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The Early Christian Church and Its Ties to Judaism

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  • 0:07 Early Church Defined
  • 1:56 Biblical Authors
  • 3:12 Christian Authors
  • 3:46 Jesus & Christianity
  • 5:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explore the early Christian Church and its close connection to Judaism. It will highlight the similarities of these two faiths in reference to the Holy Scriptures while also exploring their disagreement over the person of Jesus Christ.

Early Church Defined

If you look up information on the history of Christianity, you may find things like, 'During the first century CE, Rome was rocked with the formation of a new religion. Its name was Christianity, and from its inception, the world has been radically changed.' Although parts of this statement are very true, there is one item that's a bit misleading. Christianity was not a new religion. In fact, the early Christian Church was firmly planted with Judaism at its very root structure. So to be more accurate, we should really say, 'Rome was rocked by a group of Jewish believers who followed Jesus Christ - another Jewish man - and spread his message throughout the world.'

To explore this a bit further, we're going to discuss the early Christian Church's ties to Judaism, or in other words, the faith of the Hebrew people. In order to do this, we will find ourselves diving into the Christian Holy Scriptures of the New and Old Testaments, the words held sacred by the Christian faith. To get things started, let's take a look at the beliefs of Christianity.

At the cornerstone of the early Christian Church is the belief that Jesus Christ is the Messiah promised throughout the pages of the Old Testament Scriptures. The Church believes that he gave himself as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity, and that he rose from the grave to conquer sin and death for all who believe on his name.

The New Testament book of I Corinthians sums up this by saying, 'For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.' Using this one single passage from the New Testament, we can see how very closely Christianity is tied to Judaism.

Biblical Authors

For starters, the author of this passage is the Apostle Paul. Not only did he pen these words, he penned over half of the books of the New Testament. In writing these books, he often reminded his audience that he himself was a Jew. In the book of Philippians, he penned these words about himself: 'If someone else thinks they have reason to put confidence in the flesh, I have more, circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews.' In short, the Apostle Paul, credited for penning over half the books in the Christian New Testament, was a Jew.

The early Christian Church's ties to Judaism don't end with Paul. In fact, almost all the authors of the Christian Bible (save perhaps the text credited to the Apostle Luke) are held to be written by Jewish men. Furthermore, the entire Old Testament is the history of the Jewish or Hebrew nation, and Christianity holds its content just as sacred as that of the New Testament. This is plainly seen in the text from Corinthians we started out with. Let's take a look at it again. Notice how it reads, 'that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.' The scriptures this passage refers to are none other than the Old Testament Jewish Scriptures.

Christian Authors

Christianity's ties with Judaism go beyond their holy texts to their Holy God. Christians firmly believe the God of the Jewish Old Testament writings is the very same God of the New Testament. He is the God who offered reconciliation to himself through his son, Jesus Christ. This is clearly stated in the New Testament book of Romans, written again by Paul, a Jewish man. It reads, 'For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes - the Jew first and also the Gentile.'

Jesus and Christianity

Perhaps the largest tie that binds Christianity to Judaism is the very fact that Jesus Christ was a Jewish man who practiced the laws and customs of Judaism. His followers even called him Rabbi on several occasions. In addition, the Christian New Testament acknowledges Christ's connection to Judaism in the Book of Matthew, which records Jesus saying, 'Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, nor the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.'

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