Divorce

Zetterholm, Ancient Antioch, and “Honey, I Want a Divorce”

This chapter will present a suggestion as to how the theologically motivated social division between Jesus-believing Jews and Jesus-believing Gentiles, combined with socio-political circumstances, brought about a separation between the communities. It will be argued that this process, which eventually resulted in the emanation of a new religion, was the result of a conscious strategy that can be compared to other expressions of collective action, such as tax rebellions, political uprisings, revolutions or, in short, social movements.

-Magnus Zetterholm
Chapter 5: “Politics and Persecution,” pg 178
The Formation of Christianity in Antioch: A Social-Scientific Approach to the Separation between Judaism and Christianity

This is the fourth but not quite the last installment in my investigation (see my ending comment below) of the schism between (Messianic) Judaism and Gentile Christianity based on the “Antioch Incident” (Galatians 2:11-21) and the general development of the “Synagogue of the Way,” which was characterized by a mixed Jewish/Gentile population of equal co-participants, in mid-first century CE Syrian Antioch.

See my three prior blog posts, Zetterholm, Ancient Antioch and Today’s Messianic Judaism, Zetterholm, Ancient Antioch, and the Problem of the Gentiles, and Nanos, Ancient Antioch, and the Problem with Peter for details.

The title of my (almost) final missive in this series seems whimsical and on one level, that’s intentional, but it also reflects the intensity of the relationship between Jewish and Gentile Jesus-believers in the Antiochian synagogue, both in intimate fidelity and in the excruciating agony of separation. Anyone who has experienced a “difficult” divorce or who has seen another couple go through one realizes that as much as the couple loved each other in the beginning, that is the same level of anger and even hate they experience at the end of their marriage.

But why the “divorce?”

Evangelical Christianity (and most likely all forms of the Christian faith) assume that Christianity naturally, intentionally evolved from (Messianic) Judaism. Popular Evangelical Preachers such as John MacArthur believe that Judaism as a religious practice was intended by God to be temporary and to be replaced by the Christian Church. Any indication that Paul or the other Jewish apostles and disciples continued in any of the Jewish practices is considered to represent a “transitional period,” where the last generation of Jewish Jesus-believers in Judaism gave way to the following generation of Jewish and Gentile Christians, all liberated from “the Law” and basking in the free gift of salvation by the grace of Jesus Christ.

Zetterholm approaches the issue from a completely different direction, one that takes into account socio-political motivations, more like the Boston Tea Party objecting to “taxation without representation” than a Divinely planned shift in theology that “jumps the track” from Judaism to Christianity.

Can we treat the relationship between the early Jesus-believing Jews and Gentiles as a human and social dynamic and conflict and still retain the involvement of God in human history? On the one hand, it seems almost “sacrilegious” to do so. On the other hand, none of the people in the Bible are mere pawns of God used in a game to illustrate grand principles and theologies so much as they are living human beings struggling to understand who they are in relation to each other and God. I think we can afford Paul, Peter, James and everyone else involved in Antioch the dignity of being treated as real people instead of “Bible characters.”

What we are considering is what sort of conflicts would have naturally led to such a Jewish/Gentile split in the Messianic community in Antioch and the other diaspora communities of the Way. One such conflict suggested by Zetterholm (pp 178-9) is legal. While Judaism was considered a legal religion in the Roman empire, did the empire consider Gentile involvement in Judaism, not as proselytes or even God-fearers, but as Gentile co-participants who were required to remain Gentile as a valid association?

Another issue to consider is that, as Judaism became less favorable in the eyes of the Empire and began to encounter persecution, what was the impact of Gentiles being swept along in the anti-Jewish fervor as were the Jews, or conversely, treated differently and maybe more positively than the Jews within the same Jewish space?

The war against Rome ended in catastrophe and with the fall of the temple in 70 CE it was essentially over.

The end of the war had, of course, drastic and immediate political consequences. The most important for the present analysis was the institution of the poll tax fiscus Judaicus, which was founded shortly after the end of the war by Vaspasian.

-Zetterholm, pg 185

Temple TaxIn some ways, this tax very much identified one as a Jew since it was only imposed on Jewish populations. On the other hand, can we say the tax was also imposed on those who were Gentiles in the synagogue or those who “appeared”  to be Jews due to their practices and affiliation with Jewish community, or were the Gentiles in the Jesus-believing synagogue (and Gentile God-fearers in all synagogues) spared because they were not ethnically Jewish?

Either way, and we can’t be certain which one was more likely to have occurred, we can see the potential for conflict. Should the former be true, the Gentiles might well resent it since after all, they not only aren’t Jewish but based on Paul’s letter the Galatians, they are at least highly discouraged if not absolutely forbidden to formally convert to Judaism via the proselyte rite. Why should they pay a tax if they weren’t ethnically Jewish?

On the other hand, if the Gentiles in Jewish community were not taxed because they were Gentiles (which only seems fair), would the Jews in the same synagogue resent them for their lack of solidarity with their teachers and mentors, the very people of which Jesus said “salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22)?

Zetterholm states (pp 188-9) that this period (and lots of subsequent historical periods) saw a general rise in anti-Semitism which likely spilled over onto the Gentiles who, by virtue of their association in the synagogue community, looked like Jews. This would have included Gentile God-fearers in the various diaspora synagogues and God-fearers, as previously stated, were thought to be polytheistic and continued to participate in the various pagan cults in Greek society for social and business (and perhaps personal) purposes. What of the recent “converts” of Gentiles from paganism to Jesus-faith? Could a surge in anti-Jewish sentiments result in them falling away or “cheating” by continuing to or reverting to pagan practices to “take the heat off” them?

M. Goodman, however, has argued that, in the period before the fiscus Judaicus was imposed, there existed a certain confusion about who was Jewish and who was Gentile, and that the fiscus Judacus promoted the development of a more stringent Jewish identity.

-ibid, pg 192

However…

…there was every reason to assume that the Jewish community knew exactly who was Jewish and who was not.

-ibid

So from an outsider’s point of view (Roman/Greek), it might be hard to tell sometimes who was Jewish and who wasn’t within the Jewish community, but of course, inside the community itself, everyone knew. The community of Messiah knew that they had a responsibility to separate itself from pagan society for the sake of God, but within that community, barriers were growing. In my previous missive on this topic, I presented the point of view of Nanos that Paul considered the Gentile Jesus-believers as equal co-participants in synagogue life, even to the level of community meals, as well as those who also received the covenant blessings of atonement and redemption in the same matter as the Jews.

And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.

Acts 15:8-9 (NASB)

However, thanks to outside pressure being brought to bear against all diaspora Jewish communities, that seems to have changed, at least potentially.

As a member of the Pauline Jewish community in Antioch, a Gentile was part of the soteriological system of Judaism to a degree never experienced before. Through Christ, Gentiles were incorporated into a covenantal system that provided salvation without prior conversion to Judaism. Non-conversion to Judaism was a necessary condition.

-ibid, pg 194

Magnus Zetterholm
Magnus Zetterholm

While that seems like terrifically good news, it comes with a cost. According to Zetterholm, the halachah regarding Gentile involvement in the Jesus-believing synagogue was likely more strict upon the Gentiles than it was on Gentile God-fearers in other synagogues. While strict Torah observance in the manner of the Jews was not imposed, the Acts 15 legal edict applied to the Jesus-believing Gentiles went above and beyond the Noahide requirements observed by God-fearing Gentiles, so Gentiles in Messiah would be forbidden to participate in any other societal religious obligation by worshiping in the pagan temples.

Gentile Jesus-believers weren’t an island. Although the requirements of the Messianic community were to separate from the pagan nations (mirroring the “chosenness” of all Jewish communities vis a vis the nations of the world), they still would have had pagan family members, friends, business partners and associates, and so forth, who would or could be making life difficult for them.

There is also the issue of Gentile status within the Jesus-believing Jewish religious stream. As previously pointed out, there may have been a strong disagreement between Paul and James regarding the equality or inequality of Gentiles in the Way, with James representing the extreme opposite position of Paul by advocating for separate religious/social communities for Jews and Gentiles. Also, Zetterholm believes it was possible that, subsequent to the Antioch incident and Peter’s pulling away from the Gentiles, the non-Jews may have been “demoted” in terms of social status (but not necessarily ultimate soteriological destiny) to that of God-fearers.

Citing Nanos (The Mystery of Romans, 289-336)…

…that Romans 13:1-7 refers to the subordination of the Jesus-believing Gentiles to the synagogue authorities and not, as usually assumed, to the civic Roman authorities. If he is correct, this was certainly motivated by theological considerations, but at the same time, Paul shows here awareness of the religious/political implications of theology that prevents Gentiles from participation in the official cult.

-ibid, pg 195

Also…

The Jesus-believing Gentiles were certainly considered to be embraced by the final salvation, through Christ, as Gentiles, but outside the covenant. This led not only to a theological distinction, but also to a social separation between Jesus-believing Jews and Jesus-believing Gentiles. The Jesus-believing Gentiles became reduced to the status of Jesus-believing God-fearers.

