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The Model for the Messianic Community
The Synagogue from 70 to 325 CE
After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Great Sanhedrin was moved to Yavne (Javne or Jabneh), where it became the center of Pharisaic Judaism, and was presided over by Johanan ben Zakkai. One of their immediate goals seems to have been the “cleansing” of Phariseeism from outside influences, particularly Greek and Roman.
Between 70 and 90 CE there was a group of leading Rabbis in Yavne which has become known as the “Council of Yavne.” The purpose of the Council was to reorganize Judaism because the Temple was gone and the sacrifices were abolished. Formalized synagogue worship was established as a replacement for the Temple (the Torah scroll now wears the crown and breastplate of the Kohen Gadol), the Greek version of the Tanakh called the Septuagint was condemned, and the Masoretic Hebrew text was adopted as the “official” version of the Tanakh.
Before that time there were eighteen benedictions or blessings, known as the amidah, that were recited as part of the daily service of worship. Sometime around 80 CE the Council, at the urging of Rabban Gamli’el II, or Gamli’el of Yavne to distinguish him from his grandfather (Rabbi Sha’ul’s mentor), added a nineteenth blessing (actually inserted at the twelfth position in the liturgy) called the Birkat ha Minim (Blessing of the Heretics), which was actually a curse rather than a blessing.
One version of this “benediction” reads:
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of Justice. For the slanderers (minim, or heretics) let there be no hope, and let all wickedness perish as in a moment; let all your enemies be speedily cut off [killed], uproot and crush the dominion of arrogance, and cast down and humble speedily in our days. Blessed are you, O Lord, who breaks the enemies and humbles the arrogant.
Originally directed towards the Sadducees and other “heretics,” in the Genizah version the word minim was replaced with the word Nozerim (Nazarenes), a direct reference both to Yeshua and to the Messianic Jews who followed Him.
A particularly distressing ruling concerning the amidah was that the entire body of the amidah could be recited silently or whispered, except for the Birkat ha Minim, which was required to be recited out loud, and anyone who refused was “excommunicated” or put out of the synagogue.
Although the Birkat ha Minim marked the beginning of the separation of Messianic Believers from the synagogue, the real split came during the Bar Kochba rebellion against Rome (132-135 CE). After the success of the first few years of the uprising, Rabbi Akiva, the leading rabbi at Yavne at the time, declared that the leader of the revolution was the Messiah and gave him the name Bar Kochba (“Son of the Star”) based on the prophecy of Bil`am [Balaam] in the Torah:
There shall come forth a star out of Ya`akov, a scepter shall rise out of Yisra'el, shall strike through the corners of Mo’av, break down all the sons of tumult … (Numbers 24:17).
Now, at Rabbi Akiva’s insistence, the Birkat ha Minim was applied against everyone who failed to acknowledge Bar Kochba as the Messiah. Obviously those who knew that Yeshua was the Messiah could not possibly call Bar Kochba the Messiah, and it was most likely at this point (more than 100 years after the Resurrection of Yeshua) that the Messianic Believers first began to form their own synagogues.
Within just a very few years (ca. 135 CE), Bar Kochba was tricked into believing that Rabbi Elazar was involved in treason and Bar Kochba executed him, which lost him the support of Rabbi Akiva and the rest of the Rabbis. His “messiahship” was “revoked” and the Rabbis reverted his name to Ben Kosiba, which was either his real name or, appropriately and literally, the “Son of the Lie.”
Unfortunately, the split between the Messianic and non-Messianic Jews was irreparable. And so it was that Messianic Judaism and Rabbinical Judaism parted company. But this division did not come until a full century after Yeshua’s resurrection, approximately 40 years after the last of the Messianic Midrashim had been composed (the Book of the Revelation, ca. 96 CE), and at least 35 years after the death of Yochanan, the last surviving Shliach.
And so we can clearly see that nothing in the minds of either Yeshua or the Shliachim ever suggested that there be any form of Messianic Community apart from the synagogue. In fact, the writer of the Epistle to the Messianic Jews specifically tells us to not forsake the synagogue:
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25, NAS)
The Greek word here translated as “assembling together” is episounagoge (episunagoge), which is a combination of the two Greek words epi (epi), upon or at, and sunagoge (sunagoge), synagogue, or literally “at the synagogue.” So this phrase very well could be interpreted as “not forsaking our own synagogue.”
It was not until the Council of Nicea was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine (325 CE) that the “church” as we know it today came into existence, and the Messianic Jews were given the option to either renounce all things Jewish and become Gentiles or be put to death.
Desiring to consolidate both the religious and secular aspects of the Empire under his authority (ca. 311 CE), Constantine, who was by virtue of his office as Emperor also the pontifex maximus, or high priest of the form of the Babylonian Mystery Religion that was practiced in the Empire, merged Messianic Judaism and the pagan Babylonian religion into a single, empire-wide religion that he called “Christianity” or “the Church.” He and his successor Emperor/Popes simply redefined the terms and practices of the Babylonian religion with “Bible words” and appointed their pagan priests as “bishops” of the new official state religion. They had all the statues of the Roman gods and goddesses renamed with the names of influential people in the Apostolic Scriptures, particularly the Shliachim, and replaced the worship of these statues with “the veneration of saints” (which is not significantly different in any way!),
In 325 Constantine called a council of 318 of these “bishops,” systematically excluding all bishops of Jewish ancestry, and for all practical purposes outlawed all things Jewish, and thereby also outlawing virtually all things biblical that remained in the hybrid Roman state religion. It was also decreed at this council that all copies of the Jewish Scriptures should be destroyed. It is my considered opinion that the original Hebrew versions of the Apostolic Writings must have been also destroyed at this time, which explains why we have only the Greek copies extant today.
So we can clearly see that from 33 CE to 325 CE, a period of almost 300 years from the Resurrection, the Body of Messiah was in all respects an integral part of worldwide Judaism, and not at all anything remotely resembling a “new religion,” and that the only real “new religion” was in fact the Roman state religion which, by totally rejecting all things Jewish, rejected everything that Yeshua and the Shliachim stood for, lived by, and taught. Unfortunately, by patterning virtually all Protestant churches after the Roman model and rejecting the “Old Testament” and the Torah of God as no longer relevant for “Christians,” the modern “Church” has also essentially rejected everything that Yeshua and the Shliachim stood for, lived by, and taught. I am forced to consider that the modern “Church” may very possibly be the very apostasy (ajpostasiva, apostasia) that Rabbi Sha'ul wrote about in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
It should also be noted that the Council of Nicea and the “new religion” that was spawned there was the true source of the systematic persecution of Jews by “Christians” for nearly 1,700 years thus far, which has culminated in the “Final Solution” of Hitler’s Third Reich and of America’s so-called “Roadmap for Peace,” which is a non-so-subtle plan carefully designed to complete the task of the failed “Final Solution” and rid the world of the “Jewish Menace” once and for all. But this has come to pass in fulfillment of Yeshua’s prophecy that just before the appearance of the Anti-Messiah, Israel must become “hated of all nations” (Matthew 24:9). Now that America (the American government, not the majority of the American people), Israel’s last ally, has turned against her, she finally stands alone against the entire world, waiting for Messiah to return and rescue her from her enemies. Oh, if only all Israel would cry out together to HaShem, “Barukh haba b’shem Adonai! Mara nata! [Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the LORD! Our LORD comes!
119. Yavne (יבנה, “God causes to build”) is a city in the modern Center District of Israel, just south of Tel Aviv, also called Jamnia, Jabneel, and Jabneh in the Bible. A central city of Philistia, the Bible refers to its walls being destroyed by Uzziah. It was pillaged by Judas Maccabaeus and later rebuilt. In the last years before the sack of Jerusalem (70 CE), Jamnia became a great Jewish cultural center. At the prayer of Johanan ben Zakkai, Vespasian spared Jamnia and permitted Johanan to settle there as leader of the Jewish community after the fall of Jerusalem. The Great Sanhedrin was moved to Jamnia, and the city became the capital of the Jews until the rise of Simon Bar Kochba. [Source: reference.allrefer.com/encyclopedia/J/Jamnia.html] [RETURN]
120. High Priest. [RETURN]
121. The Hebrew Bible, or so-called “Old Testament.” [RETURN]
122. “Standing” because they were recited while standing. [RETURN]
123. Aramaic: Son of a Star. Simeon ben Kosiba, the leader of the last and most successful Jewish rebellion against Rome in 132-135 C.E. He died in battle when the rebellion was defeated. Rabbi Akiba believed he was the Moshiach (Messiah). See Appendix D. [RETURN]
124. Moab. [RETURN]
126. Midrash is a commentary, plural midrashim. In a very real sense, the Apostolic Writings are Midrashim on the Tanakh, the entire collection of which would eventually be handed down to us as the Apostolic Scriptures, B'rit Hadashah, or so-called “New Testament.” [RETURN]
127. Yochanan, called “John the Beloved” or “John the Revelator,” died ca. 100 CE in either Patmos or Ephesus. [RETURN]
130. For more information on this subject, see Ralph Woodrow, Babylon Mystery Religion. Riverside, CA: Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, 1966. [RETURN]
133. The Antichrist. [RETURN]