The Godfearers

It is hard to find things that every strain of Christianity holds in common. One is that Christianity started with Jesus, and there were no glimmers of his visit outside of prophecy. The big prophecy at the time was apocalyptic: the End was near and a Christ would appear to take everyone there. But the New Testament is also full of more concrete social and cultural signs that a Greco-Roman Judiasm was already in the works.

The cleanest example is in The Godfearers. The Gospels and Acts are littered with God-fearers: non-Jews, many of them Romans, who believe in the Jewish God. What? How? What is their history? What was their role in the eventual growth of Christianity? What was their proportion? Were they growing? How? Why did it appeal to them? What did they think of the Jews? Of themselves? What were their struggles; what were the appealing perspectives from Greco-Roman culture that were hardest to reconcile with the compelling idea of a single fearsome creator? I have no idea, and there isn’t much on them (, but there is no question within the New testament that they were there before the beginning, and they were characters in both the birth and growth of Christianity.

I’m curious about the ways in which the Hellenistic worldview was behind Christianity’s innovations beyond Judiasm (Christianity: +, Judiasm: – , Greco-Romans: ? )

  1. focus on the impoverished,
  2. the abandonment of animal sacrifice,
  3. the popularity of rhetoric and logic play in sermon and argument,
  4. the idea of personal salvation,
  5. the emphasis on idea that salvation is in deeds and beliefs rather than descent and law, a sentiment reflected in the Gospel’s portrayal of the Pharisees.
  6. the concept of an immortal and immaterial soul that is separate from the body *

I’m curious about the interaction of this worldview with the aspects of Judaism that it shared, and that Christianity retained (Christianity: +, Judiasm: +, Greco-Romans: + )

  1. prophets and prophecy,
  2. offerings,
  3. the idea of a creation,
  4. temples and a priestly classes, and
  5. Heavens and Hells

And some of which were foreign to Hellenism (Christianity: +, Judiasm: +, Greco-Romans: – )

  1. apocalypse, and even the idea that the World can End,
  2. sin, and even the idea of deities that care what you think and do,
  3. the idea of sexual immorality (as a salient type of immorality, its an idea that is largely peculiar to Judeo-Christian-Islamic thought *),
  4. the importance of Old Testament history, narrative, and prophecy

I want to learn more, but not much is known about the Levant around that time. I think its impressive that we recently proved the historicity of Pilate. I’ll read what I can, though I don’t really know where to go next.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 and is filed under believers.