Sunday, August 27, 2006


Initial summary of Hellerman's class, Church as Family:

As Israel moved from Sinai to the Maccabean period, the boundary markers identifying the people of God became increasingly narrow. These boundary markers—circumcision, food, times, and places—became more narrowly defined. The ministry of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, challenged these narrow boundaries. This challenge brought conflict with the keepers of the boundaries. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (an event parallel to the giving of the Law at Sinai) completed the transition from physical boundaries of Torah to the spiritual boundaries of the Spirit. These boundary markers—love, moral purity, trans-ethnicity, and family solidarity—became increasingly expansive.

1) Our mutual belonging runs much deeper than our common practices.
2) Cultural translation is not and must not be cultural compromise.

NOTE: This is a rumination ("1. The act of pondering; meditation. 2. The act or process of chewing cud." American Heritage Dictionary) in search of synergy ("1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.")


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  1. I am not in the class so I obviously did not hear the lecture.

    I find this post fascinating but it leads me to wonder. Where did those boundaries come from? Was this a progressive revelation of God's will and if so what does that mean about the Church today?

    I find it interesting that just as Israel saw its boundaries grow increasingly narrow, the modern church is seeing those boundaries grow ever wider as if some of the boundaries of the early church are no longer applicable.

  2. I'll be posting more about the boundaries as time goes along, but, for now, the boundaries were initiated by God as identity markers: sacred space (temple), sacred time (holy days), food regulations, and circumcision. Hellerman is making a very good case that these Jewish boundary markers were clearly understood by Jew and Gentile alike.

    Also, your observation of the narrowing of boundaries in Judaism and the widening of boundaries in Christianity is on target. His thesis is that Jesus confronted the identity markers of Jewish nationalism and laid the groundwork for the development of the identity markers of church as family. The identity markers are no longer external and national.

    Joe Hellerman's book is The Ancient Church as Family, in case you want to read more. (It is available on