Key precept: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned…” George Santayana
“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write…I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place.” (Revelation 2:4-5)
What was the Gentile Ephesian church’s first love? Could it be…to love the LORD thy God and keep his commandments?
“Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments…And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them:” (Deuteronomy 7:9=10)
Is the God of the Old Testament different from the God described in the New Testament? At first glance, it certainly seems possible. On one hand, God is depicted as a harsh—even wrathful—judge. On the other, Jesus tells his followers that God is love…
In the second century CE the Christian writer and thinker Marcion of Sinope (c. 85–160 CE) refused to accept Yahweh, the deity described in the Old Testament, as the “Heavenly Father” proclaimed by Jesus.
Marcion concluded that the Old Testament god was…a mere tribal god of the Jewish people, while Jesus preached of a God marked by compassion, love, and mercy. Marcion wrote his Antitheses, in which he contrasts these two beings…
However, when we read the actual source document, we discover there is complete continuity between YHVH / LORD and YHVH’s Savior.
“I am the LORD, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6)
“I and my father are one.” (John 10:30)
~1500 BC – “Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name / way of the LORD...
“The LORD / YHVH / I am / Self-Existent, The LORD GOD / Creator and Giver of life to all the other gods and so the most powerful of them all, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.” (Exodus 34:4-7)
~900 BC – Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him…and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him…And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself…And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah? And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me? As the Lord thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not. And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth. Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord, how I hid an hundred men of the Lord‘s prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water?” (I Kings 16:30-17:3, 18:7-13)
~600 BC – “the punishment of the iniquity…of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom…The LORD hath accomplished his fury; he hath poured out his fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof...For the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, that have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her...they respected not the persons of the priests, they favoured not the elders…They hunt our steps…our end is near…Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven: they pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness. The life / breath of our nostrils, the anointed / messiah of the LORD, was taken in their pits.” (Lamentations by Jeremiah 4:11-20)
~300 BC – “I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant…saith the LORD of hosts / armies…For, behold, the day cometh, that…all that do wickedly…shall burn…up, saith the LORD of hosts / armies…But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings…Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb…I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 3:1, 4:4-6)
~ 33 AD – Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire…Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison…Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him [Jesus]: and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead; And of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things...there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” (Luke 3:1-20, 9:7-9, 13:31-32)
“when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities…this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.” (Matthew 11:1-12)
“Then spake Jesus to…his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not…Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!…outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity…because ye…say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias / Blessed One whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!…Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the LORD. ” (Matthew 23)
So how do people get by claiming that the God of the Old Testament is completely different from the God of the New?
There is a psychological condition called “splitting” found in the psychotic disorder of schizophrenia and Borderline personality disorder, which is called “borderline” precisely because it often hovers on the border of psychosis.
Splitting is a term that came out of classical (psychoanalytical or psychodynamic) schools of thought and refers to an unconscious ego defense mechanism by which a fairly complex entity cannot be accepted into consciousness in its entirety because it contains aspects that are both acceptable to a person as well as unacceptable. [Emphasis added.] Relatively underdeveloped personalities, most especially borderline personalities, have a hard time incorporating into consciousness seemingly contradictory aspects of the same person or thing. So, they unconsciously separate or “split” objects into two categories, seeing the “good” side of a person or thing as the part they find acceptable and the “bad” side of the person or thing as the part they find painful or unacceptable.
Do you see where I’m going with this? The defense mechanism of splitting allows dysfunctional personalities to reject the Old Testament righteous YHVH who punishes sin while believing in a contradictory New Testament YHVH’s Savior who blithely dismisses sin.
One of the ways “New Testament Christians” push out of consciousness the unpalatable God who punishes sin in the Old Testament is the absolute split that has been imposed by Christianity between the Old and New Testaments.
Popular evangelist Andy Stanley…said that Christians need to “unhitch” the Old Testament from their faith…“Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, [Really! This is a statement that demands research.] and my friends, we must as well.”
In his sermon, Stanley expressed his concern that many Christians are turning away from the faith because of certain passages in the Old Testament. He argues the early church moved past the Old Testament for the sake of newly converted Gentile believers…
“Jesus’ new covenant, His covenant with the nations, His covenant with you, His covenant with us…does not need propping up by the Jewish scriptures,” Stanley told the congregation. “The Bible did not create Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus created and launched Christianity. Your whole house of Old Testament cards can come tumbling down…It’s liberating for men and women who are drawn to the simple message that God loves you so much He sent His Son to pave the way to a relationship with you…it’s liberating for people who find it virtually impossible to embrace the dynamic, the worldview, and the values system depicted in the story of Ancient Israel.” [Emphasis added]…
The video of Stanley’s “Aftermath” series on the North Point Community Church’s website has the following introduction.
“If you were raised on a version of Christianity that relied on the Bible as the foundation of faith, a version that was eventually dismantled by academia or the realities of life, maybe it’s time for you to change your mind about Jesus. Maybe it’s time for you to consider the version of Christianity that relies on the event of the resurrection of Jesus as its foundation. If you gave up your faith because of something about or in the Bible, maybe you gave up unnecessarily.”
Let’s consider the reality of a “version” of Christianity that unhitches from the foundation of the Old Testament.
Now, granted there are definitely the old and new testaments, but in context this clearly refers to the “only the fulfillment of one of the many testaments / testimonials made by God, not the categorizations of scripture. For instance, the first documents in our New Testament, the gospels, could be filed under the Old Testament, if you take into consideration that:
- John the Baptist was an Old Testament prophet.
- Jesus lived according to Mosaic law.
- Like John the Baptist, Jesus was universally acknowledge to be a Jewish Rabbi (Master) by his disciples, the common people and even rulers.
- Jesus taught in the synagogues.
- Jesus taught the people to follow Mosaic law.
- Jesus kept the Passover.
The “new” testament / covenant is, by definition, a modification of a previous testament, both of which are made with Israel:
The reason the gospels were written was to prove Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and King of Israel as the lead nation over all the world’s nations according to the Old Testament prophets. The legitimacy of everything documented in the gospels totally depends on being referenced back to Old Testament scripture. Matthew alone cites about 68 Old Testament references to prove Jesus’ claim to be the long-awaited King of Israel.
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah…I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people…for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jer 31:31-37
Did the Jewish writers of the gospels, Acts, and the epistles intend to create a second category of scripture distinct from that already in existence? Peter certainly refers to both OT and NT writings equally as “scripture” with equal authority.
“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture [Isaiah 28:14-18], also quoted by Jesus as documented by Matthew [21:42-45] Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” (I Peter 2:6)
“our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles…which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures…” (II Peter 3:15-16)
Or were they thinking that they were just continuing to add to the accumulation, over time, of existing inspired writings like the previous writers had? How did the current collection of writings come to be authorized as “Old” and “New” Testaments?
The Canon of Scripture
A biblical canon or canon of scripture is a set of texts (or “books”) which a particular Jewish or Christian religious community regards as authoritative scripture. The English word canon comes from the Greek κανών, meaning “rule” or “measuring stick”. Christians were the first to use the term in reference to scripture, but Eugene Ulrich regards the notion as Jewish.
- The books of Moses, consisting of Genesis – Deuteronomy, were preserved over the years by the priests.
- The Psalms of David and other song leaders and wisdom writings of Solomon were authenticated by the priests at the time they were written and likewise safeguarded.
- The historical records known to us as Joshua, Judges, I&II Kings, etc. were written and safeguarded by official scribes (which, interestingly are making a comeback in the medical field where meticulous accuracy is of paramount importance), but there are other historical writings, e.g. Jasher, Enoch and others, that, while referenced in the Bible and included in the first edition of the King James Bible in 1611, aren’t included in later editions and other Bible translations for whatever reason.
The Prophets are the real question. Who decided which of the many sermons and predictions were truly from God and which weren’t? Apparently godly men following the ruling that any prophecy that did not come to pass was thereby proven to be not from God.
“Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live for ever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.” (Zechariah 1:5-6)
Moses, as stated above, is the foundational prophet. All other prophets reference back to his warning that failure to remain true to the covenant YHVH established with Judah would result in losing the blessings of that covenant.
“if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee…
But…if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee…
- Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.
- The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young…
- And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods… (Deuteronomy 28)
Think of it like tough love. When I worked in a substance abuse program, the biggest obstacle to providing rehabilitation services to a drug addict was a parent who continued to enable an adult child in their drug use by allowing them to live at home, providing for all their financial needs, and turning a blind eye to the drug use and the antisocial means by which they obtained their drugs through stealing, dealing, and prostitution. It was only those who hit rock bottom on the streets who admitted their need and accepted rehab.
It is easy to condemn people who avoid taking personal responsibility to deal with moral, emotional, social, and financial problems by turning to socially unacceptable drug use. But other means of avoiding personal responsibility, while socially acceptable, lead just as much to destruction of one’s quality of life, and even more of the lives of those they touch.
