Did Jesus intend to found a church separate from Judaism? Who were the very first followers of Jesus? And how did a clash between two families—the family of Jesus on one hand and the family of high priest Annas and their aristocratic allies on the other—eventually lead to the formation of Christianity? In this study, bestselling author Craig A. Evans looks at how a tumultuous chain of events from 30 to 70 AD led to the separation between early Christ-followers and other Jews. Evans examines key questions such as whether Jesus actually intended to found the Christian Church, what Jesus’ proclamation of the “Kingdom of God” meant for first generation Christians, the role of James (brother of Jesus) in the new movement, the tension between James and Paul, and the perspective of Christians on the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish rebellion. Evans draws these events together in an accessible volume that will help modern Christians understand the background of the New Testament they read, and interpret it with clear ideas of its historical backdrop.
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“The shift from kingdom of God to church of Christ corresponds to the shift from the Jesus who proclaims (the kingdom), to the Jesus who is proclaimed (by the church).” (Page 38)
“Jesus speaks of authority on earth because the Son of man has received his authority from God in heaven (as depicted in Dan. 7:9–14). Having received his authority from heaven, Jesus now exercises it in his ministry on earth.” (Page 49)
“The word usually translated ‘church’ in the Greek New Testament is ekklēsia. In the New Testament the word occurs some 114 times. But it also occurs some 100 times in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Most of the occurrences of ekklēsia in the Septuagint translate forms of qahal, whose basic meaning as a noun is ‘assembly’ or ‘congregation’ and as a verb is ‘to assemble.’ The Christian word ‘church’ comes from the Greek adjective, kyriakos, which means ‘of the Lord’ or ‘the Lord’s’ (cf. 1 Cor. 11:20, ‘the Lord’s supper’; Rev. 1:10, ‘on the Lord’s day’). Accordingly, ‘church’ is an anglicized and abbreviated form of hē ekklēsia hē kyriakē, ‘the Lord’s assembly.’” (Page 18)
“What we may have here in the Letter of James, written perhaps fifteen years or so after the death of Jesus, is a glimpse of the life of the Christian community in a very early stage, when there was little distinction between synagōgē and ekklēsia, a time when a leader of the Jesus movement could live in Jerusalem and compete for the hearts and minds of his fellow Jews, not in order to lead them out of Israel, but to lead them toward the fulfillment of what God had promised Israel.” (Page 37)
[A]nyone interested in early Christianity, especially the period from Christ to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, should read From Jesus to the Church. This book is also a treat for anyone interested in Christianity’s Jewish background and as well as noncanonical Jewish texts. Evans has an astounding knowledge of deuterocanonical texts and Qumran scrolls that shed much light on the topics he discusses. This is a short book with a wealth of information that is both accessible for laypeople enjoyable for scholars. I highly recommend it.
—Jennifer Guo, jenniferguo.wordpress.com
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