Brief summary of Christianity
Fragmentation of the
primitive Christian movement
Fragmenting of the Christian movement:
In the later decades of the first century CE, there were
three main groups, each claiming to be teaching Yeshua of Nazareth's (Jesus
Jewish Christianity: After Yeshua's death, his followers formed the Jewish Christian
movement, centered in Jerusalem. Two of Yeshua's followers, Simon Peter and
James the Just were prominent in the group. James, who is variously considered as
either Yeshua's brother, cousin, or friend, became the leader of the Jewish
The group regarded themselves Jews in a
reform movement within Judaism. They continued to worship Yahweh, to sacrifice at the temple,
to circumcise their male newborns, to follow Jewish kosher food laws, etc. They seem
to have viewed
Jesus as a human prophet, and not as a deity or part of the Trinity.
For most of the fourth decade of the first century CE,
the followers of Jesus were unified under the leadership James the Just.
The Jewish Christians were killed in large numbers by the Roman Army during
their siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The rest were
scattered. Although there are references to Jewish Christians in later years,
they never again achieved a position of prominence.
Pauline Christianity: The 13 epistles (letters) that the Bible
records as having been written by Paul, along with the
writings of the author(s) of the Gospel of John, provided much of the
theological foundation for what has been called Pauline Christianity or
ministry, which started circa 37
CE, and ended with his execution by the Roman Empire in
Rome some three decades later, was directed mainly to Gentiles -- non-Jews --
throughout the northern and eastern Mediterranean basin.
Most mainline and liberal/progressive Christian theologians divide the 13
epistles that identify Paul as their author into three groups: those that were
definitely written by Paul, those that may have been written by him, and those
that definitely were not written by him. They believe that the third group of
writings written as late as 150 CE, up to 8
decades after Paul's death, by anonymous authors. Marcus Borg and John Crossan
suggest that the main motivation for these forgeries was to dilute Paul's radical
message in order to make it conform with the culture of the Roman Empire. 1
The Book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke were written by the same
author. Conservative Christians generally believe that he was a physician and
a disciple of Paul by the name of Luke; liberal Christians generally believe
that the author's name and identity are unknown. Acts indicates that an early
conflict between Pauline and Jewish Christianity was resolved
by a meeting called the
Jerusalem. However other passages in the
Christian Scriptures (New Testament) indicate that friction existed between
the two groups over beliefs and practices. The Jewish Christians were
condemned as Judaisers.
Gnostic Christianity: This is the third main early Christian
movement based on the teachings of Yeshua of Nazareth. They taught that Jesus
was a spirit being sent by the true God to impart knowledge to humans so that they
could escape the confines of fleshly existence on Earth. They regarded Yahweh, the creator
God of the
Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), to be an inferior, short tempered, fickle, and
vicious creator deity who committed many genocides, and other evil acts.
In addition to Gnostic, Jewish, and and Pauline Christianity, there were many
other versions of Christianity being taught throughout the Roman Empire. Often, there would be a number of
conflicting Christianities being promoted within a single city.
Marcus J. Borg & John Dominic Crossan, "The First Paul:
Reclaiming the radical visionary behind the church's conservative icon," Harper
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Copyrighted © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on
First posted: 2009-MAR-24
Last updated 2009-MAR-24
Author: B.A. Robinson