70 AD onward
Key precept: Love means saying you’re sorry.
Stepping stone on the path to eternal life: Love the Lord your God, not your religious leader.
Treating the Bible like a buffet and serving yourself only desired pieces of the biblical message while repudiating the undesired parts is how there are Old-Testament-only religions like Judaism with its many denominations and New-Testament-only religions like Christianity with its many denominations, and post-Christianity cults like Islam, Mormonism and Rastafarianism following various self-proclaimed prophets and prophetesses.
…Early on, among the descendants of Prophet Jacob, distortions of the basic message of Islam were codified and ritualized, giving rise to the religion of Judaism…
Among those prophets, whose ministry was limited to the Israelites and Jews, was Jesus (the Messiah or Christ, and the son of the Virgin Mary). However, Jesus’ message and ministry were also distorted…
Does it shock you to discover that the most fundamentalist Christians who believe in the inerrant word of God base their beliefs on progressive revelation as much as Islam?
Don’t try to comprehend everything in these complex graphics, simply take note of the progression in revelation depicted.
Two of the more common hermeneutical and theological viewpoints within the world of Bible-believing Christianity are dispensationalism and covenant theology. Each position represents a version of Biblical orthodoxy. [Emphasis added.] Both perspectives generally affirm the major doctrines of the Christian faith, such as the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible…
However, they disagree strongly on…how one views the expression of continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments…No one doubts the fact of the progress of revelation….
for covenant theologians, the church began either with Adam (presumably the first saved man) or Abraham…
In contrast, dispensationalism sees the church as starting on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2…The church has a unique relationship to Christ, something that did not exist before.
How is it possible for two such different theological groups, both believing in the inerrancy of scripture, to co-exist?
The difference lies in how scripture is interpreted.
Systematic theology is a discipline which addresses theological topics one by one (e.g. God, Sin, Humanity) and attempts to summarize all the biblical teaching on each particular subject…the goal is to present the major themes (i.e. doctrines) of the Christian faith in an organized and ordered overview that remains faithful to the biblical witness…
Systematic theology also has major implications in the area of interpreting scripture. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity is not gathered from one passage of the Bible. Instead, the Trinity is an …interpretation of…”a pattern of implicit and explicit judgments concerning the God of Israel and his relationship to the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth…
To understand the connection between systematic theology and interpretation, we can compare it to simple systematic filing. Documents are organized into categories with file folders that allow you to develop meaningful patterns by combining information from multiple sources.
The categories are developed separately from the content of the information, and are based on the ultimate use of the information. Often the same information can be filed into a number of different categories. For instance, the same receipt from a Chinese restaurant can be filed
- under “Meals” or
- under “Entertainment.”
It all depends on what purpose you have for the information being categorized –
- retrieving any of your receipts as needed
- budgeting food expenses
- tracking tax deductions.
The content of what is being organized doesn’t change, but the way it is interpreted changes according to the way it is labeled.
The same is true for Systematic Theology. Each system files the same scripture under a different heading, to organize a different pattern of interpretation.
It is important to note that every filing system – material or conceptual – starts with a pre-conceived purpose for categorizing the information. In the case of Systematic Theology, scripture is assigned to categories to fit a preconceived pattern based on a purpose.
Covenant Theology…is a conceptual overview and interpretive framework for understanding the overall structure of the Bible. It uses the theological concept of a covenant as an organizing principle [Emphasis added.]…The standard form of covenant theology views the history of God’s dealings with mankind…under the framework of three overarching theological covenants: those of redemption, of works, and of grace..
As a framework for biblical interpretation, covenant theology stands in contrast to dispensationalism in regard to the relationship between the Old Covenant (with national Israel) and the New Covenant (with the house of Israel [Jeremiah 31:31] in Christ’s blood)…
Covenant theologians deny that God has abandoned his promises to Israel, but see the fulfillment of the promises to Israel in the person and the work of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who established the church in organic continuity with Israel, not as a separate replacement entity…
A number of major 20th-century covenant theologians including Karl Barth, “the most important theologian of the twentieth century” ….departed from the traditional classical covenant theology to develop a monocovenantal scheme subsuming everything under one Covenant of Grace. The focus of all biblical covenants is then on grace and faith.
So as Karl Barth developed his understanding of God’s message to mankind, he moved scriptures from the Covenant Theology filing system of various old covenants (as seen in the graphic above – Adam, Noah, Moses, etc.) and the new covenant in Jesus’ blood into just one combined old and new single covenantal theology – the grace of God received by faith of man.
Notice, there are still different covenants, but now they are placed into one single file with one heading, fitting one single pattern of the relationship between a powerful God who saves mankind.
From beginning to end, Barth’s theology is decidedly Christocentric…In the incarnation, Christ takes on humanity’s sinfulness and lifts humanity up into restored fellowship with God [Emphasis added.]. On the cross, Christ suffers the rejection that sinful humanity deserves…judged in our place…
the community of God exists in the twofold form of Israel and the Church…according to God’s eternal decree as the people of Israel (in the whole range of its history in past and future…and at the same time as the Church of Jews and Gentiles…”
For Barth, God’s covenant with the nations is clearly an extension of God’s covenant with the Jews…“In tracing God’s election, providence, and covenant with the Jews, Barth affirmed the particularity of God’s election for the Jews ‘in whom there is fullness of salvation for all men of all nations.’ ”…
So we see that Barth’s monocovenantal theology serves a purpose of understanding how the community of God’s people exists as Israel maintaining its national identity in the international Church.
In stark contrast to Covenant Theology, Dispensational Theology serves the purpose of understanding “the difference between the Jew, the Gentile, and Church of God.“
Before a child of God can move forward in serious Bible study, he must understand the different dispensations. Failure to understand the true teaching of dispensations has led many to make false applications of the Bible.
Dispensationalism is “a teaching on which we cannot afford to be uniformed.” The best known purveyors of Dispensationalism are found among the most fundamentalist Christians such as the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, Fundamental Independent Baptist Churches, Moody Bible Institute, Dallas Theological Seminary, Back to the Bible Broadcast. and the book series Left Behind by Tim LaHaye.
Dispensationalists “consider themselves to be the only true champions of biblical orthodoxy. Departure from dispensationalism will result in the loss of the evangelical faith.”
I grew up in one such ardently dispensationalist environment, described accurately I must say by a detractor whose faith was completely broken. Mine was just crippled for many years. My father was a Fundamental Independent Baptist pastor whose faithful daily morning Bible study inspired me to teach myself to read at the age of four, in order to engage myself in what was obviously the most important activity in the world. As a female I could not obtain theological studies from the dispensationalist school my sisters attended. My theological training occurred in the course of attending church at least three times a week, memorizing chapters at a time in AWANA Club, and studying the Bible in personal quiet time every morning and family devotions every night.
One of our family devotions quite unexpectedly became the pivot point in my spiritual life when, while studying Matthew 24, in answer to a question to clarify something he said, my father stated that Jesus and his disciples were no longer Jewish, they were Christians, therefore the events in that passage describing the destruction of the temple, tribulation and second coming did not apply to them.
I was only about 14 years old, but this interpretation was so inconsistent with
- the personal context in which Jesus was replying to questions posed by the disciples,
- the historical evidence that these events had occurred to the disciples, while also would repeat in the future, and
- the rules of biblical interpretation I had been taught, even as a teenager,
that I was shocked and argued against it. My father’s response was “It’s Dispensationalism, but you wouldn’t understand it.” I was savvy enough to recognize that my father, who loved to teach, didn’t himself understand it or he would have held forth.
I never forgot that weird explanation, but it wasn’t until years later, through persistent questioning, that I learned how Dispensationalism reclassified the disciples / apostles from Jews to Christians, since, according to Dispensationalism, one cannot be both, and therefore denied that the teaching given by Jesus in Matthew 24 was directed to his disciples since, according to dispensationalism, Christians are raptured out prior to the Great Tribulation described in Matthew 24.
Please note – the purpose of this study is not to discredit Dispensationalism. The purpose of this study is to ascertain that what is believed is solidly based on inspired scripture. I was disturbed to discover that I was basing my faith and practice on a hidden doctrine that I didn’t understand and wasn’t explained in church. I felt compelled to search out its validity, since it didn’t seem to agree with a straightforward, literal interpretation of the Bible as claimed by my family’s denomination.
Of extreme prejudice against the validity of Dispensationalism is that it is a recent development. It only began in the late 1800’s with John Nelson Darby, and was popularized throughout North America with the Scofield Reference Bible published in 1909.
This year became in a sense a turning point in the history of contemporary dispensationalism as the Reference Bible made an immediate impact among evangelical believers. This Bible is now practically a textbook in many Bible colleges…The Scofield Bible creates a false sense of authority by continually referring to its explanatory notes, based on Darby’s interpretation of Scripture.
Of extreme prejudice against the reliability of Dispensationalism is that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (I Corinthians 14:33)
Dispensationalism is a complex theological system and there are numerous shades of interpretation. The simplest definition is A system of Biblical interpretation adhering to literalism in interpretation and distinguishing a series of periods in God’s dealings with man in which God introduced a succession of tests of responsibilities….Most dispensationalists hold to seven dispensations…Some have only four. Others have as many as eight…
Darby taught that Israel and the church are separate entities…God governs his relationship to Israel and the church according to quite distinct principles. Israel and the church belong to different dispensations, that of law and that of grace…
Champions of biblical orthodoxy…? Literal interpretation…? Darby’s teaching should raise alerts on many fronts.
- The claim that God inserted the exclusively Gentile Church into his plan after Israel did not accept Jesus Christ and demanded his death is patently false. As we shall see, all Israel did not reject Jesus Christ, only the corrupt leaders who allied with the Gentiles. Paul himself, considered the founder of the Gentile Church, never stopped identifying himself as an Israelite, as did all the early believers of Jesus as the risen Lord and Savior. Even more important is that God’s plan had included the church since before time began, in eternity.
- Dispensationalism itself is split into many factions teaching different things. So which faction is correct? During his career, John Darby himself was a fractious man. “Perhaps he should be described as a petty tyrant, for he was most tyrannical about petty things…All who did not agree with his interpretations of the Bible were characterized as “not having the truth,”…and therefore as somewhat “apostate”…” Darby’s overbearing personality caused much friction. The early history of the Plymouth Brethren movement was dominated by rivalry and strife. Even within Darby’s lifetime several divisions within the Brethren movement took place.
- A forensic psychiatric review of his case file reveals common manic behaviors, leading to a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. “…a man with magnetic, electric personal qualities…he often demonstrated as much zeal in destroying a work of his own…He left a massive set of Collected Writings which are almost uniformly unintelligible.”
- A dispensation-declared “false” application of scripture wrests straightforward statements in the Bible when it isn’t interpreted according to the dispensational system in verses like:
“What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way…” (Romans 3:1-2)
“a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (Romans 3:28-31)
The inviolable separation of Gentiles from Jews trumpets the fervent racism within the Bible Belt in which Darby’s Dispensationalism flourished.
- The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845 by pro-slavery churches splitting from the northern Baptist Abolitionists.
- Neoslavery, like Neo-nazism, and widespread violence against Blacks, Jews, and Catholics in particular and anyone who supported social equality for Blacks, infested the South not only through White Supremacist elements like the Klu Klux Klan but society-wide, during Reconstruction. It continued through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s-60’s to present day Black Lives Matter raising social awareness of police prejudice against young Black males.
- The Eugenics Movement was born in early 20th century America “demographically reeling from immigration upheaval and torn by post-Reconstruction chaos…Elitists, utopians and so-called “progressives” fused their smoldering race fears and class bias in coordinated action intended to subtract emancipated Negroes, immigrant Asian laborers, Indians, Hispanics, East Europeans, and Jews. The Nazi Holocaust of the 1930’s-40’s was not Hitler’s brainchild. “Hitler studied American eugenics laws. He…was able to recruit more followers among reasonable Germans by claiming that science was on his side…the intellectual outlines of the eugenics Hitler adopted in 1924 were made in America” which had demonstrated successful implementation of segregation, marriage laws, forced sterilization, and “many mental institutions and doctors practiced improvised medical lethality and passive euthanasia on their own…In its infamous 1927 decision, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “It is better for all the world, if…society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.” This decision opened the floodgates for thousands to be coercively sterilized or otherwise persecuted as subhuman. Years later, the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials quoted Holmes’s words in their own defense…”
Theologically hidden though it may be, historically it is of supreme significance that the biblical interpretation of the relationship between the Jews and Gentiles figures prominently in the two major Christian theological viewpoints developed at the turn of the 20th Century.
Barth’s practice of…constructing theology with the Bible on the one hand and the newspaper on the other, as he put it—buttresses both the logic and the delivery of his theological system. His development as a theologian was deeply connected with the historical setting that encircled him…
His life spanned both world wars, and he was one of the Church’s most vehement voices against Hitler and Nazism. Living in Germany at the time, Barth served as a primary author of the Confessing Church’s defining document, the Barmen Declaration. The goal of this declaration was to connect Christian truths with necessary action against the Nazi regime. In 1934, Barth refused to give an unconditional oath to Hitler and was…expelled from Germany. Barth returned to Basle where he continued to denounce Nazism and exhort the Church to actively respond to the atrocities and injustices being committed. He joined the Swiss Armed Forces as a declaration of his passion for the cause.
According to Barth, the anti-Semitism of the National Socialist regime precluded it from being considered under the Romans 13 umbrella of God-established authority. In Barth’s words, “he who rejects and persecutes the Jews rejects and persecutes Him who died for the sins of the Jews—and then, and only thereby for our sins as well. He who is a radical enemy of the Jews, were he in every other regard an angel of light, shows himself, as such, to be a radical enemy of Jesus Christ. Anti-Semitism is sin against the Holy Ghost. For anti-Semitism means rejection of the grace of God…”
And racism is still a big part of Christianity today.
The fact remains that the Eugenics movement in the United States is alive and well…Over $300 million of taxpayer money goes to family planning programs that are intentionally used suppress the birthrate in low-income, minority families…much of it ends up at Planned Parenthood, America’s number one abortion chain. It is no secret that Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, was a self-proclaimed eugenicist.
Racism among white Christians is higher than among the nonreligious. That’s no coincidence…The relationship between holding racist views and white Christian identity is actually stronger among more frequent church attenders than among less frequent church attenders.
If you dare, take a free on-line test to gauge your implicit racism.
Antisemitic racism, blatant or so ingrained that the holder is utterly oblivious to it, is the icing that makes the delightful Dispensationalist dismissive “let them eat cake” so utterly irresistible.
Why is this influence of dispensational theology so great? In view of the fact that we are living in dramatic, apocalyptic, pessimistic and uncertain times, dispensational theology becomes very attractive to those Christians who see no way out of a seemingly hopeless situation apart from God’s direct intervention in history to take away (rapture) His true church out of this wicked and very perverse world…
The hope of the church is the rapture, the “first” second coming of Christ. Before the great tribulation, which will last for seven years, the true church is to be taken from the earth secretly and then, at a later time, Christ will return in a public “second” second coming. As Darby put it, “The church’s joining Christ has nothing to do with Christ’s appearing or coming to earth.”
Christ at the public second public coming will establish…the millennial kingdom on earth and Christ will offer the Kingdom to Israel again, David’s throne will again be occupied, the temple restored, and sacrifices reinstituted. Judaism will be completely restored and there will be a division between Jew and Gentile.
This teaching on The Rapture of the Gentile Church is not in the Bible and contradicts the clear biblical timing of occurring at “the last trump“. In order to account for this, Dispensationalists invent another series of trumpets that are not mentioned at all in the Bible, and twist and take out of context many scriptures to make a square interpretation fit into the circular eternal plan of God. In my experience talking with people who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture, they have no idea where the rapture teaching came from. Their faith in preservation from suffering is based on preaching from dispensationalists’ pulpits rather than personal Bible study.
So if it’s not in the Bible, where does it come from?
“It comes from the ecstatic utterances of Margaret MacDonald in 1830…that were picked up by John Darby.”
Proof of Life
There are two ways to determine if Margaret MacDonald, John Darby, Muhammed, Ellen White, Joseph Smith, and all the rest of the hordes of prophets claiming to report God’s revelation through them are, in fact, God’s messengers.
“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)
Let’s take a look at Darby’s Prophetic Map of the End Times developed in the late 1800’s. Note, according to Darby’s teaching, the rapture can occur at any moment. Therefore, if his prophecies are true, the political elements should have been in play over the last 140 years or so.
This article looks back over what Darby wrote in the light of various things that have happened in the world since then...we Christians should be intelligent as to events in the world, and also know what will happen here after the rapture of the church. Of course we will not be here!
- France, not the USA, becomes the dominant Western power instead of England.
- The USA does not become a world power.
- Russia dominates Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Lebanon.
- Islam is of no importance.
Clearly Darby’s predictions have not come to pass.
So in addition to marking him as a false prophet, how can Dispensationalists believe that the rapture could have occurred at any moment since Darby’s new doctrine was taught?
I’m hearing the dispensationalist argument – his predictions just haven’t happened yet. But they will! in an extremely short war where Socialist France allied with Communist Russia splits West and East they knock the USA and the Moslem countries out of commission.
But since Christians won’t be here when that happens, Darby is safe from judgment. But by the same token, without any proof of true prophecies, he is also barred from consideration as a true prophet, isn’t he?
So let’s apply the second proof. As with any other literature, internal consistency provides reliability on which to place our trust in the revelation of the many prophets claiming to speak for God.
Literary experts determine if any “newly discovered” composition is, in fact, the claimed work of a famous author from centuries ago by its consistency with previously established, i.e. canonized (secular as well as religious) works by the same author.
When William Shakespeare’s friends and fellow actors and authors published his collected plays in 1623, 7 years after the Bard shuffled off this mortal coil, that book, now known as the First Folio, established what was and was not to be officially “Shakespeare.” Yet, as with any other great artist, Shakespeare left us wanting more. The search for “lost” Shakespeare has spanned centuries…William Shakespeare & Others: Collaborative Plays, edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, uses the latest computer technology paired with old school critical connoisseurship…to coolly lay out all the arguments…beside the very texts in question…
fellow playwright Ben Jonson...calls Shakespeare “not of an age, but for all time,”…the publication of the plays would win Will…a lasting legacy.
Anyone who contradicts internal reliability to make him / herself the authority to redefine the authorship, credibility and meaning of parts of any ancient piece of literature is patently a deceiver. He / she doesn’t know enough about the circumstances in the time and place of the writing to support their claims. And, frankly, that is true about every individual who forms uninformed opinions about the nature of God and his revelation in the Bible.
I drop the topic Dispensationalism, which claims to take the Bible literally but is actually based on the claim that God doesn’t remain true to his word.
“Now they [Jewish believers] which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen [in Jerusalem] travelled as far as Phenice [Lebanon], and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only….when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians…a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11)
Both Replacement Theology and Dispensationalism consider this to be a clear sign of God eliminating Israel as his chosen people in favor of the Gentile “Christian Church”. But what does the Bible say?
The Jewish believers were preaching the word. And what would that be? At this time, only the Old Testament.
And most importantly:
“Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew…at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Romans 11:1-5)
“The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love:
- Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar…if those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.
- Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done.” (Jeremiah 31:35-37)
“Christ-ian” is simply the Greek word for “Messia-nic”. So the Acts 11 text announcing the new identification label of “Christian” is not a doctrinal signal. A right hermeneutical, unbiased, unprejudiced analysis of this passage alerts us to the expanding population of Greek-speaker within the ranks of Jewish believers. In the Bible, the label is only applied to Greek speaking Gentile believers in Jesus Christ, never to Jewish believers.
But there is more. The alert reader will notice that this term is only used three times in the Bible. How very odd for a “new religion”.
Peter only uses the term once, and that in a questionable context.
“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” (I Peter 4:14-16)
It may be assumed that being reproached for the name of Christ and suffering as a Christian are equivalent experiences. However, a proper grammatical reading is to treat “reproached for the name of Christ” as a contrary experience from “suffer as a Christian”. Look at the separation of the two terms by the phrasing following “But” and “yet”. A straightforward parsing of this paragraph indicates that Christians, like Jewish Zealots, were murdering, thieving, doing evil things, and busybodying into social activism against Jesus Christ’s instructions. And this impression, and Peter’s recommended response to it, is supported by Paul.
“Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife…contention, not sincerely…What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice.” (Philippians 1:15-18)
Paul never using the term “Christian” in any of his voluminous writings.
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:27-28)
Paul’s answer to Agrippa is most telling of all. He does not apply Agrippa’s use of the label “Christian” to himself. He diplomatically dances around it.
“And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.” (Acts 26:29)
Paul never called himself a Christian.
We must therefore conclude that Paul did not construct a new Gentile religion called Christianity on the rubble of Judaism.
It takes time for new converts to mature in the faith. It also takes time, attention, and interest by the new converts. Until that could happen, Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles gathered leaders of his mission churches from the scripturally literate Jews at the synagogues.
“[Jesus] became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered…every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:9-14)
So it wasn’t until much later in Paul’s ministry that there were Gentile proselytes who Paul could begin to coach into leadership positions within the entire body of believers in Jesus as the Christ.
“Paul…came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila…with his wife Priscilla…he abode with them…And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks…and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles [in this city, to teach them to teach others]. And he departed [from the synagogue] and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized…And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” (Acts 18:1-11)
Paul’s curse on the blasphemous Jews applied only to those in Corinth. At his next pit stop he again followed his standard procedure of starting a new work with the Jews.
“Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus...And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.
But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus…by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:1-10)
Yes, but Paul did say he received special revelation from Jesus about his gospel to the Gentiles, didn’t he? Let’s examine that passage in Galatians 1 hermeneutically.
- “the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it”
- This accords with Paul receiving the gospel message from the Old Testament, as “the holy scriptures…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…I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ…Preach the word;” (II Timothy 3:15-17, 4:
- “but by the revelation of Jesus Christ…when it pleased God…To reveal his Son in me…that I might preach him among the heathen;
- Three times Paul gives a detailed account of Jesus revealing himself to him. He consistently reports that Jesus’ message was not doctrinal, what we call the gospel of salvation, but strictly marching orders.
- Acts 9 he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? I am Jesus…And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?…bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:“
- Acts 22 I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?…I am Jesus…And I said, What shall I do, Lord?…The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard…I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
- Three times Paul gives a detailed account of Jesus revealing himself to him. He consistently reports that Jesus’ message was not doctrinal, what we call the gospel of salvation, but strictly marching orders.
In this second account, it is unlikely that Saul’s only experience with seeing and hearing Jesus would be in future special visions. The qualifications for being an apostle were clearly laid out as being one who “companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21-22) This would be accounted for by Saul being one of the Pharisees hounding Jesus during his ministry, therefore he did both “see that Just One…and hear the voice of his mouth.” How else could Paul verify his vision on the road to Damascus as being truly the Lord Jesus? And the third account supports this logical deduction.
- Acts 26 fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me…Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?…I am Jesus…I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen [in the past], and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee [in the future,]; Delivering thee from the people [Jews], and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
In this last account the future revelations of Jesus to Paul are specified as not being doctrinal, but deliverance from the endless threat to his life by both Jews and Gentiles, which began immediately after his conversion.
- Acts 9 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues…And the Jews took counsel to kill him:
- Act 9 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem…he disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.
- Acts 14 in Iconium…there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use despitefully, and to stone them.
- Acts 14 they fled unto Lystra and Derbe…And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.
While Paul was magnified many years later as the “the founder of Christianity” which supposedly began on the Day of Pentecost long before he was involved, during his mission work not only was he viciously opposed by the traditional Jewish leaders in the synagogues, he was always snubbed by the Messianic Jewish leaders.
“when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in / through me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately
- I conferred not with…them which were apostles before me…
- after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter [clearly lobbying for the Gentiles against the Judaizer faction]…
- other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother…
- these who seemed to be somewhat…in conference added nothing to me…must be referring to the Acts 15 conference, as we saw his testimony was brushed aside.]
James, Cephas / Hebrew translation for Peter, and John, who seemed to be pillars…gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship;
- that we should go unto the heathen,
- and they unto the circumcision.” (Galatians 1:15-20, 2:9)
Do you see the apartheid being established? The body of believers in Jesus Christ in its formative years was a Jewish sect desiring to maintain a distinctly Jewish identity, with Gentile converts being pressured to become Jews. Paul’s letter to his first mission churches, established in Galatia during his first mission journey, relentlessly projects Paul’s ostracism from the main body of believers because he promoted Gentile spiritual equality with Jewish believers, without conversion to Judaism by circumcision and keeping the law of Moses. It is easy to interpret Galatians as Christian doctrine versus Judaism which passed away at the cross, But note – the same passages clearly show that all the Jewish believers in Jesus, the apostles included – DID continue to require circumcision and keeping the law of Moses FOR JEWISH BELIEVERS.
“I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also...and communicated unto them [the Jewish leaders of the church at Jerusalem] that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain [be over-ruled by the majority rule].
because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our [Gentile] liberty [from this practice] which we [associating himself with his Gentile converts] have in Christ Jesus, that they [Jewish believers] might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you…
“when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself…And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him [pretended they never ate with Gentiles].
But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all [not only embarrassing him but disrespecting his high status in the group], If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:1-16
“As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ [by the Jews insisting on Jewish purity in that sect]…
For 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 6:12-16)
Paul’s ostracism PROVES no “Gentile” church existed in the Acts of the Apostles.
There was only a Jewish sect that, reluctantly and hesitantly, associated somewhat with Gentile believers in the Jewish Savior. It is highly significant that, while encouraging Gentiles to identify with God’s people without full conversion to Judaism, Paul himself never relinquished his Israelite identity.
“I also am [present tense] an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” (Romans 11:1)
“Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;” (Philippians 3:4-5)
“among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come.” (Acts 26)
Paul himself never claimed to found a new religion. He states multiple times that he was a follower of Jesus of Nazareth because he was the fulfillment of Judaism’s Old Testament prophecy.
“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…a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes…
Then Paul…answered, after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing [present tense!] 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…I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings...certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple…” (Acts 24:1-18)
Paul clearly articulates that the law of Moses, which did not institute but rather affirmed the earlier practice of the identifying mark of circumcision, was never an element of salvation for the Jews but a code of righteous conduct for a select leadership who are already in a faith-based relationship with the LORD God.
“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness…And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised…being fully persuaded that, what he [God] had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus / YHVH’s Savior our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:1-25)
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also.” (Romans 3:19-29)
“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, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;” (Romans 15:4, Titus 1:1-2)
It is precisely BECAUSE the Jewish national heritage has NOTHING to do with the MEANS of salvation by faith that the reverse is likewise true.
Accepting salvation by faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t change Jewish national heritage.
They are two separate gifts of God.
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Galatians 6:15)
“Timotheus, the son of a…Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek…Paul…took and circumcised.” (Acts 16:1-3)
“But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:” (Galatians 2:3)
“And when we were come to Jerusalem…Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present…and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs…
Do therefore this that we say to thee. We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them…that all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also…keepest the law.”
And Paul agreed. He absolutely believed that Jewish believers should continue to practice the ritual law of Moses.
Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.” (Acts 21:17-26)
Paul was never made welcome at the home New Testament Church, led by James, in Jerusalem. His base was in Gentile Asia.
“all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks…So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed…And the same time there arose no small stir about that way [one of the designations of the Jewish sect of the Nazarenes]…almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:” (Acts 19)
And even Paul’s Gentile churches reject him.
“all they which are in Asia be turned away from me;” (II Timothy 1:8-15)
Why? When at the end of his ministry he pushed too hard for the Gentiles to identify themselves with with law-abiding Jews. Consider what Paul was asking them to do at this point in history! To share not only the Jewish religious identity but their political status as hated enemies and enslaved losers of the 70 AD war. It is the equivalent of establishing a mosque in your neighborhood right after 9-11.
With this in mind, re-read Paul’s exhortation to Ephesian Gentile believers.
“For this cause I The Jew Paul, the prisoner of the Jewish rival to Caesar YHVH’s Messiah for you Gentiles… the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:” (Ephesians 3:1-6)
Fellowheirs and of the same body and partakers of the promise is NOT for salvation. Paul had before established in his earlier letters that Jews and non-Jews alike are saved by faith, not works of the law. See the post The Hebrew Nation for more details. As detailed in the post The Law of Moses, an heir is granted power and authority in order to govern the citizens in the kingdom. This is the mystery that Paul is revealing, and why he is praying that they would be strengthened with might to pick up and carry this heavy burden, and have the self-sacrificing love to receive it.
Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
- That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
- That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
- May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know / merge with the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,
- that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Ephesians 3)
“remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands. That at that time ye were
- without Christ
- aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,
- strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
But now in Christ Jesus ye…are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath
- made both one
- broken down the middle wall of partition between us
- abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances…
The law of commandments contained in ordinances is not the entire set of Mosaic law. The laws applicable to this context are the laws segregating uncircumcised from circumcised believers in God from Ezekiel 44:
“Thus saith the LORD God; O ye house of Israel…let it suffice you of all your abominations…ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.”
This is most obviously the condition of Herod’ temple in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, as documented by Josephus.
with God’s assistance, I have advanced the nation of the Jews to a degree of happiness which they never had before…“Our fathers, indeed, when they were returned from Babylon, built this temple to God Almighty…but since I am now, by God’s will, your governor...and, what is the principal thing of all, I am at amity with and well regarded by the Romans, who, if I may so say, are the rulers of the whole world, I will do my endeavor to correct that imperfection…by rendering his temple as complete as I am able.”
[When] the temple itself was built…all the people…returned thanks, in the first place, to God; and in the next
place for…the king. They feasted and celebrated this rebuilding of the temple: and for the king, he sacrificed three hundred oxen to God…at the same time…fell also the day of the king’s inauguration, which he kept of an old custom as a festival, and it now coincided with the other; which coincidence of them both made the festival most illustrious.
As detailed in the posts Melchizedek Moses and Son of David, in the times of theocratic kingdoms the king was the high priest. Get it? Romanized Herod the Great certainly took on the position of Melchizedek Priest-King heir to Moses and David, higher than the Levitical High Priest.
“And ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves…And the Levites that are gone away far from me…they shall even bear their iniquity.” (Ezekiel 44:6-10)
Now on the north side [of the temple] was built a citadel, whose walls were square, and strong, and of extraordinary firmness. This citadel was built by the kings of the Asamonean race, who were also high priests before Herod [usurped from Aaron’s and King David’s descendants], and they called it the Tower, in which were reposited the vestments of the high priest, which the high priest only put on at the time when he was to offer sacrifice. “These vestments…were under the power of the Romans…the day before a festival, [the Jewish ministers] went up to the Roman captain of the temple guards…and received the vestments; and again when the festival was over, they brought it to the same place, and…reposited them there….but for the tower itself, when Herod the king of the Jews had fortified it more firmly than before, in order to secure and guard the temple, he gratified [Marc Antony] Antonius, who was his friend, and the Roman ruler, and then gave it the name of the Tower of Antonia.
Josephus, who was an eyewitnesses to the Temple’s destruction in AD 70,… also mentioned the “dividing wall” which barred Gentiles & un-clean Jews from approaching the shrine building. “There was a wall of partition…this encompassed the holy house, and the altar, and kept the people that were on the outside off from the priests.” On it was a notice – “No Gentile may enter beyond the dividing wall into the court around the holy place. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death.” Paul used this barrier wall as a metaphor in explaining to Gentiles how God, through Christ’s death, brought them to Himself, past the barrier of their sins (Ephesians 2:11-22).
“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;
- And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, [like Herod’s temple incorporated and expanded on the temple built by Zerubabel]
- Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building [metaphor for the church] fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded [incorporated] together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:11-22)
Hold up! the astute reader shouts. You left out “for to make in himself of twain one new man so making peace…
There you have it. Christians are the “new man”. No more Judaism!
Not so fast. What does the text mean by “one new man”? Clearly it equates the new condition of with Christ as
- no longer being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel which must therefore logically still be in existence
- but instead fellowcitizens with the saints, i.e. those humans who have achieved sanctification in the past prior to not only Jesus’ death but even before the establishment of Judaism.
“The LORD came from Sinai…he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them. Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words. Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 33:2-4)
“Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have
- put off the old man with his deeds; And have
- put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge / unity after the image of him that created him:
- Where there is neither
- Greek nor Jew,
- circumcision nor uncircumcision,
- Barbarian, Scythian,
- bond nor free:
but Christ is all, and in all.” (Colossians 3)
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
- There is neither Jew nor Greek,
- there is neither bond nor free,
- there is neither male nor female:
for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:27-19)
Within the same letter to the Ephesians Paul most definitely continues to recognize the continued difference between male and female identities and roles, and existence of slavery. Multiple texts establish that we are “heirs” to the promise which hasn’t been completely delivered yet. We’re caught between two worlds of the physical and spiritual.
“as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God…And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified [future] together…
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God…ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body”(Romans 8)
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a [spiritually] new creature:
- old things [physical drives and exploitive pursuits] are passed away; behold,
- all things [drives, interests and activities] are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:16-17)
And there we have it! The “new man” is the resurrected, immortal human who has been redeemed from sin and death as promised to the Adams – for the express purpose of restoring dominion over the earth to humanity! This is what was understood as the Gentiles read John’s message that whosoever received Jesus as God messenger and savior could become a Son of God / Representative of God / Leader in the kingdom.
“He came unto his own [the priest-rulers], and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (Joh 1:11-12).
But what about that verse that says that “Christ is the end of the law?” Put it in context! This is written to those who ignorantly thought that salvation could come through following the law.
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ [with his sacrifice] is the end of the law [requiring blood sacrifices] for [establishing God’s] righteousness to every one that believeth…
For the scripture saith…there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:1-13)
Throughout the first century the Jewish apostles in the peculiar Jewish Messianic sect did indeed provide leadership in the kingdom of God. This was absolutely by Jesus’s command and Paul’s stewardship.
“a woman of Samaria…saith unto him…Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman…Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews…The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh…Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he…And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified.” (John 4:39)
“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.” (Romans 9:3-5)
Only at the end of Paul’s ministry did he transition leadership in the kingdom of God from the Jewish leaders to the Gentiles.
“And when we came to Rome…Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him…Paul called the chief of the Jews together…there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear [respond to] it” (Acts 28:16-31)
The phrase “the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles” cannot be interpreted as meaning only Gentiles and no Jews can be saved. Hermeneutically, that interpretation is antithetical to the essence of the message of the entire Bible. This phrase repeats the statement made by Jesus during his ministry to a Gentile, where “salvation is of the Jews” means that they carry the message, the way, for Jews and Gentiles. And this is the same meaning that Paul expresses during his mission trips to Jews and Gentiles.
Paul knew from Jesus’ prophecy that Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed during “this generation“, i.e. by 70 AD, and that this would end the Jerusalem Church’s power base.
The Great Revolt of 66-70, followed some sixty years later by the Bar Kokhba revolt, were the greatest calamities in Jewish history prior to the Holocaust. In addition to the more than one million Jews killed, these failed rebellions led to the total loss of Jewish political authority in Israel until 1948. This loss in itself exacerbated the magnitude of later Jewish catastrophes, since it precluded Israel from being used as a refuge for the large numbers of Jews fleeing persecutions elsewhere. — Eusebius, Church History 3, 5, 3
Add to that the refusal of the alternate base of Jewish leadership at Rome to pick up “salvation is of the Jews”, in desperation Paul writes the letter to the strongest church both spiritually and geographically positioned to shepherd the flock.
“all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:10)
The letter to the church at Ephesus is the first, and only, letter to a Gentile Church urging them to take charge, and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that prior to this there was a clear separation between Jewish believers – the leaders – and Gentile believers – the led.
The majestic chapters of Ephesians emphasize the unity in the church of Christ that has come about for both Jews and Gentiles within God’s household / administration (Eph 1:15–2:22, especially Eph 2:11–22) and indeed the “seven unities” of church, Spirit, hope; one Lord, faith, and baptism; and the one God (Eph 4:4–6). Yet the concern is not with the church for its own sake but rather as the means for mission in the world (Eph 3:1–4:24). The gifts Christ gives its members are to lead.
Notice how circumstantially Paul delivers this assertion. He lays out rationale after rationale why they should believe him, then finally spits it out. This –the inclusion of Gentiles into leadership and not simply membership within the kingdom of God – s THE supreme revelation given by Jesus to Paul as one of the Pharisees who did see Jesus again after, as promised to this generation of Pharisees, accepting him as coming in the name of the Lord i.e. speaking with equal God-empowered authority as Moses. But neither Jesus nor Paul came up with anything new. They quote the Old Testament and back up every word said by the Old Testament prophets.
See the post A Melchizedek like Moses for evidence that Paul is also a priest-king under the Order of Melchizedek. Paul’s letter to the 1st century AD Gentile Ephesians applies equally to Moses speaking to the international multitude of Hebrews gathered at Mount Sinai in the 2nd millennium BC.
- he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy
- predestinated us unto the adoption of children
- made known unto us the mystery of his will that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in The Promised Seed / Christ,
- ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise are made nigh by the blood of The Promised Seed / Christ
- For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us
- Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints,
- and [more than just faceless, nameless citizens] – of the household of God; [remember the household are the ministers, not an insult, but closest to the king, known personally to the king, highly valued in a king’s entourage]
- And [even more – unity in relationship!] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone…ye also are builded together [with them] for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
For this cause I Paul,
- the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles [appealing to their sentiment],
- If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: [appealing to shared history]
- How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; [appealing to spiritual authority]
- (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) [not sure what this is, maybe a previous letter they simply threw away]
- Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; [appealing to rule of two or more witnesses, and Peter steps up as seen below]
That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs / rulers, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given,
- that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; [beyond simply salvation]
- And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
- Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
- To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church / congregation of believers including those following Moses at mount Sinai / and the originally solely Jewish New Testament Church the manifold wisdom of God
- According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord…
- For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
- That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man…
- May be able to comprehend…
- And to know the love [unity] of Christ, which passeth knowledge
- that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
- Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity [of the long-standing conflict between Jews and Gentiles] of the Spirit in the bond of peace.“ (Ephesians 2-4)
And Peter steps up and provides the necessary second witness to this doctrine as truth.
”to the strangers [aliens, non-Jews] scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…
- ye are a chosen generation,
- a royal priesthood,
- an holy nation,
- a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God…among the Gentiles: that…they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (I Peter 1:2, 2:9-12)
However, Paul’s letter resulted in all in Asia – Ephesus’ sphere of influence – abandoning Paul’s leadership. And this is when Paul writes the pastoral manuals to his spiritual sons and successors, Timothy and Titus, instructional manuals for new leaders. Think about it. Paul would have written these at the beginning of his missionary journeys if Gentiles had qualified for these positions at that time!
“Titus, [a Gentile yet] mine own son after the common faith…For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee [because there were church splits between those who followed Paul’s Gentile appointments and those who remained under Jerusalem leadership] :
If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly…as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers…Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” (Titus 1:4-14)
“Timothy, [circumcised to fully embrace his Jewishness] my own son in the faith…As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine…[as one good brawl inevitably leads to character assassination providing excuse to rebel against all authority.]
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless…the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (I Timothy 1,3)
Continuing chronologically with Paul’s letters, we find that the churches in Asia (Turkey) also repudiated his disciple Timothy.
“This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me…Thou therefore, my son…do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (II Timothy 1:15, 4:5)
Paul really did have a major problem on his hands. There is a very deeply entrenched difference between the Jewish believers in YHVH’s Savior and Gentile converts to the Jewish Son of God.
- The Jews based their understanding of Yeshua’s claim to be the Son of God on the scriptures, the word of God.
- The scripturally illiterate Gentiles based their understanding of “Son of God”. on their religious backgrounds. Certain concepts were alien, such as:
- Jesus’ teaching that at that time, “My kingdom is not of this world” and “The kingdom of God is within you“, and
- Paul’s commands to “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”
As discussed fully in the previous post In Earth As In Heaven, for pagans, a “son of god” was any human ruler who incarnated that nation’s god to allow that god’s will to be voiced and executed on earth. Even in Western culture, as late as 18th Century, until overthrown by the American then the French Revolution, religion was inseparable from earthly government.
The centurion and his work crew at the crucifixion could easily believe that Jesus King of the Jews had achieved immortality – i.e. godhood – after he died and his soul ascended into Heaven. This was, after all, a common occurrence among the pagan divine and semi-divine monarchies within the Roman Empire.
Pointedly, even the anti-king Roman Republic had begun the practice of deifying Roman Emperors after Julius Caesar’s assassination in the previous generation. Something like President Kennedy who “since his assassination in 1963…has been immortalized in time as a heroic figure.” Only much bigger.
Even in Caesar’s lifetime, after emerging victorious from Rome’s Civil War of 49-45 BC, statues were set up to Caesar as “unconquered god. A special priest was ordained for him, which ranked Caesar not only as divine, but as an equal of Jupiter / Zeus / Satan and Mars / god of war. The living Caesar’s honors in Rome were already and unambiguously those of a full-blown god when he was assassinated by Republicans precisely for this power play.
A fervent popular cult to divus Julius followed…the Senate soon succumbed to Caesarian pressure and confirmed Caesar as a divus of the Roman state. Caesar’s young heir, his great-nephew Octavian, held ceremonial apotheosis / deification for his adoptive father…Provincial cult centres (caesarea) to the divus Julius were founded… The Imperial cult of ancient Rome…was rapidly established throughout the Empire and its provinces…A deceased emperor held worthy of the honor could be voted a state divinity (divus, plural divi) by the Senate... The granting of apotheosis…allowed living Emperors to associate themselves with a well-regarded lineage of Imperial divi…
As the founding god-ruler of Rome, Caesar established the legitimacy of successive rulers as his dynastic heirs. Interestingly, there were no naturally begotten sons. This was not a problem in Roman society. They simply went through a legal process of adoption as the son of god Julius Caesar, including, as is still the same today, taking their adoptive family name as their new name. In their case, that was “Caesar”. Additionally, in Roman society, an intrinsic element of their political legitimacy was worshiping the god Caesar as a form of ancestor worship.
And this is how the immature Gentile converts from the multitude of nationalities within the Roman empire perceived themselves in a casual reading of the teachings of the apostles.
