Friday, August 17, 2007

Christians Converting to Judaism

In my current study I am finding it quite illuminating how the threat or reality of Christians converting to Judaism was:

1. The counter-Pauline proselytizing mission was arguably attempting to force Gentiles to become Jews in order to become Christians, and so bring Gentile Christians in a closer relation to the Jerusalem church and with Judaism.

2. Hebrews is a document where the audience is under some form of duress. which is accompanied by a temptation to return to Judaism and to the synagogue.

3. The Apostolic Fathers has much to say about Christians going on to judaize. In the opinion of some scholars the Epistle of Barnabas has in its background competition between Jews and Christians for Gentile converts and the author of Barnabas goes so far as to warn Christians against adopting Jewish laws (Ep. Barn. 3.6). Ignatius of Antioch exhorted his readers against 'living in accord with Judaism' and 'Judaizing' (Ign. Magn. 8.1; 10.3), arguably becomes some either were or were tempted to do so.

4. The second century Apocalypse of Peter, written in vicinity to the Bar Kochba revolt of 132-35 AD, intimates in one passage that Jewish Christians were forsaking Jesus to follow a new Messiah, reneged on that decision, and were subsequently persecuted (Apoc. Pet. 2.8-13).

5. Justin Martyr knew of Christians who had 'gone over to the polity of the law' and 'have some some reason switched and joined the legal community, and now denying that he is the Christ' (Dial. Tryph. 47.4).

6. Eusebius refers to Serpation of Antioch who wrote a letter to a certain Domnus who later lapsed from the faith to Judaism during a time of persecution (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 6.12).

7. The fourth century Council of Laodicea forbade Christians from keeping Jewish feasts and the Sabbath.

These texts obviously have a lot of implications of Jewish-Christian relations and for the "parting of the ways".


Geoff Hudson said...

Perhaps you would fill in some details for 1 and 2.

By Hebrews, I presume you mean the Epistle to the Hebrews. An editor has probably given the game away in saying that this was a short letter when in fact it is far from it (13.22). To me the editor was saying that the original letter he had before him was indeed short. Thus I see at least 75% of Hebrews as secondary. In particular, I see all the references to Jewish aspects of angels, sacrifice, and Jesus being a high priest as added material. The idea of a new covenant I believe was original.

Geoff Hudson said...

Much of Hebrews seems to be a later attempt to attract Jewish priests (or the earliest 'Christians' who were of a prophetic persuasion) to come over to the newer Pauline philosophy of Jesus crucified who arose to become a high priest in heaven, superior to angels.

Much earlier many priests had been been quite happy to adopt the prophetic philosophy (cleansing) of the Spirit that was in the remit of prophetic Judaism (Acts 6.7) - I suggest that it was the Spirit of God that 'spread' (not the word), that the priests became 'obedient' to the Spirit (not the faith), and that the priests came to Rome which was where the 'disciples' were increasing (not in Jerusalem). The Spirit could 'spread' like the wind.