The affirmation that the NT texts are 'Christian' has impacted NT studies in subtle but important ways. Relatively mildly, this affirmation has affected, for example, Dibelius's judgement on the Epistle of James, which he took to be a Jewish work that was later 'Christianised' by the addition of [KURIOU] IHSOU CHRISTOU at 1.1 and 2.1. More sinisterly, it allowed for anti-Judaic and anti-Semitic generalisations in which Judaism was a religion of law and external practices and Christianity was a religion of grace and internal transformation.
In the course of reading George W. E. Nickelsburg's Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins, which is shaping up to be a fantastic book, this question has become particularly urgent. On the one hand, Nickelsburg deconstructs the distinction between Judaism and Christianity at a number of points, such as:
This review of Jewish texts (cf. pp. 44-51) sensitizes us to elements in the New Testament that are often overlooked. Such a comparison indicates more similarity and continuity than the traditional paradigm has allowed. (p. 51)or:
The New Testament, too, portrays the God who saves in different ways and circumstances and employs a number of terms (often metaphors) for "salvation," which vary according to the complex of ideas in which they fit. The rich, explicit variety in postbiblical Jewish texts, and the important transformations of biblical traditions that they attest, help us understand better the variety in early Christian thought and the similarities and differences between it and the traditions on which it draws. (p. 61)On the other hand, the title of Nickelsburg's book, and especially the subtitle ('Diversity, Continuity, and Transformation; my italics), reinforces the sense that there is a qualitative difference between Christianity and Judaism (as do some of his comments, e.g., at p. 36). Certainly by the end of the first century or in the second century (e.g., in the writings of Ignatius, or even in the Pastorals) such a distinction (hence, 'Transformation') is appropriate, but my question (and it is a genuine one; I don't have the answer) is: Is there a meaningful difference between Judaism and Christianity throughout most of the first century CE, reflected especially in the writings of Paul and even in the synoptic gospels? If not, wouldn't the subtitle 'Diversity and Continuity' have been sufficient?
Nickelsburg makes a number of other helpful observations which suggest that, in many quarters, at least, Christianity comprised another perspective within the diverse groupings of communities and theologies that were Greco-Roman Judaism. Even the high estimate of Jesus current in 'early Christian' circles, or the judgement of new texts like Mark or 1 Corinthians as authoritative (even approaching scriptural), do not represent 'breaks' with Judaism (e.g., p. 28). Neither does the relative marginalisation of the Torah, though this is a complex issue for both Jewish and early Christian studies (cf. Nickelsburg's comments re: 1 Enoch, p. 46f.). And neither does the inclusion of gentiles into the covenantal community, though, as before, 'early Christian' attitudes toward gentiles were not monolithic (cf. p. 76-79). And so on.
At any rate, here's the point. I suspect that most of us accept that a hard-and-fast division between Judaism and Christianity does violence to our sources. But, if you're interested, I'd be curious about comments from the blogging community re: how a reappraisal of the NT texts as Jewish texts affects specific exegetical, theological, and/or historical conclusions about the NT itself or about the early Christianity/ies that produced these texts. By way of example, I offer one here. The Lukan Jesus announces to the synagogue in Nazareth:
'But truly I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was closed up for three years and six months, as a terrible famine was wrought upon all the land. And yet to none of them was Elijah sent, but to the widow in Zarephath of Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel for Elisha the prophet, yet none of them was cleansed, but Naaman the Syrian.' (4.25-27)Though some have seen Lukan theology at work here, and especially inasmuch as this represents a critique of Israel qua Israel and legitimises the so-called 'mission to the gentiles', this need not necessarily be the case. Certainly this passage serves Luke's theology. But it also makes sense as a critique of Israel made from within Israel. For one thing, its critique is not only made in terms of Israelite tradition but stems from that tradition in the first place. Also, within the gospel itself, Jesus is not made to turn his attention away from Israel on the basis of this passage. Though some passages (e.g., Luke 17.12-19) pick up this theme, Luke does not relate the story of the Syrophoenician woman's daughter, and 7.11-17 explicitly links the Elijah tradition with the exclamation, 'A great prophet has arisen among us, and God has visited his people' [TON LAON AUTOU]. If Jesus, in the Nazareth synagogue or in any other Jewish context, said anything like Luke 4.25-27, it is less likely to have been in anticipation of a 'gentile mission' as it was an expression of the thoroughly Jewish conclusion that, when God acted to restore/vindicate his people, some (= unrighteous) Jews would fare less well than the righteous among the nations (cf., e.g., 1 Enoch 10.21; among others; without the optimistic perspective on the gentiles, cf. 1QS 8.12-16; among others; cf. also Nickelsburg, p. 76-77). If this is on the mark, Jesus as a Jew comes into slightly crisper focus (hopefully), and our understanding of Luke's theological perspective may also find itself in need of some revision.