The disappearance of Jewish-Christianity illustrates the growing deterioration of the relationships between Judaism and Christianity from the first to the second century. Prior to 70, the ex-Pharisee Paul from the Diaspora did not think he had to deny his Jewishness in order to proclaim that the law was transcended by the gospel; for him God's benevolent attitude toward Israel had turned now also to the Jesus movement. In his missionary activity Paul used the synagogue as a stepping-stone for his proclamation; in many ways the Judaism he knew helped the spread of Christianity. His disagreement with the syn­agogue receded behind his main interest in the Gentiles.

The Christian writings produced after 70 attest to the beginning of an escalation in negative feelings and rhetoric. The Synoptics, after affirming that the prophecies had been fulfilled in the new Israel, retro- jected in their narratives a situation of steady confrontation between Jesus and the Jews. They emphasized the dissociation from nationalist groups and began to shift the blame for the interruption of Jesus' career from the Romans to the Jews. For John the rupture with the synagogue is a fact. Correspondingly, the first anti-Christian polemics among Jews are registered before the end of the first century.

The confrontation became antagonism when it was claimed that Christianity supersedes Israel, being the authentic heir to Israel's tradi­tions (see Barnabas, Epistle to Hebrews) and fulfilling its messianic prophecy (Justin in 140/155). Clear hostility emerged in Melito of Sardis (ca. 160), who through his misreading of the gospels still more bluntly than Justin held the Jews responsible for the death of Jesus, inaugurating a fateful tradition of interpretation that was to be reinforced in the fourth century (Ephrem, John Chrysostom). Anti-Jewishness had already reached a summit with Marcion's rejection of everything Jewish in Christianity; his stance was not condoned by the church, but the anti- Jewish mood remained, ignoring Christianity's essential indebtedness to Judaism and acquiescing in the anti-Jewish legislation of the fourth and fifth centuries. Thus the stage was set for the tragic history of Jewish- Christian relations in medieval and modern times.

As a result, from the second century on, while Christian leaders like John Chrysostom did their best to contain and isolate the Jewish community, Jews themselves were inclined to see in Christianity the arch-enemy. Antipathy was mutual and “the rabbinic maledictions are perfectly balanced by the imprecations of Christian anti-Semitism.”
Similar posts: