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Jews and Gentiles in Paul’s Churches

Another one of the new boxes in my textbook on the New Testament

 

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Another Glimpse into the Past

Box 21.2.  Jews and Gentiles in Paul’s Churches

The earliest Christians, immediately after Jesus’ resurrection, were obviously Jews: eleven of the apostles (minus Judas Iscariot) and a handful of women, including Mary Magdalene.  Once these followers came to believe, they converted others they came into contact with – all of them, at first, Jews.  But the Jewish Christian church was never a huge success.  Later sources occasionally mention smallish Jewish groups of Christians, but apart from the church in Jerusalem, these never played a huge role in the ongoing life of the church in the early centuries.  Jewish Christianity was almost always on the margins.

It was probably heading to the margins by …

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Did Paul Belief in that the Fleshly Body Would be Resurrected

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Comments

  1. godspell  November 2, 2018

    One can’t help but wonder what Jesus would have made of this–he was open to gentiles being in the Kingdom, but his ministry was in the main to his fellow Jews. His antagonism to the Jewish leadership largely stems from his perception that their overly formalist rules-based approach to religion is a negative influence on Jews of that time, holding them back, making it harder for them to attain the Kingdom. Obviously they have no such negative influence on gentiles, who don’t care what the Temple priesthood or the Pharisees think. Gentiles have a different set of problems, and Jesus knows he can’t reach everybody in the short time he has to preach his ministry.

    However, it is interesting that he is reported to have consorted with people who are not in any sense conventionally practicing Jews. People the Jewish establishment would view with disdain. He would naturally gravitate towards those more receptive to his message, like any preacher. It is possible that had he not died, his views would have continue to evolve with regards to gentiles. But his Judaism was so central to his view of the world, I can’t see him ever abandoning it. And of course, neither did Peter, Paul, or Mary Magdalene.

    I assume everybody heard about that Jews for Jesus ‘rabbi’ appearing at the event in Pittsburgh?

    Oy vey.

    (I learned that from my mom, who is Irish Catholic, but grew up in Queens.)

    😉

    3
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  2. fishician  November 2, 2018

    I can see how pagans would be more accepting of the idea of God having a son, since mythology is full of divine offspring, whereas the Jews believed God was one, not two or three, and there’s no mention of God’s son in the OT. Even so, Paul says the idea of a crucified savior seemed foolish to most pagans (1 Cor. 1:23), but it was probably a snowball effect, that as more people began to believe it became easier for others to suspend their disbelief and join in.

  3. Telling
    Telling  November 2, 2018

    Given this, how can we trust that any Christian texts reflect the message and ministry of Jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 4, 2018

      We have to do critical historical work, just as we have to do if we want ot know the message of the historical Socrates or the emperor Claudius etc.

  4. RonaldTaska  November 3, 2018

    I would guess that this lack of Jews converting to Christianity is because the Jews anticipated a different kind of political Messiah, not a crucified Messiah.

  5. Sabina  November 3, 2018

    Doesn’t charity begin at home? In light of the fact that “people of Paul’s race” are still being blamed for killing Christ (among other alleged crimes, real or preposterously imagined), do you not think that Christian clergy of all denominations should examine their own weekly roles in demonizing Jews? Why can’t people seem to worship and adore their own God without denouncing non-believers? Maybe if I fell off my horse and hit my head I’d understand better.

  6. Telling
    Telling  November 3, 2018

    Bart,

    I have learned from Jewish and Christian historians that the moneychanger tables incident is seriously problematic.

    The moneychangers did their business in an gentile marketplace of a temple courtyard area greatly expanded by Herod, and they were doing legitimate business, changing moneys from travelers who could then purchase a sacrificial animal as required in Deuteronomy 16:2 & 14:22-26. It seems to me that Jews would know this and thus reject the moneychanger narrative and with it the Crucifixion story itself, for historians also generally say the moneychanger incident led directly to the Crucifixion.

