Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Jewish Reformation

When reformers introduce new ideas, they are often met with resistance. Stephen went after the Lost Sheep, the people who had strayed from Judaism. These people were the Samaritans and the Jews who had adopted Greek ways.

What was the reaction of the Temple establishment? Usually we are told that Stephen became the first martyr and no further analysis is made of the ideas that Stephen may have introduced and the reactions to them. There is no reported reaction to the mission to the Samaritans. It seems that was there was no problem with the Samaritans.

There is some evidence of the existence of substantial Samaritan population in first century Jerusalem. According to Moses Gaster in his discussion of the Samaritan Tenth Commandment, “It may be that for this reason the reading of the Ten Commandments as part of the liturgy in Jerusalem was dropped after a time; the reason given was ‘because of the Minim.’ (See Talmud B. Berakhot f. 11 a.) These were probably the Samaritans, and the leaders in Jerusalem obviously intended to avoid drawing attention to the fundamental difference between the two sects.”

There was in fact a problem and reaction to the second part of Stephen’s outreach program. Even the Samaritans objected to the outreach program to the Jews who had adopted Greek ways.

The Reformation split the Roman Church; it also resulted in the first definitive published statement on Catholic identity when the Council of Trent commissioned the Roman Catechism. Leo XIII declared in 1879 that Aquinas gave the definitive statement of Catholic doctrine but this, of course, was long after the Reformation.

In 37 CE, when Stephen was stoned, there was no definitive statement on Jewish identity. However late in the first century there developed a consensus in Judaism inter alia, rejecting the Septuagint. This probably resulted in the preservation of the Hebrew language at least for religious use and a clear distinction between the Jewish and Christian communities. This was a clear rejection of Jews who had adopted Greek ways.

Copyrighted 2007


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