Marianne Dacy, The Separation of Early Christianity from Judaism
I recently lectured In Israel on the separation of Judaism and Christianity. One of my sources was the Ph.D. thesis of Marianne Dacy. Without providing the context (I am sorry about that), I thought it was important enough for you to read some of her conclusions and citations as you re-examine the actual history of the period from 33AD to 350AD. So put aside what your sanitized church history class taught you and what you inferred from the local church and read what historians are saying about this crucial period.
Robert Wilken makes the observation, that in order to become acceptable as a religion, Christianity needed not only to define itself as against Judaism but also in terms understandable to Graeco-Roman culture. Early Latin sources refer to Christians as practising superstitio, a derogatory term which Cicero had used to mean the ‘empty dread of the gods’, in contradistinction to the expression religio, which was expressed as ‘confined to their pious cult’. In order to rid itself of the label of ‘pernicious superstition’ Christianity needed to define itself as a philosophy. Yet, although in the eyes of the Romans, Christian worship was not dignified with the term religio, it was recognised that they did posses certain theological beliefs. p. 44.
Geza Vermes said: “One thing, however, is sure. When Christianity later set out to define the meaning of son of God in its Creed, the paraphrase it produced – “God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, consubstantial with the Father”– drew its inspiration, not from the pure language and teaching of the Galilean Jesus, nor even from Paul the Diaspora Jew, but from a gentile – Christian interpretation of the Gospel adapted to the mind of the totally alien world of pagan Hellenism.” (Vermes, Jesus, 213.)
Flusser argues that Jesus’ whole metaphysical drama is composed of Jewish elements, and he sees original christology as developing from Jesus’ exalted sense of self-awareness. Jesus’ personal experience of divine sonship came to be linked with the Jewish concept of the pre-existence of the Messiah. This led in turn to the idea that Christ was at the same time God’s hypostasis, and that God created the world through him. Jesus’ crucifixion was seen in terms of the death of a martyr expiating sin, and the concepts of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension are also Jewish. Again, the idea of Son of Man, expressed in Daniel and Enoch, represents the highest concept of Messiah in Judaism. Flusser claims that ‘the church’s christology was a sublime expression of the tendency of Second Commonwealth Judaism to remythologise itself; Christianity showed the extreme possibilities of this remythologisation’. p. 139
Katz concludes that there was no official anti-Christian policy at Yavneh or elsewhere before Bar Kochba, and no total separation between Jews and Christians before this date. p. 10.
Flusser affirms that this change in direction from the east, where the Jewish population was most numerous, to the west, which was settled by non-Jews, was pivotal to the success of the Christian mission, andresulted in Christianity developing into a European religion. He argues that liberalism, an intrinsic element of western culture, added to Christianity’s movement away from ritual and ceremonial prescriptions concerning ‘food and drink and various ablutions’ (Heb 9:10). In addition, he holds that had Christianity spread first to regions of eastern Asia, it would have developed specific ceremonial and ritual practices based on Jewish law in order to have been accepted as a religion in that part of the world. pp. 22-23.