Saturday, December 26, 2009
Christianity, Judaism and the Marketplace of Religions
In the book Rediscovering Paul the authors explain why Christianity, although flowing from Judaism, broke away from it's "Jewish moorings".
"It should not surprise us that Judaism could not contain the splinter group whose members were known as Christians. Even though Jewish members of "the way" may have seen their zeal for the gospel as part and parcel of their Jewish heritage, eventually their kinsmen found their message and their ways blasphemous. The temple, the Torah, circumcision, the dietary code, even the sabbath-everything distinctively Jewish was compromised by early Christianity. It is no wonder, then, that the Jesus movement eventually broke away from its Jewish moorings (Paul made sure of that). So,with the influx of Gentile Christians and the steady eroision of Jewish traditions, imagine how hard it was for early Christians to distinguish themselves in the marketplace of religions. Christians had no temple, no sacred space. That must have put them at a disadvantage in attracting devotees. Where does one go to worship the Christian God? What are the holy days of sacrifice? Which animals must be slaughtered for divine purpose? Among pagans it was common for temples to host sacred meals. Christians had sacred meals without temples. Was it possible to have sacred meals in an ordinary house? Christians read Jewish Scripture but did not observe the Jewish law. They had no prayer houses, only house churches. In certain respects, these people had no definable, distinctive features other than the fact that they proclaimed the resurrection of their leader, baptized their novitiates in his name, shared a common table and gathered on the first day of the week to sing, pray, prophesy and occasionaly listen to the reading of letter written by a man whose name was Paul"(pgs. 52-53).
It is amazing that Christianity grew the way it did when one consideres the religious and political climate of the first century. The gospel truly "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith" (Romans 1:16).