Key precept: Choose your leader wisely, because this battle ends in utter annihilation for the losing side.
“If it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve.” (Joshua 24:14)
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…
Speaking of antitheses, Marcion’s opinion is antithetical to Jesus’ own words.
“And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:28-34)
For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it…I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life.” (Deuteronomy 30)
“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him…And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him…If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (I John 4)
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.
“New Testament Christians” are able to push out of consciousness the unpalatable God who punishes sin in the Old Testament because of the absolute split that has been wrongly imposed between the Old and New Testaments. While there are definitely the old and new testaments mentioned in scripture, in context these clearly refers back to one of the many testaments / testimonials made by God, not the categorizations of scripture.
When the Jewish writers of the gospels, Acts, and the epistles wrote their documents, they had every reason to think that they were just continuing to add to the accumulation, over time, of existing inspired writings.
“our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (II Peter 3:15-16)
The first documents in our New Testament, the gospels, could certainly be considered continuations of existing scripture when we 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 of the Jews.
- Jesus taught in the synagogues.
- Jesus taught the people to follow Mosaic law.
- Jesus kept the Passover.
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 the legitimacy of Jesus’ claim to be the long-awaited King of Israel.
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].
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)
So how did any of 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.
As detailed in the post Everything New is Old Again, Moses is God’s foundational spokesman to humanity since the Exodus, about 1,500 BC. He compiled the historical book of Genesis and wrote Exodus – Deuteronomy.
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. On the other hand, there were the unmistakable proofs of prophecies that came to pass.
“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)
“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)
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.”
- Matthew 24 “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.”
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 through his extensively witnessed resurrection in fulfillment of God’s promise to defeat death.
Let’s go back to the turning point in human history, AKA the starting point of 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 [obviously Pre-Pentacost Old Testament] 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.
““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)
“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? [Stated first by Moses] 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 YHVH’s Savior / Seed of the Woman / 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 / YHVH 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)
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.
~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 “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)
John the Baptist is an Old Testament Prophet
John was without question an Old Testament prophet. Like Elisha, he inherited Elijah’s spirit and power, but since he died before Jesus’ redemption he did not receive the fulness of the Spirit available to believers after that action.
“Behold, 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…he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi…that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years…For I am the LORD, I change not…Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments…“I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”” (Malachi 3-4)
“those things which are most surely believed among us...which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word…write unto thee in order…That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed…a certain priest named Zacharias…and his wife…were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless…there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord…thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John…he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb…And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias / Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:1-17)
“And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see?…A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For 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: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he….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 11:7-14)
John’s preaching was meaningful and accepted by the people only because it was based on previous scripture. I’ve rearranged the phrases in John’s record to demonstrate the match with Isaiah’s.
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith,
B) Behold! the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. “(John 1:29-34)
“For unto us…
B) a Son / of God, Ruler is given by God: and the government shall be upon his shoulder…the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever…
A) But [first]…the chastisement of our peace was upon him…All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all…he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter…” (Isaiah 9:6-7, 53:1-7)
The Pharisees, fundamentalists steeped in the scriptures, would have been the first to understand, and believe, John’s announcement that “The kingdom of heaven is at hand!” And in fact we know that there were “certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed.” (Act 15:5)
As bizarre as it may seem, Christianity as a movement or trend may have existed before Jesus came to the scene. The key to this gripping hypothesis is that Jesus obviously didn’t arrive on earth in an intellectual vacuum, and the intellectual element of his ministry was grafted on existing theological models. Nobody will deny that his general theology was Jewish, and Judaism obviously existed long before Jesus was born.
Judaism at the time of Jesus was highly fractured…Everybody knows about the Pharisees and Sadducees, but there were many more. Some forms of Judaism were militant movements (such as that of the Zealots)…
Some of these movements were incompatible with the gospel (the Sadducees, for instance, rejected resurrection and thus the core concept of the gospel; MATTHEW 22:23) but others were just a few cheers short of it and could be easily completed…Nicodemus, Gamaliel and even Paul came from the Pharisaic school of thought…
This means that the movement around Jesus the Nazarene was not a entirely new thing but was largely grafted upon existing ideas…(emphasis added)
When Paul went after the disciples in Damascus, he searched for people “belonging to the Way” (ACTS 9:2) which is obviously a designation of a particular sect. Jesus called himself the Way (JOHN 14:6), but it isn’t clear whether he coined this epithet then and there, or whether he addressed the members of an existing sect called such by telling them that he was what they were after…
The “town” of Nazareth where Jesus was from was probably not a geographical town (read our article on that name for reasons why not) and was most probably an existing Jewish school of thought (the Nazarenes), which we propose had to do with…the blessings of the Lord of Life being scattered among pagan nations…(Peter’s Great Sheet vision is a clear demonstration of that particular belief, which obviously is one of the main elements of the gospel message; ACTS 10:15)…
Since the discoveries at Qumran we know that the phrase “Sons of Light” was not a general title for virtuous men, but rather a military nickname for Israel (see the War Scroll). Jesus called these militant Sons of Light shrewd (LUKE 16:8), and explained that he was the Light (JOHN 8:12, 9:5) and that his followers are the real Sons of Light (JOHN 12:36, 1 THESSALONIANS 5:5).
YHVH’s Savior / Jesus is only recognizable through the law of Moses and the Old Testament prophecies of salvation,
“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:26-27)
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
If you take this statement at face value, then it must logically follow that faith in Jesus is the means of salvation throughout the Old as well as the New Testament.
This becomes more clear when we use the Hebrew translation “YHVH’s Savior” instead of the Greek translation “Jesus” which, because it is applied to one single person in time and used only in the New Testament, skews our understanding of his role in history. While we believe on his actions in time and place, the individual carrying out those actions transcends time and space.
“God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling [to share dominion over creation] according to his own purpose and grace,
- which was given us in Christ Jesus / YHVH’s Designated Seed of the Woman Savior from sin and death before the world began,
- But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ / YHVH’s Chosen Savior
who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel [as promised to the Adams in Genesis 3:15]:“(II Timothy 1:8-10)
The fundamental New Testament assurance of eternal salvation is based on the Old Testament promises. There is no validity in the New without the Old. The “new” testament / covenant is, by definition, a modification of a previous testament, therefore both granted by the same grantor to the same grantee.
“Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon…after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end…[unlike the Adams who hid from me in the Garden of Eden] YE shall seek ME, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart…
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: [note! Not with Gentiles instead of Judah!] Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, 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. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know [be united as one as the term is used for carnal knowledge] me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
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; The LORD of hosts is his name: 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, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29-31)
“Then came the day…when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat...And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you…
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them…But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be…he that doth serve…[identifying, in unity with me as] I am among you as he that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and [as extensions of myself] sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel .” (Luke 22:8-30)
“verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service…went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: Which was a figure for the time then present…But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come…by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
- For if the blood of bulls and of goats [in fact] sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
- How much more shall the blood of Christ / the Chosen One, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God,
- purge [by the LORD’s forgiveness of iniquity and no longer remembering our sin] your conscience
- [allowing diversion of resources from engaging in] from dead works to [instead present our bodies a living sacrifice to] serve the living God?
- For if the blood of bulls and of goats [in fact] sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
And for this cause [serving the living God] he is the mediator of the new testament [with Israel], that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9)
Likewise, Jesus’ message about himself before Pentecost and the apostle’s doctrine of the New Testament Church after Pentecost validate everything they preach by referencing back to the Old Testament promises to Israel.
“Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel…Also the LORD telleth thee that he will make thee an house [dynasty].And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an household / family for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him…And thine house / family and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. ” (II Samuel 7:8-17)
“Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” (Isaiah 55:3)
“And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:44-48)
“…they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.
- The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt…
- he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus…
- children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent…
- we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus…from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption…
Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things...Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.” (Acts 13:14-43)
What is this grace of God? Is it, as claimed, a new way of salvation distinct from the Mosaic law of the Old Covenant?
Not according to the Bible.
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us [the essential Mosaic law] that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.“(Titus 2:11-14)
Grace is the fundamental covenant made with the first two humans by God himself to the parents of the entire human race promising to save them and their children from sin and death.
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die...And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew…
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this…[the woman’s] seed…shall bruise [crush] thy head [kill you despite you being immortal].” (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-15)
The New Testament is not a new and improved religion in the sense of being a super-simple way of avoiding hell and living in a blissful heaven forever after death. The new covenant is the revelation of the mystery of how the old covenant restores immortality, i.e. sinlessness, to mortal humans through transformative death and resurrection.
“the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly….
- according to my gospel,
- and [according to] the preaching of Jesus Christ,
- [and] according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began [when the bruising of Satan was first announced], But now is made manifest
- and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: ” (Romans 16:20-26)
Significantly, none of the covenants within the series of covenants can do away with any part of the commitments made previously. This is detailed in the post Father Abraham.
“Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” (Galatians 3:15-17)
In context, Paul is stating that the covenant made with the nation of Israel through Moses does not cancel or override God’s baseline promise to send one individual Seed of the Woman to destroy sin and death. It simply gives definition to the promise.
“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my [not new but existing] covenant between me and thee [not someone else]…and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” (Genesis 17:1-7)
“…the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in YHVH’s Promised Savior / Christ Jesus before the world began. (II Timothy 1:8-10)
The same principle of irrevocability applies to each covenant in succession.
“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?…God brought them out of Egypt…according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!” (Numbers 23:19-23)
“God is true...all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen [affirmed].” (II Corinthians 2:18-20)
Belief in Jesus Christ, or more properly Yeshua Messiah, as described in the New Testament is unquestionably the extension of the Mosaic code.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:14-16)
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)
This is the reason the fundamentalist Pharisees could believe that Jesus was the Prophet who Moses said to obey.
As did the rulers of the Jews. This becomes clear when we focus our attention on Jesus’ acid duel of words with the Jewish leadership rather than his feel-good miracles. Jesus spent so much of his time disputing with them because that was a big part of his ministry – to sift and purify the Levites.
“I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
They answered and said unto him, Abraham the Hebrew is our father.
Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham [note how they continue the argument started with John the Baptist]. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham…Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning…
Then took they up stones to cast at him…” publicly proving his point (John 8:29-53)
“And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders…said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? Clearly THEY hadn’t!
And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John [for repentance in preparation for accepting the Messiah’s rule – especially by these rulers who usurped Mosaic authority, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?
And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him [when John announced Jesus’ identity as the Christ?] But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
Don’t miss the defiance and deliberate provocation as Jesus continues facing off against his declared enemy.
But what think ye? A certain man had two sons;
- and he came to the first, [The Hebrew nation at Mount Sinai as described in the post Moses] and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
- He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
- And he came to the second [Levitical priests and rulers of Israel], and said likewise.
- And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first.
Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots [the commoners, from the Greek hoi-poloi literally meaning “the many”, i.e. the Hebrew nation] go into the kingdom of God before you. – Note, not “instead of” you!
For John came unto you in the way of righteousness [the faith of Abraham], and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him:
Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, [expressly stated to be the nation of Israel] and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen [the rulers of the nation of Israel], and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it…last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance [both ruler- and land owner- ship]…When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matthew 21)
In the context of the second parable, the nation of Israel is the vineyard, which is not replaced. Only the husbandmen – the caretakers of Israel, i.e. the rulers, are replaced. Like “Washington”, the “Kingdom” that is taken away is idiomatic for “the rulers in the government”.
“rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine.” (I Samuel 15:22-28)
The nation that Jesus replaced was one of Antichrist’s Anti-governments, wolves in sheep’s clothing.
And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them as the husbandmen, not the nation of Israel! But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude – the “many” in the nation of Israel, because they took him for a prophet.” (Matthew 21:23-46)
“Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation [brotherhood of leaders].
And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us [the brotherhood of priestly rulers], that one man should die for the people – plebs, commoners, those ruled in a constantly shifting ethnic population, and that the whole nation perish not.
And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation – of Israelites – And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one – nation of Hebrews – the children of God that were scattered abroad.
Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.” (John 11:47-52)
The kingdom leadership was not taken away from the entire nation of Israel! It was taken away from the nation / brotherhood of chief priests who had replaced the legitimate Aaronic heirs by paying off the Romans for the political appointments, and the Pharisees who had replaced the Mosaic code with impossible legalistic minutia.
The ancient Jewish court system was called the Sanhedrin…Hellenistic sources generally depict the Sanhedrin as a political and judicial council headed by the country’s ruler…It was the final authority on Jewish law and any scholar who went against its decisions was put to death as a zaken mamre (rebellious elder)…The Great Sanhedrin dealt with religious and ritualistic Temple matters…and the solving of difficulties relating to ritual law…
“Then spake Jesus to…his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe [based on Moses], 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)
In contrast to the illegal rulers, the scribes and Pharisees pretty much walked as Jesus walked. They were intimately familiar with the law and were scrupulous about keeping the commandments. You could say they were the 1st century equivalent of fundamental independent Baptists – intent on righteous living so avoiding contamination with worldly society.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till ALL be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18)
There was just one problem. Too many of the scribes and Pharisees sitting in Moses seat refused to relinquish it to Jesus. The responsibility for bringing in the kingdom of God was re-assigned.
But not to the Gentile Christian Church. It didn’t even exist at that time. And heaven and earth did not pass away at the crucifixion and resurrection. They still haven’t passed away. According to scripture, they don’t pass away until after Jesus Christ’s last faceoff with Antichrist. Dispensationalists get around this by inserting an invented file folder of a “parenthesis” Church Age while Israel is out of commission. But that is absolutely contrary to the clear account of scripture. You can’t have it both ways. Either believe what the Bible says, or don’t.
Leadership in the New Testament church stayed with the church that already existed in Israel.
“(Jesus speaking) if they brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone…But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more…And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” (Matthew 18:15-17)
And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things…(and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch…And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)…the angel of the Lord…said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught.” (Acts 5:11-25)
“And Saul was consenting unto his [Stephen’s] death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. As for Saul, he made havock of the church , Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution which arose about Stephen travelled…preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.” (Acts 8:1-2, 10:1)
While berating the rulers of the Jews, Stephen makes no distinction between Old and New Covenant assemblies of God’s people. As agitated against him as they were, it is notable that this term “church” didn’t concern them at all. There was no religious significance to it for them. There were no Gentiles in this Jerusalem assembly of believers. “Church” only became associated with the Gentiles much, much later.
“This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer…Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me….he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina.” (Acts 7:35-38)
This makes sense when we understand, as detailed in the post The Law of Moses, Judaism was not established for the purpose of salvation. It was established for the purpose of leadership in the kingdom of God.
“And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying…tell the children of Israel;…if ye will…keep my covenant, then…ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” (Exodus 19:3-6)
As Gentiles believers began joining the the Jewish believers in greater numbers, there were ongoing church arguments as to whether the Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism.
“there rose up certain of the [Jewish] sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them [the Gentile believers], and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. (Acts 15:5-6)
Aha! Here is the group / brotherhood / nation that, like King David’s response to the coup against his throne, replaced the illegitimate rulers of the Jews by order of King Jesus. And it is all, still, a Jewish Sanhedrin.
“And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them…God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us [Jews] and them [Gentiles], purifying their hearts by faith…
Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them [as proof of Spirit indwelling].
And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets…
Wherefore my sentence is…” (Act 15:5-20)
Note that Peter was not the Chief Executive, the first Pope / Papa / Father of the nation as declared by the Roman Christian Church. We see that role was delegated to King Jesus’ brother James.
One other thing screams out at us by its silence – James’ failure to credit Barnabas and Paul as credible witnesses. And yet by this time they had multitudes of Gentiles saved under their full-time Gentile ministry against Peter’s one and only episode with Cornelius and his family and friends. Clearly the Gentile ministry was a sketchy business.
As we track the growth of the New Testament church chronologically through the account of the Acts of the Apostles, we realize that, up to chapter 10, all believers in Jesus were Jewish and remained so. They were called Jews of the sect of the Nazarene, AKA The Way, to distinguish them from the other Jewish sects, each with shared but also distinctive beliefs. As long as it was standing, the temple at Jerusalem was the physical assembly place for the “church which was in Jerusalem.” This definitely proves that the church was exclusively Jewish, and explains why the Jerusalem churchmembers were so adamant about Gentiles converting to full Judaism with circumcision. No Gentile could enter the temple.
The process by which the Jewish apostles were anointed leaders in the kingdom of God was absolutely consistent with Jewish culture.
“Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him…because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance…the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy…and shalt be turned into another man…for God is with thee.” (I Samuel 10:1-7)
“Jesus…through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen...that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me…ye shall be baptized [merged with] with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
The apostles’ eager anticipation for appointments to leadership in the kingdom reflects their awareness of exactly what had been put into play.
“therefore…they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
But…ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:1-8)
The apostles, in fact, had anticipated government positions during their entire time with the Jesus because they believed he was the Christ, the promised son of God / ruler.
“the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons…She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom…And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.” (Matthew 20:20-24)
The problem was that they were still focused on Israel’s political condition rather than Israel’s spiritual calling.
“teach all nations…to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always [as he was was Moses and Joshua], even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:19-20)
“And when the day of Pentecost [harvest celebration like Boaz had after winnowing his grain] was fully come,..suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and…they were all filled / to the greatest extent, accomplished with the Holy Ghost And began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled,
As devout Jews, the international crowd who gathered to watch this wild exhibition were able to believe Peter’s explanation because they believed the Jewish prophets’ predictions and recognized the standard sign of God Spirit speaking through his chosen representatives. This was the only way they were able to believe in Jesus as the Christ. This exhibition would have meant nothing to scripturally illiterate Gentiles.
Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem…this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh…and they shall prophesy…And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know…ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up…
For David speaketh concerning him…being a prophet...He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of The Anointed Seed of the Woman / Messiah / Christ…This Jesus / Yeshua / YHVH’s Savior hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore…[he, Christ] having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he [Christ] hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear…
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
It was only because these listeners knew and believed the Old Testament prophets that they could understand, and therefore believe, Peter’s report that Jesus’ death was not the end, but rather the beginning of his redemptive ministry.
Now when they heard this they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ [as John had predicted would come after him] for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off…” (Act 2:1-11, 37-41)
Peter and the other apostles did not use Jesus’ teaching as the basis of their preaching. They based their faith and their preaching on the Old Testament prophets – as did Jesus himself, even after his death ushered in the new testament.
“Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people…the chief priests and our rulers…have crucified…But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel…
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:19-27)
Following the trail of events recorded in the book of the Acts of the apostles, we find that for at least the first 20-30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection the good news of the arrival of the Messiah / Christ and the coming of the kingdom of God was disseminated throughout the world only by preaching from the “Old Testament” Jewish writings. Until the apostles wrote their sermons and memoires of Jesus, there was no “John 3:16” or “Romans Road” with which to lead people to salvation.
The apostles couldn’t evangelize without the Old Testament scriptures, because faith can only be based on the word of God, found at that time only in Old Testament writings.
For another, as detailed in the post A Melchizedek Like Moses, Moses is the foundational prophet on which God rests his case for
- bringing up the subject of a Savior/Messiah/Christ,
- then for delineating his characteristics,
- then for proving that Jesus of Nazareth is he.
