mercredi 29 janvier 2014


Valdemir Mota de Menezes

What's the difference between a Christian and a Jew?
And at what date can we even ask that question?
We've talked about the fact that at the time of the writing of Paul's
letters, there wasn't even a word for "Christian." We find that word first
recorded in the New Testament in Acts 11:26: "In Antioch the disciples were
for the first time called Christians (Christianoi)."
At around the same time in the early second century, officials of the Roman
Empire seem to have recognized Christians has a distinct group.
A letter sent from a provincial governor, Pliny, to the Roman Emperor
Trajan in the early second century--- maybe 112, or 113--
asks the question of whether it's right to execute those called
Christians, and how pardon might be granted to those accused of being
Christians who then pray or offer incense and wine to or on behalf of
the Roman emperor.
But that's a later story.
Earlier, our evidence indicates that Romans don't know much about
The Roman writer, Suetonius, who writes in the late first, or early
second century, talks about an event that took place in the reign of the
Emperor Claudius in the mid-first century at the time when Paul was
writing his letters.
Suetonius writes, "He [Claudius]
banished from Rome all the Jews, who were continually making disturbances
at the instigation of one Chrestus." This may refer to arguments within
Judaism over Christ--
that is, over an interpretation that Christ, the "Anointed One," had come.
But the Romans don't even know the word, "Christ." They confuse it with
Judaism and Christianity did not necessarily part
ways at an early date.
Into the second century, and even into the fourth century, communities of
Jews and Christians overlapped and interacted.
We can see this, for example, in a fourth century churchman from Antioch
who truly loved Paul: John Chrysostom.
In one of his sermons, he bitterly complains that his congregants are
celebrating Jewish festivals, and even going to Jewish synagogues to confirm
their oaths in the presence of the sacred Torah scrolls, or the Law that
was kept there.
So we learn two things.
First, the Romans likely did not understand Christians to be a
religious group, or an association with a separate name from Jews, until
the second century.
And second, even in the fourth century, some Christians were acting
an awful lot like Jews, and this annoyed other Christians--
John Chrysostom, for example.
The lines between Christian and Jewish identity were sometimes quite porous.

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