The Jesus Movement grew out of Judaism. Its first scriptures were the Hebrew Bible. But as it developed into a religion of its own, it created new scriptures for itself. Its primary text, the story of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, was repeatedly extended, in order to keep up with the rapidly developing doctrines of the sect. Thus appeared the Gospels of Luke, Matthew, and last and most theologically advanced of all, John, with its three associated letters, ! John, 2 John, and 3 John, plus Revelation (though as Origen saw long ago, it is not properly associated with the Gospel). These form a group of 9 texts within the Christian Scriptures.
The other major group of NT texts is associated with Paul, a Jew of Tarsus. He began as an opponent of the Jesus Movement, but soon became a convert, and an influential winner of converts. He founded or took over churches in Asia (Galatia and Ephesus) and in Greece (Thessalonica, Philippi, Corinth). He wrote at the end to the church at Rome, which he himself had never visited. Paul realized that the big cities, not the little house churches with their occasional apostolic visits, were where the future was. These seven letters were edited by his associates after his death, and in that process, were adjusted to current taste in such matters as the role of women in the Christian churches. To further update Pauline doctrine, seven Deutero-Pauline letters were composed. These 14 are the second major cluster of Early Christian texts.
A third miscellaneous group of letters (James, Jude, and 1 and 2 Peter) completes the recognized New Testament canon. To those 27 texts, we recommend that the following be added: Barnabas, 1 and 2 Clement, the Didache, and the Gospel of Thomas, for a more representative total of 32.
Current research focuses especially on the first beliefs and practices of the Jesus Movement, including its antecedents in Judaism and the mystery religions. Ongoing discussions of these and other matters are hosted on the Project's dedicated E-list Alpha, with publication possibilities in our journal of the same name. Interested persons are welcome to join in.
Here are a few topics which seem to us to offer attractive possibilities for future study:
New Testament Topics
- John the Baptist and the Mandaeans
- The Role of Peter
- Rich Women
- The Female Audience
- Who Owns the Hebrew Scriptures?
- The Christianization of Jewish Texts
- The Apostolic System
- Acts as Emblematic History
- The Pella Mystery
- The Cult of Martyrdom
- India and Gnosticism
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