Romeny, Bas ter Haar. "Chapter One: Hypotheses on the Development of Judaism and Christianity in Syria in the Period After 70 C.E." in Van de Sandt, Huub (editor). Matthew and the Didache: Two Documents from the Same Jewish-Christian Milieu? Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005, 13-33.
Romeny observes that there is scant concrete evidence for the nature of Christianity in Syria between about 70 and 200. Few written sources exist, and the best source we have, Eusebius, wrote in the early fourth century (Romeny 2005, 13). The Mishna is compiled possibly as early as the early third century. The perspective of the sources also represent the view of those who had won out in theological conflict, so we have little actual material from other voices. For this reason, Romeny speaks in hypothetical terms.
Romeny finds material from the city of Edessa to be valuable. Here there was an early Christian community and we find a Syriac translation of the Old Testament, which signifies Jewish roots to the Christian community (Romeny 2005, 13). There is also inscriptional evidence which reveals some local perspectives. Romeny additionally notes the existence of "Bardasian's Dialogue on Fate (from the beginning of the third century)" (Romeny 2005, 14). There are also some pertinent Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha. While these materials provide documentation of some divergent ideas within Judaism and Christianity, they provide very little actual context.
The text of Josephus' Jewish Antiquities is also of importance, though Romeny observes it was adopted by Christian authors as early as Origen, in order to assert their own interpretation of failings of Judaism which led to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 (Romeny 2005, 16). Within Jewish commentary, the events of 70 were also seen as cataclysmic, but relatively quickly the changes were seen as a needed reform, resulting in a more unified rabbinic leadership structure.
The city of Edessa contains several sources of information from the second and early third century, which Romeny considers to provide fairly useful information, though he reminds the reader that we proceed cautiously (Romeny 2005, 18). Romeny continues by detailing a number of ways in which we can assume reasonably safely similarities between Edessa and other Syrian cities of the period. He particularly notes a fusion of Greek and Syriac elements within culture and philosophy (Romeny 2005, 19).
While Romeny finds evidence for Christianity in Edessa in the second century, he questions what kind of relationship we can affirm between it and Judaism (Romeny 2005, 21). Tatian, who moved back to his native Syria from Rome in 177, makes oblique statements about how he learned his Christian philosophy. His work in the Diatessaron is an apparent response to Marcion, who rejected much of the New Testament (Romeny 2005, 22). The asceticism of Tatian appears in other works, such as the Acts of Judas Thomas and the gospel of Thomas, both of which Romeny considers to have a connection to Edessa (Romeny 2005, 23). He further observes that connections between Edessa and Jerusalem are made in several Jewish traditions.
Romeny adds to the picture the question of the Peshitta, the Syriac version of the Bible, possibly of either Jewish or Christian origin (Romeny 2005, 25). One of the challenges with a Christian origin of the translation is the fact that the early Christian authors we know of from the 2nd-4th centuries knew Greek but not Hebrew. Translations of the Hebrew Bible into other languages in this period can be traced more readily to the Septuagint than to a Hebrew origin (Romeny 2005, 26). The Peshitta shows signs of translation which considered prayer rather than sacrifice as of primary importance, and Romeny cites Weitzman as describing a prayer-cult in which times of prayer were substituted for times of sacrifice (Romeny 2005, 27). This could suggest a Jewish origin, but one which would pass fairly easily to a Christian community. Romeny asks whether this signifies a particular, discrete community or a broader societal trend (Romeny 2005, 28).
Evidence from funerary inscriptions in Edessa suggests that in our period about ten percent of the population was Jewish, and normally used Jewish Aramaic script for inscriptions (Romeny 2005, 28). It is not completely clear to Romeny whether Chrsitians were distinct from pagans in their language use, but it is clear that Jews used a different script than pagans when they marked graves. The Peshitta, however, is in the script typically used by the pagans and Christians. Romeny suggests this may lead us to conclude that the translators were not ethnically Jewish but were Christians of gentile origin (Romeny 2005, 29). He further thinks the shift of emphasis from sacrifice to prayer could be characteristic of a gentile Christian understanding as opposed to a Jewish interpretation. The conflict between Christians and Marcionites could also be a strong motivation for Christians to produce an Old Testament in a local language (Romeny 2005, 30).
Romeny further theorizes that the lack of mention of Jews as separate from Christians in Edessan inscriptions could suggest that the Christians saw no clear difference between themselves and Jews. There may have been no clear distinction (Romeny 2005, 30). While James Dunn sees a sharp contrast by the year 135, Romeny thinks the evidence of this emerges later, close to the end of the second century.
That there was a Christian presence in Edessa in the second century is undeniable (Romeny 2005, 31). It probably arrived in different forms at slightly different times. The boundaries were not necessarily clear at first, but differentiated over time, giving rise to some writings which have different emphases. The teachings and loyalties may well have overlapped as the society involved many personal interactions (Romeny 2005, 32). Over time, the differentiation could be classified more clearly.