Good Early Christianity Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Religion, Christians, Judaism, Jesus Christ, Church, Middle East, Faith, Belief

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/11/26

The exact date of when Christianity made its final and decisive split from Judaism is certainly highly debatable as their little agreement amongst religious scholars regarding a firm date. Most of the early history and archaeology dates to the Roman Empire when the persecution of Christians was not denied. Many feel one official way of marking this occasion would be during the reign of Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. That is one way of looking at the subject, however, Christianity existed long before Constantine decided to follow the faith. The religion actually is an offshoot of Judaism and through archaeology as well history, the date Christians determined to set out on their own path commences with the death of Jesus. This is when the messianic Jews broke away from the established faith and went out on their own to develop Christianity.
There were two stages for Christianity to finally and fully depart from the fold of Judaism. The first occurred in the first century after Jesus’ death when his apostles scattered to gain converts to their religion. In reviewing the Bible, Jesus only speaks to Jewish audiences, but after he perished on the cross, the apostles had a new vision, which was referred to as the Way at that point in time. The apostles’ mission was referred to in the Bible through Matthew 28:19 and the followers they gained numbered about 3,000. These people, however, all remained Jewish as they still observed their customs, both in prayer as well as lifestyle. Evidence of the existence of
the apostles and the famed Last Supper is supplied by the Cenacle on Mount Zion. It is believed the Church of the Apostles lies beneath this structure.
The first true transition commenced in about 40 CE when the Roman centurion Cornelius entered into the faith. This is confirmed in Acts 10. Archaeological evidence of this is the Jewish-Greek church built in Antioch which is referred to in Acts 11:19-24; Galatians 2:11-14. At this time the people who had decided to follow the apostle Paul resided primarily in Syria, Asia Minor and Greece. As people outside of the strict boundary lines of the ancient Middle East came to join movement, this is when the faith began to break away from Judaism and become distinctly Christian or gentile. Support for this theory stems from boxes of burial bones with Greek inscriptions that are clearly Christian retrieved from Jerusalem that date to before 70 A.D.
As more converts came to the Christian or Jesus movement, the tenants of Jewish law were not as strictly enforced and as those rules faded away, the framework for Christianity was established. It was at this juncture, Christians in Jerusalem partook of their own ceremonies. Those individuals that still remained as Christian Jews held similar beliefs in regards to Jesus and his teachings, but they worshipped in different fashions. Therefore, the rift between them continued to increase.
Produced in the late first century, the Jewish Christian Didache is a major work that provides great insight on the development of Christianity. The document discusses Mosaic Law, the ardor for God and all colleagues as well as the methods of worship in the Jewish faith such as baptism and the Our Father prayer. In this work, Jesus is not referenced as the Son of God but a pais, which is the term for a youth or employee. However, by the second century the Epistle of
Barnabas illustrates that Christianity has begun to cleave itself from Judaism. The Jewish Bible is referred to as a source of allegory and is not lauded as the true guide of the Christian faith. In this document, Jesus has advanced from a pais to the form of a deity. The various groups that were practicing different versions of this new faith continued their divergence late in the second century. At this time, many people either returned to Judaism or evolved into Christianity. This schism became much more concrete after Hadrain stamped out the Second Jewish Revolt.
Also, the Rabbis of Yavneh had ordained the Jewish Christians as heretics or non-believers in Judaism. This is illustrated through the twelfth benediction of Yanveh were it was proclaimed these individuals were deviant Jews and not a part of the church. This time had to be very confusing for those that were transitioning to Christianity as Paul was one of the leading figures in the movement and his teachings were still intertwined with those of Judaism. For example, he writes in Corinthians 11:19 of circumcision and that it did not matter whether or not a man was circumcised to exhibit his faith in God, all one merely had to do was follow his rules. This was highly similar to what Judaism was expounding in the first century, as long as a person gave themselves spiritually and mentally to God, they did not need to concern themselves with a physical aspect. In addition, Paul states in Galatians one does not have to serve God in a Temple or any such designated holy area for an individual can become a body of worship. Support for this contention can be extracted from the Dead Sea Scrolls. The authors of these documents spurned the temple of Jerusalem. This is not the only instance where the rejection of the temple was proffered, as it appears after the temple was actually destroyed. If the people themselves are holy there is no need to serve God in a temple.
The destruction of the temple in about 70 CE was a major turning point in the divergence between Christianity and Judaism. At this time, animal sacrifice and cult practices in the Jewish faith were removed. The temple had also played a major role in governance and/or politics. This void was filled by the Pharisees through their teachings of the apocalypse. Also, many Jewish Christians of that time viewed the destruction of the temple as a form of punishment for the sins of Judaism. This further strengthened the rift between the two groups.
Throughout the second and third centuries the struggle between Judaism and Christianity continued, but there is not much evidence from this time period to point to exactly what was transpiring. As the individuals that would become Christians began to further push themselves away from the Jews a final and definitive break. By 160, however, it is thought the Christian faith began to organize under bishops were claimed their right was handed down straight from the apostles as leaders of the faith. Churches began to spring up in other locations than Jerusalem, such as in Asia minor and other areas within the reaches of the Roman Empire. The problem was many of these groups had no unifying identify, so there was no mainstream version of Christianity. Hence, the protracted struggle with the trappings of Judaism and the viewpoint of outsiders this may be a pagan faith.
Although it is not exactly known, through scholarship, history or archaeology exactly how Christianity spread throughout the Mediterranean at this time, it is thought these bishops and the apostles traveled extensively to spread the faith. It is quite possible the use of the Silk Road and other trade routes encouraged the spread of the Christianity as by 300 AD it had reached India and Armenia adopted it as its national faith. Christianity might have held such tremendous appeal because of the belief in resurrection. Ancient Greeks had felt the soul could
survive indefinitely if the body was only kept sound. Many people could have been attracted to the promise of something grand after the physical body was no longer able to inhabit the earth.
As to why so little is known about the advance of Christianity at this stage in time, again there are theories, but no clear cut answer. Many have thought the Christians from this era were too poor to build monuments, churches and the like. In addition, there are no true surviving artifacts for that very same reason. This concept does not truly hold merit, for more than two centuries after the advance of Christianity there is very scant evidence of it even in Roman cities. The Romans certainly had the funds to erect monuments and churches. Therefore, this is not the answer. Could it lie within the very nature of the Scripture and attitudes of the people who followed the faith? That is credible as no manger scenes exist from this era, no crucifixes are discovered and churches were not built until the third century. The Scripture does mention people should not avail themselves of artistic endeavors and remember many early Christians were tortured as well as incredibly persecuted. They may very well have not left remnants of their faith behind as a mode of protection and because they felt they were following the path the Bible had outlined for them. The lack of archaeological evidence may arise from necessity. Whatever the answer may be, one thing is for certain, those types of artifacts simply are not available to chronicle the movement and solidification of Christianity as a major religion of the world. Also, it is apparent that the schism between Christianity and Judaism was not obvious and occurred gradually throughout the course of time. It took several centuries for the Christian faith to morph into a separate religion that withstood the test of time. Ultimately, however, the clearest historical date one must refer to when discussing the separation of Christianity and Judaism is
the time of Constantine. Although his true emotions on the faith are not known, it can be stated he used his declaration of Christianity to establish is power base for the empire.

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