Books are identified by those who writes them – NOT who reads and studies them. For example, American students in school may read and study the works of William Shakespeare, but this does not make William Shakespeare an American poet and playwright. Instead, William Shakespeare was British, so he is a described as a British poet and playwright. So based on the same principle, the Bible should be seen as a “Jewish book” – NOT a “Christian book.” Why are we so afraid of giving the Jewish people credit for their part in writing and preserving the Scriptures? Moses, David, Solomon, the Prophets, etc., were all Israelites, or who were called “Jews” after the Babylonian exile. They were not “Christians.” And why are we so afraid of identifying the Jewish Galilean Rebbe, Yeshua (Jesus) of N’tzeret (Nazareth), and His eighty-two disciples (the Twelve and the Seventy, Luke 10:1), not counting the women and children who followed along with Him, as Second Temple Israeli Jews. This is who they were. They were not “Christians.”
This is not a minor detail. This is critically important. In order to properly interpret and understand any text, regardless of what it is, including the Bible, we need to place it back into its original contexts, interpret it and understand it within those contexts, and then bring that meaning forward to our day and time to see how that meaning can be applied today. This is how we are supposed to handle any historical text, including the Bible. Therefore, the Bible CANNOT be properly interpreted and understood within a “Christian” context. It was not “Christians” who wrote it, but it was written by the Jewish people, and so we need to put it back within a “Jewish” contexts to properly interpret and understand its teachings. Therefore, the “New Testament” should not be seen as a collection of “Christian” writings – but as a collection of “Jewish” writings.
This means that we should look at the “New Testament” as a collection of writings by Second Temple Israeli Jews, in the same way that we look at the Dead Sea Scrolls, as a collection of Second Temple Israeli Jews.
Who were the “Christians”?
The word “Christian” is only used THREE times in the “New Testament” (Acts 11:26; 26:28; I Peter 4:16; emphasis added). In all three instances, the word “Christian” is used as a derogatory slur – an insult – by the non-believing Syrians who were mockingly calling those Syrians who had expressed a belief in this “new Jewish Messiah.” It was used as a derogatory slur in the same way as the phrase “Jesus Freak” was used as a derogatory slur in the United States for the Hippies and street people who were coming to faith in the same “Jewish Messiah” during the 1960s and 70s. This derogatory slur spread quickly throughout the Roman empire, and in 64 C.E., Nero falsely accused the “Christians” of setting fire to the city of Rome, unleashing a city-wide persecution and murder of “Christians” within the “Games” held in the Roman coliseum.
The “New Testament” even says that these new “disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26c). Antioch was located in Syria – not in Isra’el. Therefore, these are Gentile (non-Jewish) believers in Yeshua (Jesus), they are not Isra’eli Jews. There is NO WRITTEN ACCOUNT in the “New Testament” where ANY of the Jewish disciples EVER called themselves by this derogatory slur. You will NOT find this word in any of their mouths. It just is not there.
On the other hand, the Jewish disciples referred to themselves as “The Way” (Heb. HaDerekh). And they call themselves this SIX times during the book of Acts (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22), TWICE the amount that we find the word “Christian” used within the “New Testament.” “The Way” was probably short for “The Way of the LORD” (Heb. HaDerekh ADONAI). This phrase is used in Acts 18:25, and it is one that is seen a number of times throughout the Tanakh (aka, “Old Testament”), going all the way back to Abraham (Genesis 18:19; Judges 2:22; 2 Samuel 22:22; 2 Kings 21:22; Proverbs 10: 29; Isaiah 40:3; Jeremiah 5:4-5; Ezekiel 18:25, 29; 33:17, 20). For example, in Genesis 18:19, we read,
And the men rose up from thence (there) and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. And the LORD said, “Should I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely certainly become a great and mighty nation and ALL THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED IN HIM? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep THE WAY OF THE LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him. (Genesis 18:16-19, KJV; emphasis added)
In this passage, we can see two very important things: (1) we see the first time that “The Way of the LORD” is used; and (2) the phrase that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) cites in Galatians 3:8 – “All the Nations of the earth shall be blessed in you” – is what he calls “THE GOSPEL,” and here in this same passage then, “the gospel” appears for the very first time in Scripture. And yet, both of these two things are found in the exact same passage together. Is this a coincidence? No, it is not.
