THE TWO BRANCHES OF CHRISTIANITY
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© August 2020, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.
This article is about the early history and formation of the Christian religion. Most of the information in this article is not well known. We hope it does not offend anyone. That is certainly not the intention. The intent is only to set the record straight.
We realize that most people live busy lives and do not have the time to delve into these matters. We will give our sources and you can explore it more, if you wish.
JERUSALEM AFTER THE CRUCIFIXION
Most people do not understand the sheer horror of the Roman Empire. After the crucifixion, the Romans hunted down and killed all the followers of Jesus that they could find. They felt that his teachings were a threat to their power.
Bands of Roman soldiers on large horses literally roamed the streets of Jerusalem and the rest of Canaan murdering anyone whom they thought had any connection with the teachings of Jesus. They left a trail of dead bodies in their wake.
Socialism. Today, the Roman governmental system would be called socialism. The word means total government control and government ownership of land and other resources. It is the most dangerous type of government in the world because there are no checks on its power.
A companion article to this one, Notes On The History of Christianity, goes into more detail about the horror of the Roman Empire. It also describes the world situation at the time of Jesus in more detail.
TWO GROUPS OF FOLLOWERS
At this time, the followers of Jesus scattered or hid to save their lives. Two main groups kept the teachings of Jesus alive.
The Pauline Church. The well-known group is the called the Pauline group or Pauline church. It was led for a while by the apostle Paul. He had been caught soon after the crucifixion and imprisoned in Rome. He was allowed to write letters for a time before he was murdered around 42 AD.
This group became the dominant branch of Christianity. However, soon after the crucifixion it was not the dominant branch. This is most important to know.
There is plenty of historical evidence that Peter and Paul, the leaders of the Pauline group, were not as high-ranking among the followers of Jesus as was the brother of Jesus, a man named Ya’akov.
His name is incorrectly translated as James. The correct English word is Jacob, a common name in those days.
This was a different man from the apostles named James and some others in the Bible who had the same name, so we will refer to this brother of Jesus as Ya’akov.
THE JERUSALEM GROUP
Ya’akov was the first leader of the Jerusalem branch of the followers of Jesus. He is mentioned in The Gospel of Mark, 6:1-3:
Jesus … came to his hometown … On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded.
They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!
Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?
Otherwise, the brothers and sisters of Jesus are hardly mentioned in the standard gospels. The reason is that the Roman Emperor Constantine, who is responsible for choosing the gospels that were included in the New Testament books, did not want it.
If everyone knew about Ya’akov, they would examine the teachings of the Jersualem group, as we are doing in this article.
HISTORY OF THE JERUSALEM GROUP
Briefly, Ya’akov or Jacob, the brother of Jesus, was killed by the Romans in 62 AD. Symeon, a cousin of Jesus, took over as leader of the Jerusalem group.
In 70 AD, the Romans decided to end the “Hebrew problem”. By this time, the Roman Empire was becoming more and more brutal and murderous.
They marched a large army into Jerusalem, totally destroyed the Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem, and murdered as many of the people of this city as they could find. This included some members of the Jerusalem Church. A few were warned and escaped.
Around the year 110 AD, a man named Justus took over what was left of the Jerusalem group. He was soon killed by the Romans. As a result, the group scattered and their influence waned. All that was left were some books that we are told have been hidden and will be brought to light soon.
The literature of the time amply documents the existence of the Jerusalem church. In some texts, it is called the Naasenes, Nazoreans or Nazarenes. This has nothing to do with the present-day Church Of The Nazarenes.
A fairly recent book presents the evidence for the importance of Ya’akov, the brother of Jesus: The Brother Of Jesus And The Lost Teachings Of Christianity by Jeffrey J. Butz, Inner Traditions, Vermont, USA 2005.
NOTE: We do not agree with everything in this book. Also, it is mainly a history book, not a book of teachings. We discuss some of the teachings of the Jerusalem group later in this article.
The book does emphasize that the Jerusalem group, unlike the Pauline group, believed that non-Hebrew people who wanted to become followers of Jesus needed to follow the basic Hebrew laws and covenant. This mainly included circumcision of all male children and the laws governing food and diet.
EMPEROR CONSTANTINE’S VISION
By the fourth Century AD, the Roman Empire was in decline. It had splintered into two pieces. A man named Constantine had been declared the Emperor in York, located today in England. However, another man, Maxentius, still ruled in Rome.
Constantine wanted to reunite the Roman Empire. In October of 312 AD, he marched his army toward Rome.
We are told that on the night of October 27, 312 AD, Constantine had the “vision of the cross”. He saw a vision of the sun, a symbol he worshipped, with a cross overlaid on it. Underneath were the words “In this sign, prevail.”
Constantine decided it was a sign to attack. The next day he had his men paint crosses on their shields. Then they attacked the forces of Maxentius, calling themselves “Christian soldiers”.
That day he won an amazing victory in the Battle Of Milvian Bridge. The next day, October 29, he took back complete control of the entire Roman Empire.
The vision haunted Constantine from that day forward. When he grew old he decided to convert to the persecuted new religion of Christianity. He also decided to convert the entire Roman Empire to the new religion!
