91) The Cool Church

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

Laodiceawas built by Antiochus II Theos in ~ 250 BC in honor of his wife Laodice. In 188 BC, the city passed to the Kingdom of Pergamon, and therefore after 133 BC fell under Roman control.

The city was at the crossroads of north-south traffic between Sardis and Perga and east-west from the Euphrates to Ephesus. Laodicea quickly became a rich city, rich enough to be able to rebuild itself without outside help [I am rich and have need of nothing!] after the destructive earthquake of 60 A.D.

Laodicea was…a great center for the manufacturing of clothing – the sheep which grazed around Laodicea were famous for the soft, black wool they produced. [buy white raiment that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear]

Laodicea was also well known for it’s school of medicine.

One of the compounds used for…the eyes made of Phrygian stone (eye salve)…The term used by John in Revelation is the same that Galen uses to describe the preparation of the Phrygian stone. [Anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see!]

No other city on the Lycus Valley was as dependent on external water supplies as Laodicea…

“The lukewarmness for which, thanks to this letter, the name of Laodicea has become proverbial, may reflect the condition of the city’s water supply. The water supplied by the spring … was tepid and nauseous by the time it was piped to Laodicea, unlike the therapeutic hot water of Hierapolis or the refreshing cold water of Colossae (Rudwick and Green 1958); hence the Lord’s words, ‘Would that you were cold or hot!’” (The Anchor Bible Dictionary).

Our Lord did not accuse the brethren in Laodicea of apostasy, nor with following some false prophet or engaging in emperor worship. The church is accused of being “lukewarm” — this is the only congregation about which the Lord had nothing good to say!

Its wealth allowed its citizens to indulge in Greek art, embellish the city with beautiful monuments, contribute to the advancement of science and literature and establish a great medical school. The city minted its own coins with inscriptions to Zeus, Æsculapius, Apollo, and the emperors.

There was a large Jewish community in Laodicea, who sent the considerable sum of 9 kilograms (20 lb) of gold annually to Jerusalem for the Temple (Pro Flacco 28-68). Because early Christianity originated in, and depended upon Judaism, Laodicea very early became a seat of Christianity as a bishopric.

Sixty canons of a Council of Laodicea, written in Greek, exist. They are of great importance in the history of discipline and liturgy.

Liturgy. Now there’s an element of Christianity we need to understand.

[L]iturgy was not a later ‘add-on’ instituted by a stultified church but was a vital part of Christian worship from the very beginning.The New Testament contains many references to the ongoing practice of liturgical worship as well as actual examples of first century liturgy…

In Acts 2:42, we read that the early believers “devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to THE prayers”. This…is a clear reference to set prayers that were repeated corporately when the believers met for worship. Similarly, in Acts 5:42, the Apostles appointed deacons to administer the distribution of food to the poor, so that they (the Apostles) could continue to “be devoted to THE prayers and to the ministry of the Word.”Once again, this is how it is written in the Greek, and it is a reference to liturgical, set prayers.

Not only do we have these references to the ongoing liturgical practices of the early Christians, but we have many actual examples of first century liturgy quoted within the New Testament letters themselves. Some of them are brief excerpts from well-known liturgy, such as:

“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14)

“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17).

“He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).

These are just a small sample of the many liturgical quotes contained within the New Testament…Philippians 2 contains a lengthy quote from what appears to be a well-known Christian creed:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

(Philippians 2:6-11)

Similar liturgical excerpts can be found in Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:1-3, 1 Peter 2:21-25 and 1 Timothy 3:16.

So far, so good. But at some point The simplicity of early church practices, grounded in the study and application of the holy scriptures in the synagogue, went baroque.

