What Religion Did Jesus and His Earliest Disciples Follow?

The question of what religion Jesus and his earliest disciples followed has been a topic of debate for centuries. Some argue that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, while others claim that he founded a new religion altogether.

In this article, we will explore the evidence surrounding this question and try to come to a better understanding of the beliefs of Jesus and his followers.

Jesus as a Jewish Rabbi

One popular view is that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi who sought to reform Judaism from within. This theory holds that Jesus saw himself as part of the Jewish tradition and did not intend to start a new religion.

Proponents of this view point to the fact that Jesus was circumcised, observed Jewish customs, and quoted extensively from the Hebrew Bible.

However, there are also several factors that suggest that Jesus’ teachings were not strictly in line with traditional Judaism. For example, he often challenged the authority of the religious leaders of his time and emphasized love and compassion over legalistic adherence to religious laws.

Additionally, some of his teachings – such as his assertion that he was the Son of God – would have been considered heretical by many Jews.

The Origins of Christianity

Another perspective is that Christianity emerged as a distinct religion after Jesus’ death. According to this theory, Jesus’ earliest followers saw him as more than just a rabbi – they believed him to be the Messiah prophesied in Jewish scripture.

After his death, they continued to spread his message and eventually formed their own distinct community.

This theory is supported by several historical accounts. The New Testament documents describe how Jesus’ disciples spread his teachings throughout the Roman Empire in the decades after his death.

They formed communities centered around shared beliefs in Jesus as the Son of God and the savior of humanity. Over time, these communities developed their own rituals and practices, such as baptism and the Eucharist.

The Relationship between Judaism and Christianity

Regardless of whether Jesus was a Jewish rabbi or the founder of a new religion, it is clear that Christianity emerged from within a Jewish context. The earliest Christians were Jews who saw themselves as part of the broader Jewish tradition.

They continued to observe Jewish customs and laws even as they developed their own distinct beliefs.

Over time, however, Christianity began to diverge more significantly from Judaism. Christians began to emphasize their belief in Jesus as the Messiah and gradually abandoned many traditional Jewish practices.

This led to tensions between Jews and Christians, which eventually culminated in the split between Judaism and Christianity that persists to this day.


In conclusion, while there is no definitive answer to what religion Jesus and his earliest disciples followed, it is clear that they were deeply influenced by Judaism. Whether or not Jesus intended to start a new religion is still up for debate, but what is certain is that Christianity emerged from within a Jewish context and has shaped Western civilization ever since.