    Your mention that gentile Pagans had taken over the religion by the latter first century when the gospels were all written would explain this, and I think bring us to seriously question both moneychanger and Crucifixion narratives. That both narratives appear in all four gospels leads me to believe that my Jane Roberts/Seth source is the more correct — A man mistaken by the authorities as Jesus turned over the moneychanger tables and was arrested and executed for the disruptive act, cheered on by Jews — but Jews more knowledgeable of the truth would reject Paul’s foolish message of salvation, as they did. Paul of course never mentions a moneychanger incident and probably wouldn’t even know of it.

    I’m writing a couple of books on the idea, so it is important that I have it right. Could you comment as to whether you see any holes in this alternate idea?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 4, 2018

      What kind of research have you done on the question? One of the important starting points would be E. P. Sanders learned and influential treatment in his book Jesus and Judaism.

      • Telling
        Telling  November 4, 2018

        Hi Bart,

        I found an 8 minute video of your mentioned source E. P. Sanders. He is very good (that means he confirms my developed ideas ha ha). I will likely add him as a source.

        My main Christian sources used are Robbin Griffith Jones (“The Gospel According to Paul”), Luke Timothy Johnson, Amy Levine. You have of course been a good source also. My primary authority, however, is, as I’ve said, Jane Roberts/Seth. But as for what Jesus actually taught, I use sources Bhagavad-Gita, Buddha, Allan Watts, and the like (and particularly Jane/Roberts Seth), and this brings me to the Gospel of Thomas which most closely is a like teaching to all of the above.

        The one line I think historians have yet been unwilling to cross is in challenging that the gentle teachings of Jesus and the violent moneychanger and Crucifixion stories don’t match. Jane Roberts/Seth gives the simple answer: There were more than a single “Jesus”, and the words and actions of a true master and a false master got intermixed and was picked up by Paul and his pagan following.

        Thanks for your given source. Mainly he explains how Jews have been demonized in order for the new religion to stand out, and his 8 minute video confirms the legitimacy of the moneychangers.

        • mannix  November 6, 2018

          Is it possible that there was no “mistaken identity” and that Jesus’ problem with the moneychangers was that they were gouging the Jewish pilgrims in the transactions? The problem with this is that reason was never given in any of the gospels. Also interesting is Luke’s version only describing those “selling things”…”moneychangers” not mentioned. If that were true, it would be disquieting for all churches conducting craft fairs, Bingo, bake sales, etc.!

      • Telling
        Telling  November 6, 2018

        Bart,

        I plan to use your book “Forged” as a listed reference, primarily for the two letters of Peter as not written by Peter. And your given reference EP Sanders will be listed, mainly to document that moneychangers were doing legitimate temple business. It’s a short non-fiction book, just 60 pages. I would like to give you a complimentary copy, that I’ll publish on Amazon in the next couple of weeks.

        Thanks for the E.P. Sanders reference.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  November 4, 2018

      Jesus and other Jews probably didn’t have a problem with the job of the money-changers in the Temple per se. I mean, someone had to do it. Their issue was probably the same issue we have today with exchange rates of currency, viz. the money exchange was likely to gouge out of a hefty amount of value of your original currency. That is, the money-changers were probably seen as charging exorbitant and unfair amounts of fees for making the exchange. And seeing as how usury was highly forbidden back then, Jesus and his followers probably saw the money-changers as transgressing the Torah. And that’s why Jesus attacked them.

      • Rick
        Rick  November 5, 2018

        Along that line, could it have simply been that Jesus was an ignorant Galilean hillbilly educated is whatever Torah he heard talked about or read in Synagogue and making his first pilgrimage to the Temple late in his ministry…. It was a long walk perhaps arguing against his really having been there multiple times. I think to link the possibility that the money changer scene was story creep to the crucifixion being someone else is limited by Tacitus comment in Annals. Tacitus appears to have known of the crucifixion of … somebody believed to have been Jesus through Roman lore.

        • Telling
          Telling  November 6, 2018

          I think this is Bart’s general theory: Jesus just some guy (or nut) who believed the world would soon end. But I think his teachings are too elevated for that, particular those in the (heretical) Gospel of Thomas — so elevated that the average man thinks it’s gibberish.

          So, if Jesus is really the Master then he didn’t turn over moneychanger tables nor was he executed. This leaves just the theory of a true and false Master’s antics becoming intermingled, confusing the authorities. And this works quite well.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 7, 2018

            I wouldn’t put it that way. I think Jesus is the most significant figure of our entire form of civilization.

          • Telling
            Telling  November 7, 2018

            Bart,

            Yes, the most significant figure in our form of civilization, but I understand you as believing he was an unknown at the time, and preaching an apocalyptic message that didn’t catch on until his very small band of followers made up the resurrection story. If I understand you correctly, this would make him significant on a false premise, not otherwise significant.

            In fact, I can envision mythisists saying this too, a myth being the most important element in our recorded history. (not that I believe them, however).

            Please clarity again if I have your position wrong. Thanks very much.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 9, 2018

            I wouldn’t call him a “nut” or “some guy.” He was a charismatic and persuasive proponent of a vibrant understanding of the world at his time, with brilliant ethical conclusions about how we ought to live.

          • Telling
            Telling  November 9, 2018

            But honestly, Bart, anyone who goes around saying the world is ending soon and goes and causes a ruckus in the marketplace to honor his “father’s name” and gets executed for the act, and then his prediction never happens — would by any standard be called a nut.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 11, 2018

            Maybe by 21st century American standards, yes. But not in his own context.

        • Telling
          Telling  November 12, 2018

          Bart,

          I don’t see that EP Sanders comes up with any better explanation for justifying the moneychanger incident than the other views he criticizes. I believe there is no justification for it. Either it didn’t happen, happened differently (someone else did it), or Jesus was no elevated Master — particularly true given it led to what should be an expected arrest and execution.

          Now add to this the Resurrection and the whole picture is out of the ballpark whacko.

      • Telling
        Telling  November 7, 2018

        talmoore,

        As I see it, Christians had to back-engineer the reason for turning over the moneychanger tables — Jesus had good reason for doing it or otherwise he wouldn’t have done it. So there’s the Hollywood view that the moneychangers were inside the sacred temple, and/or they were just plain greedy, charging too much money for the exchange.

        Even given this unsubstantiated speculation there remains a problem. Why didn’t he give them his shirt also when they asked for his coat? And if peace is the important element why didn’t he appeal to them or to other authorities that they lower the rates? But even that would be problematic. Why would a man speaking of a heavenly kingdom bother with the workings of civil government?

        The recorded event just doesn’t make sense. But it can’t be wrong because every word in the Bible is the inerrant word of God. So, what to do?

        There are really just two possible credible answers. Either Jesus was a nut preaching of end times or he was blamed for the act of another man (the actual nut). There is no other option that is in any way credible.

        • talmoore
          talmoore  November 9, 2018

          Unlike Dr. Ehrman, I am not inclined to think that Jesus was some kind of teacher of ethics, so I don’t see any problem with Jesus totally losing his cool in the Temple. Indeed, I think that Jesus wasn’t the love-monger often portrayed by the gospels at all, and I found John Meier’s attempt to prove Jesus the Hippy in A Marginal Jew to be unconvincing. The impress I get from reading the NT is that the “Let’s all love each other” Jesus was created after the fact, by the inchoate church, in an attempt to keep the movement united and at peace.

          And this isn’t just mere speculation, because we see similar attempts at community building after the founder dies in other mass movements. For example, Muhammad very rarely talks about ethics and loving each other in the Quran, but the Hadith that followed Muhammad is full of Muhammad’s purported ethical and legal pronouncements. Why? Because Muhammad wasn’t really a teacher of ethics; he was a fiery apocalyptic prophet preaching imminent fire and brimstone, who spent most of his ministry trying to gain loyal followers. And it was only *after* Muhammad died that the leaders of the new Muslim movement needed to find a way to live and work together.

          Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s exactly what happened with Jesus and the Christian movement. The leader dies and now those who he collected under his wing needed a way to stay united, so they retconned a Jesus who preached love and harmony — conveniently. If you ask me, that Jesus is pretty much a fiction.

          (Note that Islam right after Muhammad was racked by internecine conflict that still resonates today, and Christianity right after Jesus was similarly struck by division within the movement. This is all too common in mass movements following the founder’s death.)

          • Bart
            Bart  November 11, 2018

            You don’t think that Jesus taught people how they should behave? Interesting… (Since that’s a good bit of his recorded teaching)

          • Telling
            Telling  November 11, 2018

            talmoore,

            Interesting that you and I have similar but opposite ideas on the Jesus ministry.

            I wholeheartedly agree that Jesus was necessarily one or the other (your version or mine).

            For me it comes across that Jesus is the soft-spoken teacher of non-violence, of focusing on the inner, perfecting our own faults rather than look at the faults of others. It is clear that the moneychanger tables incident does not fit with the pacifist Jesus.

            You could be right: the violent Jesus is the true one. It is the only other option, I think,

            But I am certain that I have it right for these reasons:
            1. My initial feeling about the legitimacy of the Bible not a “worldly” document, when I first read it while in “worldly” mental agony at the time,
            2. The Jane Roberts/Seth material which says elevated master Jesus and a wanna-be Messiah were contemporaries whose separate missions became blurred and events created by the nut Messiah wrongly attributed to Jesus. I believe Seth has it right because his claim that he is an elevated entity living outside of our world is supported by a mass of Jane’s trance state recorded books, twelve or more volumes of fine print 450 page books published by major publishers and in reprint today. The material is absolutely exceptional, far about anything recorded in World history (unless I missed something else). And it makes perfect sense, is logical, and explains everything that can be explained. No doubt in my my mind that Seth has ability to access Akashic records and knows the events.
            3. The Gospel of Thomas and a good amount of biblical Jesus sayings matches other such information conveyed by Masters in our recorded history, and mystic information given through history and currently. The information is right, and the average man does not understand it and cannot convincingly make it up.
            4. It explains how a wrong message (Salvation through Crucifixion and apocalypse that never comes) could become the foundation of Western history. The true Master’s spiritual energy tapped into by average conventional men hijacking the true Master’s message and teaching nonsense — yet keeping alive the Master’s teachings that are understandable (love and peace).

    • dschmidt01
      dschmidt01  November 5, 2018

      the guy mistaken for Jesus was named Brian

      • Telling
        Telling  November 6, 2018

        Ha, ha, “Life of Brian”, I remember the movie. I did some biblical names research and am calling him “Dortus” for my historical novel which I think is a fitting contrast. But an internet friend said Seth identified his name as “Simon”. That wouldn’t be a good name for a story, would bring some confusion.

  7. John Murphy  November 3, 2018

    Bart.

    Do you have a strong opinion on what the attitude of Jesus himself (rather than that of his followers) to Gentiles was? Was he attentive, indifferent, or something in-between?! Is there a consensus among scholars on this question?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 4, 2018

      My view is that Jesus did not think much of anyone outside of Israel. He did not have a wide vision, but was a simple Jew from a remote Jewish hamlet without much if any contact with the wider world.

      • Robert
        Robert  November 4, 2018

        “My view is that Jesus did not think much of anyone outside of Israel. He did not have a wide vision, but was a simple Jew from a remote Jewish hamlet without much if any contact with the wider world.”

        But you do think Jesus envisioned Gentiles being allowed into the Kingdom of God …

        • Bart
          Bart  November 5, 2018

          Ah good point. I do think that. But I don’t think that Jesus made any effort to reach out to gentiles during his public ministry, or that it even occurred to him. His focus was completely on Jews in his homeland. When he said that others would come to join the Patriarchs, his view was being driven by Jewish rejection (i.e. in a sense it was still all about Jews….)