“God…hath blessed us…unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:1-5)
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…ye are…a royal priesthood, a holy nation, the people of God.” (I Peter 1:1-3, 2:9-10)
Those who allied themselves with the resurrected therefore deified Hero Savior of the Jews, by Roman convention renamed themselves as his sons, using their own empire-wide language for ease of communication among the polyglot nations.
And here is the origin of the word Christ-ians.
Of course, these Gentile converts to the Jewish Son of God also, by convention, worshipped him.
But as pagans who believed in multiple gods, many didn’t accord this Jesus from Nazareth any special status.
The Roman concept of religion had never been that of an…exclusive obligatory moral loyalty to an unseen and highly spiritual Being. It made the relation between man and the gods entirely objective and unmystical. But it had recognized decent regard for the formulas of the community religion as a political duty of all good citizens.
It is very essential for the modern reader to grasp this fact, which is so incongruous with the usual concepts of religiously minded people of the present era. It is hardly useful to compare the Roman system of religion to an established church of today.
In the first place, the purely Roman system had no body of priests corresponding to the Aaronic priesthood among the Hebrews, or to the orders of clergy in the Christian church. Its religious officials were merely political functionaries of state…The pontifex maximus himself, recognized head of the religious system of Rome, was no more a cleric than…King George V in his official relation to the Church of England…
In the second place, the Roman religion made no demand upon or appeal to any personal or emotional faith on the part of its adherents. It did not aim to inculcate a body of spiritual belief or even of external morality…
The Roman religion was simply a part of the political system of the state, and a nominal acceptance of it was expected of all citizens and subjects of the state, precisely as they were expected to accept obediently its political rule. Yet as an ordinary citizen nowadays may live quite comfortably and unsuspiciously without taking any
active interest in politics, so a resident of the Roman realm might live under ordinary circumstances without having any special concern about its official religion…
a miscellaneous swarm of…strange cults from Egypt and the East…that dwelt at Rome in amicable relations with her official religion…as variegated in source and character as her increasing polyglot population…there were a few occasions when the government laid a heavy hand upon an imported cult, prohibited its exercise in Rome, and even put to death or banished its adherents; but…In every case the religion was, or was believed to have been, made a cloak for definite offences against…law or social order…
The native official religion…was a part of the state system, and its administration a part of the administration of the state. The citizens and subjects of Rome were all naturally regarded in a technical sense as adherents of its religion as much as of the rest of its political system. If one of them had openly protested, and avowed that he acknowledged allegiance to some other throne than Caesar’s, he would of course have been summarily dealt with on the charge of treason. But the Roman mind was quite incapable of conceiving that any purely religious cult could reasonably exist that demanded exclusive spiritual loyalty to itself alone from its devotees. Hence Roman law and custom regarded the adherents of all these other religions as special groups of citizens or subjects organized into voluntary associations or clubs for their own purposes, not inconsistent with their proper civic loyalty. To cite a modern though not very precise parallel, they were, from the official Roman standpoint, like special religious confraternities in the Christian Church of today. Such voluntary associations were therefore usually permitted.
Augustus…shrewd and farseeing a statesman…understood perfectly the unwieldy character of that widely extended and heterogeneous realm over which he presided. Loyal unity was to be fostered by every available means, that the immense empire might be welded together into a sentimental as well as a political oneness…
The empire of Rome had grown by gradual accretions made to the territory of a single city-state. Her whole ideal was one of political consolidation centered about a governing power at Rome…needed only in the moral sphere of patriotism the reinforcement of a sentimental attachment…The worship of Augustus, or of Rome and Augustus, spread rapidly through all the fringe of provinces from Asia Minor to Spain…In succeeding reigns the Augustus of “Rome and Augustus” meant always the living Prince of the day….
the worship of the reigning Augustus was not so much a reverence of the living man as of his genius…a concept difficult for a modern to define or to understand…closely akin to his spirit…
The only sect in the Roman realm to which…this cult was a decidedly abhorrent thing was that of the Jews…Their national Jehovah was…the One and Only God. He demanded of Hebrews, as of their voluntary and complete adherents from other nationalities, an absolutely exclusive loyalty and devotion. The worship of any other god by his people was idolatry…the worst of sins. The first two of the Mosaic commandments expressed his injunction on this point with irrevocable decision. Evidently no orthodox Jew could join in emperor-worship, even when it was professedly regarded as a test of civic loyalty and not as resting on any theological beliefs. Apparently no other Roman citizens or subjects were in such a case. No other deity claimed the exclusive loyalty of his devotees…
The Jewish realm realm in that land was in the eye of Rome a foreign state, whose citizens might be tolerated as residents in any part of the Roman dominions…The Jews had a national religion, and, however absurd and debasing it might be, they might of course celebrate its rites freely.
Jews had…some special and perhaps unique privileges accorded them…In all strictness Jews who were Roman citizens…had lost all rights of citizenship in another state, and accordingly would not be entitled to share in these special privileges. But the Romans…made the adherence to the Jewish national religion the sole determining test of claim to such grants of privilege, at least in the case of Jews by blood…
The legal condition of the Jews, then, was distinctly favorable…in the Rome of the first century after Christ. It does
not appear probable that the Jews made a very great number of proselytes in Rome…But they did attract attention… No doubt the voluntary social isolation and cliquiness of the Jews made them objects of dislike to the populace, with the lower orders of which they generally ranked; for none are more given than the common people to resenting the action of neighbors who “keep to themselves.” In the popular Roman mind the aspect of such privacy tended to breed suspicion of immoral practices. This popular disapprobation and suspicion was of course readily
transferred to the Christians, who were naturally regarded as merely a sect of the Jews, from whom they sprang, and among whom they were chiefly recruited in the earlier years of their existence. In the face of these evident facts, the additional one that the orthodox Jew vehemently assailed the Christian as a heretic and apostate seemed of course to the Roman, of whatever class in society, an unimportant consideration…
The Christians of course shared at first in the special political toleration accorded the Jews. But when the protests of both Jew and Christian had succeeded (probably about the time of Nero) in convincing the intelligent Roman that Christians were not of the Jewish faith, the new sectaries doubtless were judged to be not entitled to the privileged position of the Jews.
Remember, Paul was executed by Nero. Paul had certainly foreseen the fallout from the split between the Jews and the Gentile believers. The least, in Paul’s mind anyway, would have been his Gentile converts’ freedom from persecution for refusing to offer sacrifices to the Roman Emperor due to their inclusion in a Jewish sect. Most of all was their loss of the word of God transmitted by scripturally literate leadership.
But the Christians, now clearly distinguished from the Jews, lost that protection. They had fallen into the general class of Roman citizens and subjects, and were theoretically held to all the duties of people of that status. But they could not conscientiously share in the state-worship; the emperor-cult was to them peculiarly blasphemous; over them accordingly hung threatening possibilities. But the Romans were in general easy-going, and no especial circumstances prompted action on their part. Even the local Neronian “persecution” occasioned no widespread movement in the direction of attempted repression of Christianity. Not before the middle or later part of the second century…did the Roman authorities commonly apply the test of conformity, the refusal of which substantiated the guilt of treason…The alleged crime was not concerned with the religious question intrinsically…it indicated a hostile attitude toward the government…It was not in the quiet and safe center of the empire, but in its more turbulent outskirts, that especial anxiety existed about the weakening of the bond of unity through treasonable associations and teachings.
And “Christian” became “political rebel” against Caesar.
Now that we have the Roman cultural background in place, we can, as in a Shakespearean play, catch the meaning in the oblique messages passed between the Paul and the Romans during his court hearing.
“I am sick when I do look on thee.” Lovesick, or repulsed sick?
“Now when [the Roman governor] Festus was come into the province…the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul…and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove. While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all…I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. I appeal unto Caesar.”
In imperial times, any Roman citizen from any part of the Empire facing trial could express their desire to appeal directly to Caesar. The most famous example of a citizen invoking this right is the apostle Paul. Born a Jew in 4 B.C. in Tarsus in modern-day Turkey, Paul—a Latinized form of his Hebrew name, Saul—was a Roman citizen. Following his arrest by the Romans in A.D. 59, Paul used his status to dramatically halt his trial before Porcius Festus, the governor of Judaea: “Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, ‘You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!’“ (Acts: 25:12).
“And after certain days king [of the Jews] Agrippa [II] and [his sister] Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus. And…Festus declared Paul’s cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by [the previous governor] Felix: About whom…the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him…Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive…when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him. Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth…specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.” (Acts 25)
Once again, we need more historical background to understand what was common knowledge at the time this account was written, about 60 A.D.
The reason the recently appointed Roman governor Festus was “especially” glad to have king Agrippa assist in his legal examination of a Jew is because Agrippa understood those confusing politico-religious wranglings of the chief priests and elders of the Jews, while firmly allied with Rome’s interests, and could keep Festus safe on this tightrope examination, avoiding anything the would cause a problem with either Rome or the Jews.
King Agrippa II, who had been ruling Judea for about 5 years at the time of Paul’s examination, was very much the son of Agrippa I (ruled 41-44) who was “devout in his Judaism, which made him popular with his Jewish subjects.…This desire to please the Jewish people is also seen in his persecution of the early Christian leaders, as described in the book of Acts [where Agrippa I is called by one of his other names, Herod]…Agrippa was a skilled diplomat who knew how to appease both the Roman Emperor and the Jewish populace, staying in the good graces of both.”
King Agrippa II was likewise a skilled diplomat who benefited from good relations with three Roman emperors in succession, in part because he inherited his father’s goodwill with the restless Jewish populace. His Roman benefactors entrusted him with the supervision of the Temple in Jerusalem and the right to appoint the high priest. When the Jews revolted against Rome in 66, he personally went to hot spot Jerusalem to try to negotiate an end to the rebellion, and although his effort was in vain he was a big help to Vespasian when the inevitable war broke out, and during The Year of Four Emperors, as Vespasian clawed his way to the top. He had the means to do so because he had been granted rule [translate taxation] over so many territories during the previous reigns of Claudius and Nero that he was one of the most important rulers in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. In return for his support, Vespasian granted Agrippa even more territory.
What do we know about the Jewish-Roman relations? Was Judea content with Rome’s supervision, like Puerto Rico or the Philippines with America? What we learn is that Judea had been fomenting revolution for at least fifty years, and was a tinderbox needing just one last strike to blow, which if allowed to happen, would result in Festus’ disgrace and demotion by Rome, or even his death by a mob.