Peter…answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel…those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled…For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me…Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after…have likewise foretold of these days.” (Act 3:12-24)
“Then Peter…said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel…by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. (quoting from Psalm 118:22) Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Act 4:8-12)
“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said…The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, (quoting Isa 9:1-7) for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” (Act 5:29-32)
“Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men…And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law…Then said the high priest, Are these things so? And he said, Men, brethren , and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham…[reviews history of Israel through the son of David, Solomon] Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears (quoting Jeremiah 9:26), ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and the murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven…and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God (quoting from Dan 7:12-14). Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him.” (Act 6:9-11)
An eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians…had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet…And Philip ran thither to him…and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” (Act 8:27-35)
“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)
Even when outreach was extended to Gentiles, beginning with Cornelius, what we call the Old Testament scriptures continued to be the only available – and necessary – basis for faith in Jesus Christ and inclusion in the New Testament Church.
“Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee…Then Peter opened his mouth, and said…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth…To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” (Act 10:22-43, 11:18)
The first Gentile to accept Jesus as the Savior could only do so because he was grounded in the Old Testament scriptures which prophesied of his coming. He was, as described by James, one of
“them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God…For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” (Acts 15:19-21)
(You just have to wonder if this was the centurion who presided over Jesus’ crucifixion.)
And as Peter went in, and found many that were come together…he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
Notice how Peter continues to define himself as a law-abiding Jew. While he had Jesus’ last words to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;” (Mark 16:15-16), this was being done in the synagogues where Gentiles, while present, were segregated from full participation with the Jews. Peter needed the special vision to understand that, as a Jew, he was allowed to assemble with – church with Gentile believers.
Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)…To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on / baptized all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished [that they received the Holy Spirit without converting, through circumcision, to Judaism]…For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized / merged into one body with the other believers, up to now all Jewish, which have received / been baptized / merged into one with the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 10)
This was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy to the Jews quoted earlier.
“In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people, And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate…Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing…I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” (Isaiah 28:5-16)
“And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them…
This clearly demonstrates at the first followers of Jesus were all law-abiding Jews and expected all followers of Yeshua to be the same. Peter was the first apostle to understand that Gentiles did not need to covert to Judaism to be saved. The proof of new life were the signs of the Holy Spirit controlling the new convert, as we see in the progression of this account.
And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord [finally!], how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:1-18)
There were additional signs among the Gentiles – i.e. fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies – proving that YHVH’s savior had come not only to rule over Israel but to retake dominion over all the other peoples of the earth. Like prophecy in general, these are vague and can be argued to fit multiple interpretations. The Spirit of God who gave them is the only one who can accurately interpret them.
“Wherefore the LORD said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid…in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.” (Isaiah 29:13-24)
“For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (I Corinthians 1:10-24)
Jesus had predicted this as well.
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall
- they cast out devils;
- they shall speak with new tongues;
- They shall take up serpents;
- and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them;
- they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:15-18)
These miracles and wonders were the proof that the Jews needed to be convinced that the uncircumcised Gentiles could be indwelt with God’s presence and power like they were.
Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying,
Men and brethren…the Gentiles are turned to God:” (Act 15:12-19)
This, too, was fulfillment of prophecy.
“Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings…Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it: And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries…And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said…These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land. But I had pity for mine holy name…
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land…And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it…I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock…so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 36:17)
The original group of believers was a subset of the larger group of Jewish believers in the fact of a prophesied Messiah in the holy scriptures who just didn’t accept Yeshua of Nazareth as being the fulfillment of the Messiah, some of whom are still waiting for Messiah to show up for the first time.
“my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:” (Romans 9:3-6)
“in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:15-16)
The understanding of the New Testament church as the Israel of God is a fundamental truth, essential for understanding the whole story. The New Testament does not separate Jewish believers from Gentile believers. It unites us.
If this sounds heretical, please be judicious enough to investigate the historical facts detailed in the New Testament.
“I am the good shepherd, and know [identities merged] my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (John 10:14-16)
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles…without Messiah / 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 Messiah Yeshua / Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Messiah / Christ...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…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, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 2:11-19, 4:3-6)
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD / YHVH / I Am / Creator:” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
Think about it. The Jewish religious leaders would not have fought against the threat to their authority and power, and the Roman rulers would not have listened to their complaints if belief in Jesus Christ was just one of the multitude of “other” religions for which Rome was famous for tolerating and even incorporating.
“The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort…” (John 18:19-20)
“And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul….we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and
- a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world,
- and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:
- Who also hath gone about to profane the temple…
Then Paul…answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself: Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since
- I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.
- And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.
- But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy [i.e. within Judaism], so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
- And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
- And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men.
- Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.
- Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult…Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.
And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way [that sect], he deferred them…” (Acts 24:1-22)
Old Testament Judaism is what grew the “New Testament Church” in its first century.
A meaningful pattern of the development of the organization and doctrine of the New Testament Church becomes apparent if we organize the books in the order and the context in which they were written. The exact dates of Jesus’ birth and death are disputed by reputable scholars but fall within a range of a few years. Likewise the dates the books of the New Testament were written can’t be known with absolute certainty, but these are drawn from conservative sources whose objective is in deepening our understand of, not discrediting, the Bible. In any case, for our purpose, the order and historical context in which books were written is what matters, and can be determined for the most part by internal evidence.
