In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Jewish Christianity

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Classic Works
  • Collected Volumes
  • Debates over Definition
  • Post-Apostolic “Jewish Christianity”
  • Ebionites, Nazoraeans, and Other “Jewish-Christian” Sects
  • “Jewish-Christian” Gospels
  • Archaeological Evidence for “Jewish Christianity”
  • “Apocryphal” and “Pseudepigraphal” Sources
  • “Jewish Christianity” in Syria and Egypt
  • “Jewish Christianity” and Judaism

Biblical Studies Jewish Christianity
Annette Yoshiko Reed
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0032


“Jewish Christianity” is a modern scholarly category. In 19th- and early-20th-century scholarship, this and related terms (e.g., Judenchristentum, Judéo-christianisme, Judaeo-Christianity) were used primarily in discussions of the apostolic Jerusalem Church led by Peter and James, the traditions about them preserved in the Pseudo-Clementine literature, and the Ebionites and Nazoraeans mentioned in Patristic catalogues of “heresies.” Jewish Christianity continues to be studied along these lines. With the flowering of research on Jewish/Christian relations after World War II, the topic has also attracted new interest; special attention has been given to the possible place of Jewish Christians as early agents or targets of anti-Jewish polemics, as well as to the fate of Jewish Christianity and its consequences for the history of Jewish/Christian relations. In addition, the scope of materials brought to bear on Jewish Christianity has been expanded to include a range of archaeological, documentary, and literary data that might attest the combination of “Christian” beliefs with “Jewish” identity and practice—whether in direct continuity with the apostolic Jerusalem Church or in other early expressions of Christianity’s Jewish heritage. At the same time, increased attention to the Jewish cultural matrix of the Jesus Movement and early Christianity has contributed to heated debates about the definition of “Jewish Christianity” and its heurism as a category. More recently, evidence for Jewish Christianity has played an important part in studies of Christianity’s so-called Parting of the Ways with Judaism, and the topic has been richly discussed in relation to hybridity, heresiology, the dynamics of religious self-definition, and the challenges of constructing modern categories for the study of ancient identities.

General Overviews

Scholarship on “Jewish Christianity” is notorious for inspiring confusion, owing to both definitional issues and the complex, fragmented, and indirect character of the relevant ancient data. Clear introductions to the topic are thus invaluable for beginner and specialist alike. Among these, Carleton Paget 1999 and Mimouni 1998 provide the best starting points. Brief, up-to-date introductions to the topic in the wider context of Christian origins and early Jewish/Christian relations include Wilson 1995 and Fonrobert 2005 (both of which are also effective as undergraduate course materials). Important and accessible articles that focus on issues of continuing methodological concern include Gager 1992 and Segal 1992 (see also Debates over Definition). Manns 1977 and Mimouni 1998 cover the broad range of potentially relevant data (see also Collected Volumes).

  • Carleton Paget, James. “Jewish Christianity.” In The Cambridge History of Judaism. Vol. 3, The Early Roman Period. Edited by William Horbury, W. D. Davies, and John Sturdy, 733–742. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

    A comprehensive, evenhanded, and widely cited survey of scholarship on Jewish Christianity, which includes an unusually lucid treatment of the problem of definition, particularly as debated in the second half of the 20th century.

  • Fonrobert, Charlotte. “Jewish Christians, Judaizers, and Christian Anti-Judaism.” In A People’s History of Christianity. Vol. 2, Late Ancient Christianity. Edited by Virginia Burrus, 234–254. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005.

    Brief and accessible introduction to the topic, distinguished by methodological caution with regard to assumptions about ethnicity and by sophistication in treating notions of self-representation and communal identities. Here, as elsewhere, Fonrobert situates Jewish Christianity, etc., within the history of Judaism as well as within the history of Christianity.

  • Gager, John G. “Jews, Christians, and the Dangerous Ones In Between.” In Interpretation in Religion. Edited by S. Biderman and B. Scharfstein, 249–257. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1992.

    Eloquent essay on “Jewish Christians” as excluded from memory by the “winners of history”—the Jews and Christians who promoted views of their respective traditions as mutually exclusive, who shared their discomfort with those who felt otherwise, and who came to shape the notion of what is “orthodox” and “authentic” in each tradition.

  • Manns, Frédéric. Essais sur le Judéo-Christianisme. Studium Franciscanum Biblicum, Analecta. 12. Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1977.

    Collection of Mann’s inquiries into New Testament, Patristic, rabbinic, and archaeological data for Jewish Christianity, representative of the maximalist perspective associated with the Studium Franciscanum Biblicum in Jerusalem (see Archaeological Evidence) and covering a broad range of potentially relevant sources.

  • Mimouni, Simon Claude. Le judéo-christianisme ancien: Essais historiques. Patrimoines. Paris: Cerf, 1998.

    This collection provides a representative selection of Mimouni’s wide-ranging and important articles on Jewish Christianity. It also represents the most extensive recent survey of materials relevant to the topic (especially after 135 CE) and is recommended for both its comprehensiveness and its care in treating complex issues of interpretation.

  • Segal, Alan F. “Jewish Christianity.” In Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism. Edited by Harold Attridge and Gohei Hata, 326–351. Studia Biblica 42. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1992.

    Chronological survey and assessment of literary and historical evidence for apostolic and post-apostolic Jewish Christianity, distinguished by its focus on primary sources, equal attention to New Testament (especially Pauline) and later (especially rabbinic) sources, and clarity of prose and arrangement.

  • Wilson, Stephen G. “Jewish Christians and Gentile Judaizers.” In Related Strangers: Jews and Christians 70–170 C.E. By Stephen G. Wilson, 143–168. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995.

    Brief and accessible introduction to the sources, figures, groups, and issues traditionally studied under the rubric Jewish Christianity, drawing the common distinction from those called “Judaizers” (i.e., individual followers of Jesus from non-Jewish backgrounds with more occasional and selective adoption of Jewish practices).

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