-ibid

The actual comprehension of the status of Jesus-believing Gentiles in Jewish community and in terms of “final salvation” is contingent upon a correct understanding of how Gentiles were (and are) involved and included in the blessings of the New Covenant, and coming to a correct understanding isn’t easy to do. Those details are beyond the scope of the current discussion, (See D.T. Lancaster’s What About the New Covenant lecture series, produced by First Fruits of Zion [FFOZ]).

I don’t necessarily believe that the Gentiles were reduced to a lesser status in the Messianic synagogue in Antioch or the diaspora based on the Galatians 2 encounter. Paul vehemently opposed Peter’s action and the other Jews who sided with his hypocrisy, and since the vast majority of diaspora Jesus-believing communities were established by and (presumably) answerable to Paul, it would seem like Paul’s authority and perspective would be “calling the shots.”

Mark Nanos
Mark Nanos

That said, if Nanos is indeed correct, then Paul’s perspective supported Gentile subordination to Jewish synagogue authority. Of course any member of a synagogue, Jewish or Gentile, would be expected to submit to the authority of the synagogue leaders, but the implication is that Gentiles may have had a “one down” role in terms of their Jesus-believing Jewish counterparts. Also, Nanos believes that the Roman synagogue(s) hosting Jesus-believing Gentiles contained Jews who were Jesus-believers and those who were not, adding additional pressure and a feeling of dissonance. It’s one thing to submit to Jesus-believing Jewish authorities, but why defer to authorities who denied the Lordship of Messiah Yeshua?

Thus, while Paul supported the Gentiles as equal co-participants in synagogue social interactions as well as the final salvation based on receiving New Covenant blessings, with Gentiles not having full membership in the Old or New Covenants as made by God with “the house of Isarel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:27), he likely considered it part of their “normal” legal status (see Acts 15) to subordinate in some sense, to Jewish authority in the Jewish community and religious setting, or as George Orwell famously wrote in his novel Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Jesus-believing Jews never imagined questioning their own relationship with God through the covenants and their participation socially, religiously, and in every other way in community and final salvation was assumed. Jesus-faith was simply the logical, natural extension of everything that had come before. Of course with the death and resurrection of Messiah, the New Covenant promises were inaugurated and though not yet fully realized, this was the good news the Jewish people and the nation of Israel was waiting for.

Gentiles, on the other hand, while also assumed to be included, both due to the revelations given Paul by Messiah and by the testimony of the Prophets of old, the mechanism by which this was to be accomplished wasn’t entirely clear (see all of the incidents of Jewish opposition to Paul’s message in the New Testament) and the exact role and status of Jesus-believing Gentiles in Jewish community always seems somewhat “up in the air.”

So on the one hand, Gentile involvement in Jewish community made Gentiles vulnerable to Greek and Roman anti-Semitism which could include financial burdens as well as physical violence because they were either mistaken for Jews or were seen as “collaborators” with the Jewish “enemy.” On the other hand, Gentiles in Jewish community, if they felt at all devalued or of a lesser social or even covenant status than the Jesus-believing Jews, could have felt resentment against their Jewish mentors and even against Jews in general. Either way (or both), the Gentiles may have increasingly felt as if they were stuck in the middle with no way out, unless they apostasized and left Jesus-faith. The opposite act of fully converting to Judaism was, as I said above, strongly discouraged if not forbidden, at least by Paul.

…if one embraced a theology that made Gentile identity a necessary condition for salvation, but at the same time required a Jewish definition in order for it to be maintained…

-ibid, pg 201

Zetterholm puts all this together and draws the conclusion that the Jesus-believing Gentiles, seeking a “rational” resolution to this increasing tension, decided they would…

…have to disassociate themselves from Jesus-believing Jewish community in order to acknowledge their true Gentile identity…

-ibid, pg 202

And from this follows…

that the parting of the ways in Antioch was primarily a separation — not between “Judaism” and “Christianity” — but between Jewish and Gentile adherents to the Jesus movement.

-ibid

This gives rise to the thought that in the late first century to the early second century, there were wholly separate communities of Gentiles and Jews who were both Jesus-believing, but each community possessed a very different theology and dogma relative to their belief and practice, positions that would be opposed to one another, setting each community ultimately against each other. That’s about as “bilateral” as you can get.

