A New Look at the Jewish Origins of Christianity

A leading scholar of Christianity in its earliest form, Paula Fredriksen has written much about the Jewish context of Jesus’ original followers and about ancient Christians’ attitudes toward Jews. In her most recent book, When Jews Were Christians, she presents a history and analysis of Christianity when it was still a sect of Judaism. Larry Hurtado writes in his review:

[O]ne of the acute observations in the book is how noteworthy it is that Jesus’ followers relocated to Jerusalem from the Galilee in the aftermath of their experiences of the risen Jesus. Fredriksen rightly contends that this reflects their belief that the events of eschatological salvation would all unfurl from Jerusalem, Zion, the “holy mountain.” But she doesn’t seem to recognize also that this Jerusalem focus likely reflects the belief that Jesus had been designated as the royal-Davidic messiah. That is, establishing themselves in Jerusalem was another expression of this messianic . . . claim, which did not develop over time, but was prominent from the outset. As those who constituted the messianic community, where else should they locate than the Davidic city? Their relocation also represented, in short, their messianic claim upon Jerusalem [itself]! . . .

[After Jesus’ death], biblical interpretation led believers to “refine” (or reformulate) ideas about the “messiah” and the ways that Jesus fulfilled that role. So, for example, there was the novel idea that the messiah was to undergo a violent death and then come again in glory. [Along with this, Fredriksen identifies] another novel idea: the early believers felt themselves obliged to continue Jesus’ mission “to prepare Israel” for the coming Kingdom of God. Then, through various circumstances, this mission expanded to include Jews in the wider diaspora and then even Gentiles. . . .

This inclusion of Gentiles, however, she posits, was initially “unintended” and came about as a consequence of the mission to the Jewish diaspora. For in diaspora synagogues, there were also pagans, [known as] “God-fearers,” who were attracted to the Jewish deity and to some Jewish practices, such as Sabbath observance. . . . She contends that, unlike the more [permissive] common Jewish attitude toward such pagans, the early Jesus movement required them to desist from worship of their ancestral deities. Thereby, these Gentile converts were no longer pagans, and no longer God-fearers, and not proselytes to Judaism either, but, instead, “eschatological Gentiles” treated as the fulfillment of the scriptural oracles about the nations abandoning their idols and coming to embrace the God of Israel.

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Read more at Marginalia

More about: ancient Judaism, Christianity, History & Ideas, Jewish-Christian relations, Messianism

 

Demography Is on Israel’s Side

March 24 2023

Yasir Arafat was often quoted as saying that his “strongest weapon is the womb of an Arab woman.” That is, he believed the high birthrates of both Palestinians and Arab Israelis ensured that Jews would eventually be a minority in the Land of Israel, at which point Arabs could call for a binational state and get an Arab one. Using similar logic, both Israelis and their self-styled sympathizers have made the case for territorial concessions to prevent such an eventuality. Yet, Yoram Ettinger argues, the statistics have year after year told a different story:

Contrary to the projections of the demographic establishment at the end of the 19th century and during the 1940s, Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is higher than those of all Muslim countries other than Iraq and the sub-Saharan Muslim countries. Based on the latest data, the Jewish fertility rate of 3.13 births per woman is higher than the 2.85 Arab rate (since 2016) and the 3.01 Arab-Muslim fertility rate (since 2020).

The Westernization of Arab demography is a product of ongoing urbanization and modernization, with an increase in the number of women enrolling in higher education and increased use of contraceptives. Far from facing a “demographic time bomb” in Judea and Samaria, the Jewish state enjoys a robust demographic tailwind, aided by immigration.

However, the demographic and policy-making establishment persists in echoing official Palestinian figures without auditing them, ignoring a 100-percent artificial inflation of those population numbers. This inflation is accomplished via the inclusion of overseas residents, double-counting Jerusalem Arabs and Israeli Arabs married to Arabs living in Judea and Samaria, an inflated birth rate, and deflated death rate.

The U.S. should derive much satisfaction from Israel’s demographic viability and therefore, Israel’s enhanced posture of deterrence, which is America’s top force- and dollar-multiplier in the Middle East and beyond.

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Read more at Ettinger Report

More about: Demography, Fertility, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Yasir Arafat