From Ignatius of Antioch to the Pope of Rome
The Nazarenes were called first “Christians” in Antioch where Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch. As we will see in this study, that was not accidental.
In the article The Nazarenes and Their Sect The Way, we explained that the apostles and their disciples were called Nazarenes after Yeshua the Nazarene, and their assembly was called The Way for he said, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life”.
One of the ringleaders of the Nazarene sect was none other than Apostle Shaul (Act 24:5), who testified before his accusers that he and the Nazarenes believed “all that has been written in the Torah and in the Prophets” (Act 24:14) and all accusations that he taught against the Torah were false.
In the foresaid article, we also explained who and why the apostles were called “Christians” first in Antioch (Act 11:26), not that they called themselves “Christians”.
In this introduction to Christianity and the Gentile Church, we would like to clarify certain misconceptions that many have touched upon, much has been written on, but still its depths have not been perceived.
What we will expound in this study is why they were called such first in Antioch, and where the terms “Church” and “Christianity” came from.
A new religion of Rome was established in 313 A.D. Many think that it was the Emperor Constantine who invented “Christianity”, with the Edict of Milan, but in fact it was Ignatius of Antioch. We will have something to say regarding the latter later on. At present, however, we will concern ourselves with the rise of the Christian anti-Semitism.
The early Christian anti-Semitism
On the same line of contemptuous words of Jerome, the fourth century “Church Father”, the Romaniote Jew Epiphanius of Salamis spoke derogatively of the Hebrew Nazarenes, saying:
But these sectarians… did not call themselves Christians but “Nazarenes,” … However they are simply complete Jews. They use not only the New Testament but the Old Testament as well, as the Jews do… They have no different ideas, but confess everything exactly as the Law proclaims it and in the Jewish fashion except for their belief in Christ, if you please! For they acknowledge both the resurrection of the dead and the divine creation of all things, and declare that God is one, and that his son is Jesus Christ. They are trained to a nicety in Hebrew. For among them the entire Law, the Prophets, and the Writings are read in Hebrew, as they surely are by the Jews. They are different from the Jews, and different from Christians, only in the following. They disagree with Jews because they have come to faith in Christ; but since they are still fettered by the Law, circumcision, the Sabbath, and the rest they are not in accord with Christians … they are nothing but Jews …
Did we see again the contempt here? Epiphanius, like Jerome, scorned the Nazarenes, and more particularly the most vulnerable ones among them: the new Nazarene converts.
But we can still learn from those scornful tirades of Jerome and Epiphanius. We will note three distinguishing elements of the early Nazarenes.
The first is that the Nazarenes, native and converts, believed and confessed everything that had been written in the Torah of YHVH (see again Act 24:14).
We are also told by this Jew-hater that the Nazarenes acknowledged the resurrection of the dead and declared that YHVH is one (Deu 6:4).
And the third distinguishing element is that the Nazarenes, believing that Yeshua was the Messiah, did not call themselves Christians but Nazarenes.
Apparently, Epiphanius wrote this when the division in the Nazarene sect into “us and them” had already begun to take place. But how did that division take place because the disciples left a strong congregation of followers called The Way? This is how.
The early Nazarene movement called The Way
The apostles received the command to announce the Gospel at first to the Jews only (Act 11:19), as great numbers were added to The Way. This they did in accordance with the words of Yeshua who sent them eastward to find the lost tribes of the House of Israel, saying,
Do not go into the way of the nations, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans, but rather go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. (Mat 10:5-6)
We must view this verse as telling us that Yeshua sent his disciples to the lost tribes of Israel. And indeed, all apostles went eastward but only one headed westward: Shaul. But Shaul’s mission remained the same: to reach one of the lost tribes he believed lived in Greece. His strong belief was based on the account of the Book of Maccabees (followers of Judas Maccabeus who headed the revolt in the reign of Antiochus IV, 168-161 BC).
When the disciples found the lost tribes dispersed from Persia to India and China, they established communities in places. Initially, those communities consisted only of the native Hebrews. But as the communities began to enlarge, more and more converts from the gentiles were added to them.
Ignatius of Antioch and the seed of division
The communities of the Nazarenes were growing but with this, however, came the complications when the converts began to prevail in numbers. We see those complications were addressed in some of the apostles’ letters, namely, the letter to the Romans and more particularly Chapters 9, 10, and 11.
