Continuing from last week, we will discuss how Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity have drifted so far apart. How did the split occur?
This week we will address the split with Christianity. As we discussed last week, by 70-135 CE (AD) Messianic Jews had by and large been excluded from the traditional Synagogue. What is more surprising is, by this same time frame, they were beginning to be squeezed out of the Church.
Up until 50-60 CE, belief in Yeshua as Messiah had been predominately held by Jews. With the success of Rabbi Sha'ul (Paul) and others this began to change rapidly. The Gentile world it seems was ripe to harvest. The former gods of Greece and Rome were seen as powerless and ineffective. Into this vacuum came the news of the true G-d, offering forgiveness and eternal life. Many Gentiles gladly received the good news.
This influx of Gentiles originally were being taught by Jewish Believers within the context of Judaism. That did not last as the events resulted in many Jews being expelled from major cities, one of which was Rome. This happened at about the Time Sha'ul was writing Romans. Without the Jewish Messianic Leaders instructing them, new Gentile converts were left on their own to learn and teach. Without the depth of understanding in Jewish Customs and Theology, minor changes in direction began to be seen. One good example is seen in Sha'uls writings on not judging another for Holidays or what they eat. Often seen as against Kosher and the Feasts of G-d, they are exactly the opposite. As Jews returned to Rome, the emerging Church began to ridicule their keeping Kosher and the Feasts of Adonai.
Gentilization of the Body & the rise of Gentile Bishops
Another major issue was growing, as the Church was becoming more Gentile, certain Gentile leaders sought ways to lessen the Authority of Jerusalem (Jerusalem Council) on their Churches. Ignatius is the first known Christian writer to put great stress on loyalty to a single bishop in each city (Source Wikipedia). Ignatius is also claimed to be the first known Christian writer to argue in favor of Christianity's replacement of the Sabbath with the Lord's Day:
" Be not seduced by strange doctrines nor by antiquated fables, which are profitless. For if even unto this day we live after the manner of Judaism, we avow that we have not received grace.... If then those who had walked in ancient practices attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing Sabbaths but fashioning their lives after the Lord's day, on which our life also arose through Him and through His death which some men deny ... how shall we be able to live apart from Him? ... It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practise Judaism. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity - Ignatius to the Magnesians 8:1, 9:1-2, 10:3, Lightfoot translation."
He is also responsible for the first known use of the Greek word katholikos, meaning "universal," to describe the church, writing:
"Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid. - Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8, J.R. Willis translation."
Ignatius of Antioch is credited by some for being one of the first Church Fathers to extol the value of the Eucharist and its Real Presence (becoming not bread and wine but the actual body & blood of Messiah.)
Note several items: 1. a Bishop is required to administer the L-rd's Supper, showing Ignatius's view on the primacy of Priests and Bishops 2. his insistence on not following the Jerusalem council 3. his move away from being part of Judaism, 4. his proposing the Bishop has the authority to change the Sabbath to Sunday.
Ignatius, in a real way, was the beginning of a conscious effort by the Gentile Church to remove all Jewishness from belief in Messiah.
The fall of Jerusalem resulted in the expulsion of Jews and the loss of the Jerusalem Council as the predominate force on Messianic Practices. Into this vacuum, men like Ignatius were able to exert Gentile control over the believers. This trend continued with subsequent years bringing more Gentiles in the body, with a corresponding lessening of Jewish practice.
According to Eusebius' History of the Church 4.5.3-4: the first 15 Bishops of Jerusalem were "of the circumcision" (Jews). From that time forward, Jerusalem has never had a Jewish Bishop.
135 CE revolt
The 135 CE (AD) revolt resulted in Jews being treated as enemies of the State. Gentile believers, who now made up the large majority, sought ways to distance themselves from the Jews to reduce persecution. During this time Sunday worship became the normal practice. By the end of the 2nd century Easter was replacing Passover as the celebration of the death and resurrection of Messiah.
