WHY IT IS ESSENTIAL TO STUDY THE
HEBRAIC ROOTS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
REDISCOVERING THE HEBRAIC ROOTS OF THE EARLY
CHRISTIAN CHURCH, CIRCA A.D. 60
WASN'T JESUS JEWISH?
WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN JESUS AND JEWISHNESS? HOW CAN THE INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH CLAIM TO LOVE JESUS AND HIS APOSTLES, BUT HAVE SUCH A LONG HISTORY OF REJECTION AND DISDAIN FOR JEWS? EVERYONE HAS SOME IDEA HOW THE TWO RELATE, BUT WHY DOES CHRISTIAN ANTI-SEMITISM STILL STAIN MUCH OF THE CHURCH TODAY?
The facts of history are clear. Jesus himself was a Jew. His original name was
Yeshua. We know Him as Jesus, because that is His name translated into Greek. Not only was He a Jew, but so were all of His first followers. The whole movement for the first several years of existence was a movement within "Old Testament" Judaism. The original followers of Jesus believed that through the life and teachings of Jesus, they had found the clearest exposition of life with God (Luke 24:32 Acts 2:32). They perceived a deeper purpose for their lives: forgiveness of sin and even the certainty of everlasting life with God. Their understanding of God's program of redemption for the world was defined and demonstrated in the yearly cycle of feast-days God gave to Israel in Lev 23. After the ascension of Jesus, the apostles and disciples continued to teach and participate in these feast-days because of their essential element in teaching the fullness of Jesus. As loyal Jews, the disciples were in Jerusalem to celebrate the festival of Pentecost when God's Spirit was poured upon them there.
One of the astounding facts of the early history of the Church was that the apostles of the movement of Jesus became convinced that gentiles were to be given the opportunity to respond to the message of salvation. Extraordinary events created this conviction.
Simon, one of the head disciples, had a vision (Acts 10) that convinced him God's love and salvation were to be offered to gentiles without requiring them to become Jews in the full, Torah-abiding sense. Paul was miraculously touched by God, and commissioned to bring the message of Jesus to gentiles (Acts 9, 13). This prompted a council of leaders which discussed gentile participation in the movement. After deliberation, the leaders adopted an open-door policy toward gentiles.
It is clear from the Scriptures that Jesus' followers did originally reflect the unity of Jews and gentiles in the Messiah. Table fellowship is the greatest image of this unity. In Jewish areas, the congregations were predominantly Jewish, in gentile areas predominantly gentile. In areas of mixed population congregations were mixed. All these forms were natural and perfectly valid. There was no quota system for maintaining proportions. This validity remained as long as actions were taken to show unity in the Messiah and acceptance of the others in their various styles of practice and calling.
This decision was a great spur to the movement of gentiles for Jesus. Soon, gentile followers of Jesus outnumbered Jewish followers. However, the leadership of the disciples kept the movement in accord with the basic decision of Acts 15. Unfortunately this understanding was soon lost. The period from 60-90 c.e. has been designated by one scholar as the tunnel period in biblical history. When the dust of war and tragedy settled, the situation had drastically changed.
THE EARLY GENTILE CHURCH
The gentile followers of Jesus gradually began to understand Jesus in many non-Jewish ways. Though Jesus and all His first followers were loyal Jews teaching the fundamental lessons of the feasts-days and the Torah, this Jewish context and identity came to be considered antithetical to what was then dubbed "Christianity". The word "Christianity" was derived from Christos, a Greek translation of the word Messiah. Both mean "annointed". The New Testament was written in Greek because it was a universal language. However, this created an even deeper gap between the Church and its original HEBRAIC CRADLE. The Greek New Testament eventually came to be considered the replacement of the Old Testament writings by the later European church-fathers, and most of them adopted an attitude that the Old Testament was obselete when seeking spiritual truth. From this error sprang the hundreds of sects and conflicting Christian doctrines prevalent today. The words of Jesus and the apostles expressed in the New Testament were meant to be understood in the Hebraic context of the Old Testament. Instead, by ignoring this essential Hebraic context, these same words were opened to any interpretation one might favour, instead of being grounded and balanced by the Old Testament foundational instruction given by God.
The fall of Jerusalem to the armies of Rome (70 C.E,.) was taken as further proof to some gentiles of God's rejection of the Jewish nation, and encouraged them to intensify their rejection of the validity of Jewish context and identity. The Roman "church" saw itself as the new, true Israel which had replaced the old nation. The Covenant claims of Israel were completely dismissed. Israel as a nation was considered finished, rejected. This was not accurate bibilical theology, however, for Paul declared that the "gifts and the call of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11), and that Israel is "beloved for the sake of the forefathers (Abrahamic Covenant). But men believed and taught what they wanted to believe in spite of the clear contradiction with the Word of God.
Despite this crushing judgment of the Jews by these errant church fathers, the fact was that God had already provided for the sins of the nation of Israel, just as He has provided for our sins. In Isa 53:5-7, God tells us that the Messiah was pierced and crushed for OUR iniquities: but in addition, "He was cut out of the land of the living, for the transgression of My people (Israel), to whom the stroke was due."
This irrational and incredibly self-righteous anti-Jewish theology, or what was called the "Christian anti-Jewish polemic," caused great ambivalence to the Scriptures which Christians called the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible). Consequently, church fathers of the next centuries spoke of Jews and Judaism with great disdain and ignored the Old Testament writings in formulating Church theology. Though they were supposed men of wisdom, their vision was not free of immense blind spots. A few tragic examples reflect the direction of the institutional Church., H.L. Ellison says, concerning the first-century Epistle of Barnabas, "already the so-called Epistle of Barnabas, which may go back to the last decade of the first century, uses such language about the Jews, Judaism and the Law (Torah) as to make any effective contact between the two sides virtually impossible. As soon as it had the power, the gentile/Roman church did its utmost to defeat God's purpose of unity. It persecuted and bullied thereby automatically putting itself in error. It spread the vilest calumnies about the Jews."
Ellison further states that the "Church" scandalized Messianic-Jews by openly worshipping images and giving honour to mortal men and women which should have been reserved for God alone. Alarming practices were being developed by the so-called church that were blatantly pagan to Messianic-Jews. Statutory aids to worship, the unbiblical veneration of Saints and of Mary (who was seen as the mother of a gentile god named Jesus) summarize how Messianic-Jews perceived the error of the Church. These Jews could see no sense in being followers of Jesus in this context. Even though Old Testament Judaism was the original context of the faith, the Christian contempt toward Jews and the Hebraic roots continued. Some of the most vitriolic polemic comes from a Church father, John Chrysostom. He painted as veritable devils those sincere Messianic-Jews seeking understanding of God's plan through their Hebraic roots of the feast-days and the related prophecies locked away in the disdained Old Testament. His eight sermons against such believing Jews seeking their Hebraic roots are remarkable for their poisonous hate.
The most damaging change to the early Church was brought by the Roman Emperor, Constantine. He made Christianity the official state religion (A.D. 323) by politically marrying the surviving remnant of the severely persecuted Church of Christ to the state-sanctioned Pagan Church of Rome. The Council of Nicea was assembled to determinine the doctrines and tenets of the new "Church". and purposefully excluded all Jews. The significant holy-days of the early Christian Church such as Pentacost, were dismissed because of the Hebraic-Jewish background. Passover was replaced by the pagan holiday of Easter, and Tabernacles was replaced by the winter-solstice pagan holiday renamed Christmas to be more palitable for the true Christians. In this manner, Constantine wedded church and state to his enormous political advantage. The church-controlled state of Rome maintained this posture of Jewish discrimination for over nineteen centuries.
The images of the "insidious Jew" were the images that prepared the way for Aushwitz. Nazi leaders defended themselves by saying that they were following in this centuries-old tradition and attitude of the institutional Church. Since the institutional Church had attributed to the Jew no positive value (even though Jesus Himself was born a Jew) there was no Church tradition which could offset Hitler's onslaught.