As the new converts were joining the Hebrews, inevitably they began to bring in with them their views and traditions from their former pagan lives. That amalgam of Scripture and heathenism began to create conflicts and frictions in the communities. Those frictions in the communities were the subject of the decision the apostles took to address the problem. This decision of the apostles we studied in the article Jerusalem Council and How its Decision is Distorted by the Church – Time of Reckoning Ministry.
As the converts began to prevail in numbers in the Nazarene communities, new teachings began to creep up. Those new concepts and ideas, believed to be originated by Ignatius of Antioch, started drifting the converts from The Way to a new form of congregation.
Ignatius of Antioch is considered to be one of the three most important “Church Fathers” together with Clement of Rome and Polycarp. His letters served and still serve in the Church as an example of early Christian theology whose topics among others include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.
Thus, by the second century, two types of communities began to form. The first one was the communities of the Nazarenes, who observed the Torah and believed in Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel. For their observance of the Torah, the Nazarenes were called by the early “Church Fathers” heretics for “they had changed little since Apostolic times”.
From the original Nazarene sect, the sect of the Ebionites stemmed. The Ebionites were members of The Way who believed in Yeshua. They continued to follow the Torah and celebrate the Appointed times of YHVH, as the Nazarenes did, but they rejected the Epistles of Shaul which they considered teachings against the Torah. Both the Nazarenes and Ebionites were later declared heretics by the Church of Rome.
The time was passing by, and the apostles were replaced by their disciples who continued to lead the movement on the right path of faith. However, the new teachings of Ignatius began to influence The Way. Along with that, the Roman persecution of the Jews and the Nazarenes increased.
This caused the non-Hebrew members of The Way to distance themselves from the Hebrews to avoid the persecution and save their lives. As the division was creeping up in The Way, the forming of a new type of followers began: the second generation of Nazarenes, the “Jewish Christians”.
The “Jewish Christians” were those who observed the Torah laws but also adhered to “new laws” that began to creep up in the communities; those new followers the “Church Fathers” called “Jewish Christians”.
At the beginning of the second century Ignatius of Antioch campaigned against the second generation of Nazarenes calling them by the derogative term “Judaizers”,
Therefore, having become His disciples, let us learn to live according to the principles of Christianity. For whosoever is called by any other name besides this, is not of God. Lay aside, therefore, the evil, the old, the sour leaven, and be changed into the new leaven, which is Jesus Christ. … It is absurd to profess Christ Jesus, and to Judaize. For Christianity did not embrace Judaism, but Judaism Christianity… (Magnesians 10).
But if anyone preach the Jewish law [Edit. the Torah] unto you, listen not to him. (Philadelphians 6)
Now we know why Yeshua’s followers were called “Christians” first in Antioch. Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch and it seems that it was Ignatius to whom Act 11:26 refers. The Nazarenes were called first “Christians” in Antioch by the one who coined the term “Christianity”: the Bishop of Antioch. We should note here that Ignatius of Antioch was a contemporary of the disciples.
After the middle of the fifth century the Nazarenes and the Jewish Christians gradually disappeared from history. And since the Nazarenes and “Judaizers” were condemned by the “Church Fathers”, and more particularly, by Ignatius of Antioch, to heresy and non-existence, the door was opened to the ministers of a new religious entity: the Church.
Christianity and the Gentile Church
The English word “church” comes from the Old English cirice or circe: a word related to Proto-Germanic kirika (source also of Old Saxon kirika, Old Norse kirkja, Old Frisian zerke, Dutch kerk, Old High German kirihha, German Kirche).
In the Greek mythology, however, Circe is a sorceress who detained Odysseus on her island and turned his men into swine. “Church” is the English word that translates the Greek word ἐκκλησία ekklesia.
The Greek word ἐκκλησία ekklesia, simply means “assembly”. In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Tanak, Septuagint (the oldest Greek version of the Tanak translated from Hebrew to Greek by Jewish scholars at the request of Ptolemy II), this Greek word renders the Hebrew word קָהָל kahal for “assembly”.
Simply said ἐκκλησία ekklesia is any group of people who are gathered together for a common purpose. But more particularly, ekklesia in the Septuagint refers to the nation of Israel, as the assembly of Elohim.
However, when it comes to the so-called “New Testament”, the same Greek words appears in English as “church”. The translators have invented a contradiction between ekklesia in the Septuagint and ekklesia in the NT. Why? Should we not expect the translators to be consistent with their own translations?
