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When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation

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A compelling account of Christianity’s Jewish beginnings, from one of the world’s leading scholars of ancient religion How did a group of charismatic, apocalyptic Jewish missionaries, working to prepare their world for the impending realization of God’s promises to Israel, end up inaugurating a movement that would grow into the gentile church? Committed to Jesus’s prophecy A compelling account of Christianity’s Jewish beginnings, from one of the world’s leading scholars of ancient religion How did a group of charismatic, apocalyptic Jewish missionaries, working to prepare their world for the impending realization of God’s promises to Israel, end up inaugurating a movement that would grow into the gentile church? Committed to Jesus’s prophecy — “The Kingdom of God is at hand!”—they were, in their own eyes, history’s last generation. But in history’s eyes, they became the first Christians. In this electrifying social and intellectual history, Paula Fredriksen answers this question by reconstructing the life of the earliest Jerusalem community. As her account arcs from this group’s hopeful celebration of Passover with Jesus, through their bitter controversies that fragmented the movement’s midcentury missions, to the city’s fiery end in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, she brings this vibrant apostolic community to life. Fredriksen offers a vivid portrait both of this temple‑centered messianic movement and of the bedrock convictions that animated and sustained it.


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A compelling account of Christianity’s Jewish beginnings, from one of the world’s leading scholars of ancient religion How did a group of charismatic, apocalyptic Jewish missionaries, working to prepare their world for the impending realization of God’s promises to Israel, end up inaugurating a movement that would grow into the gentile church? Committed to Jesus’s prophecy A compelling account of Christianity’s Jewish beginnings, from one of the world’s leading scholars of ancient religion How did a group of charismatic, apocalyptic Jewish missionaries, working to prepare their world for the impending realization of God’s promises to Israel, end up inaugurating a movement that would grow into the gentile church? Committed to Jesus’s prophecy — “The Kingdom of God is at hand!”—they were, in their own eyes, history’s last generation. But in history’s eyes, they became the first Christians. In this electrifying social and intellectual history, Paula Fredriksen answers this question by reconstructing the life of the earliest Jerusalem community. As her account arcs from this group’s hopeful celebration of Passover with Jesus, through their bitter controversies that fragmented the movement’s midcentury missions, to the city’s fiery end in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, she brings this vibrant apostolic community to life. Fredriksen offers a vivid portrait both of this temple‑centered messianic movement and of the bedrock convictions that animated and sustained it.

30 review for When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Danny

    I enjoyed reading this book. It was well written, and organized, and clear in its purpose. And yet, it reads as a rehash, too reliant on work that precedes it, and even then only reliant on previous work from a very niche corner of the academic world of Christian origins. If you've ever read previous work on "Historical Jesus" studies or "New Perspective" studies from writers such as EP Sanders, Helen Bond, Marcus Borg, or John Dominic Crossan, than you have everything you'll find here in this v I enjoyed reading this book. It was well written, and organized, and clear in its purpose. And yet, it reads as a rehash, too reliant on work that precedes it, and even then only reliant on previous work from a very niche corner of the academic world of Christian origins. If you've ever read previous work on "Historical Jesus" studies or "New Perspective" studies from writers such as EP Sanders, Helen Bond, Marcus Borg, or John Dominic Crossan, than you have everything you'll find here in this volume. So, it's not just that Fredriksen makes use of previous studies - we all do - it's that, like the dogmatists, she tracks pretty exclusively to a very specific tradition from within these perspectives. In her case, she takes a predictably "minimalist" approach to nearly every question. For example, while it's true that Paul's letters are separated into two categories - the seven uncontested letters and the six contested letters - very few scholars would cleanly accept that precise delineation. Virtually all Pauline scholars accept at least some of the contested letters, in different combinations. Fredriksen sticks to seven as though there is no debate on the matter. What's more, when it comes to the events depicted in the Gospels, even the most skeptical scholars I know will admit the likelihood that some details that are difficult for the modern mind are still likely true. Not Fredriksen, who takes the extreme minimalist approach, and assumes that anything that simply "doesn't sound right" must then not be historical. This is not very good historiography. There are also multiple points where the scholarship is a bit lazy. For example, in regards to Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Fredriksen takes the traditional, extremely outdated approach to Scrolls scholarship, as though she hadn't read any research since Vermes' Penguin edition and assumed the status quo. But almost everything that she says in this book about the Qumran scenario, from the makeup of the Scrolls, to the identity of the Qumran community, to ideology and sectarian nature of the Scrolls, has been challenged in the past 15 years, and most of these traditional views simply no longer hold up. Her approach to other issues is also flawed. For example, in trying to prove that Jesus, Paul, and the first Christians were entirely "pro-Temple," she completely ignores passages in the Gospels and Paul that would put some of her conclusions in doubt. Jesus envisions a time when the Temple would no longer serve a purpose (John 4), the veil is said to rip into two at the crucifixion, and the disciples in Acts attended the Temple to preach Jesus, not to offer sacrifices. There are clearly attitudes in these texts that show a change in their approach to the Temple. Fredriksen's approach has her go so far so as to argue that Jesus' Temple judgment scene wasn't actually about the function of the Temple at the time, but only to judge that current iteration of the temple. This entire argument reeked of reaching for confirmation of her overall approach, and failed to convince even a little. These features are present in the same texts she uses to prove the "pro-Temple" attitudes, so her hermeneutic of "the authors reading their present into the past" would not work. The reality is that Fredriksen makes the same mistake Luther made, but in the opposite direction. Luther read the NT as though it was almost anti-Jewish and entirely innovative. Fredriksen reads the NT as though there were almost no innovations at all, and Judaism for Jesus-people just continued almost as normal. As with most things, pendulum swings almost never find truth. And these are just examples of problems with the way Fredriksen reads the texts. If I went through each issue, this review would be unwieldy. I did not disagree with everything. For example, I found her thoughts on the first century Jesus-followers' belief in the imminence of the kingdom to be insightful. I actually really enjoyed the book, but having read so widely on both HJ and NPP, nearly every page featured a judgment, written as a fact based in her reconstruction, that simply did not work for me.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Peter Bradley

