Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Although I probably could have written this article under the 'Why Karaism' banner I decided that it warranted to be placed separately under some other category that had as little association with Karaism as possible because it represents everything that is abhorred amongst Karaites. You see, the story I'm about to relate comes directly from the Talmud and commits so many sins that it actually casts Judaism in a bad light in its entirity. Of course as Karaite we would say, "what would you expect, after all it is the product of Rabbanites," but even Rabbanites have a 'modus decorum' by which they must operate and this is dictated by the Torah which still governs how Jews must behave. The fact that this story concerns Rabbi Judah ha Nasi should not be that great a surprise to Karaites. The presumption of his title, 'The Prince' considering he had no government or population to actually rule over I do not hold against him. As a descendant of Hillel, I have to believe his claim to be from the House of King David in the same way that I believe the lineage in my own family to be accurate as being from the House of Phiabi. These claims were passed down from father to son and were intended to be preserved, so I do not doubt his claim to be a Prince of Israel. What I do take exception to is possibly his warranting of the title based on the story to follow. A Prince must act with honour; a Prince must preserve the truth; a Prince must not commit murder; and a Prince must not be boastful when his own people are made to suffer. These would all appear to be lessons that Judah ha Nasi failed to learn, yet he is extolled above all other by the Rabbis through the Talmud. So perhaps the banner for this article rather than 'Why Karaism' would more correctly be 'Why not Rabbinic Judaism'.
From The Abodah Zerah
The Following Story is taken from the Talmud; Abodah Zerah. I have placed my comments and explanations in brackets so I do not alter the original verse.
[Emperor] Antoninus [Pius] once said to Rabbi [Judah ha Nasi], "It is my desire that my [adopted] son Asverus [Marcus Verus] should reign instead of me and that Tiberias should be declared a Colony [Self governing Sartrapy]. Were I to ask one of these things [from the Senate] it would be granted while both would not be granted. Rabbi thereupon brought a man, and having made him ride on the shoulders of another, handed him a dove bidding the one who carried him to order the one on his shoulders to liberate it. The Emperor perceived this to mean that he was advised to ask [of the Senate] to appoint his son Asverus to reign in his stead, and that subsequently he might get Asverus to make Tiberias a free Colony.
[On another occasion] Antoninus mentioned to him that some prominent Romans were annoying him. Rabbi thereupon took him into the garden and, in his presence, picked some radishes, one at a time. Said [the Emperor to himself] his advice to me is: Do away with them one at a time, but do not attack all of them at once. But why did he not speak explicitly? — He thought his words might reach the ears of those prominent Romans who would persecute him. Why then did he not say it in a whisper? — Because it is written: For a bird of the air shall carry the voice.
The Emperor had a daughter named Gilla [Anna Galina] who committed a sin, so he sent to Rabbi a rocket-herb, and Rabbi in return sent him coriander. The Emperor then sent some leeks and he sent lettuce in return.
Many a time Antoninus sent Rabbi gold-dust in a leather bag filled with wheat at the top, saying [to his servants]: 'Carry the wheat to Rabbi!' Rabbi sent word to say. 'I need it not, I have quite enough of my own', and Antoninus answered: 'Leave it then to those who will come after thee that they might give it to those who will come after me, for thy descendants and those who will follow them will hand it over to them.'
Antoninus had a cave which led from his house to the house of Rabbi. Every time [he visited Rabbi] he brought two slaves, one of whom he slew at the door of Rabbi's house and the other [who had been left behind] was killed at the door of his own house. Said Antoninus to Rabbi: When I call let none be found with thee. One day he found R. Haninah b. Hama sitting there, so he said: 'Did I not tell thee no man should be found with thee at the time when I call?' And Rabbi replied. 'This is not an [ordinary] human being.' 'Then', said Antoninus, 'let him tell that servant who is sleeping outside the door to rise and come in.' R. Haninah b. Hama thereupon went out but found that the man had been slain. Thought he, 'How shall I act now? Shall I call and say that the man is dead? — but one should not bring a sad report; shall I leave him and walk away? — that would be slighting the king.' So he prayed for mercy for the man and he was restored to life. He then sent him in. Said Antoninus: 'I am well aware that the least one among you can bring the dead to life, still when I call let no one be found with thee.' Every time [he called] he used to attend on Rabbi and wait on him with food or drink. When Rabbi wanted to get on his bed Antoninus crouched in front of it saying. 'Get on to your bed by stepping on me.' Rabbi, however, said, 'It is not the proper thing to treat a king so slightingly.' Whereupon Antoninus said: 'Would that I served as a mattress unto thee in the world to come!' Once he asked him: 'Shall I enter the world to come?' 'Yes!' said Rabbi. 'But,' said Antoninus, 'is it not written, There will be no remnant to the house of Esau?' 'That,' he replied. 'applies only to those whose evil deeds are like to those of Esau.' We have learnt likewise: There will be no remnant to the House of Esau, might have been taken to apply to all, therefore Scripture says distinctly — To the house of Esau, so as to make it apply only to those who act as Esau did. 'But', said Antonius, is it not also written: There [in the nether world] is Edom, her kings, and all her princes.' 'There, too,' Rabbi explained, '[it says:] 'her kings', it does not say all her kings; 'all her princes', but not all her officers!
