To many Christians, I sound like a conspiracy theorist when I mention the Hellenizing of Hebrew religion into Judaism. It’s particularly odd when any decent Bible college teaches the widely known history of Post-Exile Jerusalem. They talk about the conquests of Alexander the Great and how he was such a hearty evangelist of Hellenism. Some even discuss that influence on rabbinical traditions, but never connect it back with how contrary it was to the widely known mysticism of Ancient Near Eastern people in general, and of the Hebrew people in particular. That is, the vast majority of evangelical scholars act as if the Hebrew people were better off Hellenized. Thus, I get blank stares or smirks when I discuss how Jesus was trying to pull His people back to that Hebrew mysticism.
Thus, we see just how very successful the Judaizers were. Oddly, I can find a lot of material in evangelical scholarship that acknowledges the Judaizers and their influence on First Century Christianity, but these same scholars insist that Judaism is still the proper approach to Moses. Very few of them are aware that the Talmud was a perversion of Moses. They are so desperate to defend an Aristotelian and Platonic approach to Christian religion that they simply gloss over the whole question. They also flatly deny how New Testament teaching echoes of Hebrew mysticism, simply because they insist that “Hebrew mysticism” is equivalent to Jewish Mysticism and Kabbalism. What a tangled mess!
These same evangelical scholars read their theology back into the New Testament context. Honesty compels us to admit that the First Century churches were not unified in theology and practice. Most people are aware of the obvious discord between early Jewish converts to Christianity versus Gentile Christians; Acts 15 makes much of that. But if nothing else, John’s Apocalypse points out how the Seven Churches each had different teachings. You won’t find the Apostles arguing much once they get past Acts 15, but we know from hints here and there that quite a number of churches and individuals were ostracized by the Apostles. The First Century was frankly a time of theological chaos among Christian churches. The Judaizers and Gnostics ran rampant.
Worse, some of the Early Church Fathers (Christian scholars up through 325 AD) were all over the place in terms of their theology. There were some notorious debates with accusations of heresy and such, right up through the time when some portion of the leaders of organized Christian religion formalized into a hierarchy under a pope (roughly 600 AD).
In part, this supports my thesis that theology itself isn’t really all that critical. That is, formalized reasoning about religion and faith is naturally subject to variations based on individual human experience and perception. I do tend to promote certain doctrines as essential simply because I believe they are plainly stated in Scripture. But I realize that even those essentials are subject to some variation. I’m soft on such things for a reason: History indicates that it’s pointless to seek a standardized religion under the heading of Christianity. It’s better to think in terms of what you can tolerate from a fellow believer for the purpose of working together, rather than to imagine some kind of absolute truth contained in cerebral structures.
One of the things I don’t tolerate well is anti-Paulism. It’s part of my basic rejection of anyone who doesn’t hold themselves accountable to the Bible. It’s also a notorious element of the Judaizers’ teaching. A term you’ll see is “Ebionite” — there are a surprising number of folks who still believe that way. I’m acquainted with one who keeps pestering me to join him. His visceral hatred for Paul and those New Testament letters is characteristic of anti-Paulists. They consider 2 Peter 3:15-16 as a fraudulent insertion in the text.
It’s also a very popular thing in the LGBT community. The reason is obvious: Paul is the only New Testament writer who flatly condemns any alternate sexual orientation. They can dismiss the Old Testament as barbaric and mean-spirited, but they insist Jesus never condemned their sexuality. I don’t go out of my way to write much about that because all the LGBT stuff presumes a Western approach to things.