Chronological New Testament
|15-34||Acts 22:3||Paul, a Pharisee, studies the Law under Gamaliel, opposes Jesus & denounces His sect|
|29||Acts 2-8:1||Crucifixion, Holy Spirit given at Pentecost, apostles and Jewish believers continue meeting in the temple|
|32||Acts 6-8||Stephen stoned, persecution of Messianic Jewish sect by Jewish religious rulers including the Pharisee Saul / Paul|
|32-42||Acts 8, 11:19||Persecution in Jerusalem scatter believers in this Jewish sect who at first continue to witness to Jews only|
|34-37||Acts 9||A leading Pharisee, Saul, joins Messianic sect, smuggled out of Judea when his previous colleagues target him for death, indicating how great a threat he poses to their authority|
|37-47||Galatians 1:17-21||Paul spends 14 years in isolation from Messianic headquarters at Jerusalem, restudying Law and matching to Jesus’ teaching|
|40||Acts 10-11||Cornelius first uncircumcised Gentile accepted into fellowship with Jewish believers, by Peter|
|43||Acts 11:20-26||Gentiles converted in numbers & called Christians at Antioch in Syria prior to Paul’s involvement|
|43||Acts 12||Herod Agrippa I (d. 44) kills James son of Zebedee at Jerusalem, James bro of Jesus assumes leadership|
|45 – 62||James 1:1-3||Epistle of James written by brother of Jesus, to encourage “the twelve tribes” under tribulation|
|47||Acts 11:26||Barnabas brings Paul from Tarsus (Turkey) to Antioch (Syria) to help in existing ministry to Gentiles|
|47-48||Acts 13-14||Paul’s 1st missionary journey thru cities in Galatia (Turkey), meets at synagogues, evangelizes Jews & Gentiles|
|49||Acts 15||Enough Gentiles have joined the Jewish sect in Antioch that a Church Council meets to settle question of requirement of Gentile believers to follow Mosaic Law, Paul opposes this.|
|49-53||Acts 16-18||Paul’s 2nd journey delivers decrees to existing churches in Galatia, crosses over to Europe at Macedonia & Greece|
|52||Acts 18:4-8||Paul leaves Corinth synagogue when they blaspheme, meets in the first house church mentioned in the Bible, with Jewish and Gentile believers|
|52-53||Acts 18:1-18||Letter to Galatians to strongly counter persistent Judaizers, 1st & 2nd letters to Thessalonians to encourage during tribulation, written by Paul from Corinth|
|54-59||Acts 18:23-21||Paul’s 3rd missionary journey|
|50-55||I Peter 5:13||Mark’s biography of Jesus written from Rome in collaboration with Peter to present Jesus as Messiah|
|55-56||Acts 19:1-10||Paul leaves Ephesus (Turkey) synagogue, meets daily in schoolhouse, great church growth|
|56||Acts 20:1-2||1st letter to Corinthians written from Macedonia by founder Paul in response to church problems|
|58||Acts 20:2||Romans is written from Corinth|
|58||Acts 20:3-4||2nd letter to Corinthians followup on previous instructions, references great tribulation, Paul meets personally with Ephesus elders|
|58||I Peter 5:13||1st letter from Peter backs up Paul’s ministry to his Gentile churches, and supports them in their fiery trial of tribulation|
|58||Acts 21||Paul at Jerusalem denies the charge that he teaches Jews to forsake Mosaic Law|
|58-60||Acts 22-24||Paul imprisoned at Caesarea by Romans to protect from illegal Jewish plot against his life, witnesses to Roman governors Felix and Festus, Jewish King Herod Agrippa II, appeals to Caesar|
|55-60||Mathew 1:1||Matthew writes biography of Jesus to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. Such biographies were “a genre of Greco-Roman literature interested in describing the goals, achievements, failures, and character of ancient historical persons and whether or not they should be imitated.”|
|60-63||Acts 28:16-31||Paul imprisoned at Rome, reaches out first to Jewish leadership and only to Gentiles after Jews unaccepting|
|60||Luke 1:1-4||Luke’s biography of Jesus is written in collaboration with Paul, possibly for evidence in trial before Caesar|
|62-63||Philippians, Colossians, Philemon written by Paul from prison in Rome.|
|62-63||Act 1:1||Acts by Luke at this time or later. James stoned to death by High Priest at Jerusalem as Jewish nationalistic aspirations heighten.|
|63||Letter to Ephesian Gentiles is written by Paul from Rome to encourage picking up their qualified leadership roles after his outreach to Jewish leadership is repulsed. Paul is aware of gathering storm in Judea from insight into current events as fulfillment of Jesus’ warning to “this generation”, predicting Jerusalem doomsday by 70 AD.|
|63||Hebrews written to Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus as Messiah explaining overrriding identity, and leadership rights, as Hebrew priests under High Priest Melchizedek, in preparation for transition of leadership from Jews to Gentiles.|
|63||Paul is acquitted and released, leaves Rome|
|64||I Timothy 1:3||1st letter to Timothy, Titus is Written from Macedonia|
|64||The Great Fire of Rome triggers a seven year great tribulation by the Roman Empire of followers of Jewish Messiah|
|64||II Peter 1:1, 2:1-3||2nd letter by Peter written from Rome prior to Paul’s death, supporting Paul’s transfer of leadership from Jews to Gentiles.|
|64-67||Peter is martyred under Nero,|
|65||II Timothy 4:6||2nd letter to Timothy written when Paul is imprisoned for 2nd and last time, mourning that the response to his letter to the Ephesians, the leading church of Asia was that “All in Asia be turned away from me“. Now who will pick up church leadership?|
|66||Paul martyred at Rome under Nero as the anticipated revolt by Judean Jews explodes, Messianic Jew flee across the Jordan river to Pella, Jerusalem church and Jewish leadership in shambles.|
|70||Jerusalem besieged, temple destroyed and Jews are deported|
|~80||Jude||Jude, brother of Jesus, exhorts believers to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” which he references as pre-Judaism believers.|
|~80||John, I, II, III John||John’s biography of Jesus written to Gentiles unfamiliar with Jewish customs, and three letters.|
|~89||Revelation is Written by last surviving apostle, John, to Paul’s Gentile churches in Turkey|
When we track the New Testament documentary timeline, we discover that for at least the first 20 years the “church of God” was exclusively Jewish. It was the one scripturally true sect of the many sects in Judaism including the unscriptural “Jews’ religion” based on tradition rather than scripture, Pharisaical Constitutional Conservatives continuously creating increasingly burdensome laws, and the Sadducees / Social Liberals. No significant numbers of Gentiles are added into this Jewish sect until Paul is sent out.
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene [amalgamated into Gentile society, unlike the orthodox Jews in Jerusalem and Judea], which…when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians…and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then…the church which was in Jerusalem [composed strictly of Jews]…sent forth Barnabas…and much people was added unto the Lord. Then Barnabas…brought [Saul / Paul] unto Antioch. And...a whole year they assembled themselves with the church [which included Gentiles], and taught much people.” (Acts 11)
When it pleased God…that I might preach him among the heathen; I came into the regions of Syria [Antioch, first Gentile congregation] and Cilicia [first missionary journey]; And was unknown by face unto the [exclusively Jewish] churches of Judaea which were in Christ.” (Galatians 3:15-23)
The text clearly connects the significant Gentile teaching ministry at Antioch to Paul’s missionary work to the Gentiles.
Now there were in the church / assembly which included many Gentiles] that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as 1) Barnabas, and 2) Simeon that was called Niger, and 3) Lucius of Cyrene, and 4) Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and 5) Saul…
the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” (Acts 13:1-3)
The Antiochean church’s extensive teaching ministry to unscriptural Gentiles contrasts sharply with the Pentacostal Jerusalem church which was so grounded in the Old Testament prophets that its members could immediately accept the Jewish religion of YHVH’s Savior’s redemptive death and proof by resurrection as related by his righteous witnesses, and were saved by the thousands.
Gentiles? Not so. They needed to start with the Old Testament background leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. If we pay attention to the details of the accounts of Paul’s missionary journeys, we discover that he spearheaded all his new Gentile mission fields at the synagogues. By now we should know why. There is where he would find Old Testament literate Jews and Gentiles prepped to accept Jesus as the prophesied Savior.
