The Separation of Christians from Judaism II

By: deacon Orlando Fernández Guerra

In the year 70 d. C., the Romans completely destroyed the Jerusalem Temple. Orthodox Judaism led by the Pharisees and gathered in the city of Yamnia then began the process of unifying a new national identity around the Tor. His influence spread rapidly throughout all the synagogues of the Empire, attended by many Jews who had accepted Jesus and who made this cultural space their scope for preaching the good news. These believers were known as “mesianic Jews” and not as “Judeo-Christians”, for Christianity as an organized and independent religion did not yet exist. So the category of Judeo-Christian is more historiographic than historical. It is used today to differentiate them from the Orthodox Jews who rejected Jesus of Nazareth.
During the leadership of Rabbi Gamaliel II, ben Zakkai’s successor in Yamnia, he wrote and added to the eighteen blessings that the Jews used to pray every day, the unfortunate jaculatory known as: Birkat ha-Minim (Curse of heretics), which reads thus: “Let there be no hope for apostates, and that the kingdom of impertinence be torn from our day , and let the nosrim and minim disappear in an instant. May they be erased from the book of life and not inscribed with the righteous. Bless you, Lord, submit to the shameless.”
This prayer rejected heterodoxes who endangered the unity of the new Judaism, but also the Judeo-Christians who ended up abandoning synagogues, because they would not have agreed to curse themselves by reciting it. There was no need for a formal decree to expel the Jewish community, the mere existence of such a prayer automatically excluded them. Israeli historian Gedaliah Alon argues that this prayer may have been directed only against the “mesian Jews” – understand the Judeo-Christians – and not against Christians from Gentility. Certainly, among the manuscripts found in Cairo’s Genizá it can be found that this curse was addressed to two categories of Jews, the minim, considered heretics and the Nosrim (the Judeo-Christians). Over time it was interpreted against all Christians and this further drove both communities further away. Gradually the Jewish reference within the Christian Church was blurred. The different perception and assessment of the pillars of Judaism (monotheism, Israel as a chosen people, the Alliance, the Tor, the land of Israel) between Jews and Christians was the seed of future separation. On the other hand, the Pauline mission between the Gentiles and the divinity of Jesus made Christianity unacceptable to Judaism. However, the separation was not immediate, lasted some time and was not consummated until the middle of the 2nd century.
Some were integrated into the great Church that grew very fast with the conversion of the Gentiles, others remained separated and gave rise to various sectarian groups: the Drunkites, the El-Casaites and the Nazoreo who, although they admitted the mesianism of Jesus, rejected their divinity. From the nascent Christian literature they used only the Gospel of Matthew and repudiated the Pauline letters. Over time they were creating their own literature from which we have received the gospels of the Hebrews and James, the Pastor of Hermas, etc. Over the years these groups disappeared completely.
Nor was the mission among the Gentiles without difficulties. Missionaries needed to find a balance between the evangelization of Roman culture and the inculturation of the traditional values of the Gentiles. In this situation it became urgent to remember what was lived and celebrated. If at first mere orality was sufficient for evangelization, the most important traditions had to be put in writing.
Different collections of texts interpreting the Jewish scriptures began to appear and circulate connecting them with the sayings and deeds of Jesus. This was the raw material that the evangelists took when composing their works. From Greco-Roman literature they took the literary form of biography and Judeo-biblical culture the theological reading of history. Faith in Jesus was the hinge that united both eyes on the same historical event. In the middle of the 2nd century, St Irenaeus testified that at that time there were scriptures considered sacred by Jesus’ disciples, to which the Jewish scriptures were added, also recognized as their own. Ω

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