- Changed Lives
- Creation of Life
- Creation of the Universe
- Fine Tuning of the Universe
- Near Death Experiences
- Science in Scripture
- The Good Way
- Unified Theme
James Tour describes the science in the search for the origin of life, and demonstrates how unlikely it is that life ever originated by chance.
This is a fascinating story of searching for and finally finding the one true God.
The Epistle of Barnabas is dated between A.D. 130-138, and was obviously not written by the Barnabas, but someone using that name. Nevertheless, it gives us a picture of the thought among early Christian leaders at that time. As Bacchiocchi notes, it gives us the first example of Sunday as being termed ‘the eigth day’, and it also depicts the tensions between Jews and Christians of that time, which led to changing the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday.
1. Further, then, it is written about the sabbath also in the Ten Words which God uttered to Moses face to face on Mount Sinai, “And treat the sabbath of the Lord as holy with clean hands and a pure heart.” 2. And in another place he says, “If my sons keep the Sabbath, I will let my mercy rest upon them.” 3. He mentions the sabbath at the beginning of the creation: “And in six days God made the works of his hands, and ended on the seventh day, and he rested on it and made it holy.” 4. Observe, children, what “he ended in six days” means. This is what it means, that in six thousand years the Lord will bring all things to an end, for a day with him means a thousand years. He himself bears me witness, for he says, “Behold, a day of the Lord will be like a thousand years.” Therefore, children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be brought to an end. 5. “And he rested on the seventh day” means this: When is Son come and destroys the time of the lawless one, and judges the ungodly and changes the sun and the moon and stars, then he will rest well on the seventh day. 6. Further he says, “You shall treat it as holy, with clean hands and a pure heart.” If, then, anyone can now, by being pure in heart, treat as holy the day God declared holy, we are entirely deceived. 7. Observe that we will find true rest and treat it as holy only when we shall be able to do so having ourselves been made upright and had the promise been fulfilled, when there is no more disobedience, but all things have been made new by the Lord. Then we shall be able to treat it as holy, after we have first been made holy ourselves. 8. Further he says to them, “Your new moons and sabbaths I cannot endure.” You see what it means: it is not the one that I have made, on which, having brought everything to rest, I will make the beginning of an eighth day, that is, the eighth day with rejoicing, on which Jesus also arose from the dead, and having shown himself ascended to heaven (ch. 15).
– The Epistle of Barnabas, translation by E. Goodspeed (fn. 16), pp. 40-41.
As Bacchiocchi notes, the author of this Epistle argues that the rest of the sabbath days is not a physical rest but a rest at the end of days, the thousand years rest. He also argues that to keep the sabbath holy is impossible until this thousand years rest is commenced, and that, since God said “Your new moons and sabbaths I cannot endure”, this means that the current sabbath is unacceptable, and the real sabbath will be the one at the end of time.
This telling letter illustrates how early church fathers struggled to find scriptural support for changing the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday.
Justin Martyr was an early Christian (100 AD to 165 AD) who was martyred for his faith; but his writings demonstrate some of the attitudes towards Jews and things Jewish. For example, Justin wrote to Trypho, a Jewish contemporary, that..
We, too, would observe your circumcision of the flesh, your Sabbath days, and in a word, all your festivals, if we were not aware of the reason why they were imposed upon you, namely, because of your sins and your hardness of heart.
This single sentence illustrates that early Christianity was grasping for reasons to separate itself from Judaism, particularly when we know from the writings of Epiphanus (see post on the Nazarenes) that the early church kept the Sabbath and other Jewish festivals. Because Justin Martyr ‘knew’ why God had given the Sabbath and festivals to the Jews, he was justifying breaking with those commandments. Maybe we should call him Justin the Justifier.
Justin further writes in Dialogues with Trypho that:
If we do not accept this conclusion, then we shall fall into absurd ideas, as the nonsense either that our God is not the same God who existed in the days of Henoch and all the others, who were not circumcised in the flesh, and did not observe the Sabbaths and other rites, since Moses only imposed them later; or that God does not wish each succeeding generation of mankind always to perform the same acts of righteousness. Either supposition is ridiculous and preposterous. Therefore we must conclude that God, who is immutable, ordered these and similar things to be done only because of sinful men.
– Dialogue 18, 2, Falls, Justin’s Writings, p. 175
I think most theologians would disagree with Justin’s assertion that the Sabbath and festivals were given to punish sinful men; in the light of modern times it is easy to see the flaws of Justin’s logic, yet here we are, still living out errors propagated two thousand years ago.
Of all those Christians who reject these principles of Judaism, none today ascribe to Justin Martyr’s thesis that the law was given to Jews because of their sins and hardness of heart. Today, the reasons are different, but the end result is the same; we’ve found a way to separate ourselves from original principles.
Justin then states that…
The custom of circumcising the flesh, handed down from Abraham, was given to you as a distinguishing mark, to se you off from other nations and from us Christians. The purpose of this was that you and only you might suffer the afflictions that are now justly yours; that only your land be desolated, and your cities ruined by fire, that the fruits of your land be eaten by strangers before your very eyes; that not one of you be permitted to enter your city of Jerusalem. Your circumcision of the flesh is the only mark by which you can certainly be distinguished from other men…
As I stated before, it was by reason of your sins and the sins of your fathers that, among other precepts, God imposed upon you the observance of the Sabbath as a mark.
– Dialogue 16, 1, Falls, Justin’s Writings, p. 172, 178
You have spared no effort in disseminating in every land bitter, dark, and unjust accusations against the only guiltless and just light sent to men by God… The other nations have not treated Christ and us, his followers, as unjustly as have you Jews, who indeed, are the very instigators of that evil opinion they have of the Just One and of us, His disciples… You are to blame not only for your own wickedness, but also for that of all others.
– Dialogue 17, Falls, Justin’s Writings, p. 173, 174
To the utmost of your power you dishonor and curse in your synagogues all those who believe in Christ… In your synagogues you curse all those who through them have become Christians, and the Gentiles put into effect your curse by killing all those who merely admit that they are Christians.
You do all in your power to force us to deny Christ. We resist you and prefer to endure death, confident that God will give us all the blessings which He promised us through Christ.
– Dialogue 16 and 96, Falls, Justin’s Writings, p. 172, 299
On a day which is called Sunday we have a common assembly of all who live in the cities or in the outlying districts, and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the Prophets are read, as long as there is time.
Sunday, indeed, is the day on which we all hold our common assembly because it is the first day on which God, transforming the darkness and prime matter, created the world; and our Savior Jesus Christ arose from the dead on the same day. For they crucified him on the day before that of Saturn, and on the day after, which is Sunday, he appeared to his Apostles and disciples, and taught them the things which we have passed on to you also for consideration.
– Justin, I Apology 67, 3-7, Falls, Justin’s Writings, p. 106-107
Interesting how Justin Martyr argues for a new day of worship by tying Sunday to the first day of creation. We see here simple human logic at work; Justin and other early Christians desired to be as different from Judaism as possible because Rome was persecuting and taxing Jews. To come up with reasons for changing the day of worship was simply an of an act of survival. Ultimately, Justin was martyred anyway.
It is written that God once allowed the Sun to be worshipped, and yet you cannot discover anyone who ever suffered death because of his faith in the Sun. But you can find men of every nationality who for the name of Jesus have suffered faith in Him. For His word of truth and wisdom is more blazing and bright than the might of the sun, and it penetrates the very depths of the heart and mind.
– Justin, Dialogue 121, Falls, Justin’s Writings, p. 335; cf. Dialogue 64 and 128.
As Bacchiocchi rightly wonders, isn’t it interesting that Justin Martyr, living in Rome, would want to give credit to sun worship? Could it be to align himself with the Roman authorities, who even in that day worshipped the chief diety and sun-god Saturn on Sunday?
It’s pretty clear from the writings of Justin Martyr and other early Christian leaders, as well as historians like Ephiphanus, that in the first few hundred years after the death and resurrection of Christ, the early church experienced a schism from Judaism, and took on new, man-made principles and practices.
If we can see this, then we might be able to, on an individual level, foster a renewed appreciation for Judaism in so far as those practices are practicable – and taking care to distinguish from the written law and the oral traditions of the fathers and rabbis as written in the Babylonian Talmud and other writings.
Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch during the time of Trajan (A.D. 98-117). His anti-Judaic writings demonstrate, first, that at that time there were many early Christians keeping Jewish customs, and secondly, the clear schism that was developing between Christianity as a sect of Judaism and Christianity as a new, man-made religion.
From C.S. Mosna, Storia della Domenica, p.95:
The bishop argues “against the Judaizing tendencies of his territory, which, not far geographically from Palestine, had suffered the influences of the synagogue and of the Judaeo-Christians.”
From Pseudo-Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians 9, ANF I, pp. 62-63:
Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness… but let every one of you keep the Sabbath in a spiritual manner, rejoicing in the meditation on the law, not in the relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, nor walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them.”
Here we can see the first beginnings of a move of the early Christian church away from Judaism, away from a seventh day Sabbath. As we move on to other anti-Judaic early church fathers, Barnabas (the epistle of Barnabas is dated by scholars between A.D. 130-138) and Justin Martyr (Dialogues with Trypho are dated between A.D. 138-161), we can see an even more developed position of anti-Judaism as well as a substitution of Sunday as the preferred day of worship.
Early Christians, living in Jerusalem, and called the ‘sect of the Nazarenes’, fled in 66/67 AD when Rome invaded Jerusalem, and settled in Pella (Pella is about 70 kilometers north and west of Jerusalem, on the east side of the Jordan river), and thrived there until the fourth century.
This is noteworthy when we consider the transformation that occurred between the first century and the fourth century; namely, that Christianity gradually rejected circumcision, the Sabbath, the Festivals of the Lord, and other early Christian practices, and the adoption of syncretic observances such as making Sunday the day of worship and the observance of Easter.
From Epiphanius, Adversus Haereses, 29, 7, PG 42, 402.
The sect orginated after the flight from Jerusalem, when the disciples were living in Pella, having left the city according to Christ’s word and migrated to the mountains because of its imminent siege. Therefore in this manner it arose when those of whom we spoke were living in Perea. From there the heresy of the Nazarenes first began.
From M. Simon (fn. 57), pp. 47-48.
They are characterized essentially by their tenacious attachment to Jewish observances. If they became heretics in the eyes of the Mother Church, it is simply because they remained fixed on outmoded positions. They well represesnt, though Epiphanius is energetically refusing to admit it, the very direct descendants of the primitive community, of which our author knows that it was designated by the Jews by the same name of Nazarenes.
From Epiphanius, Adversus Haereses, 29, 7, PG 41, 402.
The Nazarenes do not differ in any essential thing from them [i.e. Jews], since they practice the custom and doctrines prescribed by the Jewish law, except that they believe in Christ. They believe in the resurrection of the dead and that the universe was created by God. They preach that God is one and that Jesus Christ is his Son. They read the law.. Therefore they differ both from the Jews and from the Christians; from the former, because they believe in Christ; from the true Christians because they fulfill till now Jewish rites as the circumcision, the Sabbath and others.
As Samuel Bacchiocci (Sabbath to Sunday, pp 157) so aptly notes, ‘the possibility exists therefore that the Nazarenes represent the survival of both the ethnic and theological legacy of primitive Jewish Christianity’.
This is important to reflect on, in the light of other articles you will find here and elsewhere regarding how Christianity was transformed over a few hundred years from a sect of Judaism into a new religion, absent nearly all the practices which Jesus and His disciples kept.
As we shall elsewhere, this transformation was the result of cultural and theological tensions between early Christians and Jews, Roman persecution of the Jews (and anyone who worshipped on Saturday was linked to Judaism, and thus responsible to pay a tax to Rome known as Ficus Judaicus), and the day of worship sanctioned by Rome being Sunday.
The question we have to ask ourselves, if we are honest, is how is it that Christiandom, with this knowledge of the history of events, is still walking in this error two thousand years later?
Unusual, thoughtful testimony of meeting Jesus.
This rings true to me, I think this guy had a legitimate experience, and he’s really on the right track; far too many of us are missing God because we simply aren’t willing to knock, ask, seek Him.
Pretty compelling testimony; this guy died, and had some incredible events take place.
There are a lot of stories out there of how lives were changed by God, but this story of how a French atheist became a Christian theologian is a classic, and interesting read.
I’m going to put the first paragraph here, and link to the rest. Enjoy!
A number of people lately have been intrigued to meet a French theologian, and have asked me to tell them the story of how I, a French atheist, became a Christian scholar. Even the theologians and apologists I met recently at the ETS Conference in Baltimore (where by God’s grace I was delivering my first scholarly paper) seemed to care (understandably) more about my conversion from atheism than my immediate theology paper! Therefore, it seemed fitting to type it up properly, to have a clean telling of that story of God breaking into my life, ready to be shared with people who ask. So here it is (and please let me know if you spot spelling mistakes or awkward sentences, I’m still French after all!)