Christians teach that the first time that “the gospel” appears in the Bible is in the Garden of Eden where God curses the serpent. In Genesis 3, we read,
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; upon your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; IT SHALL BRUISE YOUR HEAD, AND YOU SHALL BRUISE HIS HEEL. (Genesis 3:14-15, KJV)
According to Christianity, this is the first mention of the gospel in the Bible. However, this verse, Genesis 3:15 is never quoted, referenced, or alluded to in the New Testament at all. So on what biblical basis, then, do they teach that this is the first mention of the gospel when Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) explicitly quotes the passage from Genesis 18 as the first time that “the gospel” is given? There is no one else, earlier than Abraham, who is EVER explicily connected with “the gospel.” Therefore, this interpretation of Genesis 3:15 may be “Christian,” but it is NOT biblical at all.
Instead of the “New Testament” and “the Gospel” being “Christian,” they are very much “Jewish.” Consequently, this beginning movement was not a “Christian movement” at all – but an Orthodox Jewish movement who were extremely zealous in their observance of the Torah, for as we read in the Scriptures,
And when they [Ya’akov (Jacob/James) and the Jerusalem leaders] heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him [Sha’ul Paulus (Paul)], “You see, brother, how many thousands [myriads] of Jews there are which believe; and they are ALL ZEALOUS OF THE LAW [Heb. Torah]. (Acts 21:20)
Consequently, what we see in the four synoptic Gospels and the rest of the “New Testament” is not the actions and writings of “Christians” – but those of Jews who were part of the Second Temple Israeli Jewish movement, called “The Way” (Heb. HaDerekh) who went around proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom AND those things concerning the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) (Acts 8:12; Acts 28:31).
Christianity – NOT the Same?
Think about it. How many Christians today would equally rejoice to their congregation being “zealous in keeping the Written Torah that God had handed down to Mosheh (Moses) during the Exodus?” I can tell you that it would be probably extremely small to none existent. Christianity since its beginning as a distinct religion near or shortly after the beginning of the second century, C.E., is NOT the same as the original Jewish movement that we see in the four synoptic Gospels or in the book of Acts. Something happened which dramatically changed this original Orthodox Jewish movement within Second Temple Judaism to it becoming a distinctly different religion, called “Christianity,” who teach that the same Written Torah that they so zealously observed is now seen as “bondage” and “legalism,” or something that has been “done away with,” “replaced,” or “superseded.” But have you ever asked yourself, “What happened?”
Christianity – A Break-Off from Judaism?
Contrary to what Christianity teaches, Christianity as a distinct religion did not start with the birth of Yeshua (Jesus), nor did it begin on the feast of Shavuot (“Weeks”; aka, Pentecost) in the Upper Room in Acts 2, but it was a break-off from the original Orthodox Jewish movement, called “The Way” (Heb. HaDerekh), which had begun by the preaching of the Levitical Nazarite Prophet, Yochanan the Immerser (more popularly known as “John the Baptist”) and Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth whose ministries flourished during Second-Temple Judaism until their deaths. After Yeshua’s (Jesus’) bodily resurrection, Yeshua (Jesus) then gave His disciples the responsiblity to carry on His ministry by taking the message of “the gospel” (which we will discuss in parts 2-3) to the nations as a witness, and then He had told them prior to the commission, “then the end shall come” (Matthew 24:14).
So how did this Orthodox Jewish movement comprised of Jewish men and women who were completely sold out to the Jewish Moshiach of Isra’el and who were zealous in their observance of the Written Torah change so dramatically to what it became with Christianity’s origins near or shortly after the beginning of the second century, C.E.?
The Prophecy of Coming “Perversions”
Sha’ul Paulus (Paul), the believing Pharisee, saw these changes coming, and they literally broke his heart. On his way to Jerusalem to observe the biblical feast of Shavuot/Pentecost, he stopped at Miletus to have one final face-to-face meeting with the Gentile [non-Jewish] congregational leaders in and around the city of Ephesus. Once he arrived at Miletus, Paul sent a messenger to each of the congregational leaders requesting a meeting. According to the online article, “Paul stopped at Miletus,” on Farrell’s Travel Blog, he writes,
From Miletus, on the first visit, Paul sent for the elders of the church at Ephesus. In those days it would be a lengthy journey for a messenger to go from Miletus to Ephesus. The distance by land would have been about 63 miles. If the couriers went across the Gulf of Latmos (Latmus) the distance would be about 38 miles.
