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Forgotten Origins: The Lost Jewish History of Early Christians: Parts 1-3

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Many years ago, in a lecture on the creation of the Mishnah, the Orthodox Jewish historian, Rabbi Berel Wein discussed the rise of early Christianity as a historical and theological backdrop. He mentioned that this era is of particular importance to Jews because of the complicated and tragic relationship between Jews and Christians over the centuries. He referred to Joseph Many years ago, in a lecture on the creation of the Mishnah, the Orthodox Jewish historian, Rabbi Berel Wein discussed the rise of early Christianity as a historical and theological backdrop. He mentioned that this era is of particular importance to Jews because of the complicated and tragic relationship between Jews and Christians over the centuries. He referred to Joseph Klausner, the famed Jewish professor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who in the earlier part of the 20th century, had authored several works on early Christianity from a Jewish standpoint. The first was titled Jesus of Nazareth. The second was titled From Jesus to Paul. Rabbi Wein considered both books to be exemplary works on the subject. He noted, disappointingly, however, that at the time, most Christians were not interested in reading the Jewish perspectives of Joseph Klausner. Jews, he observed, were not that fascinated by the subject either. Things have changed considerably, however, and the historical relationship between Judaism and Christianity is of increasing importance for both contemporary communities. Even in discussing Jewish Law, as Rabbi Wein noted, the subject of Christianity is not far away in significance. Similarly, for Christians, there is probably not a weekly service that goes by without Israel or the Jewish people being mentioned in some form or fashion. The process of reflection has not been an easy one. Since the third and fourth centuries, the worlds of Judaism and Christianity have increasingly crystallized to such a level of distinction obscuring their shared history and theology. Consequently, people legitimately ask what connections between Judaism and Christianity exist. That was not always the case, and early Christians, as well as Jews, were cognizant of the ties that existed. In past centuries the connections were usually the source of bitter polemics between the two communities. Each community saw itself as the legitimate representative of biblical faith to the exclusion of the other. The relationships deteriorated steadily over time. Rabbi Byron Sherwin of blessed memory, in a lecture at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership and in his book Studies in Jewish Theology, noted what he believed to be the great enigma of Christianity. He believed like the medieval and early modern rabbis, Rabbi Menahem Ha-Meiri , Rabbi Abraham Farisol, Rabbi Moses Rivkes, Rabbi Leon de Modena , and Rabbi Jacob Emden and others that Christianity had transformed many non-Jews from paganism to the knowledge of the God of Israel. This was not an endorsement of Christianity for Jews, but recognition of its positive effects for non-Jews. Almost simultaneously, however, the nascent Christian movement also promoted anti-Judaism and then anti-Semitism. Rabbi Berel Wein, in his lecture on the Oral Law, speculated whether significant Jewish opposition to the early followers of Jesus resulted in long-term and negative recollections that became embedded in later Christianity. If that was the case, the ferocity of the Christian reply was ultimately unequaled and repaid Jewish rejection many times over.


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Many years ago, in a lecture on the creation of the Mishnah, the Orthodox Jewish historian, Rabbi Berel Wein discussed the rise of early Christianity as a historical and theological backdrop. He mentioned that this era is of particular importance to Jews because of the complicated and tragic relationship between Jews and Christians over the centuries. He referred to Joseph Many years ago, in a lecture on the creation of the Mishnah, the Orthodox Jewish historian, Rabbi Berel Wein discussed the rise of early Christianity as a historical and theological backdrop. He mentioned that this era is of particular importance to Jews because of the complicated and tragic relationship between Jews and Christians over the centuries. He referred to Joseph Klausner, the famed Jewish professor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who in the earlier part of the 20th century, had authored several works on early Christianity from a Jewish standpoint. The first was titled Jesus of Nazareth. The second was titled From Jesus to Paul. Rabbi Wein considered both books to be exemplary works on the subject. He noted, disappointingly, however, that at the time, most Christians were not interested in reading the Jewish perspectives of Joseph Klausner. Jews, he observed, were not that fascinated by the subject either. Things have changed considerably, however, and the historical relationship between Judaism and Christianity is of increasing importance for both contemporary communities. Even in discussing Jewish Law, as Rabbi Wein noted, the subject of Christianity is not far away in significance. Similarly, for Christians, there is probably not a weekly service that goes by without Israel or the Jewish people being mentioned in some form or fashion. The process of reflection has not been an easy one. Since the third and fourth centuries, the worlds of Judaism and Christianity have increasingly crystallized to such a level of distinction obscuring their shared history and theology. Consequently, people legitimately ask what connections between Judaism and Christianity exist. That was not always the case, and early Christians, as well as Jews, were cognizant of the ties that existed. In past centuries the connections were usually the source of bitter polemics between the two communities. Each community saw itself as the legitimate representative of biblical faith to the exclusion of the other. The relationships deteriorated steadily over time. Rabbi Byron Sherwin of blessed memory, in a lecture at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership and in his book Studies in Jewish Theology, noted what he believed to be the great enigma of Christianity. He believed like the medieval and early modern rabbis, Rabbi Menahem Ha-Meiri , Rabbi Abraham Farisol, Rabbi Moses Rivkes, Rabbi Leon de Modena , and Rabbi Jacob Emden and others that Christianity had transformed many non-Jews from paganism to the knowledge of the God of Israel. This was not an endorsement of Christianity for Jews, but recognition of its positive effects for non-Jews. Almost simultaneously, however, the nascent Christian movement also promoted anti-Judaism and then anti-Semitism. Rabbi Berel Wein, in his lecture on the Oral Law, speculated whether significant Jewish opposition to the early followers of Jesus resulted in long-term and negative recollections that became embedded in later Christianity. If that was the case, the ferocity of the Christian reply was ultimately unequaled and repaid Jewish rejection many times over.

