Bookmark and Share

Open the online Arabic language course

Index / Religions / Historical /

Early form of Christianity, belonging to the brief period when the first Christians considered themselves as Jews. This period can loosely be set to start a few years before the death of Jesus (somewhere between 25 and 40 CE) and last until somewhere between 70 and 100 CE.
The Jesus-Jews were supporters of the new Jewish orientation defined by Jesus and propagated by his disciples and apostles. There is at no point any evidence that Jesus intended to establish a new religion, his aim was always to reform Judaism. There is no evidence that Jesus ever deviated from the rule that the Judaic religion belonged to Jews only. This rule would later be one of the keystones in the founding of Christianity.
Modern scientists differ in their interpretations of what background Jesus had, as well as the actual content of his message. The dominating theory among theologians is that he worked on a mission directly from God, as a human personification of God, that he actually was the fulfillment of Judaism's promise of a Messiah. According to this tradition, most Jews did not recognize this quality, and rejected him.
Another theory is that Jesus was a revolutionary Jew from the monastery-like communities on the West Bank; the Essenes and Zealots (two groups that often are considered as separated, but which easily could be two branches of the same movement). According to this theory his ideas were the ones of this movement, and the quick success of Jesus-Judaism was a mere result of the spread of these ideas prior to the few years Jesus was active before being executed.
The first decades following his death, most of his followers adhered to this idea. Most of the missionary activities of the Jesus-Jews oriented itself towards other Jews, but in some regions, like Antioch (now Turkey) many converts were non-Jews. This was an irregularity seen from standard Judaism.
There were many tensions between mainstream Judaism and Jesus-Judaism, involving persecutions and even killings. Saul (later Paul) is well known for having been zealous in this endeavour before converting to Jesus-Judaism.
Towards the end of the first century CE the schism between mainstream Judaism and Jesus-Judaism had become deep, and at the same time as Jesus-Judaism had gained a followers in many cities around the Middle East, and it was spreading. The strength of this movement, together with influences from other religions lead to the definitions of certain traditions and rituals there were uncommon to Judaism. Administrations were defined as well as structures for religious leadership. From the common sources, the earliest congregations were predominantly flat in hierarchy, and there were no churches, and Sunday had not yet been defined as the main day for rituals.

By Tore Kjeilen