The Influence of Judaism on Christianity
But when we turn to the Acts of the Apostles, and to the epistles of Paul, especially to the Epistle to the Galatians, we find that the apostolic solution of the difficulty was not acceptable to the early Jewish Christians, and was not accepted by many of them. We even find that the practice of members of the apostolic circle was not always in accordance with the principles which they had enounced in accordance with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There was a strong ultra-Jewish party in the early Christian church, which was able in some measure to control the conduct of the apostles themselves. And this was what was to be expected. Men who had been trained in Judaism, where the connection between religion and poli-tics was so very close, whose religious thoughts were always expressed in outward ordinances, could scarcely avoid insisting upon some visible connection between Judaism and Christianity. They could not see that Christianity was the completion of Judaism if the practices of the Mosaic economy were not kept up. Thus we find at least two parties, a Judaizing and a Gentile party, in the early church. At first the Jewish party was so strong as to force a compromise upon the leaders of the Gentile church, and require that every Gentile Christian should at least become a proselyte of the gate by abstaining from things offered to idols, from things strangled, from blood, and from porneia [Gk.] or a breach of the Old Testament regulation about marriage; and it is probable that Jewish Christians were required to keep up all the practices of the Jewish religion and more especially to share in the sacrificial worship of the temple. Afterwards this Jewish party grew weaker, and it became the universal belief in the early church that 'Christians born Jews did not need to observe the ceremonial law of Moses or to share in the temple-worship, and that Christians born Gentiles did not require to show, by keeping certain Jewish regulations, that they were believers in a creed which was a development of Old Testament ideas. The capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple separated the Christian Jews who were of the sect of the Pharisees from their fellow Christians, and the severe persecution of Jewish religion and rites which followed the revolt under Bar Cochba sent most of them over into the ranks of the Essenes, and thus the Christian church was left in peace to reconcile its intimate connection with Judaism with its abandonment of Jewish ritual on the principles of Christian liberty. But in solving the problem the early Christian church was scarcely true to the principles of its Master. In order to defend more stren-uously their separation from Judaism, it was customary for the fathers of the church to look at Christianity as supplying in detail all that Judaism possessed, and this led them almost as far from the fundamental principles of continuity laid down by Christ as the old Judaizers had gone. They required a new law to set over against the old law of Moses, a new service to take the place of the temple service of the Old Testament, a new daily sacrifice, "the new law's new oblation" instead of the sacrifices of Moses, a new ritual which after it had gradually grown complex enough was found to correspond bit by bit with the ritual of Jerusalem, and a new priesthood whose functions were to be not unlike the duties of the sons of Aaron. In church traditions, a ritual of worship, and a service of priests, they found the proof of their relation to the religion of the Old Testament, and forgetting the unseen continuity of sameness of spiritual principle, found a consolation in a fancied similarity in external routine of worship. In this way early Christianity succeeded and failed in realizing to herself the real continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testa-ment kingdoms of God.
Read the rest of this article:
Christianity - Table of Contents