Individuals who justify their negligence and outright abuse in family and social roles by cherry-picking “authoritative guidance” from religious leaders, psychologists, politicians, and financial advisors are making life harder for those who lives are inextricably interwoven with theirs, damaging necessary relationships for themselves and resulting in personal and social disruption for others. Can we not see this in the political debates over social issues?
At least we should be able to recognize the ultimate end game with historic power-crazed rulers, religious cult leaders, filthy rich capitalists impoverishing peoples to enrich themselves beyond any possible use of all that money beyond accumulating power, abusive parents and spouses, etc. These are the superstars who are empowered and enriched by the deluded who hold them in awe, ignore not just one but a pattern of blatant sin, and choose to believe the lie that they will benefit by putting their faith and giving their support, their money, their time, their votes in the claims made by these alternate gods to the true God. These are cruel task masters whose treatment of the defenseless runs utterly counter to God’s charter of a fair, just and considerate society written down by Moses.
This divine moral law is embodied in the codes set out in the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah…rules about justice, equality before the law, loving-kindness, social welfare, and the ideals of peace and political freedom…
The concepts of justice, righteousness and freedom come together in the vision of an ideal world articulated by the Prophets. This is expressed in the idea that each of us can make our contribution to making the world a better place. It is often evidenced by a strong Jewish involvement in advancing social justice and in protecting the rights of other minority groups.
And looking at the message of the prophets whose messages were documented and preserved in a canon of scripture, we find this to be the case.
- Isaiah 3:15, 5:8, 10:1-2 “What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the LORD God of hosts.” “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place [for others], that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!” “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!”
- James 1:27 “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
- Jeremiah 5:1, 7:5-11 “Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it.” “Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?”
- Matthew 21:12-14 “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.”
- Ezekiel 5:5-14 “Thus saith the LORD God; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her. And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than the nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round about her…therefore…I will make thee waste, and a reproach among the nations that are round about thee, in the sight of all that pass by.”
- “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down…then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened….Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 24)
Deuteronomy 28:64 “And G-d shall scatter you among all the peoples from one end of the earth to the other…”
What is so astounding is how this unlikely prophecy was literally fulfilled through the Jewish people…
In history, the Jewish people were by far the most scattered people on earth, especially given their population. Since their forced exile from the land of Israel…the Jewish people over time established communities across the globe…and no other people could historically make a similar claim. The Gypsies, who were relatively widespread in many areas, came no where close to the Jewish dispersion across the earth…
the bible clearly predicted a number of times that the Jewish people would be spread out in communities around the globe…and this is precisely what happened. This worldwide dispersal was predicted long before it happened, it was not a likely occurrence, it was not self-fulfilled, and it was not foreseeable. This is a fulfilled prophecy.
There are also Old Testament promises of redemption and reconciliation by a merciful God.
“when all these things are come upon thee…and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations...And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” (Deuteronomy 30:1-6)
When, after the priests returned to Jerusalem for the express purpose of reestablishing the center of worship of the God of Israel, the work was blocked through one administration after another. The prophets Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah / Zacharias were instrumental in energizing the leaders to resume the work, but it wasn’t until Ezra, a priest with peerless credentials, joined the effort that the work of reestablishing the worship of Jehovah really took off. Ezra spurred a Great Awakening in Judaism which can best be understood as the equivalent of the Protestant Reformation.
“Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of…Aaron the chief priest…went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given…For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” Ezra 7:1-10
Like King David before him, Ezra, organized the service of worship to fit current circumstances and ensure the learning and practice of the law by the general population. But it is not enough to attend a communal gathering on holy days – the Word / doctrine should be read / heard / recited daily be so integrated into one’s thoughts that decisions and actions automatically fall into line with God’s thoughts and ways.
The desire to accomplish this led to the practice of gathering for instruction outside the temple in conveniently located local assemblies, known at this time in the local language as “bet ha-keneset (also spelled knesset),” i.e. “house of assembly”. This term was carried forward from the time of Moses and can be recognized in the New Testament letter where the writer warns the Hebrews “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…but exhorting one another…” (Heb 10:25). Knesset translates in the Greek and thence to English, as “synagogue.”
The Great Knesset/Assembly was Ezra’s legacy. This consisted of 120 Jewish scribes, sages, and prophets who were the theocratic rulers. The current Israeli secular governing body derives its name “Knesset” and composition directly from this historical body. The religious Great Knesset ruled on matters such as authenticity of scripture and so canonized inspired writings for Judaism.
The Great Knesset canonized the Jewish writings’ necessary evidence required to prove that Jesus was “the Christ”, i.e. the promised redeemer, in “the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms.” This is “the faith that was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3), called The Old Testament by Christianity and the Tanakh by Judaism.
This was not a pagan practice. It was unique to Judaism, and became integral to the strengthening and expansion of faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob not only among the Jews but among the nations where the Jews were scattered.
The significance of this one practice of assembling locally and regularly for study and worship can be measured by the equivalent torrent of conversions to the God of the Bible during the Protestant Reformation after the translation of scripture into vernacular languages allowed Europeans to do so, and the determined resistance to this practice by the religious establishment in order to stem the draining of their power base, continuing to this day.
With this solid framework in place, Jesus had an educated, knowledgeable jury well equipped to make a judgment that he was indeed the Promised Savior when he was brought to trial, proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by his power over death, first demonstrated by Jesus towards others, then in the ultimate proof demonstrated by God towards Jesus.
And this Tanakh was what grew the “New Testament Church” in its first century. “Christian writers before 100 quote the Old, but never the New, Testament.” This is because all of the New Testament is grounded in the Old Testament, without which there is no validity.
Unlike religions such as Islam, where the Quran is only truly the Quran in the original Arabic…In any language in which the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are faithfully rendered, they are still the word of God,…necessary to bring the gospel message to all people everywhere.
The Old Testament Scriptures of the Hebrew Bible were brought into other common languages for centuries before the coming of Jesus Christ, and indeed were a great help to the early church. [Emphasis added.] After the time of Alexander the Great, Greek became the common language of much of the ancient world…Many Jews dispersed throughout that world began to speak Greek as their primary language. This eventually led to the need for a Greek translation [the Septuagint].
The Septuagint is often quoted verbatim in the New Testament and was very important to the early church. Gentile Christians knew nothing of Hebrew, and so the Septuagint was their Bible…
The Early Church used the Old Testament, namely the Septuagint (LXX) among Greek speakers…The Apostles did not otherwise leave a defined set of new scriptures…[Emphasis added.]
So the “unhitching of the Old Testament from the New” is “another gospel!“
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers…lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (II Timothy 3)
Where did Paul get his doctrine? Only from the Old Testament!
What scripture did Timothy know from childhood? Only the Old Testament!
What scripture was available to show salvation through faith in Christ Jesus / YHVH’s Chosen Savior when Paul wrote to Timothy? Only the Old Testament!
What scripture was profitable throughout Paul’s ministry for instruction in righteousness for followers of Jesus Christ after his death and resurrection? The Old Testament!
Writings attributed to the apostles circulated among the earliest Christian communities….by the end of the 1st century AD…together with some form of the “words of Jesus”; but while Clement valued these highly, he did not refer to them as “Scripture” (“graphe”), a term he reserved for the Septuagint. Justin Martyr, in the early 2nd century, mentions the “memoirs of the Apostles”, which Christians (Greek: Χριστιανός) called “gospels“, and which were considered to be authoritatively equal to the Old Testament…The Old and New Testament canons did not develop independently of each other [emphasis added].
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen [in Jerusalem] travelled as far as Phenice [Lebanon], and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only….when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians…a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11)
Both Replacement Theology and Dispensationalism consider this to be a clear sign of God eliminating Israel as his chosen people in favor of the Gentile “Christian Church”. But what does the Bible say?
“I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew…at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Romans 11:1-5)
“The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love:
- Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar…if those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.
- Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done.” (Jeremiah 31:35-37)
“Christ-ian” is the Greek word for “Messia-nic”. It does not indicate a transfer of power, it is the translation of Hebrew to the Greek by the Greek-speaking Gentiles.
So the Acts 11 text announcing the new identification label of “Christian” is not a doctrinal signal. A right hermeneutical, unbiased, unprejudiced analysis of this passage alerts us to the expanding population of Greek-speaking Gentiles within the ranks of Jewish believers. Biblically, the label is only applied to Gentile believers in Jesus Christ, not to Jewish believers.
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (I Peter 1:1)
But there is more. The alert reader will notice that this term is only used three times in the Bible. That’s odd for a “new religion”.
Peter only uses the term once, and that in a questionable context.
