Sunday, February 16, 2014

From Jesus To The Church by Craig Evans

The first generation of Christianity is a subject that still continues to fascinate both scholars and general readers over two thousand years later. In this short volume Dr. Evans examines several topic concerning this first generation. This book grew out of a series of lectures given at a conference. In his introduction Dr. Evans states that his primary purpose is to examine the conflict between the family of Annas, the high priest, and the family of Jesus of Nazareth. He sees this conflict as underlying many of the violent confrontations experienced by the early church in Judea.

Dr. Evans gives an excellent background to the conflict. He traces the history of the first centuries BC and AD. During this period there was a lot of conflict between the leaders of the temple and reformers. Many groups accused the priestly leaders of corruption. Movements such as the Essenes rejected the leadership of the Temple completely and separated themselves from the larger Jewish community. Into this world came Jesus. His cleansing of the Temple was part of a larger conflict within Judaism.

Evans wanders over several topics in this volume. In fact the book only brushes by the thesis from time to time. This does not diminish the overall quality of the book. There is a lot of fascinating information throughout the book. He spends a good deal of time examining the conflicts that existed in the first Christian generation. As Gentiles began to come into the church a conflict grew between those who believed that the new converts needed to observe the laws of Moses and convert completely to Judaism and those who believed that this was no longer necessary.

While the book feels a little scattered and even redundant at times it contains a lot of excellent information and by examining the conflicts the early Jesus movement faced, both external and internal, Evans shows us the rich, diverse world of that period. This book is written as an academic book and so the general reader should be aware that there is some very technical writing here.

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