One of the major puzzles of Western civilization is how early second-century Christianity was transformed into a non-Jewish, Gentile religion, when Christianity began as one of many Jewish factions in the diverse Judaism of the period. Magnus Zetterholm uses theoretical insights from the social sciences to deal with the complex issues raised by the accompanying rise of Christian anti-Semitism in ancient Antioch. Where previous attempts to solve this problem have focused mainly on ideology, his study emphasizes the interplay between sociological and ideological elements. He argues that the separation between Judaism and Christianity in Antioch arose both from the socio-political situation in the Roman Empire, and from ideological elements within the Jewish faction of the Jesus movement primarily concerning the status of Gentiles within the movement. The study shows that the separation was mainly one between Jews and Gentiles within the Jesus movement. Gentile adherents to the Jesus movement strove to become a legally recognised voluntary association completely separate from Judaism, and the anti-Judaism of early Christianity was used as a resource in this struggle of independence.
This novel approach to a much-debated subject will be valuable reading for both advanced students and academics, as well as the general reader with an interest in Jewish-Christian antiquity.
'Between its high sophistication, its relentless attention to social realities, and the seemingly apologetic-free challenge it presents to traditional readings of Christian origins, this book deserves a wide hearing among historians of early Christianity.' - Journal of Biblical Literature
'Zetterholm offers a stimulating study which is most convincing. His careful methodology on the sociology of social movements, on the use of ideology in conflict and the combination of this with historical reconstruction linking Pauline and Christianity and Matthew's Gospel with a later community dispute makes this study of such significance that future research will be unable to avoid interaction with his findings.' - Journal of Beliefs and Values