30 review for Forgotten Origins: The Lost Jewish History of Early Christians: Parts 1-3

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Crawford

    Okay. So you have the Jews and the Jewish Christians not long after Jesus. Right? Well, it's way more complex than that and this book covers the ins and outs of those complexities. Early on there were various forms of Judaism just as there were various forms of Christianity at the start. This led to conflict and to the destruction of writings of various groups that the winners of the 'who-s the real ...' contest decided weren't acceptable at all and needed to go. (85% of early Christian writings Okay. So you have the Jews and the Jewish Christians not long after Jesus. Right? Well, it's way more complex than that and this book covers the ins and outs of those complexities. Early on there were various forms of Judaism just as there were various forms of Christianity at the start. This led to conflict and to the destruction of writings of various groups that the winners of the 'who-s the real ...' contest decided weren't acceptable at all and needed to go. (85% of early Christian writings have been lost to the ages, for example.) With the Jews you had the Pharisees, the Saducees, the Samaritans, Enochian Judaism, Prophetic Judaism, the Essenes, the Zealots and other groups. It also depended on where you lived. Jews living in Galilee were looked down on by other Jews since they felt those living in Galilee didn't toe the official line closely enough. Then you have Jewish Christians or Christian Jews, depending on how you wanted to look at things. You had various sub-groups of these (just like you had subgroups of Jewish people) and the subgroups in both major religions didn't get along all that well. You also had some groups emphasize following the Torah and other traditional Jewish beliefs and other groups saying that some parts might be followed but other parts not. In other words, it was all pretty much a mess. To add more confusion there was a disagreement over exactly what were the exact conditions necessary for someone to convert. (Plainly, there wasn't any book of procedures to follow on how you handled questions like that so, again, it depended on who did the defining.) Then there was the matter of piety. How did you define that? For many it meant the observance of the Torah, dieting and purity laws, circumcision, honoring the Sabbath and Temple service. Not complex enough? Okay. Let's add the effect of Roman culture on things. Then add the effect of Greek culture on things and you have even more sub-groups who didn't exactly like other sub-groups because they followed the 'wrong' cultural influences. Then there was an approach which combined Messianic beliefs with Gnosticism. Then there's also a major question. Why do so many people who call themselves Christians hate Jews? (KKK, Nazis, skinheads, radical religious groups, etc. Remember about the Holocaust?) Jesus was a Jew, people. If you hate all Jews then, logically, you must also hate Jesus and everything he said. Some of the other important points of the book: The destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. by the Romans had a major effect on Judaism. The Temple was the spiritual center of Jerusalem and Jerusalem was the spiritual center of Judaism. Lose the Temple and have the people of Jerusalem scattered and that alone causes problems. Anti-Jewish sentiment started as early as around 100 C.E. One of the questions the book addresses relative to beliefs is this: was there a Messiah or was there The Messiah? In some cases in the ancient writings there were references to two or even three Messiahs. In one translation of an ancient Hebrew text a Messiah is a soldier. High Temple priests could have those who spoke out against them arrested. Jewish identity was an ethnic identity and a religious identity. The book talks about James the Just, a brother of Jesus, and how he was murdered. He and Paul didn't get along well. The Romans didn't want to stop until they wiped out all of the relatives of Jesus. This is, again, just a small sampling of this book. It is academic in nature but it's also written in a manner that is understandable (although you might want to take notes to keep the players straight.)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ronald E. Jaeger

  3. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Barton

  4. 4 out of 5

    robert l. lofton

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ellie Kennedy

  6. 4 out of 5

    Louis Deenik

  7. 4 out of 5

    Daniƫl De waele

  8. 4 out of 5

    Baruj E. Cohen

  9. 4 out of 5

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  10. 5 out of 5

    Vincent Artale Jr

  11. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

  12. 4 out of 5

    Juan Marcos

  13. 5 out of 5

    The Grimm Reader

  14. 4 out of 5

    Corie

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lee Myers

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alan H. Lazar

  17. 4 out of 5

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  18. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth

  19. 4 out of 5

    Travis V Larson

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chloe Jenkins

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Sever

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marilee R. Hird

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen J Pustejovsky

  24. 4 out of 5

    Arthur Telling

  25. 4 out of 5

    james whitt

  26. 4 out of 5

    "Cyril' (David

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lady Rae

  28. 5 out of 5

    max deckard

  29. 5 out of 5

    M.J. Gardner

  30. 5 out of 5

    Larry Cahoon

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