The Final Separation of Judaism & Christianity

The two catastrophes, of 70 and 135 AD, effectively ended Jewish state history in antiquity. There were two immediate consequences of great historical significance. The first was the final separation of Judaism and Christianity. Paul, writing in the decade around 50 AD, had effectively repudiated the Mosaic law as the mechanism of justification and salvation, and in this he was consistent  with Jesus' teaching. At a meeting with the Jewish - Christian leaders in Jerusalem he has the right to exempt his Gentile converts from Jewish religious requirements. But none of this meant necessarily that Jews and Christians would come to regard their beliefs as mutually exclusive and their respective supporters as enemies of each other. The Gospel of Luke, written perhaps in the 60-s, resembles in some ways the writings of Hellenistic Jews in the Diaspora, directed as potential converts to Judaism. Luke's aim seems to have been to summarize and simplify the law, which he saw as an enlightened body of Jewish customs - the ethics of a specific people. Piety was the same among Jews and Gentiles: both were the means by which the soul was prepared to receive the gospel. The gentiles had their customs too, and God did not discriminate against those who did not possess the law, i.e. Jewish customs. Nor did God discriminate against Jews. Both categories were saved by means of faith and grace.

The notion that Gentiles and Jews could both subscribe to Christianity as a sort of super-religion could not survive the events of 66-70, which effectively destroyed the old Christian-Jewish church in Jerusalem. Most of its members must have perished. The survivors scattered. Their tradition ceased in any way to be a mainstream Christianity and survived merely as low sect, the Ebionites, eventually declared heretical. In the vacuum thus created, Hellenistic Christianity flourished and became the whole. The effect was to concentrate Christian belief still more fiercely on Paul's presentation of Christ's death and resurrection as the mechanism of salvation - itself clearly foreshadowed in Jesus' teaching - and on the nature of this anointed savior.

What did Jesus claim to be? The term he himself used most often, and others used of him, was "Son of Man". It may have meant a great deal; or little or nothing at all - just Jesus saying he was a man, or the man of particular mission. It can be argued that Jesus regarded himself as nothing more than a charismatic Hasidic Jew. But the notion that Jesus was divine, implicit in his resurrection and his foresight of this miracle, and his subsequent epiphanies, was present from the very beginnings of Apostolic Christianity. Moreover, it was accompanied by the equally early belief that he had instituted the ceremony of the Eucharist, in anticipation of his death and resurrection for the expiation of sin, in which his flesh and blood the substance of the sacrifice, confirmed the doctrine of Jesus' apotheosis. The question was Jesus God or man?, the Christians therefore answered: both. After 70 AD, their answer was unanimous and increasingly epmatic. This made a complete breach with Judaism inevitable...