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.
The Apostles Were Pro-Torah
Before commencing our trip back in history, it’s proper for me to disclose my bias. I start from the premise that all the apostles were not only pro-Torah, but were Torah obedient. This is based on many scripture references (e.g. Acts 21:24; 22:3, 12; 24:14; 25:8; Rom 3:31; 7:7–12, 14, 25; 13:8–10; 1 Cor 7:19 Jas 2:8–11; 1 John 2:3–7; 3:22, 24; Rev 12:17; 14:12; 22:12). Please consider the following facts:
The primitive church was primarily Jewish, and was led by the apostles who faithfully adhered to the Torah-law of Moses following the example of Yeshua who practiced and taught its continuance. As the church expanded thorough the Roman empire and gained Gentile converts, there were some who had fallen prey to the philosophy of antinomian (against the law) — that salvation by grace freed one from obligation to obey the Torah. Paul strongly refutes this concept several times in the book of Romans. In addition, many had come to a misunderstanding of Paul’s writings into believing that he was speaking against the law of Moses. This misunderstanding resulted in his being arrested in Jerusalem and eventually being transported to Rome as a Roman prisoner.
We must also place ourselves in the cultural context of those times to properly understand the rise of antinomianism. Remember that very few people owned the Bible in those days and fewer still could read, so, in such a religious environment, it would have been easy for false concepts to have been propagated and to gain traction in the minds of simple men. Basically, people had to believe what their spiritual leaders told them. Unscrupulous, ignorant, or misguided teachers had great influence to be able to lead many astray.
Who Were the Real Judaizers?
Mainstream Christians often label those believers in the gospel and who adhere to the Torah Judaizers. Is this a correct label and is the biblical historical origin of this term?
The term Judaizing or Judaizer as the mainstream Christian understands it today isn’t found in the New Testament per se. However, church historians and Bible teachers have applied this term retrospectively to those in the primitive Christian church as well as to modern saints who advocated adherence to the Torah. This is ironic since Paul advocated Torah obedience to the believers in Rome (who were both Jewish and Gentile). So while Paul teaches Torah observance on the one hand, many believe that Paul was teaching liberty from the Torah (in book of Galatians, for example) on the other hand. This has led to much confusion about what Paul really believed. Was he conflicted in his beliefs being both for and against the Torah? Or maybe he gradually changed his opinion from pro-Torah to anti-Torah. This latter proposition seems unlikely since Bible scholars tell us that Romans and Galatians were written nearly at the same time. So the term Judaizer as used by modern Bible scholars seems to be a canard -— a fabricated concept, or a concept built on a false premise.
The term Judiazer is found only in two verses in the entire Bible. The first place is in Esther 8:17 where the Greek Old Testament (LXX) uses the Hebrew verb yachad meaning “to become a Jew,” or “to profess oneself to be Jewish.” It was used in reference to those Persians who suddenly “converted” to Judaism to escape Jewish persecution. The final reference is found in Galatians 2:14 were Paul was accusing Peter, not of being Torah-obedient, but rather of adhering to non-biblical Jewish traditions, which forbad Jews and Gentiles from eating together. In reality, adherence to these extrabiblical Jewish traditions was Judaizing — a fact that seems to be missed by the majority of Christian scholars from the second century to this day! This isn’t a new thing, for Yeshua accused the learned Jewish religious leaders of his day of the same thing: “making the word of Elohim of no effect through your traditions which you have handed down” (Mark 7:15). Earlier he said, “You reject the commandment of Elohim, that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:9).
In reality, what Paul was fighting against was not the Torah, which he advocates, defends and claims to follow himself in a number of places in his writings, but he rejects the idea that one can be saved by their works including circumcision. After all, this issue was the focus of the debate of the first Jerusalem council in Acts 15. In combatting the false notion that circumcision, for example, must be a prerequisite to salvation, Paul opposes this idea in grand and logical step-by-step fashion in the book of Romans, and again in the book of Galatians in a knock-out-the-opponent-quickly manner. So if we’re to apply the term Judaizer to anyone, it must be applied to those advocating a works-based salvation formula, not to those who teach that salvation is by grace alone through faith in Yeshua with the spiritual fruits of conversion being love toward Elohim and one’s fellow man as defined by the Torah — something this author strongly advocates. Sadly, this fundamental truth of who a Judaizer really seems to have been missed by the majority of early church fathers and modern mainstream church theologians who have continued to repeat the anti-Semitic viewpoints handed down to them from the second century church fathers, and who fear rejection from their peers and supporters if they go against millennia of church tradition.