Except for the short period of the reign of Herod Agrippa I over all of Palestine from 41-44 C.E., Samaria and Judea fell under the authority of procurators appointed directly from Rome… Life for the Jews under the procurators was exceedingly difficult. For example, Pontius Pilate was described by Agrippa I as unbending and severe with the stubborn, and was accused of bribery, cruelty, and countless murders…There thus emerged within Judaism groups of revolutionaries who looked back to the militaristic Maccabees and their zeal for the Law as great heroes. These “Zealots”…attempted to arouse the people to revolt… Self-styled prophets and messiahs appeared from time to time…
Paul was not so heavenly minded as to be no earthly good. He operated in close connection to his social environment. Previous to the courtroom hearing we are reviewing, Paul had used his insight to his benefit.
“But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council…of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.” (Acts 23:6-10)
Let’s also look at Paul’s next courtroom exchange from this same social perspective. In any examination of a person by a lawyer, psychiatrist, psychologist, police detective, teacher, pastor, etc. the background of all persons involved in the incident and the relationships influencing the individual’s answer to questions are of great significance.
Festus –inherited and greatly inflamed the social unrest problems of his predecessor Felix. “He valued peace with the Jews more than justice and, despite determining his prisoner was innocent“ refused to release Paul. In his quest for a political alliance with the Jewish rulers, Festus publicly dismissed their clear homicidal intentions towards Paul as a simple religious dispute. He actually tried to give up Paul to the Jewish rulers by encouraging him to go back to Jerusalem to be judged by them, knowing it would result in his death. Paul’s only safety net was Festus’ sensible greater fear of Roman over Jewish reprisal if he didn’t treat Paul as the Roman citizen that he was when he appealed to Caesar. You can imagine the efforts of the Jews to get Festus to turn a blind eye on that one. So to ingratiate himself as best he could with the Jews, as a judge, he breaks legal procedure by interrupted Paul’s defense with loud “ruling” that he was insane. This a prior decision would of course dishearten the defendant and would have been designed to disturb his emotional and cognitive ability to defend himself.
Agrippa II – as noted above, the most politically savvy player on stage. All eyes and all ears are on him. They didn’t have Twitter back then, but the bush telegraph would very effectively transmit every word back to Rome, especially to his rivals, in Rome’s toxic political environment.
Berenice – Agrippa’s sister. “Agrippa and Berenice’s childhood was filled with instability and they inherited the “bad blood” seen in all of Herod the Great’s (73—4 BC) descendants...Berenice (left) and Agrippa lived together in Rome and soon it was rumored they were incestuous. Not much shocked the Romans, but this was prohibited in all the laws of the ancient world…Agrippa’s contemporary, the Roman Juvenal (c. 55-130 AD) in his Satire 6, made open fun of Agrippa and Berenice… ” You can’t possibly expect that anyone hearing Agrippa’s statement believed that on the basis of this first and only sermon from Paul that he was seriously considering “repent, and be baptized, for the remission of sin” publicly, among individuals well acquainted with his illicit relationship to his sister, and in doing so humiliating his sister-lover. There is a reason that Luke included her name in his account of the proceedings. So that we can factor this piece of information into the context of the bland written words.
Paul – clearly stirring up way too much trouble among the troublesome Jews for no earthly benefit to the profit-motivated Roman rulers. No Roman ruler is going to support him.
So with this backdrop, can we not pick up the supremely political overtones of a gifted diplomat?
“Agrippa: Thou art permitted to speak for thyself.
Paul: I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.
My manner of life from my youth…know all the Jews; Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?…
This is a rhetorical question. Obviously, Agrippa’s benefactors, the Caesars, were all believed to have become immortal after death.
At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven…I heard a voice speaking unto me…I am Jesus…I have appeared unto thee…to make thee a minister and a witness… [that] the Gentiles…may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
Obviously that would be the JEWS! When we place this statement in its social setting, we realize that Paul just grossly insulted his Roman judges! They had executed this Jesus as the leader of a revolution against Rome, they despised the Jewish population, which for the most part had been ground into abject poverty by Roman rule. The only prosperous Jews were the Hellenized, non-religious Jews.
The offer to grant an inheritance through an enslaved and impoverished Jew to a wealthy Roman ruler was not merely laughable, it was utterly insane, as Festus did indeed point out.
And as for receiving forgiveness of sins – that was a public slap in the face to Agrippa and his sister Berenice. It could only be their long acclimation to public slurs and insinuations, and their social training, like the Brits’ stiff upper lip, that kept them from betraying their anger at this insult. But make no mistake, the audience got it.
And Paul was burned right there. So, unlike incompetent Festus, Agrippa smoldered in silence, patiently allowing Paul to continue in the certain knowledge that, given enough rope, this rash Paul would hang himself.
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed…the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me…
I continue unto this day…saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come…
King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.
Way to go Paul! Put King Agrippa on the hot seat, in public. Politicians love that, don’t they? (Blue dress?)
Paul has just handed Agrippa a seriously problematic Yes / No question where either answer lands him in trouble. “Yes” appeases the Zealots among the Jews but earns outrage from the Romans battling these Zealots. “No” alienates the ultrasensitive Jews which worsens the difficult political position of the Romans who tactfully accepted every conquered nation’s gods. But as a highly skilled politician, Agrippa recognized that Paul had also just handed him his trump card, and he responds, of course with a smile,
Agrippa: Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
And suave and sophisticated and socially brilliant Agrippa breaks the tension with a perfectly honed sarcastic response to Paul’s insults. On the one hand the Romans burst out in raucous laughter at Agrippa’s clever repartee. This will definitely make the rounds at the social gatherings in Palestine and back to the gossip in Rome, with its accompanying positive publicity more than compensating for Agrippa’s humiliation from Paul’s outraging public condemnation.
But there’s more. On the left [sinister] hand Agrippa has just won the support of the Jewish religious rulers. They immediately perceive that Paul has just been thrown a baited hook with which to reel him in as a ringleader in one of the Zealot factions. These were revolting against, not only Rome, but the irreligious Jewish rulers who allied with Rome for their appointed positions. This Christ that Paul preached was an open challenge to the power of the established Jewish rulers through Caesar’s political hegemony.
But Paul is Spirit-led. He doesn’t take the bait.
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves; But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10:16-20)
As skillfully as Agrippa he slips out of their grasp. He doesn’t identify himself as a Christ-one, a rebel against Rome. Instead, he replies, “I wish you were as I.”
And what was Paul? Consistently throughout his ministry he stated “I am a Pharisee.” (Acts 23:6), the most straitest sect of the Jewish religion.
For Paul, Jesus’ legitimacy as “that Prophet” was finalized, but not based, on his resurrection to immortal godhood, seen or reported. It was based on Jesus’ rigorous adherence to Moses and the Prophets who were all united in exhorting that spiritual renewal through repentance and identification with Christ’s death and resurrection preceded the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth.
“my beloved…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure…That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:12-15)
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God…Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:50, 58)
God’s kingdom on earth is governed through unity with sanctified humans. This doesn’t happen with people who take on the name of Christian as easily as they identify themselves with a political party, in both cases trusting the leader to do all the work of saving them life’s problems while they continued to live out their emotional and physical impulses.
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would…Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Galatians 5:16-24
“henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind...alienated from the life of God…being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:” (Ephesians 4:17-21)
On the basis of Jesus’ statement that: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) that Christianity is a new and exclusive religion. If that is the case, how were people to put their trust in Jesus of Nazareth’s atoning death in the 4,000 years prior to Jesus’ arrival on earth? Are people who have never heard about Jesus Christ just out of luck, “Oh well!”?
Well, no. As detailed in the post Melchizedek Moses, Name = Way / Attributes. For a brief recap here:
And Moses said unto the LORD…if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee…And the LORD said unto Moses…I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee…LORD / YHVH / Creator, Lifegiver, merciful, gracious, longsuffering, goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; ” (Exodus 33-34)
Can we not recognize that what YHVH said to Moses is exactly what YHVH’s Savior said to his disciples? Jesus makes absolutely no sense whatsoever without knowing Moses’ written account.
“ye believe in God, believe also in me…I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself…And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord…how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me..Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me:” (John 14:1-11)
The disciples got it. It is only because YHVH was one with his promised savior that salvation can come through him.
“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of YHVH’s Promised Savior of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole…Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:1-12)
If we take the word of God at face value, and avoid making anachronistic assumptions to fit a systematic theology, we understand that faith in YHVH’s Promised Savior is not a new religion.
Faith in the name / way of YHVH’s Savior is the same in both New and Old Testaments. Paul’s letters in the New Testament state unequivocally that the way of salvation was through faith in YHVH’s Savior in both the old and new covenants.
And works are also required both New and Old Testaments. If you don’t understand that the restoration of oneness with Almighty God is the objective of redemption and the means of salvation, read the post on Redemption. This is why God equates salvation with marriage, to enlighten us as to his expectations for his people.
“The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim;
- which conceived, and bare him a son. And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel [God sows – in this case vengeance]; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel…
- And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Lo-ruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.
- she conceived, and bare a son. Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel [when God sows his Seed]…
she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now…
And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi my husband, two shall be one; and shalt call me no more Baali my master…And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies…in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD…
Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee…For the children of Israel shall…return, and seek…and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 1-3)
We understand that sexual activity does not make a marriage, but sexual activity is a defining element of the legally acknowledged union between two people with all the benefits that accrue from taking on the identity of the marriage partner. Likewise, acts do not make oneness with God, but acts are required once a union with God is requested, or the hyper-dimensional union – required for eternal life – doesn’t happen.
This totally makes sense. We understand on a human level that marriage can be annulled if it is not not consummated by sexual activity. It can also be annulled if one of the parties entered into the arrangement by deceit or with the intention of defrauding the other, or if one of the parties was mentally incapacitated, including being too young to fully understand the terms of the contract. Infidelity and abandonment are grounds for divorce.
“a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:17-26)
Besides tracking Paul welds a connection between the account of the behavior of Hebrews in Deuteronomy and his contemporary Gentile believers in another of his letters, in which he calls the ancient Hebrews “our fathers”.
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers…were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and…did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent
- we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
- Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
- Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
- Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
- Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (I Corinthians 10:1-11)
The only way we can learn from the Old Testament examples is to study the Old Testament and apply it to our own lives.
early Christians…made various translations of the Greek Septuagint [Old Testament]…during the 2nd-9th centuries, including Latin, Coptic, Ethiopic, Arabic, Gothic, Armenian, Georgian, and Slavonic. In the late first or the second century AD…the Old Testament was also separately translated into a prominent eastern dialect of Aramaic known as Syriac. This translation…was readily embraced and transmitted by Christians. For these reasons and more, it is unclear whether the translation was first produced by Jews, Christians, or perhaps a community who identified as both…
In the fourth century…a scholar named Jerome…produce a fresh Latin translation [of the Old Testament] directly from the Hebrew [instead of from the Greek Septuagint]. Jerome relied on the assistance of Jewish scholars…Jerome’s translation from the Hebrew became the most popular translation in Western Europe for over a thousand years, later known as the Latin Vulgate.
