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Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries


Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik, eds., Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2007), 930 pages, ISBN 9781565637634.

This volume is an imposing compendium of scholarly research into the Jewish Christianity of the first several centuries. The book features essays on nearly every major representative and aspect of this important stream within early Christianity.

The volume opens by exploring the definition of “Jewish Christianity” and then gives an overview of the literary evidence for this stream within the early church, discussing, in turn, the Jewish aspects of Paul’s mission and beliefs, the gospel of Matthew as a reflection of Jewish Christianity, the Fourth Gospel, the book of Revelation, the (non-canonical) Jewish gospel tradition, Jewish Christianity’s use and preservation of the OT pseudepigrapha, Jewish-Christian aspects within the Pseudo-Clementine writings, and the remains of Jewish-Christian witnesses as preserved in Greek and Latin patristic writers. After this is a series of essays on the various Jewish-Christian “schools”, such as the Ebionites, Nazoreans, etc., and various alleged Jewish-Christian leaders, like Cerinthus, Elxai (Elchesai), etc. Philip Alexander discusses the rabbinic evidence for Jewish Christianity, while James Strange discusses the archaeological record. Skarsaune (who wrote many of the articles) closes the volume with an overview, after which there is a bibliography running more than 100 pages. There is really very little that the book does not include, and anything to be gainsaid about the volume will likely focus on a particular issue as treated by one or another contributor, rather than on issues touching the volume as a whole. For example, Donald Hagner’s essay on “Paul as a Jewish Believer—According to his Letters” is rather reactionary, and not, I think, of the same quality as the other essays.

For most students of the New Testament, this volume is both a starting point and a likely ending point for the study of Jewish Christianity. It deserves a place in any personal library.

Reviewed by John Poirier


New publisher’s page:


As of October 30, 2014, the full text of the book appears here:


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Category: Church History, Fall 2009

About the Author: John C. Poirier, Th.M. (Duke Divinity), D.H.L. (Jewish Theological Seminary), is an independent scholar who has published numerous articles on a wide range of topics. He is the author of The Invention of the Inspired Text: Philological Windows on the Theopneustia of Scripture (2021).

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