Of course, God has always had a faithful remnant of spirit-filled members even within the institutional Church just as God has always had a faithful remnant within the nation of Israel. Sadly, this has always been a very small minority which has had little voice of influence within the organized Church during this sad period of institutional Church history.
Jesus stated most forcefully that He came to fulfill the law of God (the Torah), not to end it. The Torah is the heart and core of God's revelations in the Old Testament writings. Jesus lived out the true meaning of God-given Old Testament Judaism. (Lev 23). He interpreted the Torah in its true and essential meaning. Jesus always spoke with authority and always stressed the validity and spiritual nature of the Torah. In Lu 24:27, when teaching His disciples we are told "and beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning Himself." Here Jesus was teaching from the Torah itself exclusively: there was no New Testament at that time.
As a faithful Jew, He loved and celebrated the Feast Days -- the celebration of Passover was one of His last acts before His sacrificial death. He most purposefully used the Passover symbolism to describe and define the meaning of His death for us: Jesus came to die as an atonement sacrifice for our sins. Jesus' purpose at this time was not the establishment of the long-awaited, worldwide Kingdom of peace (the good news of "Basar" or the gospel), rather, through His atoning death, He opened the way for fallen people to turn back to God (Isa 53:3, Isa 53:7 and 9). He also suffered specifically for the sins of Israel (Isa 53:8). If God can forgive our sins, He can surely forgive the sins of His Covenant people in the context of Jesus. Only Jesus could be the sin-bearer and the means of redemption for all of God's people and the world (Isa 53:5-6, 12). Jesus' resurrection assures all the world of a new life with God forever, now and beyond death (John 11:25, 1 John 5:11-13).
Because of Jesus, our prayers can be a living communication with God. As we live according to God's will by the power of His Spirit, our prayers will be wonderfully received by God. As we fellowship with our Creator God who IS love and justice and follow His will as revealed through the Scriptures , we will begin to love ALL people through the new Spirit He puts within us, and in this manner we will begin to be LIKE HIM.
Beneath all the conflicts between the institutional Church and the Jews, we can now glimpse the true meaning of Jesus. The meaning of Jesus is good news -- a Jewish message of Basar or of restoration for all the world. As Jesus' earliest followers were Jews worshipping Jesus in His fulness, so Messianic-Jews today find fulfillment in the God-given teachings of the Old Testament in the deepest sense. As Paul said, the Old Testament traditions are types and shadows of God's program for the redemption of mankind, and are very fundamental for teaching and learning about the fullness of God's Son, Jesus. Acts 28, Isa 9: 6-7 Isa 53 Acts 28:23
The paradox of Jesus and the prejudice against Jewishness in the institutional Church today is solved when we rediscover our foundational Hebraic background and gain God's understanding of the true meaning of Jesus. This paradox of division and hatred was born of deceit and prejudice, and was prophesied by Jesus in Matthew l3. While Jesus was planting the seeds of His rightous Church, the enemy was seen planting his evil seeds (the tares of apostate teaching) into the same field. The seeds of Christ will produce the Godly fruit of God. Satan's seeds (the tares) will produce the poisonous fruit of the enemy which he has sown as division and anti-semitism within the institutional Church itself.
Satan's purpose in infiltrating his seeds of confusion and false-teaching into the field of Christ's Church was to divide and disempower all God's Covenant people (as we are adopted into this family of God and are grafted into the vine, we also will inherit the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant through Jesus). His goal is to twist, choke, and distort God's word until it is no longer recognizable to those desperately trying to find the knowledge of God. God's solution is to return to the precepts of our Hebraic roots. These roots bring clarity to those sincerely seeking God's wisdom, and will re-establish the unity God had intended for His true, spirit-led Church. One of our commissions is to love all people without judgment or exclusion. Judgment has been given only to our Lord. This essential wisdom will shine the light of God's truth upon the deception attempted by Satan and his false shepherds to corrupt and destroy the true believers of Jesus today.
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FROM GOD'S WORD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
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