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Review of Fredriksen, “When Christians Were Jews”

February 1, 2019

My commissioned review of Paula Fredriksen’s new book, When Christians Were Jews (Yale University Press, 2018) has now appeared in the online journal, Marginalia:  Los Angeles Review of Books.  You can access the review here.

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3 Comments
  1. Very good critique. As always, I find your particular view reassuring to a Christian seeking understanding. Help thou my unbelief!!!

  2. Jim permalink

    Confusing me is easy, and one thing that I’m perplexed about is how the early Jesus followers could be allowed by the Jewish religious authorities to set up shop in Jerusalem relatively soon(?) after his crucifixion. To me, it would be one thing if Jesus was executed for stealing a horse/donkey, but totally another for being executed for sedition, as the sign over the cross (in all four gospels) suggests. The Jewish community could have taken the view of Jesus’ disciples as partners in crime.

    Yet, Acts portrays some of Jesus disciples/followers visiting the temple and possibly even holding meetings there very soon after the crucifixion. And from Josephus, it seems that Jesus’ brother, James, was reasonably well accepted by the Jerusalem religious community.

    I suppose that it’s possible that the Jewish religious community in Jerusalem might have perceived Jesus’ followers as quacks for believing in a crucified messiah, but otherwise totally harmless.

    Are there some options for looking at the likelihood of Jesus’ disciples setting up a Jerusalem headquarters relatively soon after his crucifixion (for serious political charges)? Is this a topic covered in When Christians Were Jews?

    • That only Jesus was arrested and executed is, indeed, very noteworthy, given the more typical treatment of would-be messiah/revolutionary figures by the Romans (which often involved a massacre of followers as well as the leader). Also, the move of Galilean Jesus-followers to Jerusalem is noteworthy, and indeed treated by Fredriksen.
      As for the treatment of Jesus-followers in Jerusalem, it wasn’t all sweetness and light, as Acts and Paul attest. For a good discussion see Craig C. Hill, Hellenists and Hebrews: Reappraising Division Within the Earliest Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992).

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