Part 6. How Did the Sunday Christian View of the Torah Originate?
Most Christian's insight into the Judaism of Yeshua's day is limited to the few glimpses found in the "New Testament," taken apart from its historical context, and interpreted in a non-Hebrew fashion. This is part of the problem. If you have a skewed view of the culture of the times, you will arrive at incorrect conclusions that will contribute to and reinforce false doctrines. No level of grammatical scrutiny can make up for this. Trying to read the English text, solely "in its immediate grammatical context," isn't reliable, as the text of modern Christian bibles has been altered to suit Christian theology. (26)
An example of ignorance regarding the historical/cultural context can be found in the previously mentioned study by J. Vernon McGee. The Christian teacher comments on the word "assembly" as found in James 2:2, saying:
"The wordassembly here means synagogue. Evidently the Jewish Christians were calling the place where they met a synagogue. They had erected no buildings and frequently met in private homes, but the chances are that in many places they rented a synagogue. They met on Sunday rather than on Saturday and therefore did not conflict with the meeting of the Jews." (27)
Unfortunately, Christians will read statements as this, and accept them as "fact" -- after all, it's in a Bible commentary by a famous person, so it must be right. Unfortunately, Mr. McGee's comments are full of error and contribute to the standard Christian position.
An analysis of the statement reveals the following:
1: "Jewish Christians" -- There was no such thing as a "Jewish Christian." That is a modern term. Usage of this term supports the false idea that these first Jewish believers had now gone from Judaism to "Christianity." The earliest reference to the term "Christian" may have been the one commonly recognized as being given to the believers at Antioch (Acts 11:26) by the local Roman ruler, as a derogatory slur. (28) The original Jewish believers in Yeshua remained Torah-observant Jews (Acts 21:20).
2: They "called the place they met a synagogue" for one of two reasons. They either were at a synagogue building, or they were meeting somewhere else under the authority of the synagogue. Not only was there no "Christianity" in existence at this time, in fact no "Christian" group could have organized and met, as this would not have been permitted by Rome. The Jews had such permission, as an existing group, under Roman law. (29) Aside from the legal aspect, early believers continued to go to Synagogue, including Gentile converts, as this was the only place the Scriptures were read and where they would learn Torah (Acts 15:21)
3: "Renting a synagogue" -- This is an example of how ludicrous ideas can be passed along as "knowledge." It would have been illegal for Jews to rent their buildings out to any new group that was not sanctioned by Rome. Jewish believers in Yeshua had full rights as Jews to continue going to normal synagogue services on the Sabbath.
4: "They met on Sunday ..." This has no basis in fact. Jewish believers in Yeshua continued meeting at synagogue (or the Temple) for Sabbath. Common practice would be havdallah -- meeting in homes after sundown on Saturday to continue discussions and praise from the Sabbath. This explains Paul "preaching until midnight" in Acts 20:7. The first day of the week for Jews (like Paul) began at Sundown at the end of the Sabbath --
5: Again, they did not "conflict with the meeting of the Jews" because they remained Jews and were still going to Synagogue alongside their Jewish brethren who did not (yet) believe in Yeshua.
A Brief History on the Origins of the Christian Church and its Doctrines
How did we get from this Torah-based Messianic Jewish faith like this ...
And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many tens of thousands of Jews there are which believe;and they are all zealous of the law (Acts 21:20)
I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to theperfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. (Acts 22:3)
For verily I say unto you,Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:18-19)
To a non-Jewish, anti-Torah, arrogant faith (as warned about in Romans 11) like this ...
"Christianity is superior to Judaism" ... "Paul taught that bondage to the Law ended when Christ made all men free." (Quoted from William Barclay earlier in this article)
It is readily apparent in the Scriptures that Yeshua, the apostles and the early community of believers were Torah observant Jews. How did we go from there to the position of the Christian Church today, which is decidedly anti-Torah?
