Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity

Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity

Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity

Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity

Synopsis

The third and final installment of James Dunn's magisterial history of Christian origins through 190 C.E., Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity covers the period after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. through the second century, when the still-new Jesus movement firmed up its distinctive identity markers and the structures on which it would establish its growing appeal in the following decades and centuries.

Dunn examines in depth the major factors that shaped first-generation Christianity and beyond, exploring the parting of the ways between Christianity and Judaism, the Hellenization of Christianity, and responses to Gnosticism. He mines all the first- and second-century sources, including the New Testament Gospels, New Testament apocrypha, and such church fathers as Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus, showing how the Jesus tradition and the figures of James, Paul, Peter, and John were still esteemed influences but were also the subject of intense controversy as the early church wrestled with its evolving identity.

Comprehensively covering an important, complex era in Christianity that is often overlooked, this volume is a landmark contribution to the field.

Excerpt

With this volume (volume 3) I come to the end of my attempt to sketch out Christianity in the Making. 70 ce was an appropriate place to stop volume 2, since the first generation of Christianity (30-70) was so crucial to determining how the impact of Jesus had spread beyond the immediate disciples of Jesus and the borders of ancient Israel. the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman legions certainly marked a transition point of the greatest significance — both for the founding community of Christianity (Jerusalem) and for Christianity’s mother religion, Judaism. But the majority of the New Testament writings probably emerged in the period following that epochal event. and 70 in effect marked the transition from the first-generation leaders, James, Peter and Paul, into a second generation of still significant leaders, like Clement and Ignatius, but where the issues and influences were beginning to shift towards the more diverse and more developed questions and challenges which shaped the early churches. Here the last of the first-generation apostles (John) comes into play in unexpected ways. But with Justin Martyr, the challenges posed by Valentinus and Marcion, and the consolidation provided by Irenaeus in particular, it becomes evident what Christianity was becoming, and what the principal features were which would be consolidated and shaped in the decades ahead. Much as it would have been attractive to go further into Tertullian and Origen, or still further into Cyprian and beyond, the die had been cast in the first 150 years, and what followed was, in an important sense, only a further working out of what had been established in that initial or initiating period.

I wrestled long in deciding what title to give to this volume. Initially I wanted it to be ‘tertium genus’, a phrase drawn from Tertullian, ad Nationes 1.8, though more widely used. It well represents the sense, shared by both

1. See particularly A. von Harnack, The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the

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