Martin Hengel and Roland Deines, ‘E.P. Sanders’ “Common Judaism”, Jesus, and the Pharisees’, JTS 46 (1995), pp. 15-16.
“Jesus’ attitude towards the Torah and the temple possesses, over against that of all other Jewish groups, unmistakable, original stamp. He thereby brings something really new, and he continues this new thing in the Church made up of his disciples. Both Jesus and the Church fall outside the framework provided by the idea – valued so highly by Sanders – of a harmonious ‘common Judaism’. After all, it is no accident that he movement initiated by Jesus opened itself step by step to an increasingly ‘law-free’ Gentile mission just a short time after his death. Nor is it an accident that the three ‘pillars’ at the Apostolic Council about eighteen years later, who were closely associated with Jesus, acknowledge uncircumcised Gentile Christians who were not under obligations to the Torah as full members of the Church, destined to experience eschatological salvation. Must that not also ultimately have something to do with Jesus’ attitude? Ex nihilio nihil fit – or, to take up the illustration which Sanders himself uses (and rejects): from our historical distance, we must conclude from the smoke that there is also a fire. The persecution of the early Palestinian Church were connected with this partially critical attitude toward Torah and cult, as well as with Christology (this whole complex cannot be torn apart.) Jesus himself provided the first impetus for persecution. Early Christianity’s relatively quick break with Sanders’ ‘common Judaism’, despite the fact that it rested entirely of Jewish roots, is a phenomenon which we believe ultimately goes back historically and theologically to Jesus’ words and deeds, in combination with his claim to have been sent from God. This development is without analogy in Palestinian Judaism.”
I anxiously await comments from James Crossley (our resident expert on Law in Early Christianity) on this topic.