Early Days of the Jesus Movement

Having examined the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth in light of Roman rule and Sectarian Judaism, and having seen the fate of Jerusalem in the Jewish Rebellion, we look this week at the “Jesus Movement” which sprang up following Jesus’ execution at the hands of the Romans.  We will look at the spread of the Movement within Judea, particularly in and around Jerusalem prior to 66CE, and its development as a Jewish sect in the Diaspora thereafter, as detailed in the Acts of the Apostles and Gospel literature.

We will then turn on Thursday to the man himself, Saul of Tarsus, later Paul the Apostle.  Paul has often been hailed as the first Christian because it was not only his tireless missionary work which helped spread the Jesus Movement across the Roman world, but his interpretation of Jesus’ ministry and death as working across ethnic and social boundaries, which made this spread possible.  We will see that Paul worked primarily in Hellenistic cities with Jewish populations and that his own ministry continued the confrontational spirit of Jesus’, even while giving it the trans-national, even cosmic, character which would define Christianity’s self-definition in later centuries.

Over the course of this week we will be able to explore the emergence of largely autonomous communities bound together through their letters.  It will be clear very quickly that the Jesus Movement was not homogenous, and that the variety of communities and expressions of this movement, as well as the charismatic authority which maintained them, as often as not actually created new crises of leadership which later generations would have to solve.

Tuesday:  Acts of the Apostles

Thursday:  Paul, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Romans



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Associate Professor of Classical Studies The Honors College at the University of Houston

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