THE COUNCIL OF NICEA
What we call the Christian religion, and the teachings that are today the New Testament of the Bible, are not the only gospels. They were the ones picked by Emperor Constantine and formalized into the New Testament of the Bible at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.
He named the religion the Roman Catholic Church. The word Catholic means universal. He also declared that from then on, all subjects of the Roman Empire, which included most of the known world at that time, were to become Roman Catholics.
Emperor Constantine told the attendees of the Council of Nicea that to make the new religion easy for the Roman people to adopt, they had to change some of the original teachings of Jesus.
He announced over 100 changes to the original documents regarding the life and teachings of Jesus. All copies of the original documents were to be changed or destroyed.
THE ATTENDEES AT NICEA
The attendees at this meeting were almost all from Rome and most were stooges of the Emperor.
Saint Nickolas. Only one man who knew the teachings of the Jerusalem Group was invited to the meeting. This was a rabbi named Nickolaos of Myra.
He was raised by his grandfather, who possessed some of the original books written by members of the Jerusalem group of the followers of Jesus. Nickolaos loved the teachings and he incorporated them into his sermons and other activities of his Hebrew synagogue located in Eastern Europe.
He later became known in the Catholic Church as Saint Nickolas. We know his name today as Santa Claus (A German translation of his name). Incidentally, he loved to give people gifts – often secretly.
He is important because he risked his life to attend the meeting at Nicea. At the meeting, he objected to many of the changes that Constantine made to the original teachings of Jesus. At one point, he had to hide for months to escape assassination by the Romans. For details about this interesting man, read Nickolaos of Myra and The Legend Of Santa Claus.
This section is by no means complete. It just contains some examples of the original teachings of the Jerusalem group of the followers of Jesus.
WHO KILLED JESUS?
Emperor Constantine wanted people to think that the Romans were good leaders and were not responsible for the murder of the new religion’s founder. However, the truth is the Hebrew people did not cause the murder of Jesus – the Romans did. The books were changed.
THE WORDS ‘CHRIST’ AND ‘CHRISTIAN’
These words came from Emperor Constantine and his men. Christ was an old Greek word that meant the anointed one.
They decided that Christ sounded better than his real name – Yeshua (emphasis on the first syllable – YESH-ua). During his lifetime, people calle him YESH for short. The name means love in the Ebre language, an ancient Hebrew dialect.
The English word, yes, has the same first three letters and comes directly from this name. Each time you say the word YES you are speaking his real name!
Emperor Constantine and his group also needed a common name with which to refer to the leader of the new religion. They used a translation of his name – Jesus or Jesu in the Greek and Roman languages. This was a fairly common name at the time.
The historical documents tell a somewhat different story about the apostles. They say there were more of them, about 100. Also, almost half were women. Women were included in the inner circle and played an important role. At times, they understood the teachings better than the men. Two sisters of Jesus were among them.
Emperor Constantine did not like this so he ordered the gospels changed. The Roman Empire was very male-dominated! Women were treated as slaves, raped if the men wanted it, and women were thoroughly degraded. It was one of the worst features of the Roman Empire!
MIRIAM OF MAGDALENE
Another fact revealed in one of the historical documents is that Mary of Magdalene, whose real name was Miriam, was not a prostitute. Once again, the story was changed to satisfy Emperor Constantine. He wanted women degraded.
DYING FOR OUR SINS
According to the Jerusalem group, Jesus did not die to atone for our sins. He died to demonstrate that a man could overcome the slings and arrows of the physical world and could survive.
We mention this because it is difficult for some to accept the Pauline doctrine that Jesus died to atone for our sins. By understanding that there was another teaching on the subject of the crucifixion, it may help some people accept other important Bible teachings.
We know that for many Christians, the Pauline doctrine is central. However, for others it is a stumbling block and perhaps this need not be so.
The original doctrine of Jesus was that love is the key to the Kingdom Of Heaven. This includes loving God, loving what is good and true and beautiful, and loving others.
Jesus explained that loving others has nothing to do with marrying or having sex with someone. It is about having good will toward everyone at all times, even your enemies whom you must defeat and kill.
Rituals. Emperor Constantine did not emphasize love nearly as much. His version of the Christian religion emphasized rituals more than love.
The Jerusalem group did not include many rituals. In fact, it included many fewer than the Hebrew religion at the time, which had become burdened with ritual. (This idea is discussed in the gospels to some degree in the discussions about the Pharisees, who were the Hebrew “priests” of that time.)
Jesus taught that each person can and does have a personal relationship with God. He criticized the Pharisees and some of the Hebrew practices in which the Hebrew “high priests” controlled the people.
However, Emperor Constantine did not like this. He did not want the common people to have any power.
He favored a hierarchy with priests and a pope at the top of the hierarchy. So this teaching was changed when the Roman Church was founded in 325 AD.
THE ONLY SON
Jesus did not teach that he was the only son of God. He called himself a prophet or messenger of God. Emperor Constantine, however, wanted a simple, hierarchical religion so he changed the teaching and made Jesus the only son of God.
Some of the gospels contradict this idea when they say “Greater things than I shall you do”. Most priests and pastors skip over this verse in the Bible because they don’t understand it. However, it makes perfect sense if you understand that Jesus was not the only son of God. He was just one prophet and messenger and there had been and will be others.