Early Christian Hostility towards Other Religions

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

In The Gospel of Matthew chapters five through seven, also known as “The Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus appears to explain the principle tenets of Christianity, and how his followers should live their lives. While many people after reading “The Sermon on the Mount” may conclude that Jesus simply sought to define what it means to be Christian, a deeper analysis of the text finds that in his attempt to characterize a Christian lifestyle, Jesus actually seeks to condemn the nature of other ethno-religious groups—mainly other Jewish sects and the Romans—by contrasting the ideal Christian with the supposed sinful acts of other Jews and gentiles. Jesus’ mostly subliminal, but sometimes blatant opposition to non-believers in the sermon reveals a generally hostile relationship between Christians, non-Christian Jews, and Romans during the early centuries of the Common Era.

To begin, Jesus blames many of the issues of world on other Jews and Romans which starts to reveal an unfriendly relationship between Christians and these groups. Jesus opens his sermon by appealing to those who had been tricked, deceived, unlucky, or overall were down on their luck and had no public voice or platform by which to call attention to their misfortune. Jesus gives hope to these people by explaining that they should revel in their hardship on Earth “…for great is your reward in heaven…” (New King James Bible, Matthew 5). In this introduction Jesus immediately establishes a separation between Christians and others by categorizing Christians as a group of innocent, humble outcasts that have been wronged by the rest of the society who contribute to the evil of the world by choosing to ignore the difficulties of others. This type blaming of other groups for the immorality of the world supports that a hostile relationship existed between the Christians, other Jews, and Romans.

Secondly, Christian aggression towards non-Christian Jews and Romans is perpetuated by a feeling of superiority over these groups. When consoling his oppressed followers in the beginning of the sermon, Jesus states that his followers are distant descendants of the prophets who in their time had been similarly persecuted to how Christians currently were during this period (New King James Bible, Matthew 5). By comparing the prophets as similar in character to Christians, Jesus suggests that Christians are spiritually superior to others, mainly over the Pharisees and traditional Jewish scribes who he states “…will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (New King James Bible, Matthew 5). What can be inferred from the sermon is that this sense of spiritual superiority comes from Jesus’ belief that religion should be practiced in private, and references how when performing charity, the ideal Christian should not “…sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets…” (New King James Bible, Matthew 6). The reference to other Jews as ‘hypocrites’ for their boastfulness, serves to classify anyone who celebrated their own good deeds and self-righteousness—as the Romans often did by building extravagant monuments—as sinful.

Furthermore, Jesus maintains that Christians are not only spiritually superior over other Jews, but also morally superior to the Romans. He warns his followers to “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (New King James Bible, Matthew 7). These ‘false prophets’ are assumed to be the Roman high society that prioritize their pursuit of material wealth over their pursuit of religious faith, and who Jesus believes tries to take advantage of others for their own monetary gain. Jesus clearly views this behavior as immoral, and contrasts it with the supposedly superior Christian value that “You cannot serve God and [money]” (New King James Bible, Matthew 6). The Christian belief in their own superiority by shaming other Jews and Romans for their practices very likely lead to increased tensions, and provides clear evidence of a bitter relationship between them and these other groups.

Overall, the anti-Jewish and anti-Roman rhetoric that is displayed throughout the sermon is best seen in the blaming of these other groups for the problems of the world, and in the degradation of these other groups to promote Christian superiority. These factors reveal Christian animosity towards other Jewish sects and Romans, and supports that a hostile relationship existed between Christians, non-Christian Jews, and Romans during the early centuries of the Common Era.

In The Gospel of Matthew chapters five through seven, also known as “The Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus appears to explain the principle tenets of Christianity, and how his followers should live their lives. While many people after reading “The Sermon on the Mount” may conclude that Jesus simply sought to define what it means to be Christian, a deeper analysis of the text finds that in his attempt to characterize a Christian lifestyle, Jesus actually seeks to condemn the nature of other ethno-religious groups—mainly other Jewish sects and the Romans—by contrasting the ideal Christian with the supposed sinful acts of other Jews and gentiles. Jesus’ mostly subliminal, but sometimes blatant opposition to non-believers in the sermon reveals a generally hostile relationship between Christians, non-Christian Jews, and Romans during the early centuries of the Common Era.

To begin, Jesus blames many of the issues of world on other Jews and Romans which starts to reveal an unfriendly relationship between Christians and these groups. Jesus opens his sermon by appealing to those who had been tricked, deceived, unlucky, or overall were down on their luck and had no public voice or platform by which to call attention to their misfortune. Jesus gives hope to these people by explaining that they should revel in their hardship on Earth “…for great is your reward in heaven…” (New King James Bible, Matthew 5). In this introduction Jesus immediately establishes a separation between Christians and others by categorizing Christians as a group of innocent, humble outcasts that have been wronged by the rest of the society who contribute to the evil of the world by choosing to ignore the difficulties of others. This type blaming of other groups for the immorality of the world supports that a hostile relationship existed between the Christians, other Jews, and Romans.

Secondly, Christian aggression towards non-Christian Jews and Romans is perpetuated by a feeling of superiority over these groups. When consoling his oppressed followers in the beginning of the sermon, Jesus states that his followers are distant descendants of the prophets who in their time had been similarly persecuted to how Christians currently were during this period (New King James Bible, Matthew 5). By comparing the prophets as similar in character to Christians, Jesus suggests that Christians are spiritually superior to others, mainly over the Pharisees and traditional Jewish scribes who he states “…will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (New King James Bible, Matthew 5). What can be inferred from the sermon is that this sense of spiritual superiority comes from Jesus’ belief that religion should be practiced in private, and references how when performing charity, the ideal Christian should not “…sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets…” (New King James Bible, Matthew 6). The reference to other Jews as ‘hypocrites’ for their boastfulness, serves to classify anyone who celebrated their own good deeds and self-righteousness—as the Romans often did by building extravagant monuments—as sinful.

Furthermore, Jesus maintains that Christians are not only spiritually superior over other Jews, but also morally superior to the Romans. He warns his followers to “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (New King James Bible, Matthew 7). These ‘false prophets’ are assumed to be the Roman high society that prioritize their pursuit of material wealth over their pursuit of religious faith, and who Jesus believes tries to take advantage of others for their own monetary gain. Jesus clearly views this behavior as immoral, and contrasts it with the supposedly superior Christian value that “You cannot serve God and [money]” (New King James Bible, Matthew 6). The Christian belief in their own superiority by shaming other Jews and Romans for their practices very likely lead to increased tensions, and provides clear evidence of a bitter relationship between them and these other groups.

Overall, the anti-Jewish and anti-Roman rhetoric that is displayed throughout the sermon is best seen in the blaming of these other groups for the problems of the world, and in the degradation of these other groups to promote Christian superiority. These factors reveal Christian animosity towards other Jewish sects and Romans, and supports that a hostile relationship existed between Christians, non-Christian Jews, and Romans during the early centuries of the Common Era.

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