“So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed
- And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews:
- they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day…many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas…the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.” (Acts 13)
- in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed….Long time therefore abode they. (Acts 14)
What is called Christian doctrine is found in Paul’s epistles, and they did not become available until after his first missionary journey, when he follows up with his first Gentile converts to reinforce his preaching and teaching. When we examine them, we find that they are commentaries on the Old Testament as per Paul’s pervasive citing of Old Testament scripture to prove his arguments. We can certainly conclude that Paul was preaching from the Old Testament.
“And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” (Acts 17:2-3)
Sound familiar? This is exactly what Jesus preached to all the apostles.
“These are the words which I [Jesus] spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:44-48)
Notice how Paul’s exhortation to his Jewish pastoral student Timothy unquestionably references the Old Testament. The New Testament hadn’t been written when Timothy was a child.
“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 3:15-17)
When, like Timothy, we know the Old Testament scriptures, we see that the plan of salvation by grace through faith, and not the works of the law, was not a new development revealed by Jesus to Paul. The Old Testament word of God revealed the fundamental doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. We can’t overlay an theological interpretation that Jesus gave Paul a unique revelation about a Gentile-only church,
“I continue unto this day…saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people / Jews, and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26)
|New Testament||Old Testament|
|I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are in Rome also. For 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. Ro 1:15-16||I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame. Psa 119:46|
|For therein is the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. Ro 1:17||Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. Hab 2:4|
|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. Ro 1:18-19||They spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out…can he give bread also? Can he provide flesh for his people? Therefore the Lord heard this, and was wroth…because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation: though he had …rained down manna upon them to eat…He rained flesh also upon them as dust… But while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them. Psa 78:19-31|
|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. Ro 1:20||The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Psa 19:1-3|
|Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Ro 1:21||The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. Psa 14:1|
|But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. Ro 2:2||….he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth. Psa 96:13|
|Who will render to every man according to his deeds. Ro 2:6||…thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. Jer 32:19|
|Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: Ro 2:9-10||…Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation…Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet:…I have heard from the Lord God of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth. Isa 28:16-17,22|
|For there is no respect of persons with God. Ro 2:11||Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor. Lev 19:15|
|For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.) Ro 2:12-13||Ye shall observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you… Deut 5:32-33|
|For when the Gentile, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another. Ro 2:14-15||And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelechin a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife. But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? Said he not unto me, She is my sister? And she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. Gen 2); 2-5|
|In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. Ro 2:16||The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool….The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek…He shall judge among the heathen…Psa 110:1-6|
|Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God…through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. Ro 2:17-24||Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? They that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD, and my name continually every day is blasphemed. Isa 52:5|
|For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Ro 2:25||Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised; Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart. Jer 9:25-26|
|Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? Ro 2:26||And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. Josh 5:3 (because that generation had not been circumcised throughout the 40 years they had foregone the promised land.)|
|For he is not a Jew, who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.||Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings. Jer 4:4|
|What advantage then has the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much in every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. Ro 3:1-2||For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it? Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the first, as thou hast heard, and live? Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him. Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire. Deu 4:32-36|
|What then? Are we better than they? No in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. Ro 3:9-11||The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Psa 14:2-3|
|Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Ro 3:27 For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. Eph 2:8-9||And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron…And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? And how long will it be ere they believe me…I will smite them…And Moses said unto the Lord…The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression…Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word: But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles…and have not hearkened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers… Nu 14:1-23|
|Conviction of sin|
|And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid…And he said…Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said…I did eat. Gen 3:9-12||For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Ro 3:23|
|Notice that death would follow sin|
|And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Gen 2:16-17||For the wages of sin is death… Ro 6:23|
|Announcement that another life, in the blood, could substitute for the sinner’s|
|Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them. Gen 3:21 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering. Gen 4:4||But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Ro 5:8|
|And the Lord God said unto the serpent…I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Gen 3:15||Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. Ro 3:24-25|
|The heir to David’s throne would save all humanity from their sin|
|Now therefore thus shalt thou say unto my servant David…I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom…for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him… I Chr 17:7-14 …I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee. See ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way…and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isa 55:3-7||Then Paul stood up, and…said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience…God…said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will. Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus…And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou are my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David…Be it know unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Act 13:16-39|
The book of Job was undoubtedly one of Paul’s documentary sources for proving that the law of Moses, given to Moses by God about 2,500 years after God gave the promise of salvation to all humanity through identification with the Seed of the Woman, was never an alternative means of salvation for a select group of people which was replaced when Jesus died on the cross.
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;” (Titus 1:1-2)
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning [quoted in his writings], that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures [accepted and internalized by the reader] might have hope / confidence [of eternal life].” (Romans 15:4)
Entire books in the Old Testament are devoted to the doctrine that all nations – Gentiles – are saved by grace through faith.
“the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
Bear in mind, Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrians, a vicious nation comparable to Nazi Germany. It had dispersed and obliterated the identity of many nations including the northern half of Israel, and Judah had narrowly escaped the same fate under King Hezekiah. As we know, initially Jonah refused this mission in the conviction that they didn’t deserve to be saved from a Sodom and Gomorrah fate. Not to mention his likely fate at Ninevah’s hands. It took awhile with the whale incident, but eventually Jonah did go to Ninevah.
“So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh…and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown…
word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh…neither man nor beast…feed, nor drink water: be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God…turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
And God saw their works that they turned from their evil way, and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry…I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil…
said the LORD…should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah)
This is exactly what John the Baptist preached.
“when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:” (Matthew 3:7-8)
This is exactly what Jesus preached.
“the Pharisees…said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?…Jesus said unto them…go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matthew 9:10-13)
And this is exactly what Paul preached.
“Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, [the Jews] and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” (Acts 26:19-21)
Oh, but that’s nasty. Embarrassingly Jewish.
scholars propose that it was Melito of Sardis [d.180 AD] who originally coined the phrase Old Testament.
Jewish by birth, Melito lived in an atmosphere where the type of Christianity practiced was largely oriented toward the Jewish form…[but] Melito was fully immersed in Greek culture…
Melito gave the first Christian list of the canon in the Old Testament…
[His] Peri Pascha [On the Passover] provides an accurate description of Christian feelings towards Jews at the time and their opinion of Judaism. The text is not an all-out attack on the Jewish people; however, the Jewish people are explicitly blamed for killing Christ. Melito does not blame Pontius Pilate for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ…Wanting to differentiate the Christian community from the Jewish one since the two were very similar…Melito is widely remembered for his supersessionism….that the Old Covenant is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ…also assumes that the Jewish people fail to fulfill the Old Covenant due to their lack of belief in Jesus Christ.