From the Talmudic tale we would be led to believe that there was a very close and personal relationship between the Emperor of Rome and the self-titled, Prince of the Jews. Furthermore, the Emperor would seek Judah ha Nasi's wise counsel repeatedly to the point that it even extended into how he should run his affairs and control the Senate. But what do we really know of the relationship between these two men? The answer is that they simply didn't have a relationship. In fact, Antoninus Pius, though not as intolerant as his predecessor Hadrian towards the Jews still had an axe to grind. It is stated that during Antoninus' reign that the Jews were deprived of the right to have their own courts, which prerogative was by the Pharisees considered essential to religion (Yer. Sanh. vii. § 2, 24b). This certainly doesn't sound like the Empror would come to the Nasi seeking legal advice. Furthermore, those that dared to criticize the measures of the emperor were banished or put to death (Shab. 33b). What we also know is that as a result of his harsh treatment of the Jews, the Jews attempted once again to overthrow the Roman domination ("Scriptores Historiæ Augustæ, Antoninus Pius," ch. v.) but there was so little fight left in them after the Bar Kochba revolt against Hadrian that this rebellion was put down quickly and barely rated a mention. The strained relations existing between the Parthians and the Romans may have led the Jews to believe as well as encouraged them to revolt with the expectation of assistance from the Parthians but such assistance was never realized. Whereas the biography of Antoninus Pius in Historia Augusta speaks of this revolt the Jewish sources in the Talmud do not even allude to it and instead provide this fairy tale relationship between the Rabbinic leader and the Emperor of Rome.
But it wasn't all bad news as Antoninus did repeal some of the edicts of Hadrian —such as the prohibition of circumcision which prevented the Jews from exercising their religion—on the condition that they should not receive proselytes (Meg. Ta'anit, xii.; "Digesta" of Modestinus, xlviii. 8, 11). Moreover, they were forbidden, on penalty of death, to enter Jerusalem which hardly sounds like the edict of a man whom according to the Rabbis had approached Judah ha Nasi on how he would be able to best grant the city of Tiberias independent status. Those Jews who had fled to foreign countries in order to escape the persecutions of Hadrian gradually returned to their homes but by then most of the land and homes had become the possessions of non-Jewish populations.
The actual edict of Antoninus Piusread as follows: ‘By a rescript of the divine Antoninus the Jews are allowed to circumcise only their own sons. If anyone performs the operation on a national of another race, he is liable to the same penalty as for castration’. The penalty being referred to was death so this is hardly the words of an Emperor that would let himself be a stepping stool for the Rabbi. Antoninus was still determined to restrict and control the spread of Judaism and thus would have no interest in God's preservation of a place in the world to come for him. In fact he would have had no interest in the Jewish God at all for it was well documented that he was faithful to the traditonal Roman pantheon of gods and no others.
History also records that Hadrian before Antoninus Pius visited Judea and Septimus Severus after Antoninus Pius visited Judea but Antoninus Pius himself did not visit the Roman province. That being the case then there was no house with an undergound passage that led to Rabbi Judah's house that the Emperor ever used. The story is a fabrication with no other purpose to portray the Emperor as a man with a compulsion to murder his slaves, an act which the Nasi obviously tolerated and to portray Rabbi Hanina ben Hama as having the ability to raise the dead even if he was inferior to Rabbi Judah ha Nasi. In their efforts to record themselves as being far greater than they really were, these sages of Rabbinic Judaism were obviously not adverse to lying.
So Why Lie?
I asked myself that question repeatedly. What was to be gained? What were the Rabbis seeking with this story? I could understand why Rabbi Judah was mute for much of the story, performing actions that the Emperor had to interpret rather than speaking to him directly. It provided the Rabbis with the ability to say that their Prince never actually spoke to the Emperor if they were ever challenged. Plausible denial I think we call it now.
Even when the story of his picking radishes would be challenged as his advising and approving that the Emperor eliminate his enemies which in that day and age meant killing them off one by one, an act which according to the Torah made Rabbi Judah as guilty of murder as the man that perpetrated it, the Rabbis could deny such a thing was ever suggest by saying, "he was only picking radishes. Why would you ever think he was condoning murder?"