“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” (I Peter 4:14-16)
It may be assumed that being reproached for the name of Christ and suffering as a Christian are equivalent experiences. However, a proper grammatical reading is to treat “reproached for the name of Christ” as a contrary experience from “suffer as a Christian”. Look at the separation of the two terms by the phrasing following “But” and “yet”. A straightforward parsing of this paragraph indicates that Christians were murdering, thieving, doing evil things, and busybodying into social activism. And this impression, and Peter’s recommended response to it, is supported by Paul.
“Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife…contention, not sincerely…What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice.” (Philippians 1:15-18)
Paul never using the term “Christian” in any of his voluminous writings.
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:27-28)
Paul’s answer to Agrippa is most telling of all. He does not apply Agrippa’s use of the label “Christian” to himself. He diplomatically dances around it.
“And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.” (Acts 26:29)
Paul never called himself a Christian.
We must therefore conclude that Paul did not construct a new Gentile religion called Christianity on the rubble of Judaism.
The First Gentile Christians Were Converts to Judaism
Stay with me. Do you recognize now how important it is to put historical writings into their historical context? Let’s go back to the turning point in Christian history – the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“And they crucified him…And set up over his head his accusation written, This Is Jesus The King Of The Jews….
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold,
- the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom;
- and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
- And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Now when the [Roman] centurion, and they [other Romans] that were with him [managing the crucifixion], watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” (Mark 15:37-39)
The text is very clear that the basis for the Roman observers’ conviction / faith that Jesus was the Son of God was based on the associated signs of hyperdimensional power over the natural order at his death.
This is not saving faith. The end game of biblical saving faith is not power for power’s sake. It is power for righteousness’ sake. It is no surprise that Paul’s greatest concentration of teaching on faith was addressed to the Romans.
“But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed (Isaiah 28:16)…For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Joel 2:23).
- How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?
- and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
- and how shall they hear without a preacher?
- And how shall they preach, except they be sent?
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:6-17)
And the word of God used by Paul to convert the Roman Gentiles to faith in YHVH’s Savior was the Hebrew Old Testament.
“And when we came to Rome…Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him. And…Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers…For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. And they said unto him…we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against. And…there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets…And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word…Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” (Acts 28:16-28)
In the preceding post Pick a Side, it was made clear that it took years to bring Gentiles into the church. The Jews were grounded in Moses and the prophets. The Gentiles had to start from square one and learn the Old Testament foundational truths.
One supremely urgent issue that Paul had to deal with was that, based on their different religious educations, the Gentiles and the Jews had very different concepts of “Son of God.” For the average scripturally illiterate person, believing in Jesus as the Son of God meant believing in his immediate earthly kingship. Certain concepts were alien, such as:
- Jesus’ teaching that at that time, “My kingdom is not of this world” and “The kingdom of God is within you“, and
- Paul’s commands to “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”
As discussed fully in the previous post In Earth As In Heaven, for pagan Gentiles, a “son of god” was any human ruler who incarnated that nation’s god to allow that god’s will to be voiced and executed on earth. Even in Western culture, as late as 18th Century, until overthrown by the French Revolution, religion was inseparable from earthly government.
The centurion and his work crew could easily believe that this Jesus King of the Jews had achieved immortality – i.e. godhood – after he died and his soul ascended into Heaven. This was a common occurrence among the pagan divine and semi-divine monarchies within the Roman Empire. Pointedly, Julius Caesar had begun the practice of deification of Roman Emperors after his assassination in the previous generation. Something like President Kennedy who “since his assassination in 1963…has been immortalized in time as a heroic figure.” Only much bigger.
Even in Caesar’s lifetime, after emerging victorious from Rome’s Civil War of 49-45 BC, statues were set up to Caesar as “unconquered god. A special priest was ordained for him, which ranked Caesar not only as divine, but as an equal of Jupiter and Mars. The living Caesar’s honours in Rome were already and unambiguously those of a full-blown god when he was assassinated by Republicans.
A fervent popular cult to divus Julius followed…the Senate soon succumbed to Caesarian pressure and confirmed Caesar as a divus of the Roman state. Caesar’s young heir, his great-nephew Octavian, held ceremonial apotheosis / deification for his adoptive father…Provincial cult centres (caesarea) to the divus Julius were founded… The Imperial cult of ancient Rome…was rapidly established throughout the Empire and its provinces…A deceased emperor held worthy of the honor could be voted a state divinity (divus, plural divi) by the Senate... The granting of apotheosis…allowed living Emperors to associate themselves with a well-regarded lineage of Imperial divi…
As the founding god-ruler of Rome, Caesar established the legitimacy of successive rulers as his dynastic heirs. Interestingly, there were no naturally begotten sons. This was not a problem in Roman society. They simply went through a legal process of adoption as the son of god Julius Caesar, including, as is still the same today, taking their adoptive family name as their new name. In their case, that was “Caesar”. Additionally, in Roman society, an intrinsic element of their political legitimacy was worshiping the god Caesar as a form of ancestor worship.
And this is how the immature Gentile converts from the multitude of nationalities within the Roman empire perceived themselves in a casual reading of the teachings of the apostles.
“God…hath blessed us…unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:1-5)
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…ye are…a royal priesthood, a holy nation, the people of God.” (I Peter 1:1-3, 2:9-10)
Those who allied themselves with the resurrected therefore deified Hero Savior of the Jews, by Roman convention renamed themselves as his sons, using their own empire-wide language for ease of communication among the polyglot nations.
And here is the origin of the word Christ-ians.
Of course, they also, by convention, worshipped him. But as pagans who believed in multiple gods, many didn’t accord this Jesus from Nazareth any special status, other than as Caesar’s competition.
Now that we have the Roman cultural background in place, we can, as in a Shakespearean play, catch the meaning in the oblique messages passed between the Paul and the Romans during his court hearing.
“I am sick when I do look on thee.” Lovesick, or repulsed sick?
“Now when [the Roman governor] Festus was come into the province…the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul…and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove. While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all…I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. I appeal unto Caesar.”
In imperial times, any Roman citizen from any part of the Empire facing trial could express their desire to appeal directly to Caesar. The most famous example of a citizen invoking this right is the apostle Paul. Born a Jew in 4 B.C. in Tarsus in modern-day Turkey, Paul—a Latinized form of his Hebrew name, Saul—was a Roman citizen. Following his arrest by the Romans in A.D. 59, Paul used his status to dramatically halt his trial before Porcius Festus, the governor of Judaea: “Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, ‘You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!’“ (Acts: 25:12).
“And after certain days king [of the Jews] Agrippa [II] and [his sister] Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus. And…Festus declared Paul’s cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by [the previous governor] Felix: About whom…the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him…Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive…when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him. Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth…specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.” (Acts 25)
Once again, we need more historical background to understand what was common knowledge at the time this account was written, about 60 A.D.
The reason the recently appointed Roman governor Festus was “especially” glad to have king Agrippa assist in his legal examination of a Jew is because Agrippa understood those confusing politico-religious wranglings of the chief priests and elders of the Jews, while firmly allied with Rome’s interests, and could keep Festus safe on this tightrope examination, avoiding anything the would cause a problem with either Rome or the Jews.
King Agrippa II, who had been ruling Judea for about 5 years at the time of Paul’s examination, was very much the son of Agrippa I (ruled 41-44) who was “devout in his Judaism, which made him popular with his Jewish subjects.…This desire to please the Jewish people is also seen in his persecution of the early Christian leaders, as described in the book of Acts [where Agrippa I is called by one of his other names, Herod]…Agrippa was a skilled diplomat who knew how to appease both the Roman Emperor and the Jewish populace, staying in the good graces of both.”
King Agrippa II was likewise a skilled diplomat who benefited from good relations with three Roman emperors in succession, in part because he inherited his father’s goodwill with the restless Jewish populace. His Roman benefactors entrusted him with the supervision of the Temple in Jerusalem and the right to appoint the high priest. When the Jews revolted against Rome in 66, he personally went to hot spot Jerusalem to try to negotiate an end to the rebellion, and although his effort was in vain he was a big help to Vespasian when the inevitable war broke out, and during The Year of Four Emperors, as Vespasian clawed his way to the top. He had the means to do so because he had been granted rule [translate taxation] over so many territories during the previous reigns of Claudius and Nero that he was one of the most important rulers in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. In return for his support, Vespasian granted Agrippa even more territory.
What do we know about the Jewish-Roman relations? Was Judea content with Rome’s supervision, like Puerto Rico or the Philippines with America? What we learn is that Judea had been fomenting revolution for at least fifty years, and was a tinderbox needing just one last strike to blow, which if allowed to happen, would result in Festus’ disgrace and demotion by Rome, or even his death by a mob.
