From A.D. 70 to A.D. 135 — How the Church Became Divorced From Its Hebraic Roots
What is called Christianity today in many ways is very dissimilar, and in many respects, outright antagonistic to the religion of the first-century, book of Acts believers. How did this come to be?
Many modern Christian churches prides themselves on being “a New Testament church,” yet what they practice and believe is often very different from and even opposed to the teaching and practices of the apostles and primitive, first century church. For example, life for the apostolic believers in Jerusalem revolved around the temple (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:19-21; 5:42; Acts 21:26; 22:17; 24:18; 25:8; 26:21), and for those outside of the land of Israel, on most Sabbaths, they attended the local synagogue (Acts 13:14; 14:1; 17:1–2; 18:4, 7, 8, 19, 26; 19:8). Not only did the first apostles and early believers not celebrate any pagan influenced holidays such as Easter, Christmas, Halloween, Lent, and the rest, but they adhered to the Torah or law of Moses (see references below). The Book of Acts record is also clear that early believers kept the Bible festivals (as outlined in Lev 23; Acts 2:1; 18:21; Acts 27:9; 1 Cor 5:8; Jude 12) of Passover, Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Day of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles, and the Eighth Day.
What’s more, the book of Acts records that both Stephen and Paul were falsely accused of teaching that the laws and customs of Moses were nullified, and, as a result of this false accusation, both lost their lives defending Torah-obedience.
A hundred other examples could easily be given showing how the Christian church has veered away from the Hebrew or Jewish roots of its faith, but hopefully, the reader gets the point.
So what happened to cause Christianity to veer so widely from the Hebrew or Jewish roots of its faith and to arrive at the place where it hardly resembles that religious faith from which it sprang? This is not an easy question to answer since one must look back nearly 2000 years and attempt to reconstruct the times in which our spiritual forefathers lived. Moreover, we must understand what was transpiring politically, religiously, and socially at the time to answer this question properly. It is also imperative that we understand the contextual social and linguistic fabric, the backdrop of history, and the parade of political and economic events which happened one after another between the years of A.D. 70 and A.D. 135. Then and only then can we understand how the church became divorced from its Hebraic roots and became Greco-Roman and Western in nature and combined itself with an admixture of with pagan and antibiblical doctrines along with pagan practices, traditions and beliefs.
Now, let us go back nearly 2000 years for a short lesson in history. The early church was Jewish and much of what they did centered around the synagogue and the temple. As already noted, references are made 25 times in the Book of Acts to the Jerusalem temple and 19 references to various local synagogues.
Genesis 47:28–49:28, Jacob’s end times prophecy. The Jewish sages recognize that this final portion of Genesis chronicles Jacob’s wish to reveal to his sons some prophetic understandings pertaining to Israel’s long and numerous exiles, culminating in “the Final Redemption” or “the Second Exodus” (i.e. the return of Israel [all twelve tribes, not just the Jews] from her exile in “Babylon” at the end of the age just prior to and after the return of Messiah at which time the two houses of Israel will be reunited under Messiah Son of David).
Jacob states the timing of his prophecies regarding his sons in Genesis 49:1 when he predicts what will befall them “in the last days.”
The Jewish sages believe that prior to the establishment of the Messianic Age (or Millennium), all Israel will go into a time of darkness, gloom and exile.
The sages deduct the timing and tenor of this prophecy from the fact that the Torah scroll fails to place the customary nine spaces between the last word of the previous parashah (or Torah portion), which ends in verse 27 and the next parashah, which begins in verse 28. There is only a one space gap in the Hebrew letters between these two Torah portions, which predicts the “closing in” of Israel as they go into exile and captivity in Egypt.
The sages believe that these prophecies not only predicted Israel’s first exile into and redemption from Egypt but also a latter, end times one as well because biblical history often repeats itself. This is evident by the fact that some of these prophecies weren’t fulfilled until Messiah came the first time and afterwards..
Genesis 48:5, Ephraim and Manasseh. Here Jacob gives Joseph’s two sons the first born status and blessing. Reuben and Simeon were disqualified because of sins they committed (see 1 Chr 5:1–2).
On our recent trip to Europe, my wife and I visited a number of cathedrals some of the pictures of which I shared recently on this blog. They are amazing and impressive structures! I promised then that I’d have a few thoughts on my experiences in these churches, so here they are.