The entire story is to express the superiority the rabbis held for themselves above their Roman masters. The fact that one of their own, Rabbi Akiba not only anointed a false messiah in Simon Bar Kochba, but spurred him on to fight a second war against Rome in which close to half a million Jews died should have taught them modesty, restraint and recognition that their beliefs were faulty. But they could not see the truth in that regard. Rome was still beneath them. A foot stool for their Prince to step upon when climbing into bed. A story of how Rome could kill them but they held the power to resurrect the dead so they had no fear of Rome's threats. Sadly the half million that died following their instruction they could not resurrect but they survived and that would appear to be all they cared about. After all, just as Judah ha Nasi replied when given the gift of gold by the Emperor, he had no need of it, he had plenty of his own. Only the Emperor was wise enought to suggest he hold on to it, not for his sake but for those less fortunate that might need it after he passed on. Perhaps the rabbis should have been thinking of the people all along!
Sunday, October 16, 2011
“Whenever we are witness to the great assemblies of self appointed learned and great men we can expect the world to shake and quake in fear. “
One doesn’t have to dig deep into the history of mankind to see that the quotation is as valid today as it was sixteen hundred years ago. Whether it is an assembly for political change, religious institution, a war council or even a modern day assembly like the United Nations, the truth is that the outcome more than often results in the inevitable destruction and devastation that only mankind can unleash upon his own species. We are guilty of the most heinous crimes yet we appear doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past.
What is it that drives us to unequalled levels of cruelty against our fellow man in order to exercise our narrow minded pursuit to exercise our will over that of others, to both the detriment and neglect of others, as long as it satisfies our own selfish needs? How is it that we can cloak are misguided intents beneath a shroud of liberalism or humanitarianism even though from the outcome it is obvious that our imposition of our myopic view only causes greater suffering to the many while the few we have protested to protect are minor in significance and very often worth.
I have thought long about this dilemma following the outpouring of a fellow Karaite’s heart and soul this past week in which her own personal suffering and that of her family was tested against the rights and privileges of the individual in our society to perpetrate evil are safeguarded to the fullest extent of the law. It would appear in our efforts to appear humanitarian, we have forgotten the meaning of a word which implied the ‘taking care of the human race’ not the interests of an individual or a small group that are opposed to the good of society. To safeguard a minority bent on evil, destructive and anti-social programs is to be anything but humanitarian. From criminals to activists, they are still simply people that feel they have the right to exercise their rights illegally and often violently. We must reexamine the misguided concepts that have pervaded our legal, political and religious structures. We must protect the majority as long as that majority does not persecute or harass the minority. And most importantly we must act in the public good if we are to survive as a species. These last few points are easily forgotten when minorities obtain power and a voice well beyond their proportion and measure and a majority remains both passive and silent. Such was the case with Christianity as it moved towards being granted state recognition. But rather than learn from the mistake of Church development, the error has been perpetrated and perpetuated for countless centuries into modern times and these new minorities, vocal well beyond their numbers, have inherited the legacy of enforcing their will upon the majority simply because they have gained the support of high ranking officials, political pawns, acceptable violence and a legal system that has abandoned the Mosaic Laws with no sentence or sensibility behind its enforcement.
The Burning of Heretics
The Burning of Heretics
The Arian Church
This setting of an impossible goal led many to fall into the ever widening net of heresy. One of its victims that it ensnared was a questioning priest in Alexandria by the name of Arius. Arius could not understand how God, being so pure and good have any direct contact with the real world. To do so would mean that the Lord would willingly allow himself t be contaminated by impurity and imperfection and that was unacceptable. How could he or his followers believe in a God anything less than perfect? Therefore he concluded, Jesus could not be a version of the same being. He would have had to have been something completely different; an intermediary with a divine spark but not then or ever a manifestation of God himself. That being the case, Arius continued to teach his followers that Jesus was a being completely separate from the Father and therefore should not be worshipped as such. Immediately, the Bishop of Alexandria called for the excommunication of Arius before he could do irreparable harm.
Concerned that this Arian heresy would tear apart the Church that he had so neatly stitched together, the Emperor Constantine summoned the great council in 325 AD, the Council of Nicaea. With close to two hundred bishops from all over the empire, Constantine insisted by the end of the assembly they must have a unified decision on the direction of Christianity, a document we have come to know as the Nicene Creed.
The Attainment of Power
Following Constantine’s Edict of Toleration written 311 AD, the power of religious authority was concentrated in the hands of one church and one church alone, that being the Catholics, then regarded as the official Church of Rome. The word ‘Toleration’ in the title was a misnomer since it was obvious the Catholic Church was proposed as the universal church and all others were discluded from the equation. With the balance of power to determine the future direction of Christianity, the Catholic Church immediately switch its policy from safeguarding the traditions from misinterpretation to that of eliminating deniers of the Truth. What this meant to the early adherents of Judeo-Christian traditions that they could no longer deny the divinity of Christ. To do so would be to refuse the Trinity and accept the Unity of God. Those churches that believed Yeshua was a man in whom the spirit of God dwelt had to adopt the belief that Jesus was a divine spirit that assumed human flesh. And in so doing the belief in Jesus as the Son of God had to be upheld otherwise you could not belong to this new Orthodox Church. The difficulty in accepting the ideology that the Father and Son were actually different designations of the same being was overcome in one of two ways. Either you accepted it at face value, never to question it again, or you were to be branded a heretic and either killed or banished. Doubt, disbelief, endless questioning were all silenced rapidly.
Enforcement of these beliefs to the elimination of all others could only be met by growing resistance. A Yeshua without humanity became an unattainable goal. Why worship a being that couldn’t possibly be a role model for other human beings, since as God he was incapable of performing or contemplating a sin. Perfection couldn’t be tainted and therefore any relevance as a role model was negated. The Jesus of this old-new church was out of touch with the common people.
The Final Solution
Homoousios was the word that became doctrine at the assembly in Nicaea. Translated it meant ‘of one substance.’ That was their final decision that the Father and Son were from one substance and Yeshua’s divinity was never to be questioned again. In reality, the decision failed to decide anything. Those that still believed as Arius taught refused to accept the final decision and publicly stated so. As for Arius, he was publicly humiliated, excommunicated and exiled but that resolved little. Even though the majority stood against Arius, he challenged them on their creation of a terminology ‘homoousios’ which was nowhere to be found in either the Old or New Testaments. Therefore, similar to Karaites like myself whom accuse the Rabbanites of constantly inventing religious doctrine to suit their own needs, Arius did likewise to his Catholic brethren. In their defense the Bishops passed a ruling that they too could be divinely inspired and therefore they were permitted to create new doctrine. Now legally backed by their newly established power they were confident they could mold Christianity any way they so desired and in feeling thus, they introduced the dogma of immaculate conception which had no religious foundation in any of the sacred books but they no longer required sacred writings to establish the rules.
Constantine found himself sitting in a quagmire. By initially agreeing with the Council’s doctrine he had given them powers far in excess of any they held previously. By instilling within them the ability to create religious doctrine and dogma based entirely on their own feelings at the time, he had turned them into rivals rather than subordinates. The Nicaean Creed was received well in the West but the Eastern Bishoprics struggled with its introduction since they had the greatest concentration of adherents from the early Judeo-Christian Churches and those members refused to accept the incorporation of absolute power into the hands of the clergy.
Fearing what he had done, Constantine in 328 AD recalled Arius from exile and supported the Arian policies or anti-Nicene party but it was too late.
For the next four hundred years Arianism survived but wherever it raised its head it was hunted down, tortured and eradicated. The Catholic Church was determined to eliminate this threat no matter how long that might take fearing that the policies of Arius called into question their power and the divine nature of Yeshua. As soon as the populace began to question those doctrines then it would spell the end of the control over the minds and bodies of men. Arianism served a purpose; it reinforced the establishment of Orthodox doctrine. Each and every time that the threat of Arianism arose, the Chatholic Church felt compelled to hold a council and introduce even more legislation to safeguard their empire. Most aren’t even aware of the next Nicene Creed, the one that took place in 381 AD. From that the Church obtained, “For us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was made man.” There was also the new swearing of allegiance to the “Holy Ghost, the Lord and the Giver of Life.” But that didn’t succeed in being taken on very well by the congregations and eventually became replaced by the “Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” much easier for most to recite. The concept of the Holy Ghost had to be introduced because Arius refused to believe that the Spirit that infused Jesus was a part of God, insisting that it was no higher in its creation than that of an angel. In this way, the Church ensured that no part of their Trinity could be questioned as being anything less than God.
