The Rise of Christianity

Nascent Christianity was one of several apocalyptic Jewish sects active during the Second Temple period.

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The Crucifixion and its Consequences

In any case, Jesus'steachings apparently raised the ire of some of the Hellenized Jews in the leadership of the high priesthood, as well as of the Romans, who decreed his crucifixion. It is impossible from the incomplete accounts we have to determine exactly what led to the execution of Jesus, yet we know the tragic results of the widespread Christian assumption that the Jews were responsible for it.

The challenge posed by Jesus to the Jewish authorities cannot have been of such significance as to warrant a demand for his execution. The Romans, however, had both a vested political interest in his death and the authority to execute him. To a large extent, however, it was the fact that his followers came to believe that he had been resurrected from his grave that gave impetus to the emerging faith.

The followers of Jesus in the early days of his career and soon afterwards gathered together in Jerusalem and formed (accord­ing to the Acts of the Apostles) a small group which sought both to live as Jews and to accept the messiahship of Jesus. It was only later that the notion of the divinity of Jesus appeared, toward the end of the New Testament redactional process in the second half of the first century C.E. Thus the early Christian sect began as a coterie of Jews seeking to propagate the belief in Jesus as messiah and evolved into an apostolic group seeking to convert the world.

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Lawrence H. Schiffman

Lawrence H. Schiffman is the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Yeshiva University.