Dr. Páll Eggerz, 26.8.2010
When I was but a lad, I thought the major difference between Jews and Christians was that the latter believed Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah and if a Jew came to recognize Jesus as the Messiah he would automatically become like the Christians. From my Christian environment I imbibed a negative image of Jews and their faith which originates from a tendency to take the candid inner-Jewish disputes of the scriptures out of their Jewish context and to generalize the criticism to be negative traits of all Jews at all times (e.g. the Jews as a “stiff-necked people”, Jews being legalistic, etc.) and secondly to reject the Jewish oral tradition and interpret the scriptures from the viewpoint of Greek philosophy, which is heathen and polytheistic by nature, leading to entirely different conclusions on central subjects like the law, atonement, judgment, sacrifice, worship service, God’s mercy, the Sabbath, the festivals, etc. ultimately causing Judaism to appear as a flawed religion to be replaced or superseded by Christianity. An simple example of this is the “eye for an eye tooth for a tooth” adage from scripture, commonly viewed as proof that Jews are hard-hearted – but the Jewish oral tradition teaches us that this was always interpreted to mean financial compensation (not mutilation) in direct relation to the damage incurred, no more no less – a legal principle which all civilized countries now have in their law. Most Christians tacitly assume the “flaws” in Jewish faith are overcome in Christianity and that Jesus has resigned from Judaism to become a member of the Church – so Jesus is, if anything, more like the Pope than a Jewish rabbi or high priest.
Many years later I came to realize that the gospel of the Western Church is no longer the gospel of the primeval Church rather has been rewritten by the victors over Judaism – in 70 AD (destruction of the 2^nd temple) and in 135 AD (Bar Kokhba uprising) Jews were vanquished by the Romans in 2 holocausts whose total death toll is well over one million. The primeval Church was a group within Judaism, outwardly indiscernible from Jews – Christians were visibly grafted in to the olive tree of Judaism. One of the first church fathers to rise up against Jewish teaching was Justin Martyr (ca. AD 160), who interpreted the scriptures from the viewpoint of Greek philosophy, thus rejecting the Jewish roots of the faith. Marcion and Origen also contributed significantly to allegorizing the role of Israel to make it appear irrelevant, and though declared heretics, eventually they triumphed thanks to Constantine who in a sense invented the present day form of western Christianity as a state religion to replace paganism and Judaism and provide the Roman Empire with a unifying ideology – a new religion which is “Judenrein” by replacing the Biblical festivals and their calendar by new constructs. Constantine instrumentalized the budding Christian faith to politically unify the empire and to ghettoize the Jews – a people fallen in disfavor in the eyes of the Romans. Above all, the forces Constantine supported replaced Jewish theology (the “Oral Tradition”) by Hellenistic interpretation of the same scriptures, i.e. Church dogmatics. As a corollary to the elimination of the Jewish oral tradition the Abrahamitic faith in the one God and the Jewish concept of the Messiah as perfect man were replaced first (325 AD council of Nicea) by Binitarianism (Binitarianism in a nutshell: Jesus is an equal of God from the beginning of times) and 70 years later the Trinity was invented as the new god of the Church, a construct of Greek philosophy which is viewed by both the Jewish and the Muslim world as idolatrous. By virtue of the power of the Roman Emperor this eventually became binding for all by threat of life. For the sake of the record, the salient point is the replacement of Jewish theology by a Hellenistic approach to interpret the same scriptures – the Trinity is just one corollary of this. The seminal Council of Nicea in 325 under the leadership of Constantine was anti-Judaistic – unequivocally it was put down in writing that Christianity desired no fellowship with the “most hostile rabble of the Jews” and desired to withdraw from “that most odious fellowship” with the Jews. Obviously they couldn’t care less what light the Jewish oral tradition, which all actors and authors of the New Testament were steeped in, might shed on understanding the original meaning of the Messiah’s message since they were busy rewriting that very message. Theology begins with translation and the most important translation work at hand is to translate the Greek New Testament into its Jewish context which was taken for granted by the primeval church but was jettisoned in the 4th century and has not been restored since – the loss is immense but not irretrievable in a time and age where information is easily accessible, exchange between Christians and Jews is possible and where a believer can draw his own conclusions without having to fear for his life [http://www.churchisraelforum.com/how_did_a_nice_jewish_church_become_gentile.htm].
In a sense one can say Constantine invented the brand of Christianity found in most of the Church to this day – not that inventing a new denomination was anything unusual – but it was the political power backing it which made it essentially become a monopoly by threat to life and limb. As the Church became the successor of the Roman Empire this politically backed dogmatic monopoly continued into modern times. Though the Church today can no longer wield power to silence dissenters, the unity forced upon Christianity by Constantine has essentially remained to this day. Ironically Christianity is – for all the disunity of its myriad denominations – unified in its Constantine creed that the Trinity is their god and that Judaism has forfeited its authority over the scriptures (including the “Old Testament”) and that the authority over the scriptures (NB: also the “Old Testament”!) has been transferred to the Church – this is the essence of “replacement theology”, i.e. because the Jews rejected Jesus the Church has replaced Judaism in God’s favor. But assuming continuity between the Old and New Testament scriptures, it is obvious that the Torah and the other scriptures have been given by God to the Jews and their anointing to interpret them has not been revoked. Christians love to invoke the Scripture (II Cor. 3) that “a veil is upon their heart” little realizing that if a veil is upon those anointed to receive and interpret the scriptures how much more is the veil on the hearts of Gentiles who are not anointed to interpret the scriptures – Gentile Christians have a revelation of Jesus the Messiah but are not able to interpret this revelation in its proper context without the Jewish teaching. Replacement theology has led to pretentious usurpation of the scriptures and has made Christianity one of the sharpest critics and enemies of Judaism over most of Church history (ironically Jews usually fared better under Muslim rule than Christian rule throughout most of history). Obviously a negative picture of Judaism must be upheld to justify the replacement and the sharp divide between the religions. The victors would like to remain the victors and therefore interpret the scripture of the broken out branches (Romans 11) to mean that Jews who don’t believe in the Trinity are relegated to hell and are therefore a worthy target of Church missionary activity (this insult to Judaism is upheld in many parts of the Church to this day). By this dictum Judaism is a religion of damnation and the Pauline notion of Christians being grafted into the Jewish roots is thereby turned upside down. I don’t doubt that most Christians are sincere and mean well, but those who do mean well, should be aware of the fact that by relegating Jews to hell for not recognizing Jesus as the Messiah they have been duped by Constantine into playing the role of the accusers of God’s beloved people, a role not be taken lightly.
In modern times, where the Church cannot take your life or livelihood for challenging their dogmas, and all the information is readily available for anyone interested, one might expect the crude Constantine construct to crumble as truth-loving Christians scramble to get to the complete picture – but it seems as if Christians remain in denial of the unfortunate history of their relation to Judaism. The present Church is built on the twofold Roman holocaust-victory, numerous persecutions of Jews by the Church have taken place throughout history, the Church contributed to seeding the ground for the Nazi Holocaust by consistently promoting a negative picture of Judaism for centuries, the Church for the most part looked on passively during the Nazi Holocaust and to this day there is a significant faction within Christianity who want to missionize the Jews respectively interpret the Scripture Romans 11:26 to mean that all Jews will become Christians in the sense of Constantine’s Church – though they mean well, they are either ignorant or in denial of the fact that Jews view this as being tantamount to a soft Holocaust: the aim is the same as the Holocaust, namely the elimination of the Jewish faith. As long as Christians remain in Constantine’s framework of the Gospel of the victors, there is no common ground to seriously discuss the possibility of Jesus the man being the Messiah with devout Jews. Thanks to Constantine’s Gospel of the victors, a discussion with Jews is no longer a question of whether Jesus was the Messiah (this was the issue in the primeval church) rather a question of either remaining faithful to the founding fathers of Judaism or joining a new religion which eliminates Judaism and must be viewed as a regression into the idolatry which the founding father of Judaism, Abraham, overcame. In short terms, Judaism defines itself as being the faith which remains faithful to Abraham’s strict monotheism. Jewish tradition expects the Messiah as a man, not as God coming down from heaven taking on mortal flesh whereas the creed of the gospel of the victors has made the Trinity their cornerstone. To their credit, most Christians have been taught that the issues Jesus had with Jewish leaders of his time were due to his claim to being God and that the only way possible to believe in the Messianic anointing of Jesus is to see him as God – but this was certainly not the faith of the primeval church, rather the Jewish view of Jesus the Messiah