THE TWO BRANCHES OF CHRISTIANITY
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© June 2019, 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
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.
The Dead Sea scrolls say that Peter and Paul, the leaders of the Pauline group, were not as high-ranking among the followers of Jesus as was James or Yaakov, the leader of the Jerusalem Church. The Dead Sea scrolls, discovered in 1945, are also called the Nag Hammadi scrolls or Nag Hammadi gospels.
The Jerusalem Church. The other group is called the Jerusalem group or Jerusalem Church. Its first leader was Yaakov or Jacob, the brother of Jesus. His name is mistranslated as James.
This is not the same James as two of the apostles, who names were also incorrectly translated as James. The brother of Jesus is hardly mentioned in the standard gospels because Emperor Constantine, who is most responsible for the New Testament books, did not want it. If everyone knew about Jacob and his branch of Christianity, people might look into the teachings of the Jersualem group, as we are doing in this article. This would be a formidable challenge to some of the doctrines of the Catholic religion.
Yaakov or Jacob, the brother of Jesus, died in 62 AD. Symion, a cousin of Jesus, took over as leader of the Jerusalem Church.
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.
This group preserved the original teachings much better than the Pauline church, which was heavily influenced by the Romans.
This important bit of history is not known, but it helps explain some inconsistencies in the gospels and in the letters written by Paul. As mentioned above, the Dead Sea Scrolls document the existence and some of the teachings of the Jerusalem group. There is a fairly recent book about this subject, The Brother Of Jesus And The Lost Teachings Of Christianity by Jeffrey J. Butz (a Lutheran minister), Inner Traditions, Vermont, USA 2005. This is mainly a history book, not a book of teachings. We discuss some of the teachings later in this article.
What happened to the Jerusalem Church? 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 Jerusualem Church. A few were warned and escaped.
EMPEROR CONSTANTINE’S VISION
By the fourth Century AD, the Roman Empire was in decline. It had splintered into two pieces. 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 new religion of Yeshua (pronounced YESHua )or Yesh, as it was then called. 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 (which means universal) religion. 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.
At the same Council of Nicea in 325 AD, which was really just a meeting, Emperor Constantine 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. Only a few members of the Jerusalem Church were invited to the meeting. They were easily outvoted when it came to setting up the doctrines of the new Christian religion.
Emperor Constantine told the attendees that to make the new religion easy for Romans to adopt, they had to change some of the original teachings of Jesus.
WHO KILLED JESUS?
At the same time, Constantine wanted people to think that the Romans were good leaders and were not responsible for the murder of the new religion’s founder. Jewish people did not cause the murder of Jesus – the Romans did. The books were changed.
Among the few members of the Jerusalem Church who attended the meeting at Nicaea was a rabbi who converted to the new teaching of Yeshua. His real name was Nicholaos Of Myra. He later was deemed a saint by the Catholic church, so we know him as Saint Nicholas.
He was an important man, so a decision was made to keep his memory alive. As a result, Christian children are taught that there exists a man named Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus in German.
He is important because he risked his life at the meeting of Nicea. He objected to many of the changes that Constantine made to the original teachings of Yeshua. At one point, he had to hide for months to escape assassination by the Romans. He is the subject of a separate article, St. Nicholaos Of Myra.
This section is not complete. It just contains some examples of the original teachings of Yeshua.
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 for the founder of the new religion 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 an ancient Hebrew dialect.
The English word, yes, has the same first three letters and comes directly from this name. Think of this each time you say the word YES!
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 Dead Sea scrolls 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.
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 scrolls is that Mary of Magdalene, whose real name was Miriam, was not a prostitute. Once again, the stories were changed to satisfy Emperor Constantine.
DYING FOR OUR SINS
According to the Jerusalem church, 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 to return to the other teachings of the church.
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.
Yeshua 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.
Constantine did not emphasize love nearly as much. His version of the Christian religion emphasized rituals more than love. The Jerusalem church did not include many rituals – many fewer, even, than the Hebrew religion at the time, which had become burdened with ritual.
Yeshua taught that each person can and does have a personal relationship with God. Constantine did not like this idea. He favored a hierarchy with priests and a pope at the top of the hierarchy. He did not want the common people to have much power. So this teaching was changed when the Roman church was founded in 325 AD.
THE ONLY SON
Yeshua did not teach that he was the only son of God. He called himself a prophet or messenger of God.
To be continued ….