Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Monotheistic Religions(CISMOR)Doshisha University

> Past Research Activities > The Jesus Movement within Judaism – from Inherence to Separation

Past Research Activities

Study Meeting #2, 2009

The Jesus Movement within Judaism – from Inherence to Separation

Date: 2009/06/13 13:00 - 16:40
Place: Conference Room, Neiseikan 5F, Doshisha University
  • Ritsu Ishikawa (Professor, School of Theology, Doshisha University)
  • Moriyoshi Murayama (Assistant Professor, School of Theology, Doshisha University)
It is generally understood that Christianity is a religion where Jesus spread his teachings, which his disciples then inherited, but the first time in history the equivalent of the word “Christianity” appeared was, at the earliest, at the beginning of the second century A.D. The first appearance of the word “Christian” can be confirmed no earlier than after the first Jewish-Roman War and the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Therefore, one can infer that a Christian religion independent from Judaism gradually took shape after 70 A.D.

The then-province of Galilee was a place cut off from traditional Jewish culture and was often shunned as the “foreign Galilee.” It was also a fertile land, so it experienced an inflow of people. Large landowners began to take control of the land, causing the gap between the rich and poor to grow. Jesus, who witnessed commoners becoming targets of religious scorn and economic exploitation, explained as part of his religious activities the direct relationship with “God the Father” and shined a light on the sick and the poor, who had been treated as criminals. He thereby relativized Jewish formalities and laws and criticized the sanctification system. But Jesus’ religious activities did not relativize Judaism itself nor did they signify a separation from it and can be understood as a movement within Judaism.

After Jesus’ death, his disciples once disbanded, but they later rejoined under the testimony of Jesus’ resurrection. A new movement developed professing that Jesus was Christ. This was mainly carried out by two schools, the Hebrewites, who remained at the Jerusalem church, and the Hellenists, who were based in Antioch. The former respected the Torah and the temple, while the latter criticized them and distanced themselves. Paul, a representative of the latter, searched for the path to salvation in the resurrected Christ and, by relativizing the Torah, promoted evangelism. However, Paul’s intention was not to separate from Judaism; he believed that a return to true Judaism could be achieved by becoming one with Christ, who was love itself. Needless to say, the Hebrewites and even the Hellenists cannot be seen as a group separate from Judaism, and they saw themselves as one sect of Judaism.

When the temple was destroyed in the first Jewish-Roman War, Judaism lost its center and was dealt a devastating blow. The bearers of Jesus’ religious movement were also confronted with the issue of establishing their identity. Further, a new “Jewish tax” (Fiscus Judaicus) imposed on the Jewish people sped the pursuit of independence from Judaism. Therefore, the Gospels were created as the story of Jesus, and Paul was valued anew for his clear argument for seeking not the Torah, but Christ, as the path to salvation. Through these efforts, a group separate from Judaism that can be called Christian was formed.

After that, Christianity spread in the Mediterranean region, and as foreign believers increased in number, they began to forget that Christianity had its beginnings in Judaism. Further, the anti-Jewish stance of the Roman Empire also had an impact, and discrimination against the Jewish people began to take root. In the end, the Christian Church did not cut blood relations with Judaism, but the ill will remained. Christians ended up coexisting with the Jews with the feelings of both love and hate that accompany intimacy.

Kiyoshi UEHARA
(CISMOR Research Assistant)