Ignatius of Antioch is one of the first authors within the Jesus movement who writes from a perspective clearly outside Judaism. In Ignatius’ world, the separation between Judaism and Christianity had to some extent already taken place. This is not to say that the separation process was completed, but, in the symbolic world of the bishop in Antioch, Christianity was, or at least should be, a non-Jewish movement.

-ibid, pg 202

Ignatius of AntiochIt’s generally believed that Ignatius lived from 35 CE to 107 CE (See “Ignatius” in The Westminster Dictionary of Church History, ed. Jerald Brauer [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971]) and that he was a disciple of the Apostle John (See “The Martyrdom of Ignatius” and “Synaxarium: The Martyrdom of St. Ignatius, Patriarch of Antioch”), which is a shocking revelation. How could a disciple of Christ’s beloved John turn his back on everything he had been taught, virtually spitting in his Master’s face? It would be like Titus or Timothy betraying Paul or Peter betraying Jesus (oh, wait). How sharper than a serpent’s tooth (see Shakespeare’s “King Lear”).

A mere eighty or ninety years after the death and resurrection of Christ, we see Ignatius all but throwing stones at the empty tomb and mocking the Messiah’s devotion to Israel, the Temple, and his dear “lost sheep of Israel,” the Jews.

Zetterholm quotes Ignatius (pg 203) from Magn. 10:3 stating that:

“[i]t is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practise Judaism.”

This created quite a problem among the Jesus-believing Gentiles (pg 205) according to Zetterholm, with some (many) defecting from Jewish to Gentile Jesus-believing communities while others remaining within Jewish community. For their own protection, both from the newly minted Gentile Christians and from participation in the official pagan cult, the Gentiles in Jewish community actively pretended to be Jewish and took on behavioral roles as Jews, donning a Jewish “disguise” as it were, with…

…no intention of leaving messianic Judaism for a Gentile religion stripped of almost every Jewish influence except the idea of Messiah and the Holy Scriptures of the Jews.

ibid, pp 205-6

Zetterholm identifies two major sources of conflict at this point in history (pg 207):

  1. One in connection with separation from Jesus-believing Jewish community.
  2. The other connected to the role of being a challenger and the efforts to get back into the polity, but on equal terms with the other members of the polity.

At the heart of the conflict was:

…the Gentile adherents’ frustration at being reduced to Gentile god-fearers and being trapped in the religious/political system without any possibility of expressing their true religious identity, that is, as covenantal partners, triggered the social movement of separation.

-ibid

This is where the “Honey, I want a divorce” part comes to full bloom. The Jesus-believing Gentiles not only separated from Jesus-believing Jewish community to form their (our) own communities, but they actively turned on their former hosts and benefactors, “demonizing” the Jewish people and Judaism, giving birth to the ugly “twins” of Christian supersessionism and Christian anti-Semitism that we continue to see in some churches today.

We noted above that Ignatius in Phld. 6:2 connected Judaism with the activities of “the prince of this world,” and that he in Magn. 8:1 probably used popular prejudice against the Jews in describing Judaism as being based on myths and fables.

It is well known that, in the decades after the death of Ignatius, Christian literature abounds in developing anti-Semitic themes.

-ibid, pg 210

Zetterholm provides evidence (pp 211-224) that Ignatius either used a proto-Mattean document or the actual gospel of Matthew against the Jesus-believing Jews and Jews in general, citing Matthew’s clear in group/out group” perspective (pg 212) as we find in Matthew 7:21-23 and 13:47-52, also leveraging the (apparent) disdain Jesus had with the Pharisees to magnify Gentile Christian rejection of all Jews (Jesus-believing and non-believing Jews alike).

One theme that is specially developed in much Christian Adversus Iudaeos literature is that the Jews had misunderstood their own Holy Scriptures and as a result, had lost the right to them.

-ibid 220

And if that isn’t enough to make your blood boil…

It is likely, as Schoedel states, that the identification of Christ as the word from silence refers to the supposed inability of the Jews to understand their own religious tradition: the appearance of Christ from silence brings the divine hidden purpose to light. The radical “Christianization” of the prophets is one indication of how profound this inability is, and how extensive the hostility is between Judaism and Christianity.

-ibid

This is where we get the astounding departure in interpretation between normative Judaism and Christianity in our world today, based, as I’ve said, on a two-thousand year old mistake, except Zetterholm says it wasn’t a mistake and it wasn’t a misunderstanding. The schism was a calculated and deliberate set of acts designed to manufacture a new religion for the Jesus-believing Gentiles called “Christianity.” This new religion, by absolute necessity, was to be all but completely detached from its mother faith of Judaism and further, must establish itself as the “true Israel” of God, forcing an abandonment of the Jewish people, Judaism, and Israel by her own Creator in favor of the “Law-free” Gentiles.

