Tag Archives: church history

How John Calvin Dealt with Refugees and the Poor

In the 1550’s Geneva witnessed an influx of French refugees into the city. William Naphy has argued that this influx, and the growing influence of these French religious refugees was the single most common complaint in Geneva during this period. (Naphy, 121) Prior to the influx of politically powerful French refugees, there was an influx of poor refugees. For example, in October 1538-1539 Geneva’s city hospital assisted 10,657 poor strangers as they passed through the city. Naphy notes that this number does not even include Genevans who would have been attended to by the hospital. (Naphy, 122)

Regularly the hospital would have been charged with the city’s poor. The hospital would be john-calvin-9235788-1-402expected to take care of the sick in the hospital, deal with outpatients as well as people who were housed in the hospital, including orphans. In addition to these ministrations , the hospital had a bread baking ministry in which bread cooked in the hospital ovens was weekly distributed to the poor at their homes. (Olson, 164)

Naphy also notes that by the close of 1543 a clear pattern began to emerge between the city and these refugees. Geneva was willing to help strangers when able to do so, but when resources were strained the city itself pulled back on giving direct help. It seems as though this lack of resources, which were provided by the city hospital, were filled  by several Bourses or funds specifically created by the foreign residents of Geneva in order to take care of the poorer refugees entering the city. These funds were formed by French, Italian, and German ethnic groups and — as Olson writes with respect to the French Fund — it seems as though Calvin “had a direct hand in its formation (the French Bourse)….[being] regularly involved through his contributions and recommendations to poor people to seek out the fund for help.” (Olson 165)[1]

Calvin’s work with the French Bourse reveals something about the role that the church ought to play in social concerns. It has been said that for Calvin, care for the poor was practically the fourth mark of the church. This claim especially comes to light when Calvin and the company of pastors make the administrators of the French Bourse deacons. The fact that these administrators were made deacons is important because it reveals Calvin’s dissatisfaction with the current diaconate. According to Calvin, deacons are those whom the church has appointed to distribute alms and take care of the poor, and serve as stewards of the common chest of the poor. (Tuininga, 239) Prior to the growth of the Bourse system the term deacon primarily applied to the procureurs and hospitalliers of the city hospital, however applying the term deacon to these roles was fairly complicated because the hospital was responsible to the city council.  In the 1543 edition of the Institutes Calvin argues that the work of deacons is not to be understood as a part of civil government: ‘it was not secular management that they were undertaking but a spiritual function dedicated to God’” (Tuininga, 242). The Hospital, in the 1540’s, was run by “deacons” but  reported to the city councils, and leadership was designated by the councils. This arrangement was not in line with Calvin’s vision of the diaconate. On the other hand, the Bourses were operated solely by the deacons under the oversight of the church without any involvement from the civil magistrates, and were considered ministers of the church. (Tuininga, 243)

How exactly did these deacons address social concerns? They provided hospitality to travelers, medical care for the sick, temporary support for the unemployed, long term support for widows, and job training for orphans. The work of the Bourse “presents a clear example of the type of work that Calvin believed the church was called to do for the needy, without any cooperation with civil government.” (Tuininga, 244)

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St. Pierre’s Cathedral in Geneva

What exactly does Calvin’s preference for working alongside of the Bourse as opposed to the procureurs and hospitalliers reveal about his understanding of “care for the poor as a fourth mark of the church?” It shows that Calvin believed that the ministry of the diaconate, which was to care for the poor, properly belonged to the church as opposed to being “outsourced” to some other entity. Care for the poor was a responsibility that the church itself had, and could not and should not simply and over to some other body. Although other entities ought to be commended for taking care of the poor, the church has failed if it does not do something to relieve the plight of the poor. This is why Calvin says “we must begin at the end, that is to say, there must be ministers to preach the doctrine of salvation purely, there must be deacons to have care for the poor.” Does this mean that Calvin saw care for the poor as a fourth mark of the church? Probably not, however what it does mean is that the church is somehow deficient (as opposed to not the church at all) if it lacks a means for taking care of the poor.

