Having started as a Jewish sect among other Jewish sects, Christianity eventually followed a separate course. Prior to 70, that gradual parting of the ways met with only mild irritation on the part of the Jews: Christians were brothers who had gone astray by believing in Jesus; they were estranged relatives. Bitterness mounted in the late first cen­tury as some of the Christian traditions concerning Jesus and the apos­tles had just been recast in an anti-Jewish spirit (e.g., John's gospel) and as it became clear that the Christian group had been moving step by step away from Pharisaic Judaism. It was then natural for Jews not only to see Christianity as a rival twin, but also to look at Christians as unrepen­tant renegades and tainted heretics (minim). The claims of Jesus had already been stamped blasphemous and his followers had to fall under the same verdict. Those transgressors, those separatists, were not to be assisted. They had used “our” synagogues only to end up proclaiming themselves the “true Israel”; they had applauded the fall of Jerusalem and were inclined to dignify the Roman Empire as an instrument of divine will. Christians were henceforth cursed or at least scoffed at in the synagogues, and they had to be denounced; to that effect malicious gossip and gibes were often resorted to. Some popular Jewish pamphlets of the second century onward contain nasty talk about Christians and tend to malign Jesus, Mary, Paul, the apostles, and, generally, the new believers. Clement, in apparent agreement with Tacitus, noted that “jeal- ousy” bred and fed Jewish resentment and verbal assaults. But then, extreme rhetoric in disputes was a practice common to all in the ancient world; in that regard Jews and, later, Christians were no exception.

Similar posts: