Nothing is so firmly believed as what
we know least.
Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
Although we have hardly any first-hand evidence of what happened
after the death of Jesus it is apparent that within a few years
his followers had split into a number of camps, each with its
own interpretation of his teachings.
The apostles remained in Jerusalem where they continued to
practise Judaism. Most of them showed little if any inclination
to try to convert gentiles to their faith. Paul, a convert who
had never known Jesus while he had been alive, took his own
version of Jesus" teachings to the gentiles. A third faction,
probably initiated by some of Jesus" Samarian disciples,
developed into a loose grouping and came to be known as Gnostics.
At least in the early stages there was considerable overlap
between the various factions, but in
the course of time distinct groups developed: Jewish Christians
(or Nazarenes*), Pauline
Christians and Gnostics. Having many different opinions, and
as yet no New Testament to guide them, they each imagined Jesus
to have been something different. For the Jewish Christians
Jesus had been a great rabbi, for the Pauline faction he became
a son of God, and for the Gnostics he became a divine manifestation.
How odd of God
to choose the Jews.
W. N. Ewer (1885-1976), How Odd
There is some evidence that after his own death, Jesus intended
his brother James to take over his ministry and lead the remaining
Jewish followers. Josephus refers to James taking over, and
appears to refer to James as Christ, though the passage is ambiguous*.
The Gospel of St Thomas refers to Jesus naming James
as the disciples" leader after his own departure*.
In the Secret Book of James, James occupies the dominant
role sometimes attributed to Peter in canonical writings*.
Church Fathers were aware that James had taken over the leadership
of the apostles, and he was acknowledged to have been the first
Bishop of Jerusalem*. Furthermore
it is clear from the New Testament that James (recognised by
the Church as James the Just) enjoyed primacy over the other
disciples*. For example
James alone makes the final decision about the dietary laws
(Acts 15:13-20). A passage in Galatians gives James's name
before Peter's , indicating relative rank (Galatians 2:9).
Another makes it clear that Peter felt himself subject to James
From the little that the Bible tells us it is apparent that
after Jesus" death the disciples continued to live communally.
They visited the Temple together every day, gave generously,
and were generally well respected (Acts 2:44-7). With the exception
of Peter, there is no reason to suppose that any of them left
the vicinity of Jerusalem. Nor is there any reason to suppose
that they abandoned their Jewish faith*.
Had this Jewish line survived there is little doubt that it
would have had the strongest claim to represent Jesus"
intentions. James was executed at the instigation of the Sadducees,
in circumstances similar to those surrounding the death of his
brother Jesus*. James was
succeeded by another close relation, a cousin called Simeon
(or Symeon)*, though this
succession seems to have caused dissent and schism*.
Like James and Simeon, some later leaders, or bishops of
the circumcision as they were known, were also related
to Jesus, suggesting some sort of dynastic succession. Their
followers may have precipitated the First Jewish Revolt of AD
66, and certainly suffered from the Roman reaction to it. This
faction was virtually wiped out during the Second Jewish Revolt
of AD 132. When the Emperor Hadrian banished all Jews from Jerusalem
in AD 135 he put an end to this line of "bishops of the
circumcision", a string of Jewish bishops of Jerusalem.
The Church historian Eusebius listed the whole line from the
first, "James the Lord's brother", to the fifteenth
After AD 135 only gentiles were permitted to enter the city
of Jerusalem, and a new bishop was put in charge of those among
them who espoused Christianity*.
Presumably he was a gentile of the Pauline line who brought
a new orthodoxy. The bishops of the circumcision had
lost their throne, but the line of Jewish Christians continued
in exile. A sect of Jewish Christians, known as Ebionites,
survived for two or three centuries. They retained the Jewish
Sabbath, Jewish Law, and other characteristically Jewish practices.
Some rejected the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, others rejected
the letters of Paul, regarding him as a renegade from the Jewish
Law. Some believed that Jesus had supernatural virtue and power,
but all denied that he was the son of God in the sense now usually
accepted by mainstream Christianity*.
They became isolated from the Pauline branch of the Church
and, from the second century, were regarded by them as heretics*.
The Ebionites disappear from history still repudiating Paul
as an apostate. Conveniently for rival factions all but a few
records concerning Jewish Christianity are lost to us. The New
Testament contains only one work that might be thought to reflect
their views, the general letter of James. Luther called it "A
right strawry epistle", though it is possibly the oldest
book of the New Testament. Certainly it expresses views on the
importance of faith that contrast sharply with those of Paul.
Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course,
or that a man should tell a lie?
Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason , Part I
Paul's inspiration was to bring Christianity to the gentiles.
This inspiration seems to have come only after the Jews had
rejected him. Nevertheless, it has won him a key place in the
history of Christianity.
Paul was clearly an unusual and controversial personality.
An Hellenic Jew, he seems to have been keen to establish himself
amongst Jesus" followers. His writings in the New Testament
reveal in him a number of less than admirable qualities: he
generally comes over as a trouble-making, complaining, self-seeking
misogynist who was clearly out of step with the 12 apostles.
Of the many Christians regarded as trouble-makers, the one who
caused most trouble was undoubtedly Paul. After his conversion
he seems to have developed the knack of creating vast amounts
of bad feeling. His visits to towns generally ended up in riots
or plots to murder him. The usual picture was that he was at
first welcomed into the community and invited to speak in the
local synagogues. Sooner or later he stirred up hatred and dissent
to such an extent that he was subsequently obliged to flee in
order to save his life.
In Damascus he preached in a number of synagogues, and it was
some time before anyone set about trying to kill him (Acts 9:20-24).
When they did try, he escaped to Jerusalem, where Grecian Jews
made another attempt on his life, so he was sent to Tarsus.
Later, with Barnabas, he was welcomed into a synagogue in Pisidian
Antioch. Before long there was bad blood, and the two of them
were expelled from the region (Acts 13:13-52). Off they went
to Iconium, where they narrowly escaped death by stoning (Acts
14:1-7). They then fled to Lystra, where Paul was stoned and
left for dead (Acts 14:8-20). Later, in Philippi, Paul and Silas
were charged with causing an uproar. They escaped a rampaging
mob only for magistrates to have them flogged and imprisoned
(Acts 16:16-24). Some time after their escape following an earthquake,
they went to Thessalonica. Paul spoke in the synagogue there
on three Sabbath days before the riots started, and the two
of them had to escape to Berea (Acts 17:1-10). Off they went
to a local synagogue and before long there was more trouble.
Silas stayed behind, but Paul was escorted to distant Athens
(Acts 17:10-15). Here the sophisticated citizens seem to have
regarded him with bemused contempt, so he was soon on his way
again (Acts 17:16-34). When he arrived in Corinth, he spent
every Sabbath speaking, and was soon being abused and attacked
once again. In Ephesus he spent three months speaking in the
synagogue before the derision of the inhabitants defeated him
(Acts 19:1-9). He stayed in the area and appears to have provoked
a riot (Acts 19:23-41) before deciding to leave (Acts 20:1).
He went on to Macedonia and then Greece where there was another
Jewish plot against him (Acts 20:3). Later he again narrowly
escaped death when the people of Jerusalem tried to kill him
(Acts 21:27-36). He owed his salvation to his Roman citizenship
(Acts 22:22-30). Next he was transferred to Caesarea in order
to avoid an assassination attempt by forty men who, for some
unstated reason, had taken a solemn oath to kill him (Acts 23:12-23).
He ended up in Rome, where his citizenship failed to save him
and he met the death that so many had desired for him.
Why Paul had such an effect on people is not easy to tell.
What he said to cause such hatred, we can only guess. To a disinterested
reader, however, Paul's personality would seem decidedly
odd. He has visions that are suspect in the extreme. He gives
three contradictory accounts of his conversion and claims divine
intelligence that was denied to the apostles. He likens himself
to an angel of God and even to Jesus Christ (Galatians 4:14).
He believes, or at least claims, that he is being crucified
along with Jesus (Galatians 2:20), and that he bears the marks
to prove it (Galatians 6:17). He refers to an otherwise unknown
gospel, which he refers to as "my gospel" and says
will be used by God to judge mankind*.
He hints, rather heavily, that he has visited Heaven (the third
heaven to be precise 2 Corinthians 12:2-6), and refers
repeatedly to his visionary contact with the divine (e.g. Ephesians
3:3 and Colossians 1:25-26). He believes himself able to judge
others at a distance, being present in spirit to try them. He
can then pass sentence by means of a letter, condemning people
to be handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh
presumably some form of unlawful killing (1 Corinthians
5:1-5). When Paul is jealous, it is not with normal human jealousy
but with "godly jealousy" (2 Corinthians 11:2).
He seems to know nothing of the gospels, just as they seem
to know nothing of him. Paul threatens, abuses and blusters,
appointing himself as an additional apostle. He has no qualms
about lying if he thinks that he is doing so for the greater
glory of God: "For if the truth of God hath more abounded
through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged a sinner?"
(Romans 3:7). He also freely admits that he is prepared to become
all things to all men in order to achieve his aims (1 Corinthians
9:22-23). His writings are threaded through with repeated assurances
that he is telling the truth and attempts to deny implied accusations
that he is not. He is known to have been ridiculed by other
Christian groups. Some theologians have speculated that Paul
was insane. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) described him as
a morbid crank. Whether or not he was, he is by his own admission
totally unreliable as a witness.
Paul seems to have known relatively little about the historical
Jesus. He does not mention Jesus" place of birth, his parentage,
or even when and where he lived. He does not refer to any of
Jesus" miracles; neither does he mention any of his parables.
There is no mention of Jesus" trial, nor even of the place
of the crucifixion. This is probably not too surprising as Paul
was writing before the gospels had been set down. He was operating
in a vacuum, creating a new religion as his inspiration led
him. He was a self-appointed apostle and spent considerable
time and effort generating support for his interpretation of
Jesus" message. It was Paul who first preached that Jesus
was the son of God (Acts 9:20), a claim that in the gospels
Jesus had never made for himself. Paul had not met Jesus during
his lifetime but claimed to have seen him after the Resurrection
(1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Such claims were met with scepticism:
when Paul came to Jerusalem the disciples did not believe that
he was one of their number (Acts 9:26). Educated people have
continued to distrust him down the centuries. Thomas Jefferson
called him the "first corrupter of the doctines of Jesus"*.
Only after his rejection by his Jewish brethren did Paul offer
his version of Jesus" teachings to non-Jews. His first
missionary journey introduced a version of Christianity to the
gentiles for the first time. This was unpopular among the apostles,
not least because Paul appeared to have no qualms about amending
teachings in order to make them acceptable to non-Jews. His
approach to the Jewish laws provides a prime example of how
his teachings differed from those of the living Jesus and of
the apostles. Although Paul was a Jew he was an Hellenic Jew.
He knew that few gentiles would be willing to accept the Jewish
laws, so his solution was simply to drop them. Not being able
to claim that Jesus, or any of his disciples, had sanctioned
this he was fortunate in being able to state that the gospel
he preached had been given to him by divine revelation*.
God had suddenly decided to change his mind about the ancient
laws. Why he should have revealed these changes to Paul but
neglected to inform either Jesus or Jesus" disciples is
a mystery to which no satisfactory answer has been provided.
The disciples were left with an unfortunate burden of cynicism
about Paul and his claims. Gibbon sums up the matter. Speaking
of the Jewish followers of Jesus he says:
They affirmed that if the Being who is the same through all
eternity had designed to abolish those sacred rites which
had served to distinguish his chosen people, the repeal of
them would have been no less clear and solemn than their first
promulgation; that, instead of those frequent declarations
which either suppose or assert the perpetuity of the Mosaic
religion, it would have been represented as a provisionary
scheme intended to last only till the coming of the Messiah,
who should instruct mankind in a more perfect mode of faith
and of worship; that the Messiah himself, and his disciples
who conversed with him on earth, instead of authorising by
their example the most minute observances of the Mosaic law,
would have published to the world the abolition of those useless
and obsolete ceremonies without suffering Christianity to
remain during so many years obscurely confounded among the
sects of the Jewish church*
Following his visions St Paul gave assurances that gentile
converts did not need to undergo circumcision as prescribed
in the Old Testament. Not all Churches accepted this, but the
ones that did found it easier to attract converts and in time
came to dominate Christianity. Now only the Coptic Church still
retains the ancient practice of circumcision (though it also
became popular among Victorian Anglicans).
Again, it was Paul who advocated dropping Jewish dietary restrictions,
and again only the Coptic Church still retains them. Gentiles
were prepared to accept Paul's new form of Christianity,
and did so. Other Churches that tried to retain the traditional
practices have since died out,: a confirmation perhaps of Paul's inspiration.
Paul continued to proselytise and spread his version of Jesus"
teachings, despite continuing opposition. He had trouble not
only with the Jews, but also with rival Christian groups. It
is clear from his letter to the Galatians that he was in dispute
with those who insist on circumcision (though he himself had
had Timothy circumcised Acts 16:3). His enmity causes
him to become offensive. He goes so far as to claim that Christ
will be of no value at all to those who do allow themselves
to be circumcised (Galatians 5:2), and expresses the wish that
those who favour circumcision should go the whole way and castrate
themselves (Galatians 5:12). In the space of a few verses of
another letter he characterises them as unruly, vain talkers,
deceivers, liars, evil beasts, slow bellies [lazy gluttons],
defiled, abominable, disobedient, and reprobate (Titus 1:10-16).
The rift seems to have grown wider and wider. He says quite
plainly that he does not follow the Twelve in Jerusalem: "For
I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles"8.
These, the original apostles, apparently preach "another
Jesus". If we phrase this a little more neutrally we see
that on the one hand Paul and on the other hand the 12 apostles
were preaching different Jesuses. Later, Paul (or someone writing
in his name) refers more dismissively to "false apostles"
(2 Corinthians 11:13), whose Jewishness is specifically mentioned
(2 Corinthians 11:22). In short he had fallen out with those
who held what was then the orthodox line. Peter, it seems, had
difficulties in reconciling the Jewish and Pauline factions.
In the New Testament he is represented as being initially sympathetic
to Paul's views, but then changing his mind after emissaries
of James have had a discreet word with him (Galatians 2:12).
To the Jewish Christians the Pauline faction was a group of
fickle marketeers, changing the unchangeable Mosaic religion
to suit gentile preferences. For their part the Pauline Christians
keenly felt the need to justify themselves as being the true
inheritors of the ancient Jewish faith. This need to justify
themselves continued for as long as the Jewish Christians were
around and able to demonstrate that they were the orthodox believers.
In his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew written around
AD 160, Justin Martyr was still preoccupied by the need to establish
the legitimacy of the Pauline line.
Knowledge itself is power.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Religious Meditations,
As well as the Jewish and Pauline factions, numerous other
groups flourished in the early years. These were principally
Gnostic sects, claiming that Jesus" true message was not
available to all, but granted only to an inner circle of initiates.
Such claims were not unreasonable since the gospels represent
Jesus as saying as much himself.
These Gnostic sects seem to have originally been Samarian offshoots
of the main Jewish Church*,
and at least some of them had existed before the time of Jesus,
anticipating the coming of a Redeemer. They seem to have competed
widely with other forms of Christianity, and in some areas,
notably Egypt and eastern Syria, they enjoyed a virtual monopoly*.
Because the Gnostic sects were so numerous and widespread,
some of their writings have survived the attentions of later
Pauline Christians. Such writings provide interesting background
information about the development of early Christianity. Paul
himself often made snide and slighting references to Gnostics
and Gnosis*. As the Pauline
line gained predominance, Gnostic views came to be regarded
as heretical. Their heresies amounted to holding definite views
on matters about which there was little factual evidence, or
laying particular stress on one aspect of the religion. Like
the Ebionites, some believed that Jesus was a mortal prophet,
born by natural conception. Others, called Docetes, denied his
humanity. To them it was inconceivable that the son of God could
have been executed like the most contemptible criminal. They
held therefore that Jesus had been a divine phantom. He had
descended from Heaven to the banks of the Jordan in the form
of a man. He had had the appearance of flesh and blood, but
this was a deception for he was incorporeal and could not therefore
suffer. His death on the cross likewise was only an illusion.
The Basilides in Egypt and the Valentinians in Rome were both
Docete sects. Soon such Docetes were being condemned by the
Pauline line as poisonous, and their opinions those of the antichrist*.
Many such sects were rooted out and destroyed by the Pauline
Christians on the grounds of being heretical, and yet the same
basic ideas have emerged time and again over the centuries.
Each new sect to resurrect the ancient ideas has been in turn
persecuted into oblivion. Whether there are any true heirs to
this early Gnostic line today is doubtful, though there are
No kingdom has ever suffered as many civil wars as the kingdom
Charles, Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755), Letters
The existence of three distinct groupings among early followers
of Jesus is well established, and no reputable scholar now disputes
that they existed together during the early centuries. Factions
soon emerged within each group, just as in modern Churches.
There seem to have been other competing sects too: for example
there was a group of followers of John the Baptist (Acts 18:25
and 19:3). Some said that there was no resurrection of the dead
(1 Corinthians 15:12), others that the Resurrection was already
past (2 Timothy 2:18). Some advocated the renunciation of marriage
and abstinence from certain foods (1 Timothy 4:3). Others worshipped
angels (Colossians 2:18).
Leading figures in early Christianity criticised and abused
those who disagreed with their own opinions. This was a common
and well-documented phenomenon, readily discernible from the
New Testament and other early writings. Here are a few early
Christians displaying their early Christian approach to their
Paul We have already seen that Paul disagreed
with other followers of Jesus. He complains of those who preach
"another Jesus" (2 Corinthians 11:4). He, or someone
writing in his name, warns of diverse and strange doctrines
concerning Jesus (Hebrews 13:9). Elsewhere, in the pastoral
letters, the author repeatedly warns of "false teachers"
and heretics (Titus 3:10). Both 1 Timothy and Titus refer to
fables, though it is not clear whether or not these are rival
John. The three letters attributed to John
also demonstrate that schisms had arisen at an early stage.
He refers to those who have disagreed with him as "antichrists"
and mistakenly believes that their existence signals the "last
time", in other words the end of the world:
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard
that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists;
whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from
us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they
would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out,
that they might be made manifest that they were not all of
1 John 2:18-19
It is apparent from the text that the disagreement referred
to concerns the status of Jesus. Seemingly some of Jesus"
followers did not regard him as the Messiah or the son of God:
Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?
He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever
denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [but] he that
acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
1 John 2:22-23
The theme runs through all three letters. Indeed, the letters
can be understood only against a background of division within
the Church. In any case it is also clear that the author's views were poorly regarded by others of Jesus" followers*:
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have
the pre-eminence among them, recieveth us not. Wherefore,
if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating
against us with malicious words: and not content therewith,
neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth
them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
3 John: 9-10
There is no hint of any doctrinal dispute here, merely a squabble
about personal authority. We may safely assume that Diotrephes's version would have been different.
Other biblical writers confirm the general pattern. Jude refers
to scoffers following their own passions (Jude v18 NIV). Jude
and 2 Peter both criticise "heretics", by which they
mean those who disagree with them. James and Paul disagree over
major issues, which have echoed down two millennia. While Paul
claims that faith is everything*,
James insists that faith is nothing without corresponding good
works (James 2:14-17). Other contemporary writings confirm the
general pattern: Clement
of Rome. wrote a letter to the Corinthians that was once
counted as scripture. In it he indicated the scope of dissension
within the Christian community. Recounting the past he wrote
that "Envy and jealousy sprang up, strife and dissension,
aggression and rioting, scuffles and kidnappings"*.
He referred to "self assertion and braggadocio and stupid
quarrelling" and "odious rivalry"*
among Christians and to "dissensions over the title of
bishop"*. In despair
he asked "…why are we rending and tearing the limbs
of Christ, and fomenting discord against our own body?"*
The Martyrdom of St Clement by Bernadino
Fungai (1460-1516) York Art Gallery)
Clement, supposed martyr, saint and first, second, third
or fourth Bishop of Rome, exiled from Rome and drowned
with an anchor tied to his neck.
The early Christian Ignatius of Antioch. was famous as the author
of a number of letters advertising his own martyrdom. He did
nothing to disguise the extent of the dissent within the Church.
He referred to fellow Christians as "a pack of savage animals",
and in the next sentence as "rabid curs" who advocated
He warned of "false teachings and antiquated and useless
fables"* and of
He advocated having no dealings whatever with those who disagreed
with his views and instructed the recipients of his letter to
"Abjure all factions"*.
He referred to "troublesome ones" who should be brought
to order*. and to "those
who put forward their perverse teachings so plausibly"*.
