If you haven't already heard me rant at length about modern scholarships underestimating/botching the first centaury AD people known as God-fearers then these next posts are for you! Namely, if you see me begin to talk about it you can simply say 'I've read your blog' and I'll shut up. All this began with some research for a New Testament essay in my second year at Theological College, and has since grown into somewhat of an obsession.
My basic beliefs are:
> God Fearers were a much more clearly defined people in the first centaury than we often give them credit for.
> God Fearers still however cover a spectrum of people who were sensitive to Jewish morality and monotheism but had not/were not able to for social confliction, been circumcised. (Social - such as being in the Roman army, or socially upper class, etc).
> God Fearers presented a diluted version/bridge/lens/stepping stone between the Jewish and the Roman communities. This gave Judaism a nuanced approach and allowed their continuance as an official religion within the Roman world.
> The Christian mission to the God Fearers (after the Jews) meant this lens was taken away exposing Judaism for what it really was; doctrinally anti-Rome. (N.b. this accounts for the evidence we see for the Jewish mission to the 'fringe believers' in the 1st centaury.
> As God Fearers became fewer (through becoming Christian) and the lens was further taken away, the Roman authorities got more suspicious about the Jewish continuance.
> This (+ a host of other factors) led to the open conflict between the Jews and the Romans, and the inevitable destruction of the temple in AD70.
> God Fearers exist today, we may call them sensitive agnostics, and they may be in our churches as 'fringe believers.' This again may be one of the reasons that the Church appears nuanced. God Fearers form a lens and dilute the true essence of the Church. We must seek to have their hearts convicted from being on the edge to into the fold.
I.e. I believe God Fearers were much more important to the success of the Christian mission, the judgement on the Jews, and the social-economic make-up of 1st century palatine. Further, we can learn from Acts etc, the effective ways to minister to such a spectrum of people who still exist today.