The Jewish dilemma and the first century church

Posted: August 22, 2012 in Christian
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While studying the book of Hebrews, which was primarily written to the Jews, I started thinking about the problem the Jewish believers faced in the first century and I took a look at the dilemma that the Jewish people found themselves confronted with from the teachings of the author of the book of Hebrews (which I believe to be Paul). Part of the issue covered by the writer of Hebrews in his instructions and lessons to the Jews about Christianity concerned their predicament about the Old Covenant and also about the Temple that was still standing in Jerusalem (the book of Hebrews was written about 68 AD while the temple was still standing.).

I believe part of the Jewish quandary with what was being taught to them by the Hebrew writer was that all Jews were raised and taught and instructed from a child that the Temple was the Holy Place of their Lord. They probably knew about the Messiah and were anticipating him but most likely most of them had no conception that the Messiah was to totally overturn and upset their whole religious system. Historically the evidence seems to support just the opposite, that most Jewish people were expecting a Messiah that would come swooping in and save them from the oppressive hand of the Roman rulers that had dominion over these proud Jewish people. This attitude reflects the great distance that the Jewish leadership had veered from the actual meaning and intention of the word of God in the Torah that they had before them.

The concept of taking and turning their backs on a part of life that they had grown up with, a religious system that was the linchpin around which their lives revolved, a religion that had been hammered into them so deeply it was an ingrained part of their life and was a daily, weekly and seasonally practiced and sometimes a legally required ritual would be difficult for the devout Jew to accept. If what these followers of Christ were saying and teaching was correct, they were expected to believe that the covenant that God had handed down through Moses and that was exemplified by the beautiful temple standing in Jerusalem was no longer in effect and was being replaced by a new covenant that had no temple. Additionally the fact that their respected teachers and leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees, were disparaging Christians and constantly throwing stumbling block and sowing doubt and confusion about this cult of heretics among the regular populace while persecuting anyone that started professing belief in the chief heretic called Jesus Christ had to cause a lot of anxiety among the Christian Jews. All these things would create a situation that would be akin to selling an ice box to an Eskimo and would require some extraordinary salesmen…God had such super salesmen such as Paul, Barnabas, Titus, Philemon, Peter, James and Jude, as well as others…even then it was a tough sell as we read in these epistles.

To accept and believe in the Christ and this new movement called The Way1 was possibly a guarantee of being looked upon with derision and possibly ostracized by your community leaders while the threat of persecution or death would be looming above the believers like the sword of Damocles. We need to remember that first century Christians met in homes and private areas, partially to try and escape prosecution because they feared for their lives. To a degree, it may not have mattered that the Torah from beginning to the end was a giant road-map full of prophecies and guide posts pointing toward Christ the Messiah. Or that the Messiah had been among them and had been executed upon that cruel tree by their leaders, because knowledge to all this information relied on access. While most of the population of the world was illiterate, I believe Judea would have had a much smaller percentage of illiteracy. However, even if a large percentage of the populace may have been literate, copies of the Torah were expensive and therefore, few and far between so the people would rely on the Rabbis and leaders of the local Synagogs for their information and inspiration and interpretation of the scriptures. In today’s world we have a tendency to hold our Pastors and Ministers in high esteem…be they right or be they wrong (why do you think there are so many blasted denominations?) why should the first century Jews be any different? On top of all this we need to remember it would have been common knowledge that all of the original disciples of Christ were martyred, tortured and killed except for John the beloved, by the Jewish leadership. No wonder first century Jews had a difficult time keeping the faith. What’s our excuse?

God Bless, Jim

1 https://www.blueletterbible.org/nkjv/act/9/2/s_1027002

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