Category Archives: Judaism

Were the Earliest Christians Antisemitic?

JudaismThe Christian church has had an unfortunately bad relationship with the Jewish synagogue at various times in their history. But is Christianity antisemitic at it’s core? The earliest Christianity can be found in the documents of the New Testament.

There have been many accusations of antisemitism regarding the New Testament. Are these claims true?

The first thing we need to remember is that all of the earliest Christians, including their leader Jesus of Nazareth, were Jews. Christianity was initially based in Jerusalem led by James, also a Jew.

Yes we see some conflict between followers of Jesus and other Jews, such as the work of Saul of Tarsus, the later Apostle Paul. But this wasn’t about one religion vs another religion. Christianity was still a sect of Judaism. This was about conflict among different interpretations within Judaism.

In the final book of the New Testament, Revelation, we begin to see the parting of the ways in the letters to the seven churches. There is a reason for this. Not only had more Gentiles entered the church, there were other things going on.

Judaism had certain rights as a legal religion within the Roman Empire. At first the Christians, as Jews following Jesus, benefited from this. Then certain things happened. There was the Jewish War of 67-70 AD. This was also a time when the Christians were getting on the bad side of the Romans. It was in the Jewish best interest to distinguish themselves from the Christians.

As we get into the second century, there is a growing anti-Jewish sentiment among some Christians. This can be seen in the Epistle of Barnabas (not actually written by Barnabas).

Sadly, antisemitic feelings continued to grow within the church. Some terrible things have been done to the Jews in the name of Jesus. But whatever happened later in history was not reflective of the earliest Christians.

Judaism Before Jesus – Review

Judaism Before JesusI am a firm believer that understanding the New Testament requires some understanding of its Jewish context. I don’t mean that Judaism is only Christian context, it has great value as a major faith. But the New Testament was written in a Jewish context by (mostly) Jewish authors.

I’m always looking for good resources in this area and was pleased to come across Judaism Before Jesus by Anthony J. Tomasino.

Too many Christians think all they need to know about Judaism is found in the Old Testament. The truth is that the Old Testament is only one influence on first century Judaism and it is so much more complex than that.

Tomasino takes readers on a journey of the development of Judaism. Judaism, like all religions, did not develop in a vacuum. It was shaped by the surrounding historical and cultural forces. In the case of Judaism, these include how the Jews responded to the Hellenistic and Roman influences.

Tomasino introduces readers to the major texts and events that those only familiar with the Old and New Testaments may not be aware of. We can see how Judaism grew from the Old Testament faith to what would become Rabbinic Judaism. It is a fascinating story.

Anyone interested in the origins of either Christianity or Judaism will find Judaism Before Jesus to be a valuable resource.

Episode 16 – Herod and Sons

History of ChristianityThe family of Herod the Great weaved in and out of the story of the early church, including the lives of Jesus and Paul.

But who were the Herods? What was so great about Herod the Great? And what was their relationship to the Romans?

This episode looks at those questions as we examine Herod and his sons (and grandsons).

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