Christian and JewishAs I said above, for a time, you would have had a world where separate Jesus-believing Christian Gentile and Jesus-believing Jewish communities would have operated in the same historical and geographical space. While Zetterholm feels some Hellenized Jews may have chosen to defect to Gentile Christianity, these would have been the Jews who, as were mentioned previously would have left ethnic and religious Judaism anyway.

There were likely Gentiles who hung on in the Jewish communities but as the decades passed, subsequent generations would have left Jewish community for either Gentile paganism or Gentile Christianity. Finally, the community of Jewish believers in Messiah would have dissolved as well if, for no other reason, than to avoid even the faintest association with the Gentile Christians who now actively disdained, despised, and “demonized” all Jews everywhere.

Since this blog post is exceptionally long, I’ll save the conclusion and implications of Zetterholm’s book on the modern Christian Church as well as the Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots movements for a later time.

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20 thoughts on “Zetterholm, Ancient Antioch, and “Honey, I Want a Divorce””

  1. Maybe I’ve missed something along the way in your reviews of this book, but it seems to me that Zetterholm is underplaying or ignoring endemic anti-Jewish attitudes within the Roman Empire, no doubt strengthened after the Hurban. Rav Shaul addressed several of these attitudes in his letter to the Roman assemblies, though they certainly resurfaced again in later anti-Jewish proto-Christian writings. It seems almost as if he is trying to blame Jewish exclusiveness for engendering a response leading to this acrimonious divorce. Obviously, if his view is that Judaism should have faded away, or at least that Jewish followers of The Way would have left if by attrition, then he doesn’t have any high regard for the continuing validity of Torah or the virtually eternal chosen-ness and distinctiveness of the Jewish people as such. So, if Jews then represent a “throw-away” ethnicity, I suppose he wouldn’t hesitate about placing blame onto them for the ecclesial separation or for anything else.

  2. Probably something I missed in my review, PL. Yes, Zetterholm does lay a great deal of responsibility on the massive increase of Roman anti-Semitism/Jewish-hatred and the impact on both Jews and Gentiles in the Jesus-believing Jewish synagogue in Antioch. I apologize for not making this clear. Actually, I thought I laid a significant amount of the responsibility of on the Gentiles in the new religion “Christianity,” and particularly folks like Ignatius of Antioch.

  3. What wasn’t clear (and may not be clear even to historians) was Ignatius’ motivation, or the source of his anti-Jewish antipathy, for which your quote from Zetterholm about Gentile frustration (p.207?) seemed to imply Jewish responsibility rather than attributing it to endemic Roman attitudes or expectations. Of course, we might consider the collision between them, because in the Roman worldview the Jews were a defeated people and a vassal state to be absorbed and dispersed within the universal Roman Empire, while Jews still maintained that they had an irrevocable covenant with HaShem Who had chosen them (therefore guarding their identity, distinctiveness, exceptionalism and particularism). Gentiles of Roman mindset who failed to acknowledge Jewish exceptionalism might well have tended to feel shut out of both Roman and Jewish societies, despite certain allegiances to each. This mindset might well have impelled an attitude of: “If you can’t join ’em, beat on ’em”. Since one could get killed trying to “beat on” the Roman Empire, the logical scapegoat would be the Jews (as continued to be a common approach for many subsequent centuries).

  4. May I add that another place of discord was the treatment of widows. Can you imagine the burden of gentile widows being cared for by the assembly? These ‘newcomers’ haven’t had the teaching of the Torah and now they learn about caring for the widows and resent what appears an anti-gentile bias by the leaders. You also have the, I am of Apollos and I am of Paul etc..Whoosh, what a confounded mess in those early days. It would appear that separation would make things easier, but, oh my, how much worse it is.