Calvin’s understanding of how the poor ought to be cared for extends beyond discussion of the city hospital or even the distribution of the Bourse funds in Geneva. Calvin was under the impression that care for the poor is actually a requirement of natural law. Tuininga argues that Calvin interprets relief for the poor as a requirement of nature’s law of equity in other words, this law of equity is not grounded in the gospel but in the order of creation. (Tuininga, 227-8) Thus Calvin can say “this is the dictate of common sense, that the hungry are deprived of their just right, if their hunger is not relieved.” How does Calvin believe that this law of equity is enforced? It is enforced by rulers and authorities. Thus he argues that “a just and well regulated government will be distinguished for maintaining the rights of the poor and afflicted.” (Tuininga, 230) Governments are charged with taking care of the poor and needy. They ought to build poorhouses, hospitals, and schools, they ought to prohibit laws that harm the poor and hinder them from making their way out of their condition. If a government fails to perform their obligations to the poor they are liable to God’s judgement. Not only this, but they are worthy of criticism from the church, in fact Calvin was known for harshly criticizing specific governments for failing to perform their obligations to the poor.

The fact that Calvin was willing to criticize not only local magistrates but also kings and foreign governments illustrates Heiko Oberman’s thesis in Europa Afflicta. There Oberman shows that Calvin’s reformation moves beyond merely city reformation, aiming at a larger reformation that takes all of Europe into account. According to Oberman Calvin did not serve a parish, a territory, or a country. (Oberman, 103) He saw himself as being called to minister by God, and not by any city council or King. Thus he had the authority and responsibility to seek the welfare  of all Christians even if that brought him into conflict with those in power. This international awareness is why Calvin can warn against the territorial hunger of the German emperor and the expansionism of the French King. (Oberman, 105) Calvin explicitly warned that as kings become more powerful, the poor would suffer more. However, kings are not above the law, “If a king wants to be regarded as legitimate and as a servant of God he has to show that he is a true father for his people.” (Oberman quoting Calvin, 107) Calvin was concerned  for the welfare of the poor, especially poor Christians, not only in Geneva, but in Europe as a whole.

From what we have seen above — namely, Calvin’s concern that the church fulfills its role in taking care of the poor and that civil governments fulfill natural law in taking care of the poor — we see that for Calvin social concern is a topic that the church not only involves itself in but also speaks up about. Contemporary evangelicals, especially in the United States, ought to take notice that John Calvin himself (not a mainline liberal) believes that the church is not fully the church when it is not taking care of the poor. It ought to take notice that Calvin himself believed that the church had the responsibility of speaking truth to power, because the church lives as refugees in this world. Thus if evangelical churches are going to be true to their reformation heritage they would do well to reexamine how Calvin approached social concerns.

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[1] Tuininga notes that in the earlier years Calvin was the most generous single contributor the the French Bourse.

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Pastoral Position Opening: Minister of Word and Sacrament in Geneva

The following is a lighthearted (and facetious), but historically realistic, job opening advertisement for a pastoral position in Calvin’s Geneva.

Position Focus:
Minister of Word and Sacrament in Geneva

Why This Position Is Needed

John Calvin’s alternate at St. Pierre’s had recently fallen ill. Although the other ministers in Geneva visited our colleague to pray for him on his deathbed, Pastor Abel Poupin, passed away on March 5th into the Lord’s presence.[1] Thus he leaves his position vacant. In addition to the passing away of Pastor Abel, another pastoral position has opened up. Pastor Jean Fabri has been deposed of his position. There have been claims made that he was making sexual advances (if not actually seducing) a married woman and also accusations have been made against him saying that he has gotten his serving girl pregnant.[2] After further investigation, the consistory has decided to dismiss Jean Fabri. Thus, we have two pastoral positions open.

The Church

The churches in Geneva are a multi-generational, multi-site network of churches located on the banks of of Lake Geneva at the mouth of the Rhone River. Our springs are wonderful, and our winters are bitterly cold. During the summer you and your family can spend time at the lake, but make sure to stay away from it during the winter. Many have died due to hypothermia! If you can ignore the fact that the Bernese, The Savory, and the French are always at odds with each other because of us, and the inconvenience that the plague brings, this is a great town to raise a family.

If you take this position you may be one day be appointed to serve as the pastor of St. Pierre’s Cathedral, Magdeleine, or St. Gervais (though in all likelihood you will probably begin by being appointed to pastor one of the countryside churches.)

