Christianity And Judaism

The Christian Church grew up not on Jewish but on Gentile soil. In a very

short time the Gentiles formed the overwhelming majority within the

Church. As they did not become Jews and did not observe the Jewish

ceremonial law, a problem arose as to the place of the Jewish law, which

was accepted without question as of divine authority. One solution is

given by the author of the so-called Epistle of Barnabas, which should be

/> compared with the solution given by St. Paul in his epistles to the

Galatians and to the Romans. The number of conversions from Judaism

rapidly declined, and very early an extreme hostility toward Christianity

became common among the Jews.

(a) Barnabas, Epistula, 4, 9.

The epistle attributed to Barnabas is certainly not by the Apostle

of that name. Its date is much disputed, but may be safely placed

within the first century. The author attempts to show the contrast

between Judaism and Christianity by proving that the Jews wholly

misunderstood the Mosaic law and had long since lost any claims

supposed to be derived from the Mosaic covenant. The epistle is

everywhere marked by hostility to Judaism, of which the writer has

but imperfect knowledge. The book was regarded as Holy Scripture

by Clement of Alexandria and by Origen, though with some

hesitation. The position taken by the author was undoubtedly

extreme, and not followed generally by the Church. It was,

however, merely pushing to excess a conviction already prevalent

in the Church, that Christianity and Judaism were distinct

religions. For a saner and more commonly accepted position, see

Justin Martyr, Apol., I, 47-53 (ANF, I, 178 ff.). A

translation of the entire epistle may be found in ANF, I, 137-149.

Ch. 4. It is necessary, therefore, for us who inquire much concerning

present events to seek out those things which are able to save us. Let us

wholly flee, then, from all the works of iniquity, lest the works of

iniquity take hold of us; and let us hate the error of the present times,

that we may set our love on the future. Let us not give indulgence to our

soul, that it should have power to run with sinners and the wicked, that

we become not like them. The final occasion of stumbling approaches,

concerning which it is written as Enoch speaks: For this end the Lord has

cut short the times and the days, that His beloved may hasten and will

come to his inheritance. (5) Ye ought therefore to understand. And this

also I beg of you, as being one of you and with special love loving you

all more than my own soul, to take heed to yourselves, and not be like

some, adding largely to your sins, and saying: "The covenant is both

theirs and ours." For it is ours; but they thus finally lost it, after

Moses had already received it.(6)

Ch. 9. But also circumcision, in which they trusted, has been abrogated.

He declared that circumcision was not of the flesh; but they transgressed

because an evil angel deluded them.(7) Learn, then, my beloved children,

concerning all things richly, that Abraham, the first who enjoined

circumcision, looking forward in spirit to Jesus, circumcised, the

teaching of the three letters having been received. For the Scripture

saith: "Abraham circumcised eighteen and three hundred men of his

household." What, then, was the knowledge [gnosis] given to him in this?

Learn that he says the eighteen first and then, making a space, the three

hundred. The eighteen are the Iota, ten, and the Eta, eight; and you have

here the name of Jesus. And because the cross was to express the grace in

the letter Tau, he says also, three hundred. He discloses therefore Jesus

in the two letters, and the cross in one. He knows this who has put within

us the engrafted gift of his teaching. No one has learned from me a more

excellent piece of knowledge, but I know that ye are worthy.(8)

(b) Justin Martyr, Dialogus cum Tryphone, 17. J. C. T. Otto, Corpus

Apologetarum Christianorum Saeculi Secundi, third ed.; 1876-81. (MSG,


Justin Martyr was born about 100 in Samaria. He was one of the

first of the Gentiles who had been trained in philosophy to become

a Christian. His influence upon the doctrinal development of the

Church was profound. He died as a martyr between 163 and 168. His

principal works are the two Apologies written in close connection

under Antoninus Pius (138-161), probably about 150, and his

dialogue with Trypho the Jew, which was written after the first

Apology. All translations of Justin Martyr are based upon Otto's

text, v. supra.

For the other nations have not been so guilty of wrong inflicted on us and

on Christ as you have been, who are in fact the authors of the wicked

prejudices against the Just One and against us who hold by Him.(9) For

after you had crucified Him, the only blameless and righteous Man, through

whose stripes there is healing to those who through Him approach the

Father, when you knew that He had risen from the dead and ascended into

heaven, as the prophecies foretold would take place, not only did you not

repent of those things wherein you had done wickedly, but you then

selected and sent out from Jerusalem chosen men through all the world to

say that the atheistical heresy of the Christians had appeared and to

spread abroad those things which all they who know us not speak against

us; so that you are the cause of unrighteousness not only in your own

case, but, in fact, in the case of all other men generally. Accordingly,

you show great zeal in publishing throughout all the world bitter, dark,

and unjust slanders against the only blameless and righteous Light sent

from God to men.

(c) Martyrdom of Polycarp, 12, 13.

Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, died at Smyrna February 2, 155, at the

age of at least eighty-six, but he was probably nearer one hundred

years old. He was the disciple of John, probably same as the

Apostle John. His epistle was written circa 115, soon after the

death of Ignatius of Antioch. At present it is generally regarded

as genuine, though grave doubts have been entertained in the past.

The martyrdom was written by some member of the church at Smyrna

for that body to send to the church at Philomelium in Phrygia, and

must have been composed soon after the death of the aged bishop.

It is probably the finest of all the ancient martyrdoms and should

be read in its entirety. Translation in the ANF, I, 37-45.

Ch. 12. The whole multitude both of the heathen and the Jews who dwelt at

Smyrna cried out with uncontrollable fury and in loud voice: "This is the

teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians and the overthrower of our

gods, who teaches many neither to sacrifice nor to worship." Saying these

things, they cried out and demanded of Philip, the Asiarch, to let a lion

loose upon Polycarp. But he said he could not do this, since the sports

with beasts had ended. Then it pleased them to cry out with one consent

that he should burn Polycarp alive.

Ch. 13. These things were carried into effect more rapidly than they were

spoken, and the multitude immediately gathered together wood and fagots

out of the shops and baths, and the Jews especially, as was their custom,

assisted them eagerly in it.