Church History

A fissure developed between the engrafted Gentiles, and the Jews, both Messianic and non-Messianic in the second century. It became an ever-widening gap until the various councils leading up to and during the reign of Constantine severed the unity altogether. It is a troubling history that must be told for healing to occur. Consider just two comments by Early Church writers:
“Take heed to yourselves and be not like some piling up your sins and saying that the covenant is [the Jews] as well as ours. It is ours, but they lost it completely just after Moses received it.” Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 4:6-7 (between A.D.130 and A.D.138)
 
“We may thus assert in utter confidence that the Jews will not return to their earlier situation, for they have committed the most abominable of crimes, in forming this conspiracy against the Savior of the human race…hence the city where Jesus suffered was necessarily destroyed, the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election.”
Origen of Alexandria, (A.D 185-254) – A Hellenistic scholar and Early Christian teacher who influenced Christian theology.
These sentiments along with edicts from the various councils and persecutions have severed our Jewish brothers and our Jewish foundation from the faith. Listed below is a brief synopsis of the councils. More on this topic will be provided in Oaks and Myrtles, Scion Series IV. 
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Justin Martyr (A.D 100-165)

In a discussion with Trypho, a Jew, Justin Martyr makes well formulated arguments using prophetic quotes from the Tanakh to show why Christians believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Jewish Messiah. But, he moves away from solid footing in his approach to Torah and the call of God upon the Jewish people. He told Trypho that God had imposed the laws upon the Jews as a punitive measure for their on-going rebellion against God and His Messiah. Please note that the laws handed down to Moses came before the rejection of Yeshua!
Now, Trypho was well-acquainted with the apostolic writings, and pushes the hostility button a few times himself. He is just as respectfully antagonistic towards Martyr. Since this discussion revolves around church history, I want to show a segment of the Trypho's argument, which I believe gives a clear indication of the mindset as early as the mid second century. 
 
To give context, Trypho is speaking in opposition to Martyr’s proclamation that Yeshua meets the criteria as Messiah by pointing to the divergent ways in which Jews and Christians follow Adonai. He states,
 
“But this is what we (Jews) are most at a loss about: that you (Christians), professing to be pious, and supposing yourselves better than others are not in any particular separate from them (Gentiles), and do not alter your mode of living from the nations (Goyim/Gentiles), in that you observe no festival or Sabbaths, and do not have the rite of circumcision, and further, resting your hopes on a man that was crucified, you yet expect to obtain some good thing from God, while you do not obey His commandments” (earlychristianwritings.com).
 
Trypho was saying then, and what Jews are observing today is that Christians profess to follow a Jewish Messiah, but don’t live a lifestyle that reflects a Jewish influence. They have a point, though the Apostle Paul argues that certain obligations are not required for Gentiles (Acts 15). Trypho did not understand any more than modern Judaism does today that Jews and Gentiles remain in their condition when entering into the Kingdom under Yeshua. They are, in a very real sense, still adhering to a system when Gentiles converted to Judaism to enter the Kingdom of God. To paraphrase Paul’s comment in 2 Corinthians 3:14, a partial veil exists. Only by Messiah is this veil removed (v. 14b).
Had Trypho understood Paul’s Rule for All the Churches,[1] as stated in 1 Corinithians 7:17,  “Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches”(NASB), he would have known that born again Gentiles were encouraged to participate as fully as desired, yet without conversion, in the Feasts, Rosh Chodesh (New Moon), and Shabbat (Saturday Sabbath).[2] They were participating, and actually, will be again during the Millennial Reign (see below). The blessing provided by Adonai to the foreigner and the eunuch, should they choose to “take hold” of Adonai’s commands, is not a requirement, but an invitation (Isaiah 56:3-7). What we must do, however, is abstain from those things clarified by the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:19-20, and what Galatians 5:19 includes as an "act of the flesh." Any form of idolatry is expressly forbidden. The Moral Law applies corporately.
 
This brings us back to the point Trypho was making. By the second century, pagan practices were being infused into the faith. This study will not cover the Christian holidays or days of worship, except to note that they illustrate a separation by the councils from the remembrances of God’s appointed times. The changes made to these observances, which commemorated God’s outstretched arm and provision, were perceived as a separation from the Jewish foundation of Christianity. By doing so, Christians participating in these revised, or all together different holidays looked completely different from a Jewish Messiah. Therefore, Trypho makes the case that 1. Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah, and 2. Christianity has a different god.
 