The 2nd century also brought the beginnings of paganistic beliefs (Mother-son religion, Mithras worship, etc.) being incorporated into the Church. Additionally, the "New" Testament was becoming the primary focus, while the "Old" Testament was being reinterpreted only to stories that showed Judaism in a negative light. Mass Heresies such as Marcionism arose. Marcion taught that reformation was needed. "This reformation was to deliver Christendom from false Jewish doctrines by restoring the Pauline conception of the gospel, - Paul being, according to Marcion, the only apostle who had rightly understood the new message of salvation as delivered by Christ. In Marcion's own view, therefore, the founding of his church - to which he was first driven by opposition - amounts to a reformation of Christendom through a return to the gospel of Christ and to Paul; nothing was to be accepted beyond that." (Source Wikipedia)
Polycarp (a Talmidim or disciple of John) called Marcion "the first born of Satan." Marcion proposed to remove the entire Tanakh (Old Testament) from the Church and follow only Paul.
Many Churches today are unknowingly actually following the teachings of Marcion. Many other similar heresies arose including the Gnostics which are so hyped today with the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary.
The Councils of Laodicea, Nicaea, Laodicea 2, etc. progressively distanced believers from their Jewish Messiah. Many Biblical practices were outlawed by the Church including: keeping Shabbat, circumcision, keeping of the Feasts G-d commanded, etc. "The Council of Laodicea of around 365 decreed: Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema (accursed) from Christ." (Source Wikipedia).
The council of Nicaea in 325 CE forcibly separated the resurrection of the Messiah from Passover. The ruling was so crafted that Passover and Easter would never fall together (It is an interesting note that the planners were not as smart as they thought, for First Fruits not Passover is the date of the Resurrection, and that has continued to occur, several times in out generation).
Expulsion & Inquisition
Once the Biblical Jewish practices were denounced, the next step was enforcement. This enforcement took many forms, from excommunication to extermination. In Spain Columbus sailed on the very day Jews were expelled. Believers, if they practiced any Biblical Jewish practices were forced to confess, many times under extreme torture, and often murdered. "The historian Hernando del Pulgar, contemporary of Ferdinand and Isabella, estimated that the Inquisition had burned at the stake 2,000 people" (In just the beginning decade).
The ultimate tragedy occurred when Adolph Hitler and the Nazi's killed 6 million Jews. This was not religiously motivated as many were Believers in Messiah. All that was required is for 1 of your grandparents to be a Jew and you were to be exterminated.
Legalism & Today
The final chapter is not yet been written. What is obvious is that Jew's are still persecuted and hated today. Even within the Church, Messianic's and Messianic Jews are often accused of being legalistic. This happened recently in Rabbi Micha'els debate with Pat Donahue from the Church of Christ. Pat stated that Messianic's are not saved because we keep the Torah. He is not the only one the feel that way, while Evangelicals generally are somewhat supportive, the moment our views cross theirs, out comes the Judaizer label.
Imagine the scene today, a Jewish couple has heard about the Messiah, and they have trusted in Him. They seek a place to worship. On their second visit they are invited to a cook-out. Arriving the first thing they are handed is a nice big Pork chop or rib. When they politely decline, the person asks why? They explain that they are Jews and don't eat pork. The person who offered the nice ribs, confused, goes and gets the Pastor or Elder. The Elder or Pastor says 'why you can eat that now, your not under the law'. This pattern repeats itself, first for Passover, then the Holy Days. When Christmas and Easter roll around this couple is supposed to be putting up a tree and hunting Easter Eggs. If they don't, they are probably shunned, or a least given a strong talking to by the Pastor who explains they are to leave that "Jewish stuff" behind, that Christ freed them from it.
If the couple above agrees with the Pastor; he has unknowingly done what 2000 years of persecution and even Hitler could not do. He has caused the Jewish people to cease to exist!.
Next week we will address how Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity are different Theologically and how they each interpret scripture.
Shalom - Rabbi Gavri'el