But by creating this new omnipotence and infallibility of Jesus, God and the Holy Ghost a new threat was created. These were referred to as the “divine mysteries”, unanswerable questions that were beyond man’s comprehension and therefore not required to be answered by the clergy. If God actually manifested Himself on earth, then why had nothing actually improved? If God gave forgave man all his sins, then why did he sin more than ever with each passing year? If had tasted the suffering of mankind during his experience in human flesh then why did he permit man to suffer so? All these divine mysteries and yet so few divine answers, for no other reason that anything divine had been totally eradicated from this new Christianity which claimed to be Orthodox yet had by the end of the fifth century as I have elucidated in these articles removed anything that may perchance have been the original Christian beliefs based on its Jewish heritage. What was left was a hollow shell filled with only the whims and desires a handful of sacrilegious men. What was also clear by the end of the fifth century was that the man in charge was the Bishop of Rome, a position as history has shown could be bought, stolen, killed for and above all, abused. And from that point in time was when the questions should have been asked. Was there ever an original Christian teaching that an institutional Church was the true path? Hardly, the use of the Greek word ‘ecclesia’ in Jerusalem actually translated as an assembly, suggesting leadership would only be via elders, not by something called a church which the Greek now is translated as. Was a single man ever destined to be considered the voice of God? Though James had assumed the mantle of leadership following his brother’s death, at no time did he claim his words to be infallible as the Pontiff of Rome now claimed. Error compounded upon error and every time a spiritual leader appeared that attempted to turn back the clock, he was branded as a heretic and his followers persecuted to death. And therein lies the root cause of so much which has gone wrong with our institutions of today. When the guiding light that a quarter of the world looks towards was based on principles that barely represented the original directives then it follows that all subsequent institutions wallow in their own ineptitude having nothing upon which to define their morality. Like a pendulum, they will swing wildly from end to end seeking the balance but never able to find that point of equilibrium since they are constantly out of sync with every other organization and institution. Without harmony there can be no balance. Without a return to the original beliefs there is no chance to find the guiding light. Without knowledge and understanding of whence we came there can be no comprehension of what we were destined for. And without Karaism there is no way of recognizing what it is we have all lost so long ago.
Monday, October 10, 2011
A Gift From Persia
Desiring more than what rested beneath his hand, Satan invaded the Kingdom of Light and the war began in earnest between the two opposing forces, the Light and the Darkness. To beat back the armies of Satan, God created primal man but Satan’s forces began to overcome the armies of this lesser being and God was forced to rescue Man lest he be lost to Satan. But even after being rescued, Man had suffered grievously, several particles of his original Light gifted by God now replaced by five elements of the Dark. And thus man was set on a path that if he was to return to the Light, return to God, he must overcome the Darkness that now dwells within in an everlasting eternal struggle.
The first of these men to live, a combined existence of both light and dark particles was named Adam. Because of what Satan had done, Adam and his offspring were to be forever born in original sin. There was a woman named Eve, and because she was only created to be Adam’s companion she possessed less particles of light and therefore was more susceptible to the darkness. But God loved his creation of man and throughout the history of mankind would send his heavenly spirits in the form of prophets to guide and correct the corruption that now resided within man’s soul.
The Manichaean Universe
But if man was born into a world of evil, a sinner from birth, Mani knew that he also had to provide a reward that mankind could strive for. He taught his followers if they learned and studied the prophets, strove against the evil within their souls, then if they were successful they would set the light free and would ascend to God. But if a man could not perform the purification within his lifetime then he would be sent back to live again until such time that he could release the light. And once all of mankind had succeeded in releasing the light then there would be the final apocalypse which would destroy the material universe and banish the Kingdom of Satan forever.
By the fourth century there already was a singular head, a Pope of the Manichean church. Many of the Marcionites that I had described in an earlier article adopted the Manichean beliefs and in fact by the end of the third century almost all of the Marcionite churches became Manichean. The appeal of the Manichean church exceeding anything witnessed before. It’s popularity amongst the aristocrats of the Roman Empire was immediate as it provided an easy transition from their pagan hierarchy to this new one, a far easier task than adopting the more man-centered concept of Mosaic law. One of the most notable personages to adopt the Manichean religion was St. Augustine who was actually one of the administrators in this church. Eventually St. Augustine left the Manichean church accusing it of teaching a falsehood of rival worlds of Light and Darkness in perpetual battle and that God was at constant war with Satan. In his new position within the Catholic Church he railed against these misguided beliefs enforcing the Mosaic belief that God was the only power in the universe and man was responsible for his own sinful ways, having nothing to do with an external power that forced him to commit wrong doings. How ironic that in spite of St. Augustine’s condemnation of Manichaeism in order to preserve the initial Judaic beliefs of the church, his protestations were eventually washed away in the tide as the Church raced to adopt Manichean beliefs.