The evolution of Christian liturgy and its relationship with Jewish liturgy include the names of temple functionaries, such as readers, lectors, levites, and singers indicate appropriation from the temple liturgy not the synagogue, which at the time…consisted [simply] of scripture readings, with the Shema and Amidah. The elements from the Temple services retained in Christian liturgy include ceremonial actions such as processions and prostrations, and the antiphonal nature of prayers…

when the temple was destroyed, there were twenty-four kinds / sects of Judaism…Christianity started out as another expression of Judaism…which like that of the DSS sectarians, and the Samaritans…did not accept the oral Torah, which became enshrined in the Mishnah, Talmuds, and Midrash from 200 CE…

The written torah which Christians generally call the Old Testament (Tanakh) was retained. The New Testament, was added to the Scriptures that were accepted by the Christian Churchconverts of non-Jewish origin also would have imported their world views. This would have contributed to a variety of forms in the Christian stance...the increasingly gentile background of its converts who soon outnumbered those of Jewish origin…Certainly, the growth of the non-Jewish membership of Christianity led to the ‘mutation’ becoming unacceptable to so-called normative Judaism by the end of the first century…

The problem faced by the developing Christian theology was the harmonizing…of monotheism with the independent existence and the divine activity of Jesus as related in the gospels. From the second century onwards, the various Christological controversies were attempts to come to terms with monotheism, culminating in credal formulations and statements by ecumenical church councils on Christology.

Within the church itself, the definition of Christology led to…different strands of Christianity in the east and west…the establishment of authority within the church itself…

A specific Christian practice was the weekly Sunday, which commemorated the resurrection of Jesus…it appears to have been an established practice by the time of Ignatius in the early second century.

The primitive Christian festival calendar seems originally only to have celebrated Passover… the Epiphany, Ascension, and Pentecost being added at the earliest by the fourth century…in the mid second century, rites of initiation into the church were being practised, so that it could be surmised that Christianity had begun to forge a separate identity from Judaism…

In the first century, Christians could continue to pray in synagogues, though tensions were developing about the position of Jesus…the growing number of gentile believers who were not obliged to keep Jewish law was a major block to both common worship and social relations.

From the second century, specifically Christian liturgies began to be developed in a less Jewish style. As time progressed, east and west took differing paths, while schisms wracked the church in the wake of doctrinal conflicts not resolved by the numerous church councils.

And when the early Church separated from its Jewish roots, where did it go?

Pagan elements of the Roman Empire are included in Christian ceremonial and made regular use of. Many so-called Christian “things” like ideas, signs, symbols and ceremonies have such an origin. They were taken up from other religions then…

The Mithraism of Christians

  1. The Mithraic Holy father wore a red cap and garment and a ring, and carried a shepherd’s staff – The Pope wears a red cap and garment and a ring and carries a shepherds staff.
  2. Priests of Mithraism bore the title Father. Catholic priests bear the title Father – despite “And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven (Matthew 23:9).”
  3. Speaking in tongues is a feature of ancient religions too…

Worship of the Sun God

He was introduced into Rome in about AD 220, and by about AD 240 Pythian Games (i.e., festivals of the sun god Apollo Helios) were instituted in many cities of the Empire. The emperor Aurelian (270–275) elevated the sun god to the highest rank among the gods of Romans. Sanctuaries of the Sun and the gods of other planets (septizonium) were constructed. Also, the greatest of all Roman festivals was held on December 24–25, in honour of the Sun, Sol Invictus, at the time of the winter solstice, for from this date the length of the day began to increase. It was regarded as the day of the rebirth of the god. Emperor Constantine the Great, some 50 years later than Aurelius, wavered between the Sun and Christ. Finally, Christianity was accepted as the official religion, and…Jesus was…given the Sun’s birthday by an emperor decree. 

The Cult of Isis

Mother and childThe most popular of the Oriental mysteries was the cult of Isis. She and her son Horus were regarded by the Egyptians as the perfect mother and son…The Isis cult was already in vogue at Rome in the time of the emperor Augustus…

The highest god of the religion (for example, Sarapis in the Isis Mysteries) stood far above the stars and was their master. A man who decided to become a servant of this god stepped out of the circle of determination and entered into the sphere of liberty. The god could suspend determination, because he ruled over the stars; he could unravel the threads of the Moirai (the three spinners of fate); he could save his servant from illness and prolong his life, even against the will of fate. In the Isis Mysteries there was a theology of grace.

Henotheism [worshiping one primary god while acknowledging the existence of others] abounded: Isis was the essence of all pagan goddesses; Sarapis was the name uniting the gods Zeus, Pluto, Dionysus, Asclepius, Helios, and even the Jewish god YHWH (Yahweh). In the religion of Sol, an elaborate syncretistic theology was developed to show that all known gods of all nations were nothing but provisional names for the sun god.

