The De-Judaizing of the Early Church Fathers Paves the Way for Anti-Semitism

After the death of the last apostle, and as time went one, the early church fathers took on a more strident tone against the Jews and their beliefs including the law of Moses. Here are several examples of this:

Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (98-117A.D.) – Epistle to the Magnesians

“For if we still live according to the Jewish law, and the circumcision of the flesh, we deny that we have received grace” (chap 8).

“Let us therefore no longer keep[ the Sabbath after the Jewish manner…But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner…After the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week]” (chap 9).

“It is absurd to speak of Jesus Christ with the tongue, and to cherish in the mind a Judaism which has now come to an end. For where there is Christianity there cannot be Judaism” (chap 10).

Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, chap 4 (A.D. 130)

“But as to their scrupulosity concerning meats, and their superstition as respects the Sabbath, and their boasting about circumcision,and their fancies about fasting and the new moons, which are utterly ridiculous and unworthy of notice” (chap 4)

Ignatius Bishop of Antioch (98–117A.D.) — Epistle to the Philadelphians 

“But if any one preach the Jewish law unto you, listen not to him” (chap 6).

Ignatius Bishop of Antioch (98–117A.D.) — Epistle to the Philippians 

“If anyone celebrates the Passover along with the Jews, or receives the emblems of their feast, he is a partaker of those that killed the Lord and his apostles” (chap 14).

Justin Martyr — Dialogue with Trypho (Between 138A.D. and 161 A.D.)

Justin claims that the Scriptures no longer belong to the Jews, but to the Christians, thus asserting anti-Semitic replacement theology (chap 29).

Historical Notes on Marcion of Sinope

Since the writings of Marcion of Sinope (c. 85 – c. 160; e.g. Antitheses or Contradictions) have been lost, Tertullian’s five books refuting Marcionism as recorded in Antitheses is our best source of information on Marcion’s teachings.

Overview of Marcion’s Teachings

  • Exploring the Christian Faith, (by J. I. Packer et al; Nelson, 1992) in an article written by David Wright. 

Marcion sharply contrasted Judaism and Christianity and he maintains that the god of grace was unknown until revealed in Yeshua. By contrast, the god of the Old Testament was a god of strict law and justice, or even of harsh and violent malice. Yeshua came to rescue humanity from the power of the Old Testament, inferior god who he called the demiurge — a term borrowed from the Greek dualistic philosophers. Marcion believed that only Paul really understood the Yeshua’s new revelation of love and grace and that the other Jewish apostles were still under the corrupting influences of the Jewish law (p. 295).

  • History of the Christian Church, vol. 2 (by Philip Schaff, Hendrickson, 2002). Justin Martyr regarded Marcion as the most formidable heretic of his day (p. 484).
  • A History of Christianity, vol. 1 by Kenneth Scott Latourette; Prince Press, 2003). Marcion insisted that the church had obscured the gospel by seeking to combine it with Judaism. He maintained that the God of the Old Testament and of the Jews is an evil God. This is due in part to his assertion that the God of the Old Testament commanded bloody sacrifices to him, and was a God of battles, rejoiced in bloodshed and was vindictive. He taught that this God had given a stern and inflexible law for the governance of men, demanded obedience to the law and was rigourous in its enforcement. Marcion held that in contrast to the God of the Jews, there is a second God who revealed himself in Yeshua who was a God of love who sought, out of mercy, to rescue men from the evil Old Testament God. Yeshua, he taught, came from heaven to deliver men form the rule of the malevolent evil God of the Old Testament whom he called the Demiruge. All that the good God asks of men if they are to escape from the rule of the Demiurge is faith in response to his love. Men have been emancipated from the legalistic requirements of the Demiurge and of his creature, Judaism. Marcion believed that Paul understood the gospel and in Paul he saw a sharp distinction between law and grace being the unmerited favor of God, which Marcion passionately believed was the essence of the gospel (pp. 126–127).