Factors Causing the Church to Turn Away from Its Hebraic Roots
One can’t help wonder why and how the church leaders of the second century could come to such an opposite view of the Torah (discussed in more detail below) as that of Yeshua and the apostles, which the mainstream church has passed on down to this day. This seems puzzling, perplexing and an incredulous thing to the logical and inquiring mind. To help answer this question, consider the following:
Recall how quickly Adam and Eve turned away from Elohim’s word and fell into sin, or how quickly the Israelites turned to golden calf worship, or how many times ancient Israel turned from the truth of Elohim into the idolatrous practices of the heathen nations around them. Consider how the northern kingdom forsook the worship of YHVH and obedience to the Torah after its split from the Jews of the southern kingdom. Consider how many false doctrines and traditions of men had arisen in Judaism by the time of Yeshua, and how many times he countered the Jews over this issue. Human nature being what it is and ever the same individually and corporately, why should we expect anything different of the early church after the death of the apostles? The biblical record shows that YHVH’s people seldom remained faithful to him for more than forty years. By the time the next generation seldom maintained the truth of the previous generation. Just look at the history of the kings of Judah.
Look how many different churches and denominations exist on earth today with different beliefs — all claiming to follow the same Bible. The one thing that’s consistent about man is that he’s inconsistent — they can’t stay with the same thing for very long. This is because:
- Men are always looking for something new and novel.
- They want to be different than their forefathers. It’s a universal attribute of children to want to rebel or be different from their physical and spiritual parents.
- Very few people want to be too different from the culture around them. It’s easier to go along to get along then to be radically different and have to accept the persecution and ostracization that goes along with it.
- Romans 8:7 tells us that men natural rebellious predisposition against the laws and dictates of Elohim going back to the tree of knowledge. Satan is always there to lure man in this direction.
- The writings of Paul were (are) difficult to understand and easily twisted as Peter attests to (2 Pet 3:16). If Peter struggled to understand Paul, how much more those who would came centuries and millennia afterwards?
- Consider the influences on the largely Jewish and pro-Torah primitive church that occurred due to the Gentilization of the church and weak spiritual leadership to combat the pagan influences and anti-Semitism within the empire.
- Consider other external factors that contributed to the early church’s move away from a Torah-centric belief system such as Roman persecution, the Roman “Jewish tax,” social pressure from the pagan cultures that excluded those who were non-conformists from social and economic interaction.
A Brief History Lesson: From A.D. 70 to A.D. 135 — the Church Leaves Its Roots
Hebrew roots scholar, Dr. Ron Moseley, has part of the answer to this question in his book, published in 1996, entitled, Yeshua—A Guide to the Real Jesus of the Original Church. He says, “After the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, two new religious organizations grew out of the Judaism of Jesus’ and Paul’s day. The Pharisees had fled Jerusalem to Yavneh and were spared, while the Jewish followers of Jesus had fled to the mountains of Pella and also survived (Matthew 24:16). From these two groups came two separate religions known as Rabbinic Judaism and the Christian Church. Today, neither Rabbinic Judaism nor the Church, which formed much of its theology from fourth-century Roman ideas, hold the same views as the pre-[A.D. ]70 Judaism of Jesus’ and Paul’s day” (p. 69). Christian Hebrew roots scholar, professor and theologian Marvin Wilson argues the same points in his 1989 book, Our Father Abraham—Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. He writes, “A cursory look at the beginnings of Christianity reveals a Church that was made up exclusively of Jews. Indeed, the Church was viewed as a sect within Judaism, as the book of Acts makes clear in referring to early followers of Jesus as the ‘sect of the Nazarenes’ (Acts 24:5). They seemed to function easily within Judaism in that they were described as ‘enjoying the favor of all the people’ (2:47)” (p. 47). Wilson then goes on to write that between A.D. 70 when the Roman army destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem and A.D. 135 when the Second Jewish revolt against Roman occupation of their country occurred the first-century Messianic congregation began to leave its Jewish roots. Let’s take a quick look at the timeline of events that led to the Christian church leaving its Hebrew roots as chronicled by Wilson (ibid., pp. 74ff).
- In 63 BC the Romans took the city of Jerusalem by storm and established Roman rule over the land. The Jews writhed under foreign domination which included the collection of high taxes and the torture and execution of any opposed to Roman rule.
- In A.D. 49, a dispute broke out between Jews and Messianic believers in Rome causing the Romans to expel both groups from that city. At that time the Romans made no distinction between Jews and Messianics.
- By A.D. 64, during Nero’s rule, Messianics weren’t distinguished from traditional Jews and many Messianics were persecuted at this time. Paul was martyred during this time.
- By the time of Paul’s death in Rome, in Jerusalem the Zealots, who militantly rejected Roman rule over Judea, had gained considerable influence among the Jews in the Land of Israel. The Zealots were eagerly awaiting their chance to revolt against Roman domination and secure independence for Israel.
- In A.D. 66 the Zealots seized their opportunity to revolt against Rome which lasted for four years. After three years of fighting the Roman general was unexpectedly recalled to Rome at which time many Jews fled to the city of Yavneh and the early Messianic believers fled to Pella, a city in Jordan, just outside of Roman rule.
- In A.D. 70 the Romans returned to Israel under Roman general Titus, took Jerusalem, destroyed the city and Temple and killed hundreds of thousands of Jews.
- For three years starting in A.D. 73, the Romans continued mopping up operations against the Jewish rebels which terminated in the fall of Masada, the Zealots’ last stronghold against the Romans.
- Move from Jerusalem to Pella: For the Messianics, Pella, located 60 miles NE of Jerusalem, became an important center for Messianic activities replacing Jerusalem. The failure of the Messianic community at this time to support the nationalistic movement against Rome did not endear them to the general Jewish population. In the face of national crisis such aloofness and lack of patriotism branded the Messianics with a stigma of disloyalty and treason. Furthermore, the geographical removal of Messianics from Jerusalem and its Temple affected the growing schism between traditional Jews and Messianics by loosening their close religious connection to Judaism, the strongest potential unifying force the Jewish people had. At the same time, Messianics used the fall of Jerusalem against traditional Jews in the Synagogue pointing to this as proof of YHVH’s displeasure and judgment against the traditional Jews for rejecting Yeshua the Messiah. The First Jewish Revolt marked a turning point in the history of Judaism. The early Messianic congregation up to A.D. 70 was a daughter of Judaism, but only after the Revolt did they leave the nest.
- Meanwhile, after the First Jewish Revolt, the Temple system along with the Zealot, Sadducee and Essene sects ceased to exist. Only the Pharisaic system survived having transplanted to Yavneh, a city west of Jerusalem. There the foundations of modern rabbinic Judaism were laid with a religious reformulation on a spiritual rather than a territorial basis. At Yavneh, the Jewish leaders took a religious stand against the Messianic “heretics” further widening the breach between traditional and Messianic Jews. This came in the form of “the Heretic Benediction” (or Birkat ha-Minim, literally, “the cursing of the heretic”). This was a “blessing” that was added to the daily Jewish liturgy and was used to distinguish non-Messianic Jews from Messianic Jews thus forcing the followers of Yeshua out of the synagogue as being heretics of normative Judaism. During this time, bitter accusations of wrong-doing and mistreatment continued bo fly back and forth between these to camps.
- As the Gospel was preached and more and more Gentiles converted to Messianism and the balance of power and influence within the early church began to shift away from the Jewish to the Gentile side. By the early part of the second century the Messianic movement was primarily composed of non-Jews who lived in other areas beside Jerusalem such as Antioch and Rome.
- From A.D. 132–135 occurred the Second Jewish Revolt. At this time a popular Jewish figure named Simon Bar Kokhba led another revolt against the Romans. Some of the leading Jewish religious figures of the day declared Bar Kokhba to be the Messiah. After several years of fighting, the Romans defeated the Jews, expelled them from Jerusalem (but apparently allowed Christians who would renounce all Jewishness to enter the city) leveled the city renamed it Aelia Capitalina and Judea was renamed Palestine after the Philistines, the ancient Israelite enemies. The A.D. 135 revolt was the final breaking point between the traditional Jews and the Messianics who had but one Messiah—Yeshua of Nazareth. To accept Bar Kokhba was an outright denial of the Messiahship of Yeshua and was totally unacceptable.
