The early christian church

The first Christians were the disciples of Christ, the simple fishermen who followed him. The first Christian "church" was the Jewish community that had heard Jesus preach, watched the wonders he performed, and saw in him a great prophet and then more than a prophet.

The early origins of the Christian church are hardly distinguishable from a special Jewish community. Many Jews saw Christ as a special rabbi, a special teacher. Only gradually did they come to believe that Christ was more than just a teacher and that he had a larger mission. At first they continued to perform all the Jewish rituals on the Sabbath. Little by little they reenacted the Passover meal with its new meaning, realizing that Christ had, by his death and resurrection, given it a new reality. As the fuller meaning of Christ's life and teaching dawned on them, Christian historians tell us, they began to separate from the Temple and synagogue. It is this stage of development that is chronicled in the Gospel of Matthew, at times called "the Gospel of the Jewish Christian community."

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