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Sunday and Anti-Judaism #1

The beginning of separation for Jews and Christians

                          SUNDAY AND ANTI-JUDAISM

                                  A STUDY



                  An Excerpt of the Doctoral Dissertation
               Presented to the Department of Church History
                  of the Pontifical Gregorian University


                            Samuele Bacchiocchi

                First published by The Pontifical Gregorian
                        University Press, Rome 1975


     Two processes seem to have conditioned the relations between
Jews and Christians in the, first centuries. On the one hand, as
demonstrated in the preceding chapter, Christians assimilated and
adapted Jewish cultic traditions according to the exigencies of
their New Faith. They still felt sufficiently united to Judaism
to retain many of its oharacteristics.  On the other hand,
Chris-tians considered themselves to be distinct and separated
from the Old Faith, having accepted the message of Jesus Christ. 
This Christian awareness of distinction from Judaism became the
primary cause of. the hostility of Jews toward Christians and in
time it contributed to the separation and differentiation of
Christians from Jews. Unfortunately, these two processes of
assimilation and differentiation, continuity and discontinuity,
have not always been in balance or harmony. This has often given
rise to conflicts, either in Christianity itself or in its
relationship with Judaism. J. B. Lightfoot saw in the attitudes
of the Fathers toward Judaism the explanation of their different
contrasting tendencies:

     Though the writers era all apparently within. the pale of
     the Church, yet there is a tendency to a one-sided
     exaggeration, either in the direction of Judaism or of the
     opposite, which stands on the verge of heresy. In the
     Epistle of Barnabas and in the Letter to Diognetus the
     repulsion to Judaism is so violent that one step further
     would have carried the writer, into Gnostic or Marcionite
     dualism. On the other hand, in the Teaching of the
     Apostles, in the Shepherd of Hernias and possibly in the
     Expositions of Papias ... the sympathy with the Old
     Dispensation is unduly strong, and the distinctive features
     of the Gospel are somewhat obscured by the shadow of the law
     thus projected upon them. In Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp
     both extremes alike are avoided.1


1 J. B. Lightfoot - The Apostolic Fathers 2 pts. in 5vls.   
(London and New York: Macmillan and. Company 1899) vol. 1 part I
pp. 8-9.

     In this chapter we will consider those factors which, in the
process of the separation and differentiation of Christianity
from Judaism, may have contributed to the renunciation of the
Sabbath and to the adoption of Sunday on the part of the
majority. The limitations and objectives oŁ our research do not
allow us to examine all those theological, political and social
factors which made necessary the separation between Judaism and
Christianity. Therefore, we will consider only those aspects of
the Judeo-Christian controversy that may throw some light on the
causes of the origin of Sunday observance. Particular attention
will be given to the presence of anti-Judaism in Rome and to its
possible implications for the rise of Sunday keeping.
     The New Testament is not anti-Semitic, since it describes
the fratricidal struggle of two branches of the same Jewish
     In the Acts of the Apostles this schism within the Jewish
people is attributed to the proclamation of the "Good News" by a
group of Jews who had become disciples of Christ. In fact, they
were announcing boldly to the people that the Christ whom the
chiefs of the people had sentenced to death was the Messiah, that
"God raised him from the dead" (Acts 3:16), and that it was in
His Name that they were performing miracles and announcing
salvation. Some Jews responded to the preaching of the
apostles and believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah. The
majority, however, not only resisted their words, but employed
all the means at their disposal to hinder the spreading of the
new religion.
     Paul saw in the hostility of the Jews toward Christians the
prolongation of an historic attitude which they had already shown
anciently toward the prophets and more recently toward Christ. In
I Thessalonians 2:14-16, he wrote:

     You suffered the same things from your own countrymen as
     they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and
     the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose
     all men by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that
     they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of
     their sins.

     Undoubtedly Christians were feeding such a hostility with
their uncompromising attitude, motivated by the consciousness
that they had a superior religion. Believing that " there is no
other name under heaven given among men by which we must
be saved" (Acts 4:12), they looked down at "the works of the
law" (Galatians 2:16) which non-Christian Jews were performing.
     It may seem paradoxical, but the hostility of the dews
toward Judeo-Christians-fellow-countrymen of similar religious
traditione - was more profound and bitter than toward the pagans
who were strangers to their race and religion. Peter Richardson
aptly observes that "confrontation between similar yet different
groups poses the greatest problems and creates the most violent
upheavals." 2 
     He presents such examples as the Russian and Chinese
Communists, the Anglicans and the Methodists, among whom
because of minor areas of disagreement, tension, animosity,
hostility and splitting arose.
     The hostility oŁ the Jews toward Christians assumed both
doctrinal and socially concrete aspects. Christianity was an
error to extirpate, while Christians, especially those of Jewish
stock, were apostates, enemies of the law (Paul especially was
considered a deserter from the law) who had to be inexorably
suppressed. D. Judant focuses on some. of the theological
motivations for the hostility of the Jewish religious leaders
toward Christians
     While the Judeo-Christians; considered themselves to be the
lawful heirs of the tradition of Israel, the Jewish religious
leaders could not concede faith in the divinity of the Messiah,
which to them appeared as a threat to monotheism, or the
suppression of the Mosaic observances, considered disobedience to
the divine law, or the proclamation of the equality of all men
before God. since this would have meant the abolition of the
privileges of Israel. 3
     This hostility that was directed initially toward the
Christians of Jewish birth and that later was extended to all
Christians, induced the Fathers to assume an attitude of
condemnation and separation from those traditions that were
typically Jewish. We will see that the origin of Sunday emerged
in this process of the differentiation of Christians from the
Jews, as an attempt of the majority of the Christians to
distinguish themselves from the Jews in the eyes of the Romans
and to affirm. and safeguard at the same time their identity and


2 Peter Richardson "Israel in the Apostolic Church" (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Prose 1999),. p.3. (Hereafter cited as
Richardson, "Israel.")
3 D. Judant, "Judaisme et christianisme dossier patristique"
(Paris: Editions du Cadre, 1968), p.93.


     We shall proceed now to examine some historical situations
of the Jewish hostility which have contributed to the affirmation
of a distinct Christian conscience and in time, as we shall see,
to the rise of the observance of Sunday.
     H. I. Marrow poses the question: "What has been the
responsibilty of the Jews in the persecutions of the first
centuries?" 4 
     He observes that historians have either " exaggerated or
denied" the role of the Jews in the persecution of the
Christians. 5    
     During the first years, however, the Christians have known
persecution principally and directly by the Jews. 6   
     The experience of Paul supplies an evidence that we will
examine as an example.
     The Jews followed Paul in his evangelistic itinerary as a
shadow, endeavoring to hinder and neutralize big work. In Antioch
of Prisidia "the Jews incited the devout women of high standing
and the leading men of the city" (Acts 13:50) to expel Paul and
Barnabas from their borders. As a result Paul decided to turn to
the Gentiles (v.46). At Iconium they attempted to stone the
apostle (14:5). At Lystra a delegation of Jews arrived from
Antioch and Iconium, and "having persuaded the people, they
stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he
was dead" (14:19). At Thessalonica the Jews "set the city in an
uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them
out to the people" (17:5). At Beroea the same instigators of
Thessalonica intervened to accomplish the same results (17:13).
At Corinth the opposition of the Jews was so violent that Paul
decided: "From now on I will go to the Gentiles" (18:6).
     It is worth observing that at Corinth, Paul was forced to
leave the synagogue and made use of the house adjoining the
Synagogue, belonging to Titius Justus, gathering with the
believers in that place for 18 months (18:9-11). Later the Jews
brought Paul before the proconsul Gallic, accusing him: "This man
is persuading men to worship God contrary to the law" (18:13).   

     Similar opposition arose at Ephesus, so that Paul "withdrew
from them, 

4 Henry Imnee Marron, ad. and trans." A Diognete, Sources
Chretiennes" (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1965); p.133; Marcel
Simon, "Verve Israel: etudes sur les relations entre chretiens et
juifs lone l'empire romain" (Paris: E. de Boccard, 1964; reprint
of 1948 edition), pp.144-154, holds that the Christians have
unjustly accused the Jew, as persecutors. (Hereafter cited as
Simon, "Verus Israel")
5 Loc. sit.
6 For a brief discussion on the Jewish role in the persecution of
Christians, see P. B. Bagatti, "L'Eglise de la circumcision"
(Jerusalem: Imprimerie des PP. Franciscains," 1965), p.3.
(Hereafter cited as Bagatti, "L'Eglise.")


taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the hall of
Tyrannus" (19:9). In Greece Jews plotted against Paul (20:3)
and at Tyre, Paul was entreated by his disciples not to go to
Jerusalem (21:4).  The arrest and the imprisonment of Paul at
Jerusalem was the work of "the Jews from Asia" (21:27).  The
chief priests and elders of Jerusalem conspired to kill Paul 
(23:12) and on two occasions undertook a trip from Jerusalem to
Caesarea to accuse the apostle of sedition and profanation of the
temple (24:1-9; 23:1-12). The accusation and arrest of Paul on
the part of the chief priests and elders accelerated the process
of separation between Jews and Christians.   
     The Christians, fearful of the snares of the Jews, seem to
gather from now on, not so much in the synagogues as in separated
places, thus developing a distinctly Christian organization and
worship. 7


     Toward the year 49 Jewish opposition against Christians was
felt even in Rome. Suetonius, a Roman historian (ca. A.D.
70-122), informs us that the Emperor Claudius "expelled the Jews
from Rome, since they rioted constantly at the instigation of 
'Chrestus.'" 8 
     Since "Chrestus" is here an erroneous transcription of
"Christ," as is demonstrated by the fact that even the Christians
were vulgarly called "chrestiani," 9 
it would seem then that the proclamation of Christ as Messiah
caused a controversy between Jews and Christians. Even though the
historian was writing about 70 years later, and did not seem well
informed about


7 See 1 These.5:27; 2 These.3:14; Acts 15:30; Col.4:16;
1 Cor.12:1-11; Eph.4:11-13.
8 Suetonius, Claudius 25,4; H. J. Leon, "The JewS of Ancient
Rome" (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America,
1900), pp. 23f, discusses the expulsion of Jews, advocating an
earlier date (closer to A.D.41); some scholars however think that
"Chrestus" is simply the name of an agitator and it has therefore
no relation to the Christian propaganda, see Marta Scrdi, "11
Cristianensimo e Roma" (Bologna: L. Cappelli, 1985), pp.64f.; 
S. Benko, "The Edict of Claudius of A.D.49 and the Instigator
Chrestus," Theologische Zeitschrift 25 (1989): 408-418.
9 Tacitus, Annales, 15, 44, in his report of the Neronian
persecution, spells the name in such a manner. On the evolution
of the name, see A. Labriolle, "Christianus," Bulletin du Cange,
5 (1929-1930): 89-88; A. Ferrua, "Chustianus sum," La Civiltd
Cattolica 2 (1933): 552-550; and 3 (1933): 13-26; Tertullian in
his "Apology" 3 chided the pagans, saying "[The name] Christian
... is wrongly pronounced by you 'Chrestianus' (for you do not
even say accurately the name you despise)."


the causes, he did know that the dispute was about Christ. It is
not difficult to imagine the controversy that must have flared up
between Jews and Christians on whether or not Christ was the
Messiah. The violent character of these conflicts is underlined
by the fact that the public authority was obliged to step in and
to decree the expulsion of the Jews. Dio Cassius, another
historian of the second century, does not mention Claudius'
expulsion, but refers to an edict which prohibited the Jews from
gathering so cording to their customs. 10    
     The fact that Christians like Aquila and Priscilla were
forced to abandon Rome, and for this reason were present at
Corinth when Paul passed there about the year 50 or 54 (Acts 18:
2), is proof that at least a certain number of Jews were
     It is important to observe that in the Imperial city at
about the year 50, the Romans did not distinguish the Christians
from the Jews. Batiffol makes a significant comment in this

     If then, as is generally held, the Roman Jewries were deeply
     disturbed by the introduction of Christianity, impulsore
     Chresto, the fact that Claudius re-established order, by
     banishing the Jews from Rome - and with them the Christians,
     like Aquila and Priscilla - prove, that the Roman police had
     not as yet some to distinguish the Christians from the Jews
     or was not willing to take cognizance of what distinguished
     them. 11