But even in the NT, the translators assumed to themselves the liberty to translate the same Greek word differently, as they saw it fit.
For instance, there are many places where the Greek word ἐκκλησία ekklesia, appears in the English translations of the Apostolic Writings as “church”. But in Acts 19:32-41, where this same Greek word describes a loose mob, the translators saw it fit to translate it as “assembly” rather than “church”. Why is that inconsistency? The answer is: denominational bias.
The gentile translators did not want the readers to get the impression that the assembly in the “Old Testament” is the same assembly in the “New Testament”. This does not fit their religion. To insert their own theology, they translated ἐκκλησία ekklesia differently.
Another instance in Mat 18:16. Yeshua was teaching his disciples telling them that if a brother did not hear a rebuke, they were to bring one or two more with them, so that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word might be established”. The translators did not bother to see that the Messiah quoted the Torah of his Father (Deu 19:15), but in verse 17 they were very quick to render ἐκκλησία ekklesia as “church”, so that in the next verse the reader should read,
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Mat 18:18 KJV)
What was their intent? They wanted to suggest that the reader should not think anything else but that the Church had been given the unprecedented authority to judge whatever fits its theology. Is it not what indeed the verse says in the KJV English?
But the Hebrew of the same verse tells something else: “whatever you bind on earth has already been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth has already been loosed in heaven, if it has been according to the Torah.
We will read from the ancient Hebrew text of the Gospel of Matthew aka Shem-Tov’s Hebrew Matthew, by George Howard, Mercer University Press, 1995, with some rendering by the present author,
Truly, I say to you that every oath which you forbid on earth has [already] been forbidden in heaven, and every oath which you shall permit on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Mat 18:18)
Do we see the difference? This translation rewrites the verse to mean the opposite of what KJV says.
While the KJV English suggests that the Church has been given the absolute authority on the earth, the Hebrew is very clear that no one has been given a free pass to judge on the earth, if it contradicts the Torah that came from heaven.
In the context of our study, Yeshua gave the assembly of his followers (which later will be called The Way) to solve the difference should they occur in a manner described in the Torah.
Why is that so important to know? We will see in the following.
How the term “Christianity” was coined
The word “Christian” never appears in the teachings of Yeshua and his apostles. The word “Christianity” never appears in the Apostolic Writings either, and none of the apostles had even suggested to name the faith in Yeshua “Christianity”.
It is believed that this term “Christianity”, as a new religion, was first coined by Ignatius of Antioch in the late first century (Antioch was a city on the Mediterranean coast of the Roman province Syria, modern Turkey).
Ignatius the Bishop of Antioch wrote in his epistle to the Magnesians the following,
Let us learn to live according to the rules of Christianity, for whosoever is called by any other name besides this, he is not of God…. It is absurd to name Iesus Hristos (Greek for Yeshua Mashiach), and to judaize. For the Christian religion did not embrace the Jewish. But the Jewish the Christian… (Ignatius to the Magnesians 3:1, 8, 11)
This is the first time in history that Christianity is characterized as a new and different religion. It was this Ignatius who is believed to have laid the foundation of the new religion and the new religious body, the Church, in opposition to the sect the apostles founded (see again Acts 19:23, Acts 24:14, Acts 24:22). Ignatius of Antioch wrote,
Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner and rejoice in days of idleness. (Ignatius to the Magnesians 9)
Note that Ignatius admonished the followers of Yeshua for keeping the Sabbath of YHVH calling the rest on the Sabbath day “idleness”.
While Ignatius and the Church teach that the Law has been done away with, Shaul commended the Christians to observe the Sabbath, because Sabbath is a sign between YHVH and His children (see Exo 31:13). We read from his letter to the Hebrews,
So, there remains a Sabbath-keeping (Greek σαββατισμός, sabbatismos) for the people of Elohim. For the one, having entered into His rest (Sabbath), has himself also rested from his works, as Elohim rested from His own. Let us therefore do our utmost to enter into that rest (Sabbath), lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience (violating the Sabbath). (Heb 4:9-11)
Ignatius of Antioch went so far as to introduce replacement of Elohim with bishops, and the apostles with presbyters. We read from his letter to the Magnesians,
Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, … (Ignatius to the Magnesians 2, 6:1)
Another invention of the second century attributed to Ignatius of Antioch is the so-called “monarchical episcopate”. According to this doctrine, Ignatius offered the earliest clear description of monarchial bishops, i.e., a single bishop rules over all churches in a city. Thus, the role and the influence of the bishops became more important than the teachings of the disciples.
