The first difference between Jews and Christians

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Giuseppe
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The first difference between Jews and Christians

Post by Giuseppe » Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:49 am

It seems that the God of the Christians is different from the God of the Jews in virtue of the his secrecy and strangeness. So Minucius Felix:
I purposely pass over many things, for those that I have mentioned are already too many; and that all these, or the greater part of them, are true, the obscurity of their vile religion declares. For why do they endeavour with such pains to conceal and to cloak whatever they worship, since honourable things always rejoice in publicity, while crimes are kept secret? Why have they no altars, no temples, no acknowledged images? Why do they never speak openly, never congregate freely, unless for the reason that what they adore and conceal is either worthy of punishment, or something to be ashamed of? Moreover, whence or who is he, or where is the one God, solitary, desolate, whom no free people, no kingdoms, and not even Roman superstition, have known? The lonely and miserable nationality of the Jews worshipped one God, and one peculiar to itself; but they worshipped him openly, with temples, with altars, with victims, and with ceremonies; and he has so little force or power, that he is enslaved, with his own special nation, to the Roman deities. But the Christians, moreover, what wonders, what monstrosities do they feign!— that he who is their God, whom they can neither show nor behold, inquires diligently into the character of all, the acts of all, and, in fine, into their words and secret thoughts; that he runs about everywhere, and is everywhere present: they make him out to be troublesome, restless, even shamelessly inquisitive, since he is present at everything that is done, wanders in and out in all places, although, being occupied with the whole, he cannot give attention to particulars, nor can he be sufficient for the whole while he is busied with particulars. What! Because they threaten conflagration to the whole world, and to the universe itself, with all its stars, are they meditating its destruction?— as if either the eternal order constituted by the divine laws of nature would be disturbed, or the league of all the elements would be broken up, and the heavenly structure dissolved, and that fabric in which it is contained and bound together would be overthrown.
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0410.htm
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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GakuseiDon
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Re: The first difference between Jews and Christians

Post by GakuseiDon » Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:05 pm

Interesting point, Giuseppe. But keep in mind that Minucius Felix's 'Octavius' can be divided roughly into two parts. Part 1 (from which you are quoting above) lists the pagan accusations against Christians, while Part 2 gives the Christian response to those accusations.

So what is response to that particular charge? It is this:
Neither let us flatter ourselves concerning our multitude. We seem many to ourselves, but to God we are very few. We distinguish peoples and nations; to God this whole world is one family. Kings only know all the matters of their kingdom by the ministrations of their servants: God has no need of information. We not only live in His eyes, but also in His bosom. But it is objected that it availed the Jews nothing that they themselves worshipped the one God with altars and temples, with the greatest superstition. You are guilty of ignorance if you are recalling later events while you are forgetful or unconscious of former ones. For they themselves also, as long as they worshipped our God— and He is the same God of all— with chastity, innocency, and religion, as long as they obeyed His wholesome precepts, from a few became innumerable, from poor became rich, from being servants became kings... Therefore you will understand that they forsook before they were forsaken, and that they were not, as you impiously say, taken captive with their God, but they were given up by God as deserters from His discipline.
Still, it is an interesting question. I can't recall off-hand if any early Christian apologist (so not counting gnostics and Marcion docetists) separated the Christian God from the Jewish God. The theme was that they were the same God, but that the Jews stopped worshipping that God correctly, rather than that the Jews had been worshipping another God entirely. But if I find something, I'll add it to this thread.
It is really important, in life, to concentrate our minds on our enthusiasms, not on our dislikes. -- Roger Pearse

Giuseppe
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Re: The first difference between Jews and Christians

Post by Giuseppe » Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:11 pm

I would do not a so rigid distinction. Surely Minucius Felix was a ''public'' Christian (i.e. proto-Catholic believer in the god of the Jews). But his words show that the Christianity was a misteric cult and that the god of the Christians was seen as a threat, differently from the God of the Jews, in virtue of four factors (in order of importance):
1) Christian active propaganda against politheism (something that even some fanatic not-Christian Jews would have done)
2) enigmatic and ''alien'' identity of their god (something that even some not-Christian Gnostics would have done).
3) secrecy of the cult (something that even some Pagans would have done).
4) the Pagan dilemma: was the Christ a mere crucified criminal?
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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GakuseiDon
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Re: The first difference between Jews and Christians

Post by GakuseiDon » Fri Oct 13, 2017 12:42 am

Sure, pagans and Jews probably saw things that way: that Christians were worshipping a different God, a new god. Novelties in that area were not looked on kindly. It may be one reason why the Christians in the Second Century CE were so keen to portray Christianity as the continuation and completion of the Jewish religion, so that they could claim that ancient pedigree. Even Marcion saw the Heavenly Father preached by Jesus as more ancient than the Demiurge.
It is really important, in life, to concentrate our minds on our enthusiasms, not on our dislikes. -- Roger Pearse

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