Judean Jewish Christianity
As we have seen, the Pauline letters show a well-developed pattern of Christdevotion involving remarkable beliefs and devotional practices that was already conventionalized and apparently uncontroversial among his churches at an impressively early date. This presents us with an important historical question (indeed, some might say it is the key historical question about first-century Christianity): How and why did this pattern of devotion to Jesus emerge so early and so fully? In particular, what relation was there between the Christdevotion of the Pauline churches and the beliefs and practices of the Jewish Christian predecessors of Paul's converts in Roman Judea? Does the Pauline Christ-devotion represent a major innovation in or departure from the religious views and practices of these earlier Christian circles (or at least some of them), or is there considerable continuity? Further, what kind of significant diversity might there have been in the Christ-devotion of Christian circles in Roman Judea?1 These are the questions to which we turn in this chapter.
Although there are additional reasons for the universally agreed-upon view that there were such earlier Christian circles, in fact our earliest and most
1. I use the geographical term "Judea" here to refer to the area that later was designated
"Palestine" by the Romans, which takes in the biblical areas of Judea and Galilee. Paul seems to use
"Judea" to mean the larger entity (i.e., the Roman province), and this is a common first-century
use of the term. I refer to the groups in question as "Christianity" or "Christian" simply because
they are historically attached to the religion that came to carry this name, without necessarily pre-
judging their particular forms of beliefs about Jesus or their religious practices. Some scholars dis-
tinguish putative "Jesus movements" in Palestine (or specifically Galilee) from the "Christian"
groups more directly reflected in the New Testament. But this terminological distinction in fact is
more driven by certain polemical and theological concerns than by historical understanding, and
rests upon claims that I do not find particularly persuasive, as I will explain in this chapter.