Except for the short period of the reign of Herod Agrippa I over all of Palestine from 41-44 C.E., Samaria and Judea fell under the authority of procurators appointed directly from Rome… Life for the Jews under the procurators was exceedingly difficult. For example, Pontius Pilate was described by Agrippa I as unbending and severe with the stubborn, and was accused of bribery, cruelty, and countless murders…There thus emerged within Judaism groups of revolutionaries who looked back to the militaristic Maccabees and their zeal for the Law as great heroes. These “Zealots”…attempted to arouse the people to revolt… Self-styled prophets and messiahs appeared from time to time…
Paul was not so heavenly minded as to be no earthly good. Like Karl Barth, he operated in close connection to his social environment. Previous to the courtroom hearing we are reviewing, Paul had used his insight to his benefit.
“But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council…of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.” (Acts 23:6-10)
Let’s also look at Paul’s next courtroom exchange from this same social perspective. In any examination of a person by a lawyer, psychiatrist, psychologist, police detective, teacher, pastor, etc. the background of all persons involved in the incident and the relationships influencing the individual’s answer to questions are of great significance.
Festus –inherited and greatly inflamed the social unrest problems of his predecessor Felix. “He valued peace with the Jews more than justice and, despite determining his prisoner was innocent“ refused to release Paul. In his quest for a political alliance with the Jewish rulers, Festus publicly dismissed their clear homicidal intentions towards Paul as a simple religious dispute. He actually tried to give up Paul to the Jewish rulers by encouraging him to go back to Jerusalem to be judged by them, knowing it would result in his death. Paul’s only safety net was Festus’ sensible greater fear of Roman over Jewish reprisal if he didn’t treat Paul as the Roman citizen that he was when he appealed to Caesar. You can imagine the efforts of the Jews to get Festus to turn a blind eye on that one. So to ingratiate himself as best he could with the Jews, as a judge, he breaks legal procedure by interrupted Paul’s defense with loud “ruling” that he was insane. This a prior decision would of course dishearten the defendant and would have been designed to disturb his emotional and cognitive ability to defend himself.
Agrippa II – as noted above, the most politically savvy player on stage. All eyes and all ears are on him. They didn’t have Twitter back then, but the bush telegraph would very effectively transmit every word back to Rome, especially to his rivals, in Rome’s toxic political environment.
Berenice – Agrippa’s sister. “Agrippa and Berenice’s childhood was filled with instability and they inherited the “bad blood” seen in all of Herod the Great’s (73—4 BC) descendants...Berenice (left) and Agrippa lived together in Rome and soon it was rumored they were incestuous. Not much shocked the Romans, but this was prohibited in all the laws of the ancient world…Agrippa’s contemporary, the Roman Juvenal (c. 55-130 AD) in his Satire 6, made open fun of Agrippa and Berenice… ” You can’t possibly expect that anyone hearing Agrippa’s statement believed that on the basis of this first and only sermon from Paul that he was seriously considering “repent, and be baptized, for the remission of sin” publicly, among individuals well acquainted with his illicit relationship to his sister, and in doing so humiliating his sister-lover. There is a reason that Luke included her name in his account of the proceedings. So that we can factor this piece of information into the context of the bland written words.
Paul – clearly stirring up way too much trouble among the troublesome Jews for no earthly benefit to the profit-motivated Roman rulers. No Roman ruler is going to support him.
So with this backdrop, can we not pick up the supremely political overtones of a gifted diplomat?
“Agrippa: Thou art permitted to speak for thyself.
Paul: I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.
My manner of life from my youth…know all the Jews; Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?…
This is a rhetorical question. Obviously, Agrippa’s benefactors, the Caesars, were all believed to have become immortal after death.
At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven…I heard a voice speaking unto me…I am Jesus…I have appeared unto thee…to make thee a minister and a witness… [that] the Gentiles…may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
Obviously that would be the JEWS! When we place this statement in its social setting, we realize that Paul just grossly insulted his Roman judges! They had executed this Jesus as the leader of a revolution against Rome, they despised the Jewish population, which for the most part had been ground into abject poverty by Roman rule. The only prosperous Jews were the Hellenized, non-religious Jews.
The offer to grant a Jewish inheritance to a wealthy Roman ruler was not merely laughable, it was utterly insane, as Festus did indeed point out.
And as for receiving forgiveness of sins – that was a public slap in the face to Agrippa and his sister Berenice. It could only be their long acclimation to public slurs and insinuations, and their social training, like the Brits’ stiff upper lip, that kept them from betraying their anger at this insult. But make no mistake, the audience got it.
And Paul was burned right there. So, unlike incompetent Festus, Agrippa smoldered in silence, patiently allowing Paul to continue in the certain knowledge that, given enough rope, this rash Paul would hang himself.
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed…the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me…
I continue unto this day…saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come…
King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.
Way to go Paul! Put King Agrippa on the hot seat, in public. Politicians love that, don’t they?
Paul has just handed Agrippa a seriously problematic Yes / No question where either answer lands him in trouble. “Yes” appeases the Zealots among the Jews but earns outrage from the Romans battling these Zealots. “No” alienates the ultrasensitive Jews which worsens the difficult political position of the Romans who tactfully accepted every conquered nation’s gods. But as a highly skilled politician, Agrippa recognized that Paul had also just handed him his trump card, and he responds, of course with a smile,
Agrippa: Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
On the right hand we have the Romans and the elite Jews breaking the tension as they burst out in raucous laughter at Agrippa’s perfectly honed sarcastic response to Paul’s insults. This clever repartee will definitely make the rounds at the social gatherings in Palestine and back to the gossip in Rome, with its accompanying positive publicity more than compensating for Agrippa’s humiliation from Paul’s outrageous public condemnation.
But there’s more. On the left [sinister] hand we have Paul, perceived to be a fish out of water, who has just been thrown a baited hook with which to reel him in as a ringleader in one of the Zealot factions revolting against Rome. This Christ was an open challenge to Caesar’s political hegemony.
Will Durant, famed author of the 11 volume History of Civilization, devotes an entire book entitled Caesar and Christ to this challenge. It which concludes with “The Triumph of Christianity”.
Bear in mind, Durant is a secular historian and his perspective is political. His perspective is also proven accurate when we see what came to pass after a critical mass of membership and leadership shifted from the Jews to the Gentiles. The Roman state religious-political complex substituted worship of the Christ for worship of the Caesar, with minimal changes in pagan practices.
the Kingdom of God was established on earth by Jesus Christ in the year 33 AD, in the form of His Church, led by Peter.…And where is the Kingdom of God on earth? It would be in the Tabernacle at each and every Catholic Church, where Jesus Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the Eucharist! He’s waiting for you to come see Him and talk to Him, right now! And the really good news is that everyone who is in the state of grace is a prince or princess of this Kingdom, right now!
But Paul is Spirit-led. He doesn’t take the bait.
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves; But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10:16-20)
As skillfully as Agrippa he slips out of their grasp. He doesn’t identify himself as a Christ-one, a rebel against Rome. Instead, he replies, “I wish you were as I.”
And what was Paul? Consistently throughout his ministry he stated “I am a Pharisee.” (Acts 23:6), the most straitest sect of the Jewish religion.
For Paul, Jesus’ legitimacy as “that Prophet” was finalized, but not based, on his resurrection to immortal godhood, seen or reported. It was based on Jesus’ rigorous adherence to Moses and the Prophets who were all united in exhorting that spiritual renewal through repentance and identification with Christ’s death and resurrection preceded the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth.
“my beloved…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure…That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:12-15)
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God…Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:50, 58)
God works through unity with sanctified humanity, whereas carnal Christians looked to the Savior to do all the work of saving them from hell and life’s problems while they continued to live out their emotional and physical impulses.
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would…Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Galatians 5:16-24
“henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind...alienated from the life of God…being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:” (Ephesians 4:17-21)
Another problem Rome had with Christianity was that, whereas the Roman emperor was declared to be the son of god, the prophets of this Christ proclaimed that any ordinary person from any nation on earth – Egypt, Greece, Persia, India, etc. – was eligible to become a spiritually empowered son of God! This certainly upped the ante of the opposition!
Why would anyone – the Jewish believers or previously pagan converts or the Roman rulers – believe such an incredulous claim offering to transform humans into superhuman sons of God, to the point of empire-wide attempts to snuff out this religion?
Because of the credibility of the account of the supernaturally empowered people of this God from ages past – Adam, Noah, Abraham, the Exodus, King David, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, etc.
The only way that that the faith called Christianity had any basis for acceptance in the first century, or continues to have any basis for acceptance in the 21st century, is the continuity of faith from the Old Testament saints of God.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Romans 1:16-20)
And since the division of humanity into nations to escape Antichrist’s iron fist, the saints of God have found shelter in the Hebrew nation.
The traditional title “To the Hebrews” is very old. Clement of Rome seems to know the letter by this title late in the first century…In one of our earliest manuscripts…Hebrews follows Romans, indicating the book was viewed as part of the Pauline collection. In the King James Version of the Bible (1611), the book was given the title, “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.”
