Historians of ancient Christianity have long debated the meaning of New Testament passages that appear to criticize Judaism. For many scholars, these passages represent a sort of family squabble in which followers of one Jewish sect are attacking another. Charles David Isbell disagrees:
The . . . writers of the [the books of Mark, Matthew, and Luke] were not part of either mainstream Judaism or any identifiable Jewish sub-group of the era. The . . . points being made [in these books] fit a Roman or Hellenistic context far too often to sustain the idea that we are reading nothing more than the saga of some Jews involved in a petty dispute. In addition, the [later] Church Fathers, who were certainly not Jewish, had no difficulty in using the New Testament to denigrate Judaism in a most derogatory fashion. This they could do without the necessity of rephrasing as Gentiles what they read in a Jewish New Testament. All they needed to do was to take seriously the New Testament on its own terms as they read and understood it. As it stood, it fit well with . . . decidedly non-Jewish world views and cultures.