Origins

Paul, who was preaching in Antioch at the time, disagreed. Senior Christian leaders tackled this problem by holding the first Church council, the Council of Jerusalem. Accounts of this meeting are found in chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles, and in the second chapter of Paul's letter to the Galatians. Paul and a companion, Barnabas, traveled from Antioch in Syria to Jerusalem to meet with the elders of the Jerusalem Church, including Peter and James, in order to reach agreement on the touchy question of Jewish law and non-Jewish converts.

According to Acts and Galatians, Paul and his followers prevailed on the question of circumcision. In a decision issued by James, the Council affirmed that new converts were excused from following most of the requirements of Jewish law, including circumcision. However, all Christians were required to follow some of the Jewish dietary restrictions, as well as prohibitions against sexual immorality and idolatry.

the crucifixion of PeterThe Council of Jerusalem, and James's decree, may represent the first episode in which the early Christians differentiated themselves from Judaism. While it would take time for Christianity and Judaism to completely divide, the die was cast. For many years, the relationship between Jews, Jewish Christians, and Gentile Christians was fluid and indeterminate.

Christians believe that Peter ultimately settled in Rome, and was crucified there, probably during the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Nero (c. 64). Christians also believe Paul was executed in Rome, by beheading, also during the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Nero. These traditions have contributed to the special prestige Rome has for many Christians, particularly Roman Catholics.


Study Questions:
1.     What event within Jesus' life made him central to the Christianity movement?
2.     Why were Jesus' disciples important founders of Christianity?
3.     Who was Peter? Who was Paul? What did they contribute?
4.     How did Jewish tradition affect the development of early Christianity?
5.     When did Christianity separate from Judaism? How?

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