As a frequent traveler, I’ve had the privilege of visiting Catholic and Protestant cathedrals and churches on four continents in many countries over the past forty years. As a Bible expert who also has a broad knowledge of Western religious and cultural history and is an academically trained artist, these monumental edifices, constructed at great effort and expense ostensibly for the “glory of God,” have captured my fascination. And not mine only, but those of tourists worldwide, since in nearly every city where these great churches exist, they are top tourist attractions, even to this day in our agnostic, secular humanistic and rabidly materialistic world. Why this fascination with things religious? (That’s a discussion for another day.) What we will discuss here is, more importantly, what does Elohim think of these architectural endeavors of men to reach him? Are these a sort of manmade ladder trying to reach the gates of heaven?
My ventures into cathedrals, Gothic and otherwise, have occurred in England, Ireland and Scotland including St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey in London. I also have also visited many in France including Notre Dame Cathedral (before and after the great fire of 2019) and Sacré Coeur both in Paris. My footsteps have also echoed in cathedrals in Switzerland and Italy (including San Marcos in Venice, the Duomo di Firenze in Florence and St. Peter’s in Rome) as well as in Mexico and New York City among other places.
My first trip to Europe was in 1980 where I spent a year studying in Switzerland. During spring break, I ventured into Italy where I spent several days in Rome. By this time, I had visited many cathedrals including Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s in London, Notre Dame in Paris, and St. Mark’s in Venice, but nothing prepared me for St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Upon arriving in Rome, I fought my way on foot through a terrifying melee of cars that the inhabitants of that city call normal traffic, and finally found my way to St. Peters Square known as the Vatican. I walked inside of St. Peter’s Basilica, and, overwhelmed, my jaw needed a crutch as I stood transfixed unable to move not unlike one of the numerous marble statues that adorn the place. After what seemed like an eternity, I collected my emotions and sat down on a simple wooden, nondescript chairs (in stark contrast to the wealth and opulence that surrounds them) set out for worshippers, where I remained motionless and almost spell-bound drinking in the awesomeness of the place. My emotional response struck me as strange, since neither I nor my family are Catholic, and, quite frankly, I, at best, had been apathetic toward that church, and even harbored antipathy toward Roman Catholicism. After 45 minutes of just sitting there, I remember thinking, “I can’t take all of the immensity of this place in at one sitting,” and suffering from cognitive and emotional overloading, I resolved to come back the next day to absorb the rest of it. And I did. The majesty, immenseness and artistry of it all was too much to fathom on my first visit.
Scroll forward nearly 40 years, I recently found myself in several European countries again visiting cathedrals. Like magnets drawn to steel, my wife and I were attracted to these cathedrals. After dealing with the initial awe of entering any cathedral, one of the first questions to enter my mind was this: what does Elohim think of this colossal and superhuman building projects? What is his perspective?
Immediately a flood of impressions would begin to flood my mind.
First, this cathedral, pick one, anyone, is a monumental and colossal endeavor; it’s a sort of Tower of Babel-like affair on man’s part to reach God.
Second, this is a massive stone, wood, glass and metal endeavor on the part of a religious institution to exert influence and control over the people for the purpose of money and power; it’s an attempt to control the masses of largely ignorant and uneducated people often for selfish carnal and greedy purposes on the part of many religious overlords. Additionally, it seems to be an attempt by a church system to impress and awe its sheep-subjects through grandiose building projects and, at the same time, to hold these same people beholden to church leadership through fear of losing one’s eternal salvation resulting in an eternity burning in hellfire should they be disloyal to said leadership.
Third Gothic cathedrals and similar churches wow the senses in a multiplicity of ways:
Their soaring architecture causes one to look up—heavenward. Not a bad thing.
Their stained glass windows tell biblical stories though in an extremely abbreviated and a caricaturised way. Again, not necessarily a bad thing.
Their stonework evokes solidity, power, stability, strength, endurance and permanence, which reflects the religious institution that commissioned, built and maintains them.
The artwork of the cathedrals including the engineering of the building itself from the marble flooring and mosaics, up to the ornate altars with their marble statuary, metalwork, intricate wood carvings, the hand-hewn masonry, and the stained glass all serve to lift the human senses, elicit jaw-dropping awe and wonderment, but in what? In the works of men or in Elohim or both? Is this a good or bad thing? This depends on your point of view.
And then there is the grandiosity of the organ music along with celestial sounds of choirs of men and angelic-sounding boys, which fills these massive cavernous stone, wooden and lead echo chambers in almost divine polyphonic reverberations penetrating not only the edifices themselves, but, in many cases, the stoney hearts of the hearers. For many, including me, this music is soul food that also refreshes my spirit and is attractive because of its beauty as well as its biblical themes. It draws the soul inward and heavenward. Is this not a good thing? Who cannot be deeply moved by this?