- Marcion of Sinope was an early church heretic who was a very influential and anti-sematic church father who was influenced by Greek dualistic thought originated and propagated the idea far and wide among second century believers that the God of the Old Testament was evil and judgemental and his laws were evil, a burden and impossible to keep, while conversely Jesus, the God of the New Testament was loving, full of mercy and grace and he came to free us from the old Mosaic law. Though Marcion was eventually branded as a heretic by church fathers, the seeds of his ideas took root in Gentile Christianity and eventually gave rise to the concept of dispensationalism prevalent in Christianity today which, succinctly stated, says that YHVH has one law, covenant, and set of salvation requirements for the Jews and another for the Gentiles.
- Between the second and fourth centuries: Later on, as the Romans, continued their persecution of the Jews throughout the Roman Empire Christians found it expedient for self preservation purposes to distance themselves from the Jewish ties, similitude and any beliefs that appeared in any way to smack of Judaism, no matter whether the Jewish beliefs were biblically-based or not. Eventually, as Christianity grew in numbers of converts and influence within the Roman Empire it joined forces with the Romans and became the state religion in the early part of the fourth century. Sunday became the official day of worship and all Jewish observances (such as the Feast Days) and religious practices were banned and were replaced with paganized Christian holidays such as Easter and Christmas. By this time, the Christian church had officially cut all ties with its Hebrew roots and had become a very different religious entity from that of the Book of Acts believers.
What Church Historian Have to Say
A number of notable church historians have some interesting comments on the primitive church’s movement away from its Jewish roots.
History of Christianity (vol 1) by Kenneth Scott Latourette
“The complete story of the spread of Christianity in its first five centuries cannot be told, for we do not possess sufficient date to write it. Especially is our information for the early part of the period provokingly fragmentary.…Our knowledge of many aspects and persons of these centuries, even of those which loomed large in the eyes of their contemporaries and so would be prominently noticed, is notoriously imperfect” (p. 65).
“Few of the second and third century apologists devoted much attention to the Jews and Judaism. By the time that they wrote, the separation of the Christian community from Judaism was almost complete and Christians were drawn primarily from paganism” (p. 83).
History of the Christian Church (Philip Schaff)
“The first half of second century is comparatively veiled in obscurity, although considerable light has been shed over it by recent discoveries and investigations. After the death of John only a few witnesses remain to testify of the wonders of the apostolic days and their apostolic days, and their writings are few in number, short in compass and partly of doubtful origins…” (vol. 2, p. 12)
Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (Eusebius c. 260 to c. 341)
Eusebius records that the apostolic church remained like a pure and uncorrupted virgin, but that “ when the sacred choir of apostles became extinct and the generation of those who had been privileged to hear their inspired wisdom had passed away, then, also the combinations of impious error a rose by the fraud and delusions of false teachers. These also, as there was none of the apostles left, hence fourth attempted without shame to preach their false doctrines against the gospel of truth” (Book 3, ch. 32).
From the time of Yeshua’s ascension there was a succession of fifteen bishops presiding over Jerusalem upon until the time of the consisted of faithful Hebrews who continued from the time of the apostles until the Third Jewish Revolt of A.D. 132 –136 in “the knowledge of Christ pure and unadulterated” (Book 4, ch. 5).
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Edward Gibbon)
The first fifteen bishops of Jerusalem were all circumcised Jews; and the congregation over which they presided united the law of Moses with the doctrine of Christ. It was natural that the primitive tradition of a church which was founded only forty days after the death of Christ, and was governed almost as many years under the immediate inspection of his apostle, should be received as the standard of orthodoxy. The distant churches very frequently appealed to the authority of their venerable Parent, and relieved her distress by a liberal contribution of alms, but when numerous and opulent societies were established in the great cities of the empire, in Antioch, Alexandria, Ephesus, Corinth , and Rome, the reverence which Jerusalem had inspired to all the Christians afterwards called, the Nazarenes, who had laid the foundations of the church, soon found themselves overwhelmed by the increasing multitudes that from all the various religions of polytheism enlisted under the banner of Christ: and the Gentiles, who, with the approbation of their peculiar apostle, had rejected the intolerable weight of Mosaic ceremonies, at length refused to their more scrupulous brethren the same toleration which at first they had humbly solicited fro their own practice (vol. 1, p. 389).