     This hypothesis seems the most probable. It can be
substantiated, for instance, by the attitude of the proconsul of
Achaia, Anneus Novatus Gallic, brother of Seneca, who when he
heard the ruler of the synagogue accusing Paul of being a
renegade of the law, said:

"since it is a matter of questions about words and names and
your own law, see to it yourselves " (Acts 18:15).12 

     At any rate disciplinary measures were taken by the Roman
authorities so that both Jews and Christians had to suffer. It is
conceivable that Christians, on their part, felt the necessity of
a radical


10 Dio Cassius, "Historia" 60, 6.
11 Pierre Batiffol, "Primitive Catholicism," trans. Henry L.
Briancean (London and New York: Longmans Green and Co., 1911), 
p.19. (Hereafter cited as Batiffol, "Primitive Catholicism.")
12 Cf. Acts 13:29; 24:5; H. Idris Bell, "Jews and Christians
in Egypt" (London: Oxford University Press, 1924), p.23,
published a letter of Emperor Claudius to the city of Alexandria,
where the Emperor strongly deplores the anti-Jewish disorders
which had broken out in the city. Some would perceive in this the
effect of Christian propaganda, see "Revue doe etudes grecques"
(1925): 380-388.


separation from the Jews so as not to incur in the future any of
the disciplinary measures which the imperial authorities were
taking to silence the frequent Jewish agitations and
insurrections. Fourteen years later (A.D.64) Tacitus, in his
report on the conduct of Nero after the fire, identified the
Christians as a separate entity, well distinquished from the

     Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the
     guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class
     hated for their abominations, called Christian, by the
     populace. Christus, from whom the name had the origin,
     suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at
     the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a
     most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment,
     again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the
     evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and
     shameful from every part of the world find their center and
     become popular. 13

     Peter Richardson draws the following conclusion from these

     In the imperial city Christians are distinguished from Jews
     by A.D.64, but not as early as A.D.49. The State's
     recognition of their separate status occurred somewhere
     between these two dates according to the Roman sources. 14

     This recognition on the part of the Romans of Christianity
as a religious sect distinct from Judaism, seems to be the
natural consequence of attempts made on both sides to
differentiate themselves in the eyes of the Roman authorities. 15

     If initially Christians identified themselves with Jews to
benefit from the protection which the Roman law accorded to the
Jewish faith and customs, toward the sixties, as F.F. Bruce
observes, "it was no longer possible to regard Christianity
(outside Palestine) as simply a variety of Judaism." 16 


12 P. Cornelius Tacitus, "Annales" 16, 44, trans. by Alfred J.
Church and William Jackson Brodribb, "The Annales and the
Histories by P. Cornelius Tacitus," Great Book, of the Western
World, vol.15 (Chicago, London, Toronto: William Benton
Publisher, 1952), p.168.
14 Richardson, "Israel," p.42.
15 Leonard Goppelt, "Apostolic and Post-Apostolic Times", trans.
by Robert A. Guelich (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1970), p.
106 observes: "Initially the developing Christian churches were
considered by the public to be an appendage to the Diaspora
synagogues, but the Jews tried to remove themselves as far as
possible from the Christians and to cast suspicion on
Christianity as a ' superstition dangerous to the public
good.'"  The author is quoting Suetonius, "Nero" 16.


     The Jews themselves may have taken the initiative to
dissociate from the Christians, whose majority in the Empire was
now composed of uncircumcised. In Rome, particularly, the
circumstances seem to have been favorable to force such a
distinction. From the year 62, in fact, Jewish influence was
present in the imperial court in the person of the Empress Poppea
Sabina, a Jewish proselyte and friend of the Jews,
whom Nero had married that year. 17     
     Harnack thinks in fact that Nero in order to exculpate
himself from the people's accusation of having provoked the fire,
put the blame on the Christians at the instigation of the Jews.
     J. Zeiller, who entertains this possibility, asks himself:

     Did the proteges of Poppea admitted into the circle
     immediately surrounding the emperor, think that they would
     serve Nero as well as themselves "by pointing act as the
     authors of the crime the Christians" who took pleasure, it
     was said ... "in the ideas of heavenly vengeance, a
     universal conflagration, and the destruction of the 
     world?" 19

     "Even though they suffered least from the fire," Batiffol
     comments, "the Jews were not suspected for an instant of
     havingstarted it; but the accusation fell on the Christians:
     they were, then, notoriously and personally distinct from
     the Jews." 20  


