Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity

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  1. The history of Christianity.
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The relationship of the earliest Christian churches to Judaism turned principally on two questions: 1 the messianic role of Jesus of Nazareth and 2 the permanent validity of the Mosaic Law for all. The Hebrew Scriptures presented history as the stage of a providential drama eventually ending in a triumph of God over all present sources of frustration e.

The proper course of action leading to the consummation of the drama, however, was the subject of some disagreement.

Among the diverse groups were the aristocratic and conservative Sadducees , who accepted only the five books of Moses the Pentateuch and whose lives and political power were intimately associated with Temple worship , and the Pharisees , who accepted the force of oral tradition and were widely respected for their learning and piety. The Zealots were aggressive revolutionaries known for their violent opposition to Rome and its polytheisms. Other groups were the Herodians , supporters of the client kingdom of the Herods a dynasty that supported Rome and abhorrent to the Zealots , and the Essenes , a quasi-monastic dissident group, probably including the sect that preserved the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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  • This latter sect did not participate in the Temple worship at Jerusalem and observed another religious calendar, and from their desert retreat they awaited divine intervention and searched prophetic writings for signs indicating the consummation. What relation the followers of Jesus had to some of these groups is not clear. In the canonical Gospels those accepted as authentic by the church the main targets of criticism are the scribes and Pharisees, whose attachment to the tradition of Judaism is presented as legalistic and pettifogging.

    The Sadducees and Herodians likewise receive an unfriendly portrait.


    Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity | Joel Willitts

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