The Council of Carthage (397) and also the Council of Carthage (419)…took place under the authority of St. Augustine (354–430)… Their decrees also declared by fiat that Epistle to the Hebrews was written by Paul, for a time ending all debate on the subject.
The importance of this document is signified by the arguments raised against Paul’s authorship of it.
Was Paul the author? There are certainly some similarities between Paul’s theology and the theology of Hebrews…There are other bits of circumstantial evidence, such as the fact that the author of Hebrews, like Paul, was an associate of Timothy (Hebrews 13:23). Yet…the Greek writing style of Hebrews is very different from Paul’s other letters. Hebrews has some of the finest and most polished Greek in the New Testament. Paul’s style in the letters definitely written by him is much rougher, less refined, and more informal…The vocabulary of Hebrews is also very different from Paul’s, including 169 words not found elsewhere in the New Testament (NT)…
When we place Paul’s epistles in chronological rather than canonical order, it becomes crystal clear why Paul, unlike in all his other letters, didn’t identify himself as the author. It may also explain the difference in style of Greek language style. Paul’s authority had just been soundly rejected by his base of support. If he was going to get his message across, they would have to read it first, and accept it on its own merits, rather than reject it out of hand from his name on page 1. The argument regarding the Greek writing style is easily answered by Paul’s reliance on his amanuensis Luke. These clerks were customarily used throughout the Roman empire, as much as an executive dictates to a secretary in our day. Paul additionally reports poor eyesight.
“Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And…I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me…Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.” (Galatians 4:13-16, 6:11)
It was the custom of St. Paul to add a few words of parting benedictory encouragement or admonition in his own handwriting, partly as a mark of his own personal interest in his readers, and partly as a precaution against forgery. (See especially Galatians 6:11, and 2 Thessalonians 3:17.) We have observed in the course of this Commentary how frequently the involved and broken style is to be accounted for by this habit of dictation, and, as it would seem, not very punctilious revision. We have the thoughts and words of the Apostle as they came warm from his own mind.
It makes sense that at the end of his ministry, while imprisoned, Paul had more time, and relied more on his trusted assistant, to allow Luke to refine and polish this message to its utmost clarity.
Perhaps most significantly, the author of Hebrews claims to be a second generation Christian who received his gospel from those who came before him.
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;” (Hebrews 2:3)
Here we see one of those interpretations that fits a pre-conceived purpose, which in this case is to deny Paul’s authorship. While “at the first began to be spoken by the Lord” can with certainty be grammatically referenced back to Jesus from “God…Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2), the second phrase “confirmed unto us by them that heard him” does not rule out Paul as being among “us” who confirmed his personal salvation and understanding of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ with those who heard Jesus. See, for examples, Acts 9:10-17 and Galatians 1:13-18. Oddly, though, the word “Hebrew” is not found in the letter. How, then, is this letter assigned to Hebrew readers?
there are strong indications that the readers are Jewish Christians…The writer assumes his readers are familiar with OT stories,referring to them without elaboration with statements like, “as you know . . .” (12:17). The author presupposes knowledge of Jewish ritual, including the layout of the Jewish tabernacle and the functions of the sacrificial system. The recipients also seem to be aware of extra-biblical Jewish traditions, such as the role of angels in mediating the OT law (2:2; cf. acts 7:38; Galatians 3:19…Finally, throughout the book the author speaks of the superiority of the new covenant to the old and warns believers not to go back. The implication is that they are in danger of returning to their former faith, that is, to Judaism.
And here is where we find the reason for the arguments against the historic record of Paul as the author. And that is to file this letter as being to the Jews, and not to Paul’s Hebrew Gentile congregations. Remember, while Jews belong to the Hebrew nation, not all Hebrews are Jews. See the post Father Abraham if this is news to you.
The reason the letters is entitled Hebrews is because of the clear internal evidence for the identity of the intended recipients of this letter, not as Jews, but as the people of God drawn into one nation, reversing the scattering under Antichrist Nimrod at the tower of Babel.
- God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers [including pre-Israelite Abraham] by the prophets (Hebrews 1:1)
- “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; [as the Promised Seed of the Woman promised to all humanity in Genesis 3:15)…he took on him the seed of Abraham [the father of many nations]. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people… ” (Hebrews 2:14-17)
- Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus…the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.” (Hebrews, 3:1, 5:9-1)
- Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens…Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest [acting as priests] by the blood of Jesus..And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: (Hebrews 8:1, 10:19, 12:28)
This New Testament book is clear evidence that the Hebrew nation in existence in the Old Testament continues to be the assembly in the New Testament to which people from every nation are gathered back as God’s people. This is confirmed by Jude’s testimony.
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3)
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus [Jewish and Gentile believers] and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
- According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
- Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, [i.e. to belong to his nation] according to the good pleasure of his will…
- having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ,
It is crucial for a correct understanding of Paul’s doctrine of the New Testament Church that we recognize its place in the doctrine of the letter to the Hebrews.
“Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the [historic] order of Melchisedec.
Remember – “forever, eternity” is not an endless future starting with a point in time. It is the opposite of time. Like a circle it has no beginning as well as no end. Jesus didn’t become a priest in the order of Melchisedec at a point in time, he was always Melchisedec.
“the Apostle and High Priest of our profession [of faith], Christ Jesus…was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house / dynasty / family hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his household / Judaism, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be SPOKEN AFTER; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose household are we…” (Hebrews 3:1-6)
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto ALL them [past, present and future to this writing] that obey him; called of God an high priest after the [historic] order of Melchisedec.” (Hebrews 4:14)
Ergo, while in transition to becoming fully spiritual, sons of God from all time are united together in the existing United Nations / brotherhood of saints, AKA Hebrews since Father Abraham.
Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God.” (Hebrews 5:14)
OK, lets go back to the first principles of the oracles of God to the Hebrews.
Abraham, the father of the original assembly of post-flood international believers before there was a nation of Israel, is stated in the New Testament to continue to be the father of the same assembly of believers after the establishment of the nation of Israel.
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?…what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness… faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness…the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was…through the righteousness of faith…of Abraham; who is the father of us all…
Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4)
Can we understand that becoming Abraham’s seed / children is a real national identity, based on established social principles, in effect during – and since – Abraham’s day? When we apply the full meaning of father as we’ve come to understand it in ancient culture (see post on Father Abraham if you don’t understand this), we understand the extent of Paul’s claim to Gentile believers. He is not allegorizing a relationship. He is stating a fact that Gentiles have equal standing with the physical descendants because all the children only qualify as legitimate children when they are acknowledged by the Father.
Notice that Paul inserts a plug for his unique ministry of eliminating apartheid within the body of believers when he states that Abraham is the father “of us all.” More to the point here, notice exactly what it is that Abraham and his seed are promised – to be heirs of the world, not just a piece of it as given to Israel. Paul is claiming the inheritance lost to Satan in the garden of Eden.
“O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth. He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet. He shall choose our inheritance for us, For God is the King of all the earth…God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness. The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham.” (Psalm 47)
Those who are identified with The Promised Seed / Messiah / Christ through the faith of Abraham are granted fellow-citizenship with all the saints, including Abraham’s godly ancestors like Shem, Noah, Enoch, etc. back to Adam back in the day when there was only one language, ergo one nation. God is restoring his one world government.
“The elders” referenced in the letter to the Hebrews, the ancestors of all humanity, were justified by acting on their faith in the word of YHVH – which is whatever God said to that recipient in his time and culture – and this remains the way of salvation for believers of all time.
“who shall stand when he appeareth?…I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against [those] that…fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. For I am YHVH, I change not; (Malachi 3:2-6)
“the gospel of Christ / Messiah / Promise of Redemption from sin and death is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: The just shall live [vs be condemned on the day of judgment] by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)
- [Genesis 1-2] Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
- For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Romans 1:16-20)
- [Genesis 4] By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh [in the present].
- the first of many men to be persecuted and killed for acting on God’s notice that “without shedding of blood is no remission” of sin. (Hebrews 9:22)
- [Genesis 5] By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death…for…he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is [in the present] a rewarder of them that diligently seek him under the direst circumstances testing our faith.
- Three references to “translation” from mortal to immortal without going through death allow us to establish a pattern and determine that translation occurs to believers during times of great tribulation from the followers of false, i.e. lying, gods. The following is a bare bones summary elaborated upon in a later post.
- “The words of the blessing of Enoch, according to which he blessed the chosen and righteous, who must be present on the Day of Distress, which is appointed, for the removal of all the wicked and impious…Behold! He comes with ten thousand Holy Ones, to execute judgement upon them, and to destroy the impious, and to contend with all flesh, concerning everything that the sinners, and the impious, have done and wrought against Him…you sinners, you have not persevered in, nor observed, the [antediluvian] Law of the Lord…for all you sinners there will be no salvation. For the chosen; there will be light, joy, and peace, and they will inherit the Earth…And then the Most High, the Great and Holy One, spoke, and sent Arsyalalyur to the son of Lamech…”Say to him, in My Name; hide yourself! And reveal to him the end, which is coming, because the whole Earth will be destroyed. A deluge is about to come on all the Earth; and what is in it will be destroyed.
