Roots of the Institutional Church

The Institutional Christian Church is not rooted in Judea in the 1st century as many Christians suppose. It actually starts mid 2nd century about the time the original Hebrew-Nazarene form of Christianity died out. The history of the Church is much too extensive and complicated to present any more than a brief synopsis on a web page. However, every Bible student should be aware of the "reforms" the Church went through since the 1st century. These reforms took place, not by the rise of a reforming movement, but by a slow evolutionary cultural process over a period of several centuries, longer than the existence of the U. S. as a country.

Pre-Church History Background
Prior to the conquest of Persia (Judah's overlords) by the Greek general, Alexander III, the Hebrews in Judah didn't have a religion in the western sense of a faith separate from lifestyle. The Hebrews just lived a lifestyle which revolved around honoring God in everything they said and did. However, under pressure from the Greek culture (secularism) this notion of a separate religion began to creep into the popular mind. When Alexander's armies took Palestine from the Persians in 332 B.C., they required the Jews to adopt Greek language and customs.

Some Hebrews accepted this cultural intrusion, but many greatly objected and continued to speak Hebrew and maintain their cultural heritage. Around 160 BCE the sect of the Pharisees arose in the historical records with the establishment of the synagogue teaching system ... and themselves as the teachers, to preserve the knowledge of the Torah (books of Moses) and the Hebrew language. The Pharisees also "reformed" the practice of Torah Observance [1] by reinterpreting the Laws of Moses as they saw fit for the times. This reformed version became known as Judaism. The Romans overtook Judah around 63 BCE and introduced their culture. However, the Romans admired the Greek culture and did nothing to diminish its influence. This was the setting of the 1stcentury: Pharisee-Judaism, Greek Culture, Roman Culture and Jesus followers, the sect of the Nazarenes (other sects existed too - See Video Talks #6).

Early Church History
Most historians call the century following the 1st century, the era of the "Apostolic Fathers." Very few documents survive from this era but many writers in the following centuries quote from now lost writings from this era. Most theologians assume that the writings of the gentile Apostolic Fathers represent the gentile version of the doctrines of the 1st century. However, the Apostolic Fathers reflect, not Hebrew thought, but a distinctly philosophical Greek way of thinking. With the influx of gentiles, the congregations lost much of their Hebrew Roots in the Jesus Movement, the Nazarenes. Loosing their Hebrew Roots meant the loss of the Hebrew concepts, the very foundation of the faith.

The original Hebrew worldview and belief structure was being replace by new more western concepts and beliefs. During the 3rd century, speculation about the nature of Jesus and God were the rule, not the exception, until nearly every city had its own distinct set of beliefs ... none reflecting the original Hebrew concepts. Faith chaos and competition for doctrinal supremacy was the rule. As the speculations increased, so also the congregations' loyalty to their local bishops and for their local doctrinal beliefs until Christianity was not a faith of peace but a war zone! Conflicts often escalated into physical violence destroying the Empire's peace — and interfering with commerce. Worse, most of these local congregations were very anti-semitic partly due to the animosity of the Jews against Jesus' followers, and partly due to their abandonment of the Hebrew Roots of Christianity. The authority for correct believing transferred from scripture to the authority of the bishops. This is the identical type of "reform" that the Hebrew Monotheism experienced under the Pharisees. These are a major reformations to the 1st century Hebrew-Nazarene Faith but theologians and Bible expositors often do not recognize the deep implications of these changes.

Later Church History
The history of the Church takes a major turn early in the 4th century. The Roman Emperor, Constantine, reverses his political position about Christianity and adopts it as the Roman State religion. This "reformation" radically changes the Church forever. Constantine sought to unify the waring bishopricks by unifying their doctrines. He called an "ecumenical" church council to settle their differences — unity by political conformity. He invited over 1,500 bishops but only 384 actually participated. In spite of the poor showing, it was still called a universal church council. The bishops argued, lobbied, threatened each other and fought for their views, using the rhetorical methods of Greek philosophical debate. This continued daily for a month. Then Constantine's religious adviser, Horius, brought out a previously prepared "creed" and required the bishops to sign it as though it were a document they invented and agreed on (they did neither). This became known as the "Nicene Creed." The intent was a law for the Christian religion to be enforced upon the believers like the secular laws were enforced for the rest of the Empire.

At this point, the Church became a political arm of the Roman Empire to be used as an enforcement tool to control the population. Constantine's religious adviser's personal views became approved church doctrine. Another feature of Constantine's influence was the complete rejection of any Jewish influence over Christianity. Constantine, by Roman Emperor edit, eradicated the Hebrew Roots of Christianity out of the faith.

Consider a short quote from the oath of Constantine's home church:
As a preliminary to his acceptance as a catechumen, a Jew must confess and denounce verbally the whole Hebrew people, and forthwith declare that with a whole heart and sincere faith he desires to be received among the Christians. [2]

Constantine went further to eradicate all "Jewishness" from the faith by substituting Jewish holidays with pagan celebrations. Passover became Easter. Jesus' birth became a celebration to the pagan Sun God (Christmas). Many martyrs became saints with holidays. Other formerly Jewish holidays celebrated by the church were degreed illegal in Christian Churches. The church's transformation from the Hebrew-Nazarene form into the Roman-Byzantine form was completed by a secular Roman Emperor with a political agenda.

Thus began a 16 century era of ignorance of the true Hebrew Roots of the Christian Faith and turning the faith into an anti-semitic movement, even persecuting the Jews and rejecting their culture as having anything to do with the Christian Faith. Christianity had become a Roman-Byzantine faith rooted in the philosophers of Greece, Aristotle and Plato.

Martin Luther's Reformation
This 15th and 16th century Reformation is heralded as the beginnings of the Protestant era. This is true but this Reformation did nothing to bring Christians back to their Roots in the Hebrew culture. The Institutional Roman-Byzantine Church had become commercialized with selling religious products to finance cathedrals in Rome Italy. Martin Luther and other comptemporaries objected and took a stand against the abuses of the Church. While just this stand was costly and even fatal to some of them, it was only an objection to abusive secularism.

This Reformation split off from the mother Roman Church four distinct daughter branches: Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, and Anabaptists. However each of these still adhered to the Roman-Byzantine doctrinal positions, argued and decreed in the 4th century. Only the Anabaptists (and their sub-branches) departed from the liturgies and ceremonial forms of the Roman Church. Today's Fundamentalists and Evangelicals derive from the Anabaptists whose only real original objection to other reformers was their positions on infant baptism. However even today, these sub-branches still mostly adhere to the 4th century creeds and doctrines of the Roman Catholic bishops and the Roman Imperial Court.

The Next Reformation
The next reformation we should experience is a return to the Faith's original Hebrew-Nazarene Roots. The power of Pentecost, embodied in the giving of holy spirit, transformed this Hebrew-Nazarene faith into a Hebrew Rooted Universal Faith. This universal form should be the standard for all Christians. Today, thousands of believers are looking into their roots in the Hebrews, a movement which only started in the last two decades. However, many in this movement are loosing their way and adopting the pre-Christian culture of the 1st century Judeans. In effect, these confused souls are "Judaizing" the faithful.

These reforming Christians can be commended for searching for their Hebrew Roots but criticized for adopting a foreign culture in the process. This error occurs due to the fact that the transforming power of Pentecost has not been well understood or consistently taught since the 1st century, in spite of the fact that it is all recorded in the New Testament and underlies every passage. Why, I hear you ask? There are three problems:

  1. The Judaizers are studying "Pharisee-Judaism" which categorically denies the holy spirit power in the New Covenant.
  2. They miss the transformation by holy spirit of the Jewish Nazarene Sect into a Universal Hebrew Rooted Faith.
  3. Western systematic theology doesn't understand the operation of holy spirit power in the New Covenant.

The traditional western Systematic Theology skews believer's biblical insight from the Hebrew concrete way of thinking into abstract philosophical wranglings. The field of holy spirit operation in a believer is misunderstood by both western traditional theologians and the Hebrew Roots movement advocates. Pharisee-Judaism is ignorant of (or denies) holy spirit power in a believer and western systematic theology is confused about it, teaching a weak moral faith instead of a powerful delivering faith of healings and miracles. These short comings must be corrected if believers are going to understand the true tenants of the faith and manifest the 1st century spiritual power you read in the New Testament.

Relocating and resurrecting the 1st century form of the Christian faith will not be easy since it is not described fully in any single book currently on the market. There is no example or vision of this unique form of the Christian faith in spite of it being the only form in the 1st century (except for the Jerusalem Judaizers).

The form of the Christian faith, which should be the new standard form, is a balance of translating the Hebrew worldview and belief structure into the culture of the current congregation. To do this, a proper Hebrew Roots of Christianity study should be executed as a Cultural Anthropology study. Then the worldview and belief structure of the ancient Hebrews can be examined and translated into the current culture. If this method were to be adopted, then the transforming power of holy spirit would again come to the forefront. God would be glorified and Christ exalted according to his true reality. Today, most Christians see Jesus Christ in the same manner as the Greeks viewed their mythical demi-gods and the Egyptians their Pharaohs. This is a very different viewpoint from the Jewish-Hebrew and Gentile 1st Century Believers who saw Jesus as the Jewish Redeemer-Messiah, King of the Kingdom.

The original 1st century faith emphasized Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant. The Roman-Byzantine church emphasizes Jesus Christ's Death as a sin covering. The Reformation church emphasizes Jesus Christ's Resurrection as a life giving event.

The next reformation will return believer's focus on Jesus Christ as the Mediator of the New Covenant which makes the believer a Son of God with Power. When Jesus Christ is properly understood in his Hebrew context, then he will be set far apart from pagan mythologies and exalted far above them as God's promised Redeemer and King of the Kingdom. When Jesus Christ is properly understood, then his modern day followers, The Body of Christ, can rise to their exalted position with him as: Sons of God With Power.

  1. See the page Hebrew Monotheism on this website.
  2. Source: James Parks, The Conflict Of The Church And The Synagogue Atheneum, New York, 1974, pp. 397 (Available as a PDF download or read on line at

Page Last Modified: Jul 20, 2012
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