16 F. F. Bruce, "The Spreading Fla: the Rise and Progress of
Christianity from its First Beginnings to the Conversion of the
English" (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing
Company,1958), p.140. (Hereafter cited as Bruce, "Spreading
17 Flavius Joseph, "Visa" 3, relates that in A.D.83 while
visiting Rome he was introduced to the Empress, who showed a
liking for him. In Antiquitates Judaicae 22; 8,11, he mentions
that she was a Jewish proselyte. Cf. Tacitus, "Historia" 1, 22.
18 A. von Harnack, "The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in
the First Three Centuries" (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1908),
19 Jules Lebreton and Jacques Zeiller, "The History of the
Primitive Church," 2 vols. (New York: The Macmillan Company,
1949), 1:372. (Hereafter cited as Lebreton-Zeiller, "Primitive
Church"); the author is citing Ernest Renan, "The Antichrist"
(Noe York: Peter Eckler Publisher, 1892), p.109. (Hereafter cited
as Renan, "Antichrist"); and Victor Duruy, "Histoire des Romains,
depuise les temps les plus recules jusgu'd l'invasion des
barboaes, 7 volas. (Paris: Hachette, 1882), IV:507.
20 Banffol, "Primotive Catholicism," p.20; Ernest Reman, "The
Antichrist", p.112 similarly observes: "The Romans usually
confounded the Jews and the Christians. Why was the distinction
so clearly made on this occasion ?   Why were the Jew, against
whom the Romans had the same moral antipathy and the same
religious grievance, as against the Christians, not meddled with
at this time ?"    He suggests that the "Jews had a secret
interview with Nero and Poppea at the moment when the Emperor
conceived such a hateful thought against the disciples of
Christ." (Loc.cit,)


     The attitude of the Jews did not pass unobserved and the
Fathers will not hesitate to attribute to them the responsibility
of having incited Nero to persecute the Christians. 21 
     J. Zeiller pointedly observes:

     In any case, from that day the Christians began to be
     distinguished by the Roman authorities from the Jews, who
     not, named in possession of their privileges, while,
     Christians were arrested, judged and condemned. 22

     Richardson, in his evaluation of the effects of the Roman
and Jewish persecutions against the Christians, underlines the
fact that while the Romans took notice of Christianity after its
separa tion from Judaism, it was actually the Jewish persecution,
being "an intra muross controversy," which had the more creative
role, obliging the Christians to become a separate entity and to
cause themselves to be recognized as such by the Roman
authorities. 23 
     The fact that the Christians in Rome separated themselves
from the Jews even earlier than in other centers such as
Jerusalem, is a significant datum for our research on the
origin of Sunday observance, a datum that will receive due
consideration in the evaluation that will be made of the
hypothesis of a Roman origin of Sunday keeping.
     Before considering the implications from this process of
separation, as far as it concerns the abandonment of the Sabbath
and the adoption of Sunday, it is worth looking into other
historical situations which might substantiate even more clearly
the accessity which arose for the Christians to differentiate
themselves from the Jews in their liturgical calendar.


21 See Tertullian, "Apologeticus" 21, PL 1,403; Commodian,
"Carmen Apologeticum", PL 5, 865; Justin Martyr, "Dialogue with
Trypho" 17, 3 ed. and trans. by Thomas B. Fall., "Writing of
Saint Justin Martyr," The Father. of the Church, (New York:
Christian Heritage, Inc., 1948), 5:173.  (Hereafter cited as
Falls, "Justin's Writing,"); a text from Clement, "First
Letter of Clement to the Corinthians" 5, 2 where he speaks of the
martyrdom of Peter and Paul, could preserve the rememberance of
the hostile Jewish intervention: "Because of jealousy and envy
the greatest and most upright pillars of the church were
persecuted and condemned unto death" trans. and ed. by Edgar J.
Goodspeed, "The Apostolic Father, An American Translation" (Now
York: Harper and Brothers, 1950), p.51. (Hereafter cited as
Goodspeed, "Apostolic Fathers.")
22 Lebreton-Zeiller, "Primitive Church" I:373. 
23 Richardson, "Israel," p.47.



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