And now teach him, so that he may escape, and his offspring may survive for the whole Earth…And from everything, Enoch had been hidden, and none of the sons of men knew where he was hidden, or where he was, or what had happened. And all his doings were with the Holy Ones, and with the Watchers, in his days.” (Book of Enoch)
- “the word of the LORD came unto him / Elijah, saying…hide thyself…when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD… [Obadiah] hid an hundred men of the Lord‘s prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water… the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table…Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there…Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life…and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” (I Kings 17-19, II Kings 2:11)
- “in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure...it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, WHEN the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” (II Thessalonians 1:1-11) Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall…he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:29-31)
- [Genesis 6] By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
- great-grandson of Enoch and heir to his preaching ministry during a time when wickedness escalated to such a degree that by the time God brought judgment only 8 persons were left to save. This will be the same situation in the future for believers. “then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened…as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:21-22, 37)
- [Genesis 12] By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned [rented, not purchased his home] in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
- [Genesis 21] Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
- [Genesis 22] By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
- [All throughout history] Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but…were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth…But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”
- Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
The New Testament exhortation to the Hebrew nation states unequivocally that the way of salvation through faith was given to mankind at the beginning of time. Faith in what? That Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross to save us from our sin? How were people to know that in the 4,000 years prior to Jesus’ arrival on earth? Are people who have never heard about Jesus Christ just out of luck, “Oh well!”? It is commonly believed so, on the basis of Jesus’ statement that: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6), and However, if you read the post Moses, remember that Name = Way / Attributes. For a brief recap here:
And Moses said unto the LORD…if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee…And the LORD said unto Moses…I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee…LORD / YHVH / Creator, Lifegiver, merciful, gracious, longsuffering, goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; ” (Exodus 33-34)
Can we not recognize that what YHVH said to Moses is exactly what YHVH’s Savior said to his disciples? Jesus makes absolutely no sense whatsoever without knowing Moses’ written account.
“ye believe in God, believe also in me…I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself…And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord…how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me..Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me:” (John 14:1-11)
The disciples got it. It is only because YHVH was one with his promised savior that salvation can come through him.
“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of YHVH’s Promised Savior of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole…Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:1-12)
If we take the word of God at face value, and avoid making anachronistic assumptions to fit a systematic theology, we understand that faith in YHVH’s Promised Savior is not a new religion. Faith in the name / way of YHVH is the same in both New and Old Testaments.
And works are also required in both New and Old Testaments. If you don’t understand that the restoration of oneness with Almighty God is the objective of redemption and the means of salvation, read the post on Redemption. This is why God equates salvation with marriage, to enlighten us as to his expectations for his people.
“The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim;
- which conceived, and bare him a son. And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel [God sows – in this case vengeance]; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel…
- And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Lo-ruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.
- she conceived, and bare a son. Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel [when God sows his Seed]…
she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now…
And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi my husband, two shall be one; and shalt call me no more Baali my master…And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies…in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD…
Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee…For the children of Israel shall…return, and seek…and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 1-3)
We understand that sexual activity does not make a marriage, but sexual activity is a defining element of the legally acknowledged union between two people with all the benefits that accrue from taking on the identity of the marriage partner. Likewise, acts do not make oneness with God, but acts are required once a union with God is requested, or the hyper-dimensional union – required for eternal life – doesn’t happen.
This totally makes sense. We understand on a human level that marriage can be annulled if it is not not consummated by sexual activity. It can also be annulled if one of the parties entered into the arrangement by deceit or with the intention of defrauding the other, or if one of the parties was mentally incapacitated, including being too young to fully understand the terms of the contract. Infidelity and abandonment are grounds for divorce.
“a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:17-26)
Besides tracking through Genesis in the letter to the Hebrews, Paul welds a connection between the account of the behavior of Hebrews in Deuteronomy and his contemporary Gentile Hebrews in another of his letters, in which he calls the ancient Hebrews “our fathers”.
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers…were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and…did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent
- we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
- Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
- Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
- Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
- Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (I Corinthians 10:1-11)
The only way we can learn from the Old Testament examples is to study the Old Testament and apply it to our own lives.
early Christians…made various translations of the Greek Septuagint [Old Testament]…during the 2nd-9th centuries, including Latin, Coptic, Ethiopic, Arabic, Gothic, Armenian, Georgian, and Slavonic. In the late first or the second century AD…the Old Testament was also separately translated into a prominent eastern dialect of Aramaic known as Syriac. This translation…was readily embraced and transmitted by Christians. For these reasons and more, it is unclear whether the translation was first produced by Jews, Christians, or perhaps a community who identified as both…
In the fourth century…a scholar named Jerome…produce a fresh Latin translation [of the Old Testament] directly from the Hebrew [instead of from the Greek Septuagint]. Jerome relied on the assistance of Jewish scholars…Jerome’s translation from the Hebrew became the most popular translation in Western Europe for over a thousand years, later known as the Latin Vulgate.
The use of Latin in the Church started in the late fourth century with the split of the Roman Empire…in 395. Before this split, Greek was the primary language of the Church as well as the language of the eastern half of the Roman Empire.
Ecclesiastical Latin, also called Church Latin… is a form of Latin initially developed to discuss Christian thought and later used as a lingua franca by the Medieval and Early Modern upper [educated] class of Europe. It includes words from Vulgar Latin and Classical Latin (as well as Greek and Hebrew) re-purposed with Christian meaning…
What especially differentiates Ecclesiastical Latin from Classical Latin is its utility as a language for translating, since it borrows and assimilates constructions and borrows vocabulary from the koine Greek, while adapting the meanings of some Latin words to those of the koine Greek originals, which are sometimes themselves translations of Hebrew originals…
The British scholar Alcuin, tasked by [the French king who in 800 AD was crowned Roman Emperor] Charlemagne with improving the standards of Latin writing in France…The Carolingian reforms soon brought the new Church Latin from France to other lands where Romance was spoken. [Emphasis added.]
Spearheading the Protestant Reformation from 1522-1534, Martin Luther translated the complete Bible into the German vernacular from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. This…translation of the Bible into the vernacular was potentially as revolutionary as arguing canon law and the burning of the papal bull. Luther’s goal was to equip every German-speaking Christian with the ability to hear the Word of God…one of the most significant acts of the Reformation…Luther’s faithfulness to the language spoken by the common people was to produce a work which they could relate to… Luther’s vernacular Bible was present in virtually every German-speaking Protestant’s home, and there can be no doubts regarding the Biblical knowledge attained by the German common masses….German humanist Johann Cochlaeus complained that
‘Luther’s New Testament was so much multiplied and spread by printers that even tailors and shoemakers, yea, even women and ignorant persons who had accepted this new Lutheran gospel, and could read a little German, studied it with the greatest avidity as the fountain of all truth. Some committed it to memory, and carried it about in their bosom. In a few months such people deemed themselves so learned that they were not ashamed to dispute about faith and the gospel not only with Catholic laymen, but even with priests and monks and doctors of divinity.”
The existence of the translation was a public affirmation of reform, such as might deprive any elite or priestly class of exclusive control over words…allow the common people to become aware of the issues at hand and develop an informed opinion. The common individual would thus be given the right to have a mind, spirit and opinion, to exist not as an economic functionary but as subject to complex and conflicting aspirations and motives. In this sense, Luther’s vernacular Bible acted as a force towards the liberation of the German people…
Luther’s Bible also made a large impression on educational reform throughout Germany…a stimulus towards universal education, since everyone should be able to read in order to understand the Bible…The Protestant states of Germany became educational states…
Finally, Luther’s translation influenced the English translations by William Tyndale and Myles Coverdale who in turn inspired many other translations of the Bible such as the King James Version of 1611. It also inspired translations as far as Scandinavia and the Netherlands. In a metaphor, it was Luther who ‘broke the walls’ of translation in western Europe and once such walls had fallen, the way was open to all, including some who were quite opposed to Luther’s beliefs. Luther’s Bible spread its influence for the remolding of Western European culture in the ferment of the sixteenth century. The worldwide implications of the translation far surpassed the expectations of even Luther himself…
The King James Bible—which has been called “the most influential version of the most influential book in the (English) world, in what is now its most influential language” and which in the United States is the most used translation, is still considered a standard among Protestant churches and used liturgically in the Orthodox Church in America—contains 80 books: 39 in its Old Testament, 14 in its Apocrypha, and 27 in its New Testament.
