From the Bible: The Separation of Christians from Judaism I

By deacon Orlando Fernández Guerra


The separation of Christians from Judaism, and its journey as a new religion at the end of the 1st century. C., was mediated by some historical events that were truly traumatic for both believing communities. In 76 a Jew named Eleazar, son of the high priest Ananiah, ordered that the sacrifice offered daily by the Roman emperor in the Temple of Jerusalem be suppressed, an occasion that some radical groups used to confront the Romans and their lackeys. His first action was to burn down the palaces of King Herod Agrippa and destroy the city’s archives.
Roman troops reacted immediately, thus us kicking out what is now known as the “first Jewish war.” General Vespasian began the siege of the city that his son Titus later took and completely destroyed along with the Temple in the year 70. Both became, successively, Roman emperors. The destruction of the greatest symbol of Judaism ended the city’s cult-priestly system.
Around this very time the direct witnesses of Jesus begin to disappear; those who knew him and were close to him during his public ministry:apostles and others who had transmitted the Teachings of the Master primarily orally. Christians of the second and third generation begin the process of writing and developing the traditions received together with the liturgical and doctrinal experience of their communities. They intended to inform their Christian faith in bequeathing it to future generations of believers (Lk 1:1-4). This is the period in which many of the texts that today make up our Canon of the New Testament are written.
The Judaism of the i century had been considerably plural and having to redefine its identity from these events caused the Pharisees to prevail, as they were a lay movement concerned with the cultivation of the Law and the extension to daily life of the precepts of purity that priests restricted to the Temple. As they were dominant in synagogues, they ended up starring in the preservation of rabbinical Judaism. Just ten years later, in Yamnia, a city south of present-day Tel Aviv, the most important intellectual and religious center of Judaism was born at the time. There Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai, with permission from the Roman authorities, founded a school where the sages devoted themselves to collecting the oral and written traditions of Israel. As a result of this process, the Misná was born, a set of legal texts that were later glossed between the iv and v centuries in two works called Talmud: Babylon and Jerusalem.
There is no historical evidence that a Jewish council was held there for the purpose of drawing up a canon of scripture. This criterion was only a hypothesis of the historian Heinrich Graetz in 1871 to try to explain why Jews have only sixty-six books in the Tanaj, a criterion to which churches born of reform appeal to keep their canon short of the Bible. The Jewish scriptures as they are today were not ready until the end of the 2nd or (iii) century and had nothing to do with Yamnia, but were the result of a long process of selection, approval, and exclusion in which they were primated followed by criteria: that the book had been written before 300 a. C., when Israel had not yet been hellenized; that would have been written in Hebrew or Aramaic and not in Greek; and that he had an inspired message addressed to God’s people.
From this time the sages gradually rejected some books written in Greek until they finally did so with all of us we now know as deuterocanonicals. Even later, the well-known version of the Seventy, translated into Alexandria around 250 a. C., by Jews of the diaspora, it was totally rejected, perhaps because it was the biblical version most used by Christians in the evangelization of the Roman world. In fact, copies of the text of the oldest Known or Preserved Seventy were made by Christians.
It is important to clarify that the Jews of that time who converted to Christianity were not part of the rabbinical school of Yamnia, even though many of them still visited synagogues on Saturday. Nor were other Judaic groups that the Pharisees considered heretical and what they called “Minim” (Sadducees, Estonians, Hellenists, etc.). The disciples of this school were only Jews who had rejected Jesus as the messiah. Ω

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