Talk:Historical background of the New Testament

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Lead Sentence[edit]

The introductory sentence does not appear to represent the scope of the article. It states "This examination treats the New Testament as one of many documents, written and perhaps later edited by people who wanted others to believe as they did, which can be used to piece together a more complete and authentic understanding of the life and times of Jesus and the founding of Early Christianity."

Why exactly is it beginning with how it treats the NT documents when the article deals broadly with the cultural and historical background of Jesus rather than Jesus and the NT.

The first footnote to this lead sentence is also a bit worrying and clearly not NPOV.--Ari (talk) 14:38, 20 December 2009 (UTC)

Well, you are right. I watch this page but do not follow every edit, I don'tknow when or who added that first line. If you wish to rewrite the introduction, fel free! Just so you know: this entire section used to be part of the Jesus article. In addition to a section on the Gospec account of Jesus, there was a section on debates among historians about how to read the Gospels, and whether Jesus existed. Then there was a section on how historians reconstruct the historical, or interpret the Gospel, Jesus, based on what they know about the historical and cultural context. At some point someone decided (correctly) that the Jesus article was too long, and spun different sections into new articles. That is how this article came to be. It is not meant to be an article on Jewish history as such (though many editors have added a lot of content on Jewish history in general), it was meant to be an explanation of the historical view of institutions - the Davidic monarchy, the Temple, the Priesthood, the Saducees and Pharisees, and so on, that are all at play in the Gospels but providing the historian's understanding of these things and how knowing these things provides a historical context for reinterpreting Jesus. You can see how the article occupies a delicate space. Improvements are welcome! Slrubenstein | Talk 15:52, 20 December 2009 (UTC)

Ari,do not delete content[edit]

Of course you find the material questionable. That does not matter. Our NPOV policy demands we put in views we consider questionable. I will provide more citations, but there are a number of historians who hold these views. I am sure there is room to provide other views. But never delete content because you disagree with it, or even because there are some scholars who disagree with it. That violates our policy. Slrubenstein | Talk 19:36, 24 December 2009 (UTC)

Marginal positions received marginal reference - not representation as if they are consensus. Scholarship is against these questionable claims and that is why they were removed.WP:FRNG --Ari (talk) 01:18, 25 December 2009 (UTC)
I also must say, I don't quite get the first sentence. "Of course you find the material questionable." I wonder what your suggestion here is!(WP:AGF) The factual accuracy of the statements are questionable (is that less ambiguous for you if the extensive edit summaries were not?) and the consensus of scholarship is generally against it. Trying to turn an issue regarding scholarly consensus into a personal beef is simply pathetic of you. --Ari (talk) 08:35, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

You owe me an apology for saying what I have done is pathetic. Don't get so defensive. You were wrong to delete material that others believe reflects a significant point of view. So you made a mistake. Did I call you pathetic?

If my suggesting that you find material you wish to delete questionable is a sign of a lack of good faith, you have no understanding of the principle behind NPOV.

I wrote some of the material you question, I did not write all. You should get used to the fact tha Wikipedia is a collaborative effort. So instead of just deleting what you do not like, try working with others.

You mention other sources - none of whom are among the leading contemporary Jesus scholars, and none of whom are mentioned in the article. But if you believe they are reliable sources representing significant views, why don't you add them to the article, instead of deleting what you do not like?

I did not write the line on when the Gospels or NT were written. I know there is some debate about this and would be glad to see a well-informed discussion of the major views on when they were written. if you have something to add to that discussion, why not add it? I am sure that there is a way to include a range of major points of view. So far I do not think I deleted any major content you added. So tell me again who is pathetic? Or is it just possible that no one is? Where is your good faith? Slrubenstein | Talk 13:22, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

You demand an apology for attacking me - and then you go on with the theme of an alleged agenda claiming that I have deleted this misinformation because I "do not like" it. That personalisation is what was pathetic, Slrubenstein. I understand you have pride in this article, however, before you go on such a polemical offensive you should also be reminded of WP:OWNERSHIP. But enough about this for good, I hope!
Your claim regarding the citations was a bit worrying. For example, I began with Bruce Metzger, probably the most influential text critical scholars of the past 40 years on textual interpolations. Similarly, I cited Alan F. Segal who is an authority on the relationship between Christianity as a sect of greater Judaism, and their subsequent divergence.
Anyway, back to the article. As it reads, it gives undue weight to (1) fringe theories which are (2) not cited. Take what I just tagged in my last edit as a recent example. We have the claim that the Jewish sect of Christians turned to proselytising Gentiles because they could no longer attract Jews. The POV aside, it would be difficult trying to find a citation to back this up. Take for the example that our earliest sources refer to mutual missions to both Jew and Gentile within the first 15 years of the movement. A far cry from post-fall. (Cf. the works by Michael Bird among others).
Similarly, we have a significant chunk on Boyarin's thesis, yet his idea that Paul was a Hellenistic Jew edging towards Platonism is marginal. Seeing Paul in the reflection of Philo is a step in the wrong direction. Ironically enough, Boyarin's overemphasis on early Christian universalism again contradicts the earlier uncited claim in the article that Gentile missions were late. An extreme lack of coherency in this regard.--Ari (talk) 14:17, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

I do not believe I ever attacked you. If you feel I made a personalattack please tell me where, it may be a misunderstanding, which I certainly regret. But I did criticize your deleting content, and I assumed you distinguish between criticism and attack. Segal is one among many respectable scholars. In any event, it seems I have to repeat what I already said: if you feel important views are absent from the article add them. That is almost always the best solution to problems with disproportion. Boyarin is a very highly regarded scholar. I think the article has the bare minimum to represent his view. How does this in any way prohibit you from adding other views, giving them as much attention as necessary to provide an accurate account of the view?

I see no contradiction between saying Jews (including early Christians) sought prosylites from the Gentiles - Jesus even instructs his desciples to do so - and saying that at some point Christians relied more on Gentile converts than Jews. As to the dating of when that happened, I repeat again, let's include all significant views.

NPOV requires that we provide all significant views. Even and especially when they disagree with one another. I am not sure what you mean by coherency in this context. But I repeat a fourth time: if you feel views are missing, add them. Your insinuation that I am trying to monopolize the article because I wish to keep some views you consider marginal is the insult. I repeat: I never intentionally deleted any content you added. Can you say the same? Slrubenstein | Talk 14:53, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

It seems you have misunderstood my post. I will not repeat the personal attacks which were evidenced in the two posts - but I will continue with the article content. The contradiction is between the articles unreferenced claim that Gentile conversion was a late development because Jews could no longer be converted. As you noted above in agreement with myself, missions to Gentiles were early in stark contradiction to the articles claim. This contraditiction is made worse by dedicating undue weight to the marginal view of Boyarin which says the opposite of the articles claims at the most extreme spectrum.
The suggests are to delete the erroneous claim (it is unreferenced, and it could not possibly be harmonised with the sources), and cut down on Boyarin's view. --Ari (talk) 15:00, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

I do not agree that Boyarin's view is marginal, and I do not think it can be cut down without doing damage to it. But if you feel undue weight is given to Boyarin, I again encourage you to add those views that you feel are missing.

I am not sure where it says that Gentile conversion is a late development. I think it says that after a certain date the growth of Christianity came mostly from Gentiles rather than from Jews. This does not mean that there were no Gentile converts to Christian Judaism. And I think that all major sources agree that after a certain date very few Jews opted for Christianity. I suppose this is tied in with when one dates a break between Judaism and Christianity. I do not know of any major scholar who suggests a major overlap between Judaism and Christianty after 100. Shaye JD Cohen, the leading expert on Hellenistic Judaism, observes that there are no sects within Judaism after 70 CE. He observes that there may still have been Jewish Christians, but that there simply is no historical record of it. I do not see anything controversial in suggesting that after that date Christianity depended primarily on Gentiles for new converts. But like I said, if you have other sources that claim otherwise, add them. Slrubenstein | Talk 22:38, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

I just read the section on on the divergence of Christianity from Judaism, and it's about 75% there. It succeeds in giving a reasonably accurate and well-written account, but it needs more citations, more sources, and more material about Paul (as well as other topics). If editors think that one source or another is given undue weight, it would be nice to see other sources added for balance. A good source ought to be able to tell us what the mainstream view is, so we could easily agree on what views are marginal. Leadwind (talk) 21:55, 28 December 2009 (UTC)

POV tag?[edit]

Why, specifically, is there a POV tag on the page? What would it take to resolve the issue? Leadwind (talk) 21:56, 28 December 2009 (UTC)

Good question. I am waiting to hear from Ari. Slrubenstein | Talk 22:37, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
If the tag doesn't represent a current dispute, I ought to remove it. Ari? Leadwind (talk) 15:12, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

divergence of Christianity from Judaism[edit]

Making this section work will require a lot of editing and plenty of new material. Currently it's pretty fragmented. If I were to rework it, I'd put it in chronological order.

1. Jesus establishes a restoration movement within Judaism and is executed. His closest followers have visionary experiences of Jesus resurrected, and his movement continues as a Jewish sect.

2. Paul opens the movement to gentiles and defines Jesus, not the Law, as the proper foundation of religious life. Judaism includes mostly non-Christians plus many Christians. Christianity includes many Jews but more and more gentiles.

3. The Temple is destroyed. This is probably the best single point where we can see that the tension between Christianity and Judaism results in a split.

4. Christianity becomes less and less Jewish. Judaism develops rabbinic leadership. The council of Javne and the Bar Kochba revolt are two more major milestones in the differentiation of Christianity from Judaism.

We can readily flesh this chronology out with mainstream sources. Leadwind (talk) 22:19, 28 December 2009 (UTC)

Well, it seems to me obvious that there should be a common history up to a point and then to sections for the divergent histories. Any edits that add useful content would be welcome. I see that Daniel Boyarin has a new book out on precisely this issue (separation of Judaism and Christianity) - I have not red it but it must be cutting edge; he is a top scholar at a top university published in the top journals and by the best university presses. Leadwind, any chance you could check out his latest book? Slrubenstein | Talk 22:39, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
SLR, OK, let's do common history, the split, and then divergent histories, thus...
1. Jesus establishes a restoration movement within Judaism and is executed. His closest followers have visionary experiences of Jesus resurrected, and his movement continues as a Jewish sect.
2. Paul opens the movement to gentiles and defines Jesus, not the Law, as the proper foundation of religious life. Judaism includes mostly non-Christians plus many Christians. Christianity includes many Jews but more and more gentiles.
3. The Temple is destroyed. This is probably the best single point where we can see that the tension between Christianity and Judaism results in a split.
4a. Judaism develops rabbinic leadership. The council of Javne and the Bar Kochba revolt are two more major events.
4b. Christianity becomes less Jewish.
The destruction of the Temple is key, but the near simultaneous destruction of the Romal Jewish community at that time is just as key - no more Roman Jew, no more Roman Christians, which means that thenseforward, the Roman Christian community would be Gentile.
4a and 4b are the crux and we have to address head on how Christianity became less appealing to Jews, but Christianity became more appealing to Gentiles... in an NPOV way.
But you have to check with Ari, I get the sense that for some reason it is this kind of stuff he considers the NPOV problem.
By the way, on this I find Michael Cook's book extermely helpful, ahough written for a lay audience. Also do you know Michael White's From Jesus to Christianity? Slrubenstein | Talk 00:00, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
SLR, I don't think I'm likely to pick up Boyarin and I'm not familiar with Cook or White. I've spent about $300 on source books and am likely to slow down on new purchases now. Leadwind (talk) 22:23, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
Leadwind, the "Council of Javne" is a hypothesis first promoted by Graetz, and now fairly thoroughly discredited. It can't have been a "major event" in the development of Judaism, since there wasn't really any "Council of Javne", at least not as conceived of in popular literature. Jayjg (talk) 06:51, 31 December 2009 (UTC)
Sorry Leadwind, I thought you had access to a library and never meant to suggest you should spend more money on books. Also, I mentioned these because given your track-record I thought you might enjoy reading them. I know you have read much already and certainly have plenty of basis for making good contributions to the article already. Slrubenstein | Talk 14:02, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