Primary Responsibilities

‘The Scriptural office of the Christian minister involves nourishing and instructing God’s people on the divine Word by means of sermon, sacraments, catechism, spiritual conversation, and corrective discipline.’[3] Thus your job is divided into several categories:

Ministry of the Word

  • Preaching and teaching will form a bulk of your weekly work. In accordance with most others within the Reformed tradition your sermons ought to be expository, working through a single book, verse by verse (i.e. lectio continua).
  • Your particular parish will have at least four Sunday services. One of these Sunday services will be a catechesis service. This will mostly consist of children, though some adults who are converting Catholicism or Anabaptism will also attend this service. (You may also get some adults who are technically reformed, but are horribly misinformed about their faith).
  • You will also preach during weekday services (Monday-Saturday) and direct the Wednesday Prayer liturgy.
  • As one of eight pastors in Geneva you will be paired up with another pastor. You will alternate preaching duties with this pastor. On occasion you may be moved to another parish to fill needs.
  • There is an expectation that you will continue your theological and ministerial education. John Calvin lectures at 2pm on a book of the bible, verse by verse in Latin. All ministers are invited to be there.[4] There will also be a gathering of the congregation each Friday. Here you will have the opportunity to preach in front of the other pastors. You will receive feedback on your preaching from the other pastors and hear Calvin give his exposition of the text.
  • You are also expected to meet with the Company of Pastors on Friday afternoons.[5] There you will take part in the business of organizing services, making preaching assignments for specific pulpits at specific hours, examine candidates for ministry, etc.

 Ministry 0f Sacrament

  • The Lord’s Supper happens four times per year (even though we wish it could occur more regularly). The Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated at Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and the first Sunday of September.
  • All those who have reached the age of discretion and are able to satisfactorily articulate the basic doctrines of the faith are invited to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Thus the week before the Lord’s supper you must examine the catechumen regarding their understanding of the Genevan Catechism.
  • The week before the celebration of the Lord’s supper it is your duty to visit all your parishioners for spiritual examination and preparation. (Some of your parishioners will likely not want to talk to you, they may not even open the door for you! But you should find a way to examine them prior to the Lord’s Supper.)
  • It is your duty to ensure that certain people do not receive the Lord’s supper. For instance, those who wear ostentatious or provocative clothing, those who are insane or mentally impaired, and those who have been excommunicated cannot participate in the Lord’s supper. However, those who are demon possessed can participate as long as they behave peaceably.[6]
  • You will lead the rite of baptism before services. You must not use any superstitious elements which rob baptism from its true meaning (i.e. oil, salt, spittle, wax papers, etc.)
  • You ought to follow the baptismal liturgy which is published in the Genevan Psalter. First you should ask who is presenting this child to be baptized. Then you ought to deliver a five minute baptismal exhortation summarizing the gospel and the meaning of baptism. You also ought to give a defense of infant baptism. Once this is done, sure that those presenting the child for baptism recited the Apostles Creed and promise to instruct the child in Christian doctrine. You shall conclude by sprinkling the child on the forehead in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[7]

 Pastoral Services

  • Funerals
    • Burials generally take place in the afternoon. You ought not do anything which would approximate Roman Catholic masses for the dead. Funerals ought to be austere.
    • Burial must take place within twenty four hours of the death.
    • There is no specific church service, but by custom you ought to visit the home of the deceased before the procession of the gravesite. There you are free to speak some words regarding the faith of the person being buried.
  • Marriages
    • Marriage ceremonies occur prior to services. You must announce the banns for couples seeking to marry. If everything is in accordance with the rules you will follow the marriage liturgy and then begin the time of worship. Please ensure that the wedding party stays for the whole service.
  • Pastoral Visitation
    • The Venerable Company expects that all of Geneva’s ministers would pray for their parishioners…offer them spiritual counsel and consolation, correct their sinful behavior through discipline, and visit them in their homes.[8]
    • The Ecclesiastical Ordinances stipulate that every year before Easter pastors ought to visit all the households of the parish in order to examine the members of the household for the Lord’s Supper. As Beza has taught, ‘As a minister of the gospel it is our duty to fulfill all the duties that our office required, which includes chiefly the consolation of poor sick people.’[9]
    • You are also expected to conduct less formal visits throughout the year, especially when parishioners are suffering bereavement and extreme poverty. (The family of those suffering are expected to notify a pastor of any pressing needs.)
    • You are also expected to join a rotation of pastors who visit our local prison, the Evesche, on Saturday afternoons. Here you will preach a brief sermon, and help take care of the needs (spiritual and physical) of the inmates.
    • You are also expected to visit the sick and dying in the hospital, even though they may be suffering from the plague. We understand this can be a frightening thing. Some of our pastors have contracted the plague and died after visitations. However, we believe this is part of our pastoral duty.
  • Pastoral Services Towards Exiles & The Oppressed
    • At times you may have to follow Calvin’s lead in offering pastoral care to those who are suffering for their faith. This includes exiles who escaped from persecution and are seeking refuge in Geneva. You may also have to write letters to Christians undergoing persecution. You ought to encourage these brothers and sisters[10] reminding them of the great call that is upon their life to suffer for Christ. Remind them that he will give them strength to fulfill their duty.
    • Although Calvin was in the habit of writing letters to government officials and even going on journeys to other cities to lend support to persecuted protestants we do not expect you to go to the same lengths as Calvin did in offering these brothers and sisters pastoral care.[11]