The use of Latin in the Church started in the late fourth century with the split of the Roman Empire…in 395. Before this split, Greek was the primary language of the Church as well as the language of the eastern half of the Roman Empire.
Ecclesiastical Latin, also called Church Latin… is a form of Latin initially developed to discuss Christian thought and later used as a lingua franca by the Medieval and Early Modern upper [educated] class of Europe. It includes words from Vulgar Latin and Classical Latin (as well as Greek and Hebrew) re-purposed with Christian meaning…
What especially differentiates Ecclesiastical Latin from Classical Latin is its utility as a language for translating, since it borrows and assimilates constructions and borrows vocabulary from the koine Greek, while adapting the meanings of some Latin words to those of the koine Greek originals, which are sometimes themselves translations of Hebrew originals…
The British scholar Alcuin, tasked by [the French king who in 800 AD was crowned Roman Emperor] Charlemagne with improving the standards of Latin writing in France…The Carolingian reforms soon brought the new Church Latin from France to other lands where Romance was spoken. [Emphasis added.]
Spearheading the Protestant Reformation from 1522-1534, Martin Luther translated the complete Bible into the German vernacular from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. This…translation of the Bible into the vernacular was potentially as revolutionary as arguing canon law and the burning of the papal bull. Luther’s goal was to equip every German-speaking Christian with the ability to hear the Word of God…one of the most significant acts of the Reformation…Luther’s faithfulness to the language spoken by the common people was to produce a work which they could relate to… Luther’s vernacular Bible was present in virtually every German-speaking Protestant’s home, and there can be no doubts regarding the Biblical knowledge attained by the German common masses….German humanist Johann Cochlaeus complained that
‘Luther’s New Testament was so much multiplied and spread by printers that even tailors and shoemakers, yea, even women and ignorant persons who had accepted this new Lutheran gospel, and could read a little German, studied it with the greatest avidity as the fountain of all truth. Some committed it to memory, and carried it about in their bosom. In a few months such people deemed themselves so learned that they were not ashamed to dispute about faith and the gospel not only with Catholic laymen, but even with priests and monks and doctors of divinity.”
The existence of the translation was a public affirmation of reform, such as might deprive any elite or priestly class of exclusive control over words…allow the common people to become aware of the issues at hand and develop an informed opinion. The common individual would thus be given the right to have a mind, spirit and opinion, to exist not as an economic functionary but as subject to complex and conflicting aspirations and motives. In this sense, Luther’s vernacular Bible acted as a force towards the liberation of the German people…
Luther’s Bible also made a large impression on educational reform throughout Germany…a stimulus towards universal education, since everyone should be able to read in order to understand the Bible…The Protestant states of Germany became educational states…
Finally, Luther’s translation influenced the English translations by William Tyndale and Myles Coverdale who in turn inspired many other translations of the Bible such as the King James Version of 1611. It also inspired translations as far as Scandinavia and the Netherlands. In a metaphor, it was Luther who ‘broke the walls’ of translation in western Europe and once such walls had fallen, the way was open to all, including some who were quite opposed to Luther’s beliefs. Luther’s Bible spread its influence for the remolding of Western European culture in the ferment of the sixteenth century. The worldwide implications of the translation far surpassed the expectations of even Luther himself…
The King James Bible—which has been called “the most influential version of the most influential book in the (English) world, in what is now its most influential language” and which in the United States is the most used translation, is still considered a standard among Protestant churches and used liturgically in the Orthodox Church in America—contains 80 books: 39 in its Old Testament, 14 in its Apocrypha, and 27 in its New Testament.
The Apocrypha is in the King James Bible? Enoch and Jasher? That’s interesting. Since it is on the King James Bible that the most fundamentalist New Testament Christians base their beliefs.
Adherents of the King James Only movement, largely members of evangelical, conservative holiness movement…and Baptist churches, believe that…all other English translations which were produced after the KJV are corrupt…
“The Inspired KJV Group” – This faction believes that the KJV itself was divinely inspired. They view the translation to be an English preservation of the very words of God and that they are as accurate as the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts found in its underlying texts. Often this group excludes other English versions based on the same manuscripts, claiming that the KJV is the only English Bible sanctioned by God and should never be changed…
“The KJV As New Revelation” – This group claims that the KJV is a “new revelation” or “advanced revelation” from God…Adherents to this belief may also believe that the original languages, Hebrew and Greek, can be corrected by the KJV. This view is often called “Ruckmanism” afterPeter Ruckman, a staunch advocate of this view.
Unlike religions such as Islam, where the Quran is only truly the Quran in the original Arabic, Biblical Christianity has always believed that…any language in which the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are faithfully rendered, they are still the word of God, and so the Scriptures should be translated into any language necessary to bring the gospel message to all people everywhere.
From the beginning, the New Testament was built on the necessity of translation. Not only does it command the gospel be preached to all nations, the New Testament itself models translation to the common tongue. Every time it quotes the Old Testament, it does so in Greek rather than the original Hebrew. In several places in the gospels, words of Jesus or others are given in their original Aramaic and then immediately translated, and it is likely that other portions of Jesus’ words were originally in Aramaic as well, but the New Testament offers them in the Greek language that the original readers would have known. Acts 22:1-21 presents a speech of Paul that it explicitly says he gave in the “Hebrew dialect,” but it records the speech in a Greek translation so that the reader can understand it. The New Testament is itself an exercise in bringing all things into the common, everyday language of the readers. It is no wonder that that Early Christians took up the cause of translation in earnest…
Syriac Gospels and other texts are clearly being cited by eastern Christian writers by the fourth century…we have found Syriac New Testament Manuscripts not only in and around Syria but as far east as India and China…
the Latin translation of the New Testament is…possibly as early as the second century and certainly by the third…using the street-level, colloquial Latin of popular, every-day speech rather than the literary Latin of high works of art or academia…
Coptic (the language of the native peoples of Egypt)…have surviving manuscripts…from the late third or early fourth century…The early Christians…produced translations in each of the major dialects.
The Armenian language first developed an alphabet around 406 AD. An Armenian translation of the entire Bible existed by 414. Early Christians were obviously very zealous about bringing the Scriptures into the languages of the people. There were also very ancient translations of the New Testament into Palestinian Aramaic, Georgian, Ge’ez (Ethiopic), Arabic, Nubian, Persian, Sogdian (Middle Persian), Gothic, Slavonic, and others. The Early centuries of Christianity thus saw the Scriptures translated into a variety of vernacular tongues as the gospel spread throughout the known world…[emphasis added.]
It should be evident from King James Bible that those who split the New Testament from the Old, and Israel from a Gentile Church, are loving and believing a lie. What is so disturbing about this phenomenon is that these are the same people who staunchly claim to be the heart and soul of biblical Christianity.
The only way that the Dispensational view works is to take the original language out of the equation and justify their doctrine based on only the King James interpretation of the Scripture. This is understandable considering the large majority of Christians that are holding firm to the belief that the King James version is the only accepted version of the Gospel…We are instructed to study the Scripture to show ourselves approved and to light a path during the time of trial, not to divide the word to justify our translation. (Psalm 119:105)
The Dispensationalists want to twist the word to justify their translation, believing this brings light unto the understanding of Scripture. The basic principle behind this translation is to completely disregard the entire Old Testament and the Gospels as they were written for only the Jews and that only the portion of Scripture written for the Gentiles is relevant for the Church…You want me to believe that disregarding all the Old Testament Prophets and the words of our Savior Jesus Christ will fulfill the Gospel to the Church? Come on, man!! This is complete heresy if you could label the teaching!! There is no way that I am going to discount the teachings of my Savior Jesus Christ and believe that He was not talking to his followers during the end, when he depicted the coming calamities within Matthew 24.
I understand that this fits your doctrine to justify your stance of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture (which is also false and not supported by your doctrine) but how can you call yourselves a follower of Christ when you no longer follow His words?…
You need to stop trying to divide the Word and understand that the entire Word is relevant and needed for our Generation!…
When you don’t divide the Word of God and you understand that the Book of Revelation is the bookend, then you understand the warning placed within the book. You must not remove or add any portion of the book, from Genesis to Revelation, to understand the writings within. The Dispensational view removes about 7/8ths of the Bible to support their claim of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Without removing these portions of the Bible, they have nothing to stand upon!!
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life” (Revelation 22: 18-19)
This sounds disturbingly like the warning given at the beginning of Revelation to the church at Ephesus
“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write…I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place.” (Revelation 2:4-5)
What was the Ephesus church’s first love? The LORD thy God, certainly, but specific to the Ephesian church it would be Paul’s teaching ministry.
“disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God…daily…by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:8-10)
From where had they fallen?
“ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh…aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise…are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he…hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” (Ephesians 2:11-16)
What did they need to repent of?
“the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses the same commit thou to faithful men…But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; (II Timothy 3)
What were their first works? “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (Acts 19:8-20)
Jesus called the church of Ephesus a candlestick for good reason.
It was the New York City of Asia Minor in the New Testament era. Pliny once called it, lumen Asiae, the light of Asia.1 In the first century, only Rome [Roman capitol], Alexandria [Egyptian capitol] and Antioch of Syria [capitol of Greek territory of Asia Minor] surpassed Ephesus in importance. It is no wonder that the apostle Paul made it the center of his ministry for three years (Acts 20:31). In fact, outside of the church in Jerusalem, one could argue that the church in Ephesus was the most prominent congregation in the first forty years of church history. [Emphasis added.] From its beginnings in Acts 19 circa 52 AD, to Rev. 2, as late as 90 AD, the church in Ephesus figures prominently in Scripture as the setting for the books of Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and possibly the epistles of John. It also enjoyed some of the greatest Bible teachers of its day, including Paul, Apollos, Aquila and Priscilla, Timothy and John. Given the number of verses written to Ephesus or from Ephesus (ie. 1 Corinthians), we know more about it than almost any other city mentioned in the New Testament.
It was through the Jews that Christianity was first introduced into Ephesus. The original community was under the leadership of Apollo ( 1 Corinthians 1:12 ). They were disciples of St. John the Baptist, and were converted by Aquila and Priscilla. Then came St. Paul , who lived three years at Ephesus to establish and organize the new church…
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, written at the end of his ministry, hammers home this unity between the Gentile and Jewish believers with an urgency not found in any of his other letters. The Jewish War was starting and Paul knew that Yeshua’s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem would also destroy the Jerusalem church. The Ephesian church was the logical place to transfer leadership of Christ’s church.
