The Early Growth of Christianity

Under the leadership of the apostles Peter and Paul, who both died around the year 64 CE, the early Christian community grew from Jerusalem to Rome, from a Palestinian Jewish sect to a more universal group that included Gentile non-Jewish people, all around the Mediterranean area.  The travels of Paul as found in the Acts of the Apostles and his letters give a glimpse into what was happening back then.  The followers of Jesus Christ began to differentiate themselves from the Rabbinic Judaism that was developing at the same time.

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Written Greek New Testament

The New Testament was written in Greek, so I must be even more cautious when dealing with the meanings of English or Latin terms derived from the Greek biblical texts.  At the time of the New Testament writings, Alexandria had a larger Jewish population than Jerusalem.  Greek was spoken by more Jews than Hebrew.  How did the early followers of Jesus Christ understand themselves and their symbolic activities?  Why did all these early Jewish followers of Jesus write in Greek, instead of Hebrew?

Primitive Christian Communities

The early followers of Jesus were his Jewish apostles and disciples.  They formed a close-knit community.  As they ventured out of Jerusalem after the death and resurrection of Jesus, they formed other small groups of Christian communities.  During the first century of Christianity, we often refer to these Christians as the Primitive Christian Communities, not really a church yet, but described in the Acts of the Apostles.  As far as we know, these Jewish followers of Jesus prayed in the Temple and the synagogues.  They shared their stories about Jesus and his followers with other Jewish groups.  Out of this oral community will come the written documents of the New Testament.

 

The non-writing Jesus

Jesus did not write anything because he lived in a predominant oral society.  The apostles of Jesus followed suit and transmitted the living oral tradition to their disciples and the new followers of Jesus the Christ.  The apostles did not need to write anything, since they could explain everything.  However, once Christianity moved out of Jerusalem there was a need to write things down in a more permanent form.  The early Pauline letters to the new Christian Churches show how Christianity spread.  Increasing time and distance from the place of Jerusalem and the time of Jesus led to a decision to write things down.  In order to prevent heresy or diverse views, while at the same time encouraging the early Christians, the need for a written record became evident.

Purifying the priests for the offerings (Mal 3:3-3:4)

“Yahweh will sit

As a refiner.

Yahweh will sit

As he purifier

Of silver.

He will purify

The descendants of Levi.

He will refine them

Like gold,

Like silver,

Until they present offerings

To Yahweh

In righteousness.

Then the offerings

Of Judah,

The offerings

Of Jerusalem

Will be pleasing

To Yahweh,

As in the days of old,

As in former years.”

Yahweh was going to purify the priests or the descendants of Levi, like people refined gold and silver.  Thus, they would be able to present righteous offerings for Judah and Jerusalem.  Then these offerings would be like the good old days of former years.

Judah has been unfaithful (Mal 2:11-2:12)

“Judah has been faithless.

An abomination

Has been committed

In Israel,

As well as in Jerusalem.

Judah has profaned

The sanctuary of Yahweh

That he loves.

He has married

The daughter of a foreign god.

May Yahweh cut off

From the tents of Jacob

Anyone who does this!

May Yahweh cut off

Anyone who witnesses,

Who answers,

Who brings an offering

To Yahweh of hosts!”

Yahweh, via Malachi, noted that Judah had not been faithful.  There was an abomination in Jerusalem itself.  Judah had profaned the sanctuary of Yahweh.  Judah had married the daughter of a foreign god.  Perhaps this indicates a non-Jewish woman.  Thus, Yahweh was going to cut them off from the tents of Jacob.  Anyone involved in any kind of false worship of a foreign god would be cut off from being a witness or bringing offerings to Yahweh.  They should be excommunicated.

The cooking pots are holy (Zech 14:20-14:21)

“On that day,

There shall be inscribed

On the bells

Of the horses.

‘Holy to Yahweh.’

The cooking pots

In the house of Yahweh

Shall be as holy

As the bowls

In front of the altar.

Every cooking pot

In Jerusalem,

As well as in Judah

Shall be sacred

To Yahweh of hosts.

Thus,

All who sacrifice

May come.

They may use them

To boil the flesh

Of the sacrifice.

There shall no longer

Be traders

In the house

Of Yahweh of hosts,

On that day.”

On this glorious day, the bells of the horses will have the inscription that Yahweh is holy.  The cooking pots in the house of Yahweh would be as holy as the bowls on the altar in front of the holy of holies.  In fact, all the cooking pots in Judah and Jerusalem would be sacred to Yahweh.  The sacrifices could then be boiled in any kind of pot because they were all holy.  They would no longer need to depend on the traders at the Temple selling them special holy pots.