Prior to Being Hired:

In addition to having the ability to fulfill the duties prescribed above you must be able to sign on to (with good conscience) the Genevan Catechism and the Ecclesiastical Ordinances. Also you must meet the following requirements, based upon Calvin’s theology of calling and ordination, prior to being hired:

All Christians have received a calling to glorify God and seek the well being of their neighbors. However this does not mean that Christian ministers do not receive a special calling in which they are entrusted with being “the chief sinew by which believers are held together in one body.”[12] Those who are called are ordained to govern the church through the act of preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments. These are the means by which God’s people are instructed and nourished. In order to take this job, you must agree that this is your primary vocation. You also must be able to describe the subjective aspect of your twofold calling. All those who are called to be ministers receive a conviction in their heart that one ought to aspire to ministry, not for personal gain, but out of a fear for God and a desire to edify the church. If you can testify that you have received such a call, the Church will determine whether you are objectively called as well. Once this is met, your theology and way of living will be examined by your fellow ministers. Second, the magistrates will give their approval of your ordination. Third, the congregation will give consent to our choice. Fourth, you will take office by the laying of hands. We sincerely believe that the church should seek the candidate, and not the candidate seek a church,[13] thus if we have a sense that you are the right candidate for this job we will extend an offer to you.


[1] McKee, “A Week in the Life of John Calvin”, 69.

[2] McKee, “A Week in the Life of John Calvin”, 74.

[3] Manetsch, 72

[4] McKee, “A Week in the Life of John Calvin”, 65.

[5] McKee, “A Week in the Life of John Calvin”, 73.

[6] Manetsch, 279.

[7] Manetsch, 258-9.

[8] Manetsch, 280.

[9] Manetsch, 287.

[10] McKee, 321 and 330.

[11] McKee 315-20.

[12] Manetsch, 71.

[13] Manetsch, 81.

Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition

Pentecostal Outpourings! That definitely doesn’t sound like the title of a book which has a major emphasis on the puritans in the reformed tradition. Nevertheless, it’s a term that’s quite appropriate for describing a number of revivals in the Reformed Tradition during the 18th and 19th centuries. After all, what exactly happened at Pentecost? Well what happened was that God the Father poured out his Holy Spirit onto the church. That’s not something that only Pentecostals, charismatics, or continuationists believe. And its not something that’s exclusive for people of those theological persuasions to seek out. Whether it’s the reformed churches of the “old world”, i.e. Welsh Calvinistic Methodistpentecostal__69435-1446558671-1280-1280s, Irish Baptists, Calvinistic English Baptists, Scottish Presbyterians or the reformed churches of the “new world”, i.e. Baptists, Presbyterians or Dutch Reformed – there is a long history of seeking out revival and more importantly seeking out a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon His people.  This book – Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition – traces the history of precisely those things….

The book, edited by Robert Smart, Michael Haykin, and Ian Clary is divided into two parts: 1)Revival in the British Isles and 2)Revival in America. The first part covers revivals among Welsh Calvinists, Irish Dissenters, Calvinistic Baptists, and Scottish Presbyterians. Most people familiar with this sort of literature will be familiar with revival among the latter two groups, but as evidenced in these chapters there is much to be learned about revival in the first two groups. Also, and sadly, the former groups haven’t really carried that revival tradition into modern day ministry. The second part covers revival in America. Much of this consists of recounting what happened during the 1st great awakening among various groups including: Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, and the Dutch Reformed. Again, many will be familiar with the happenings of revival among the first three groups, but revival among the Dutch Reformed will be new territory for many readers.

 

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A picture of Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen – one of the Dutch Reformed Pastors who played a major role in the 1st Great Awakening.