On average, a person can travel 3 miles an hour by foot, so if the courier traveled only by land, it would have taken a messenger 21 hours without any breaks or rests, or probably at least two-to-three days to get there, and then it would have taken time to gather up all of the congregational leaders, and then another two-to-three days to get back. However, if the courier went across the Gulf of Latmos (Latmus), it would have taken him about 13 hours without breaks or rests to get there, rather than 21 hours.
During this visit, Paul gave them the following prophetic warning in addition to his farewell:
I know that after my departure [or death] savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 21: 29-31)
Notice that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) knew that tragic “perversions” would come from two directions: from outside of the congregations and from within the leadership. A “wolf” is someone who does not live in accordance to the Mosaic commandments; whereas, “a sheep” or “a lamb” is one who does live in accordance with the commandments. There is even a prophecy in the Didache, the oldest “Christian” writing outside of the “New Testament,” which says,
For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters will abound, and the sheep will be turned into wolves, and love will be turned into hate. For as lawlessness increases, they will hate and persecute and betray one another. And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God and “will perform signs and wonders,” and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before. THEN all humankind will come to the fiery test, and “many will fall away” and perish, but “those who endure” in their faith “will be saved” by the accursed one himself [a reference to Gal. 3:13]. (Didache 16:3-5)
Notice, that it says, “in the last days,” the time in which we live, “the sheep will be turned into wolves, and love will be turned into hate.” We can see this going on all around us. In fact, this has been happening for awhile. However, “wolves,” in this case, are “savage wolves,” who would destroy “the flock” either literally and/or by changing the very nature of “the flock,” and both of these has happened in history, and then we see “perversions” even coming from the leadership, even today. Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) says that “from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” This was not news that made Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) rejoice or made him happy, but it was one that broke his heart since he said that for THREE YEARS NIGHT AND DAY (i.e., DAILY) he “did not cease to admonish [warn] each one WITH TEARS” (emphasis added).
“Perversions” – Defined
But What did Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) mean by “speaking perverse things”? The word “perverse” here is the English translation of the Greek word diastrammea [G1294]. which means “to distort, i.e., (figurative) to misinterpret, or (moral) corrupt: – perverse” (2139). But did Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) warning ever happen or become a reality? Did “perversions” come into the various congregations? Yes, it actually began to happen as a result of what happened two years after he was martyred in Rome in 68 C.E.
The Destruction of Jerusalem
From May – September 70 C.E., two years after the martyrdom of Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) Rome, four Roman legions and their auxiliaries, under the leadership of the Emperor’s son, Titus, attacked and destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. This was the event that changed the face of Isra’el and Judaism from that time on, and it continues to do so, even today.
The First “Perversion”
But when many of the Gentile [non-Jewish] followers heard about the destruction, they misinterpreted this to mean that God had turned His back on Isra’el and the Jewish people, including the Jewish disciples. This was “the first perversion” or “misinterpretation.” This then opened the door and led to the second “perversion.”
The Second “Perversion”
As a result of the first “perversion,” they then began to say that they were now the “New Israel,” the “New People of God,” so as a result, they taught that they now got all of God’s blessings and the Jews got only the curses. This false teaching is called “Supersessionism” or “Replacement Theology,” and it has led to more murders and abominations being committed in the name of “Christ,” including the Inquisition, the various Pogroms, and even the Holocaust, than any other belief in existence.
The Third “Perversion”
To further reaffirm this false teaching of “Supersessionism” or “Replacement Theology,” they also began teaching that the “New Testament” had replaced the “Old Testament.” Another false teaching. All three of these “perversions” still dominate within the Christian religion in one form of another.