The "short version" of the events that caused this shift, goes something like this:
First century Rome had its "problems" with its Jewish province in Judea-Samaria. There were a number of skirmishes and two major wars fought in the first and second centuries. With the war that ended in 70 AD, much of the Torah-based Jerusalem-centered Messianic community was killed or scattered.
Two important events occurred around this time:
1: James (actually named Jacob/Ya'acov) the brother of Yeshua died.
2: The Temple was destroyed.
This combination of events caused a greater division between the Jerusalem Jews who believed in Yeshua and those who did not. Yeshua's brother, Ya'acov, was actually very instrumental in holding the believing and non-believing Jewish communities together. (30) This fracture in the Jewish community is significant as it pushed those Jews who believed in Yeshua (and also the gentiles who were coming to faith in Yeshua), further away from the rest of Judaism.
This division gave Gentiles (coming right out of the pagan Roman culture) who had no regard for the Jewishness of their "faith" a louder voice in community affairs and interpretation of Scripture. Anti-Jewish polemic can be found as early as the teachings of Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch at the end of the first century. Ignatius spoke out against Gentile Christians having anything to do with Jewish forms of worship and that Jews becoming Christians should stop living as Jews, saying that it was "absurd to speak of Jesus Christ with the tongue and to cherish in the mind a Judaism which has now come to an end." (31)
With the war of 132 AD, Jerusalem was literally "plowed under," by the Romans and renamed Aelia Capitolina. Shrines to the Roman gods, Jupiter and Venus, were erected. What little was left of the community of Jewish believers in Yeshua was wiped out and soon replaced with a very Roman non-Jewish "church." Rome went on to wipe out most of Judea, destroying 985 towns and killing over a half million Jewish men. (32) Even more died later from starvation, disease and fire. Rome then passed harsh laws banning worship on the Sabbath, the Jewish (Biblical!) feasts, public Jewish rituals, and reading of Torah. This is part of the reason we went from Saturday to Sunday worship. Jews, including those who followed Yeshua, werent allowed within 150 miles of the city. The lineage of Jewish successors to Yeshua and Ya'acov ended and a string of Gentile popes soon followed.
The leadership of this new Gentile "church" was quick to embrace the Roman government's position regarding Jews and was overtly hostile to anything Jewish, including the Torah. Numerous false doctrines were established as early as the second century. Among these were the teachings that "the Law" was actually given as a punishment to the Jews, that Jerusalem had been destroyed and taken from the Jews due to their sin, and that the "Church" had replaced Israel as God's people.
For instance, as early as the second century, we have "Church father" Justin Martyr, saying:
We too, would observe your circumcision of the flesh, your Sabbath days, and in a word, all your festivals, if we were not aware of the reason why they were imposed upon you, namely, because of your sins and the hardness of heart. The custom of circumcising the flesh, handed down from Abraham, was given to you as a distinguishing mark, to set you off from other nations and from us Christians. The purpose of this was that you and only you might suffer the afflictions that are now justly yours; that only your land be desolated, and your cities ruined by fire, that the fruits of your land be eaten by strangers before your very eyes; that not one of you be permitted to enter your city of Jerusalem. Your circumcision of the flesh is the only mark by which you can certainly be distinguished from other menas I stated before it was by reason of your sins and the sins of your fathers that, among other precepts, God imposed upon you the observance of the Sabbath as a mark. (33)
In the third century, we have the following opinion from the famous Origen of Alexandria:
We may thus assert in utter confidence that the Jews will not return to their earlier situation, for they have committed the most abominable of crimes, in forming this conspiracy against the Savior of the human racehence the city where Jesus suffered was necessarily destroyed, the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election. (34)
The attitude of these two "Church fathers" was not an anomaly. The whole of Roman society around the time of Yeshua and Paul was extremely anti-Jewish. One reason being that many Roman families had lost sons in the Jewish wars. Roman intellectuals of the day wrote much derogatory material about the Jews living among them. (35) Roman society was pagan and centered around the worship of many gods. In the midst of this was a Jewish society of around 7 million, (about 10 percent of the Roman population), a very noticeable minority. (36) Jews were despised for their peculiar religious practices and failure to worship the gods of Rome as every other conquered people was forced to do. (37) The new "Gentile Christians" came out of this background and had no regard for anything Jewish. Once the Jewish leadership had been removed, changes were immediately put into effect with little opposition.
