For my write-up today on The Cambridge History of Christianity: Origins to Constantine, I'll quote what Maureen Tilley says about early African Christianity on page 386:
Semitic roots of Punic religion raise the question of the origins of
Christianity in this region. Unfortunately, they are unknown. Africans
never claimed a founding apostle like other churches, such as
Alexandria's Mark or India's Thomas. There was great respect for
Christians at Rome, but no tradition of a foundation from that city. In
fact, Christian practice suggests alternate roots. Most scholars
connect Christianity to Jewish communities in and around Carthage.
Evidence includes Hebraisms in their Latin Bible, Tertullian's
familiarity with oral traditions later enshrined in the Talmud and
Mishnah, and the burial of both Jews and Christian Jews in the Gemart
cemetery. African Christianity also exhibits some of the hallmarks of
the 'Jewish Christianity' of the first centuries, e.g. the apostolic
decree of Acts 15:19-20 treated as normative as late as Tertullian (Apol. 9.13) and Minucius Felix (Oct. 30.6), Tertullian's knowledge that Jews knew Christians as Nazarenes, a heretical sect (Marc. 4.8), the angel-Christology of pseudo-Cyprian's De centesima (PL,
supp. I, cols. 53-67), and the Christian observance of some Jewish
festivals as late as 436 (fourth Council of Carthage, canon 89).
Finally, local churches were governed by a board of elders, the seniores laici ('lay elders'), similar to Jewish congregations (or possibly the Punic suffetes).
While the aggregate evidence is not conclusive, the burden of proof
nonetheless is on those who would offer alternative explanations, such
as a resort to a general Semitic or Punic culture."
What Tilley says is consistent with what I wrote about in my post, Tertullian, OT Law, and the "Husband of One Wife",
in which I talk about Tertullian's appeal to Old Testament laws as if
they were normative for Christians. What I show in that post
demonstrates that not only African Christianity did that sort of thing,
but its presence in Tertullian's African Christianity is consistent with
African Christianity's Judaic orientation.
about the Acts 15 decision being normative in African Christianity as
late as Tertullian intrigues me. Does that mean that much of the rest
of Christianity did not deem that ruling to be normative? If not, why
not? Was it because that ruling was about how Gentile Christians should
act in a manner that does not offend Jewish Christians and Jews, and
that was not considered to be relevant when Christianity split from
Judaism and Gentiles came to dominate Christianity?
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