during the 2nd century

Christianity in the 2nd century was largely the time of the development of variant Christian teachings, and the Apostolic Fathers who are regarded as defenders of the developing proto-orthodoxy. Major figures who were later declared by the developing proto-orthodoxy to be heretics were Marcion, Valentinius, and Montanus.

References

Citations

  1. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Acts 19, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb//acts/19.htm accessed 8 October 2015
  2. Jubilee Bible 2000
  3. American King James Version
  4. Douai-Rheims Bible
  5. Gill, J., Gill's Exposition of the Bible, commentary on Acts 19:23 http://biblehub.com/commentaries/gill/acts/19.htm accessed 8 October 2015
  6. E. Peterson (1959), "Christianus." In: Frühkirche, Judentum und Gnosis, publisher: Herder, Freiburg, pp. 353–72
  7. Elwell & Comfort 2001, pp. 266, 828.
  8. 1 2 Burkett 2002, p. 3.
  9. Mack 1995.
  10. Ehrman 2012, p. 272.
  11. Ehrman 2012, p. 273.
  12. Theissen & Merz 1998, pp. 316–46.
  13. Lawrence 2017, p. 60.
  14. 1 2 Ehrman 2014.
  15. The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth. by Ben Witherington III, InterVersity Press, 1997 (second expanded edition), ISBN   0830815449 pp. 9–13
  16. The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria by Gerd Theissen and Dagmar Winter, Westminster John Knox Press 2002) ISBN   0664225373 pp. 1–6
  17. Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee by Mark Allan Powell, Westminster John Knox Press 1999) ISBN   0664257038 pp. 19–23
  18. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament by Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum 2009 ISBN   978-0-8054-4365-3 pages 124-125
  19. Mitchell, Margaret M.; Young, Frances M. (2006). The Cambridge History of Christianity. 1. Cambridge University Press. p. 23. ISBN   978-0-521-81239-9.
  20. Prophet and Teacher: An Introduction to the Historical Jesus by William R. Herzog (Jul 4, 2005) ISBN   0664225284 page 8
  21. Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN   978-0195124743.
  22. Matt 3:2
  23. Matt 4:17; Mark 1:15
  24. Matt 24:34
  25. Bargil Pixner, The Church of the Apostles found on Mount Zion, Biblical Archaeology Review 16.3 May/June 1990, centuryone.org
  26. Galatians 2:9, Acts 1:13
  27. Hurtado 2005, p. 160.
  28. Vidmar 2005, p. 19–20.
  29. 1 2 Hitchcock, Geography of Religion (2004), p. 281, quote: "By the year 100, more than 40 Christian communities existed in cities around the Mediterranean, including two in North Africa, at Alexandria and Cyrene, and several in Italy."
  30. Bokenkotter 2004, p. 18.
  31. Franzen 29
  32. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church ed. F.L. Lucas (Oxford) entry on Paul
  33. Stendahl 1963.
  34. Dunn 1982, p. n.49.
  35. Finlan 2001, p. 2.
  36. Bokenkotter 2004, p. 19.
  37. Mack 1997, p. 91-92.
  38. Hurtado 2005, p. 156-157.
  39. Hurtado 2005, p. 168.
  40. Burkett 2002, p. 263.
  41. Davidson, p.146
  42. Franzen, p.25
  43. Wylen (1995). p. 190.
  44. Berard (2006). pp. 112–113.
  45. Wright (1992). pp. 164–165.
  46. Wylen (1995). pp. 190–192.
  47. Dunn (1999). pp. 33–34.
  48. Boatwright (2004). p. 426.
  49. Wylen, pp.190-192.
  50. Dunn, pp.33-34.
  51. Tabor (1998).
  52. Esler (2004), pp.157-159.
  53. Dunn 1991.
  54. Dauphin (1993). pp. 235, 240–242.
  55. Siker (2000). pp. 232–234.
  56. Bauer, Walter (1971). Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. ISBN   0-8006-1363-5.
  57. 1 2
  58. Williams, Robert Lee (2005). Bishop Lists: Formation of Apostolic Succession of Bishops in Ecclesiastical Crises. Gorgias Press LLC. p. 6. ISBN   978-1-59333-194-8 . Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  59. presbyter. CollinsDictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  60. Haight, Roger D. (16 September 2004). Christian Community in History Volume 1: Historical Ecclesiology. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 83–84. ISBN   978-0-8264-1630-8 . Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  61. See, for example, Council of Jerusalem and Early centers of Christianity#Jerusalem.
  62. "Since there prevails a custom and ancient tradition to the effect that the bishop of Aelia is to be honoured, let him be granted everything consequent upon this honour, saving the dignity proper to the metropolitan" (Canon 7).
  63. Canon VI of the First Council of Nicea, which closes the period under consideration in this article, reads: "Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop ..." As can be seen, the title of "Patriarch", later applied to some of these bishops, was not used by the Council: "Nobody can maintain that the bishops of Antioch and Alexandria were called patriarchs then, or that the jurisdiction they had then was co-extensive with what they had afterward, when they were so called" (ffoulkes, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, quoted in Volume XIV of Philip Schaff's The Seven Ecumenical Councils).
  64. Michael Whitby, et al. eds. Christian Persecution, Martyrdom and Orthodoxy (2006) online edition
  65. Yisrael, Muzeon (1995). The Jews of India: A Story of Three Communities. ISBN   9789652781796.
  66. Rodney Stark. The Rise of Christianity. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1996.
  67. Dag Øistein Endsjø. Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Christianity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2009.
  68. Durant 2011.
  69. Ehrman, Bart D. (29 March 2018). "Inside the Conversion Tactics of the Early Christian Church". History. A+E Networks. Retrieved 5 April 2019.

Sources

Printed sources

Web-sources

Further reading

History of Christianity:
Early Christianity
Preceded by:
Historical
background
Early
Christianity
Followed by:
Late ancient
Christianity
BC 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
11th 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th 17th 18th 19th 20th 21st