Judaism And The Rise Of Christianity: A Roman Perspective -- By: E.A. Judge

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 45:2 (NA 1994)
Article: Judaism And The Rise Of Christianity: A Roman Perspective
Author: E.A. Judge

Judaism And The Rise Of Christianity:
A Roman Perspective

E.A. Judge


Romans did not see Christianity as part of Judaism. They objected to Jewish proselytisation but did not link Christians with it. In Rome (under Nero) Christians presented an unrelated novelty. Their name is a Latin formation, implying public factionalism. The Jews at Antioch must have successfully kept their distance for it to be coined at all. Nerva’s making the Jewish tax optional licensed the Jewish life-style. This latitude was never extended to Christians nor claimed by them. The clear dividing line in civil practice implies the tax was based on lists supplied by the synagogues.

I. Introduction

In the first presentation at the Sydney symposium on ‘The Parting of the Ways’,1 A.D. Crown spoke of their taking ‘a long time to move apart’. In the first century Christianity was ‘part of Jewish pluralism’. This view would be widely endorsed amongst twentieth-century specialists in the New Testament.2 But the extant Roman observers

failed to link the Christians with the Jews in any way at all. First-century Romans reacted strongly to Jewish proselytisation.3 But they did not bring the same objection against the Christians. By the end of the century the Jews had won the recognised civil status that was to define Jewish communal identity down to our own day. Their right to live differently was secured by a tax. Yet it seems to have occurred to no one that such a solution could be applied to the Christians. Such puzzles, never raised let alone solved, lurk as traps in our path as we hasten to rewrite the history in the image of our own time. Did the ways part before those on them noticed it? Did anyone force the pace?

II. The Jews At Rome

The Hasmonaeans secured for the Jews the status of friends of the Romans (1 Macc. 8; 12:1-4; 14:24-40; 15:15-24). This gave them standing against other Hellenistic powers. But the Jews took it further than the Romans had bargained for. Some took up residence in Rome within a year of the renewal of the treaty in 140 BC. They were banished, ‘because they attempted to transmit their sacred rites to the

Romans’ (Valerius Maximus 1:3:3 = Stern I:147). Although we have ...

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