Continued anti-Jewish laws passed by the Roman government, assured that there would be "no going back." Constantine, (the 4th century emperor of Rome, who remained a pagan sun worshipper unto his deathbed), claimed to have had "a vision" that led him to "legalize Christianity." This initiated a process that would eventually make paganized Christianity the religion of the Empire. Now, if you were a Jew, and wanted to "believe in the Messiah," you had to publicly renounce all things Jewish and become "a Christian." Any Gentile who joined with the Jews in their worship would be breaking the law and punished. As early as the fifth century, laws were passed preventing Jews from holding public offices and forbidding the building of new Synagogues. (38)
The church councils of the fourth century formulated the doctrines and creeds that Sunday Christianity holds to this day. These councils were made up of Gentiles from the same anti-Semitic background as those of the previous two hundred years. Jewish believers who held regard for Torah were barred from attending these meetings, and their positions on the meaning of Scripture with regard to Torah were "overruled." (39) One of the earliest councils ruled that anyone found eating with Jews would be prevented from taking communion so that he would "learn to amend," (40) and that marriage to a Jew would result in excommunication. (41)
The remaining believers who held fast to the Torah observant doctrines of the original community were mocked and considered at best "weak" in their faith if not in fact heretics.
For example, we have Epiphanius, in the fourth century, stating:
"They [the Nazarenes] have no different ideas, but confess everything exactly as the Law proclaims it and in the Jewish fashion-- except for their belief in Messiah... but since they are still fettered by the Law -- circumcision, the Sabbath, and the rest-- they are not in accord with Christians." (42)
By the end of the 4th century, anything resembling a "pro-Torah" view of "the faith" had become non-existent in what was now called "Christianity." The Councils of Antioch (341CE) and Laodicea (360CE) prohibited Christians from participating in Jewish rituals. As one modern historian puts it, this was all done to show that Jewish tradition was, "inherently evil, obsolete and irrelevant for practical Christian life." (43)
Faith in Yeshua went from being 100 percent Jewish to 100 percent anti-Jewish in less than 300 years.
All of this laid the foundation for what became the Christian "Church." Persecution of Jews throughout history, the Crusades, the Inquisitions, numerous mass expulsions throughout history, and of course the Holocaust, are all the direct result of the Church's anti-Semitic doctrines.
Nor was any of Christianity's anti-Jewish foundation changed with the "Protestant Reformation" of the 16th century. These "reformers," such as Luther and Calvin, were as anti-Semitic, if not more so, as their predecessors a millennium before them. Martin Luther's writings were a favorite of Adolph Hitler, who acquired many of his ideas on how to deal with Jews from him. (44) The concerns of the "reformers" were solely with what they felt was corruption and abuse of power in the Christian/Catholic church. They had no desire to bring the Church back to the Torah-based Judaism of Yeshua and the apostles. (45)
It is critical to understand the following:
The anti-Semitic ideologies and anti-Torah theologies of the early Church leaders and later Protestant "reformers," established the foundation for all Christian opinion, Catholic and Protestant, to this very day. All "interpretation" of Scripture coming from Christian teachers, authors or institutions, including every Christian Bible translation available and all of their footnotes, every Christian Bible commentary book, study course, Sunday sermon and seminary's teaching curriculum and movies, has been filtered through the doctrines of these men and hundreds of years of compounded error.
Modern historical study, archaeology, and a return of the Jewish people to their Messiah, are all contributing to the exposure of the true "roots" of the Christian religion. There are well meaning people who publish material on the "Jewish roots" of Christianity. Unfortunately, they are in error, as Christianity's roots are gentile/pagan and have little in common with the Judaism of Yeshua's time.
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