A moment’s reflection will show that “Christianity” shares the six characteristics that Hutchinson and A. Smith claim ethnic groups ‘habitually exhibit’:
(1) ‘a common proper name’: Christian, etc.According to 1 Peter 2:9, Christians ‘are a chosen race . . . a holy nation’. As with other nations, membership in the Christian ‘people of God’ is exclusive. New believers have to abandon their previous ethnic culture and polytheistic way of life to join in, and, as a result, they are no longer Gentiles/ ‘nations’. The Gospel of John suggests that love for members exceeds love for outsiders. Indeed, Christianity is more exclusive, more particularistic, more ‘ethnocentric’ than Judaism because orthodox Christianity holds that final salvation is limited to insiders, while normative Judaism expects righteous Gentiles to have a place in the world to come without having to become Jews (see Sanders, Donaldson, Runesson).
(2) ‘a myth of common ancestry’: ‘in Christ’ – Christians are called “children of God” by their participation in Christ. Just as God created Israel from the barren seed of Abraham, the New Testament affirms that God created a people of God from the Messiah. Denise Kimber Buell argues that the language of kinship in early Christian texts was considered real rather than metaphorical.
(3) ‘shared historical memories’: The story of Israel and of Jesus.
(4) ‘one or more elements of common culture’: Check.
(5) ‘a link with a homeland’: ‘Our citizenship is in heaven.’
(6) ‘a sense of solidarity’: Check.
Note: My observations here are exploratory. My main point is to critique the common Christian denigration of Judaism as nationalist/particularist. Whatever Christianity is, it is not universal.
Buell, Denise Kimber. Why this New Race: Ethnic Reasoning in Early Christianity. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.
Donaldson, Terrence L. Judaism and the Gentiles: Jewish Patterns of Universalism (to 135 CE). Waco: Baylor University Press, 2007.
Hutchinson, John, and Anthony D. Smith. Ethnicity. Oxford Readers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Runesson, Anders. “Particularistic Judaism and Universalistic Christianity? Some Critical Remarks on Terminology and Theology.” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 1 (2000).
Sanders, E. P. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1977.