    Please give my Amazon review a helpful vote - https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-re... I was amazed at the scholarly depth and insight of author Paula Fredriksen's "Augustine and the Jews." I gave her more recent "Paul: The Pagan's Apostle" top marks in my Amazon review. However, this book left me unimpressed in terms of its insights and scholarship. As an initial observation, I purchased the book thinking that it would describe the shadowy period when Jews who adhered to the Christian movement - Please give my Amazon review a helpful vote - https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-re... I was amazed at the scholarly depth and insight of author Paula Fredriksen's "Augustine and the Jews." I gave her more recent "Paul: The Pagan's Apostle" top marks in my Amazon review. However, this book left me unimpressed in terms of its insights and scholarship. As an initial observation, I purchased the book thinking that it would describe the shadowy period when Jews who adhered to the Christian movement - the "Assembly" in Fredriksen's terminology - were still part of Jewish synagogues, specifically, the period from approximately the crucifixion to around the early years of the second century. I thought we might get some insights from Fredriksen about how Jews and Christians cohabited and eventually went in their different directions. What this book turned out to be was mostly a reimagining of Christian history during the time encompassed by the Gospels and Acts with some references to what Fredriksen believes must have happened after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, which turns out mostly to involve a retrojection of that historical event back into the life of Jesus. We really don't get much in the way of the cohabitation of the Assembly and Jews or of the events that drove the two kinds of Jews apart. So, insofar as this book did not actually address that period of time - when Christians were Jews - this book was a kind of lost opportunity. I also had problems with Fredriksen's approach to history. Her primary texts are the Gospels, Acts, some letters of Paul and the writings of Josephus. However, she gives herself permission to simply excise passages from New Testament texts where they are inconvenient to her thesis. For example, Fredriksen argues that trials before Pilate and the Sanhedrin make no sense to her narrative and, so, she simply rules them out of existence. Fredriksen could be correct in this, of course, but shouldn't a historian be more protective of historical material? Likewise, Fredriksen offers the reader the notion that Jesus's post-resurrection appearances lasted for "years" until finally coming to an end for no particular reason. The standard model is that Jesus's post resurrection appearances lasted from the Resurrection until the Ascension with a final one sometime later to Paul. If Paul's experience was "years" later, then it might be technically correct to say that the appearances occurred over a period of "years," but Fredriksen is implying something different; she is implying that the appearances went on for years, rather than in an intense initial period of around a month. she writes: "The period of the resurrection appearances, in other words, was exactly that: an extended period of time, years in fact, though we cannot from our disparate sources say exactly how long." This is not an incidental matter; Fredriksen's theory is that the failure of Christ to appear put Christ's disciples into a state of cognitive dissonance which resulted in them inventing their mission to bring the gospel to the world. Fredriksen writes: "This combination of the decreasing frequency and, finally, the cessation of Jesus’ posthumous appearances, together with the persistent nonarrival of the Kingdom, might have ended the movement then and there." Again, maybe it could have happened this way, but where is the evidence for "decreasing frequency"? The gospels describe a short period of intense appearances, a definite end, and one appearance to Paul as a sui generis event. Certainly, one can speculate about a years-long process with fewer and fewer appearances as the fad wears off, but this approach remains speculative. Once we toss out the documentary evidence, there is about as much evidence for Fredriksen's narrative as there is for a narrative that argues that the whole story was made up after the fact. Fredriksen's basic thesis is that Jesus was a fairly conventional apocalyptic prophet. Jesus preached the coming of God's kingdom for an unspecified number of years. He was well-known to the authorities in Jerusalem. Jesus's preaching of the coming of the Kingdom put the urban mobs in a state of high expectation during Jesus's last visit to Jerusalem. In order to "calm down' the mobs, Pilate had his guard arrest Jesus. Pilate then had Jesus crucified to send a message to the crowds that Jesus was most definitely not their expected king. Thereafter, in their state of high expectation, and suffering cognitive dissonance that Jesus would not be re-establishing the Kingdom, Jesus's follower's experienced appearances of Jesus which gradually declined. During this time, they reinterpreted Jesus's message to include the destruction of the Temple and gave Jesus a Davidic ancestry. Paul "divinizes" Jesus as a lesser divine being, but does not radically divinize Jesus as one with the Father. The disciples wait around Jerusalem and while they were waiting, the disciples decided that it was better to do something while waiting, so they began their outreach to the gentiles. There was no Jewish persecution of Christians - which is to say Jews of the Assembly. There was at most voluntarily accepted Jewish correction of divergent members of the community who attracted attention. And the rest is history. Concerning the issue of Jesus's divinity, Fredriksen writes: "Paul, importantly, never claims that Jesus is a god. The closest he comes is to say that Jesus was “in the form of [a] god” before he appeared “in the likeness of men.” Capitalizing “God” throughout this passage in Paul’s letter, the Revised Standard Version mistranslates it. Paul’s world contained both God, the chief biblical deity, and gods, such as those represented by the nonhuman “knees” in this same passage in Philippians 2: they will bend to the victorious returning Christ and to God the Father. Jesus is not “God.” He is, however, a divine mediator; a human being (anthrōpos), though “from heaven.” (What James, Jesus’ brother, would have made of such claims I have no idea.) Jesus becomes radically divinized— as much god as God the Father— only during the imperially sponsored episcopal councils of the fourth and fifth centuries, a period when the (now Christian) emperor was also (still) considered divine. Back in the mid-first century, when Christians were Jews, Jesus was high on the cosmic gradient, but he was nonetheless human. Our current categories of “humanity” and “divinity” do not stretch in these ways. Theirs did." Fredriksen crafts her narrative in some surprising ways. For example, she favors John's gospel on a variety of issues. Thus, Fredriksen accepts the Gospel of John's testimony to the number of years that Jesus was active and the number of trips he made to Jerusalem. She also accepts at least John's