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Jews and Gentiles in Paul’s Churches

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



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



  1. Avatar
    Brand3000  January 25, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    We know that Paul’s gospel included the main point of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Do you think this is a good quote to show that the pillars accepted that as their main message too?

    From Gal. 2: “I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. ..As for those who were held in high esteem…they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised…James, Peter, and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.”

  2. Avatar
    Brand3000  January 29, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Do you agree?

    “[In 1 Cor. 15:6] It does seem like Paul is convinced that others who are still alive had seen the risen Jesus as well. I’m not sure he felt a need to be backed up by others, but he certainly indicates that the church’s testimony about the risen Jesus was based on eyewitness testimony.”

    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2019


      • Avatar
        Brand3000  February 2, 2019

        Dr. Ehrman,

        What is your bona fide view of the group resurrection appearance(s)/visions/sightings? Are you adamantly against them, and if so, do you think your conclusion is based more on worldview or historical method?


        • Bart
          Bart  February 3, 2019

          I’m not adamant, but I don’t think they happened. I think originally there were three or so people who had visions, they told others, who told others, and the stories came to be exaggerated, probably within days or weeks, let alone years.

  3. Avatar
    Brand3000  February 6, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    Do you agree?

    “Paul reminded them (1 Cor. 15) that the gospel is an event in history. It was not something which was enacted in another place, like the activities of the Greek gods, but an actual happening. Paul’s noting of the “some who have fallen asleep” sets the stage for a discussion of resurrection as an awakening out of the sleep of death.”

  4. Avatar
    Brand3000  February 21, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    Do you think that the the so-called “Christ hymn” of Philippians 2:5-11 dates back very early? And even if it does do you still think that 1 Cor. 15:3-7 is earlier?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 22, 2019

      I think all we know is that it dates before Philippians, as the Corinthian creed probably dates before 1 Corinthians. It’s hard to say much more than that, other than almost certainly neither one came into being at the very outset of the Christian movement. They reflect sophisticated thinking and theological reflection, and that takes time to happen.

  5. Avatar
    Brand3000  February 26, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    Do you agree with this quote?

    “Paul held firm, whereas James astonishingly agreed that Titus did not need to be circumcised (Gal. 2:3), thereby releasing all pagan converts from the yoke of the Law, and implicitly affirming that faith in Jesus was alone necessary.”

    • Bart
      Bart  February 27, 2019

      That’s certainly what *Paul* seems to think (or says); whether it’s what James actually thought is a different question.

  6. Avatar
    Brand3000  March 1, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    People generally think of the ancient prisons as maximum security type places, but were many of them rather relaxed? Apparently they allowed Paul to compose and send out his theological letters from prison.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 3, 2019

      They were definitely nothing like maximum security. People from the outside would come and go regularly — for one thing to bring in food!

  7. Avatar
    Brand3000  March 3, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman:

    Someone was saying that “The Twelve” was not collective. BUT am I correct in saying that In 1 Cor. 15:5-7 it is to be understood that there were 3 group resurrection appearances i.e. The GROUP of Twelve, the more than 500 “at once” and to a group of “all the apostles?”

    • Bart
      Bart  March 3, 2019

      I”m not sure what it would mean to say that the Twelve was not collective (a group of people). Are they saying that it is the name of an individual?

      • Avatar
        Brand3000  March 3, 2019

        Dr. Ehrman:

        Me: What about the 12 and all the apostles vv. 5 & 7?

        ‘Doe’: “I have always read those statements as distributive not collective.”

        The only thing I can think of is that this person thinks that he appeared to each of the 12 one at a time or something along those lines, and not all “at once” BUT do you agree with me that the solo appearances are clearly noted as such i.e. Peter, James?

  8. Avatar
    Brand3000  March 3, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    I think this is an eloquent and accurate quote, do you agree?

    “…Paul reminded them that their movement was not a nebulous quest for ecstasy and other exotic states of mind. Rather it was rooted in historical events. Jesus had died a terrible death and had been raised physically to God’s right hand. He listed those who had seen the risen Christ – Peter, the Twelve, the five hundred brethren, James, and, lastly, he himself. Jesus’s death may have changed the course of history, but the process was not yet complete. It was only when Jesus returned at the Parousia that “we shall all be changed” and “death be swallowed up in victory.” Then and only then would Christ establish the Kingdom, “disposing every sovereignty, authority, and power.” – Karen Armstrong p. 86 of ‘St. Paul The Apostle We Love to Hate’ (2015)

    • Bart
      Bart  March 4, 2019

      I’m not sure anyone was arguing that the Christian movement was “a nebulous quest for ecstasy and other exotic states of mind.” I’m not sure what she’s referring to.

  9. Avatar
    Brand3000  March 5, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    What do you think of this quote/statement?