The foundation of the new religion Christianity and the new religious body the Church thus had been laid with “monarchical episcopate”: the bishop in the place of God, and the presbyters in the place of the apostles”.
Constantine’s state religion that started with Ignatius of Antioch
In 313 A.D. the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan and a new religion of Rome was officially established. However, the traditional pagan rituals of Rome were still present. Constantine minted new coins with the images of Roman gods and himself.
He was nothing but a pagan emperor with no existing proof he converted to anything; the monuments Constantine first commissioned, such as the Arch of Constantine commemorating his victory, had no reference to the alleged vision of the cross or any signs of the new religion.
At first nothing was changed in the Roman Empire. Rome continued in the paganism, as faith began to mingle with the paganism Rome had already been into. The old religious rites of Rome were renamed with new ones, the pagan sacred days were replaced with “Christmas” and “Easter”, and the Julian calendar became Christian. The state religion Constantine created was nothing less than paganism under the mask of a new religion. Please, read what we have written in the article Why was Christianity accepted so easily in Rome? – Time of Reckoning Ministry.
Thus, nothing was left on the way of the Church to take over the faith when the popes took the place of Elohim. Accordingly, the Church priestly power replaced the Levitical priesthood, and the new episcopal power in the form of “monarchical episcopate” was placed above the ordained priesthood of Aharon and the Levites.
The Church totally usurped the faith and power to remain the only institution that had the monopoly on the truth: no one else had the right to interpret the Scripture but the Church of Rome.
With that being done, the pope replaced Elohim, becoming the supreme pontiff of Rome, and the Church replaced Israel. The Pope and the bishops of Rome took the absolute power over the religious life by their decisions of the so-called councils of the Church.
The councils of the Church were meetings of bishops in the Roman Empire that started from the mid-third century as the most famous of them being the First Council of Nicaea (325). In their rulings the Church rejected the Torah of YHVH, the Sabbath day, and circumcision. The bishops even went so far in usurping authority that they dispensed sacraments and indulgencies for remission of temporal punishment in purgatory.
Thus, with the invention first of the new term “Christianity”, and then with the establishment of the Church of Rome, by replacing Elohim and the apostles, the Replacement Theology began.
And when Elohim had been taken out, the Sabbath had been taken out, and the Law had been taken out, then there is a place left for only one thing: a place for the new religion—Christianity. This is How Faith did not Change Rome but Rome Changed the Faith.
Protestants protested and nothing was changed
With the Protestant Reformation, the authenticity of all the Ignatian epistles has come under intense scrutiny, though. For instance, John Calvin called Ignatius’ epistles “rubbish” (Barnes, Timothy D., December 2008, “The Date of Ignatius”, The Expository Times, 120 (3): 119–130).
This led to the tendency in the Protestant Church to deny the authenticity of all the epistles attributed to Ignatius. According to some protestants, his letters were later inventions of the Catholic Church.
Whether Ignatius’ epistles are authentic is not something that someone can prove or disprove easy. And the authenticity of Ignatius’ letters is not in the scope of this study; nor is the history of the Church.
What is important for us to remember is that both terms “Christians” and “Christianity” (whether attributed to Ignatius or not) were not in existence in the first century Judea and therefore were not teachings of Yeshua and his disciples. As we explained in the foresaid article, the gentiles were the ones who called the Nazarenes “Christians” first in Antioch, and we have some proof for this found in the Acts of the Apostles and in the letters attributed to Ignatius.
At any rate, the daughter-church, Protestantism, did not do anything better; it just followed in the steps of the mother-church, as the old saying says, “Like the mother, like the daughter”.
The Reformation did not do much to change Rome. The Protestants protested and nothing was changed; Rome was re-formed: formed again or anew into other religion.
Thus, the Protestants created a theological system of the western Christendom that separated itself from the Roman Catholic Church but kept the fundamentals. This new theological system only changed the veneer but not the foundation of the Catholic Church.
The basic pillars of the Roman religion, namely, the councils of the Roman Church and their theology, were kept, the fundamental beliefs of the Catholicism were copied over, and a new religion was born: “Protestantism”. The protestants proved to be mere protesting Catholics. And this is how it shall be until Mashiach’s return.
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May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!