In the Shadow of the Temple offers a new perspective on the development of the early church in its practice (e.g., worship, baptism, and Eucharist) and doctrine (e.g., Scripture, Christology, and pneumatology). Oskar Skarsaune begins by tracing the story of second temple Judaism from the crisis of the Jewish encounter with Hellenism in the second century B.C. through the diverse Judaisms of the first century A.D. Then, from the time of Jesus and the origins of the church up to the Constantinian revolution of the early fourth century A.D, Skarsaune offers us fascinating snapshots and analyses of the interactions, the arguments, and the shaping influences of Judaism on the life, creed, and practices of the church.
The widespread perception of a decisive "parting of the ways" between Christianity and Judaism after the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. has distorted our understanding of the following decades and centuries of Jewish and Christian history. We are left with the impression that hostile polemic or mutual avoidance between Christians and Jews was the order of the day.
To be sure, there were points of bitterness and strife between these two groups, but the story of their relationship is better told as the relationship between younger and older siblings. In and between the lines of our historical data, there is abundant evidence of interaction between the early church and the ancient synagogue. This took place at the levels of both leadership and laypeople, and it left its imprint on the emerging shape of the church. But this story has not yet fully been told.
In the Shadow of the Temple will both fascinate and inform its readers. Skarsaune embraces a historical period that transcends the ordinary division of labor between scholars of Christian origins and early church history. And he offers insights into history that challenge the prevailing notions of the way it was – and the way it must be – between Christians and Jews.
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“Another Hellenistic notion resembling the Greek ideal that everyone should study philosophy is the Pharisaic-rabbinic ideal that all Jews should become students of the Torah.” (Page 37)
“At the heart of Judaism was something local and concrete, not movable: the temple.” (Page 44)
“The Jerusalem of Jesus was a Hellenistic-Herodian city. To a Greek visitor, the city must have looked familiar: a typical Hellenistic city with regular streets at right angles.” (Page 38)
“One region, however, remained unaffected by this process: the central hilly area of Judea, around Jerusalem. Here there were no Hellenistic cities.” (Page 33)
“The echoes of the synagogal prayers in the Lord’s Prayer and other early Christian prayers demonstrate that this liturgy was well known to Jesus and the early disciples. We should not think that the early Christians were antiliturgical in their worship gatherings. It is no accident that in Acts 2:42 Luke does not say that the early community ‘devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching … and prayer,’ but to ‘the prayers,’ which suggests fixed patterns. All the evidence points to the synagogal liturgy as a source for those prayers.” (Page 125)
Oskar Skarsaune is surely right on the Jewishness of early Christianity and the importance of the temple for its development. He marshals an accurate display of historical information and exercises sound judgment in weighing probabilities. The result not only establishes the Jewish influences on early Christianity but also presents a persuasive synthesis of key elements in the story of Christian origins.
—Everett Ferguson, Abilene Christian University
Oskar Skarsaune's In the Shadow of the Temple is outstanding and will not only serve well the general reader, for whom the author writes, it will also serve well the scholar and student alike. Skarsaune has produced a gem that deftly lays out the major events, institutions, beliefs and figures of Judaism of late antiquity and how they shaped early Christianity. This reader-friendly book is a must.
—Craig A. Evans, Trinity Western University
Although this book is written at a level that will be easily accessible to students, it is based on sound and fresh scholarship by a leading early church historian. [It] has the merit of surveying the history of the Christian movement from its beginnings with Jesus through the pre-Constantinian period from the specific perspective of demonstrating the close links between Christianity and its Jewish roots that persisted throughout this period. The author has not only harvested much specialized scholarship on this crucial question regarding Christian origins but also has his own personal contribution to make. This attractive presentation is a must for all students of the early church.
—I. Howard Marshall, University of Aberdeen
Nowadays the Jewish texture of the New Testament is increasingly appreciated, and rightly so. In this highly informative and stimulating book, Professor Skarsaune demonstrates how illuminating it can be to read the New Testament from the perspective of the fully Jewish character of early Christianity. This novel approach to Christian origins will enrich readers, making them more sensitive to the Jewishness of the New Testament and early Christianity and more appreciative of the debt Christianity owes to the Jews.
—Donald A. Hagner, Fuller Theological Seminary
Professor Skarsaune has long been known as a leading scholar of early Jewish and Gentile Christian history. Here he brings his outstanding specialist learning to bear in a wonderfully accessible, comprehensive introduction to the Jewish basis of Christian faith and history throughout the first three centuries. In binding together the New Testament's Jewish roots with the life of the early Jewish and Gentile church, this is an outstanding textbook of Christian origins.
—Markus Bockmuehl, Cambridge University
Skarsaune’s work makes a very profitable read… His work is careful but readable for a wide audience and serves as an excellent introduction to the Jewish background of the NT and early Christianity. Yet In the Shadow presents much for specialists to consider as well. Professors will certainly want to read the work. Upper-class undergraduate students will profit. Even preachers in the local congregation would be better equipped through this book to avoid common pitfalls of ‘pop-scholarship’ about NT times and the Jewish roots of Christianity.
—Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society