church's mission to Gentiles made it 'increasingly difficult to establish itself in the eyes of Jews as a Jewish movement'.52 The first revolt, moreover, may have been led by one or more Jewish messianic pretenders, as the second revolt certainly was (by Bar Kochba himself), and these messianic claims presented the Jewish Christians in Israel with a painful conflict of loyalties between identification with their native people and faithfulness to their Lord.53
In the aftermath of the first revolt, moreover, Jewish leadership in Palestine fell more and more into the hands ofthe rabbis, the successors to the Pharisees, a religious party with which Jesus had clashed in his lifetime.54 Partly as a way of consolidating their power and pulling the shattered people together after the devastation of the war, the rabbis sought to define the parameters of acceptable Jewish thought and practice and even to codify their understanding in a portion of the standard daily prayer, the Eighteen Benedictions, that cursed the 'heretics' (minim). One version of this birkat hamminim = 'cursing (lit. "blessing") of the heretics' damns not only heretics in general but Christians in particular, and it is probable that, even if they were not specifically mentioned in its earliest form, they were its primary target (cf. Justin, Dial. 16 and 110, which speaks of Jews cursing Christians in the synagogues).55 It is probable that one reason for this condemnation was the rabbinic perception that at least some of the Jewish Christians veneratedJesus as God and thus impugned monotheism -an issue that already arises in the disputes between the Johannine Jesus and 'the Jews' in John 5:18 and 8:57-9 (cf. later rabbinic disputes with 'two powers in heaven' heretics).56
For all these reasons, the outreach of Christian Jews to their co-religionists became less and less effective over time. They fared no better with Gentiles, for
52 Alexander, 'The parting of the ways', 23.
53 See Pritz, NazareneJewish Christianity, 109, and Marcus, 'The Jewish war'.
54 The extent of their control in the early centuries of the Christian era, however, is a matter ofintense debate. If,as many recent scholars have emphasised (e.g. Schwartz, Imperialism and Jewish society), their hegemony was very limited until the Middle Ages, the effect of enactments such as the birkat hamminim (see below) may have been restricted; see Alexander, '"The parting of the ways"'.
55 See also Epiph. Pan. 29.9.1 and Jerome, Comm. Am. (on 1:11-12); Comm. Isa. (on 5:19 and 52:4-6). On the echoes of the birkat hamminim, or measures related to it, in John 9:22; 12:42; 16:2, and perhaps Luke 6:22, see Martyn, History and theology, 37-62. Some scholars have questioned that the birkat hamminim was directed against Christians; see e.g. Kimelman, 'Birkat hamminim and the lack of evidence for an anti-Christian Jewish prayer in late antiquity'. Despite his title, however, Kimelman does acknowledge that the birkathamminim 'was aimed at Jewish sectarians among whom Jewish Christians figured prominently' (232). For a cautious sifting of the issues with regard to the Johannine passages, which concludes that there is some relation to the birkat hamminim, see Smith, 'Contribution of J. Louis Martyn'. See also ch. 6 and pt 111, ch. 10, below.
56 See Segal, Two powers in heaven; and Brown, Community of the beloved disciple.
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