If the First Christians were Jews, What Happened?

That’s a good question…and one that is asked often once one realizes God’s original plan for the Jews, and the fact that the first Christians were Jews! (See yesterday’s post, What Does it Mean to be Jewish?)

Throughout Scripture we find patterns of rebellion, turning back to God, and falling again when it comes to the Jews and their relationship to God. In Jesus’ day, we know some chose to follow Him, and almost all of those early followers were Jews! So, what happened, and why do Jewish people (for the most part) not acknowledge Jesus today? Let’s talk a bit about that.

Believe it or not, historians and theologians confirm that both Old Testament and New Testament writings were considered Jewish in the first century AD. So, why was the Messianic message rejected?

A key reason has to do with the 132 AD Bar Kochba Revolt. In short, Simon Bar Kochba led a last revolt against the Romans and during that revolt, Rabbi Akiva declared Simon Bar Kochba the messiah. Though Jewish believers in Jesus originally supported the revolt, they were then faced with the dilemma of a false messiah, so support was withdrawn.

The Sanhedrin (Jewish religious council) prohibited contact with Jewish followers of Jesus and instituted a curse against them. So, for roughly 1,900 years, Rabbinic Judaism has pushed Messianic Jews away.

Rabbinic Judaism is not the original Judaism. Once the temple was destroyed in 70 AD and Jews were dispersed around the world, the basic tenants of Judaism crumbled. With no temple standing and Jews dispersed, no temple worship was possible, the sacrificial system was destroyed, and Jews turned to rabbis to interpret religious law. That is a short version, but certainly provides a reason why there are so many different sects of Judaism today. (See Jews and Christians: A Parting of Ways) Rabbinic Judaism depends upon the oral law of the rabbi one follows. Some are very orthodox (focusing on the law of Moses), some are into new age mysticism (bringing in all sorts of worldliness), and everything in between. Thus, very different from rabbi to rabbi.

Interestingly, virtually every vestige of Judaism points to the Messiah. The Biblical feasts of the Jews all point to Jesus, the idea of a Sabbath points to Jesus, the prophets (so highly revered by religious Jews) tell of Jesus’ first and second comings, and so many other Jewish customs, symbols and ideals point to Jesus. There is an inextricable link between true Judaism and Christianity, but we begin to see the difficulties Jews encounter today!

Come back tomorrow when we’ll go a step further to discover that, not only was there a Jewish split between those who followed Jesus and those who didn’t, but there was soon a split between Jewish followers of Jesus and Gentile followers of Jesus! What a mess! (It will end well in two days, though, so stick with us!)

Meanwhile, our prayer emphasis this afternoon is on faith under fire. As you can see, it is difficult to be a follower of Jesus in Israel! Find out how to pray specifically for them!

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