Marcion of Sinope, a bishop of Asia Minor who went to Rome and was later excommunicated for his views, may have been the first of record to propose a definitive, exclusive, unique list of Christian scriptures, compiled sometime between 130–140 AD…Marcion [unfavorably] viewed the church at this time as largely an Old Testament church (one that “follows the Testament of the Creator-God“)…[and hoped to change the church to his point of view with his canon]…
The Marcion canon…consisted of eleven books: a gospel, which was a shorter version of the Gospel of Luke, and ten Pauline epistles…Marcion’s gospel…differed from the Gospel of Luke by lacking any passages that connected Jesus with the Old Testament. He believed that the god of Israel, who gave the Torah to the Israelites, was an entirely different god from the Supreme God who sent Jesus and inspired the New Testament…his collection of Pauline epistles…also differed from the versions accepted by later Christian Orthodoxy…He considered himself a follower of Paul the Apostle, whom he believed to have been the only true apostle of Jesus Christ [by misinterpreting his anti-Judaizer writings as wholly anti-Jewish.]
Marcion rejected the theology of the Old Testament entirely and regarded the God depicted there as an inferior being. In the Antithesis, he claimed the theology of the Old Testament was incompatible with the teaching of Jesus regarding God and morality…
He spread his beliefs widely; they became known as Marcionism. In the introduction to his book “Early Christian Writings”, Henry Wace…”could not refuse to discuss the question raised by Marcion, whether there is such opposition between different parts of what he regards as the word of God, that all cannot come from the same author.”
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.
The historical record shows that, just as Jesus and the New Testament writers foretold, various heretical ideas and teachers rose up from within the early Church and infiltrated it from without. Christ Himself warned His followers: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name . . . and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5).
You can read many similar warnings in other passages (such as Matthew 24:11; Acts 20:29-30; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; 2 Peter 2:1-2; 1 John 2:18-26; 1 John 4:1-3).
Barely two decades after Christ’s death and resurrection, the apostle Paul wrote that many believers were already “turning away . . . to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). He wrote that he was forced to contend with “false apostles, deceitful workers” who were fraudulently “transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13). One of the major problems he had to deal with was “false brethren” (2 Corinthians 11:26).
By late in the first century, as we see from 3 John 9-10, conditions had grown so dire that false ministers openly refused to receive representatives of the apostle John and were excommunicating true Christians from the Church!
Of this troubling period Edward Gibbon, the famed historian, wrote in his classic work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire of a “dark cloud that hangs over the first age of the church” (1821, Vol. 2, p. 111).
It wasn’t long before true servants of God became a marginalized and scattered minority among those calling themselves Christian. A very different religion, now compromised with many concepts and practices rooted in ancient paganism (such mixing of religious beliefs being known as syncretism, common in the Roman Empire at the time), took hold and transformed the faith founded by Jesus Christ.
Historian Jesse Hurlbut says of this time of transformation: “We name the last generation of the first century, from 68 to 100 A.D., ‘The Age of Shadows,’…
“For fifty years after St. Paul’s life a curtain hangs over the church, through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises, about 120 A.D. with the writings of the earliest church fathers, we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul” (The Story of the Christian Church, 1970, p. 33)…
By the second century, faithful members of the Church, Christ’s “little flock” (Luke 12:32), had largely been scattered by waves of deadly persecution. They held firmly to the biblical truth about Jesus Christ and God the Father, though they were persecuted by…those who professed Christianity but were in reality teaching “another Jesus” and a “different gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6-9).
Different ideas about Christ’s divinity lead to conflict
This was the setting in which the doctrine of the Trinity emerged. In those early decades after Jesus Christ’s ministry, death and resurrection, and spanning the next few centuries, various ideas sprang up as to His exact nature. Was He man? Was He God? Was He God appearing as a man? Was He an illusion? Was He a mere man who became God? Was He created by God the Father, or did He exist eternally with the Father?
All of these ideas had their proponents. The unity of belief of the original Church was lost as new beliefs, many borrowed or adapted from pagan religions, replaced the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.
Let us be clear that when it comes to the intellectual and theological debates in those early centuries that led to the formulation of the Trinity, the true Church was largely absent from the scene, having been driven underground. (See the chapter “The Rise of a Counterfeit Christianity” in our free booklet The Church Jesus Built for an overview of this critical period.).
For this reason, in that stormy period we often see debates not between truth and error, but between one error and a different error—a fact seldom recognized by many modern scholars yet critical for our understanding.
A classic example of this was the dispute over the nature of Christ that led the Roman emperor Constantine the Great to convene the Council of Nicaea (in modern-day western Turkey) in A.D. 325.
Constantine, although held by many to be the first “Christian” Roman Emperor, was actually a sun-worshiper who was only baptized on his deathbed…He was also vehemently anti-Semitic, referring in one of his edicts to “the detestable Jewish crowd” and “the customs of these most wicked men”—customs that were in fact rooted in the Bible and practiced by Jesus and the apostles.
As emperor in a period of great tumult within the Roman Empire, Constantine was challenged with keeping the empire unified. He recognized the value of religion in uniting his empire. This was, in fact, one of his primary motivations in accepting and sanctioning the “Christian” religion (which, by this time, had drifted far from the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles and was Christian in name only)…
Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea in the year 325 as much for political reasons—for unity in the empire—as religious ones. The primary issue at that time came to be known as the Arian controversy.
“In the hope of securing for his throne the support of the growing body of Christians he had shown them considerable favor and it was to his interest to have the church vigorous and united. The Arian controversy was threatening its unity and menacing its strength…
Arius, a priest from Alexandria, Egypt, taught that Christ, because He was the Son of God, must have had a beginning and therefore was a special creation of God. Further, if Jesus was the Son, the Father of necessity must be older.
Opposing the teachings of Arius was Athanasius, a deacon also from Alexandria. His view was an early form of Trinitarianism wherein the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were one but at the same time distinct from each other…
As emperor, Constantine was in the unusual position of deciding church doctrine even though he was not really a Christian. (The following year…he had both his wife and son murdered)…
Norbert Brox, a professor of church history, confirms that Constantine was never actually a converted Christian: “Constantine did not experience any conversion; there are no signs of a change of faith in him. He never said of himself that he had turned to another god . . . At the time when he turned to Christianity, for him this was Sol Invictus (the victorious sun god)” (A Concise History of the Early Church, 1996, p. 48).
