Parties In The Church Of Jerusalem As Seen In The Book Of Acts -- By: J. Julius Scott, Jr.

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 18:4 (Fall 1975)
Article: Parties In The Church Of Jerusalem As Seen In The Book Of Acts
Author: J. Julius Scott, Jr.


Parties In The Church Of Jerusalem As Seen In The Book Of Acts

J. Julius Scott, Jr.*

Department Of Philosophy And Religion Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green, Kentucky

Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792–1860) first impressed students of NT history with the importance of identifying and tracing the influence of groups or parties within the early Church. Baur and his “Tübingen School” sought to interpret the NT against the background of cleavage between Jewish Christianity, led and represented by Peter, and the Gentile Christianity of Paul. Reconciliation between these groups, he believed, was achieved only in the “catholic” church of the second and following centuries.1 Subsequent scholarship has abandoned the particulars of Baur’s reconstruction. But with varying degrees of emphases, it has followed his example in attempting to understand early Christianity and its literature within a structure characterized by internal division.2

Among recent investigators, S.G.F. Brandon3 remained closest to Baur by retaining the major features of the “Tübingen hypothesis” but substituted James the Just (the relative of Jesus) for Peter as the representative leader and spirit of Jewish Christianity. On the other hand, a number of scholars have argued that Paul’s opponents came from outside the Jerusalem Church.4 Yet, the notion that James was the leader of the most rigorously legalistic group of early Christianity and a staunch opponent of Paul remains a frequently accepted assumption by many students.

At least two different lines of investigation are required to clarify the situation. One, of course, is a continuation of the attempts to identify the sources of opposition to Paul—I suspect that hostility against him came from a nutnber of diverse interests in the first century world. Secondly, there is need to clarify the complex internal make-up of Jerusalem Christianity. An important first step in this effort should be the identification of dissenting factions within the Church of Jerusalem.

Numerous important studies of Jewish Christianity are already available.5 Among others, Oscar Cullman has focused upon the problem of divisions within the Jerusalem Church and recognized the existence of more factions than the obvious division between Hebrews and Hellenists.6 E. E. Ellis7 has made an i...

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