version of the timing of the statements that Jesus made concerning the moneychangers in the temple. The reason she favors John is that it is important to her that Pilate and the temple priests knew that Jesus was not really a rebel and was not a threat to the established order. Thus, the temple priests had no real reason to seek Jesus's death, and they were too involved in Passover activities to be able to spend any time in all the back and forth of trials and crucifixion. This puts the blame on Pilate, who knew that Jesus was a peaceful teacher and not an agitator. Moreover, because Jesus's teachings were known from his prior trips to Jerusalem, Pilate and the High Priests did not have to try Jesus and there was no opportunity for the crowd scenes that are attested to in the gospels. It could have happened this way, of course, but the problem is that I didn't find the excising of so much of the gospel text to be particularly convincing. Then, again, I have to reflect on Fredricksen's personal biases. She is a Catholic who has converted to Judaism and has made many comments critical of what she finds to be anti-Jewish attitudes in, or read into, the New Testament. The burden of her decisions about what to accept from the New Testament seems to favor a reading that distances Jews - high priests or the average man - from the Crucifixion. Some of Fredriksen's speculation was interesting. Her idea that the disciples congregated in Jerusalem in the expectation of Christ's imminent return and they wanted to be where the action was going to happen makes a lot of sense. Other proposals that she makes are worth considering. However, on the whole, I was disappointed by how unsophisticated and shallow Fredricksen's analysis was. Fredriksen starts from the proposition that Jesus was obviously merely an apocalyptic preacher whose crucifixion started a movement that changed history. From that assumption, her task is simply a matter of telling a "just so" story about disappointment, cognitive dissonance and retrojecting future events into the historical Jesus. Fredriksen's approach may be accurate but I didn't find it convincing or interesting. Many times, Fredriksen missed the opportunity to provide something of interest to those who don't start from her assumptions. For example, Fredriksen writes "If these pagans were baptized into the Jesus movement, however, they could no longer worship their native gods, the gods of their families and of their cities." This is true so far as it goes, but not that pagans were not merely baptized into the Jesus movement; they were baptized into the Jesus movement in the "name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." This baptismal formula goes all the way back to the beginning of the movement. If Fredriksen is write about Paul not divinizing Jesus as God, then who was the Son and why is the Son given an equal status with that of the Father by first century Jews? We don't hear a word about this, unfortunately, but it seems that it would shed light on the time "when Christians were Jews." I was torn between giving this two or three stars. I think there might be something of interest for other people here, but this book does not live up to Ms. Fredriksen's prior works.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    Fredriksen’s main aim in this book is to show the early church within its Jewish roots, and her reason for doing so is best explained in her own words: . “If we use “Christian” of this first generation, we pull them out of their own context, domesticating them for ours. We thereby lose an appreciation for the vitality of this community’s eschatological commitments, their conviction that God, through Christ, was going to act soon. It was that conviction that pushed Jesus’ followers to concentrate ba Fredriksen’s main aim in this book is to show the early church within its Jewish roots, and her reason for doing so is best explained in her own words: . “If we use “Christian” of this first generation, we pull them out of their own context, domesticating them for ours. We thereby lose an appreciation for the vitality of this community’s eschatological commitments, their conviction that God, through Christ, was going to act soon. It was that conviction that pushed Jesus’ followers to concentrate back in Jerusalem so soon after his crucifixion. It was that conviction that prompted them to proclaim the good news in Jerusalem, and then to take the message out to Israel of the Diaspora. It was that conviction that enabled them to welcome in those “eschatological gentiles” who had left their old gods behind. They worked to prepare their world for the imminent realization of God’s promises to Israel; and with the turning of the nations from their gods to Israel’s god, these followers of Jesus were confirmed in their beliefs. In their own eyes, they were history’s last generation. It is only in history’s eyes that they would become the first generation of the church.” (Loc 2814)I . Fredriksen provides an excellent and concise overview of second temple history, and some valuable insight into the first century CE. This includes her comparison of the Gospel material, wherein she favours the itinerary of John’s Gospel over the Synoptics. She reasons that it is more believable to have Jesus - a committed Jewish man - shown going to Jerusalem multiple times throughout the calendar to observe the religious festivals and traditions (as he does in John). This can also harmonise well with how commentators view Mark’s (and subsequently Luke and Matthew) use of the journey to Jerusalem as a literary device to shape the dramatic elements within his biography of Jesus. . The main takeaway from this first section of the book is that Jesus (as well as other key figures John the Baptist, and Paul) had a positive view of temple, and the religion and rituals attached to it. Fredriksen claims that this also makes the most sense for viewing Paul, who seems to have taken a “both/and” approach to Judaism, rather than a “replacement” view. Fredriksen uses this line of thought to ask some great questions, such as if Jesus had such a positive view of temple then why did he protest by driving out the money changers? In navigating this she notes the differences between the Johannine and the Synoptic tradition, where again it appears to be placed within the overall structure of the latter as a plot device to shape the perception of the Pharisees, and also provide reason for Jesus’ murder. Along with this, Fredriksen highlights the complete absence of this temple episode from the works of Paul. She concludes that the temple scene is best understood through the apocalyptic expectation that Jesus would have expected God to destroy the temple made of human hands and rebuild it with his own hands (Cf. Tob 14.5); thus his protest was not anti-Temple, but pro-YHWH and his eschatological program. . Moving forward Fredriksen then considers the reason why Jesus had to die according to the historical accounts from both the New Testament and external histories. At this point the Christian reader may feel uncomfortable, but would do well to appreciate that Fredriksen is looking to uncover the historical Jesus - a Jewish teacher-gone-insurrectionist - as opposed to the way Jesus is presented within faith traditions. She suggests that the NT writers had as their purpose not to preserve “memories” (or create objective history), rather that they wanted to persuade their hearers about the messianic identity of their protagonist, “The gospels first of all are proclamations, not histories.” (117) She is generous in this endeavour as she does not attempt to dissuade those with faith from their beliefs, rather she keeps her focus on navigating the historical and sociological factors. . Overall the purpose of this book is to synthesise ancient Jewish lenses to view Jesus, Paul, and the early Church through. This is a very insightful read for anyone studying the history of the New Testament and/or the historical Jesus or Paul.