When it came to the Nicene Council, The Encyclopaedia Britannica states: “Constantine himself presided, actively guiding the discussions, and personally proposed . . . the crucial formula expressing the relation of Christ to God in the creed issued by the council…
With the emperor’s approval, the Council rejected the minority view of Arius and, having nothing definitive with which to replace it, approved the view of Athanasius—also a minority view. The church was left in the odd position of officially supporting, from that point forward, the decision made at Nicaea to endorse a belief held by only a minority of those attending…more than three centuries after Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection…
Nicene decision didn’t end the debate
After the council, the bishops went on teaching as they had before…Arius and his followers fought back and managed to regain imperial favor. Athanasius was exiled no fewer than five times. It was very difficult to make his creed stick” (pp. 110-111).
The ongoing disagreements were at times violent and bloody. Of the aftermath of the Council of Nicaea, noted historian Will Durant writes, “Probably more Christians were slaughtered by Christians in these two years (342-3) than by all the persecutions of Christians by pagans in the history of Rome” (The Story of Civilization, Vol. 4: The Age of Faith, 1950, p. 8). Atrociously, while claiming to be Christian many believers fought and slaughtered one another over their differing views of God…
“During the middle decades of this century, from 340 to 380, the history of doctrine looks more like the history of court and church intrigues and social unrest . . . The central doctrines hammered out in this period often appear to have been put through by intrigue or mob violence rather than by the common consent of Christendom led by the Holy Spirit” (p. 119)…
The ultimate accomplishment of separating the event of the resurrection of Jesus from the Old Testament is separation of Christianity from its biblical foundation, making it Paganism which for thousands of years has been celebrating the resurrection of Tammuz and Mithras without the backing of the Old Testament. How can Christians who claim to be fundamentalists and Bible-believing be so blind when they celebrate Christmas and Easter?
The inevitable results of the early Church incorporating pagan beliefs and practices and distancing itself from Judaism was that Judaism likewise determinedly eliminated Jesus Christ-ian, i.e. Messia-nic, elements from its new orthodoxy. This version, along with other monotheistic religions like Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and others rejects the Messiah as God in human flesh.
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that YHVHS’s Anointed Savior / Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”(I John 4:1-3)
“If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake…I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth…I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:7-18)
Despite the Son’s clear statements of being one with the Father and the Spirit and the utter lack of description of God in three persons anywhere in the Bible, “The greatest dogma of the Christian faith is the mystery of the Holy Trinity.” This was not accidental. The intentional program and inevitable results of the clearly heretical Church councils was to divide and conquer God’s people.
“In the second half of the fourth century, three theologians from the province of Cappadocia in eastern Asia Minor [today central Turkey]…proposed an idea that was a step beyond Athanasius’ view—that God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit were…distinct from one another.
These men—Basil, bishop of Caesarea, his brother Gregory, bishop of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus—were all “trained in Greek philosophy” (Armstrong, p. 113), which no doubt affected their outlook and beliefs (see “Greek Philosophy’s Influence on the Trinity Doctrine“).
In their view, as Karen Armstrong explains, “the Trinity only made sense as a mystical or spiritual experience . . . It was not a logical or intellectual formulation but an imaginative paradigm that confounded reason. Gregory of Nazianzus made this clear when he explained that contemplation of the Three in One induced a profound and overwhelming emotion that confounded thought and intellectual clarity…
Little wonder that, as Armstrong concludes, “For many Western Christians . . . the Trinity is simply baffling” (ibid.).
Ongoing disputes lead to the Council of Constantinople
In the year 381, 44 years after Constantine’s death, Emperor Theodosius the Great convened the Council of Constantinople (today Istanbul, Turkey) to resolve these disputes. Gregory of Nazianzus, recently appointed as archbishop of Constantinople, presided over the council and urged the adoption of his view of the Holy Spirit…
Gregory berated the bishops for… [not] “simply accepting ‘the Divine Word’ of the Trinity on his authority” (A.D. 381: Heretics, Pagans and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State, 2008, p. 96).
Gregory soon became ill and had to withdraw from the council…
Bizarrely, a man who up to this point wasn’t a Christian was appointed to preside over a major church council tasked with determining what it would teach regarding the nature of God…
The Trinity becomes official doctrine
The council adopted a statement that translates into English as, in part: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages . . . And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets . . .” The statement also affirmed belief “in one holy, catholic [meaning in this context universal, whole or complete] and apostolic Church . . .”
With this declaration in 381…the Trinity as generally understood today became the official belief and teaching concerning the nature of God.
When we examine the results of adopting the doctrine of the Trinity, we find not only separation of God into multiple persons but also separation of Judaism from Christianity due to its emersion / identification / baptism into pagan secular government.
The split between Judaism and Christianity was gradual and happened at different rates in different places…from the middle of the first century CE to the middle of the fourth CE…The early Jewish church was Jewish in leadership and membership. It functioned in synagogues and had Pharisaic traditions and it never lost its traces of Rabbinic Halakha [religious law]…The Council of Necaea was summoned by the Emperor Constantine in 325 CE……to weld the Empire into a Christian spiritual block for political reasons. [After the 2020 American elections that has got to sound like politics as usual.]
…in the year 315, Constantine issued the following edict: We wish to make it known to the Jews and their elders and their patriarchs that if, after the enactment of this law, any one of them dares to attack with stones or some other manifestation of anger another who has fled their dangerous sect and attached himself to the worship of God [Christianity], he must speedily be given to flames and burn— together with all his accomplices. Moreover, if any one of the population should join their abominable sect and attend their meetings, he will bear with them the deserved penalties. This law had two purposes. One was to prevent Jews from interfering with relatives or friends who converted to Christianity. The other was to discourage Christians from converting to Judaism…[Actually, the edict is against the “population”, i.e. pagans, joining the original Jesus Movement of Messianic Judaism instead of Christianity.] By 325 CE, Constantine had absolute power in Rome; in ancient times this meant both political and religious power. That year he summoned 250 Christian bishops to a council in Nicaea… The council began by adopting a creed—a statement of common beliefs. The Nicene Creed expresses a belief in God, in Jesus Christ as the son of God, and in the Holy Spirit. But the bishops of the church went beyond simply defining what Christians believe. At this and later councils, they also moved to distinguish Christianity from Judaism. For example, early Christians, like other Jews, had observed the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week and then celebrated Jesus’s resurrection with special gatherings and meals on the first day of the week (Saturday night or Sunday). Now the council insisted that Christians would observe only Sunday and not the traditional Jewish Sabbath. The bishops also separated Christian commemorations of Easter from Jewish observances of Passover (the Jewish festival during which Jesus was crucified).
“if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits [what they produce]...A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit…Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:15-23)
Two thousand years later, on what are Christians basing their faith?