The Ultimate Absurdity
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Having begun the revelation of the myths and fables surrounding the birth of Christianity in my last article it is time to look more in depth at the development of Christianity as to what it has become now. It is a pale reflection of its beginnings and the essential Judaic teachings of its origins were intentionally stripped from it so that it could stand apart and bend to the will of those that controlled its destiny. Men in the Catholic orthodoxy that were not unlike the Rabbis that made a determined effort to mould both their respective religions into something other than intended and most importantly, to their own benefit. These changes were not by accident, were not normal evolution, nor were they done with the best intentions of its worshippers. But what is sadder is that with the wealth of historical information available, so many have not taken the time to read about their Christian origins. Had they merely taken the time and cherished advice of our Karaite sage and founder Anan ben David, they would have recognized that he was not only speaking to those of us that are Karaites but to people of all denominations and religions. His was a warning that to follow blindly is the greatest sin of all because it will do exactly the opposite what it claims it was designed to do. The preaching will be “Do not lead us unto evil” yet the outcome for any religion where it demands blind obedience, advises not to question its teachings or origins, and both assails and condemns any opinion that it deems contrary will do exactly that; it will lead you unto evil! The heritage of Christianity has been the eradication of any opinion that those in power deemed contrary. Silencing the heretics was the norm for hundreds of years. Yet heresy is from the Greek “haerens” which only means an act of choosing. So the execution of the heretics really meant eliminating anyone that wanted to make a free choice and that is the legacy of the rise of Christianity.
A Strange And Unusual Time
From a Karaite perspective what I personally find the most amazing about the second and third centuries AD is that you had two religious sects, both essentially Jewish in origin vying for the title of supreme monotheist but both willing to sacrifice the original teachings of the Torah. Let me explain if this statement has confounded you. Both Rabbanite Judaism and Christianity began writing furiously over this period two centuries to win over the hearts and minds of adherents whether established or new. The Rabbis began writing their Talmud feverishly and the Christians published a plethora of Gospels, both groups specifically designing their books to capture sayings, teachings, and histories, even if the subject material was speculative, inflammatory, and based solely on one’s own personal and therefore far from factual experiences. Whereas the Rabbanites were determined to catalogue their thoughts into one volume, even though it ended up in both a Palestinian and Babylonian version, the Christians made no attempt to consolidate their writings, keeping each manuscript distinct and separate. And therein lay the failure of the Rabbinates to win the race to the publishers and to their respective audience. The Talmud became a massive tome, unable to be finished for several hundred years and therefore never released to be mass circulated to the public and so introspective that it had practically no appeal to anyone but the rabbis themselves who enjoyed reading about their own endeavors, arguments, and congratulatory back patting efforts, whereas the Christian authors were able to circulate their small books quickly, often just as vellum manuscripts, suitable to be read by any individual and with stories bordering on the fantastical and supernatural thus very appealing and capturing an eager readership desiring to read about something other than mundane issues. There really wasn’t any contest when it came down to it. Even though most of these circulating Gospels were to be dismissed and discarded later when the Church decided to canonize the final version of the New Testament, it did so at a time that the general public had already been exposed to the multitude of books and their imaginations captured by the mythological status of the writing. The Talmud which was a never-ending exercise had none of the same mass appeal nor even had it been available early would it have been something the common person desired to read. Yet both of these massive documents, whether Talmud or New Testament had taken their intended audiences far afield from the Laws of Moses and the actual dictates of the Torah or Old Testament. And as I have pointed out numerous times in my articles, both these works of men were constantly in contradiction to the Torah and the teachings of Moses and were intentionally so. Of that as you will see in the next few paragraphs there could be now doubt!
Marcion Versus Montanus
“Who?” is the word you are probably uttering right now. Just two of the most important men in early Christian history and yet the majority reading this will have absolutely no idea who they were and what was their true significance. But both these men were the most prominent leaders in Christianity during the second century AD and shaped the Christianity that we know today. But because they possessed views outside the mainstream Catholic teachings they were later branded as Gnostics even though as I mentioned they were each responsible for giving Christianity its greatest surge in growth and popularity by attaining thousands upon thousands of adherents at that time and providing an ideological framework upon which the Church did build its current concepts thus eventually attaining mass appeal.
As hard as it may be to believe to Messianics and Christians today, during these first two centuries, to refer to the Catholic Church was to imply that those adhering to this view were either Jews or Judaized-Gentiles strongly leaning towards the Old Testament teachings as presented by the Jerusalem Church, initially under James and then his cousin Simon Cleophas. It was the Catholic Church that was entrenched with both these Judaizers and Old Testament exponents. Initially it saw itself as the defender against the rise of polytheistic ideologies that began to permeate the other churches throughout the empire. But as the old adage goes, “If you can’t beat ‘em then join ‘em,” especially when those others were growing faster, stronger and with far more determination than your own congregation could ever accomplish.
Marcion who lived between 130 and 180 AD considered his Church to be the only authentic one. The speed at which Marcion gained adherents was troublesome to the Catholic Church and Irenaeus wrote against them claiming they would eventually fractionate the early Christians beyond a point of recovery. It was not that Irenaeus condemned the teaching of Marcion only that this adversary did them better and in turn had better conversion results than the orthodox Catholics. Marcion’s message was simple. He wanted to build a church that could bring salvation but was not involved in the speculative and mystical ideas that seemed to have taken over the Christian church. Of interest is that Marcion taught that God had two natures. The wrathful, angry God of the Torah, and the kind loving God that had sent Jesus to save the world. But these two aspects of God were always constantly seesawing in what could be viewed as an eternal battle. Perhaps Marcion was familiar with the Yin and the Yang of eastern philosophy but he determined that it was the wrathful side of God that created the world and therefore all material creations were evil. That meant that man was evil as well but the pure side of God loved man and therefore sent part of himself in the form of a phantom body to live amongst man and die in order to save mankind. Quite interesting that the man that accused the traditional church of being too speculative and mystical was in fact the man that provided the spiritual concept of a non-human Jesus to Christianity in the first place. Marcion insisted that the only apostle that understood all of this was Paul and therefore he justified Paul’s abolition of the Law under the excuse that he was serving the Grace. In this manner Marcion claimed that Paul had done away with the wrathful God of the Old Testament and replaced him with worship of only the pure form of God as revealed in the New Testament. Having this narrow perspective meant that Marcion also had a very narrow canon of scripture which included the Gospel of Truth, which was a collection of sayings but not directly from Jesus, the four Gospels although Luke was an edited version, and the Acts of Paul. Hence he claimed that the only scriptures within his church emphasized the mercy of God whereas the Catholic Church was opposed to the teaching of mercy and therefore failed to comprehend true Christianity. Having condemned the material world as evil, Marcion preached that sex was also evil but only those that were Perfect needed to abstain from sex, whereas the rest of the followers could still engage in it and only when they were about to die would they be baptized. Salvation came through the love of God and the Old Testament was negated by this Loving God. As much as this view by Marcion would appear naïve and perhaps even childish, his teaching had a major impact on the Catholic Church and threatened its survival. So much so that Tertulian wrote, “The Marcionites make churches as wasps make nests.” This rapid expansion could not be stopped but it certainly could be absorbed. Catholic leaders met to see which of the Marcionist views should be incorporated into their own doctrines and in so doing they were to markedly reduce the impact by eliminating many of the differences.
Just as threatening were the Montanists which like the Marcionists wanted a return to what they called pure Christianity. Their approach was far more Old Testament, claiming that the Catholic Church was governed by men that had no true sanction by God and therefore their unethical and immoral behavior was not to be tolerated. The only laws that could be considered as truthful were those already passed down by God and his prophets. As you might have noticed, the concepts espoused by the Montanist were not unlike the Boethians and Zadokites of the same time against the Rabbis; in fact these Montanists were very Karaite in their comments. All we know of Montanus is that he appeared preaching in Phrygia around 156 AD. He dispelled the teaching of both the Rabbis and Catholic Church that the age of prophets was gone and that there would be no further prophets. In fact Montanus claimed that he himself was a chosen prophet of God. Montanus’ concept of the Holy Spirit was that it was sent down by God to enter the bodies of his chosen prophets. Therefore any that spoke the word of God were engaged by the Holy Spirit and Yeshua was one such man. Montanus believed that all scriptures were the word of God and therefore he maintained that in his Church all doctrines were acceptable, none were to be repudiated but God’s only requirement was that the followers maintained a high level of morality, fasted regularly, and had strict marriage laws. But as his followers pursued their beliefs, Montanus expected them to abandon the daily world and separate themselves into religious communes. This was in direct contradiction with the Catholic Church that decided its followers should maintain their everyday lives and didn’t need to separate themselves from Roman life in order to become holy.
By the end of the second century it appeared that the Montanists would become the dominant sect of Christianity. The Catholic Church reacted as it had done so many times before, labeling the Montanists as heretics, excommunicating the lot, and condemning their prophets to either banishment or death. This dogma of branding anything that opposed them as heretics was exactly the institutionalized corruption that the Montanists were opposed to. There considerable threat forced those leaders in the Catholic Church to move closer to the reigning powers in Rome. By emphasizing that the Catholic Church supported the Roman authorities and advised its followers to contribute as part of everyday society, they were able to demonstrate the danger represented by a Montanist Church that encouraged its members to withdraw from society and become separate. It didn’t take much encouragement for the Roman authorities to join in the condemnation of the Montanists and use them for their entertainment in the coliseums. Although Christian history will talk about the martyrs fed to the lions and slaughtered in gladiatorial exhibits, it fails to comment that it was Montanists providing this entertainment while a Catholic elite grew closer to the Emperor and 100 years later actually was proclaimed as the one and only Christianity of the Empire.
