BAR 38:06, Nov/Dec 2012
From Jewish to Gentile
How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity
The combined expression “Jewish Christian,” made up of two seemingly contradictory concepts, must strike readers not specially trained in theology or religious history as an oxymoron. For how can someone simultaneously be a follower of both Moses and Jesus? Yet at the beginning of the Christian movement, in the first hundred years of the post-Jesus era, encounters with Jewish Christians (also called Judeo-Christians) distinguishable from gentile Christians were a daily occurrence both in the Holy Land and in the diaspora.
During his days of preaching, Jesus of Nazareth addressed only Jews, “the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 10:5; 15:24). His disciples were expressly instructed not to approach gentiles or Samaritans (Matthew 10:5). On the few occasions that Jesus ventured beyond the boundaries of his homeland, he never proclaimed his gospel to pagans, nor did his disciples do so during his lifetime. The mission of the 11 apostles to “all the nations” (Matthew 28:19) is a “post-Resurrection” idea. It appears to be of Pauline inspiration and is nowhere else found in the Gospels (apart from the spurious longer ending of Mark [Mark 16:15], which is missing from all the older manuscriptsa). Jesus’ own perspective was exclusively Jewish; he was concerned only with Jews.