chapter  1
THE JEWISH BACKGROUND
Pages 19

In his lifetime his friends and detractors, his followers and admirers, were Jews. The early Christians carried their message through Jewish contacts in Palestine and in and around synagogues in the Jewish Diaspora that spread through the Hellenistic cities of the Mediterranean basin, Asia Minor, and even to Rome itself.2 When the two faiths parted ways, the new religion took with itself a substantial part of Jewish literature, claiming the holy books as its due inheritance. An examination, then, of this inheritance, and the way in which it was being understood by the Jews themselves in the early centuries of Christianity, when contact and even competition with Judaism figured significantly in the growth of the movement, may aid our understanding of Christian attitudes to food and fasting. This chapter will attempt to give a short survey of a very complex and large topic: Jewish thought and practice concerning eating and fasting as these are expressed in biblical and extra-biblical Jewish writings and in some non-Jewish sources that may testify to Jewish thought and custom in the time of the Roman Empire, both in the Land of Israel and in the far-flung Jewish communities of the Diaspora.