How could such a monumental and amazing human endeavor such as the construction of Gothic cathedrals that, in some cases, took hundreds of years and thousands of people to build, and the religious institutions that built them be totally devoid of God or Elohim? What peasant who lived and died in the shadow of one these immense structures, some of whose towers reached nearly 300 feet heavenward and dominate the skyline for many miles around, in their right mind would deign to question whether this was a God-thing or not? To question might mean losing one’s eternal salvation if not their land and property and, possibly even their physical life.
Even though the Creator of heaven and earth does not and cannot dwell in any building made by human hands, still, worshippers of the Creator, by whatever name they call him, need a place to gather out of the cold, dark and rain to seek him collectively. Why not make such a place as beautiful as possible, so that he can be worshipped in the beauty of holiness?
After all, didn’t the Almighty commission the children of Israel to build him a tabernacle and later a temple for him to dwell in the midst of them, and a place where they could congregate to give him his due?
So what does YHVH Elohim think of all of this?
It would be foolish and presumptuous of me to assume that I have the definitive answer to this questions, but as I pondered these questions, while wandering around in several cathedrals on my latest trip to Europe, several strong impressions floated to the top of my mental pool of thoughts.
True, these churches were, I suspect, to one degree or another, built to impress and control the masses for the benefit of the religious and regnal elite, and although they were often built to satiate human greed, lust for power and wealth at the people’s expense, is it all bad? There is some good in nearly everything if we just look for it.
In contradistinction to the secular and religious leaders who orchestrated the building of these cathedrals, what about the common people?
Yeshua’s view of the religious leaders of his day, was anything but positive, and I too share a similar view of institutionalized religion and most of its leaders—a system which the book of Revelation calls “Mystery Babylon,” which is comprised of both good and evil, holy and polluted, and a conglomerate of both biblical and pagan elements, and which Scripture metaphorically represents in unglowing terms as a spiritual whore.
Yet, even though Yeshua often eviscerated and rebuked the religious leaders of his day, he, at the same time, treated the little people who had been caught up in these leaders’ religious systems and schemes with tenderness and grace.
Similarly, behind the building of these mighty churches were often the nefarious and ungodly schemes of men to financially rape and control for selfish purposes the common people who came to worship and to seek Elohim in their own simple, naive and uneducated way. Therefore, I cannot judge the hearts of those who in simplicity of heart came (and still come) to seek Elohim the only way they knew. This includes both peasant and lord, as well as many monks, priests and nuns. Who is in the place of Elohim to know much less evaluate how he will judge them in that day for their religious efforts directed the best they knew toward him?
All I know is this: there for YHVH Elohim’s grace go you, me and everyone else who has ever lived. This I also know, I could have been born as one of those hapless and illiterate peasants who was irrevocably tied to the land on which they and generations before them had toiled in impoverished anonymity. I could have been birthed into this untouchable caste class slaving away my entire life for the benefit of the church and nobility under the shadow of their cathedrals and churches (which exist in nearly every town) and castles, with little options in life to do anything else, to go anywhere else or to know anything else.
With these realities in mind, I tend to think that the Elohim of mercy and justice will judge the people more favorably than many of us may think. Even though many of us have left traditional churchianity with an acrimonious taste in our mouths, and some of us, sadly, even still harbor a supercilious heart attitude toward our Christian brethren, we might want to rethink our position in light of a gracious Elohim. If you hold a negative if not bitter disposition toward the church, I am praying that you will find the heart of our magnanimous and gracious Father in heaven who causes it to rain (a blessing, not a curse) on all people including the just and the unjust, at the very least, and, at the most, is even now regathering his lost sheep of the house Israel from many places in many lands out of many churches in preparation for the second coming of our Messiah. The very people Yeshua commissioned us to help regather or those who are going to these churches and cathedrals. Many of you used to go there too, but YHVH in his mercy has opened your eyes and you’ve heard his voice to “come out her my people” (Rev 18:4) He will yet do the same for many of them.
