Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity

By Jacob Neusner | Go to book overview

PREFACE

This book addresses the beginning student in the study of New Testament and earliest Christianity. The purpose is to describe the Jewish world of the Land of Israel, into which Jesus was born, in which he lived, and in which, to begin with, his life and teachings took shape and found their original meaning. Since the history of Christianity begins in Israel, the Jewish people, and in Judaism, Israel's religion, students naturally want to know something about that formative context. I hope to serve by describing what seem to me five of the most basic topics. The five chapters then constitute readings for five units generally included in any course syllabus at the beginning of the study of Christianity.

First, we deal with the situation of that country of many names and many peoples, called, by Jews, the Land of Israel, by Romans (not in the first century, to be sure) and by Arabs later on, Palestine, and by Christians from the time of Constantine, “the Holy Land.”

Second, we turn to principal types of “Judaism,” that is, systems of viewing the world and living life characteristic of distinct groups of Jews. By describing three kinds of Judaic holy persons, I offer a set of three ideal types, which help us to sort out the diverse points of emphasis in that varied religious culture created by Jews living in the Land of Israel.

Third, we focus upon a single group, represented in the Gospels as one source of opposition to Jesus, namely, the Pharisees. I describe the problems we face in dealing with the Pharisees, who they were, and what they became.

Fourth, since New Testament students generally learn about the problems associated with the discovery of “the historical Jesus,” I present a set of similar problems. The best-known figure in the

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