"Of All Nations":
Christian Faith between Judaism and Paganism
Reading: Matt. 28:19-20 or Eph. 2. Sources: Keith Hopkins, A World Full of Gods (Penguin, 2001); Andrew Louth, ed. and trans., Early Christian Writings (Penguin, 1987); G.W.H. Lampe, "Christian Theology in the Early Patristic Period," in Hubert Cunliffe-Jones, ed., A History of Christian Writing (Fortress, 1980).
A Fork in the Way: The First and Second Centuries
Growth in the Roman world (at ~3%/year, doubling every 24 years)
Main concerns are 'ethical' (Didache, Polycarp to Philippians) rather than 'theological'
The major theological question: What is the Church's relationship to Israel?
Two opponents/influences: Traditional (then rabbinic) Judaism, classical paganism
A growing third: Various forms of Christianity
"A Bitter Divorce": Emerging Judaism
First-century Palestinian parties: Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots, Essenes, then 'Nazarenes'
Judaism abroad is even more diverse and Hellenistic (Philo)
Christians begin in and recruit from synagogues in Roman cities
Only Pharisees survive the Jewish War of 66-70
Rabbinic Judaism rejects Christian claims about Jesus
Gentile Christians struggle to respond to Judaism as a heritage (Rom. 1-8, Galatians, Acts 10-15, Hebrews, Marcion, Barnabas)
The Hebraic extreme makes Jesus a figure within conventional Judaism (Circumcizers, Ebionites)
Christians struggle to respond to Judaism as a rival (Rom. 9-11, Matt. 23, Rev. 2:8-11)
Discourse gets less and less civil between the two polarizing groups
Jews resent Christian neutrality in Zealot wars of 66-70, 116, 133-135
As Gentile Christians predominate (mid-second century), they forget the grammar of Judaism
Hellenistic Christians respond to Jewish pressure (Ignatius to the Magnesians 10, Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho), contending:
Jews refuse to accept Isaiah 53, Psalm 110, etc. as describing Messiah Jesus
The power Jews expect of the Christ will be displayed at Jesus' second coming
Jesus has abrogated the Law
Jews trust(ed) too narrowly in Temple and sacrifices
Jews stubbornly cling to legal observances, misunderstanding their point, which is belief in Christ
Israel's Scriptures point to Christ in many subtle ways (e.g., grain offering)
Jews have edited their Scriptures and refuse to listen to prophecies in the Septuagint
Christians are the true (or new) Israel
"The Christian Revolution": Greco-Roman 'Paganism'
Greco-Roman religions are traditional, familial, political, circumstantial
Christians challenge tradition with 'innovation'
Christians challenge polytheism and pluralism with Christological universality
Christians challenge 'polydeism' with theologies of omniscience
Christians challenge persecution with martyrdom (Martyrdom of Polycarp)
Christians challenge Platonism with incarnation
Christians challenge magic with sacramentalism
Christians challenge mores on sex (Hopkins 21), class and economics (Hopkins 125), violence (Hopkins 38-39, 42)
Christians adapt Roman hierarchical structures (episcopacy, councils; Hopkins 125)
Christians adapt Roman worship practices (procession, images, relics; Hopkins 127)
Christians gradually transform the Roman Empire, and vice versa
Early Christians in the Middle
Christians keep distancing themselves from both Jews and pagans until after 400
They adapt both Hellenistic and Jewish philosophy and cosmology to do this
Does this look like the vision of Eph. 2? of Matt. 28?