In conclusion, to be sure, the most glorious church building on earth is nothing at all compared to the most common place and taken-for-granted regularly occurring aspect of Elohim’s creation such as a sunset, a lily flower, a starry heaven, a waterfall or a snow-capped mountain, a mountain stream, a butterfly, the human body, a loving human family and a saved person whose name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. The most opulent and extravagant Gothic cathedral is little more pile of refuse compared to these. This speaks to the greatness of our Elohim and to men’s puny efforts to give him the honor, praise and worship he is due. Give YHVH Elohim the glory!
Genesis 48:14 and 16,Jacob’s Prophecy Over Ephraim and Manasseh
While prophesying over Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob crossed his hands over their heads making the symbol of the Paleo-Hebrew letter tav (like the letter t or x in the alphabet), which resembles a cross and in that ancient Hebraic script and according to some Hebrew scholars pictographically means “sign of the covenant.” Jacob then spoke of the Heavenly Messenger (the Hebrew word malak mistranslated as “angel” in most Bibles) of YHVH (i.e. the preincarnate Yeshua) who had redeemed him from all evil (see Gen 31:11–13). Jacob then prophesied that the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh would become like “fish in the midst of the land” (literal translation of Gen 48:14–16; see The ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach).
In light of this prophetic symbolism, which present day religious group would qualify as having fulfilled Jacob’s prophecy as to who the descendents of Ephraim and Manasseh would be? Which religion on earth uses the fish as their symbol, speaks of a Messenger from YHVH as their Redeemer, and has the sign of the Paleo-Hebrew letter tav, which looks like a cross? The Buddhists? The Moslems? The Hindus? Even the Jews? No! Only Christianity fits this enigmatic criteria. Many Christians are without Continue reading →
Deuteronomy 2:31,Begin to possess [the Promised Land].Possession of the Promised Land was a process. This concept is as true for us as much as it was for the children of Israel.
The idea in mainstream Christianity that when you receive salvation at the beginning of your spiritual walk and that’s all there is to possessing or entering the kingdom of Elohim is a seriously incomplete one. It doesn’t fit the biblical models or the teachings of the apostolic writers about the need for the believer to persevere and overcome to the end to receive his ultimate eternal inheritance.
When this verse states that Israel“began to possess [the Promised Land],” what does this mean? Why didn’t YHVH give it to Israel all at once? What did Israel have to do to “possess” the land? What do we have to do to possess our spiritual inheritance? Does YHVH just hand it to us, or do we have to persevere, overcome and fight for it?
Leaving Egypt is a picture of a believer’s initialsalvation, while entering the Promised Land is a picture of a believer’s ultimate salvation involving his glorification or the redemption of his physical body and being granted eternal inheritance at the resurrection. It’s also a picture of rewards for obedience.
Much more could be said on this subject, and the apostolic writers show us. Suffice it so say, the idea that the mainstream church propagates that receiving salvation is a one time event like getting your ticked punched to a movie or amusement park ride falls woefully short of the biblical truth and has led many people astray spiritually. Yes, the initial steps in the process are relatively easy, but then there’s the repentance, the spiritual walk, the obedience and lordship of Yeshua, the overcoming, and the levels of rewards. All of these things are precursors and steps in the process to actually receiving eternal life and a resurrected glorified body.
The children of Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their subsequent 40 years journey to the Promised Land is a picture of this process and all the steps in between. It’s a picture of the redeemed believer’s life and all of the faith-building struggles one must encounter before entering the the Promised Land of their ultimate spiritually inheritance.
The idea that the saint can have it all here and now is not a biblical one, but an ear-tickling message promoted by hireling gospel peddlers and corporate church merchandizers who have something to sell you. Beware of these false teachers who refuse to tell you the whole truth as presented in the Bible! Let the buyer beware.
Labels, names, monikers, titles and the like—what’s it all really mean? Nothing and everything.
What does Elohim think of our churches, denominations, and the titles and labels we put on our religious boxes? Who knows, but I’m guessing not much. He’s playing a much bigger game than his children most of whom are playing church in their little denominational sandboxes. After all, he and/or she (see Gen 1:27; 5:2) is the Creator of the universe and is quite above all of man’s puerile nonsense. Elohim isn’t for or against anyone. He’s not one one side or the other, for one denomination or another, for one political party or another, for one —ism or another. Elohim is Elohim and has a bigger “game” to play! He’s not a sectarian, and doesn’t play the us versus them sophomoric game. Elohim is on his/her own side—the side of Truth! Elohim is for anyone or anything that is on his side and against anyone who is against him.