          • Robert
            Robert  November 5, 2018

            “Ah good point. I do think that. But I don’t think that Jesus made any effort to reach out to gentiles during his public ministry, or that it even occurred to him. His focus was completely on Jews in his homeland. …”

            To the extent that Jesus saw his northern ministry in Galilee and that of the twelve apostles to all twelve tribes, including the lost sheep of Israel, he may have seen himself as going to people if mixed ancestry. Do you agree?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 6, 2018

            No, I tend to think that the people he saw understood themselves to be thoroughly Jews.

          • Robert
            Robert  November 6, 2018

            “No, I tend to think that the people he saw understood themselves to be thoroughly Jews.”

            Do you really think there were significant numbers of people who still identified themselves as members of the tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which had been completely destroyed 750 years prior? In the first century were there still tribes of Ephraim and Mannaseh, of Gad and Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, and Issachar? How were the twelve to sit on twelve thrones and judge these twelve tribes without some sort of restoration of these tribes?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 7, 2018

            No, I think they identified themselves with Judah. It was through this remnant that the whole nation would be restored.

          • Robert
            Robert  November 7, 2018

            “No, I think they identified themselves with Judah. It was through this remnant that the whole nation would be restored.”

            That certainly is not true of the Judeans at Qumran or the texts (sectarian or nonsectarian) texts they collected there. (Nor did they exclusively identify themselves exclusively with the priestly tribe of as some might have expected.) Instead, they overwhelmingly identified themselves with Israel and continued to speak of the individual tribes. Why should the Galileans have only identified themselves with Judah? Some were imported there, that is true, but do you really think when Jesus called twelve disciples to judge the twelve tribes, he was thinking only of Judah?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 9, 2018

            Because Jews were from Judah. The twelve would represent restored Israel, but they weren’t descended from the Israelites outside of Judah/Benjamin. You mentioned Jason Staples article; if you have about three years free time, you might want to read his 800-page dissertation on what “Israel” meant in ancient Israelite/Jewish writings.

          • Robert
            Robert  November 7, 2018

            “No, I think they identified themselves with Judah. It was through this remnant that the whole nation would be restored.”

            The views of Jesus may not be recoverable on this point, but I agree with (your student?) Jason Staples on how Paul saw the redemption of all Israel as linked to that of the nations and the promise to Abraham.

            “I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of this mystery (lest you become high minded yourselves) that a hardening has come upon a part of Israel until the fullness of the nations [τὸ πλήρωµα τῶν ἐθνῶν] has come in—and thus [καὶ οὕτως] all Israel will be saved … ”

            See Staples JA. What Do the Gentiles Have to Do with “All Israel”? A Fresh Look at Romans 11:25–27. JBL 130, no. 2 (2011): 371–390.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 9, 2018

            Of course, if you repunctuate that sentence, it says “I do not want you, ignorant brothers.” 🙂

          • Robert
            Robert  November 11, 2018

            “Jews of course were from the House of Israel; but not from the ‘lost tribes’.”

            Of course, Jews were not from the lost tribes, becauseJews/Judeans included only the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi, sometimes referred to as the House of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, as opposed to the House of Israel, the Northern Kingdom. The ‘House of Israel’ could also refer to the originally unified Kingdom of David or Solomon or all Israel, ie, all twelve tribes, or as part of the eventual restoration of the House of Judah with the House of Israel and it is these senses that are found in the prophetic restoration texts.

            See, for example, Jason’s thesis, p. 142: “The Book of the Twelve [minor prophets] is not alone in this emphasis; the major prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel similarly construct a future, restored Israel comprised not only of those descended from the deportees to Babylon but of the ‘whole house of Israel,’ that is, all twelve tribes.”

            See also, p. 153, where he cites specific texts of Jeremiah, for example:

            “See, days are coming,” declares YHWH, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. … This is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days: I will put my law within them and will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God and they will be my people.” (Jer 31:31, 33).

