Friday, December 14, 2007

More on "Jewish Christianity"

I for one am much enjoying Joel Willitts' read through Jewish Believers in Jesus (JBJ). The topic fascinates me and it is also good because I'm currently reading through Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed, eds., The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (the volume I think is a bit hit and miss).
Part of the problem of defining Jewish Christianity is, for a start, that all of Christianity at least prior to 70 AD is in some form or other "Jewish Christianity". One must wonder then if we should adopt the sub-definition of Judaeo Christianity or Christian Judaism to define that form of Christianity that continued to live a Jewish lifestyle of Torah obedience in combination with faith in Jesus. But even then the problem with praxis (or Torah-observance) based definitions is that Christian Gentiles from the time of Paul to Ignatius of Antioch to John Chrysostom were known to follow elements of the Torah.
Reed thinks that it might be more profitable to define Jewish Christianity as pertaining to certain "modes of belief and worship as a natural extension of Christianity's origins within Judaism, Christians' continued contacts with Jews, and the church's use of the Jewish Scriptures, as well as the long and rich tradition of messianic speculation within Judaism itself" (p. 231). But I submit that such a definition would aptly describe some forms of non-Jewish (non-ethnically Jewish) Gentile Christianity. Back to square one I guess!

1 comment:

Joel Willitts said...

Mike:

The Ways that Never Parted is an important book that makes a very compelling argument. I would also mention Boyarin's book Borderlines as equally significant and making a similar argument.