The Apocyrpha is in the King James Bible? Enoch and Jasher? That’s interesting. Since it is on the King James Bible that the most fundamentalist New Testament Christians base their beliefs.
Adherents of the King James Only movement, largely members of evangelical, conservative holiness movement…and Baptist churches, believe that…all other English translations which were produced after the KJV are corrupt…
“The Inspired KJV Group” – This faction believes that the KJV itself was divinely inspired. They view the translation to be an English preservation of the very words of God and that they are as accurate as the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts found in its underlying texts. Often this group excludes other English versions based on the same manuscripts, claiming that the KJV is the only English Bible sanctioned by God and should never be changed…
“The KJV As New Revelation” – This group claims that the KJV is a “new revelation” or “advanced revelation” from God…Adherents to this belief may also believe that the original languages, Hebrew and Greek, can be corrected by the KJV. This view is often called “Ruckmanism” afterPeter Ruckman, a staunch advocate of this view.
Unlike religions such as Islam, where the Quran is only truly the Quran in the original Arabic, Biblical Christianity has always believed that…any language in which the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are faithfully rendered, they are still the word of God, and so the Scriptures should be translated into any language necessary to bring the gospel message to all people everywhere.
From the beginning, the New Testament was built on the necessity of translation. Not only does it command the gospel be preached to all nations, the New Testament itself models translation to the common tongue. Every time it quotes the Old Testament, it does so in Greek rather than the original Hebrew. In several places in the gospels, words of Jesus or others are given in their original Aramaic and then immediately translated, and it is likely that other portions of Jesus’ words were originally in Aramaic as well, but the New Testament offers them in the Greek language that the original readers would have known. Acts 22:1-21 presents a speech of Paul that it explicitly says he gave in the “Hebrew dialect,” but it records the speech in a Greek translation so that the reader can understand it. The New Testament is itself an exercise in bringing all things into the common, everyday language of the readers. It is no wonder that that Early Christians took up the cause of translation in earnest…
Syriac Gospels and other texts are clearly being cited by eastern Christian writers by the fourth century…we have found Syriac New Testament Manuscripts not only in and around Syria but as far east as India and China…
the Latin translation of the New Testament is…possibly as early as the second century and certainly by the third…using the street-level, colloquial Latin of popular, every-day speech rather than the literary Latin of high works of art or academia…
Coptic (the language of the native peoples of Egypt)…have surviving manuscripts…from the late third or early fourth century…The early Christians…produced translations in each of the major dialects.
The Armenian language first developed an alphabet around 406 AD. An Armenian translation of the entire Bible existed by 414. Early Christians were obviously very zealous about bringing the Scriptures into the languages of the people. There were also very ancient translations of the New Testament into Palestinian Aramaic, Georgian, Ge’ez (Ethiopic), Arabic, Nubian, Persian, Sogdian (Middle Persian), Gothic, Slavonic, and others. The Early centuries of Christianity thus saw the Scriptures translated into a variety of vernacular tongues as the gospel spread throughout the known world…[emphasis added.]
It should be evident from King James Bible that those who split the New Testament from the Old, and Israel from a Gentile Church, are loving and believing a lie. What is so disturbing about this phenomenon is that these are the same people who staunchly claim to be the heart and soul of biblical Christianity.
The only way that the Dispensational view works is to take the original language out of the equation and justify their doctrine based on only the King James interpretation of the Scripture. This is understandable considering the large majority of Christians that are holding firm to the belief that the King James version is the only accepted version of the Gospel…We are instructed to study the Scripture to show ourselves approved and to light a path during the time of trial, not to divide the word to justify our translation. (Psalm 119:105)
The Dispensationalists want to twist the word to justify their translation, believing this brings light unto the understanding of Scripture. The basic principle behind this translation is to completely disregard the entire Old Testament and the Gospels as they were written for only the Jews and that only the portion of Scripture written for the Gentiles is relevant for the Church…You want me to believe that disregarding all the Old Testament Prophets and the words of our Savior Jesus Christ will fulfill the Gospel to the Church? Come on, man!! This is complete heresy if you could label the teaching!! There is no way that I am going to discount the teachings of my Savior Jesus Christ and believe that He was not talking to his followers during the end, when he depicted the coming calamities within Matthew 24.
I understand that this fits your doctrine to justify your stance of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture (which is also false and not supported by your doctrine) but how can you call yourselves a follower of Christ when you no longer follow His words?…
You need to stop trying to divide the Word and understand that the entire Word is relevant and needed for our Generation!…
When you don’t divide the Word of God and you understand that the Book of Revelation is the bookend, then you understand the warning placed within the book. You must not remove or add any portion of the book, from Genesis to Revelation, to understand the writings within. The Dispensational view removes about 7/8ths of the Bible to support their claim of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Without removing these portions of the Bible, they have nothing to stand upon!!
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life” (Revelation 22: 18-19)
This sounds disturbingly like the warning given at the beginning of Revelation, to what became a predominantly Gentile church at Ephesus.
“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write…I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place.” (Revelation 2:4-5)
Jesus called the church of Ephesus a candlestick for good reason.
It was the New York City of Asia Minor in the New Testament era. Pliny once called it, lumen Asiae, the light of Asia.1 In the first century, only Rome [Roman capitol], Alexandria [Egyptian capitol] and Antioch of Syria [capitol of Greek territory of Asia Minor] surpassed Ephesus in importance. It is no wonder that the apostle Paul made it the center of his ministry for three years (Acts 20:31). In fact, outside of the church in Jerusalem, one could argue that the church in Ephesus was the most prominent congregation in the first forty years of church history. [Emphasis added.] From its beginnings in Acts 19 circa 52 AD, to Rev. 2, as late as 90 AD, the church in Ephesus figures prominently in Scripture as the setting for the books of Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and possibly the epistles of John. It also enjoyed some of the greatest Bible teachers of its day, including Paul, Apollos, Aquila and Priscilla, Timothy and John. Given the number of verses written to Ephesus or from Ephesus (ie. 1 Corinthians), we know more about it than almost any other city mentioned in the New Testament.
What was their first love? If we stay with prime themes and definitions of the orator author of the warning to Ephesus, it must be that they had obeyed the commandment to love the Lord / YHVH their God and love each other. “the Pharisees…asked him a question…which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:32-39)
Beyond that, they must have demonstrated love for one another.
“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:22-23)
And the record in Acts regarding the establishment of the Ephesian church bear this out. The Jewish and Gentile believers were united, and so were powerful witnesses not only in Ephesus but throughout all Asia.
“Paul…came to Ephesus…And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from [the synagogue], and separated the disciples [from the unbelievers in the synagogue], disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul…And [an] evil spirit…said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed…not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth….And the whole city was filled with confusion…And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people. But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” (Acts 19)
It was through the Jews that Christianity was first introduced into Ephesus. The original community was under the leadership of Apollo ( 1 Corinthians 1:12 ). They were disciples of St. John the Baptist, and were converted by Aquila and Priscilla. Then came St. Paul , who lived three years at Ephesus to establish and organize the new church…
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, written at the end of his ministry, hammers home this unity between the Gentile and Jewish believers with an urgency not found in any of his other letters. The Jewish War was starting and Paul knew that Yeshua’s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem would also destroy the Jerusalem church. The Ephesian church was the logical place to transfer leadership of Christ’s church.
“ye being in time past Gentiles…without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us…that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles…fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel…bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named…That he would grant you…to know the love of Christ…
I…beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation [leadership] wherewith ye are called [during a tumultuous time]…forbearing one another [Jews and Gentiles] in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all…Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us…Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.” (Ephesians 2,3, 4, 5, 6:24)
Paul’s first letter to his disciple Timothy indicates that Timothy was one of the first leaders of this church. This reading is supported by the early Church historian Eusebius.
Remember that Timothy was a prime example of a believer under the New Covenant who remained a law-abiding Jew. As Paul’s disciple and successor, he too was commissioned to incorporate uncircumcised Gentiles with circumcised Jews into the saving faith of “our father Abraham“.
However, Paul’s second letter to Timothy reports that not only the Ephesian church and the entire region under its leadership had turned away from him and his doctrine of unity between Jewish and Gentile believers. Since he tells Timothy to do the work of an evangelist, evidently Timothy had been voted out of the church’s pastorship.
“To Timothy, my dearly beloved son…thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me…I charge thee therefore…Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry [to combine Jews and Gentiles into one body of faith]….Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world…And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. (II Timothy)
History validates the deduction that the church at Ephesus had fallen away from Paul’s doctrine of the unity in the church of uncircumcised Gentiles with circumcised Jews.