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    I started off with much excitement and anticipation of reading this book, which I'd been wanting to get to for quite some time. Fredriksen promised to approach the subject of early Christianity, it seemed, from a Jewish perspective, which makes sense, given that the early Christians were Jews. Alas, in some ways, I was a bit disappointed, but in yet others this proved a profitable read. I'll start with what was not as I had hoped. First, while Fredriksen writes very accessibly, I had a hard time I started off with much excitement and anticipation of reading this book, which I'd been wanting to get to for quite some time. Fredriksen promised to approach the subject of early Christianity, it seemed, from a Jewish perspective, which makes sense, given that the early Christians were Jews. Alas, in some ways, I was a bit disappointed, but in yet others this proved a profitable read. I'll start with what was not as I had hoped. First, while Fredriksen writes very accessibly, I had a hard time following a through argument. A lot of interesting subjects--and some not so interesting--are explored, but I didn't really feel like there was much of a unifying thesis. Second, Fredriksen's approach is very much one informed by in-vogue secular ideas about the Jesus cult: namely that Jesus was not worshipped in the first generation. That veneration grew with time and mythology. It's an easy assumption to make, because that after all is how most myths are born. But to make such an argument, Fredriksen has to assume that all of the New Testament other than Paul's writings was written significantly later, in the last first century or early second. And even problematic passages in Paul's letters are seen as being mistranslations: Jesus isn't "God" as we read Paul's writing in English but "a god." Fredriksen's stance with regard to her biblical sources is further testified to by the way that she often claims there are contradictions. Some of these I can easily see any reasonable person making such a claim about; but others seem preposterous. For example, she claims that Paul's not writing about persecuting Stephen by name means there's a contradiction and that it likely did not happen as it is written about in the much-later-written Acts. The mere fact that someone does not mention an event in specificity but only in general does not make for a contradiction nor excuse for dismissing its reality. If I were to write that many acts of Islamic terrorism happened in the early 2000s but never mentioned 9/11 specifically, that would not mean that 9/11 did not happen. What I liked about Fredriksen's work, however, came late in the book, when she focused on the interaction of pagans with Jewish Christians. Here she left me with much to think about. That's not to say there aren't interesting points earlier: they are nestled in among the larger text. What is perhaps most refreshing was exactly what I came to the text to read about: that Fredriksen does not read into the early Christian movement an anti-Judaism. She sees Paul as very much Jewish, which is not something many other scholars seem to recognize. Unlike those scholars, Fredriksen sees Paul as part of the movement that Peter and the apostles forged rather than as one who stole into the movement and introduced a Christianity devoid of its roots.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    If only everyone who had to preach during Holy Week and Easter would read, understand, and incorporate the learning Fredriksen offers in this book, we would accomplish two things: counter the traditions of interpretation that foster hate and anti-Semitism and leap forward our adult faith communities' approach to studying the Bible (contextually, understanding the history of these texts) significantly. But since that's unlikely in the next week, I hope congregations will take up this book for old If only everyone who had to preach during Holy Week and Easter would read, understand, and incorporate the learning Fredriksen offers in this book, we would accomplish two things: counter the traditions of interpretation that foster hate and anti-Semitism and leap forward our adult faith communities' approach to studying the Bible (contextually, understanding the history of these texts) significantly. But since that's unlikely in the next week, I hope congregations will take up this book for older youth and adult study, that religious leaders will take it on as study material in their peer communities as well as the communities they serve, and that individuals whose congregations don't take up the book will read it. Presenting analysis that challenges centuries of traditions of interpretation is a tough thing to do. Fredriksen does so very well, although folks for whom this kind of Biblical analysis is new will benefit from reading in small sections and pondering these sections in relationship to other studious Biblical studies texts.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    This is a very good, very accessible look at the history of the Jesus movement in the 1st and early 2nd century C.E. Chapter two is the best exploration of the events of "Easter Week" that I have found. The author reveals all the mistranslations, anachronisms, misrepresentations, downright errors and the conflicts between the various authors writing about this story: Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Paul and Josephus; along with others. e.g. Scholars have a report from Josephus that 255,600 sheep were This is a very good, very accessible look at the history of the Jesus movement in the 1st and early 2nd century C.E. Chapter two is the best exploration of the events of "Easter Week" that I have found. The author reveals all the mistranslations, anachronisms, misrepresentations, downright errors and the conflicts between the various authors writing about this story: Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Paul and Josephus; along with others. e.g. Scholars have a report from Josephus that 255,600 sheep were sacrificed during ONE Passover in the temple. The Pharisees, Sadducees, priests and scribes were all extremely busy with holiday work in the temple. There would have been no time for the Sanhedrin to meet. From the reign of Herod the Great 37-4 B.C.E. to the final Jewish Revolt 132-135 C.E. was a very turbulent and BLOODY time in the Jewish Homeland. Overall Fredriksen stresses what I have read in numerous other books: Jesus was a Jew preaching his concept of Judaism to other Jews.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shelley Neese

