When Did Jews and Christians Part Ways? Later Than You Might Think

In her book When Christians Were Jews, Paula Fredriksen argues that one cannot easily point to a historical moment when Christianity ceased to be a Jewish sect and became a wholly separate religion. Rather, the process of disentanglement was a protracted one, remaining incomplete into the 4th century. Noah Benjamin Bickart, in his review, points to a particularly original part of her argument:

Most scholars see a dichotomy between Paul’s letters on the one hand and Matthew’s gospel on the other. The former are usually understood as products of a thoroughly Gentile church, [centered in Syria], whereas the latter seems to speak to a decidedly Jewish, albeit Jesus-worshipping, group [based in Jerusalem]. But Fredriksen argues that there was no daylight between Paul and the early Jerusalem church. It was just the difference between those who lived in the Diaspora and those who lived in Judea—all these early Christians regarded themselves as Jews.

Jews, especially those outside of Judea, had long had to negotiate their status as members of the broader Roman world while standing apart from it. . . . Likewise, many Romans who were not ethnic Judeans were attracted to Jewish practices. Synagogues in Syria, Asia Minor, and elsewhere already had a class of adherents who worshipped the God of Israel without having been circumcised or obligated to observe the Sabbath. Paul’s insistence that these Gentiles need not undergo circumcision or follow the [laws of the Torah] was neither a rejection of the law for ethnic Judeans nor a radical shift in the audience of the Christian message.

As with other competing forms of 1st-century Judaism, the Temple’s destruction in 70 CE changed everything for early Christianity. The Jerusalem church, made up of many of Jesus’ earliest followers, went up in the same smoke as the Temple. In the ensuing centuries, the vast majority of Christians were Gentiles who imposed an anti-Jewish agenda on the events and texts of their past. Fredriksen peels away these later theological layers to present an early Christian community that was decidedly Jewish.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: ancient Judaism, Christianity, Jewish-Christian relations, Paul of Tarsus

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy