Not Traditional, Original

The Vision of OriginalChristianity.Net

The vision of OriginalChristianity.Net is to look at the beliefs and practices of the the original Christians.  The reason why this is important is that over the millennium Christianity has developed numerous factions that all claim that that they are the true continuation of original Christianity.  I heard exactly that when I visited a Greek Orthodox Church, I have read it in Roman Catholic literature, it is in the bulletin of a local non-denominational church in my area.  They make these claims despite the fact that they have disagreed, even violently at times.  For other articles on this topic, see A Major Objection to the Restoration Movement Is That Christianity Has Not Changed Substantially Over Time, and Another Claim of Original Christianity in Practice Today,

Throughout this website are numerous articles written on the numerous divisions in the Church that we have today, how a lot of these doctrines developed that are behind all these divisions, and some key points on how original Christianity differed from today.  It is important to look at all these things because they are part of Christianity now and play a big part, perhaps more as obstacles, in the faith of the individual believer.

But the key point of this website is to be able to envision what original Christianity, and in particular the time of Jesus and the apostles and disciples that he touched was really like. There was an incredible spirituality. With the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, and afterward the sending of the Holy Spirit we see the most incredible movement of God on earth since creation.

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This was a time of power, miracles, healing, and deliverance, not only by Jesus, but by those he touched, his apostles and disciples. People saw God in action through these men. They saw the word of God living, because they lived it together. There was incredible community and sharing. There was incredible believing. There was great faith.

It was a time of simple doctrine.  There were no official doctrines on infant baptism or believer’s baptism. There was no doctrine that prophecy and the other gifts and manifestations of the spirit had ceased. There were baptisms being carried out, and the last supper repeated as a memorial, but there were no “sacraments”, somehow mysteriously conveying grace by ritualistic practices. There were no autonomous churches disputing which form of church government was doctrinally correct, which end times theology was correct, or arguments over whether or not there was eternal security.

There was no argument over the status of the Bible, because there was no Bible. Jesus had referenced the law and the prophets, including the Psalms, as the word of God. And only those books with the addition of the words of Jesus were considered the word of God. There were no written Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There were no epistles of Peter, Paul, Hebrews, John, and Jude. So there was no argument over doctrines derived from them like eternal security, justification by grace, predestination, or even the Trinity.

Philosophy was rejected as an unwise practice of the Greeks that actually tore down faith more than it built, so discussion of faith wasn’t an analytical exercise in the nuances of the meanings of words, but rather simple directives, and powerful stories and analogies that emphasize the important meanings to be focused on while ignoring the myriad details that can lead people astray.

What existed was the good news that Jesus the Messiah had come, that he had fulfilled the law, had sent the Holy Spirit, and now many believers were walking in great faith and power. What existed was great praise, great faith, and great love of God.

All of this is not to say that this was an easy time. There were persecutions, challenges, and trials, as both the Jews and the Romans saw this burgeoning Christianity as a threat. But this just served to bring the Christians closer together, and more united in their faith.

Original Christianity was a time of great unity, simple doctrine, great believing, with many believers walking in the love of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

So as you read these articles that discuss all of the divisions, and developments, both good and bad throughout the millennia of history of Christianity, it is important to maintain the focus of the simple vision of original Christianity.  Pray, praise the Lord, walk in the power of the spirit, love God and love your neighbor, and rejoice in what Christ has done. Join together with any Christian who is doing the same.  And in the process perhaps we can bring some of what made original Christianity so great back to life.

© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

Welcome to Original Christianity.Net

It appears that universally, in the church, we Christians marvel at both at Jesus’ miracles and the wisdom in his parables. We especially are in awe of his life, his incredible birth, his short but incredibly powerful ministry, his passion, death, and resurrection. We love him for those. We are also moved by the depth of the wisdom and inspiration of books like the Psalms and Proverbs. Almost universally, although most would say all true Christians, acknowledge him as Lord, and strive to follow his leadership as we walk in a dark world filled with daily challenges, including overcoming evil.

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In fact, there are some universal, and some almost universal, elements in Christianity. Universally held elements of Christianity include this deep awe of Christ, and likewise, for the bible. The bible, or at least for some, sections of the bible, such as the parables of Christ in the gospels, the powerful poetry of the Psalms, and the wisdom in Proverbs are universally held in the deepest regard. Almost universally held elements include the belief in Christ as the only begotten son of the Father, physically born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, who died for out sins, and was raised from the dead and is presently seated at the right hand of God. Christians look forward to spending eternity with the Lord. Even more, there is common ground as churches promote worship, baptism, and communion with some similarity.

But beyond some basics like these, there is far less agreement on the tenets of Christianity. In fact, there is an elephant in the Church, an elephant of disagreement resulting in tens of thousands of sects, disagreeing on many doctrines.

The disagreements have been legion, often bloody, and always confusing. Christians have killed other Christians for defying the rule of infant baptism and proclaiming “believer’s baptism”. Many Christians have declared other Christians apostate because of their view of the Bible, whether it is inerrant, infallible, or at least partially of human origin.

And even if they agree on the status of the Bible, they don’t agree on what it says on these issues. For example, there is disagreement over basic principles of interpretation like whether the overriding principle is based on the covenants of God versus which dispensation we are in.

There are Christians that call other Christians apostate (traitorous) because they believe that the gifts of the spirit, i.e., prophecy and speaking in tongues, etc. still exist, and vice versa. These days there are sharp divides over homosexuality, abortion, the Word of Faith movement, the emergent Church movement, and the role of women in the church.

Even if Christians don’t call others apostate, they still disagree to the point of not fellowshipping over issues like: dietary laws (whether they need to be followed), drinking alcohol, end times (Eschatology), eternal security, evolution vs. literal seven days of creation, giving vs. tithing, predestination, psychology: the acceptability of Christian counseling, sacraments as conveyers of grace or not, the “in the name of Jesus” debate, and pacifism vs. the concept of a just war, and other issues.

Then there is the ecumenical concept of Christian “orthodoxy” that suggests that none of the issues so far discussed really matter even there are huge divisions over them. The only issue that really matters in “orthodoxy” is whether one accepts the doctrine of the Trinity, that Jesus the man is really God and a person in a triune godhead with two other persons, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. This doctrine is promoted as the absolutely most important concept in Christianity even though this emphasis is totally missing for the first centuries of the church.

And let alone that the very doctrine of the Trinity has been disputed over the centuries with more Christians killing other Christians over this issue than any other. It appears that for some that as long as a church accepts the doctrine of the Trinity it doesn’t matter if it teaches that homosexuality is normal or apostate, and/or abortion is choice or murder, and/or baptism should be infant baptism or believer’s baptism, and/or there are two “ordinances” or seven sacraments, and so forth, and so on.

This mess is a huge blemish on the body of Christ. Some of these issues may be legitimate, but to have so many “orthodox” churches teaching so many disparate doctrines flies right in the face of Paul’s charge for believers to have the same mind:

Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all say the same thing, and there be no divisions among you, but you be united in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 LITV)

If, as Paul teaches, we corporately are the body of Christ, then does the current collective body of competing Christian theologies accurately reflect the mind of Christ. Certainly, no one can think so.

But, before the present time with our tens of thousands of Christian denominations, and before the Reformation that shifted the focus of Christianity from the decisions of church councils and the Pope to the Bible as the principle source of guidance, and before the great schism about a thousand years ago, even before there were arguments over the nature of Christ, the Trinity and whether Mary was the mother of God in the beginning of the age of Christendom (fourth century), even before there was a Catholic church (110 A.D.) there was original primitive Christianity.

While some of the focus of Christianity remains, much has changed over the millennia. The question is whether all or even any of the different traditions that have developed are correct, or the original believers were the ones that actually got it the most right. The place to start is by looking at the beliefs and practices of original, primitive Christianity, and seriously consider embracing them again even though some of them may be radically different from what you or I hold today.

In the days of original, primitive Christianity:

(In the listings below hyperlinks offer more information on the point being made.)

Elements usually still held today:

Elements still held today by some:

Elements held today by few, if any believers:

Elements that are divisive today but didn’t appear to exist then:

The most current blogs (articles) are below. The articles can touch on a large number of topics including ancient history, the original language of the bible, grammar and logic, dividing doctrines besides the basics of Christianity, what Jesus taught, and development (movements) in Christianity throughout the centuries. For an organized listing of the blogs (articles) to get an overview and better understanding of the contents on this web site, go to the table of contents. There is more information on design of this website on this page; look on the right sidebar under Original Christianity and click “Why? Click to Read More…”

LP3132 Jonah

Jonah, chronologically, is thought to be the first of the books of the prophets as the events of the book happen around 790BC. Jonah is listed as a minor prophet simply because the book on his ministry is short.

Jonah is famous , for one reason, because Jesus refers to him:

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
(Mat 12:38-41)

There is a strong contention by a number of writers that Jonah is fictional as surviving in the belly of a fish for three days sounds preposterous. One view is that the whole book is a satire. However, in the above verse by our Lord, it certainly looks like our Lord believed in Jonah and there is another reference to Jonah in 2 Kings:

In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.
(2Ki 14:23-25)

In the above verses, we see that Jonah ministered for God to God’s chosen people. In the above verse, he delivered a message to about a border.

The book of Jonah is unique among the books of the prophets. In its four chapters Jonah only says one line of prophecy, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” The whole book is a narrative of this one series of events. Additionally, we see something about this spokesman for God that we don’t see in the other prophets who have books. Jonah was not sent to one of the Kings of Israel or Judah, rather he was sent to Nineveh. Ninevah wasn’t in Israel or Judah, rather it was a huge city in the Assyrian Empire. There is some claim that Ninevah was the great city founded by Nimrod.

And we see some unique workings in God’s relationship with his spokesman, Jonah, when we see that Jonah doesn’t want to do what God wants him to do. In Jonah, we see an entire conversation between God and a man albeit that man is a prophet of God and so there must be a line of communication between them. And then we have the famous story of Jonah and the great fish which is prophesied to be a forerunner of Jesus’s death and resurrection.

The fact that Jonah was sent to Nineveh brings up some interesting points about the Old Testament and God’s workings. It emphasizes the point that while the descendants of Abraham were certainly God’s chosen people God did interact with other peoples, at least from time to time in the bible. There are records of dreams and other signs given to people other than the children of Israel. While there may not be a lot of records of this type God has always been the God of all. An example of other people’s relationship with our Father God would be Melchizedek, the king and priest of Salem. Melchizedek was someone Abram paid tithes to, but Melchizedek was not one of the chosen people. And Melchizedek had to be somebody very significant as Christ himself is called our high priest after the order of Melchizedek:

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
(Heb 6:19-20 ESV)

So as you probably know the story is that Jonah got the word to walk the streets of Nineveh telling them to repent. But he didn’t want to do it! So he hired a ship as if he could sail away from God Almighty! But as we know God caused a great storm, and to make a long story short, Jonah told the crew the ship to throw him overboard so that they wouldn’t get demolished in the storm. So the crew threw him overboard and he was swallowed by a great fish. Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish. After that time the great fish spit about on dry land. He did go and tell the people of Nineveh to repent. Which they did! But Jonah wasn’t happy about that, and he went and sulked on a hill.

So God had a little trick up his sleeve. God made a great plant to shadow him. But then he let a great worm destroy the plant! and he used the plant as an object lesson.

Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the LORD said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
(Jon 4:6-11 ESV)

Look at the detailed conversation going on here between Jonah and the Lord God. Before this we just see a simple directions that the Lord commanded Jonah:

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” (Jon 1:1-2 ESV)

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” (Jon 3:1-2 ESV)

But in between those two very similar declarations by the Lord is this prayer by Jonah to the Lord. In the prayer notice is humility, his repentance.

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!”
(Jon 2:1-9 ESV)

So we see in the conversation between God and Jonah how Jonah was concerned over the welfare of the plant but not of the citizens of the great city Ninevah.

So, as a result, we learn a great deal about God, prophecy, and prophets in this book. We learn that God did communicate with people other than his chosen people, and some did have the heart to serve him, and accordingly, God rewarded them!

We learn that being a prophet is not always an easy task and that prophets don’t always want to do what they’re told! And we learned that God works with prophets, talking with them, to teach them and guide them. We learn that in the end Jonah did his job.

Furthermore, we learn that prophecies can have different outcomes depending on the response of the people. Nineveh went from being a city that was going to be overthrown to an example of a people that would judge the people of Jesus’ time.

1.1 Worship Changes with the Giving of the Law; Part 2 – the Feasts

We have seen in Part 1 of the Worship Changes with the Giving of the Law that the liturgy of the children of Israel became increasingly complex with that giving. Part of the law included a series of feasts or festivals there were also become part of the new liturgy.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.  (Col 2:16-17 ESV)

Before proceeding with what the Law says, it’s important to note that these feasts are important to understanding original Christianity because of what the verses above say. They say that all the minutia of the law, including the Sabbath and the festivals, are a shadow of the things to come. The first four festivals relate to events in the first coming of the Savior. The last three feasts relate to the second coming.[i]

Leviticus 23 specifies the following as festivals:

  • The Passover
  • The Feast of Unleavened Bread
  • The Feast of Firstfruits – occurs in the week of the Passover festival
  • The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost
  • The Feast of Trumpets
  • The Day of Atonement
  • The Feast of Booths or Tabernacles

All of these feasts are called “holy convocations”, which means they were times set aside as sacred for the people to gather and celebrate.  The word feast used in the Biblical references to these events is actually 1 of 2 words.

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.  (Lev 23:2 ESV)

This word feasts above is the Hebrew word mo’ed which means appointment, or fixed time or season.

And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.  (Lev 23:6 ESV)

This word Feast here is the Hebrew word chagag which means to celebrate to dance to hold a solemn feast or holy day.  See the words celebrate and dance in there.  These were festivals!

Even though there were seven feasts, these feasts were divided into three festival seasons. Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits are in the month of Nisan which is in the spring.  Pentecost, also called the feast of Weeks, is celebrated in Sivan, two months later.  Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles all happen in the month of Tishrei which is in the fall, about four months after Pentecost. 

The feasts were to be done at the appointed place:

“Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.  (Deu 16:16 ESV)

We read in the verse above that the feasts are to be at “the place that he will choose”. 

Behold Zion, the city of our appointed feasts! Your eyes will see Jerusalem, an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken.  (Isa 33:20 ESV)

Above we see Jerusalem named as the city which is that appointed place for the feasts.

We read in the law about Passover:

And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.  (Exo 12:25-27 ESV)

In the spring Passover occurs on the 14th of Nisan. Unleavened bread comes on the next day, the 15th of Nisan to the 21st:

But you shall present a food offering to the LORD for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”  (Lev 23:8 ESV)

During the week of unleavened bread comes the feast of First Fruits where sheaves of barley are waived:

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD. And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the LORD with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. (Lev 23:10-14 ESV)

The first of the feasts, Passover, celebrates the deliverance of the children of Israel from Pharaoh, a type of Satan, who had legal ownership of them. 50 days later, Pentecost, commemorates the day that the Lord gave the law on Mount Sinai. The feast of the Passover isn’t considered over until Pentecost. As said earlier, the feasts were a shadow of things to come. Jesus was the Passover lamb for all time on the 14th of Nisan. He was in the sepulcher on the day of Unleavened Bread, the 15th of Nisan. He was resurrected on the day of the First Fruits, the 17th of Nisan.[ii]

Pentecost, of course, is the day of the outpouring of the holy spirit after Jesus’s resurrection.

Passover celebrates the protection from judgment by the blood of the lamb. During the original Passover, anyone who had the blood of the lamb in the right places on their doorposts was protected from the judgment of the Lord and their firstborn were spared. As a shadow of things to come, the blood of our Savior protects us from that judgment. Just as the Passover lamb had to be without blemish, so did the Savior have to be without blemish or sin.  The Passover lamb was to be killed at twilight, as was our Savior.  The Passover lamb was to be eaten; our communion service is symbolic that our lives are made alive by the eating and drinking of the body and blood of Jesus as the perfect lamb. These are just some of the correlations between the old covenant and the new.

The fall festival season actually begins with a period of repentance. Just like some people fast during the periods of Advent and Lent in what is called the liturgical year in some Christian churches, the children of Israel have a 40 day period before the second fall festival, the Day of Atonement, called Teshuveh.   Thirty days into Teshuveh  is the Rosh Hashonah, the Feast of Trumpets, the first fall festival.  Rosh Hashanah is about the resurrection of the dead among other things.  The day of atonement, also called Yom Kippur, is celebrated on the 10th of Tishri. Yom Kippur is about the second coming of Christ. The third fall festival, the Feast of Tabernacles is observed from the 15th of Tishri two the 21st of Tishri.  The Feast of Tabernacles is about the joy of the Messianic Kingdom which some people refer to as the Millennium.

One of the points of this article is to show the increasing sophistication of the liturgy of the children of Israel at this point.  We have come from a time in Genesis where heads of families offered sacrifice on altars, and certainly prayers were offered, but there was no detailed, sophisticated liturgy. Now there is.

Besides what is in the bible there appears to be more sophistications of the feasts that developed.  These increased details of the services come down in documents.  The Haggadah is a document that Jews today used in preparing and reciting during the Seder.[iii]

This Seder meal has examples of an increase in sophisticated liturgy from the Haggadah. Here are some highlights from Edward Chiumney’s book. At one point there are three cakes of unleavened bread placed one on another with a napkin between each cake. The middle cake is broken in two. One piece is eaten by the people present and the other piece is hidden in the napkin. Toward the end of this Seder, the hidden piece is brought out and eaten by those around Passover table.  During this Seder there are 4 cups of wine that are served to the people;

  1. the cup of blessing,
  2. the cup of wrath,
  3. the cup of blessing, salvation, or redemption
  4. the cup of the kingdom.

There is also another cup served called the cup of Elijah, which is poured out at the end of the Seder.[iv]

There is no command in the Law to do these cups. A google search brings up web sites that give possible reasons for this tradition.  One site lists a number of places in the Law where the number four is symbolic, the first one being Exodus 6:6-8[v]:

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’” Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.  (Exo 6:6-9 ESV)

The four cups symbolize these four truths of redemption from the above verses.  They are:

  1. I will take (bring in the above version) you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians
  2. I will deliver you from slavery to them
  3. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment
  4. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob

There are other symbolic fours given: Pharoah’s four evil decrees, four cups of wine in pharaoh’s butler’s dream, and four forces of impurity listed in the Kaballah.[vi]

I bring all of this up to show how liturgy developed.  Before the Law liturgy was simple with very little structure.  With the coming of the Law, the Law itself institutes numerous practices about the tabernacle, the temple, the priesthood, different kinds of sacrifices, and as we see in this article, a cycle of feasts to be celebrated every year.

Also, beyond what is in the Law, traditions developed and were eventually written down as the example of things from the Haggadah are shown in this post. Now, according to Jewish sources, they believe the Talmud was given orally to Moses at the same time he got the Law. We haven’t even started to look at the effect of the Talmud on these aspects of the liturgy.

And, of course, the reason I include this in the context of originalChristianity.net is Jesus’ charge to the Jews in Jesus time that they were voiding the Law with their traditions:

And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”  (Mar 7:5-13 ESV)

These verses appear to contradict that the instructions in the Talmud were given by revelation to Moses as Jewish tradition claims.

But that does not mean that drinking four cups of wine with the seder is evil, or wrong.  Or eating 3 cakes. Or celebrating Thanksgiving at a church, for that matter. What is wrong is elevating religious traditions to the status of the Law, or the word of God. That is one of the things that Jesus took issue with on several occasions according to the gospel. And taking a stand against the elevation of the importance of tradition to be seen as important as the word of God was something Original Christianity was very concerned about.

