Rabbinic Positions and Possibilities
This chapter identifies four distinct stages in the evolution of Jewish religious thinking about Christianity under different historical circumstances. In the first and second centuries, Jewish Christians came to be regarded as heretics (minim) or apostates from Judaism. For Jews to believe in Jesus and the ‘new covenant’ was considered avodah zarah. In the Middle Ages, when Jews lived in small communities in Christian Europe and were dependent on economic interaction with Christians, most Rishonim in Ashkenaz ruled that Christians were not idolaters, but they still considered belief in Christian doctrine to be illegitimate avodah zarah. In the late Middle Ages and early modernity, the majority of Aharonim did not consider Christianity to be avodah zarah for non-Jews. From the seventeenth century to the twentieth, when Christian toleration of Jews grew, a number of rabbinic authorities began to appreciate Christianity as a positive historical and theological phenomenon for non-Jews that helped spread fundamental beliefs of Judaism and thus advanced the Jewish religious purpose.
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