Over at Marginalia, Larry Hurtado has a great review of Paula Fredriksen’s When Christians Were Jews.
Proposing that the disappointment of hopes for the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God could have led to the demise of the Jesus-movement, Fredriksen offers “four interrelated factors” that enabled those early believers to maintain their commitment against the odds. These included continuing experiences of “charismata” such as prophesying, healing and exorcizing demons, which believers ascribed to the divine Spirit. These experiences validated the community of believers as those to whom the Spirit had been given. A second factor was “their intensified turn to Jewish scriptures.” That is, early on, Jewish believers searched their scriptures to find resources for understanding their circumstances and also, importantly, the figure of Jesus. This process introduced the third factor, as this biblical interpretation led believers to “refine” (or reformulate) ideas about “Messiah” and the ways that Jesus fulfilled that role. So, for example, there was the novel idea that Messiah was to undergo a violent death and then come again in glory. The fourth factor in Fredriksen’s proposed scheme was another novel idea: the early believers felt themselves obliged to continue Jesus’ mission “to prepare Israel” for the coming Kingdom of God. Then, through various circumstances, this mission expanded to include initially Jews in the wider Diaspora and then even Gentiles (or pagans, to use Fredriksen’s preferred term).