“I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles…fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel…bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named…That he would grant you…to know the love of Christ…
I…beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation [leadership] wherewith ye are called [during a tumultuous time]…forbearing one another [Jews and Gentiles] in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all…Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us…Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.” (Ephesians 2,3, 4, 5, 6:24)
Paul’s first letter to his disciple Timothy indicates that Timothy was one of the first leaders of this church. This reading is supported by the early Church historian Eusebius.
Remember that Timothy was a prime example of a believer under the New Covenant who remained a law-abiding Jew. As Paul’s disciple and successor, he too was commissioned to incorporate uncircumcised Gentiles with circumcised Jews into the saving faith of “our father Abraham“.
However, Paul’s second letter to Timothy reports that not only the Ephesian church and the entire region under its leadership had turned away from him and his doctrine of unity between Jewish and Gentile believers. Since he tells Timothy to do the work of an evangelist, evidently Timothy had been voted out of the church’s pastorship.
“To Timothy, my dearly beloved son…thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me…I charge thee therefore…Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry [to combine Jews and Gentiles into one body of faith]….Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world…And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. (II Timothy 1)
History validates the deduction that the church at Ephesus had fallen away from Paul’s doctrine that the church of God was composed of uncircumcised Gentiles identified with circumcised Jews as a sect of Judaism.
“[Corinthian Jewish and Gentile] brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred [only Jewish] brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (I Corinthians 15:1-9)
“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.,,some of them…when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the [Jewish Messiah] Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the [fully Jewish] church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas…Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.” (Acts 11)
“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church [in Jerusalem]. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter [Hellenized version of Passover by Herodian Jews] to bring him forth to the people…but prayer was made without ceasing of the church [in Jerusalem] unto God for him.” (Acts 12:1-5)
“Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul…the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” (Acts 13:1-3)
“And it came to pass 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 speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles…And [after their missionary journey] thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” (Acts 14)
Many Christians & Jews are unaware of the fact that for the first 40 years (up to 70 years) after Yeshua (Jesus) ascended into heaven, to sit at the right hand with all Power & Authority, believers in Yeshua were predominately Jewish. These Jewish believers still followed Torah, kept Kosher, kept Shabbat, and worship in the Temple and synagogue…
believing & non-believing Jews coexisted, sitting in the same synagogue, and attending the same temple….Jerusalem was between 1/3 & ½ believers in Yeshua before the destruction of the Temple…While many Jews did not agree that Yeshua was Messiah, they respected the believers for their lifestyle & devotion.
The first major split occurred between 68-70 AD/CE. As Roman armies gathered to besiege Jerusalem , Believers were able to flee the city, heeding Yeshua’s words in Matt 24…This action labeled the believers as traitors in the eyes of many Jews…
Soon after 70 AD, [Jewish] Christians returned to Jerusalem…meeting at the “Church of the Apostles” on Mount Zion, near the Roman military camp (Cyril of Jerusalem; Epiphanius, Treatise on Weights and Measures; Itinerarium Egeriae; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History).
However…[in the next generation] a major rebellion surfaced again. The Bar Kokhba revolt seems to have been inflamed by the plans of Emperor Hadrian to include Roman temples in the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and particularly upon the site of the Temple of Yahweh, which was revealed when he visited the city around 130 AD…Yet, the reasons for Hadrian coming to Jerusalem and rebuilding the city seem to be connected with his mission to defeat Christianity [emphases here and below added]. Earlier in his reign, Hadrian had begun to devise plans to eradicate Christianity from the Roman Empire due to its beliefs and worldview that were completely opposite to the pagan Roman way of thinking, and its rapid spread across the Empire in all social classes over the last several decades…Hadrian believed that Christianity could be more effectively eliminated through ideological policies rather than executions…hoping to defeat Christianity intellectually and syncretizing the worship of Christ into the Roman pantheon, apparently even offering to place a statue of Christ in Rome (Golan, “Hadrian’s Decision to Supplant Jerusalem by Aelia Capitolina”). However, the Christians rejected this offer of syncretism and modification of Christianity into a part of the Roman religious system. The failure seems to have spurred Hadrian to attempt another strategy, involving the paganization of sites related to Jesus and Christianity. Knowing that Jerusalem had been central to Jesus and Christianity, Hadrian went to the city with this new plan. Rebuilding Jerusalem and founding it as a Roman colony in place of the ruins, Hadrian renamed the city Aelia Capitolina in honor of his family name and the god Jupiter. The province was expanded and renamed Syria Palaestina, supplanting Israel with Philistia. While this act certainly erased historical associations, it also directly challenged Jesus and Christianity by making the very name of the city into a Roman deity and Emperor, attempting to show the supremacy of Rome, its gods, and its Emperor…sites in the area which had an association with Jesus which Hadrian had pagan temples and shrines built over include the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem, the Pool of Bethesda, and the Pool of Siloam…
Soon after Hadrian left the area, full scale revolt began…further depopulated Judea, with tens of thousands slain and many cities and towns ruined. Cassius Dio even remarked that wolves and hyenas howled in the cities (Cassius Dio, Roman History; cf. Isaiah 13:22). Jerusalem itself was apparently besieged again during the reign of Hadrian…Christians did not support either of the revolts in Judea, and Eusebius recorded that many Christians suffered torture and death when they refused to join the Bar Kokhba revolt and attack Roman soldiers (Eusebius, Chronicon; Justin Martyr, Second Apology; Orosius, History). After over three years of fighting (132-136 AD), the Romans subdued the rebels and their false messiah Simon Bar Kokhba, who was executed along with other leaders of the rebellion. The effect of the rebellion was devastating to Judaism and the entire land of Judea, including the erasure of the ancient names and associations with Israel and Judah, the banning of the Mosaic Law, and the execution of many leaders of Judaism. For Jerusalem in particular, Hadrian completely banned Judaism in the city and barred Judeans from entering Jerusalem except once a year on Tisha B’Av (9th of the month Av), the day commemorating the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. [but] the city remained a place of both pagan and Christian worship.
The destruction of the Temple and the ostracism of Messianic Jews who bailed rather than support the rebellion in 70 AD broke the power base of Messianic Judaism. Banning the practice of Judaism in Palestine in 136 finished it off.
We should also expect that the wrath of Rome against the Jews would make the average Gentile Christian shy away from any association with them. Unlike some of those suicidal pastors in Germany under the Nazis, they didn’t need to add the Jewish question to their troubles. They were experiencing their own persecution.
Christianity was identified at first with Judaism, but people quickly came to see it as a different religion…a strange, new cult…spread across people groups and geographical boundaries. People felt threatened by this oddball new religion.
The next problem was with the religious activities of the Christians, with what they did do and didn’t do…
First, because they didn’t participate in pagan rituals but tended to keep to themselves, Christians were considered anti-social…Second, since Christians wouldn’t join in with the religious activities which were believed to placate the gods, they became a threat to the very well-being of the community. Writing in about A.D. 196, Tertullian said, “The Christians are to blame for every public disaster and every misfortune that befalls the people. If the Tiber rises to the walls, if the Nile fails to rise and flood the fields, if the sky withholds its rain, if there is earthquake or famine or plague, straightway the cry arises: ‘The Christians to the lions!’”
With respect to what they did do in their own religious practices, talk of eating the body and blood of Jesus, and the customary greeting with a kiss, brought charges of cannibalism and incest.
The third problem was the nature or content of Christians’ beliefs. The historian Tacitus spoke of Christians as a “class hated for their abominations” who held to a “deadly superstition.” A drawing found in Rome of a man with a donkey’s head hanging on a cross gives an idea of what pagans thought of Christian beliefs.
Finally, Christians’ reluctance to offer worship to the emperor and the gods was considered madness, considering what would happen to them if they didn’t. Why not just offer a pinch of incense to the image of the emperor?…
Claudius Nero was named emperor at age 16 and reigned from A.D. 54-68…Christians became the object of his ire following the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64. Some people suspected that Nero started the fire himself, so he pointed the accusing finger at Christians. The fact that he felt confident in doing this indicates the low regard in which people held Christians already. Historian Philip Schaff says that “Their Jewish origin, their indifference to politics and public affairs, their abhorrence of heathen customs, were construed into an ‘odium generis humani’ (hatred of the human race), and this made an attempt on their part to destroy the city sufficiently plausible to justify a verdict of guilty.” Schaff says that “there began a carnival of blood such as even heathen Rome never saw before or since….A ‘vast multitude’ of Christians was put to death in the most shocking manner.” Some were crucified, some sewn up in animal skins and thrown to the dogs, some were covered in pitch, nailed to wooden posts, and burned as torches. It was in the fallout of this that Peter and Paul gave their lives for their Savior, probably within a year of each other…
Emperor Trajan ruled from A.D. 98-117…Persecution was especially bad in Syria and Palestine during Trajan’s reign. In 107 he went to Antioch and demanded that everyone sacrifice to the gods. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch and pupil of the apostle John, refused and was martyred by being thrown to wild animals. Ignatius wrote this to Polycarp, another disciple of John, on his way to Rome: “Let the fire, the gallows, the wild beasts, the breaking of bones, the pulling asunder of members, the bruising of my whole body, and the torments of the devil and hell itself come upon me, so that I may win Christ Jesus [quoting Paul.”
Emperor Hadrian…hated Jews, and was somewhat “indifferent to Christianity from ignorance of it.”…“It was beside the point for Christians to argue that the malicious tales circulated about them were false,…Deeds, not words, were required by the state; and if they were in fact loyal citizens, as they protested, there was a simple way of demonstrating their loyalty; let them offer a pinch of incense in honour of the Emperor, let them swear by his divinity, let them invoke him as ‘Lord.’”
During these growing pains of Christianity, Antioch in Syria and Ephesus in Asia Minor became the centers of Christianity for the logical reason that this was where the greatest majority of Christians lived.
Will Durant, famed author of the 11 volume History of Civilization, devotes an entire book entitled Caesar and Christ to this challenge. It which concludes with “The Triumph of Christianity”.
Bear in mind, Durant is a secular historian and his perspective is political. His perspective is also proven accurate when we see what came to pass after a critical mass of membership and leadership shifted from the Jews to the Gentiles. The Roman state religio-political complex substituted worship of the Christ with his Spirit for worship of the Caesar with his genius, with virtually no changes in pagan practices.
the Kingdom of God was established on earth by Jesus Christ in the year 33 AD, in the form of His Church, led by Peter.…And where is the Kingdom of God on earth? It would be in the Tabernacle at each and every Catholic Church, where Jesus Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the Eucharist! He’s waiting for you to come see Him and talk to Him, right now! And the really good news is that everyone who is in the state of grace is a prince or princess of this Kingdom, right now!
There may have been a Reformation against Constantine’s Church, but did the churches of God simply substitute Luther, Calvin, Knox, Darby, and a host of other teachers for the apostle and prophets?
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh…aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise…But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ...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; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone…In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:11-22)