Galatian 2:9, The Earliest Christian Church, Part II of IV

James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.

//According to Paul, the three “pillars” of the Jerusalem church were James (the brother of Jesus), Peter (known as Cephas), and John. James appears to have been the church leader at the time of Paul’s writing. The followers of these three “pillars” appear to have introduced distinct flavors of Jesus-worship, while still retaining their Jewishness. James, for example, favored a down-to-earth, practical approach to Christian practice (if the epistle attributed to James is any indication), and this fits the Ebionite philosophy we discussed yesterday very well. Indeed, the Ebionites held James in very high regard.

So these three pillars provide three different flavors of early Christianity. They seem also to represent three different locations: Jerusalem (James), Rome (Peter) and Ephesus in Asia Minor (John). Yet I have noticed in my studies some very curious commonalities between two of these groups: the Ebionites (James’s group) and the Johannine community, and I don’t quite know what to make of them. If the Ebionites are our best representatives of the earliest form of Christianity, might they have influenced Johannine theology too in some manner? If scholars are correct that Jewish Christians outnumbered gentiles in the Johannine community of Asia Minor, were these perhaps Jews that were displaced from Jerusalem by the war or 70 AD?

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the similarities I’ve noticed between Ebionites and the Christians of Asia Minor.

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