How Did the Church Get Cut Off From Its Jewish Roots?

Did you know that Jesus was a rabbi, not a reverend? Did you know that the Letter of James was actually the Letter of Jacob and that the Letter of Jude was actually the Letter of Judah? In this 'Consider This' episode Dr. Brown traces the history of how the Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures came to be known as anything but a Jew!
Did you know that Jesus was a rabbi, not a reverend? That Christ wasn't His last name but the Greek way of saying "Messiah"?

Did you know that Jesus' original, Hebrew name was Yeshua and that His mother's name was Miriam, not Mary? That His first followers were Jewish men with names like Yochanan and Ya'akov and Yehudah?

Did you know that the Letter of James was actually the Letter of Jacob and that the Letter of Jude was actually the Letter of Judah?

Did you know that the big controversy in the early Church was not whether Jews could follow Yeshua and remain Jewish but whether Gentiles had to become Jews to follow Him? After all He was the Jewish Messiah!

And did you know that Yeshua didn't come into the world to establish a new religion called "Christianity" as much as He came to fulfill what was written in Moses and the Prophets?

How, then, did we end up with two totally distinct religions, Judaism and Christianity? How did we end up with two totally distinct calendars, with Judaism celebrating Passover and Christianity celebrating Easter?

The death and resurrection of Jesus took place during the Passover season, which is why Paul wrote to the Corinthians saying that, "Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast" (1 Corinthians 5:7-8, TLV) - meaning, the feast of Passover. And remember, these Corinthians were Gentile followers of Jesus.

Yet in 325 AD, the Emperor Constantine wrote to bishops throughout the Roman Empire, insisting that the celebration of Passover be separated from the celebration of Easter: "We ought not therefore to have anything in common with the Jew," he wrote, "for the Savior has shown us another way."

But this attitude didn't start with Constantine.

Writing in around 100 AD, Ignatius of Antioch declared that "it is wrong to talk about Jesus Christ and live like Jews." About 75 years later, in 177 AD, Irenaeus declared that "Jews are disinherited from the grace of God."

Fast forward to the Middle Ages, where Jews getting baptized into the Catholic Church were sometimes required to renounce any connection to their people - including observing the Sabbath, celebrating the Passover, or giving their children Hebrew names. In other words, they were told they could not live the way the original apostles lived.

In the days of Hitler's Germany, things got so bad that Protestant theologians wrote whole books claiming that Jesus wasn't Jewish. They even produced a New Testament that removed all traces of Jewishness - including removing verses like John 4:22, where Jesus said that "salvation is from the Jews."

To this day, there are Christians who will give new Jewish believers in Jesus a ham sandwich as a test of their faith. "Eat some pork to prove you're really saved!"

How in the world did this happen?

To this day, we read the New Testament through a Christianized filter, thinking that Saul of Tarsus had a vision of Jesus and converted to Christianity, becoming Paul the apostle. In reality, there was no such thing as "Christianity" at the time Paul became a follower of Jesus. And Paul would have had two names from birth as a Jew born in a Greek city. So, his Hebrew name was Shaul (Saul) and his Greek name Paulus (Paul).

And even after he became a follower of Jesus, he was still known as Saul and he was still a Jew. But when he began his mission to the Gentile world, he became known by his Greek name Paul. It's that simple.

Ironically, it was Paul who warned Gentile believers in Rome not to reject the Jewish roots of their faith. As he wrote in Romans 11, "remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you" (Rom. 11:18, ESV).

How, then, did the Church get cut off from its Jewish roots? How did it go from an exclusively Jewish movement to an anti-Jewish movement?

In the first stage, the great majority of Yeshua's followers were Jews, with only a small minority of Gentiles. But over time, as more and more Gentiles came to faith, they became the majority. And when the national Jewish leadership continued to reject Yeshua as Messiah, the Gentile Church leaders concluded that God had rejected Israel.

"We are the new Israel!" they proclaimed. "God is finished with the old Israel!"

They failed to remember Paul's words in Romans 11:25, that Israel was only hardened in part, meaning that, in every generation, there would be a remnant of Jews who would follow Yeshua, and at the end of the age, the Jewish people would turn en masse to Yeshua. As Paul wrote, "And so, all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:26).

As a result, the Church quickly forgot its Jewish roots, separating itself from the biblical calendar, declaring the Jewish people forever damned, and telling Jews who wanted to follow Jesus they had to choose between following the Messiah or being Jewish. Talk about turning things upside down!

Does this mean that Gentile Christians should live like Jews? Absolutely not. Does this mean that Jewish followers of Jesus are superior? God forbid. Does this mean that it was wrong for Gentile followers of Jesus to develop their own traditions? Certainly not. But it does mean that the Church should honor its Jewish roots, that the Church should recognize that God is not finished with Israel, and that the Church should not require or expect Jewish believers to live like Gentiles.

Is this too much to ask?