Many Christians & Jews are unaware of the fact that for the first 40 years (up to 70 years) after Yeshua (Jesus) ascended into heaven, to sit at the right hand with all Power & Authority, believers in Yeshua were predominately Jewish. These Jewish believers still followed Torah, kept Kosher, kept Shabbat, and worship in the Temple and synagogue…
believing & non-believing Jews coexisted, sitting in the same synagogue, and attending the same temple….Jerusalem was between 1/3 & ½ believers in Yeshua before the destruction of the Temple…While many Jews did not agree that Yeshua was Messiah, they respected the believers for their lifestyle & devotion.
The first major split occurred between 68-70 AD/CE. As Roman armies gathered to besiege Jerusalem , Believers were able to flee the city, heeding Yeshua’s words in Matt 24…This action labeled the believers as traitors in the eyes of many Jews…
Soon after 70 AD, [Jewish] Christians returned to Jerusalem…meeting at the “Church of the Apostles” on Mount Zion, near the Roman military camp (Cyril of Jerusalem; Epiphanius, Treatise on Weights and Measures; Itinerarium Egeriae; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History).
However…[in the next generation] a major rebellion surfaced again. The Bar Kokhba revolt seems to have been inflamed by the plans of Emperor Hadrian to include Roman temples in the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and particularly upon the site of the Temple of Yahweh, which was revealed when he visited the city around 130 AD…Yet, the reasons for Hadrian coming to Jerusalem and rebuilding the city seem to be connected with his mission to defeat Christianity [emphases here and below added]. Earlier in his reign, Hadrian had begun to devise plans to eradicate Christianity from the Roman Empire due to its beliefs and worldview that were completely opposite to the pagan Roman way of thinking, and its rapid spread across the Empire in all social classes over the last several decades…Hadrian believed that Christianity could be more effectively eliminated through ideological policies rather than executions…hoping to defeat Christianity intellectually and syncretizing the worship of Christ into the Roman pantheon, apparently even offering to place a statue of Christ in Rome (Golan, “Hadrian’s Decision to Supplant Jerusalem by Aelia Capitolina”). However, the Christians rejected this offer of syncretism and modification of Christianity into a part of the Roman religious system. The failure seems to have spurred Hadrian to attempt another strategy, involving the paganization of sites related to Jesus and Christianity. Knowing that Jerusalem had been central to Jesus and Christianity, Hadrian went to the city with this new plan. Rebuilding Jerusalem and founding it as a Roman colony in place of the ruins, Hadrian renamed the city Aelia Capitolina in honor of his family name and the god Jupiter. The province was expanded and renamed Syria Palaestina, supplanting Israel with Philistia. While this act certainly erased historical associations, it also directly challenged Jesus and Christianity by making the very name of the city into a Roman deity and Emperor, attempting to show the supremacy of Rome, its gods, and its Emperor…sites in the area which had an association with Jesus which Hadrian had pagan temples and shrines built over include the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem, the Pool of Bethesda, and the Pool of Siloam…
Soon after Hadrian left the area, full scale revolt began…further depopulated Judea, with tens of thousands slain and many cities and towns ruined. Cassius Dio even remarked that wolves and hyenas howled in the cities (Cassius Dio, Roman History; cf. Isaiah 13:22). Jerusalem itself was apparently besieged again during the reign of Hadrian…Christians did not support either of the revolts in Judea, and Eusebius recorded that many Christians suffered torture and death when they refused to join the Bar Kokhba revolt and attack Roman soldiers (Eusebius, Chronicon; Justin Martyr, Second Apology; Orosius, History). After over three years of fighting (132-136 AD), the Romans subdued the rebels and their false messiah Simon Bar Kokhba, who was executed along with other leaders of the rebellion. The effect of the rebellion was devastating to Judaism and the entire land of Judea, including the erasure of the ancient names and associations with Israel and Judah, the banning of the Mosaic Law, and the execution of many leaders of Judaism. For Jerusalem in particular, Hadrian completely banned Judaism in the city and barred Judeans from entering Jerusalem except once a year on Tisha B’Av (9th of the month Av), the day commemorating the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. [but] the city remained a place of both pagan and Christian worship.
The destruction of the Temple and the ostracism of Messianic Jews who bailed rather than support the rebellion in 70 AD broke the power base of Messianic Judaism. Banning the practice of Judaism in Palestine in 136 finished it off.
We should also expect that the wrath of Rome against the Jews would make the average Gentile Christian shy away from any association with them. Unlike some of those suicidal pastors in Germany under the Nazis, they didn’t need to add the Jewish question to their troubles. They were experiencing their own persecution.
Christianity was identified at first with Judaism, but people quickly came to see it as a different religion…a strange, new cult…spread across people groups and geographical boundaries. People felt threatened by this oddball new religion.
The next problem was with the religious activities of the Christians, with what they did do and didn’t do…
First, because they didn’t participate in pagan rituals but tended to keep to themselves, Christians were considered anti-social…Second, since Christians wouldn’t join in with the religious activities which were believed to placate the gods, they became a threat to the very well-being of the community. Writing in about A.D. 196, Tertullian said, “The Christians are to blame for every public disaster and every misfortune that befalls the people. If the Tiber rises to the walls, if the Nile fails to rise and flood the fields, if the sky withholds its rain, if there is earthquake or famine or plague, straightway the cry arises: ‘The Christians to the lions!’”
With respect to what they did do in their own religious practices, talk of eating the body and blood of Jesus, and the customary greeting with a kiss, brought charges of cannibalism and incest.
The third problem was the nature or content of Christians’ beliefs. The historian Tacitus spoke of Christians as a “class hated for their abominations” who held to a “deadly superstition.” A drawing found in Rome of a man with a donkey’s head hanging on a cross gives an idea of what pagans thought of Christian beliefs.
Finally, Christians’ reluctance to offer worship to the emperor and the gods was considered madness, considering what would happen to them if they didn’t. Why not just offer a pinch of incense to the image of the emperor?…
Claudius Nero was named emperor at age 16 and reigned from A.D. 54-68…Christians became the object of his ire following the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64. Some people suspected that Nero started the fire himself, so he pointed the accusing finger at Christians. The fact that he felt confident in doing this indicates the low regard in which people held Christians already. Historian Philip Schaff says that “Their Jewish origin, their indifference to politics and public affairs, their abhorrence of heathen customs, were construed into an ‘odium generis humani’ (hatred of the human race), and this made an attempt on their part to destroy the city sufficiently plausible to justify a verdict of guilty.” Schaff says that “there began a carnival of blood such as even heathen Rome never saw before or since….A ‘vast multitude’ of Christians was put to death in the most shocking manner.” Some were crucified, some sewn up in animal skins and thrown to the dogs, some were covered in pitch, nailed to wooden posts, and burned as torches. It was in the fallout of this that Peter and Paul gave their lives for their Savior, probably within a year of each other…
Emperor Trajan ruled from A.D. 98-117…Persecution was especially bad in Syria and Palestine during Trajan’s reign. In 107 he went to Antioch and demanded that everyone sacrifice to the gods. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch and pupil of the apostle John, refused and was martyred by being thrown to wild animals. Ignatius wrote this to Polycarp, another disciple of John, on his way to Rome: “Let the fire, the gallows, the wild beasts, the breaking of bones, the pulling asunder of members, the bruising of my whole body, and the torments of the devil and hell itself come upon me, so that I may win Christ Jesus [quoting Paul.”
Emperor Hadrian…hated Jews, and was somewhat “indifferent to Christianity from ignorance of it.”…“It was beside the point for Christians to argue that the malicious tales circulated about them were false,…Deeds, not words, were required by the state; and if they were in fact loyal citizens, as they protested, there was a simple way of demonstrating their loyalty; let them offer a pinch of incense in honour of the Emperor, let them swear by his divinity, let them invoke him as ‘Lord.’”
During these growing pains of Christianity, Antioch in Syria and Ephesus in Asia Minor became the centers of Christianity for the logical reason that this was where the greatest majority of Christians lived.
And we know Ephesus’ response to John’s warning because Yeshua’s judgment was imposed on Ephesus. The mother church did not repent and return to her first love. Like Gomer, she committed spiritual adultery with her pagan neighbors, and her bastard son is Christianity.
Ephesus was taken in 655 and 717 by Islamic Arabs.
The city was captured in 1090 and destroyed by the Turko-Persian Sunni Moslem Seljuk Turks, but the Byzantines succeeded in retaking it and rebuilt it on the neighbouring hills around the church of St. John. The city was again plundered by the Turks in the first years of the fourteenth century, then by the Catalonian mercenaries in the pay of the Byzantines, and once more by the Turks. The church of St. John was transformed into a mosque, and the city was ruled by a Turkish ameer, who carried on a little trade with the West, but it could no longer maintain its Greek bishop.
The ruin of Ephesus was completed by Timur-Leng / Tamerlane in 1403 and by nearly a half-century of civil wars among its Turkish masters…in 1439 Mark of Ephesus (Marcus Eugenicus)…was the pastor of a miserable village, all that remained of the great city which Pliny once called…lumen Asiae.