Christianity – Its True Historical Origin
They then began to form and mold themselves into a new religion, which they called “Christianity” near or shortly after the beginning of the second century, C.E. For example, In The Apostolic Fathers, 2nd ed., translated by J. B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, the Bishop of Antioch, Ignatius, wrote in his epistle, “To the Magnesians,”
For if we CONTINUE TO LIVE IN ACCORDANCE WITH JUDAISM, we admit that we have not received grace. (“To the Magnesians” 8:1, p. 95)
Ignatius was bishop of Antioch from 98 – 117 C.E., and here we can see that he wrote this letter to argue why they should not “CONTINUE living in accordance with Judaism” but start living in accordance to the new religion, “Christianity.” If Christianity had been around since 30 C.E., or for at least 60-70 years, then why did he say, “if we CONTINUE to live in accordance with Judaism….”? This indicates that the formation of Christianity as a distinct religion was something rather recent or current at that time. And in the very next paragraph, he argues,
Therefore, having become his disciples, let us LEARN TO LIVE IN ACCORDANCE WITH CHRISTIANITY…It is utterly absurd to profess Jesus Christ and to practice Judaism. (“To the Magnesians,” 10:1, 3a, p. 96)
Again, if Christianity had been around since 30 C.E., why is he arguing that they “LEARN to live in accordance with Christianity” (emphasis added) and no longer “continue to live in accordance with Judaism.” A letter from a bishop from one of the primary regions of “the church,” indicates that Christianity did not begin during the ministry of “Jesus,” or in the “Upper Room,” as Christianity teaches, but it began either near or shortly after the beginning of the second century, C.E., depending on when Ignatius had actually penned these words.
Christians Teach Errors Regarding the Torah
Christians teach a number of different errors about the Written Torah. For example, they teach that “to keep the Law (or Torah), you have to do it perfectly.” However, there is nowhere in the Tanakh (aka, “Old Testament”) where God ever requires anyone to keep the Torah “perfectly.” He just acts that they lovingly be obedient to Him. They will even cite James 2:10 to prove their point,
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
However, if you place this verse back into its original context, the believers there were showing preference to the “rich believers,” while ignoring the poor. So Ya’akov (Jacob; trans. “James”) uses this verse to try and motivate them to be even more obedient to the law (Heb. Torah); whereas, Christians will argue that if we disobey one commandment, then we’ve disobeyed them all, so we might as well forget the whole thing. Thus, Christians use this same verse to dissuade people from obeying the commandments, rather than obeying them. This is the complete opposite reason and motivation than why Ya’akov (Jacob/James) used it.
They will even teach that God requires everyone to keep ALL 613 commandments, which is not true at all. Not all of the commandments were intended for one person to observe. Some commandments deal with kings, some deal with the High Priest, others deal with the regular priests, some deal with farmers, and some deal with the men, and others deal with the women. Obviously, there is not one person who fits all of these different categories. For example, even in the U.S. Constitution, there’s some laws for the President, some for congressperson, some for Supreme Court Judges, others for other levels of judges, and then there are some laws that apply for the rest of us, who are not a part of the government. Now are we all expected to fulfill all of these different laws? No, of course not. We only have to keep those laws that specifically have to do with who we are, and the same is true of God’s commandments.
They also teach that “Jesus brought the law to an end by His death.” That is also not true. They will then recite the “tearing of the Temple veil” to prove that. But the tearing of the Temple veil did not bring an end to the Written Torah, since there is not one verse anywhere in the Tanakh (aka, “Old Testament”) where the tearing of cloth ever brings an end to any of the commandments. Instead, the tearing of cloth is repeatedly used as a sign of mourning, even to this day within the Jewish community. On the other hand, they may also recite Romans 3,
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:28)
And they’ll say, “See, it says right here ‘we are justified by faith apart from works of the law.'” However, they think everytime the word “law” is used, it refers to the commandments given in the first five books of the Bible – but it doesn’t. This phrase “works of the law” is actually an English translation of the Greek phrase ergon nomou, which is not used in any rabbinic literature at all of the first and second century, C.E., but it ONLY appears in the writings of Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) AND in the Dead Sea Scroll text, called 4QMMT, or as simply MMT (Heb. Miqsat Ma’ase Ha-Torah). For example, in Martin Abegg’s article, “Paul, ‘Works of the Law’ and MMT,” he writes,
…the Greek equivalent of ma’ase ha-torah is likely ergon nomou. Ergon nomou is commonly translated in English versions of the New Testament as “works of the law.” This well-known Pauline phrase is found in Romans 3:20, 28 and in Galatians 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10.
It is striking that when the British Bible Society translated the New Testament into modern Hebrew in 1976 – at a time when the text of MMT was known only to half a dozen scholars – they consistently translated ergon nomou (works of the law) as ma’ase ha-torah.
