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Early christianity; present primitive Jewish gospeling

February 25, 2006

March 14 1999, From Ken Jacobs to David Berreby, Cc: paleopsych.

But Christianity spread quite a bit before its believers got their hands on the machinery of power. There's a gap between the persecuted Jewish sect (whose survival we can perhaps ascribe to personal and familial loyalties?) and Constantine hocking his empire for the signo. In that period, everybody from Gibbon to Orlando Patterson tells us that Christianity did well among slaves and the disadvantaged, and similar claims have been made about the appeal of both Islam and Buddhism to the lowly in caste-ridden India.  (All these claims are also disputed, of course). Is there an egalitarianism that can meaningfully be said to be common to Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, so that we can say this factor operated the same way in their spread?  Don't know.

Barely 250y lay between the Pauline spin on Christianity (which made it somewhat more palatable for the Romans than was the judean version) and Constantine's bargain. This really isn't so long for a persecuted sect to hang on, especially in a western Empire that was falling apart at the seams. While Rome was not a healthy place for Christians in the 100s and 200s, there were fairly strong priestly communities in the Provinces. After all, the Saint whom we'll toast with green beer on Wednesday (b. 385 by most accounts) came from a long line of priests and was tutored and accomodated in a wide network of communities in England and Gaul that didn't just pop up full blown after 313. But that point aside, I wonder whether "egalitarianism" is really the right notion. Also common to Christianity, Buddhism and Islam is an active and central emphasis on a very real "Next Life" for the individual.

This was not a key Judaic precept until cross-fertilization in Moorish Spain, when Maimonides made it one of the Principles (and caught a lot of theological flak for having done so). If you're a down & out slave or lower-caste, equal only to others of the same rank in this life, a "better life awaiting" is a powerful sedative, enabling you to get through the day.



March 14 1999

From Dov Henis

In spite of a decision to react only to "biological evolution" issues I can't resist the urge to react to this Ken's item :

Ken is right. The appeal of "next life" made the difference in RATING. But add an additional reason for the higher rating : Conservative/Orthodox Judaism has then been and still is a "chosen people" religion. This aspect of it has not changed until today. By early AD most of its "primitive folksy" and "ethnic" aspects were heritages of mid-eastern cultures. Paul initiated a process of assimilation of parallel Hellenistic aspects. This contributed much to the rating.

By the way, in present Israel there is an increasing trend of reverting to augmented religious ferver via revival of "primitive gospelling".



March 14 1999,   From Ken Jacobs, to Paleopsych.

Thanks for the comment. I had wanted to point out that an important aspect of Paul's spin was to hellenize the religion, making it easier for the Grecophile Romans to swallow as "just another of those religions we have to live with." But I didn't want to make it into a history lesson. Btw, in NAm at least, Reform may have dropped the "thank you for not making me a gentile" from the morning prayer, but the Chosen People is still there, modified to fit 20th c. "universalist/peace on earth for all peoples" activities.

I am curious. The "primitive gospelling" you mention is in what community? It sounds hard to reconcile with the doctrinal basis of Haredi or other Orthodox groups and I would imagine the few Christians are keeping their heads down.

Ken Jacobs


March 14 1999,  from DH , to PalPsych.

Ken, I knew I made a mistake getting into this. This can go on for ever. Everything leads to something else…

The present "primitive gospelling" in Israel is practiced by or appeals to circa 12-14% of the population in Israel. It has evolved, yes, actually EVOLVED in Israel, as in evolution, as the various "primitive orthodox Jewish groups" (from various "eastern" and "western" source countries)  learned that via political manipulations this "culture" serves best their economic survival and prolifiration in Israel. As simple as that.

BTW, I always wondered how the course of western civilization and the world would have evolved IF western religions developed in the Polytheistic rather than in the mono directions. Would Tolerance have been their base feature ?


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