Jewish Christians

Jewish Christians (sometimes called also "Hebrew Christians" or "Christian Jews") is a term which can have two meanings, a historical one and a contemporary one. Both meanings are discussed below.

Jewish origin of Christianity

The term "Early Jewish Christians" is often used in discussing the Early History of Christianity, see also Early Christianity and History of early Christianity. Jesus, his Twelve Apostles, the Elders, his family, and essentially all of his early followers were Jewish or Jewish Proselytes [Historical and Scriptural (NT) references to the original Jesus movement and its Jewish nature. [] ] . Hence the 3,000 converts on Pentecost (Sivan 6), following the death and resurrection of Jesus (Nisan 14 or 15), described in Acts of the Apostles , albeit he too is a "God-fearer" proselyte who participated in a Jewish synagogue. The major division prior to that time was between Hellenistic and non-Hellenistic Jews or Koine Greek (). Acts does not use the term "Jewish Christians", rather those led by James the Just, Simon Peter, and John the Apostle, the "Pillars of the Church", were called followers of "The Way". [, ). Paul made explicit the division between those who were circumcised and those who were not circumcised in his Epistle to the Galatians 2:7-9::"On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised." (NRSV)

These terms (circumcised/uncircumcised) are generally interpreted to mean Jews and Greeks respectively, who were predominant in the region; however this is an oversimplification as 1st century Iudaea Province also had some Jews who no longer circumcised (sometimes called Hellenized Jews), and some Greeks (called Proselytes or Judaizers) and others such as Egyptians, Ethiopians, and Arabs who did. See also Abrahamic religion and Circumcision controversy in early Christianity#Jewish background.

Jesus is frequently called the "Nazarene" (; ; ; ; , determined that circumcision was not required of Gentile converts, only avoidance of "pollution of idols, fornication, things strangled, and blood" (KJV, Acts 15:20). The basis for these prohibitions is unclear, Acts 15:21 states only: "For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day", the implication being that they are based on the Law of Moses. Many, beginning with Augustine of Hippo ["Contra Faust", 32.13] consider them to be based on the Noahide Laws, while some modern scholars [For example: Joseph Fitzmyer, "The Acts of the Apostles (The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries)", Yale University Press (December 2, 1998), ISBN 0300139829, chapter V] reject the connection to "Noahide Law" (:However, Barnabas, Paul's partner up till then, sided with Peter (, ). [ Catholic Encyclopedia: Judaizers: The Incident at Antioch] claims: "St. Paul's account of the incident leaves no doubt that St. Peter saw the justice of the rebuke." however, L. Michael White's "From Jesus to Christianity" [HarperSanFrancisco (November 30, 2004), ISBN 0-06-052655-6, p.170] claims: "The blowup with Peter was a total failure of political bravado, and Paul soon left Antioch as persona non grata, never again to return." See also Pauline Christianity. Scholar James D. G. Dunn, who coined the phrase New Perspective on Paul, has proposed that Peter was the "bridge-man" (i.e. the "pontifex maximus") between the two other "prominent leading figures" of early Christianity: Paul and James the Just. ["The Canon Debate", McDonald & Sanders editors, 2002, chapter 32, page 577, by James D. G. Dunn: "For "Peter was probably in fact and effect the bridge-man" (pontifex maximus!) "who did more than any other to hold together the diversity of first-century Christianity." James the brother of Jesus and Paul, the two other most prominent leading figures in first-century Christianity, were too much identified with their respective "brands" of Christianity, at least in the eyes of Christians at the opposite ends of this particular spectrum. But Peter, as shown particularly by the Antioch episode in Gal 2, had both a care to hold firm to his Jewish heritage, which Paul lacked, and an openness to the demands of developing Christianity, which James lacked. John might have served as such a figure of the center holding together the extremes, but if the writings linked with his name are at all indicative of his own stance he was too much of an individualist to provide such a rallying point. Others could link the developing new religion more firmly to its founding events and to Jesus himself. But none of them, including the rest of the twelve, seem to have played any role of continuing significance for the whole sweep of Christianity—though James the brother of John might have proved an exception had he been spared." [Italics original] ]

Marcion in the 2nd century, called the "most dangerous" heretic, rejected the Twelve Apostles, and interpreted a Jesus who rejected the Law of Moses using 10 Pauline Epistles and the Gospel of Luke. For example, his version of Luke 23:2 [] : "We found this fellow [Jesus] perverting the nation and destroying the law and the prophets". Irenaeus in turn rejected Marcion and praised the Twelve Apostles in his "Against Heresies" 3.12.12: [] :"...being brought over to the doctrine of Simon Magus, they have apostatized in their opinions from Him who is God, and imagined that they have themselves discovered more than the apostles, by finding out another god; and [maintained] that the apostles preached the Gospel still somewhat under the influence of Jewish opinions, but that they themselves are purer [in doctrine] , and more intelligent, than the apostles."

According to Eusebius' "History of the Church" 4.5.3-4: the first 15 Bishops of Jerusalem were "of the circumcision". The Romans destroyed the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem in year 135 during the Bar Kokhba Revolt. However, that doesn't necessarily mean an end to Jewish Christianity, any more than Valerian's Massacre of 258, (when he killed all Christian bishops, presbyters, and deacons, including Pope Sixtus II and Antipope Novatian and Cyprian of Carthage), meant an end to Roman Christianity.