This dialog between Justin Martyr and Trypho continues for several chapters. Chapter XI, entitled: The Law Abrogated; The New Testament Promised and Given by God, provides insight into the mindset of Martyr and perhaps his generation. In this section, he tells Trypho that Christ is the final law, and the law “promulgated on Horeb is now old and belongs to yourselves alone…” Though he rightfully says, "...in Christ, the entire law is perfectly fulfilled," meaning Christ kept it, he misrepresents the Old and New Testaments by quoting from the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 31: 31- 34. In it, Martyr uses Jeremiah’s reference of the terms, "old" and "new," to build a case that the former has replaced the latter. These prophetic verses deal entirely with a spiritual advantage provided by Messiah that transfers the Mosaic Law written on stone tablets into the heart of a believer. By the way, Jeremiah's prophecy was given to the House of Israel and the House of Judah.
 
Apostle Paul touches on this concept in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11, and again in Hebrews 8. There was a glory that came with the stone tablets, one which shown brightly on Moses face. But a greater glory came by the Spirit when the Law was “written on men’s hearts.” Once the Law is written upon the heart, it saturates the soul. This is surely a greater glory, and one that doesn’t fade, providing everlasting remunerations. Furthermore, Paul’s mention of a covenant being "old, in the process of aging, and vanishing all together" is in the future tense (Heb. 8: 13). Again, the same verses from Jeremiah are referenced in the book of Hebrews to emphasize the transference of Moses’ stone tablets into the heart of man, a process that is still aging.
 
In chapters XVI and XVIII of this dialogue, Martyr drives home the prevailing thought that all the Laws and Sabbaths and Feasts were given as a means of setting the Jewish people apart from all other nations in order, “...That which you (Jews) justly suffer” (context mine). He skims past the part of those covenants that confirms Adonai's faithfulness to be their God and they, His people, a light to the nations that they may know the One True God! He overlooks the fact that the appointed times of God are essentially set-aside appointments on God’s calendar to meet with His people. Martyr relates the rememberance of God through His appointed times and commands as a way of reigning in an unruley people. If this is the purpose of remembering, then why did our Savior command us to keep the communion in “remembrance of Me”? Why is this last Passover Seder called a "last super"?
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Council of Elvira (CE 305)
The Gentile Exit, written by www.conorpdowling.com, offers a blow by blow outline of each edict by the Council of Elvira.
Canon 16:  Catholic girls cannot marry Jews or heretics because they cannot find unity when the faithful and unfaithful are joined.
Canon 49: No landlord may allow Jews to bless the crops they had received from God (Harvest feasts)
Canon 50: No cleric or layperson may eat with a Jew.
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 Council of Milan (CE 313)
The  Decline of Christianity is a fascinating read portraying the history of Constantine and is accessible at www.hyperhistory.net. Congregations of any nationality should combine an anthology of histories including the Church, their nation, and Israel as a foundational study within their discipleship courses. The following is a summation to get you started.
Constantine the Great is in the midst of a pinnacle, career-changing battle. The year is A.D 313. It is the eve of the battle at Milvian Bridge. As Constantine gazes into the evening sky, he experiences a…what?
Successive Roman emperors are brutalizing the Christians who make up only a rag-tag minority within the Roman Empire. So, why does Constantine, a pagan sun-god worshipper, liberate them?
 
As Constantine gazes into the evening sky, he experiences a sign emblazoned overhead. It is a glowing cross rising out of the words “hoc signo victor eris.”[3] This epiphany declares, “By this sign you will be the victor”. Emboldened, he wins the battle securing his position to become the next Roman Emperor. Constantine attributes his victory to the God of the Christians and converts, sort of! What he creates is a fusion of Judeo-Christian and pagan ideas and practices. Christian martyrdom ends, but a completely new problem arises.
Interestingly, the resulting Edict of Milan, in a progressive new mindset, granted full authority for any religion to practice freely under the protection of “complete toleration”.[4] This meant that Christians enjoyed protection from persecution, but what did it mean for Jews? Under this edict, Jews lost the right to live in Jerusalem and proselytize. Death by burning was the outcome for Jews who attended the now illegal practice of synagogue worship.[5] Not very tolerable!
For the sake of space, I will not cover comments made by Ignatius, Eusebius, Marcion, or other later synods because the Council of Nicaea really sums it all up.
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 Council of Nicaea (A.D 325)
Where do I begin? I suppose the advent of Constantine is the decisive beginning of the end, as we know it, for the Hebraic context of the Church. While the First Council of Nicaea declared the Holy Trinity as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost as one God operating in three forms simultaneously while being one divinity, it also declared that Christianity would not resemble her Jewish parent in any way. Stripped of His Jewish identity, the very God of Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya’akov became a Gentile. Aside from the opening quote to this chapter by Constantine, here is a list of anti-Jewish decrees:[6]
  • Easter instead of Passover
  • Sunday instead of Saturday Sabbath
  • Jews prohibited from circumcising their sons
  • Installation of the veneration of icons (787 C.E)
  • “Cutting off of all heresy” establishing instead, Easter (The Letter of the Synod in Nicaea to the Egyptians)
  • Christians cannot marry non-Christians--Jews are of a class of “infidels”
  • Under Constantine, clergy in the churches or synagogues were exempt from the harsh Roman taxation, but the clergy were forbidden to eat with or have business dealings with Jews.
Though there were many other moments during Roman dominated history, those mentioned above were pivotal in changing the face of our faith. 
 