[i] THE SEVEN FESTIVALS OF THE MESSIAH, Edward Chumney, Treasure House, Shippensburg, PA, 1994 P.1-5

[ii] Ibid p.14-16

[iii] Biblical Archeology Society, https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/was-jesus-last-supper-a-seder/


[v] Chabad.org, Why four cups of wine by the seder, at https://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/658549/jewish/Why-four-cups-of-wine.htm

[vi] Ibid

The Standard for Believing Set in the Book of Daniel for All Believers

Many people know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel chapter 3.  Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold.  Then he made it a capital offense not to bow down and worship the image:

Then the herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up; and whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.  (Dan 3:4-6 ASV)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were God-fearing men, and they didn’t bow.  Well, there were some Chaldeans that didn’t like that and they reported back to the king the Jew’s disobedience to their decree.  Nebuchadnezzar called them to task:

Nebuchadnezzar answered and said unto them, Is it of purpose, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that ye serve not my god, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made, well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that god that shall deliver you out of my hands? (Dan 3:14-15 ASV)

But the guys were committed and their response set a standard for what it takes to be a believer:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thy hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.  (Dan 3:16-18 ASV)

There it is: a standard for believing.  They told the king that they knew our God could deliver them.  They stood their ground, and they said that our God will deliver them out of the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.

But…  They added a “but”.  They were committed even if the deliverance didn’t come. They said, but if not, we will still not bow!

You see, there were times that people suffered. Joseph was an example of righteous believing but as a  child, he was thrown into a well, sold into slavery, accused of rape and thrown in prison, and suffered so for about 17 years.

Prophets were mocked and persecuted:

But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy. (2Ch 36:16 ESV)

Look at some of the things that happened to Jeremiah. Among other things he was thrown into stocks and cast into a well (cistern).

Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the LORD. (Jer 20:1-2 ESV)

So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.  (Jer 38:6 ESV)

Elijah ran for his life doing his job as God’s spokesman. I mean, yes, he killed the prophets of Baal with the sword and the record says:

And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. (1Ki 18:46 ESV)

But then King Ahab directs his ire against Elijah and next, he’s running for his life.

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1Ki 19:1-10 ESV)

God certainly delivered Elijah, sending an angel with food and hiding him in a cave for a long time, but don’t tell me that wasn’t an ordeal. That was spiritual warfare at it most intense!

There’s more: John the Baptist was beheaded.  Stephen was stoned to death. Believers got sick too: Epaphroditus almost died of sickness.  Jesus talks about how God’s spokesmen, the prophets, were and are persecuted:

Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.  (Mat 23:34-35 ESV)

As less than perfect believers, we don’t always find deliverance.  But the standard of believing is that we obey the Lord.

In the case of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we know that the ordeal was intense.

Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (Dan 3:16-22 ESV)

But just as intense as the ordeal was the deliverance:

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.  (Dan 3:24-30 ESV)

There’s the wow moment!  God sent his messenger, his angel to protect them from the flames and they were delivered!

(Notice that it says God sent his angel.  I have seen some people make a doctrine that the deliverer was Jesus.  It doesn’t say that.  It also says “the fourth is like a son of the gods.”  There are a number of Old Testament references that talk about sons of God and they are not talking about Jesus.  In Job 2 the angels are called sons of God.  In Romans 8:14 we are called sons of God. Angels performed wondrously at different times throughout the Bible and this was one of them.)

But this was a fantastic deliverance.  They weren’t harmed.  Their clothes had no smell of fire.  They got promoted.  And our God was recognized for who he is, the only living, true God there is. Hallelujah. That is what it is all about, worshipping our God and him alone. God sends his power when his word is promoted.

The point is, though, believers believe, whether there is deliverance or not.  That’s the standard. We believe whether we get delivered or not:

But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods… (Dan 3:18 ESV)

Biblical references are from the ASV version unless otherwise noted.
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