    I am really looking forward to Paula Fredriksen's new book. This is a topic very close to my heart. A flurry of books have come out over the last ten years on the Jewishness of Jesus, but not much in regard to the Jewishness of the first Christians. I read her Fredriksen's book many years back, Augustine and the Jews, and it was critical in my understanding of Augustine's contribution the Jewish-Christian relations. The nearly universal Christian acceptance of Augustinian ideas by subsequent gene I am really looking forward to Paula Fredriksen's new book. This is a topic very close to my heart. A flurry of books have come out over the last ten years on the Jewishness of Jesus, but not much in regard to the Jewishness of the first Christians. I read her Fredriksen's book many years back, Augustine and the Jews, and it was critical in my understanding of Augustine's contribution the Jewish-Christian relations. The nearly universal Christian acceptance of Augustinian ideas by subsequent generations is why Augustine can be revered as a Saint for both Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Church while still being claimed by Protestants leaders as a progenitor of the Reformation. Augustine’s more complicated legacy, however, relates to the Jews. And as Fredriksen showed, it was quite complicated. Looking forward to this new book. She had me at the title.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Nonfiction works can appeal to readers for very different reasons. Take, for example, potential audiences for Paula Fredricksen’s “When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation” (Yale University Press). It gives Christian readers an opportunity to learn more about the roots of their religion. For Jews, the book’s focus on the first century C.E. offers a lesson rarely taught in synagogue religious schools: that there were many different Jewish groups, each with its own ideas about the appropria Nonfiction works can appeal to readers for very different reasons. Take, for example, potential audiences for Paula Fredricksen’s “When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation” (Yale University Press). It gives Christian readers an opportunity to learn more about the roots of their religion. For Jews, the book’s focus on the first century C.E. offers a lesson rarely taught in synagogue religious schools: that there were many different Jewish groups, each with its own ideas about the appropriate way to practice Judaism. My interest in this time period is the way Judaism began its transformation from a Temple-based religion to a home- and synagogue-based one. While this is not Fredricksen’s main interest, readers can glean insights into the religious practices of Jews during this period. Read the rest of my review at www.thereportergroup.org/Article.aspx...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    As with many scholarly books of this type, the best part is the epilogue. Fredriksen shares a lot of really interesting theories regarding the first generation of Christians. However, she gets bogged down in many of the chapters and often I didn't understand where she was going or what her main point was. Despite the lack of clarity, I appreciated the many tidbits that I did glean. As with many scholarly books of this type, the best part is the epilogue. Fredriksen shares a lot of really interesting theories regarding the first generation of Christians. However, she gets bogged down in many of the chapters and often I didn't understand where she was going or what her main point was. Despite the lack of clarity, I appreciated the many tidbits that I did glean.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    I heard about this book from a review written by Larry Hurtado and this author from her previous book on Paul the pagans’ apostle. This book is very interesting because it asks a lot of great questions. I like it very much.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ted Morgan