[1] David J. Rudolph, “Paul’s Rule to All the Churches and Torah-Defined Ecclesiastical Variegation” Presented at the American Academy of Religion Conference, (November 3, 2008)
[2] Charles H. Hoole translation, The Didache: Twelve Apostles, Wyatt North Publishing, LLC, (2011-09-11), Kindle Edition. Chapter 6:2-3, 2. “If thou art able to bear the whole yoke of the Lord, thou wilt be perfect; but if thou art not able, what thou art able, that do.” 3. “But concerning meat, bear that which thou art able to do. But keep with care from things sacrificed to idols, for it is the worship of the infernal deities.” Note: the Didache is a collection of suggestions by the twelve apostles to the believing Gentiles.
[3] “The Decline of Christianity”, www.hyperhistory.net.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Diane L. Otto, “Constantine and the Roman Catholic Church”, Guess What I Discovered On The Way To Church? (2007), p.319
[6] Ibid, p.318
Apostolic Writings:
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The apostles dealt with sociopolitical challenges that shaped their narratives as well.  First century religious leaders in Jerusalem sought to balance three dilemmas: 1. Maintain their personal positions of power, 2. Appease Rome, and 3. Prevent the destruction of the Jewish people under Roman occupation. Though their view of a messiah meant freedom from oppressive gentile governments, it would also certainly mean the end of their personal seats of power. Yeshua’s role as a suffering servant was perplexing. The Zealots were looking for a conquering King who would rise up to deliver Israel from Roman rule. The general Pharisaic hope was for a teacher who would bring back righteous observance of Torah, restoring the people to God. Nicodemus’ private conversation with Yeshua shows this general desire though the governing Pharisees in Jerusalem seem to have been mostly at odds with Him. Certainly, they along with the Sadducees took Yeshua to task on several halakhic topics. Perhaps the ruling Pharisees were content to maintain a quiet status quo while the Sadducees were concerned that He would unseat and upset their comfortable Hellenistic lifestyle. It is safe to say that Yeshua did not fit any of these paradigms. Yeshua understood that demonstrating the works of the Father would not, even then, convince their unyielding hearts. Even His apostles were challenged by the notion that His (first) mission dealt strictly with rebellion against God not rebellion against the governments of the world.
 
The apostolic approach to these same sociopolitical influences becomes apparent in the telling of each Gospel. As mentioned before, Matthew dealt with the Jewish aristocracy. Mark spoke more plainly to the Jewish masses, but opens strongly using divine terminology to connect Yeshua with Old Testament prophecies.  Luke’s narrative provides great insight and detail into the workings of the synagogue as well as Old Testament knowledge. He opens with a salutation to “Theophilos.” Commentaries suggest that this “lover of God”, as the name identifies, may be addressing a general population of believers or to a specific high-ranking Greek individual. John’s Gospel is the most complex containing more emblematic language than the others. His style of writing was very similar to the Kabbalistic secret level of interpretation known as sohd—meant for the most learned Jewish scholars. Using similes such as “Yeshua is the Way, the Truth, and the Light” demonstrates this possible audience. Truly, it was written in such a different style and includes a different perspective of the identity of Yeshua so much so that it is not considered a synoptic view.
 
