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final - Sean Evans July 1 2007 Rel 204 1A Early Christian...

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Sean Evans July 1, 2007 Rel 204 1A) Early Christian writings ranged from short letters simply stating early Christian beliefs to full-length Gospel narratives detailing the life of Jesus. These writings were created by several different authors; therefore, they each have common elements and differing themes. The majority of these writings had the common theme of placing the Jewish people in a harsh light. This theme was present due to the opinion that the Jews were the cause of Jesus’ death and had, in consequence, lost their covenant with God. Although early Christian writings differed in the manner in which Jews were represented, they shared a common element of Christians overtaking the Jewish covenant with God. The Jews were conveyed in a similar fashion in the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of Peter, and the Epistle of Barnabas in several ways. For example, both the Epistle of Barnabas and Matthew share the theme of supersessionism, the belief that the Mosaic covenant was transferred to Christians and surpasses the Jews. In the Gospel of Matthew it was written, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Issac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:11-12). Likewise, the Epistle of Barnabas stated, “For it is ours. But they permanently lost it, in this way, when Moses had just received it” ( Barn . 4:7). This common theme of supersessionism could be a tactic of early Christian writers to get Jews to convert. When these writings were being shared, the temple had already been destroyed. Jews could have taken this as a signal that God no longer held them in high esteem; therefore, the writers would have emphasized that the new sect now held the
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Mosaic covenant and the Jews should now join them to regain favor with God. Another common theme shared in the Gospels of Luke and Peter was that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. When describing the Gospel of Peter, Ehrman stated that, “it is clear that one of the principal concerns is to incriminate the Jews for the death of Jesus” (Ehrman, 124). For instance the Gospel of Peter reveals that “the Jews, the elders, and the priests realized how much evil they had done to themselves and began to beat their breasts” (Pet 25). Similarly in the Gospel of Luke, it was the people who demand Jesus be killed, not the Roman authorities (Luke 23:18-26). Most likely it had become common lore to blame the Jews for Jesus’ death, and by the time the story was written down, it may have been taken as fact. Ehrman also stated that when the Gospel of Peter was written in the second century, anti-Semitic feelings were strong (Ehrman, 124).
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