LETTERS TO JP – SEARCHING OUT OUR HEBREW ROOTS NO. 3: The Roots of “Christianity”
Dear JP - Concerning our recent discussions regarding the study of the Hebraic Roots of our faith: In the next five letters I have undertaken to briefly introduce you to some of the concepts that we believe are key to understanding scripture from a Comprehensive Perspective – one integrated book with a 400 year (or so) break in the middle with no change in message – just clarification. As we discussed in our last letter, that message is always to one group – the Family – with anyone else being able to join if they wish. Remember, we present our information as just that, information – what you decide to do with it is entirely up to you. Remember that the purpose of this group of “letters” is to introduce a number of concepts. Our hope is to enter into more detailed discussions on a variety of topics – with backup info - after that !
THE ROOTS OF CHRISTIANITY:
There were about three hundred years between the time that Jesus (Yeshua) was crucified and the time that “Christianity” was formalized. During that transition the Apostles wrote letters, people gathered in homes and synagogues, Jews and believers in Yeshua clashed, Rome persecuted Christians, brilliant minds provided commentary and Rome redefined its Imperial Religion.
Historically, the Word was to the Family:
As we discussed in our last letter, Yah had been communicating with Adam’s / Abraham’s Family for a long time. We have record of Him communicating with them up through the prophets and into Nehemiah’s time in about 450 BC. Between then and Yeshua’s time we know that He was working with the Family (Maccabees, Essenes, etc.) even though the land was occupied a by a series of invaders – Persians, Greeks, Romans, etc.
Antioch and Alexandria:
Antioch, capital of “Roman Palestine” was founded in about 300 BC by Seleucus Nicator, one of Alexander the Great’s generals – it is located in southwestern Turkey on the Silk / Persian Road. Located on the site of Meroe , site of a shrine to the Semite goddess Anat (the Persian Artemis) Alexandar himself camped on the site and dedicated an altar to Zeus there. It became the Syrian capital, rivaling Alexandria as the chief City in the Near East. Its population peaked at about 500,000 persons, third largest city in the world behind Rome and Alexandria.
Alexandria (Egypt), and the library were founded in about 300 BC by Alexander the Great. The library was dedicated to the nine goddesses of the arts and was part of the larger research institute – the Musaeum of Alexandria where many of the most famous thinkers of that era studied. The library was damaged a number of times (48 BC, 270 AD (Rome) and destroyed during the Muslim conquest in about 650 AD.
A Jewish boy was born, growing up in Nazareth – less than 20 miles from the Sea of Galilee. He learned, was taken to the Temple at 12 (about a five day walk) where he talked at length with the Priests and Rabbis who were astonished at his learning. In his late 20’s he began a preaching / teaching ministry, speaking mostly to persons in Israel although He journeyed some on the east side of the Jordan, in the Jordan Valley and the 10 towns. He taught in Samaria (what had been the northern kingdom (Israel)), Jerusalem (the southern kingdom (Judah)) the Galilee area, in Jericho and, out by the coast of the Mediterranean Sea up into the area of Tyre and Sidon which are now both in Lebanon. Tyre is only about 12 miles north of the current Israel / Lebanon border. He said that he had come to complete / fulfill Torah and institute a new (layer) of covenant, writing Torah (the age old Word of G*d) on our hearts.
After His resurrection and ascension, His apostles taught and gathered in synagogues, homes and for those in Jerusalem, the Temple courts. They spoke primarily to other Family members (many folks in the land still had the blood of one of the 12 brothers although a mix of cultures had been present since the Assyrian conquest in 720 BC or so). Around 45 AD, Yah showed Peter the concept that Gentiles could become part of the Family. About this time, those who had been scattered because of persecution in Jerusalem began to speak to the Greeks in Antioch. Paul appears to have been part of this group – he too had started by teaching the Family in synagogues and homes, but, after conflict arose he moved on to speak primarily to Greeks.
The Family in Jerusalem had, historically, been under significant persecution by Rome who had given orders for expulsion around 150 BC and then again in about 19 AD. The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD and the Sanhedrin fled to Yavneh, about 12 miles south of Joppa, near the coast. Widespread use of the Greek version of the Septuagint (Hebrew Scriptures by Hebrew scholars in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC) by Messiah followers caused the Jews to quit using it. The Sanhedrin moved to Galilee around140 AD, the time of the Bar Kochba revolt when Jews were approximately 1/10th of the total population of the Roman Empire. The split between Jews (those under Sanhedrin leadership) and the Messiah followers was set and the Family was fractured. The Sanhedrin provided Jewish law until about 425 AD.
By 90 AD original apostles were gone and the Messiah followers looked fo a new generation of leaders. With the Family fractured and Greeks being in many positions of leadership, the natural inclination was to look to the great centers of learning (Alexandria and Antioch). In around 175 AD (although Jerome says Mark the Apostle started the school) this trend was formalized and a line of leaders such Clement, Origen, Lucien, Eusebius and others emerged. These great minds were naturally influenced at these great schools by traditional Greek thought patterns. Philosophy (Stoicism, Plato and similar) and the works of contemporary thinkers were used to interpret scripture. Their interpretations were also influenced by their own religious background / traditional thinking about gods and the spirit world. Visiting scholars participated in lively, high level discussions. The school of Alexandria emphasized allegorical thought (union of human and divine in Jesus ) and the school of Antioch emphasized typological thought (distinction between human and divine in Jesus). These schools were key to scripture interpretation (age old Family scripture, Word of Jesus and Apostles’ letters) until well after 450 AD. Leaders from these schools started a system of churches and formalized the religion. Although the interpretations were mostly compatible it sometimes took ecumenical councils to sort things out.
Constantine and the “Roman Imperial Church”, Religion of the Empire: Emperor Constantine came up through the ranks as a soldier, becoming emperor of the empire in 324 AD. Lead by the thinkers, the “Christian” religion had become substantial and had been both accepted and persecuted by Rome. In 325 he called together the Council of Nicea, in no small part as a way to solidify his hold on the empire by gaining the support of church leaders. He declared Christianity as the religion of the empire and the Council prohibited Passover. The church, over time began to set dates for holidays and increased persecution against the Jews, prohibiting their traditional celebrations. Pope Leo I declared the Pope as the head of the world wide church in about 450 AD. The Protestant church draws heavily from this background and these interpretations. Traditional Family scriptural understanding was mostly forgotten / ignored.