    This is a provocative (to me) but highly plausible study of early formation of what became Christianity. I don't see any stumbling blocks though this is an unusual account of the Jewish roots and foundations of Christianity. It is a book I will revisit. This is a provocative (to me) but highly plausible study of early formation of what became Christianity. I don't see any stumbling blocks though this is an unusual account of the Jewish roots and foundations of Christianity. It is a book I will revisit.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nick Spencer

    good on context too many arguments from incredulity/ silence

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nichole

    “How you see is what you get.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Patrick W.

    When, over a period of many years, one reads a lot of books by biblical scholars with a focus on the New Testament, the reader may need to use a microscope to find much that’s new. Academic writing usually consists of an author cautiously laying out all the concepts on a particular topic that have been put forward previously by seemingly countless other academic authors, and meticulously footnoting the sources to justify each assertion of fact or theory along the way. So I found Paula Fredriksen’ When, over a period of many years, one reads a lot of books by biblical scholars with a focus on the New Testament, the reader may need to use a microscope to find much that’s new. Academic writing usually consists of an author cautiously laying out all the concepts on a particular topic that have been put forward previously by seemingly countless other academic authors, and meticulously footnoting the sources to justify each assertion of fact or theory along the way. So I found Paula Fredriksen’s bookrefreshing. She highlights a number of observations that were always plain to see but just seldom given much attention in the past. I got something new. For instance, the gospels tell the story of Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gesthemane, the night before his crucifixion. According to the stories, Pontius Pilate and temple leaders considered Jesus a serious threat who must be eliminated for the sake of the nation. “So why were Jesus’ immediate followers not arrested and executed as well?” Fredriksen asks. “Instead, what we have from the gospels is a tale of Jesus’ followers, in Gesthemane—armed with ‘swords,’ no less—fleeing successfully once their leader is arrested. Were the temple police and the Roman soldiers really so incompetent?” Later, after his execution and resurrection, some of the stories (but not all) have him instructing his followers to return to Galilee to await him there. But history shows that the leaders of the Jesus movement remained centered in and around Jerusalem, not Galilee. Why the differences? For one thing, when the Jesus movement was still very much a Jewish phenomenon, the definition of messiah had not yet been blown out of proportion. A messiah was an “anointed one,” and there had been many anointed ones in Jewish history. Only much later did the term grow to mean an eternal divine being who was one-third of a triune God. “Back in the mid-first century, when Christians were Jews, Jesus was high on the cosmic gradient, but he was nonetheless human,” Fredriksen writes. She points out that Mark, the earliest gospel, projects an urgently apocalyptic message. The end of time was due to arrive any minute, certainly before the passing of the generation living at the time of its writing. But Fredriksen departs from many other scholars when she dates the authorship of Luke at least as late as 110 CE, some 40 years after Rome’s destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and at least 35 years after the authorship of Mark. Because Jesus’ second coming and the end of time had failed to arrive as soon as Mark’s generation expected, Luke would have substantially lowered the temperature of his message from that of the earlier evangelist. This book covers a lot of ground that has been explored in numerous earlier volumes by other authors. But it also introduces a number of insights that can force a reader to pause and reconsider many old, unquestioned assumptions. Despite what many claim, we do not know the full story yet.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bob Buice

    The story of the historic Jesus has been told a number of different ways. Sources of information on the original followers of Jesus include the seven undisputed letters of St. Paul (written late 50s to early 60s CE), the synoptic gospels [those of Sts. Mark (written c. 72 CE), Matthew (written c. 85 CE) and Luke (written c. 95 CE or later)], the Acts of the Apostles (written in the early second century by the author of Luke), and historians of the era (e.g. Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius). Alexande The story of the historic Jesus has been told a number of different ways. Sources of information on the original followers of Jesus include the seven undisputed letters of St. Paul (written late 50s to early 60s CE), the synoptic gospels [those of Sts. Mark (written c. 72 CE), Matthew (written c. 85 CE) and Luke (written c. 95 CE or later)], the Acts of the Apostles (written in the early second century by the author of Luke), and historians of the era (e.g. Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius). Alexander the Great invaded the Middle East and conquered Persia (332 BCE), bringing Greek culture to the area. Upon his death his Eastern Mediterranean empire was split by the families of his generals. For a period of time the military and political power of two of these families, the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria, switched back and forth. A subsequent merging of Greek with the various local cultures has been termed “Hellenization”. Some Jews welcomed these changes; others resisted them. What followed was a violent clash of cultures - Syrian Greeks vs. Jerusalem - culminating in the Maccabean Revolt (166 – 160 BCE). After a century of regional in-fighting, the Roman general Pompey conquered Jerusalem in 63 BCE. First century BCE Rome was plagued by civil wars, first between Pompey and Julius Caesar (48 CE) and then, with Caesar’s assassination (44 BCE), between Mark Antony and Octavian. Octavian’s victory (31 BCE) resulted in Rome’s transition from republic to empire. Octavian became Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire (r. 27 BCE – 14 CE). Herod the Great ruled over the Roman territories of Judea, Transjordan, Samaria, the Galilee, and the Golan (r. 37 – 4 BCE). As a master builder, Herod was focused on public works. It was Herod who built the Jerusalem of Jesus' era. For the whole of Jesus’ mission, the Galilee was something of an independent Jewish territory ruled by Herod Antipas (r. 4 BCE – 39 CE), one of the sons of Herod the Great. Another son, Archelaus ruled Judea (r. 4 BCE – 6 CE) at the time of Jesus’ birth. The reign of both sons began with their father’s death (4 BCE). Because Archelaus proved inept, Augustus removed him in 6 CE. Later, under the reign of Emperor Tiberius (r. 14 – 37 CE) Pontius Pilate was named prefect (governor) of Judea (r. c. 26 – c. 36 CE). The synoptic gospels describe a Jesus of the early first century. He went to Jerusalem for Passover only once, at the end of his mission. Other pilgrims celebrated his entry, hailing him as the messenger of the coming Kingdom. Jesus was a charismatic healer, holy person, teacher, and preacher. His preaching centered on the good news of the coming Kingdom of God. He developed His call to repentance in terms of the Ten Commandments. When asked about the greatest of the commandments, the Jesus of the synoptic tradition quoted Deuteronomy 6.4 (love of God) and Leviticus 19.18 (love of neighbor). The Jesus of the Gospel According to St. John was better suited for a late first-century, natively Greek, and possibly gentile environment than to an early first-century Palestinian, Aramaic, Jewish tradition. This gospel gives an account of Jesus in Jerusalem on four different occasions, two during a Passover (John 2.13, 12.12), one during an unnamed festival (John 5.1) and one at Hannukah (John 10.22). Numerous differences between the gospels are described; far too many to review. In “When Christians were Jews” Paula Fredericksen presents an excellent history of the entire period from the century prior to Jesus mission through portions of the apostolic period. There is quite a bit of detail; the above summary only skims the surface. An enthusiast of the history of this period will have trouble putting the book down. Moreover, such an individual might wear him/herself out taking notes. To say that the book is well researched would be an understatement. Also, the book is well written and a pleasure to read. I highly recommend his book to all theology enthusiasts.

