I gave Greg Monette the wrong date for when his contribution to our blog tour was due, so instead of being posted yesterday it is available today. He is reviewing Chapter 6, “The Church between Paul, James, and Ignatius”. Here are his concluding remarks:

In the end, Craig Evans has written a fine chapter on how proper interpretation of the New Testament literature should not result in discovering anti-Semitism at play but rather fraternal debate within the Jewish fold. As the Jesus movement continued to grow in numbers, the synagogue late into the first century began to be increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of a crucified man being hailed as Messiah. This intramural squabbling increased and became more dangerous after the destruction of the temple (c. 70 CE) and especially in to the early part of the second century as we discover during the time of Bar Kokhba which Evans provides evidence for in this chapter.

To read the full thing go here.

Here is the complete list of all the contributions:

– March 19th: John Walker – Chapter 1
– March 25th: Abram K-J – Chapter 4
To summarize: Evans began with the question, “Did Jesus intend to establish ‘the Church’?” These six chapters answer both “yes” and “no”. For Evans, Jesus intended to establish a community, a remnant, that would renew Israel. The early “Church” was mostly Jewish, but various events lead to what scholars now call “the Parting of the Ways” where Christianity became something very distinct for Jewish identity and practice, sometimes even being antisemitic. So yes, Jesus intended to found a community, a qahal, an ekklesia, but he did not envision a community where his own people would not be part.

Why did this occur? In an appendix titled “Root Causes of the Jewish-Christian Rift: From Jesus to Justin” he gives seven reasons (pp. 142-149):

(1) “Christianity’s aggressive Gentile mission and lenient requirements for entry into the church.”

(2) Disagreement over “…the divinity of Jesus”.

(3) “Failure to observe Jewish food laws, laws of purity, and Sabbath observance forced complete separation between Gentile Christians and Jews, whether the latter were sympathetic to the Christian faith or not.”

(4) “Jewish nationalist interest” which caused further divide between Jews and Gentile Christians leaving Christian Jews stuck in the middle between supporting their own people and remaining united to those who shared their faith in Christ.

(5) The Bar Kokhba Revolt and the claims of  Simon “Bar Kokhba” to be a messiah, something Christians couldn’t accept.

(6) Similarly, the Jewish hopes of rebuilding the Temple.

(7) Finally, “the simple facts that Jesus had been put to death and the kingdom of God had failed to materialize”, or, at least appeared to have failed. This nullified messianic claims in the eyes of many Jews.

This book discusses a very important subject: how Christianity went from a Jewish Sect to a Gentile Religion with very few Jewish adherents. The (de)evolution of this scenario is guided by a juxtaposition between Jesus’ “family”, i.e., followers the the family of Caiaphas the High Priest, or, more broadly, the Jerusalem Elite. Eventually neither the family of Jesus nor the family of Caiaphas really won the day. The Temple was destoryed as seems to have been predicted by Jesus and his followers, but this changed Jesus’ “family” forever, for better or for worse.

I hope our blog tour has led some readers to decide to read the book. Again, the links to the reviews are posted here, so if you read it and you want to come back and interact I am sure that our participants will be happy to chat with you on their blogs!