How the Church Fathers Invented Christianity
James Scott Trimm
What many Christians do not know, is that the Church Fathers admitted that the original followers of Yeshua as Messiah, including Paul, were Jews of the sect of the Nazarenes, and that Gentile Christianity was their own invention.
Of course the New Testament tells us Paul was a “ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). The so-called church fathers tell us quite a bit about these “Nazarenes”.
The fourth century “church father” Epiphanius gives a detailed description:
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 Messiah, 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 Yeshua the Messiah. 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 Messiah; 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…. They have the Goodnews according to Matthew in its entirety in Hebrew. For it is clear that they still preserve this, in the Hebrew alphabet, as it was originally written. (Epiphanius; Panarion 29)
The “church father” Jerome (4th Cent.) described these Nazarenes as those “…who accept Messiah in such a way that they do not cease to observe the old Law.” (Jerome; On. Is. 8:14).
But in a letter to Augustine, Jerome makes an amazing admission concerning the Nazarenes:
“The matter in debate, therefore, or I should rather say your
opinion regarding it, is summed up in this: that since the preaching of
the gospel of Christ, the believing Jews do well in observing the
precepts of the law, i.e. in offering sacrifices as Paul did, in
circumcising their children, as Paul did in the case of Timothy, and
keeping the Jewish Sabbath, as all the Jews have been accustomed to do.
If this be true, we fall into the heresy… [of those who] though
believing in Christ, were anathematized by the fathers for this one
error, that they mixed up the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of
Christ, and professed their faith in that which was new, without letting
go what was old. …In our own day there exists a sect among the Jews
throughout all the synagogues of the East, which is called the sect of
the Minæans, and is even now condemned by the Pharisees. The adherents
to this sect are known commonly as Nazarenes; they believe in Christ the
Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary; and they say that He who suffered
under Pontius Pilate and rose again, is the same as the one in whom we
believe. But while they desire to be both Jews and Christians, they are
neither the one nor the other. I therefore beseech you, who think that
you are called upon to heal my slight wound, which is no more, so to
speak, than a prick or scratch from a needle, to devote your skill in
the healing art to this grievous wound, which has been opened by a spear
driven home with the impetus of a javelin. For there is surely no
proportion between the culpability of him who exhibits the various
opinions held by the fathers in a commentary on Scripture, and the guilt
of him who reintroduces within the Church a most pestilential heresy.
If, however, there is for us no alternative but to receive the Jews into
the Church, along with the usages prescribed by their law; if, in
short, it shall be declared lawful for them to continue in the Churches
of Christ what they have been accustomed to practice in the synagogues
of Satan, I will tell you my opinion of the matter: they will not become
Christians, but they will make us Jews.
(Jerome; Letter 75)
(1) “Minæans” apparently Latinized from Hebrew MINIM (singular is MIN) a word which in modern Hebrew means “apostates” but was originally an acronym for a Hebrew phrase meaning “Believers in Yeshua the Nazarene”.
Jerome repeats Augustine, saying of the Nazarenes: “since the preaching of the gospel of Christ, the believing Jews do well in observing the precepts of the law, i.e. in offering sacrifices as Paul did, in circumcising their children, as Paul did in the case of Timothy, and keeping the Jewish Sabbath, as all the Jews have been accustomed to do.” (Jerome; Letter 75 Jerome to Augustine)
Jerome responds saying of the Nazarenes “though believing in Christ, they were anathematized by the [church] fathers for this one error, that they mixed up the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of Christ, and professed their faith in that which was new, without letting go what was old.” (ibid)
In other words Augustine and Jerome tell us that the Nazarene doctrine that the Torah should still be observed began with “the preaching of Christ” and was the doctrine kept by Paul, but that the church “fathers” of Christianity declared this to be an error and a heresy.
Ignatius Invents Anti-Nomian Christianity
Up until the time of Ignatius (in the late first century), matters of dispute that arose at Antioch were ultimately referred to the Jerusalem Council (as in Acts 14:26-15:2). Ignatius usurped the authority of the Jerusalem council, declaring himself as the local bishop as the ultimate authority over the assembly of which he was bishop, and likewise declaring the same as true of all other bishops and their local assemblies. Ignatius writes:
…being subject to your bishop…
…run together according to the will of God.
Jesus… is sent by the will of the Father;
As the bishops… are by the will of Jesus Christ.
(Eph. 1:9, 11)
…your bishop…I think you happy who are so joined to him,
as the church is to Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is to the Father…
Let us take heed therefore, that we not set ourselves
against the bishop, that we may be subject to God….
We ought to look upon the bishop, even as we would
upon the Lord himself.
…obey your bishop…
Your bishop presiding in the place of God…
…be you united to your bishop…
(Mag. 2:5, 7)
…he… that does anything without the bishop…
is not pure in his conscience…
…Do nothing without the bishop.
See that you all follow your bishop,
As Jesus Christ, the Father…
By exalting the power of the office of bishop (overseer) and demanding the absolute authority of the bishop over the assembly, Ignatius was actually making a power grab by thus taking absolute authority over the assembly at Antioch and encouraging other Gentile overseers to follow suite.
Moreover Ignatius drew men away from Torah and declared the Torah to have been abolished, not only at Antioch but at other Gentile assemblies to which he wrote:
Be not deceived with strange doctrines;
nor with old fables which are unprofitable.
For if we still continue to live according to the Jewish Law,
we do confess ourselves not to have received grace…
But if any one shall preach the Jewish law unto you,
hearken not unto him…
It is also Ignatius who first replaces the Seventh Day Sabbath with Sunday worship, writing:
“…no longer observing sabbaths, but keeping the Lord’s day
in which also our life is sprung up by him, and through
Having seceded from the authority of Jerusalem, declared the Torah abolished and replacing the Sabbath with Sunday, Ignatius had created a new religion. Ignatius coins a new term, never before used, for this new religion which he calls “Christianity” and which he makes clear is new and district religion from Judaism. He writes:
…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 Jesus Christ, and to Judaize.
For the Christian religion did not embrace the Jewish.
But the Jewish the Christian…
(Mag. 3:8, 11)
By the end of the first century Ignatius of Antioch had declared that the Nazarene doctrine that the Torah should still be observed which Augustine admitted began with “the preaching of Christ” and was the doctrine kept by Paul to be an error and a heresy.
He seceded from Judaism and founded a new religion which he called “Christianity”. A religion which rejected the Torah, and replaced the Seventh Day Sabbath with Sunday Worship.
Yeshua did not come to create a new religion, he came to be the Messiah of Judaism. The original followers of Yeshua as the Messiah were a sect of Judaism called the sect of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5).
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