Justin Martyr (ca. A.D. 155) roundly denounced Marcion as a heretic, but not because of his anti-Torah stand, but because of his unorthodox Greek dualistic view of the godhead, and his denial of Yeshua’s incarnation believing instead that Yeshua was a phantom (e.g. Justin Martyr in The First Apology, chaps 26, 58)

From Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol 3 (Hendrickson, 1995); “Tertullian Against Marcion”

  • Book 1, chap 19 (p. 285), Marcion set the Old Testament (law) in opposition to the New Testament (gospel).
  • Book 1, chap 19 (p. 285), Tertullian maintains that the God of the law and the gospel are the same, even though Marcion taught they were different. Mainstream Christianity has blended these two concepts: the orthodox position of Tertullian and the heretical position of Marcion by saying that there is only one God, but that he changed his demeanor from that of law to grace.
  • Book 1, chap 20 (pp. 285–286), Marcion champions Paul as the one to have moved the other apostles away from the Jewish law (i.e. physical circumcision, the Sabbath and feasts) and into the message of grace. Marcion cites the example of Paul’s withstanding Peter’s acquiescence to the Jews over the Gentiles in favor of the law:

 Paul’s becoming all things to all men — to the Jews who are under the law, as a Jews, and to those who are without the law, as being without the law (a supposed indication of Paul’s ambivalence to the law).

Paul’s mention of the other gospel brought into church by false brethren (Gal 1:6–7; 2:14) is a reference to them bringing into the church the corrupting influence of teaching adherence to the Old Testament law.

Paul’s alleged stand against physical circumcision is another proof, according to Marcion, of Paul’s disdain for the law. 

Additionally, Paul’s teaching against observing times, days, months and years (a supposed reference to the biblical feasts and other Jewish ceremonies) is assumed to be proof of their abrogation. Marcion saw proof of the laws abrogation in the Old Testament writings where YHVH says, “Behold, I will do a new thing” (Isa 43:19); “I will make a new covenant…” (Jer 31:32); “ I will cause her all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts” (Hos 2:11); “The new moons, and sabbath, the calling assemblies, I cannot away with; your holy days and fasts, and feast days, my soul hates” (Isa 1:13–14). Interestingly, these same arguments plucked out the scriptures by Marcion the heretic in attempt to prove the abrogation of the law, are the same scriptures used by the mainstream church to this day in their attempt to invalidate observance of the biblical feasts.

  • Book 4, chap 7 (pp. 352–353), Tertullian asserts that Yeshua neither detested the law nor came to destroy the law, but to fulfill it (as per Matt 5:17), in contradistinction to Marcion who claims that Yeshua came to abrogate or destroy the law. What Tertullian’s view was with regard to obedience to the law I can’t say, except that he didn’t believe Yeshua was a destroyer, but rather an upholder of the law in that he took the Pharisees to task for their partial obedience to it in that they omitted the weightier matters of the law (4.27, p. 394). But in Tertullian’s mind, he was not advocating a doctrinal view that nullified the law, while Marcion did. It seems that today’s mainstream church has a blended view of Tertullian and Marcion in that, and I’ve heard it myself a hundred times, they maintain that Yeshua didn’t came to destroy the law, but to fulfill it, so that Christians wouldn’t have to do it (or at least those parts of the law that men determine are no longer relevant to Christians, and, hence, can choose to ignore, i.e. disobey). Therefore, in the minds of some Christians, Yeshua’s fulfilling the law now gives them license to violate certain aspect of the law (Marcion who was a strong proponent of the abrogation of the law would have agreed with this view) such as the sabbaths, feasts, physical circumcision and the dietary laws. Hence, we see that the mainstream church, de facto, holds, to one degree or another, to an antinomian viewpoints similar to that of Marcion.
  • Book 4, chap 33 (pp. 404), Tertullian maintains that Marcion taught that the law and prophets where until John (Luke 16:16) after which they ceased due to the new dispensation of the gospel. Tertullian then shows this teaching to be fallacious because of Yeshua’s statement that as long as heaven and earth still exist, not one point of the law will cease (Matt 5:18), and because of Isaiah’s assertion that the word of YHVH is forever (Isa 40:8). Yet, it is the lie of Marcion that the law and prophets were until John, after which the law was abrogated that many in the Christian church teach to this day. Here is another example of one of the heresies of Marcion that infiltrated the early church and has been passed on down to this day into mainstream Christianity. Elsewhere, Tertullian admits the truth of the abolition of the law and declares that the law and prophets were until John even as Marcion maintained (Book 5, chap 2, pp. 431–432). In this same passage, Tertullian admits the “suppression, ” “abolition” (his terms) or “abrogation of the law and the establishment of the gospel” believing it to be a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy that “the ancient things should pass away” (Isa 43:18–19; 65:17; ibid.).

Tertullian places the law at odds with the message of grace when he advocates the idea that the gospel calls men from law to grace (Book 5, chap 2, p. 432). In an earlier book, Tertullian attempts to show that the concept of grace was throughout the Old Testament as evidence that Marcion’s idea that the God of the Old Testament was one of law, wrath and judgment, while the God of the New Testament was one of grace and love thus supposedly proving that they were two separate gods. Now, in Book 5, Tertullian is taking the same position on this issue as Marcion. Perphaps this reflect a change of opinion within Tertullian’s mind on this matter between his earlier and latter writings. 

Tertullian affirms that he agrees with Marcion in that the law was abrogated, and that Book of Galatians supposedly proves this, and that the other apostles, under the leading the Holy Spirit in Acts 15, realized that the law (in reality, the apostles were referring to physical circumcision, not to Torah-obedience) was an unbearable yoke that should be set aside, and that the law should no longer be taught, which was in agreement with Paul’s already held position. What Tertullian doesn’t agree with is Marcion’s position that the Yeshua and the God of the New Testament were two opposite and separate beings (Book 5, chap 2, p. 432).

Tertullian definitively states that the law has been abolished quoting Col 2:16–17 as “proof” (Book 5, ch 19, p. 471).

The Council of Nicea (A.D. 325)


  • Easter observance officially preempts Passover, and Easter’s date established.
  • It paved the way for the establishment of the doctrine of the trinity to become official church doctrine.

Constantine’s View of the Jews (from Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History)

From a letter of Constantine to the bishops:

  • The Jews are polluted wretches.
  • Let us have nothing in common with the most hostile rabble of the Jews.
  • Let us withdraw ourselves from that most odious fellowship.
  • Have no fellowship with the lies of the Jews.
  • The vilest of mankind.

The Council of Laodicea (A.D. 363–364)


  • Outlawing the keeping of the Jewish sabbath (Saturday) and encouraging rest on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) (canon 29)

5 thoughts on “The De-Judaizing of the Early Church Fathers Paves the Way for Anti-Semitism

  1. I guess they didn’t read the Scripture where Yeshua states the He and the Father are one!
    In thinking about the law, specifically the ten commandments, I began to wonder what if any gemtria values would reveal about them. I took the first letter of all of them (I realize I’m dealing with English and not Hebrew) 3 “T”s = 1200, 1 “R” = 200, 1 “H” = 6, and 5 “T”,s =2000 all =3406. Bear with me, 3 is the gematria of the gimel, 4 is the dalet, and 6 is the vav. If what I learned is correct, the gimel can mean “walking”, dalet can mean “door” and vav can mean a nail or an upright/righteous man. So my conclusion is since Yeshua is the embodiment of the Torah, the Righteous Son of Man showing us how to walk it out and who also is The Door! Then I took the 8 tavs =48, 1 reish=200 and the 1 hey=5 and it adds up to 253. 2+5+3=10 as in ten commandments! This may not “jazz” you but it does me cause I take it to mean His fingerprints are all over everything and it all adds up!
    (8 Tavs as in the letter being the “T”, there are 8 beginning with Thou, 1 Reish as in “R” for Remember and 1 Hey as in the letter being “H”, honor your mother and father)

    • Interesting. I used to get into gematria and Paleo-Hebrew pictographic meanings a little, but over the last number of years I have steered away from it. Not rejecting it, just not investing a lot of time into it, since I don’t know what to make of it all, and since it tends to distract many people (you excluded) from the clear teachings of the Bible especially the pashat, remez and drash levels of biblical understanding. I’m tentative about getting too much into the fourth or sod level. Many people go astray here. I DO believe that there is something to the hidden, numerological and pictographic and letter sequencing patterns in the Bible, but I’m waiting for Elohim to teach me that personally in his eternal kingdom. I’m not too keen on how humans teach these things and what they do with them. Enough said for now. Blessings!

  2. I’m writing a research paper that includes church history. I’d like to know where I can find Constantine’s quote during the Council of Laodicea… his remarks on “The Jews are polluted wretches.” What book/resource did that quote come from? Thanks!

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