When Christians Were Jews The First Generation Paula Fredriksen

Publication date:
08 Oct 2019
Yale University Press
280 pages: 210 x 140mm
2 b-w illus. 2 dbl page map spreads
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A compelling account of Christianity’s Jewish beginnings, from one of the world’s leading scholars of ancient religion

How did a group of charismatic, apocalyptic Jewish missionaries, working to prepare their world for the impending realization of God’s promises to Israel, end up inaugurating a movement that would grow into the gentile church? Committed to Jesus’s prophecy—“The Kingdom of God is at hand!”—they were, in their own eyes, history’s last generation. But in history’s eyes, they became the first Christians.
In this electrifying social and intellectual history, Paula Fredriksen answers this question by reconstructing the life of the earliest Jerusalem community. As her account arcs from this group’s hopeful celebration of Passover with Jesus, through their bitter controversies that fragmented the movement’s midcentury missions, to the city’s fiery end in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, she brings this vibrant apostolic community to life. Fredriksen offers a vivid portrait both of this temple‑centered messianic movement and of the bedrock convictions that animated and sustained it.

Paula Fredriksen, Aurelio Professor of Scripture emerita at Boston University, is Distinguished Visiting Professor of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“[Fredriksen’s] grasp of the material, canonical and extra-canonical, is enviable and she writes with an elegance and clarity which makes this a gripping read.”—John Harrod, Methodist Recorder

“Paula Fredriksen is one of a number of Jewish scholars who have shed new light on the origins of Christianity”—Paul Richardson, Church of England Newspaper

“Paula Fredriksen has given us a wonderful introduction to the first generation of the Jewish movement that later came to be known as Christianity” —Mark D. Nanos, The Journal of Theological Studies

“The questions raised in this well-written book are simultaneously creative and well-founded.”—Andrew J. Byers, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

“This remains the most important, exciting, and enjoyable book in the field I have read for some time...Only a lifetime of immersion in the materials and reflection on their most difficult problems, combined with the capacity and confidence to write with such a light and effortless touch, could produce a work that remains readable as it picks a novel path through such complex and much-masticated material.”—James Corke-Webster, Greece & Rome

“A scintillating, original, and brilliantly concise synthesis.”—Jack Miles, author of God: A Biography

“A characteristically lucid, focused and beautifully-written argument. Fredriksen sits the early Christian movement firmly within Judaism, revealing it as radically eschatological, variegated, evolving—and far less critical of ancestral customs and norms than is traditionally imagined.”—Joan E. Taylor, author of What Did Jesus Look Like?

“Engaging, provocative, and admirably lucid, this account of the Jewish origins of earliest Christianity will force readers at all levels to reconsider their assumptions and rethink their views.”—Bart D. Ehrman, author of Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium

“Eloquent, informed, and provocative, this book offers a necessary corrective to a number of prevailing views of Jesus, Paul, and the Gospel writers. Paula Fredriksen advances the studies of both Judaism and Christianity.”—Amy-Jill Levine, author of Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi

“Paula Fredriksen tells with brio the gripping story of the early Jewish followers of Jesus and their expectations of the end. She traces with empathy and scholarly precision their changing perspectives as events unfolded in ways unanticipated.”—Martin Goodman, author of A History of Judaism