That is, what what was it really like to be a Christian — a Jewish Christian — in the first few centuries. Here’s a fact: the Church shifted from its original Jewish roots with its Jewish story when it became increasingly Roman and Greek. The result: the dominant story of the Church has been the Eastern and the Western Church, and both of these show heavy influences from the Greek and the Roman worlds. So, what to do? I suggest the following book:
Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik have edited a book that completely explains the pre-Eastern and pre-Western nature of our faith. Sometimes I think there are four branches in the Church: Eastern, Western, Protestant, and Messianic Jewish. Their book, Jewish Believers in Jesus, is a collection of studies by some major thinkers. Yes, it’s long, but the price is cheap for what you are getting. Toss away some cheap textbooks and make room for this one — it can give you the facts and texts and issues that were alive and well in the first Jewish communities that followed Jesus. This book has definitely excited me.
Now to a theological issue: what was it really like in the first century when it came to the deity of Christ? Robert Bowman, Jr., and Ed Komoszewski have produced a book on the deity of Christ called Putting Jesus in His Place. This fine study has been endorsed by Richard Bauckham, Murray Harris, Tom Schreiner, Larry Hurtado, Martin Hengel, Mark Bailey, Howard Marshall, and Craig Evans — sheesh, that’s some good blurbs.
This book is reader-friendly; it is well-written and they have a clever acrostic for teaching purposes: HANDS: Jesus shares honors, attributes, names, deeds, and seat with God. If you are in need of a book for yourself or for your church library that sketches the evidence for the deity of Christ, this might just be that book.