Dear study friends, we’re going on a historical journey today to take a look at early Jewish-Christian relations, the birth of Rabbinic Judaism, a parting of ways and attempts to reconcile. It’s a full plate, but we’ll try to keep it interesting!
Over the past couple days we’ve established the fact that our Christian roots are firmly planted in Judaism. This brought about some confusion, and at times, animosity between Jewish Jesus-followers and Gentile Jesus-followers. Let’s consider how and why that occurred.
At the time of the Temple destruction, Jews began persecuting Jesus-followers. For example, the Birkat HaManim (“blessing”) was added to the daily Amidah (Jewish prayer liturgy), invoking curses upon followers of Jesus. (Jews who were unwilling to recite the Birkat HaManim faced excommunication.)
Meanwhile, many Jesus-followers fled to Pella during the Roman invasion, causing them to be tagged as cowards, and conflict grew.
Around the same time, major decisions were being made as to the future of Judaism. After all, Judaism was built upon Temple worship and offering of sacrifices. Now that the Temple was destroyed (70 AD), how and where would Jews worship, and how were the sacrificial rituals supposed to continue? To decide that fate, Jewish leaders met in Yavnah.
It was determined that Temple worship and sacrifices would be replaced by prayer, good deeds and fasting on the Day of Atonement, and rabbis would take a very high place of authority. Jews were scattered all over the world, so each rabbi interpreted the Torah and Talmud in his own way and led his followers likewise.
One of the final straws in early Jewish-Christian relations occurred as a result of the Bar Kochba Revolt. The Jewish revolt against the Romans was led by Rabbi Akiva, who declared Shimon Bar Kochba the Messiah. The Jewish community rallied, but Jewish followers of Jesus had a very serious dilemma. The disciples of Jesus (and New Testament writers) had taught of false messiahs, now one was put forth in their very midst. They could not support or fight for a false messiah, so were branded as traitors.
Thus, a definite parting of ways. In fact, not only were Jews and Christians split, there also came a split between Jewish followers of Jesus and Gentile followers of Jesus. The Gentile church distanced itself from Jewish roots and showed little concern for anything Jewish. All Jewish context of Christianity seemed to dwindle as little regard was shown for Jewish roots, and animosity grew toward Jews.
So, history that followed was dark for Jews.
- In the Middle Ages, Jews were chastised for killing Jesus
- During the Crusades, European Christians killed many Jews while attempting to capture Jerusalem
- The Spanish Inquisition was marked by attempts by the Roman Catholic church to force conversion of Jews or face harsh penalties
- During the Renaissance and Reformations there were added attempts by Christians to force conversions of Jews
- European Christians took part (or stood by and did nothing) during the Holocaust
- Even today, there are many Christian leaders who hold to Replacement Theology or are anti-Jewish in other ways
The split resulted in Judaism without the Messiah and Christianity without Jewish roots.
But there is good news, and we will end with it! Many developments, including the invention of the printing press that enabled the Bible to be printed and distributed to the common man, have brought very positive attempts to reconcile relations between Christians and Jews. The Word of God so clearly demonstrates the Christians’ Jewish roots, and, with Bible in hand, many came (and continue to come!) to realize those Jewish roots, and are building bridges of reconciliation.
So, Jews are beginning to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah, and Christians are recognizing and understanding the Jewish roots of our faith! Over the next few days we’re going to dig deeply into Romans 9-11, perhaps the most informative chapters regarding Jewish-Christian relations.
Go ahead and read those chapters, and meet us back here at the study table over the next few days! It’s going to be good!