as man was effectively stamped out by the political power play of Constantine’s dogmatic gospel of the victors and so most Christians are not aware of the existence of a non-Trinitarian faith in Jesus. As representative of the many who lost their lives for standing up for the truth: in 1553 none less then the respected theologian Calvin, whose teachings are influential to this day, had the scholar Michael Servetus hideously tortured to death in Geneva for publishing material which challenged the Trinity. But as Church power erodes we slowly see a re-emergence of the original primeval teaching of Jesus as man - cf. “The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound” by Sir Anthony Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting, “Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian”, by Sir Anthony Buzzard, "To God Be The Glory" by Joel W Hemphill and many others – I am pleasantly surprised to see how many books on the subject Amazon now has to offer. Though these books may not restore Jewish teaching, they give a good account of how the pluralistic early Church was forced to uniformly abandon Jewish teaching and become Trinitarian and they conduct an exhaustive examination of the relevant scriptures to show how thin the evidence in favor of the Trinity really is. Hopefully these books will raise awareness among Christians that the litmus test for orthodoxy introduced by Constantine, namely belief in the Deity of Jesus (and 70 years later belief in the Trinity), is not a reliable indicator for belief in the Messianic anointing of Jesus but this one dogma alone suffices to effectively erect a threshold a devout Jew will not cross. The forces unleashed by Constantine have been successful in convincing billions of Christians that the only concept or language adequate to express belief in Jesus the Messiah is the Trinity, although the concept of the Trinity is not logical, not Biblical and cannot be traced back to the founding fathers. As Buzzard and Hunting put it “The Trinity was one of the biggest marketing successes of all times” – and divisive too, by creating an all but insurmountable dogmatic chasm between Christianity and its Jewish roots.**
Considering the influence one man Constantine had on church history, and considering his questionable character (he was a theological layman who considered himself the 13^th apostle, a sun worshipper who deified his father just like he deified Jesus, a murderer, a power politician, an anti-Semite – not to mention the ensuing disastrous development he kicked off, of the church becoming a dogmatic power broker that had no qualms about shedding blood to uphold its monopoly over men’s faith, cut off from its Jewish origin, and openly hostile to all Jewish teaching) one can only marvel over the unswerving allegiance to and confidence Christianity places in this man’s far reaching decisions – surely straightforward love of truth and human decency call for revisiting the decisions this man laid down and the negative picture of Judaism still upheld in Christianity as a consequence. Though the historical development is complex and many-faceted, in our time and age it is accessible to anyone who cares to read about it – entering the names mentioned above in your favorite search engine will deliver more hits than you care to read and there is a wealth of books (also by secular authors) which handle the subject at length, not to mention Wikipedia.
Two groups are worth mentioning in this context: the “Messianic Jews” found in Charismatic circles. “Messianic Jews” is a misnomer, since all devout Jews believe in the coming of the Messiah (as a man), whether or not they equate him with Jesus of Nazareth. Theses groups maintain the outward appearance of Jews by wearing Kippas, Tallit, observing the festivals, etc. but inwardly have adopted Church replacement theology including Trinitarian doctrine. They seem to recruit their members largely from Jews who for one reason or another had become secular and within the context of the “Gospel of the victors” they can be viewed as collaborators. Another group often encountered in this context is the Evangelical, Charismatic “Friends of Israel” movement who see the recent re-emergence of the state of Israel as a sign of God’s faithfulness to the chosen people and as such they support the state of Israel politically. Though they mean well, it is a patronizing, condescending help for Israel they offer which remains in the framework of the Gospel of the victors. They see no need to change this and expect their support of Israel to contribute to the end-time assimilation of Judaism into Constantine style Christianity (the “soft-Holocaust” of missionizing Judaism out of existence). Their function within Evangelical and Charismatic circles seems to be to offer a more palatable form of replacement theology which at least recognizes God’s faithfulness to the concept of the promised land for the chosen people. Their political support for the state of Israel is laudable though their fundamentalist insistence on what they perceive to be the Biblical borders of the original Israel tends to favor the more extreme political factions within Israel – Jews and other observers alike wonder aloud how friendly the Friends of Israel will remain when it becomes clear that Jews will not convert in droves to the Trinitarian concept of the Messiah.