In short, ma’ase ha-torah is equivalent to what we know in English from Paul’s letters as “works of the law.” This Dead Sea Scroll and Paul use the very same phrase. The connection is emphasized by the fact that this phrase appears nowere in rabbinic literature of the first and second centuries A.D. – only in Paul and MMT. (53)
So are Christians right that this phrase “works of the law” refer to all the commandments God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai and throughout the Exodus? No, they are not. Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is reacting against those Gentiles who are espousing “the kind of theology espoused by MMT,” and near the end of the document, it “denotes the sect’s departure from mainstream Judaism, its separation from Pharisaism” (54). Thus, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul), as a Jewish Pharisee, was arguing against this doctrine, which was a distortion and departure from mainstream Judaism, specifically Pharisaism.
How can Christian pastors teach us about the “New Testament” when they know very little about Second Temple Judaism? What they are teaching is not the Bible, but they use certain parts of the Bible to try and support and prove their own denominational beliefs. Pastors actually receive very little training when it comes to the Written and Oral Torah at all in their seminaries. The majority of all their classes deal with their denominational beliefs of the “New Testament” with very few classes on the Tanakh (aka, “Old Testament”) and none really on Judaism. I know this because I spent eight years (2005-2013) going through all the classes that I would need for Ordination, and on April 30, 2014, I received my Ordination of Ministry. I kept it for five years, and then I let it expire, since I could no longer support many of the traditional Christian beliefs. Not only do they receive very little training in the Written Law, but they receive absolutely no classes – whatsoever – on the Oral Law, i.e., Mishnah, or the Talmud. Also, they receive no training in being able to recognize these different “Jewish terms” for different aspects of the Torah:
Now out of these 11 rabbinic terms, only one of them actually deals with the Written Torah, or the first five books of Moses. The other ten terms deal with a form or level of interpretation, yet all eleven of these terms would be thought of as “Torah” in the mind of a Jewish writer. For example, Shi’mon Petros (Peter) received a vision in Acts 10 to correct his belief that it was “unlawful” to associate with foreigners, but did he get this idea from the written Torah? No, it was from the Oral Law, or Mishnah, yet I do not know how many times I have heard Christians say that in this vision, God was changing His Written commandments regarding the food laws. He was not. He was changing Shi’mon’s understanding about people – not food – and his understanding of this “Oral law” or “tradition of the elders.” Obviously, then, Christian pastors are not given the education they need to make even this distinction between a commandment given in the Written Torah vs. the Oral Torah (or “law”), or Mishnah.
When we go back and compare the original Second Temple Jewish movement with what happened within “Christian” history from the second century, C.E., onward, Christianity is not at all the same as the original Jewish movement that Yochanan (John) the Immerser, Yeshua and His eighty-two disciples, and even Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) began within the “New Testament.” The Massive Change came because of a variety of reasons:
- The destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple in 70 C.E.;
- The First Perversion: Many of the Gentile (non-Jewish) believers, who were being called “Christians” by others “distorted” or “misinterpreted” the destruction as a sign from God that He had turned His back on Israel and the Jewish people, including the Jewish disciples;
- The Second Perversion: They began to teach that they were now the “New Israel,” the “New People of God,” so that they now got all of the blessings and the Jews got all of the curses.
- The Third Perversion: To reaffirm these first two perversions, they also began to teach that the “New Testament” had “replaced,” “did away with,” or “superseded” the “Old Testament.”
Based on these three “perversions,” the Gentile (non-Jewish) believers broke away from Isra’el and the Jewish people, and they molded and shaped themselves into a whole new religion, which they then called “Christianity.” Historically, then, Christianity did not begin with the birth of Yeshua (Jesus), nor did it begin in the Upper Room in Jerusalem on the Feast of Shavuot/Pentecost but sometime near or shortly after the beginning of the second century, C.E. Many pastors, bible teachers, or religious leaders tell people these “imagined beginnings” because it is what their denomination teaches them, and since they don’t know that this is not the trus origins, then they don’t realize that what they are saying obviously could not be historically true or accurate since “Christianity” as a distinct religion didn’t even exist yet at those times.
Next Part of the Series:
Not only has Christianity not been accurate about its origin – but also “the gospel” as well. I will discuss this more in parts 2 and 3.