Circumcision controversy

A common interpretation of the circumcision controversy of the New Testament was that it was over the issue of whether Gentiles could enter the Church directly or ought to first convert to Judaism. However, the Halakha of Rabbinic Judaism was still under development at this time, as the Jewish Encyclopedia [ article on Jesus] notes: "Jesus, however, does not appear to have taken into account the fact that the Halakha was at this period just becoming crystallized, and that much variation existed as to its definite form; the disputes of the Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai were occurring about the time of his maturity." This controversy was fought largely between opposing groups of Christians who were themselves ethnically Jewish. According to this interpretation, those who felt that conversion to Judaism was a prerequisite for Church membership were eventually condemned by Paul as "Judaizing teachers".

The source of this interpretation is unknown; however, it appears related to Supersessionism or Hyperdispensationalism (see also New Perspective on Paul). In addition, modern Christians, such as Ethiopian Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox still practice circumcision while not considering it a part of conversion to Judaism, nor do they consider themselves to be Jews or Jewish Christians. In 1st century Pharisaic Judaism there was controversy over the significance of circumcision, for example between Hillel the Elder and Shammai (see also Circumcision in the Bible #In rabbinic literature). Roman Catholicism condemned circumcision for its members in 1442, at the Council of Florence [] .

urviving communities whose origins reflect both Judaism and early Christianity

The Nasrani or Syrian Malabar Nasrani community in Kerala, India is conscious of their Jewish origins. However, they have lost many of their Jewish traditions due to western influences. The Nasrani are also known as Syrian Christians or St. Thomas Christians. This is because they follow the traditions of Syriac Christianity and claim descent from the early converts by St. Thomas the Apostle. Today, they belong to various denominations of Christianity but they have kept their unique identity within each of these denominations. (Refer to St. Thomas Christians).

Two of the existing communities that still maintain their Jewish traditions are the Knananites and the Fallasha. The Knanaya, who are an endogamous sub-ethnic group among the Syrian Malabar Nasrani are the descendants of early Jewish Christian settlers who arrived in Kerala in A.D 345. Although affiliated with a variety of Roman Catholic and Oriental Orthodox denominations, they have remained a cohesive community, shunning intermarriage with outsiders (but not with fellow-Knanaya of other denominations). The Fallasha of Ethiopia likewise reflect a Hebrew tradition that was outside the influence of much of the conflicts and conquests of the Hebrews of Israel and Judea.

Contemporary Jewish Christians

There are at least two varieties of syncretisms between Judaism and Christianity: syncretisms that emphasize Christianity (Jewish Christians) and syncretisms focusing on Judaism (Messianic Jews). "Jewish Christians" is sometimes used as a contemporary term in respect of persons who are ethnically Jewish but who have become part of a "mainstream" Christian group which is not predominantly based on an appeal to Jewish ethnicity or the Law of Moses. This term is used as a contrast to Messianic Jews, many of whom are ethnic Jews who have converted to a religion in which Christian belief (usually evangelical) is generally grafted onto Jewish ritual which would, to outsiders at least, typically resemble Judaism more than Christianity.

The term could thus be used, for example, of Arnold Fruchtenbaum, the founder of [ Ariel Ministries] . Another group which could be described as Jewish Christians is "Jews for Jesus".

Modern Jewish Christians and Messianic Jews

There are important similarities and differences between "Jewish Christians" (or "Hebrew Christians") and "Messianic Jews". Jewish Christians identify themselves primarily as Christians. They are mostly members of Protestant and Catholic congregations, usually are not strict about observing Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) or the Sabbath, and are generally assimilated culturally into the Christian mainstream, although they retain a strong sense of their Jewish identity which they, like Messianic Jews, strongly desire to pass on to their children. In Israel, there is a growing population of Orthodox Christians who are of Jewish descent and conduct their worship mostly in Hebrew (the most prominent language in Israel, as well as the official language). Messianic Jews consider their primary identity to be "Jewish" and belief in Jesus to be the logical conclusion of their "Jewishness". They try to structure their worship according to Jewish norms, they circumcise their sons and (mostly) abstain from non-kosher foods, and (often) observe the Sabbath. Many (but by no means all) do not use the label "Christian" to describe themselves. The boundary between the two movements is blurred, but the differences between the two movements are such that it may not be fair to treat them as one (cf. Baptists and Methodists, for example).

There are a few organizations which have been established to support Jews who wish to become Christian, most notably Jews for Jesus.

Additionally, there are a few organizations to support Messianic Jews who wish to remain faithful to Torah, most notably the [ UMJC] and [ MRC] .


ee also

*B'nei Noah (Noahides)
*British Israelism
*Christian anarchism
*Christian Torah-submission
*Christian Zionism
*Christianity and anti-Semitism
*Christianity and Biblical prophecy
*Christianity and Judaism
*Hebrew Catholics
*Jewish Muslims
*John Chrysostom
*Lost Ten Tribes
*Messianic Judaism
*Mormonism and Judaism
*Nazarene (sect)
*Early Bishops of Jerusalem
*Relations between early Christianity and Judaism
*Saint Thomas Christians
*Christian-Jewish reconciliation

External links

* [ Scripture & Torah Study Resources]
*Walter Bauer's [ ORTHODOXY AND HERESY Appendix 1: On the Problem of Jewish Christianity]
* [ PBS Frontline "From Jesus to Christ": The First Christians: Wrestling with their Jewish Heritage]
* [ Fordham University: Medieval Sourcebook: Saint John Chrysostom (c.347-407) : Eight Homilies Against the Jews]
* [ Jewish Encyclopedia: Christianity in its relation to Judaism: Early Christianity a Jewish Sect]
* [ "The Ascendance of Messianic Judaism in the Context of Hebrew Christianity" by William Greene, Ph.D.]

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