Remember when Joshua encountered a Man near Jericho who identified himself as the Commander of the Army of YHVH in Joshua 5:13–15? What was the Man’s response when Joshua asked whose side he was on: Israel or her enemies? Did he fall into Joshua’s categorical labeled boxes, his denominational delineations, where it’s us versus them? Hardly! The answer of the Man of Elohim was quite curious. A one word answer. “NO.” I take that to mean that Elohim refused to fall into men’s cultural and religious demarcations. He’s Elohim and he’s on his own side. If we do what he tells us, he’ll be on our side too. If not, then the Scriptures clearly tells us that he’ll set his face against us. Not a good thing!
To take it one step further, with whose religious denomination did Yeshua identify? Pharisee, Sadducee, Essene or what? The Gospels record that he came out in favor and disfavor of the first two sects on several occasions. A study of the Qumran scrolls that he taught some of Essenes’ teachings and definitely was against others. No. Yeshua was his own man, and he was not tied to any sect. He was tied to heaven—the the Truth of the Word of Elohim. Period.
Now to rock someone’s boat even more, and to prove how little I care about religious titles, names and labels, even as YHVH does, let me make this declaration:
I am Baptist in that I agree with them in full water baptism.
I am Pentecostal in that I believe in the gift of tongues and in what happened on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2—plus I celebrate Pentecost.
I am Seventh Day Adventist in that I keep the seventh day Shabbat and believe in the second advent or coming of Yeshua the Messiah.
I am Protestant in that I protest against all the evils of the Roman Catholic Church.
I am Catholic in that I believe in the universality of the spiritual body of Yeshua.
I am Christian in that I believe in Jesus Christ, whose real name I acknowledge as Yeshua haMaschiah.
I am sacred names in that I use the Hebraic names for deity.
I am Christian orthodox in that I believe in the right or straight way of the Bible.
I am Jewish in that I follow the Torah as best I can and in the Tanakh or Old Testament.
I am Presbyterian in that I believe in church leadership.
I am Charismatic in that I believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit/Ruach haKodesh.
I am Messianic in that I believe in the Yeshua, the Maschiach of Israel.
I am Hebrew Roots in that I believe in the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith.
I am Shaker and Quaker in that when I come into the presence of YHVH Elohim, I always shake and quake in my spirit and sometimes in my body.
I am Apostolic in that I believe in the ministry of the apostle.
I am Latter Day Saint because I am a latter day saint who follows Yeshua the Messiah and his Torah and this is how the Bible defines the end time saints in Rev 12:17 and 14:12.
I am Assemblies of God in that I believe that the church belongs to Elohim.
I am Foursquare because I believe that the New Jerusalem is a cube.
I am Calvary Chapel because I believe that Yeshua died at Calvary, the Greek name for Golgotha.
Acts 13:14–15, A synagogue service. In that day as in our day, a typical Jewish Sabbath day synagogue service involved reading the from the Torah and the rest of the Tanakh and then hearing a teaching on what was read or on some other biblical subject. Add these Sabbath day activities to those mentioned in Acts 2:42, 47; 1 Tim 4:13; Eph 5:19–20; Col 3:16; Jas 5:13–14 and 1 Cor 14:26 and we have a list of activities the early believers did when they came together. These include
Teaching the word of Elohim (including the Torah), teaching doctrine, presenting the gospel (Acts 2:40–42; 1 Cor 14:26; 1 Tim 4:13)
Baptizing new converts (Acts 2:41)
Fellowshipping (Acts 2:42)
Sharing meals together (Acts 2:42
Praying for the sick (Jas 5:14)
Singing psalms (Gr. psallo meaning “to play on a stringed instrument a praise song to Elohim,Jas 5:13) or to give a psalm (Gr. psalmos meaning “a striking, twanging, of a striking the chords of a musical instrument, of a pious song, a psalm, 1 Cor 14:26), for singing in general (1 Cor 14:15)
Confessing one’s sins one to another (Jas 5:16)
Praying for one another (Jas 5:16) or prayer in general (1 C or 14:14–15)
Turning those who are wandering from the truth back to Elohim (Jas 5:19)
Reading the Scriptures (1 Tim 4:13)
Exhorting (Gr. paraklesis meaning “calling near, summons, importation, supplication, entreaty, admonition, encouragement,consolation, comfort, solace,” 1 Tim 4:13)
Exercising the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12) including speaking in tongues and prophesying (1 Cor 14:12, 26, 29, 39)
Giving spiritual revelations (1 Cor 14:26)
How many modern day churches do all of these things on a regular basis? If not, maybe it’s time to find a new church…