Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 March 2008
The Church endorsed by Constantine in the early fourth century represented a form of Christianity that drew most directly upon the traditions and Scriptures of Israel. Its Bible rested on the foundation of the Septuagint; its cosmology affirmed the positive relation of the highest deity, God the Father, to material creation; its soteriology anticipated the resurrection of the dead; its Christology asserted the lineal descent of Jesus Christ from the House of David. These common religious points of principle notwithstanding, however, this Church eventually came to persecute Jewish communities with a deliberation that pagan Rome never had. To understand imperial Christianity’s policies toward Jews and Judaism requires an appreciation of its foundational history in the second century, when the younger community fought doctrinal diversity within and persecution without. During this earlier period, the seeds of orthodoxy’s anti-Judaism, which flourished especially from the late fourth century onward, developed and became established.
THE SECOND-CENTURY SEEDBED: THEOLOGY, IDENTITY, AND ANTI-JUDAISM
The core writings of the eventual New Testament canon – the four Gospels and Paul’s letters – were all composed in the second half of the first century. They witness that stage of the movement when Christianity was a type of Hellenistic Judaism, and much of the vituperation they display targets fellow Jews, whether Christian or other. As the movement continued, its diversity increased until, by the early second century, the literary evidence bespeaks not only different sorts of Jewish Christianities and Judaizing Gentile Christianities but also purely Gentile forms of Christianity.