  5. @Cynthia — Are you referring to the issue that impelled the appointment of deacons to oversee the distribution of food to widows in Acts 6:1? That didn’t involve gentiles at all, but was a complaint that the Hellenistic (non-Judean, less-“orthodox”) widows were being neglected. Other references to widows, such as in Rav Shaul’s letters — which might well have included a view of gentile widows but do not explicitly distinguish between widow ethnicities — don’t seem to indicate any argument other than whether a widow was truly in need of community support or if she was only temporarily “between marriages” (marriage and family being the common societal mechanisms for care of women). So I don’t see at this early stage any tension between Jews and gentiles over such matters. Similarly the threat of factionalism suggested by allegiances to one or another leader such as Paul or Apollos was between Jewish groups. We could try to read between the lines to infer that there might have been underlying doctrinal differences for which one might claim allegiance to one or the other. However, if that were the case, I might expect other key names such as Peter and James to have been cited as potential faction representatives. Aside from the resolution of the distinctive responsibilities for the two segments of the bilateral ecclesia defined in Acts 15, we don’t see actual internecine conflict in the apostolic writings, though Rav Shaul addressed Roman attitudes and views in his letter which could well indicate reasons for the later conflict after the Hurban, which is after virtually all of the apostolic writings had already been produced (exceptions being Revelation and possibly Hebrews, though some suggest that John’s gospel and 3 letters, and Jude, were written in the 90s not long before John’s Revelation).

    Considering that Ignatius died only about a decade after Revelation was written, he must have written his letters containing anti-Jewish diatribe and doctrine within that decade, or we might have expected John to have mentioned him to warn about his departure from sound teachings.

  6. “…..Of course any member of a synagogue, Jewish or Gentile, would be expected to submit to the authority of the synagogue leaders, but the implication is that Gentiles may have had a “one down” role in terms of their Jesus-believing Jewish counterparts. Also, Nanos believes that the Roman synagogue(s) hosting Jesus-believing Gentiles contained Jews who were Jesus-believers and those who were not, adding additional pressure and a feeling of dissonance. It’s one thing to submit to Jesus-believing Jewish authorities, but why defer to authorities who denied the Lordship of Messiah Yeshua?

    Thus, while Paul supported the Gentiles as equal co-participants in synagogue social interactions as well as the final salvation based on receiving New Covenant blessings, with Gentiles not having full membership in the Old or New Covenants as made by God with “the house of Isarel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:27), he likely considered it part of their “normal” legal status (see Acts 15) to subordinate in some sense, to Jewish authority in the Jewish community and religious setting, or as George Orwell famously wrote in his novel Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

    “……”

    I haven’t read Zetterholm and have nothing to say about his conclusions or even about everything said in this subject entry, but do want to comment on the excerpt here. A synagogue then wouldn’t be the same as one now. Now, it is a set aside institution of faith somewhat like a church (U.S.) is a free-standing club-like place to ruminate and sing and whatever the people involved decide on, pretty much (although a synagogue and Judaism generally is more complex). Then, the words translated as church (incorrectly) and synagogue were meeting places and gatherings of meeting people. When these are used in reference to religious people or people of faith, specifically Jews (whether they believed in Jesus or not) and others with them (whether they believed in Jesus or not and whether they intended to convert to Judaism or not), we are talking about a subset of Roman government to a great extent. [That is as differentiated from worldly operation in terms of religion too.]

    I have two answers, off the top of my head, for why I would defer to Jewish authorities (even as a non-Jew if that’s what I’d have been). 1) It would have been better (way better) than being directly in subjection to Rome. 2) Jerusalem was and will be central for faithful administration.

  7. Certainly, the synagogues weren’t the same in the first century as they are today. For one thing, they all shared a common core understanding of the essentials of Jewish worship, even though they may have disagreed on exactly how to observe the mitzvot. The “Synagogue of the Way” in Antioch was distinguishable only in their very liberal treatment and acceptance of Gentiles who weren’t God-fearers or undergoing the proselyte rite.

    It’s understandable that Gentiles entering a Jewish space, many of them coming directly out of paganism, not only were unfamiliar with Jewish practices, but would need to learn to respond to the authority and discipline of the synagogue. Also, Gentile covenant connection was and is always through the Jews and the covenants God made with Israel, so it seems a certain amount of deference would be expected.

    I suspect that what we will see in the Messianic Age isn’t “the Church” taking over the landscape, but a return to some form of Judaism that includes social interaction and participation between Jews and Gentiles, but with Jews having ascendency in the religious hierarchy, even as Israel will be the head of all the nations of the Earth.

  8. I agree with your conclusion. Meanwhile, it is startling to see such a situation compared rhetorically to Orwell’s story of oppressors. In Roman times, though, this can be seen as somewhat fitting. That’s how we ended up with not only some difficulty respecting gentiles entering the fold but with the fear on the part of Jewish leaders that if J’shua kept talking (didn’t die) the Romans would take away their place in the society. Their place was provisioned by Rome (in conquest).