The Best And Worst
Having survived the century of turmoil and beating back those breakaway sects that condemned it, the Catholic Church, soon to be the State Church of the Empire, recognized that the Marcionists and Montanists had been popular for two entirely antithecal reasons. The first gained popularity by emphasizing the spiritual nature of Jesus and therefore won over the hearts and minds of a people seeking far more than the strict laws that evolved from the Torah.
The latter, the Montanists gained their popularity by emphasizing the freedom of choice, the fact that God intercedes in the world through his prophets and that survival meant separation from the daily life of the Empire. From the general description, they were not very unlike the Jews that still represented a large portion of the eastern populations.
And therein lay the solution that would become the hallmark of the Church for a couple of thousand years. By adopting Marcion’s teachings of the uniqueness of Christianity, the spiritual nature of Jesus and the rejection of all the old laws that were Jewish or Old Testamental they could create a distinct separation between themselves and their original beliefs. And by categorizing the Montanists as nothing more than Christians practicing a Jewish mode of life, they could again emphasize that separation and at the same time focus the Empire’s distrust on any people that were determined to remain separate, especially the Jews. In doing so, the Catholic leaders gained the trust of the Empire and were to eventually to take over the operation of the empire itself in the form of the Holy Roman Empire where the power to invest kings and emperors suddenly lay within their Church.
It was a learning process that would not have been possible if it had not been for the advent of both the Marcionists and Montanists. In a very short time they had gained all the myths and fables necessary to reshape the Catholic Church into the image of bishops; men seeking power at the cost of its heritage. It would have to go through one more phase before the transition was complete. That involved the canonization of the New Testament and finalization of its arrangement with the Empire in the sharing of power. That wouldn’t happen to the fourth century and will be the topic of discussion for the next article.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The Legends Surrounding Yeshua
But one should not take my word for it. After all, I am a Karaite and as such the belief in Yeshua as Messiah is foreign to me and that would render me prejudiced in any accounting. So instead, let’s examine what those within the early Church had to say about it. After all, at one time these were esteemed and credible leaders of the Christian communities, only to find themselves ostracized and banished once a new emperor or a new bishop courted and craved power. And the best way to eliminate a rival was to brand the old teachings as heretical even if they were the original teachings and therefore probably more accurate.
James and Ignatius
And though the doctrines of these initial followers as instructed by James and who appeared to have an understanding of the essential Jesus continued to exist and grow throughout that first century they were condemned as heretics by Bishop Ignatius of Antioch just before the end of the first century AD as he was being led to Rome to be executed. For Ignatius, a man born after the death of Jesus insisted that he knew much better than those that had sat and learned at the feet of Yeshua. In his letters to the early Christians Ignatius makes the point sixteen times that Jesus and God were one and the same. And there is no misunderstanding of what he meant by this claim since Ignatius affirms he believed Jesus to be the invisible and timeless (achronos) one, incapable by his godlike nature of suffering so he had to come earth so that he would be capable of suffering as a result of his human birth. But Ignatius had far more on his agenda than just argue about the divine nature of Jesus. As his letters indicate he insisted on creating an entire set of rituals that would set Christianity apart from its all too Jewish early followers and the traditions of James’ Jerusalem Church. For Ignatius and those to whom he writes that the Eucharist had to be the center of the Church’s existence and it could only be performed by a bishop or by one he authorizes, hence providing a ritual of consecration that is totally under the control of Bishops thereby giving them total control. Furthermore, in order to eliminate the Judaizing teachings of James, Ignatius ordered that Christianity cease keeping the Sabbath on Saturday like the Jews and instead to observe it on what he referred to as the Lord’s Day or Sunday. And finally in his bid to preserve powers in the hands of his fellow bishops, Ignatius instructed that there could be no church unless you had a bishop in charge and presbyters and deacons which they would appoint to do their bidding. So in reality, much of the doctrinal changes that separated Christianity from its Jewish heritage were the result of this individual who had purposely contradicted everything that James had established. The only myth would be to assume that Ignatius had either divine inspiration or divinely granted authority to do so.
From the little bit you have now read, you can either assume that the first century Jerusalem followers that had direct contact with Yeshua didn’t know him and only one man almost a century later who had no contact knew him better, or you can assume that these early followers did know him very well for the man he was and it was only after the initial followers passed away and men like Ignatius assumed control of the church that they could create a story that smacked of polytheism but would appeal to the Greeks and Romans that they wished to convert t their new religion. Myth, legend or fable, the choice is yours.