  16. 5 out of 5

    David Goldman

    Professor Fredriksen examines the early Christian movement from the perspective of the people as they were at the time - religious Jews very much part of the milue of their times. Stripping away the imposition of events and believes that were prevalent centuries later. Her writing is clear and authoritative, Fredriksen mines christian, jewish, and roman histories. When Christians Were Jews provides a fascinating insight that both Christians and Jews will profit from. (I’m Jewish, btw). The temple Professor Fredriksen examines the early Christian movement from the perspective of the people as they were at the time - religious Jews very much part of the milue of their times. Stripping away the imposition of events and believes that were prevalent centuries later. Her writing is clear and authoritative, Fredriksen mines christian, jewish, and roman histories. When Christians Were Jews provides a fascinating insight that both Christians and Jews will profit from. (I’m Jewish, btw). The temple was a gathering Jews and gentiles, particularly the massive court. Many gentiles were Jewish sympathizers, but not jews themselves. Jesus was one of many prophets and teachers surrounding the temple at this time. The Gospils were written after the destruction of the temple, while Paul was written before. Thus, Paul assumes the Temple’s existence. All were involved with the Temple cult and none rejected it. They saw themselves very much in the tradition of the prophets - criticizing certain aspects of the cult but no the insitution. Compare to the Jewish subgroup - the Essenes - who outright rejected the cult. Jesus had frequented Jerusalem many times during his like, more like Luke. He teachings had gone without notice by authorities, roman and Jewish. It was only when Jesus came during Passover, which a large following and attracting crowds did authorities act. (The better translation is the word insurrection than criminal). They were not afraid of Jesus, but did want to keep the peace Jesus followers expected the end of days to happen during Jesus life, then immediately after his death, and then soon after. In some ways, christianity has been a religion defined by always waiting. Yet the lack of parousia, lead early followers to dig deep. Because they were jews, they dug deep into the Bible. Matching up Jesus’s prophecy with jewish profits and his life with David Preaching beyond Jews. Because they thought the end of days was near, and non-jews needed to become “god-fearers” the Paul and then others focus on non-Jews. The Jews were already covered. Paul’s rhetoric that seems anti-jewsish and anti-jewish law was really only meant for non-jews. This group didn’t need to be converted to Judiasm. Paul’s vindictive comments are reserved for those apostles who believed non-jews needed to be converted. Paul, himself, remained loyal to jewish custom. His comments appear anti jewish in retrospect of centuries of animosity . Fredriksen sees early christians as Jews. Jews of that time had a wide array of practices and beliefs (as they do now). Sadducee, Pharisees, Essenes, hellenized jews, non-jews who were judiased. In this enviorment, those who would become Christians easily fit within parameters of jews. The breach happened, but it was later.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Duncan Reed

    Very interesting book, well worth reading. I listened to the Audible version. There were some interesting additions to my knowledge about the mistranslations which though often small, make a dramatic difference to the meaning behind various verses. It might seem obvious to someone that searches out a text like this, that the Bible has been widely misquoted and mistranslated, yet most people seem to have no idea, or do not want to know as it questions their life-long held beliefs. The book is a bit Very interesting book, well worth reading. I listened to the Audible version. There were some interesting additions to my knowledge about the mistranslations which though often small, make a dramatic difference to the meaning behind various verses. It might seem obvious to someone that searches out a text like this, that the Bible has been widely misquoted and mistranslated, yet most people seem to have no idea, or do not want to know as it questions their life-long held beliefs. The book is a bit complicated in that it doesn't make the progression through the early decades of Christianity as clear as it could, but that's possibly as I am not as familiar with the linearity of the New Testament as I could be. Warrants a second listen.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I found this book to be a valuable read and definitely continued to peak my interest in this area of study. Overall the book is great and full of valuable information and interesting perspectives. Fredriksen has done a good job framing the society in which Christianity was founded and analysing the events following the crucifixion. My only critique is that Fredricksen's writing can occasionally feel dry and be a bit stilted, some chapters don't flow at all and others I couldn't put down. Its a g I found this book to be a valuable read and definitely continued to peak my interest in this area of study. Overall the book is great and full of valuable information and interesting perspectives. Fredriksen has done a good job framing the society in which Christianity was founded and analysing the events following the crucifixion. My only critique is that Fredricksen's writing can occasionally feel dry and be a bit stilted, some chapters don't flow at all and others I couldn't put down. Its a good book but I'm not likely to reread cover to cover, but I would use it at reference material.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Matt Sager

