Oskar Skarsaune is widely recognized as a leading voice on Jewish influences on early Christianity. Skarsaune is professor emeritus of Church History at MF Norwegian School of Theology in Oslo, Norway. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including Incarnation: Myth or Fact, The proof from Prophecy: A Study in Justin Martyr’s Proof-Text Tradition, and the present volume In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity.
In the Shadow of the Temple offers a unique and fresh contribution to the study of the development and practice of the early Church. Skarsaune argues against the common notion of a “parting of ways” after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and contends that early Christians were in continuous conversation with Jews about practice and doctrine in the early centuries leading up to Constantine—shaping the way they worshiped and thought about God. Skarsaune is honest about the strife that was present between the two groups, but ultimately paints a much more convincing portrait of early Christianity than the alternative.
The book is divided into three major sections with an epilogue to tie it together. The initial section of the book aims to uncover and present Judaism as the “mother soil” for the Christian movement, and thus examines Judaism from the Maccabees to the Rabbis. This section is dense and detailed, and Skarsaune’s understanding of the milieu shines brightly throughout. The next section of the book aims to position the beginnings of the Christian movement into the previously established context. This section comprises the heart of the book as Skarsaune constructs the foundation for his thesis. The final section of the book aims to explore the persistence of the Jewish heritage within the Christian movement beyond AD 70. Skarsaune brings the reader full circle and solidifies his thesis in nearly every aspect of the early Christian movement.
In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity by Oskar Skarsaune is praiseworthy on many levels. Skarsaune is clear and concise without jeopardizing the needed details to solidify his thesis. As a leading voice of early Jewish and Gentile Christian history, Skarsaune provides an authoritative, comprehensive introduction to the Jewish basis of early Christianity and challenges the notion of a “parting of ways” after AD 70. Skarsaune has written a book that is both accessible and informative, and his effort superseded my initial notion of the book’s endeavor. I can confidently say that this is one of the most important books on early Christianity that I’ve encountered in some time. It comes highly recommended!