Jesus took over the place of the sun god among Romans…the portrayal of Jesus gradually changed…to an emperor-like, tough, enthroned figure. One may say Christianity came to take over key elements of the Roman Emperor worship too, by presenting Jesus increasingly as a pantrocrator, world ruler…

And in Roman times the key Christian symbol was changed from a P (for fish) into a cross of various shapes too. The cross is not original.

stock-vector-different-types-of-crosses-and-their-meanings-173428067

at Thessalonica (modern Thessaloníki), in northern Greece, there were statues of a whole series of Greek goddesses, each of whom was identified with Isis in one way or another to show that the Egyptian goddess was the essence and synthesis of Greek religion. Compare the Hail Mary – a Mother Isis in disguise – of the Catholic Church. Its elements correspond to the more ancient Isis worship.

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Many terra-cotta statues of Isis and her son Horus have survived from Roman Egypt; they are similar to the later statues of the Christian Madonna and Child

Merkelbach writes that “Christianity originated during the time…at which the mysteries reached their height of popularity.” The striking similarities between the mystery religions and Christianity can be explained by parallel developments from similar origins, as well as a counterpart to grand theft. In both cases, ritualistic religions were transformed along similar lines: from national to ecumenical religion, from ritualistic ceremonies and taboos to spiritual doctrines and ideas of revelation.

The ideas of Greek philosophy penetrated everywhere…

The mystery religions and Christianity had many similar features – e.g., a time of preparation before initiation and periods of fasting; baptism and banquets; vigils and early-morning ceremonies; pilgrimages and new names for the initiates. The purity demanded in the worship of Sol (the Sun) and in the Chaldean fire rites was similar to Christian standards. The first Christian communities resembled the mystery communities in big cities and seaports by providing social security and the feeling of brotherhood. In the Christian congregations of the first two centuries, the variety of rites and creeds was almost as great as in the mystery communities; few of the early Christian congregations could have been called orthodox according to later standards. The date of Christmas was purposely fixed on December 25 to push into the background the great festival of the sun god, and Epiphany on January 6 (“Orthodox Christmas”) to supplant an Egyptian festival of the same day. The Easter ceremonies rivalled the pagan spring festivals. The religious art of the Christians continued the pagan art of the preceding generations. The Christian representations of the Madonna and child are clearly the continuation of the representations of Isis and her son suckling her breast. The statue of the Good Shepherd carrying his lost sheep and the pastoral themes on Christian sarcophagi were also taken over from pagan craftsmanship. [Emphasis added]…

In the large Gnostic library…in upper Egypt, in 1945, Hermetic writings were found side-by-side with Christian Gnostic texts. The doctrine of the soul taught in Gnostic communities was almost identical to that taught in the mysteries: the soul emanated from the Father, fell into the body, and had to return to its former home. The Greeks interpreted the national religions of the Greek Orient chiefly in terms of Plato’s philosophical and religious concepts. Interpretation in Platonic concepts was also the means by which the Judeo-Christian set of creeds was thoroughly assimilated to Greek ideas by the early Christian thinkers Clement of Alexandria and Origen. Thus, the religions had a common conceptual framework. The doctrinal similarity is exemplified in the case of the pagan writer and philosopher Synesius. The people of Cyrene selected him as the most able man of the city to be their bishopI…in his pagan period he wrote hymns that closely follow the fire theology of the Chaldean Oracles; later he wrote hymns to Christ. The doctrine is almost identical.

The similarity of the religious vocabulary is also great. Mystery religions adopted many expressions from domains of Greek life: they spoke of the assembly (ekklesia) of the mystai; the voyage of life; the ship, the anchor, and the port of religion; and the wreath of the initiate; life was a stage and man the actor. The Christians took over the entire terminology; but many pagan words were strangely twisted: the service of the state (leitourgia) became the ritual, or liturgy, of the church; the decree of the assembly and the opinions of the philosophers (dogma) became the fixed doctrine of Christianity.

The Laodicean church must have been the first among the seven to master the art of ingratiating itself into society as an acceptable variation on broader religious and philosophical constructs. It was no longer good for God’s spiritual healing ministry, neither hot nor cold.

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