    “…Paul’s claim that Christ was seen by all the apostles…should include at least Junia (Rom. 16:7)”

    “Women and Christian Origins”
    ed. by Ross Shepard Kraemer

    • Bart
      Bart  March 6, 2019

      Yup. She’s an apostle.

      • Avatar
        Brand3000  March 6, 2019

        So do you think that in the creed Paul doesn’t include Mary M. because that was a solo appearance to a woman, and that testamony would’ve been less believable, BUT with Junia she was probably in a group with men included such as the 500 or all the apostles? Does this seem correct?

  10. Avatar
    Brand3000  March 7, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Do you agree?

    “…even though [Paul] attempts to make a case that in his conversion he owed nothing to the [Jerusalem] church, he subsequently makes acknowledgement of its essential authority by submitting to the judgement of its leading members the gospel which he had been preaching to ensure his mission and message had not been in vain.” “The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church” by S. G. F. Brandon

    • Bart
      Bart  March 8, 2019

      Close. But I wouldn’t say he was willing to “submit” to their judgment; he rather worked to persuade them he was right. Because he “knew” he was.

  11. Avatar
    Brand3000  March 15, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Does Rom. 1:3-4 reflect a primative tradition? Does it rival Phil. 2:5-11 or 1 Cor. 15:3-7 for the earliest?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 16, 2019

      Yes indeed. I’d argue it’s earlier than the Philippians hymn, but that it’s hard to date in relation to the creed in 1 Cor. I deal with all this in my book How Jesus Became God. I can’t remember if you’ve read it, but it addresses just about all these questions you’re interested in.

  12. Avatar
    Brand3000  March 22, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Why did Peter and James feel the need to continue with the legalisms after they accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ? Did they still think that they needed to do both to be “saved” or was the tradition-keeping more about honoring their Jewish heritage?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 24, 2019

      “Legalism” has a negative connotation, and they certainly were not legalists. They were Jews who believed God had given them the Law and that it contained the will of God. There’s nothing legalistic in Jews or Christians behaving the way God tells them to.

      • Avatar
        Brand3000  March 25, 2019

        1) Paul, Peter, and James all agree that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected.
        2) These men also agreed that accepting this message was important to be “saved”
        3) But now here’s the question: Do Peter and James still think that as well as Jesus they also need to maintain their tradtions to attain salvation? (Because Paul doesn’t seem to think that’s the case, unless Paul only thought that was for Gentiles, and Paul himself kept the traditions even after he accepted Jesus)

        • Bart
          Bart  March 26, 2019

          They didn’t think doing what God commanded in the law was for “salvation.” Jews didn’t think in those terms. You weren’t earning your way into heaven. You were doing what God told you to do.

          • Avatar
            Brand3000  March 26, 2019

            Did Paul keep the traditions/law even after his encounter with the risen Jesus?

          • Bart
            Bart  March 27, 2019

            He says that he was “a Jew to the Jew and a Greek to the Greeks,” which surely must mean he kept the law when in Jewish circles, but not among the pagans, I should think.

  13. Avatar
    Brand3000  March 27, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Do you have any idea what this Professor is talking about? 1 Cor. 15:3 clearly says it was about sins, and that would also be the only logical conclusion since it was clear Rome still ruled…Am I correct?

    Prof.: Died for “the sins of Israel”? No, they would not say that, at least not quite that way. Died as a deliverer for Israel, yes.

    Me: What did they think he delivered for Israel if not saving from sin? He was clearly not a political/military Messiah.

    Prof.: Can’t tell about that.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 29, 2019

      Lots of options. “Saving” for Paul does not refer to a past event at the cross, but a future event — people will be saved from destruction when the wrath of God hits this planet.

  14. Avatar
    Marko071291  May 16, 2019

    Hi Bart,
    quick question! You are well aware how Paul uses the term ekklesia in a broader sense of the universal community made of believers from anywhere in the world (which was the Roman empire for Paul). This element of universal connection between local communities is something that goes beyond anything (as far as I know!) we see in other religious cults or clubs. That is one of the major differences between proto-orthodoxy and Valentinian gnostic scholls for example. I was wondering have you ever came acrross an article or a book that looks into this element of Paul’s churches or (in a broader sense) proto-orthodoxy? Only thing I could find was a short article done by K. Waldner “Letters and Messengers: The Construction of Christian Space in the Roman Empire in the Epistles of Ignatius” in which she deals with ways in which Ignatius emphasized this translocal connection into one Church.
    Hope you can help me.
    As you can see, in most of my comments I’m just looking for a book or an article since I’m a PhD student of ancient history and I really like to see the arguments myself. Hope you don’t mind!
    Croatia is still waiting for you and your family. You should really visit our beautiful coast!

    • Bart
      Bart  May 17, 2019

      It’s a great question. But no, off hand I don’t know anything on just this topic. (There are probably some out there, I just don’t know them) You might start, though, with some of the social histories of Paul, beginning with Wayne Meeks, The First Urban Christians.

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