Gibbon goes on to explain that the Christians who fled the destruction of Jerusalem for refuge in Pella beyond the Jordan remained there in obscurity and solitude for another 60 years (to A.D. 130). In A.D. 135, the Romans defeated the Jews again and banished them from Jerusalem and imposed severe penalty if not death upon any who would dare to approach its precincts. He then writes,
The Nazarenes had only one way left to escape the common proscription, and the force of truth was on this occasion assisted by the influence of temporal advantages. They elected Marcus for their bishop, a prelate of the race of Gentiles, and most probably a native of either Italy or some of the Latin provinces. At his persuasion the most considerable part of the congregation renounced the Mosaic law, in the practice of which they had persevered above a century. By this sacrifice, of their habits and prejudices they purchased a free admission into the colony Hadrian, and more firmly cemented their union with the Catholic church. When the name and honours of the church of Jerusalem had been restored to Mount Sion, the crimes of heresy and schism were imputed to the obscure remnant of the Nazarenes which refused to accompany their Latin bishop. The name Nazarenes was deemed too honourable for these Christian Jews, and they soon received, from the supposed poverty of their understand, as well as of their condition, the contemptuous epithet of Ebionites. In few years after the return of the church of Jerusalem, it became a matter of doubt and controversy whether a man who sincerely acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, but who still continued to observe the law of Moses, cold possibly hope for salvation (ibid. pp. 389–391).
Ante-Nicene Church Fathers Vs. the Apostolic Fathers
The following is a partial list (along with the approximate dates) of several major unbiblical and anti-Torah and non-biblical doctrines crept into the post-apostolic church.
The Human Soul Is Immortal
- A.D. 130— The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, ch. 6
- Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 18
- Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Two, ch. 34
- Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Five, chaps. 7.1; 31.1
Teachings Against the Sabbath and Biblical Feasts
- A.D. 130—The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, ch. 4. The author calls the Sabbath and biblical feasts “utterly ridiculous and unworthy of notice.”
- Ca. A.D. 130—Epistle of Barnabas, ch. 2 (also ch. 14). The author says that the Sabbaths (weekly Sabbath and biblical feasts) are abolished.
- Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians, ch. 14: O
Observance of the Lord’s Day (Sunday) Advocated Over Sabbath Observance
- Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, ch. 9. The author says to keep the Sabbath on Sunday.
- Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians, ch. 9
- Ca. A.D. 130—Epistle of Barnabas, ch. 14
- Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 67
Teachings Against the Torah
- Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, chap. 6. The author declare, “If anyone preach the Jewish law, listen not to him.”
- Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, ch. 10
- Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 47: The author states that out of “weak-mindedness,” some Christians observe the Mosaic law. Sabbath and feast days observance are optional, but not encouraged.
Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, chaps. 8, 10
- Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Four, ch. 16.4. The author declares that the Decalogue was not cancelled by the New Covenant, but the statues and judgments of the Torah were a bondage to the Israelites and are no longer binding on Christians.
Teachings Against the Biblical Dietary Laws of Clean and Unclean Meats
Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, ch. 6. the author states that one who adheres to the biblical dietary laws “has the apostate dragon dwelling within him.”
Easter Celebration Established a Christian Holiday
- Ca. A.D. 150—The celebration of the resurrection within the early church began in the middle of the second century (History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, pp. 207–8, by Philip Schaff). The date of Easter and its formal establishment and disconnection from Passover occurred in A.D. 325 at the council of Nicea.
Sabbath Officially Changed to Sunday
- A.D. 321—Sunday officially becomes the weekly day of worship (in place of the Sabbath) by a legal enactment of Emporer Constantine (History of the Christian Church, vol. 3, p. 378ff, by Philip Schaff; History of the Christianity, vol 1, p. 93, by Kenneth Scott Latourette).
Christmas Established as a Christian Holiday
- Ca. A.D. 354—Christmas originated in the middle to the end of the fourth century as a Christian holiday as an outgrowth of a pagan festival celebrating the birth of the pagan sun god.
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): Accomplishments
- 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): Accomplishments
- Outlawing the keeping of the Jewish sabbath (Saturday) and encouraging rest on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) (canon 29)