He advised his readers to "Be wary of the devices of sinful
men" and to preach publicly against them*.
These letters were addressed not to one exceptional community
but to Christians in a number of major cities.
In brief, the whole Christian movement, from its birth, seems
to have been riven by dissent and argument. As one theologian
has put it:
The tensions between Jewish and Gentile Christian churches,
between Paul and the Corinthian enthusiasts, between John
and early catholicism, are as great as those of our own day.
One-sided emphases, fossilised attitudes, fabrications, and
contradictory opposites in doctrine, organization and devotional
practice are to be found in the ecclesiology of the New Testament
no less than among ourselves*.
He who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth will
proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity,
and end by loving himself better than all.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), Aids to Reflection:
Moral and Religious Aphorisms
Despite the great holiness that the Bible accords to early
Christians, their contemporaries seem to have regarded them
only as trouble-makers. They offended not only the Romans, but
also many of their Jewish brethren. Jesus himself was clearly
not universally popular, and his enemies were happy to see him
crucified. Before long his follower Stephen was stoned to death
by the Jews for blasphemy (Acts 6:8-7:60). Other followers in
Jerusalem caused such offence that they were scattered throughout
Judæa and Samaria.
Already, in AD 66, after the outbreak of the First Jewish Revolt,
the Christian community in Jerusalem had withdrawn to Pella,
across the Jordan. In AD 70 the Romans destroyed the Temple,
which the Jews believed to be divinely protected. Now they were
excluded from Jerusalem altogether, beaten and scattered. The
Pauline Christians saw the destruction of the Temple as a divine
judgement, inaugurating a new dispensation by which sacrifices
were abrogated. The further humiliation of the Jews in AD 135,
when they were expelled from Judæa, enabled the Pauline
faction to consolidate their belief that the Jewish Christians
were a deviationist sect rather than the true successors of
Jesus. They were dismissed as "the hypocrites"*.
As we have already noted, Jewish Christians carried on for a
time. Small communities survived in Syria at least until the
fourth century, but the balance of power had changed. The great
centres of Christianity were now Alexandria, Antioch and Rome
areas where gentile Christianity could flourish.
It is significant that a large proportion of the New Testament
is devoted to the doings of Paul, always sympathetically. In
the Acts of the Apostles he is always portrayed as the hero
of the story, even when he opposes the 12 apostles. We hear
of his travels, his visions, his miracles, his suffering, his
humility, his authority and even his stigmata. He had established
himself, at least to his own followers, as a thirteenth apostle.
By the time of the first Church historian he was not merely
an apostle, but the apostle. Almost all surviving
sources glorify Paul. On the other hand we hear little of the
apostles appointed by Jesus. Most of them disappear from history.
Only James (the Great), John, and Peter are more than mere names,
and even Peter is portrayed as a hypocrite (Galatians 2:11-14).
It is well within the bounds of possibility that the Pauline
faction suppressed much of the material concerning the others.
In particular, many scholars suspect that inconvenient material
concerning James (the Just), the brother and successor of Jesus,
has been destroyed. We have only one side of a story that had
at least three sides, and possibly many more.
Setting aside New Testament writings, most of the other surviving
documents of the early Church also reflect Pauline views, almost
certainly because other versions were sought out and destroyed.
As Gibbon says:
The scanty and suspicious materials of ecclesiastical history
seldom enable us to dispel the dark cloud that hangs over
the first age of the church*.
It is known that there were texts that ridiculed Paul, but
these have been "lost"*.
From the available evidence it would appear that early Christians
followed Paul in making a practice of visiting synagogues and
expressing their views in such a way as to cause offence. By
around AD 85 the Jews had had enough of Christians disrupting
their services, and a formal anathema was incorporated into
the synagogue liturgy "May the Nazarenes and the heretics
be suddenly destroyed and removed from the book of life"*.
For a long time Christians continued to disrupt Sabbath services
in synagogues. In the third century a Christian called Callistus
was charged with brawling in a synagogue on the Sabbath. In
his lifetime he was known as a criminal, but his Christian friends
saved him from his punishment in the mines of Sardinia. He later
become Bishop of Rome, and is now regarded as both a pope and
a saint. In many ways he epitomises the triumph of the Pauline