Out of these chapters, (as I hinted at in my twitter feed – @Cwoznicki ) the chapter on revival among the Dutch Reformed was my favorite. Apart from the readability and depth of research of this chapter, I stepped away from it very encouraged and hopeful. The Dutch Reformed revival shows us that there isn’t a split between sound doctrine and revival, that revival can flourish in established churches, and that revival can open up fellowship among peoples of different theological traditions as well as ethnic backgrounds. The Dutch reformed churches not only received African-Americans into their membership, but they even permitted Native Americans to preach from their pulpits. That was truly surprising to me! But above all, what I drew from this chapter was a better picture of the Dutch Reformed ethos. Reading the words of these pastors, I felt as though they were speaking my heart. Let me list a few things that they stressed (231-233):

1)Orthodox Biblical Doctrine + Vital Piety

2)Experience that overflows from the heart in practical obedience.

3)Word and Spirit

4)An emphasis on Evangelism and Discipleship

5)Holiness in the ministry

Reading about our forefathers in the faith has encouraged me to pray for and seek revival along these lines. Revival, contrary to common opinion, is in fact possible among the Reformed churches. In fact, “Reformed ministers have exercised a central role in the major revivals since the Reformation.” (254) I hope that this book will encourage those like me who find themselves within the tradition to lead the efforts in seeking and promoting revival throughout the entire world, not just in our own churches but in all the churches who call upon Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior.

I’m a Father!

On March 9th at 3:22pm my beautiful baby daughter was born! Her mom – my wife – started getting contractions during the YoungLife club that she serves at. But she didn’t really know what it was, just that it hurt and that she didn’t feel well. When she got home, she told me that she thought the baby was going to come soon. Of course I doubted it. I thought she was having false contractions, so I told her to relax and go to bed. Well, she knew better. She said we should pack our bags, and reluctantly I did. I didn’t even pack anything to sleep in because I figured they would send us back home due to a false alarm. (I mean common, you have to give me credit, my wife was due April 4th!) Shiloh1

We tried to go to sleep, well she tried, and I actually did sleep. And then at 3 am she woke me up saying she thinks this is it. We both shower, because you want to be fresh for labor! And she was right, when we got to the hospital they said she was in fact in labor. A few hours, and no pain med or epidural, later my wife gave birth to our baby girl!

Shiloh2

Today she is one week old, but already I’m feeling changed. I never thought I could love someone the way I love my daughter. She is so precious to me and makes my heart melt. I’ve heard people say there is nothing like the love of a parent, but I never really understood that. Now, a week later, I think I’m starting to get it. To think – I love my daughter so much, and God the Father loves the Son even more, and was willing to give him up for our sake! Having a child of my own makes me appreciate the gospel that much more.

Shiloh3
We are starting our baby on the right track by teaching her her ABC’s… of Church History! Today she learned about Augustine, Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards.

Theology Under Crisis

Today, theology finds itself facing an identify crisis. Who are theologians, and what are they doing? Are they historians with a special focus on Christian Church history? Are they analytical philosophers of religion? Or are they simply linguists with a special focus on Greek and Hebrew languages? Theology is in an identity crisis and common sense tells us that having a crisis makes one vulnerable. In the academy, theology is thus increasingly sidelined and marginalized. This is reflected by the global phenomenon where the theological faculty is simply swallowed by the – perhaps more pluralist – religious studies department… (Michael Brauitgam)

In your opinion, what is a theologian? And where does theology fit in to the academy? Does it? Should it?

5 Great Deals for Your Kindle

What I love about the Kindle is that every once in a while you will find awesome deals – often at $0.99 or $1.99. Today I discovered four great books, and I got them all! Here they are in their categories:

Church History

Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church – $0.99 – Michael Haykin

Commentary

Galatians: Gospel-rooted Living – $0.99

Ministry

A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table – $0.99 – Tim Chester

Jonathan Edwards

A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards$1.99 – John Piper & Justin Taylor

Church and Society

Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry – $0.99 – Gregory Thornbury

Book Review – From Jesus to the Church by Craig Evans

Craig Evans was my first ever professor at Fuller Seminary – he was teaching a summer course on the gospels. That was my first ever exposure to historical Jesus studies, and I have been hooked ever since. So when I was presented with an opportunity to review Evans’ book From Jesus to the Church: The First Christian Generation I jumped on it.

