Why The Early Church Divided
In the previous two articles we examined how the rejection of the Torah of Moses led the Western Roman Church to reject the Jewish people and separate themselves from the Jewish believers in Messiah
- Torah observance also caused separations within the Christian Church.
- Paul persecuted the early Jewish believers, searching for them in the synagogues (Acts 22:19; 26:11).
- Thus, we know the early Messianic Jewish believers remained a sect within Judaism worshipping in the synagogue.
- Believers were ethnically Jewish and culturally Hebraic
- No efforts to evangelize Gentiles from Acts 1 to Acts 10(7 to 10 yrs.)
- Only after the evangelization of Cornelius's household was there a determined effort to evangelize non-Jewish people (Acts 11:19-21).
Act 11:19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
Act 11:20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching Messiah Yahshua.
Act 11:21 And the hand of Yahweh was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Master.
Acts 15 the Jerusalem council, which was established to answer the question, How much Torah are the Gentiles to follow.
- They determined the minimum requirements for Gentiles to meet in order to be accepted within Messianic Judaism.
- Although Paul is called the apostle to the Gentiles, we must be careful not to think that he established Gentile Churches that met separately from the Messianic Jewish believers of the synagogue.
- At that time there were many Gentiles, known as Yah-fearers or proselytes at the gate.
- Paul did not have the Gentile believers leave the synagogue and form "Churches." They continued to meet in synagogues.
Two significant historical events, the 1st (66-70 CE) and 2nd (133-135 CE) Jewish revolts against Rome, changed the balance between the number of Jewish and Gentile believers in the body of Messiah.
Factors converged to cause the Gentile believers to separate themselves from their Hebraic roots and the synagogue.
- The destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple and traditional Judaism.
- The expulsions of Jews from Rome and Judea.
- The antagonism between traditional Judaism and the Messianic believers.
- How the rejection of Torah led the Gentile believers to reject the Messianic believers.
Schisms within the early Christian Church as they tried to deal with the issues of Sabbath and festival observance.
Many in the Church assume that practices such as Sunday worship and Easter celebration, etc., have existed since the book of Acts. Furthermore, many think the Biblical Holy Days were never a valid form of Christian worship.
Socrates writes, "For although almost all Churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries [the eucharist] on the sabbath of every week,"
- Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this."
- This "ancient tradition" spoken of by Socrates was initiated in the early second century in Rome and Alexandria, the first Christian assemblies to break the tradition of meeting on the Sabbath.
Ignatius (approximately 98-117 CE) warned about, "the Judaizing tendencies of his territory.
- If we are still practicing Judaism.
- Not received Yah's favor.
- Partaking in the Sabbath, "after the Jewish manner,"
- Exhorting them to, "keep the Sabbath in a spiritual manner . . . not in the relaxation of the body . . . and not eating things prepared the day before.
- Early Christians were predisposed to the Jewish Sabbath practice.
The Epistle of Barnabas (130-138 CE, probably in Alexandria.
- Is valuable because it contains the first explicit mention of Sunday observance by the Christians.
- Sabbath is not a present reality but an eschatological rest at the Second Coming of Messiah.
- He equates the eighth day with the resurrection of Yahhua on the first day of the week and the beginning of the eternal state on the eighth day (8000th year) after the 7000th.
Justin Martyr, who wrote Dialogue with Trypho (138-161 CE) lived in Rome.
- The Torah was only given to the Jews because of their "sins and hardness of heart.
- Justin states that, "Yah imposed upon you the observance of the Sabbath as a mark."
- Justin states, "Sunday, indeed is the day on which we all hold our common assembly.
- Western Roman Church met on Sundays; to commemorate the first day of creation when
- 1)Yahweh transformed darkness into light.
- 2) because Yahhua was resurrected on Sunday.
- 3) because the eighth day was more mysterious than the seventh day.
- The Western Roman Church, which eventually gave rise to Roman Catholicism and then Protestantism.
Division between Churches of the East and West began in the mid second century of the common era.
- Confusion among Christians developed concerning Passover observance soon after the Messianic Jewish believers lost their authority in Jerusalem after the Bar Kochba revolt (133-135 CE).
- The controversy existed because, "all the bishops of Asia . . . were in the way of celebrating the Passover festival without question, every year, whenever the 14th day of the moon had come."They cited the teachings of the Torah and B'rit Chadasha
- The Eastern church (churches listed in Revelations) followed examples of Messiah and Apostles as foundational to their practice.
- The Western Roman Church (especially those of Rome and Alexandria) who decreed that the Passover had to be celebrated on the Sunday after the Spring equinox.
Constantine summarized why the Western Roman Church chose to change the Passover ritual, date and emphasis. Concerning the timing of the Passover celebration he stated, " . . . it becomes us to have nothing in common with the perfidious Jews."
We've seen how anti-Torah and anti-Semitic beliefs were major issues resulting in the division between the Eastern and Western Churches. The central issue in all divisions was rooted in a misunderstanding and/or rejection of the Torah of Moses.