“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.
- [until] some of them…of Cyprus and Cyrene, …when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians…and a great number believed…
Then…the church which was in Jerusalem…sent forth Barnabas…departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul…he brought him unto Antioch. And…a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people…
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
And when they had ordained them elders in every church…sailed [back] to Antioch…they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles…
And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
James answered…my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that…
- they abstain from pollutions of idols [eating meat that has had the life / spirit of the demon imbued to be transferred into the consumer like vitamin fortified milk or bread],
- and from fornication [standard practice in paganism],
- and from things strangled [to consume the maximum amount of life / blood in the meat],
- and from blood [consumed by itself for life properties].
For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” (Acts 15:1-21)
These followers of Moses were the result of the diaspora of the northern ten tribes of Israel, AKA Ephraim’s nation, beginning from the earliest days of spreading empires under the Assyrians. Samaria is just one example of this unexpected backlash from the intended extermination of God’s people.
“And the LORD…rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the LORD…Until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria…”
And in this international religious, commercial and political milieu some faithful followers of YHVH kept the light of the world burning, as proven by the next episode in the saga where we not only find Judaism still being practiced in Assyria, but this religion intentionally incorporated into the international mix of nations under Assyrian rule.
“and the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof. And…the king of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom ye brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land. Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.” (II Kings 17:20-29)
The Samaritans were notoriously despised and rejected of the Jews for not, well, being Jews.
But Jesus did not share that religious denominationalism. Notice the exchange in the report of Jesus’ dialogue with a Samaritan woman where he specifically and persistently affirms that they are part of his kingdom.
- “the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
- Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God [versus the self-assigned prerogatives of the Jews]
- and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink;
- thou wouldest have [known to have] asked of him, and he would have given thee living water…
- The woman [still, reasonably so, distrustful and truculent] saith unto him, Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and / but ye [Jews] say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
Actually this is true, going back hundreds of years to the “the sins of Jeroboam“, the first king of the split-off of Israel’s northern ten tribes when, despite being given the kingdom by Almighty God himself, he personally stopped trusting YHVH and set up his own religion.
“the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel…left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD: And [instead] he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the [idol] calves which he had made. And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers.” (II Chronicles 11:13-16)
This Samaritan woman’s attitude is assuredly defensive, so probably hostile, but at least she’s engaging with Jesus, not just throwing him a finger which she was assuredly in the habit of doing to men who jeered at her and made lewd gestures and called out provocations as she walked through town.
There was a reason she was alone at the well, an old woman still doing the back-breaking manual labor of hauling up water in stone jars all by herself. She had “had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband:”, undoubtedly some abusive drunk who allowed her, at a minimum, the barest basic protection of a locked enclosure at night, even if it was with the pigs.
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, imagine Reek sleeping in the dog cage.
In response, Jesus doesn’t rehash who did what and who is right and who is wrong. He stays on point, in the moment.
- Jesus saith unto her, Woman,
I am 100% not being sacrilegious when I insist that what this despised and rejected woman heard in the totality of verbage, rhythm, rate, prosody and cadence when this gentle man with the kindest eyes she had ever looked into called her “Woman” can only be expressed through Peter and Gordon’s love song “Woman”.
She was used to being called “F__ You!, Slut, Whore” but not “Woman, Wife…even My lady“.
If you can’t figure out this transactional analysis from this perspective then you’ve never been in her sandals, beaten down physically, emotionally and socially for years.
I promise you, this one word took her breath away.
- “believe me – Not those arrogant men who abuse you in every way! Believe me!!”
- the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father…
- and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
- God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
- The woman [voice choked with struggling to hold back sobs of triggered emotion] saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all [these] things.
- Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
Why on earth should she believe his grandiose, possibly psychotic, claim to be The Messiah, out of the many claimants at the time?
And not only her,
“many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”
They understood that the Christ would save them from their sins! The woman from her fornications and the men from their abuses of power over women and children and minorities and all vulnerable persons in their community. Not the Roman overlords and their taxes, which is what the other messiahs were preaching.
And Jesus convinced this lowest of the low persons in that rural backwater town that he was there to save her from her sins when he GAVE that woman FORGIVENESS ON THE SPOT. Not in some future judgment day. In the moment, forgiveness as paying the price for her isolation from society by associating with her, by bringing himself to a position even lower than hers by asking her – her! – to meet his need!! By elevating her to the highest position possible in his milieu by continuing to make her the center of his attention when his royal court returned to wait on his every command.
“And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man [interrupted him or] said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?” (John 4)
John was in the that group of disciples who, like his leader, deigned to personally speak with the notorious woman in order to leave an account for all believers to learn and practice.
James was in that group of disciples who watched and learned and applied Jesus’ principles when he took Jesus’ place as the chief justice. Ruling on the foremost matter of whether or not Gentiles accepting Jesus of Nazareth had to follow all the rules of the Jews to be part of God’s Kingdom, he ruled “No”, on the basis that from old time there have been Gentile converts from paganism to YHVH who didn’t, and didn’t have to, comply with the entirety of Jewish practices to be saved.
“Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church,
- to send chosen men of their own company / party on this matter to Antioch with [to back up] Paul and Barnabas…
- And they wrote letters…Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
- abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication:
- from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.” (Acts 11-15)
However much Gentiles were “accepted in the beloved” equally with Jews regardless of religious practices, we can’t miss that this same ruling by James absolutely establishes Jewish leadership over Gentile believers.
Paul’s convert Timothy was circumcised by Paul himself. not because Paul had second thoughts about needing to be circumcised to be saved, but to qualify him to become a leader of the church.
“a certain disciple…named Timotheus, the son of a…Jewess [which made him Jewish regardless of paternity] his father was a Greek:
- Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium – check for leadership
- Him would Paul have to go forth with him – for mentoring, like Barnabas with Mark
- and took and circumcised him –
- And as they – Paul and Timothy – went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep – authority, leadership
At this time in the development of the New Covenant church, Timothy, a second generation follower of the sect of YHVH’s Savior, demonstrates that being an ordained Israelite was clearly a requirement for leadership.
The early Church historian Eusebius confirms the scriptural report that Timothy was the first pastor of the church plant at Ephesus.
“my own son in the faith…I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine…” (I Timothy 1)
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 firt 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 [a Jew] ( 1 Corinthians 1:12 ). They were disciples of St. John the Baptist [a Jew], and were converted by Aquila and Priscilla [Jews]. 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, cries out 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.
“I Paul, theprisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles…
- fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel…
- I…beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called [during a tumultuous time]…
- forbearing one another [Israelites and Gentiles] in love;
- Endeavouring to keep the unity [between Israelites and Gentiles] of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
- There is one
- One Lord
- one faith
- one baptism
- One God and Father of all…
Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.” (Ephesians 2,3, 4, 5, 6:24)
Paul’s second letter to Timothy reports that not only the Ephesian church but the entire region under its leadership had turned away from him and his doctrine of unity between Israelite 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 [as Paul’s heir “to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: Acts 9:15)
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)
If you can’t feel how Paul’s desperate aloneness doesn’t resonate with Jesus’ own, then you’ve never experienced abandonment like this.
“Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane…and he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and…saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:36-40)
History validates the deduction that the church at Ephesus had fallen away from Paul’s doctrine that the church of God is a sect of Judaism composed of uncircumcised Gentiles identified with circumcised Jews as followers of Jesus the Christ.
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, [Israelite] 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.