Date of this Version
Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2016).
The religious contexts in which early Christian communities grew were important factors in the first-century development of Christianity, affecting what it meant to become a Christian either as a convert from a background in Judaism or as a convert from a background in Greek, Roman, or Egyptian cults. Surrounding religions and cultural norms strongly influenced the first Christian communities in urban environments throughout the Roman Empire because the first generation of Christian converts came directly from other religious constructs. As the early Christians distinguished themselves from the Diaspora Jewish communities in which they originated and actively pursued Gentile converts, the fusion of believers with differing religious backgrounds caused uncertainty and conflict over acceptable beliefs and practices within Christian communities.
Much of the historiography of early Christianity dwells on Christianity’s relationship to Judaism. The tendency to highlight the Christian-Jewish relationship is natural since Christianity originated in Israel as a Jewish sect. The conflict throughout the New Testament between the “Judaizers” and Paul lends itself to questions about Christianity’s relationship to the Jewish religion and culture: how members of Christian communities were different from those remaining in Jewish communities, when the differentiation occurred, and the extent to which Judaism was monolithic. Answering these questions has occupied volumes upon volumes, and writers such as Judith Lieu continue to address them, especially in Neither Jew nor Greek?, her collection of essays.