SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION

When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation

Yale Univ. Oct. 2018. 272p. illus. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780300190519. $27.50; ebk. ISBN 9780300240740. HIST
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Fredriksen (emerita, Aurelio Professor of Scripture, Boston Univ.; Paul: The Pagans' Apostle) has made a career out of bringing alive the ancient Jewish roots of Christianity. This work continues that effort by telling the story of the formative years that saw Jesus come to prominence, most significantly, the impact of his death on the nascent Christ-centered community in Palestine. Because "the future imposes itself on the past," Fredriksen argues, people may read ancient church history without proper context. The author focuses on cooperation between the Apostle Paul and the Jerusalem church headed by James and Peter. However, she scrupulously avoids the terms Christian and church, as modern misconceptions. She asserts that Paul never viewed Jesus as God; such divinization had to wait for the imperial councils of the fourth and fifth centuries. Resurrection of the dead was already part of Jewish belief long before Jesus. Thus, calling this first Jerusalem generation anything other than Jews domesticates the theological and historical validity of their lives.
VERDICT An intriguing challenge to biblical history that will be compelling to readers interested in Christianity's Jewish beginnings.

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