  9. I quoted Orwell, not to cast the Jesus-believing Jews as oppressors, but to highlight how some disgruntled Gentiles might have views their role and status in the synagogue relative to their Jewish mentors. Although Nanos clearly casts Jews and Gentiles as equal co-participants both socially and in terms of salvation, the Gentiles were still obligated to defer to the synagogue leaders and they still were obligated to a subset of the Torah mitzvot, not the full covenant conditions incumbent upon the Jews. As we see in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, there was a movement among some of the Gentiles to enter the proselyte rite, presumably because they mistakenly thought it was the only way to be justified, but perhaps also because it was more desirable than being “just” Gentiles.

    We have a parallel in both the Hebrew Roots and Messianic Jewish movements today. Many in Hebrew Roots feel it is “racist” for Jews to claim full obligation to the Torah only for themselves as the recipients of the Sinai Covenant, and declare that the Gentiles too must observe all of the mitzvot.

    Some Gentiles within Messianic Judaism confuse their role and the nature of Judaism, focusing more on the Jewish practices than upon devotion to Messiah, who, by faith, allows Jewish and Gentile equal co-participation in the community of Jesus-belief. Some of those Gentiles exit the movement and faith entirely and become secular while others, sadly, convert to (non-Messianic) Judaism, typically Orthodox.

  10. I have seen some of these contemporary confusions also, yes. But I think the most frustrating complications in the first century had to do not with a clash between people like Paul and James (as i agree with Nanos that such is based on misreading) but the fact that there was a governmental function for certain leading Jews [not to mention that some of these leading Jews were hardly Jews, Herod for instance]. Roman conquerors would set up local proxies in place after place as they went about dominating the world. Wand there would be requirements and definitions for the cultural grouping (including Jews).

  11. “[i]t is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practise Judaism.” Ignatius from Magn. 10:3

    If Ignatius could go and say that, I guess that Matthew Vines can write whatever he (she?) wants.

    The LGBT agenda could be viewed to be the same as the “new Jesus gentile believer’s” that were feeling being rejected by Jewish believers authorities at the Messianic synagogues.

    The 2000 year’s result: A new “Christian” religion, governed by gentiles (without the conversion requirement) who took empty synagogues (left behind by Roman persecuted Jewish and Gentiles Real Believers) and played to be the new governing body, using “modified” kippot and talliot, presuming to be the new priesthood. (See Catholic church)

  12. To be fair, Matthew Vines is clearly a man, so calling him “she” is out of line. Yes, I agree you can find a parallel between the current LGBT suggestion (at least from Vines’ point of view) that the Bible supports same-sex marriage, and the two-thousand year old split between Jesus-believing Gentiles and Jews based on a radical re-interpretation of scripture, including the supposition that the Jewish people had misinterpreted their own texts and therefore had lost the right to them. Seems pretty silly when you say it out loud.

  13. Excuse me, Alfredo. I thought you were specifically referring to Matthew Vines as “he/she.” Vines is gay and not trans. I know that in Christianity, many of us are almost “phobic” about this particular behavior, above and beyond anything else we call a sin. This tends to lead us to make rather disparaging remarks about people who, even if we disagree with them and call their behavior a sin, are still made in the image of God. We are not nearly so condemning of pre-marital sex between a man or a woman or most other sexual sins as we are against homosexuality. I just wanted to make sure that wasn’t happening here.

  14. “Another” disciple of John, if indeed Ignatius was a disciple of John, is Irenaeus — who rather argues passionately for respecting Jews and the traditions found within communities of Jesus-believing Jews (contrary to the decided church tradition of later centuries). It’s quite possible Ignatius’ discipleship as such was made up, to counter the true weight of Irenaeus. It is also possible, though, as you indicated in your opening meditation, that Ignatius was a sort of Judas (really among John’s disciples). {By the way, it is probably Lazarus who is the “beloved” and the writer of the book so-called John; which is obviously not to say John didn’t have disciples. So I’m not trying to indicate that these were disciples of Lazarus rather than John.}

    As to the reference for Nanos saying gentiles were instructed to submit to synagogue authority (not to Roman thinking as Christianity usually teaches), I agree (both that Nanos forwarded the idea in his own writing and that it is what was intended when Paul wrote it).

    Zetterholm’s combining of this with his own thoughts to say gentile Jesus-believers were (or might have been) “reduced to a lesser status” is interesting but not convincing (as you also said you didn’t necessarily agree because, for instance, Paul strongly called out the Antioch incident as a mistake to overcome).

