Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Gentile converts and the Law

I think it is fair to say that the Gentiles who converted to Christian Judaism, remembering that Christianity was not a distinct religion from Judaism at first, would have exhibited a wide range of attitudes toward the Jewish Law, just as there was a spectrum of Christian Jewish attitudes toward the Law.

If we look at the spectrum that, for example, Brown and Meier suggest was present in the earliest church, we had Jews like the Pharisee Christians in Acts 15 who believed that Gentiles not only needed to keep the Law but needed to be circumcised to escape God's coming wrath. From the looks of Galatians, these "Judaizers" surprisingly found Gentiles who were open to their convictions. You can imagine that a sense of eschatological urgency might easily have pushed those who had previously been God-fearers into become actual proselytes to Judaism by undergoing circumcision. The urgency and tone of Galatians suggests that such conversions did in fact occur on a noticeable level.

James and the Jerusalem church suggest a second kind of Gentile convert to Christian Judaism, namely, those that did not become circumcised but remained more conservative than Paul when it came to keeping the Law. Although the general consensus is that Romans addressed a mixed audience, a good argument can be made that it was predominantly, although not exclusively, Gentile (e.g., Rom. 1:13; 11:13). [1] Indeed, some of the unexamined assumptions we are addressing here in relation to Hebrews apply equally to Romans. It is overwhelmingly likely that early first century Gentile Christianity displayed the same spectrum of attitudes toward the Jewish Law that we find within Christian Judaism in general.

So Brown and Meier plausibly argue that "the dominant Christianity at Rome had been shaped by the Jerusalem Christianity associated with James and Peter, and hence was a Christianity appreciative of Judaism and loyal to its customs." [2] ...

[1] E.g., Beker, Jewett, 70.

[2] Antioch and Rome, 110. This notion is confirmed by Ambriosiaster...


Angie Van De Merwe said...

In "secular" language, a proselyte to Judiasm would be a humanist, i.e. "Christian Humanism".

Those that choose to be proselytes are considered "sanctified" or take on the "second work of grace" after belief, which is political action (behavior), confirming James declaration that faith without works is dead.

The problem for me, intellectually and morally, is who is to envision another's "sanctifying work"? Morality must allow for choice, not coercion or persumption upon another about our religious convictions (which should leave the political law mute).

Civil liberties, in our society, were to support the individual's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However "life" or "happiness" is defined, liberty was to be the ruling frame in America!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Sorry, I missed your last comment about Judiasm influencing our country. The West does have Judeo-Christian values about lying, cheating/stealing, adultry, etc.

Law serves the social contract, as a protector of each of us. It is the judge of crime, and applies to all citizens, no matter the status, whether the citizen is a laborer, or the President. No one was "above the law".

The "rule of law" created our understanding of justice, as we did not depend on Kings, or Leaders to determine our status before the law. Only our courts and the judges that sit in them, serve to protect the rights of citizens in cases of conflict.

The law is how we have shaped our values to protect the individual in the "Bill of Rights".

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I have a family member that suffered an accident leaving them in ICU, stable but critical condition.
The mom posted about the situation on FB, stating that "tribulation works patience". Another respondant made a comment about how "faith is perfected by trials"! I couldn't help myself, I posted the verse, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick"! So, weary of theological rationalization of everything in and about life!

Whether one believes in God or not, humans are responsible. This is what makes our Founders such great men, because they created a Constitution that protected individuals by law and limited Power by checks and balances!! That takes great humility to not over regulate or control others, but grant them liberty in their differences.