            For the Psalms of Solomon, see p. 391:

            “The eschatological restoration envisioned by the Ps. Sol. is not merely the ‘hope that all Jews will return to Jerusalem’1236 or ‘the release and return of the dispersed Jews to Israel,’1237 as Ps. Sol. nowhere mentions ‘Jews.’ Rather, these psalms hope for the restoration and return for Israel—including all of the non-Judahite tribes—from their dispersion among the ‘mixed nations’ (συμμίκτων ἐθνῶν)’ (17:15; cf. 9:1–2).”

            I’ve already mentioned the Dead Sea Scrolls, but for more detail on this see Jason’s thesis, pp. 419-425.

            Can you give any examples where the ‘House of Israel’ refers only to the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi? Why should we read the idealistic apocalyptic Jesus tradition as referring only to such a limited vision? If, as you believe, Jesus saw even Gentiles as being part of the Kingdom of God, why would he not also include all twelve tribes of Israel?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 12, 2018

            I think we’re maybe talking past each otehr — possibly because I have to respond to these things so quickly. But I think restoration theology *was* concerned with all twelve tribes, not just the three that survived. But I thought you had asked about Jesus’ own historical context, and I was simply saying that it was to “Jews” not to people that he might have imagined were in other tribes.

        • Robert
          Robert  November 9, 2018

          “Because Jews were from Judah. The twelve would represent restored Israel, but they weren’t descended from the Israelites outside of Judah/Benjamin. You mentioned Jason Staples article; if you have about three years free time, you might want to read his 800-page dissertation on what “Israel” meant in ancient Israelite/Jewish writings.”

          So whereas I think it more likely that Jesus, a northerner from Galilee, saw himself and his twelve as being really and truly sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel in the towns of Israel (Mt 10,6.23), you seem to be saying that he really only meant this symbolically (“the twelve would only represent restored Israel”) to denote the House of Judah, which also included Benjamin and the Levites in Jerusalem?

          Think about it, would a prophetic/apocalyptic messiah really be satisfied with such a merely symbolic restoration of Israel? I think he wanted all Israel to be restored. Where do you see any indication in the early Christian texts that Jesus was only really interested in Judah, Benjamin, and Levi?

          Would love to read Jason’s dissertation, by the way.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 11, 2018

            Jews of course were from the House of Israel; but not from the “lost tribes.”

      • godspell  November 4, 2018

        There were lots of gentiles in Israel–he undoubtedly met many.

        As a Jew, Jesus believed his God was the only God–the creator of all people, everywhere. And as the creator of all people, He was responsible for all people.

        So to me what makes sense is that while he, Jesus, could not know very much about people in the larger world, he was aware of them as fellow mortals, souls who might also merit being in the Kingdom. Jesus went to some pains to make clear that being an observant Jew was not enough to earn you a place there. And one way he did that was to make clear that even Samaritans (who Jews despised perhaps more than anyone, because no feud like a family feud) could be worthy of the Kingdom, if they treated others as they would be treated. There are too many stories about Jesus having approving reactions to pagans to be a later invention.

        I agree he didn’t think much about it, but only because he believed God and the Son of the Man would attend to it. He couldn’t minister to the whole world. Now if there had been television— 😉

      • John Murphy  November 5, 2018

        Do you think that the passage in Mark about dogs and bread and crumbs is something that Jesus said (or at least a Markan attempt to express a sentiment Jesus articulated at some stage during his ministry) or was it made up by someone in the years between Jesus death and AD 70 for another reason?

      • Robert
        Robert  November 12, 2018

        “I think we’re maybe talking past each otehr — possibly because I have to respond to these things so quickly. But I think restoration theology *was* concerned with all twelve tribes, not just the three that survived. But I thought you had asked about Jesus’ own historical context, and I was simply saying that it was to “Jews” not to people that he might have imagined were in other tribes.”

        I am less optimistic than you about recovering specific views of Jesus, but it seems very odd to me that he would understand his and his twelve apostles’ mission to the lost sheep of the House of Israel to not include any of the northern tribes of the northern House of Israel. Certainly Jesus disagreed with the view that would later be attributed to Rabbi Akiva that the 10 lost northern tribes would not be part of the world to come.