    I really liked it. I’ve always wondered what the early church looked like, what it would have been like for Jesus’ followers after his death and how this all culminated in Christianity as we know it today. The writing is detailed and not too hard to follow for someone who isn’t an expert in history and religion. She does a nice job of summarizing her paragraphs and getting the reader hooked back in with interesting directive questions which she then answers. Definitely recommend for anyone wanting I really liked it. I’ve always wondered what the early church looked like, what it would have been like for Jesus’ followers after his death and how this all culminated in Christianity as we know it today. The writing is detailed and not too hard to follow for someone who isn’t an expert in history and religion. She does a nice job of summarizing her paragraphs and getting the reader hooked back in with interesting directive questions which she then answers. Definitely recommend for anyone wanting to learn more about when “Christians were Jews”

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kidlitter

    You don't have to follow either religion to be engrossed by how the mechanics of founding, proselytizing, and protecting a new religion functioned thousands of years ago, thanks to Paul and those hard working apostles. Why did they succeed when so many other sects fizzled, and how did Jews who resisted Christianity maintain their own strong identities against internal power struggles? A fascinating book full of interesting details that makes one realize how much we share, no matter our faith. You don't have to follow either religion to be engrossed by how the mechanics of founding, proselytizing, and protecting a new religion functioned thousands of years ago, thanks to Paul and those hard working apostles. Why did they succeed when so many other sects fizzled, and how did Jews who resisted Christianity maintain their own strong identities against internal power struggles? A fascinating book full of interesting details that makes one realize how much we share, no matter our faith.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve Hartman

    A challenging read aboiut the early followers of Jesus and the perspectives around escatological expectations... Paula Fredriksen works on the context, timing and writings around the time of Jesus life and crucifixion.. Also she does a lot of work around the perspectives of the author of Luke/Acts and Paul's letters. I found her writing to challenge just when 'the way' became 'the church' and/or 'Christian community.' A challenging read aboiut the early followers of Jesus and the perspectives around escatological expectations... Paula Fredriksen works on the context, timing and writings around the time of Jesus life and crucifixion.. Also she does a lot of work around the perspectives of the author of Luke/Acts and Paul's letters. I found her writing to challenge just when 'the way' became 'the church' and/or 'Christian community.'

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    It may be that readers should be familiar with Fredriksen's work or with other scholars who have written about the Jewish identify of Jesus' followers in the first century. This is a good summary of Fredriksen's views. To support her claims, she provides substantive and numerous endnotes, which allow readers to track down the scholarly support for Fredriksen's positions and identify scholars who disagree with her. It may be that readers should be familiar with Fredriksen's work or with other scholars who have written about the Jewish identify of Jesus' followers in the first century. This is a good summary of Fredriksen's views. To support her claims, she provides substantive and numerous endnotes, which allow readers to track down the scholarly support for Fredriksen's positions and identify scholars who disagree with her.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bryce Dunn

    Good read on the first generation of Christians. It's not highly technical but does take a slightly informed, or at least a very interested reader. Few claims I thought might be stretches but overall the book makes a good case for thinking about the first generation of Christians as something quite different than the established Church of the 2nd, 3rd, and following centuries. Good read on the first generation of Christians. It's not highly technical but does take a slightly informed, or at least a very interested reader. Few claims I thought might be stretches but overall the book makes a good case for thinking about the first generation of Christians as something quite different than the established Church of the 2nd, 3rd, and following centuries.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kiva Offenholley

    Excellent, full of ideas, new perspectives It’s the first book I’ve finished in ages, and I was sorry to see it end. She’s brilliant. Two more words required? Okay, how about “unique” and “readable”?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    A bit of a tough read, but worth it in the long run.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Excellent, interesting, written in Professor Fredriksen's clear & lively style. Excellent, interesting, written in Professor Fredriksen's clear & lively style.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lori Kaufmann

    This world-renowned scholar brings history to life in this fascinating book. Read in one sitting!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Connor Elliot

    A good book for anyone interested in the origins of Christianity.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jon C

    more of a revision of the NT in tandem with a commentary on the NRSV.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Victor Meyer

    The title is as good as it's going to get! Fredriksen acknowledges the Apostle Paul's assertions, unlike most Judahites, yet she fails to acknowledge Christ as the Son of God. The Mosaic Law to her is still in force, whereas Paul makes it clear that though there's nothing wrong with the Law in principle, it has fulfilled its purpose and found its completion in Christ. The title is as good as it's going to get! Fredriksen acknowledges the Apostle Paul's assertions, unlike most Judahites, yet she fails to acknowledge Christ as the Son of God. The Mosaic Law to her is still in force, whereas Paul makes it clear that though there's nothing wrong with the Law in principle, it has fulfilled its purpose and found its completion in Christ.

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