From sometime after 4 BC and up to and sometime between the destruction of the Second Temple (C. 70) and Council of Nicaea (AD 325), Christians were considered Jewish with Jesus as their leader. When in this time was the Christian religion created? At some point they obviously were no longer Jews, or we wouldn't have the Judaic religion we have today.

Secondly, would Jews that were followers of Jesus be considered Christians today? Given that the divinity of Jesus wasn't "agreed" upon until Synods of Antioch (264 and 269) - arguably it is not universally "agreed" upon today.

If my dates are wrong, please feel free to correct me

  • @BruceAlderman and Dan, I edited your question and changed the title. I believe that my edit asks the same question still but just clarifies what your after.
    – Ryan
    May 2, 2013 at 17:18
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    @ryan: The question does look more clear now, but I'm still not sure whether the second part belongs here. C.SE is not the place to ask who should be considered Christians. For the purposes of this site, if they call themselves Christians, they are. So maybe the question should ask at what point the ancient Christians started identifying themselves as Christians rather than Jews. May 2, 2013 at 17:30
  • @BruceAlderman I thought about removing the second part altogether but it did receive an answer from AffGreek so I wasn't sure what to do cause I didn't want to make the effort he expended worth nothing. I agree with you though about this not being the place for that.
    – Ryan
    May 2, 2013 at 17:33
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    It seems like I remember being taught in school that Christianity was officially formed in 47AD.
    – Andrew
    May 2, 2013 at 22:01
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3 Answers 3


For starters, nobody was really a follower of Christ, as such, until he was about 30 years old (sometime from 27 to 30 AD or so). At that point, Jesus began teaching in the synagogues and healing in public places. We read about his first followers in several places, including:

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. [Miracle elided for space.] For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.—Luke 5:1-11 (ESV)

Initially Jesus was considered just another rabbi and miracle worker in the mold of Honi the Circle-Drawer, Hanina ben Dosa and others.

By the end of his ministry, Jesus had been recast by his Jewish accusers of being a rebel against Rome along the lines of the Maccabees, Judas of Galilee and Zadok the Pharisee:

Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”—Luke 23:1-5 (ESV)

However, after his death, Jesus' followers remained undeterred and continued teaching and performing miracles in his name. But they did not seem interested in starting a rebellion:

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. [Details elided for space.] For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.—Acts 11:19-26 (ESV)

It's safe to say that by this time, the followers of Jesus had been rejected by the Jewish authorities and there was considerable confusion about their status among the Roman authorities. The issue is that Rome tolerated Judaism as a traditional religion. As a sect of Judaism, Christianity was protected from official persecution. After the Great Revolt, Jews were generally despised by Romans and it's likely that Christians were implicated by association. In 96 AD, Christians were exempted from the "Jewish Tax", so the split was official at that point.

The various councils (after the Jerusalem Council of course) had nothing to do with the split, which had clearly already occurred.

  • Nice bit of information. May 2, 2013 at 18:52

The word Christian implies a follower of Christ. In fact:

'"Christian" derives from the Koine Greek word Christ, a translation of the Biblical Hebrew term Messiah.'(source) and 'The Greek word Χριστιανός (Christianos)—meaning "follower of Christ"—comes from Χριστός (Christos)—meaning "anointed one"' (from the same source).

At the time of Christ all of His followers were Jews, Christ himself was born of Jews and a decedent of David an ancient king of the Jews.

In John we read:

1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

So Christ was a Jew born of Jew's but not received as a Jew. Which leaves His followers, also all Jews at this time, with a dilemma when Christ is crucified.

They are His disciples (see John 17:9) but He was rejected as a leader of Jews. The whole situation changed with this chapter in Acts when Peter was told to take the gospel to the gentiles (non-Jews).

From that point forward they needed a new way of being identified since they were no longer just * Jewish followers of Christ.* But Jew & Gentile followers of Christ.

And in fact in the very next chapter of Acts in v. 26 we get this passage:

11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

So we can see that they already referred to themselves as Christians long before the Council of Nicaea. And in fact referred to themselves as such before the Apostles even died.

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    I believe josephus in AD70 called them christians. He was a jew. You could add this to your answer for a non christian opinion during that timeframe.
    – user3961
    May 2, 2013 at 18:13
  • I agree that I shouldn't have used the Council of Nicaea but maybe an earlier date. The book of Acts was written around A.D. 60 - around the time of the destruction of the second temple. "Ma’aminim HaMeshichiyim (Messianic Believers)" - which is translated as Christians in English. May 2, 2013 at 18:26
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    @Dan Andrews: The date of the book of Acts is largely irrelevant. The events described in chapter 11 are from a few years after the crucifixion and well before the destruction of the temple (70 AD). May 2, 2013 at 18:33
  1. Was Christianity "created" with Jesus?


    At the time of Christ, there were several sects / parties / schools of Judaism - the Essenes, the Zealots, the Saducees, the Pharisees, and other splinter groups. These groups were as highly divided as say, Catholics and Baptists are today. With the destruction of the Temple, only the Pharisee Movement survived, and went on to form the modern Judaic religion we know today, some time around 200 AD. Jesus, if you ignore his divinity, was just the leader of another group of Jews.

    Indeed, despite the fact that Jesus' invective is usually most pointedly directed at the Pharisees, he actually shared a veneration of the law with them. "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees ..." he would say, and "Think not that I have come to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill it."

    Acts 10 & 15 document the beginnings of the separation of Jew and Gentile, and this question describes the process further.

  2. Would the Jews that were followers of Jesus be considered Christians today?

    Messianic Jews of today would certainly like to think so!

    The key belief amongst those of "The Way" was that Jesus was the Messiah - the Son of God. That he was divine - God made man, was well formalized well before the Synod of Antioch - the writer of the Gospel of John was unambiguous in his belief that Jesus was God. Even if one believes the latest possible date for that Gospel - 95 AD - that is clear evidence that those of the Way were already convinced that the Messiah (the Christ) was God.

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    +1 The thing about Messianic Jews is debatable, are they Christians that follow the Jewish laws or are they Jewish who believe in Jesus - Jewish people consider them Christian. Christians consider them Jewish. They get no love. :) May 2, 2013 at 20:13

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