        Since we agree that Jesus’ apocalyptic theology was indeed concerned with the restoration of all twelve tribes, and that he saw the Kingdom of God as open even to Gentiles, how can you be so sure that he did not see his own calling and the mission of his disciples as not also geared to the lost sheep among the northern tribes of the House of Israel?

        • Bart
          Bart  November 13, 2018

          Because those people no longer existed. That’s the problem. Only descendants of the three tribes were around.

          • Robert
            Robert  November 13, 2018

            “Because those people no longer existed. That’s the problem. Only descendants of the three tribes were around.”

            But some did still exist, especially the Samaritans (claimed to be descended from Ephraim, Manasseh, and some Levites). Of course, these people were despised by Judeans/Jews as not pure, but the gospels of ‘Luke’ and ‘John’ exhibit a more positive attitude. Luke also depicts Anna, his elderly prophetess character, as being of the tribe of Asher* (2,36). Matthew saw it as pesher fulfillment of Isaiah that Jesus began his ministry in the Land of Zebulun and Naphtali.

            I am less optimistic than you that we can reconstruct the theological views of Jesus, but a good case can be made that he was less interested in some of the purity laws of the Judeans/Jews of his day and may have adopted a different attitude toward the Samaritans.

            *Forgive me for this one, but I have also wondered whether Mark (or even Jesus if based on an historical kernel) might have seen the Syro-phoenician woman (7,26) as partially descended from the tribe of Asher (אשר), which had become more or less absorbed into Assyria/Syria (אשור), which Herodotus and other ancient Mediterranean authors conflated.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 14, 2018

            The normal idea is that hte bloodline had been lost because of forced intermarriages. Samaritans were Samaritans, not Israelites.

  8. RAhmed  November 4, 2018

    I recently read Zealot by Reza Aslan. One of his sticking points in there is that during the lifetime of James and Paul, Paul was a marginalized figure who was always frustrated because James was undermining the churches that Paul had established. That James was able to do this because he was the unobjectionable leader of the movement. Of course we see some of this in Paul’s letters where he fails against James, Peter, and the men James had sent to Paul’s communities. However, I had never seen the situation where Paul was unsuccessful and a fringe figure during his own time. According to Aslan, Paul’s message only came to dominate the Christian community after the fall of Jerusalem.

    Is this a view that is at all supported by the scholarly community?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 5, 2018

      My view is that it is more complicated than that. I gave a long series of responses to Reza’s book on the blog years ago. Simply search his name and you’ll see the thread.

    • Rick
      Rick  November 5, 2018

      Why do I have this vision of a cartoon of Peter telling James “Good news – Paul wants to spread the word to the gentile lands” to which James replies “Great how soon can he leave?”

  9. jhague  November 6, 2018

    Do we know of other Jews/Pharisees like Paul who’s ministry was to convert pagans before the coming end?
    Was the church in Rome likely started by Gentiles?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 7, 2018

      It has been a debated topic, but today it appears pretty clear that Jews were not interested in proselytizing for converts.

      • jhague  November 7, 2018

        So James, Peter, John, etc’s effort to convince Jews of the return of Jesus and Paul trying to convert pagans was very unusual for that time period?
        And if Jews were not interested in pursuing converts at all, it makes Paul’s efforts even more unusual?

        • Bart
          Bart  November 9, 2018

          Yes, I argue that at greater length in my book Triumph of Christianity. The evangelistic strain of early Christianity was quite distinct.

  10. Robert
    Robert  November 14, 2018

    “The normal idea is that hte bloodline had been lost because of forced intermarriages. Samaritans were Samaritans, not Israelites.”

    Do you think Jesus was hyper-concerned about pure bloodlines? I doubt his views on divorce would have agreed with those of Ezra in rejecting the wives and children of intermarriage with locals left behind after the Babylonian exile of the elite Judeans.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 16, 2018

      Not at all. I just think that no one imagined there were any of the other ten tribes still around.

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