Regardless of their audiences, the Gospels and epistles were written during the formative years of the Body, which initially consisted only of Jewish followers. These first followers had things other than a shared faith in common. They shared designations as members of the “Sect of the Natzratim” and “The Way”. As followers of Yeshua, the former designation suggests the Messiah’s birthplace (Matthew 2:23). Acts 9:2, 24:5,14 and 28:22 refer to those same believers as a sect of Judaism, pointing to a Jewish membership.
RABBIT TRAIL: The Jewish sages understood that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Beit Lechem). In Hebrew, it can mean “House of Bread” or as a homonym, “House of Fighter”. This is based on the root word for ‘war,’ transliterated as milchamah. Lechem, the Hebrew word for ‘bread’ is spelled, לחם. Compare milchamah, מלחמה. Can you find lechem in the word milchamah? Obviously, there’s a huge difference between ‘bread’ and ‘fighter.’ Other than spelling, where is the connection? The Hebrew language considers the implications of the word ‘bread.’ A lack of bread brings struggle and this struggle leads to war, hence, “House of Fighter.”  Probably too much information, but it connects King David as a warrior king. The Jews correctly believed that Messiah would be a warrior, but Yeshua played a different role upon His first advent. He will appear as Warrior King upon His return! 
Returning to our topic, the basis of the Body of Messiah was thoroughly Jewish. It had a Jewish name; was comprised of Jewish leaders; and for several years, had only Jewish followers. They were circumcised on the eighth day, attended weekly Sabbath and prayer services, and participated in the Jewish feasts throughout their lives (Luke 2:21,47; 4:16; John 10:22; Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:12).
The apostolic writings provide clues that Jewish streams of thought permeate the New Testament. Quotes and concepts carry the themes of early sages into Second Temple Judaism. For example, Hillel (1BC), a preeminent forerunner of Gamaliel, commented on Torah in a similar manner found in Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount. He is often quoted as the originator of a humorous story involving a prospective convert to Judaism. The student asked Hillel to teach him all of Torah while standing on one foot, to which he replied, “That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of Torah; the rest is commentary. Go forth and study” (Talmud, Shabbat 31a). Compare the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:12. Yeshua summarizes a portion by saying, “Always treat others as you would like them to treat you; this sums up the teachings of the Torah and Prophets” (Complete Jewish Bible). Before Pharisees and Sadducees, Yeshua reiterates in Matthew 22: 37-40,
‘You are to love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ This is the greatest and most important mitzvah (command). And the second is similar to it, ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’ All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent on these two mitzvot.
Yeshua sums up the whole of Torah and the Prophets by stating the positive form of the “Golden Rule.” Both Hillel and Yeshua uphold the overarching theme of Torah as mercy and compassion. Yeshua prioritizes the command to love God with every resource. From this, love of others naturally flows.
Yeshua may not have taught all of Torah while standing on one foot, but the brevity with which He summed Torah, He could have! This is one of many examples in the New Testament where streams of Jewish sagacity are inherent.
 
Biblical authors were obviously influenced by extra-biblical works as well. They noted these works occasionally, pointing to the relevance they must have had though they are not in and of themselves a part of the final canon.  Here are twelve such books, yet there are more:
1. The Book of Enoch (Heb. 11:5, Jude 4, 6, 13, 14-15, 2 Peter 2:4; 3:13, John 7:38)
2. The Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (2 Chronicles 9:29)
3. The Record of Nathan the Prophet (2 Chronicles 9:29)
4. The Book of Jasher (2 Samuel 1:18, Joshua 10:13, 2 Timothy 3:8*)
5. The Annals of Jehu (2 Chronicles 20:34)
6. The Treatise of the Book of the Kings (2 Chronicles 24:27)
7. The Book of Records, Book of the Chronicles of Ahasuerus (Esther 2:23; 6:1)
8. The Epistle to the Laodiceans (Colossians 4:16 “read the epistle from Laodicea”)
9. Life of Adam and Eve, also known as the Apocalypse of Moses (2 Corinthians 11:14 “Satan as an angel of light,” 12:2 “Third heaven”)]. Life of Adam and Eve-Penitence and Second Temptation 9:1, “Then Satan grew angry and transfigured himself into the brilliance of and angel…”
10. Samuel’s Book (1 Samuel 10:25)
11.The Treatise of the Prophet Iddo (2 Chronicles 13:22)
12. Book of the Wars of the Lord (Numbers 21:14)
 
* 2 Timothy 3:8- “Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth…” Jannes and Jambres do not appear in the Old Testament, but are referenced in extra-biblical sources as ones who instigated the building of the golden calf. Extra-biblical sources identify them as part of the mixed crowd leaving Egypt and the magicians who tried to equal the signs that Moses performed (Targum Yonatan). Other sources, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the writings of Pliny and Apuleius, mention them as well.
 
Are there writings that express a Jewish origin of the Body of Messiah outside of Judaism? Early Church writers conveyed a Jewish membership in the formative years of the Body of Messiah. In the writings of Eusebius we read, “The church at Jerusalem, at first formed of the circumcision, came later to be formed of Gentile Christians…” Today, their writings, known in Hebrew as the B’rit Chadasha (New/Renewed Covenant), are codified in the New Testament.
This provides a brief historical overview of some of the influences affecting the first four centuries of the Church/Body of Messiah. Further information and an extensive resource list for deeper study is available on Amazon in the Scion Series Book I: The Libertine (published) and Scion Series Book IV: Oaks and Myrtles (TBA)