When the Jesus movement started it was almost entirely Jewish – essentially it was focused on the redemption and restoration of Israel. Evans points out that during the first forty years of this movement, Jesus and his followers competed with the religious leaders and the temple establishment for the hearts of the Jewish people. So in its earliest days, Christianity was understood as a Jewish restoration movement. However, Evans points out, when James died, Jerusalem was captured, and the temple was destroyed, the relationship between the Jewish Christians and the non-Christian Jews rapidly deteriorated. This book chronicles the process of that deterioration and it does so through the lens of conflict. Evans understands the major conflict as lying between the “family” of the high priest Annas and the “family” of Jesus of Nazareth. This conflict culminates with the clash of a Christian also named Jesus, who takes a prophetic action against the temple right after James’ death and before the destruction of the temple, and the temple establishment.

As Evans develops the theme of conflict, he asks several questions which lead up to his understanding of the root causes of the Christian-Jewish split. First Evans asks: Did Jesus intend to Found a church? Evans concludes that the answer is yes and no. He did not intend to do so in the way we think of “church” today, however he did intend to assemble a community of disciples who would have embraced his teaching. In addition to these question, he asks about the relationship between the Kingdom of God and the Church of Christ. He asks, what was James’ role within the Christian community? Are James and Paul in conflict when it comes to faith and works? What role does the temple play in the conflicts between the ruling priests and the leaders of the Christian movement? Finally, what does the relationship between Jews and Gentiles look like in the letters of Paul and in the works of Ignatius?

As he concludes this short book, Evans explains that the Temple and competing understandings of the role of the temple was a primary cause of division between Jewish Christians and Jewish non-Christians. Yet there are also other reasons why this division developed. Among these reasons are:

  • Christianity’s aggressive Gentile mission and lenient requirements for entry into the Church
  • The divinity of Jesus
  • Gentiles’ failures to observe Jewish food law, purity laws, and Sabbath observance
  • The Bar Kokhba rebellion
  • Jewish nationalist interests
  • The fact that by definition a Messiah could not be crucified This final reason was the decisive factor for why Jews could not accept Jesus as Messiah.

Pros

Evans presents the reader with a very fascinating (and underutilized) lens for interpreting the series of conflicts between Jesus followers and Jewish Religious leaders – namely the Temple. Others, namely Nicholas Perrin, have written extensively regarding the role of the Temple in early Christianity’s self-understanding. Perrin has also made an argument that Jesus and the early church saw themselves as a counter-temple and/or temple restoration movement. This book makes a similar argument, but instead uses that argument to show why Judaism and Christianity ended up splitting.

One interesting chapter in Evans’ book was the chapter on “Phinean Zeal and the Works of the Law.” The role of Phineas and his actions in the Old Testament as well as in 2nd temple Judaism has been an under-explored topic when talking about early Christianity. In fact, even James Dunn only devotes a small section to this topic in his massive theology of Paul. This section will be a valuable resource for those interested in the topic of “Zeal” in Qumran literature and zeal for doing good works in Paul and James.

Also, there are a lot of cool side-bars and pictures of important locations for early Christianity.

Cons

This book is a very important resource for understanding the parting of ways between Judaism and Christianity – the very fact that he presents readers with a new lens for understanding that parting of ways makes purchasing this book a must. However the book does suffer from a few flaws. For instance, its not always clear how some of his topics fit into his over all thesis. I mean to say that although these topics are relevant to the parting of ways between Judaism and Christianity, they stray from his “temple” theme.

Another issue that I have with this book is that at times Evans tends to over-Judaize the early church in Asia and Europe. For instance, in a discussion of the seven letters Revelation, Evans says:

Given the Judaic orientation of much of the polemic in the letters to the seven churches, we should assume that the people whom make up those congregations are mostly Jewish. Their opponents are not Gnostics or Hellenizers: they are Jewish skeptics and members of synagogues, who reject the claims that Christian Jews make about Jesus. (132)

I grant the fact that the seven letters are steeped in Jewish categories and language – but one cannot infer from that the fact that the congregations are mostly Jewish. All one can infer for certain is that the author of those letters has a Jewish worldview steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures and other Jewish traditions.

Conclusion

It has been a long time since I have been as excited for a book on the history of early Christianity as I have been for this one. Evans thesis is original, and it makes a lot of sense of the facts. For that reason I believe that Evans’ argument is not only plausible, its is likely correct. Jewish leaders and Christian leaders clashed over the role of the Temple. This clash eventually became separation once the temple was destroyed, and this separation became animosity during the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

(Note: I received this book free of charge from WJK in exchange for an impartial review.)