There is now an article on this subject: Split of early Christianity and Judaism. (talk) 04:56, 29 October 2010 (UTC)


This is a great article, but the wording lacks the clarity needed for an encyclopedia article. - Ret.Prof (talk) 14:15, 4 September 2010 (UTC)

The biggest problem is the lack of inline citations. Virtually everything about the Jews, especially the Rabbis and Pharisees, comes from the Neusner or Cohen or Schwarz sources. Virtually everything on Jesus, including his relation to Jewish institutions, comes from Vermes or Fredricksen. They are in the works cited, but this article would be stronger if someone could go back and find the appropriate citations from these four or five principle (and respected) sources. Slrubenstein | Talk 20:39, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
It has also historically been plaqued by people removing information about Jewish history, claiming it belonged in a Jewish history rather than jesus article, I do not know how to word it, but the introduction should simply list the Jewish institutions that are prominent in the Gospels - the Law (and tnhus the scribes and Pharisees); the Davidic Monarchy; the Temple (and thus the Saducees and Essenes) and then explain how the first half of the article explains where these institutions or groups came from and how and why, based on Jewish sources rather than the Gospel, on order to provide an independent bais for interpreting elements of the Gospel (like, "son of God" and "Messiah" and what the Pharisees really believed." This requires some finesse and i cannot see how to do it but it is the rationale for the whole thing. 20:43, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
Really this article is not, nor is it intended to be about Jesus. From the beginning, it has been an article about the Cultural and Historical Context within which Jesus lived -- or did not live -- without regard to whether Jesus existed as an actual historical figure. so to some extent, any information about Jesus or his teachings or early Christianity strays from the topic somewhat. User:Pedant (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 21:53, 14 December 2010 (UTC).

The greatest problem is that it isn't an encyclopedia article about th "Cultural and historical background of Jesus". It is a book somebody wrote about the origins of Christianity. Unfortunately, Wikipedia articles need to stick to the topic defined by their titles, see WP:CFORK. We have altogether too many articles about the historical Jesus, the historicity of Jesus, the quest for the historical Jesus, and Jesus and history, plus origins of Christianity, Split of early Christianity and Judaism, etc., etc. Somehow people seem to think WP:CFORK does not apply to articles about Jesus, and that everyone can add yet another article on the same topic just as long as they can think of a title that is not yet occupied? --dab (𒁳) 10:07, 29 December 2010 (UTC)

A good deal of the contents of this article used to be in the Jesus article (ditto most of the other articles dab mentions). I do not remember who it was that spun them off into content forks (wasn't me). Content forks are fine when each article can stand on its own, and they are often necessary when one article gets to be too long (which some argued was what was happening at the Jesus article - my own view is, WP is not paper). I do not recall a discussion, when the various new articles were created and materials spun off. That is a shame. dab is right that there is not enough rhyme or reason regarding all the many articles regarding Jesus, but what is needed is a discussion of various possibilities and some real consensus before some are deleted, others merged or renamed, and new ones created ... Slrubenstein | Talk 18:12, 20 March 2011 (UTC)

page removal[edit]

I suggest removal to Cultural and historical background of New Testament, because we need a background for John the Baptist and other New Testament figures also. Or maybe just Historical background of New Testament, which implies social-political-cultural and other backgrounds also.--Mladifilozof (talk) 20:19, 19 March 2011 (UTC)

Correct English would be: "Historical background of the New Testament". (talk) 04:22, 29 December 2011 (UTC)

Not bad, but really unsourced[edit]

This article is not as bad as many other articles floating around. Generally well written, but most sections are source free. It really needs sources... History2007 (talk) 14:17, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

Oral Gospel tradition[edit]

James Dunn, and Bart Ehrman have taken the position that since the Oral Tradition was reliable, then the Synoptic Gospels (which were based on the oral tradition) are accurate. Then "Jesus did exist" and we have an historically "accurate picture" of this Jewish Rabbi from the line of Judah. Dunn 2013 p 360, Casey 2010 p 12 & Ehrman 2012 p 22, p 25, & p 21 p 117

This will result in a number of articles being updated. Cheers - Ret.Prof (talk) 14:41, 4 January 2014 (UTC)