    What I don’t agree with is the implication (likely unintentional), in the meditation, that Nanos underwrites or endorses there was “a strong disagreement between Paul and James” [or pretty much any notable disagreement] — I don’t think Nanos ever supports this as a conclusion or even a likelihood or strong possibility. His acknowledgment that most teachings include this is mainly to suggest we want to re-think so as to notice there isn’t a need to believe it based on the apostolic writings (“NT”).

  15. A couple thoughts: Interesting that evangelicals have such a hatred and disdain for groups such as Mormons, who have altered the meaning of scripture and added to it, the same things their progenitors did. They appear to have a lot more hatred toward Catholics than Catholics do toward them. You know the saying, “Karma’s a b#$ch,” or more biblically, they are reaping what they have sown. I am willing to bet, that as the news reveals an increase in antisemitism and negative turning attitudes toward Israel, Piper, Sproul, Macarthur, et. al. are rubbing their hands together in glee, eager to see that violation of their replacement theology swept away. Yes, I know Macarthur’s viewpoint is a bit more nuanced, as he sees that Israel has a purpose – to someday recognize the Calvinist religion and be filled with Grace clones. I am not going to lose any sleep as Muslims and gays shut down their churches and ministries.

    I want to throw out some conjecture and would appreciate reply here. We can attempt to ascertain the historical reasons behind the separation, but since we know God didn’t do an, “oopsey,” what was the divine purpose behind this rearranging of the scenery and altering the lines? As the Jew went into exile, did God send them antisemitism to prevent their assimilation and to remind them who they were? There are those who claim the Jews are blinded, but the gentiles were also blinded. Viewing torah and, “Jewish stuff,” as something to be feared and despised kept them away, in the same way Yeshua taught in parables so that only those who had ears to hear would hear. The Christian world not only butchered and reinterpreted the scriptures, they butchered and reinterpreted the Messiah. To be blinded to the reframed scriptures and Messiah is a gift. Perhaps what Nanos, Boyarin, Amy-Jill Levine are doing is restoring the ancient context – I don’t think Zetterholm is Jewish? Is there anyone who wants to join me in digging down to discover the original Yeshua and his teachings, rather than continue to add Jewish stuff on top of the evangelical Jesus?

  16. @Chaya — To whom are you addressing your question: “Is there anyone who wants to join me in digging down to discover the original Yeshua and his teachings, rather than continue to add Jewish stuff on top of the evangelical Jesus?”? I ask because some folks are there already ahead of you, with whom I could recommend that you view yourself as joined in partnership. I should point out that discovery of the original rabbi Yeshua is only a portion of what his modern would-be disciples require. Once one discovers the essence of his “message”, that the kingdom of heaven is immediately available and that its implicit intimacy with HaShem is worthwhile to pursue, one must grapple with his observation that the practice and study of Torah is essential to it, including its notions of continual repentance and pursuit of purity. Grasping the Torah’s meaning in pursuit of these goals, then, requires us to follow the progression of its interpretation and application by its designated Jewish authorities for the benefit of Jewish generations across the two millennia subsequent to Rav Yeshua’s era. In the absence of such pursuit there is no Torah, and without Torah there is no greatness in the kingdom, and without such greatness our grasp on the kingdom itself is so feeble that it slips away from us.

    Indeed, it is the pursuit of Torah, in order to deepen our experiences of entering the kingdom of heaven, that forces us to consider the differences of approach required for Jews and non-Jews (among other individual distinctions), and the resolution of potential conflicts such as the ancient ones that underlie James’ essay above. And this, then, leads us to the challenge of forming (or finding) communities that can support and encourage and facilitate such pursuits.

    I suspect that it may be the longstanding absence of the unifying force of true (Jewish) Torah understanding and commitment that has produced the antagonism of so many Christian and pseudo-Christian denominations and cults (and some Jewish ones as well). People trying to be right and finding little support or agreement about what that means tend to split apart into factions that each represent some tolerable degree of agreement on something. It’s a pity that the something is very seldom HaShem’s Torah as a “rightly divided word of truth”, to borrow a notion from Rav Shaul’s advice in 2Tim.2:15.

  17. Sorry PL, I didn’t see this comment. I expect there are people digging, but they don’t have communities, although I have found them in academic areas of social media. It is understandable, as once a structure, including leadership is entrenched, there is a need to consolidate power and fear of change. One maintains their camp by creating a fear/hatred of outsiders and anything the outsiders might have to offer, as well as insiders that fail to toe the line. I also believe it is much easier to add something to a community than to delete something, especially if that something is core. People naturally won’t question something they changed their lives for, perhaps enduring damaged relationships and other areas of giving something up for.

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