My sister-in-law recently posted the initial words of the Jewish Shema prayer on Facebook:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
She stated that she has always loved these verses, and commented: “If we all just tried to live by this ONE command, our ‘immediate’ worlds would be a better place.” I did a “LIKE” on her post.
This reminded me of how strongly Christianity is rooted in Judaism. In fact, the earliest followers of Christ regarded themselves as Jews. They were centered in Jerusalem and observed the Jewish law. They held the Jewish scriptures (what we call the Old Testament) as the Word of God. They worshiped in the synagogues. The first bishops were all circumcised Jews. Christianity may have remained a sect of the Jews if it had not been for the later, overwhelming influence of Paul and his ministry to the gentiles.
The Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles is one of the earliest Christian writings, dating to the latter part of the first century. The first line of this treatise is “Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the Twelve Apostles”.
The text, parts of which constitute the oldest surviving written catechism, has three main sections dealing with Christian ethics, rituals such as baptism and Eucharist, and Church organization. The contents and structure are from a decidedly Jewish perspective. The Didache was considered by some of the Church Fathers as part of the New Testament but it ultimately was not accepted into the New Testament canon. The entire text can be reviewed at http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/didache.html
It seems that Christians over the centuries have been somewhat confused about our Jewish roots. For example, the Jewish scriptures (Old Testament) are considered to be the Word of God, but yet not directly applicable to us in the new Christian “age of grace”. And Christians have been inconsistent in their view of Jews. In the past, Christians have at times vilified the Jews as “Christ killers”, and at other times have stood strong with them as God’s chosen people. I need to put some further study into the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, especially as it impacted the earliest Church.
In some ways the terms “Jewish Christian” or “Messianic Jew” may seem like oxymorons. But on further thought, they may represent the truest examples of the original Christians.