Released: January 31, 2014 By: Daniel Whyte III
Our quote today is from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He said, "The church is her true self only when she exists for humanity."
Today, we are discussing "The Fullness of Time" (Part 5) from Justo L. Gonzalez's fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
There were many other sects and groups within first-century Judaism. The Zealots have already been mentioned. Another important group was the Essenes, an ascetic group to which many attribute the production of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This group, and probably others like it, sought to obey the Law by withdrawing from the rest of society, and often had a very intense expectation that the end was near.
On the other hand, this diversity of tendencies, sects, and parties should not obscure two fundamental tenants of all Jews: ethical monotheism and eschatological hope. Ethical monotheism means that there is only one God, and that this God requires, just as much proper worship, proper relationships among human beings. The various parties might disagree as to the exact shape of such relationships, but they all agreed on the need to honor the only God with the whole of life.
Eschatological hope was another common tenet in the faith of Israel. Most kept the messianic hope, and firmly believed that the day would come when God would intervene in order to restore Israel and fulfill the promise of a Kingdom of peace and justice. Some thought that they were to speed its coming by the force of arms. Others were convinced that such matters should be left entirely in the hands of God. But all looked to a future when God's promises would be fulfilled.
Of all these, the best equipped to survive after the destruction of the Temple were the Pharisees. Their roots went back to the time of the Exile, when it was not possible to worship in Jerusalem, and religious life perforce centered on the Law. The same was true of the millions of Jews who lived in distant lands in the first century. Not being able to attend worship regularly in the Temple, they developed the synagogue, where the Law and the traditions of Israel were studied, and where the dispersed Jews experienced community and strengthened their resolve to live as faithful people of God even in dispersion. When the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE the Sadducees received a mortal blow, while the theological tradition of the Pharisees continued to bloom into modern Judaism.
We will look at Diaspora Judaism next time on The History of Christianity.