Is there a true Church in this world today?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by IowaGuy, Aug 4, 2011.

  1. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Maronites and other Syrian Oriental Orthodox groups speak Aramaic (or at least variations, after all Biblical times were a while ago... when Croats and Serbs probably spoke the same language and my English Ancestors spoke a form of Celtic).

    Some are and some are not in communion with either the Catholics (Benedict is doing a good job of getting this to happen) or even the other Orthodox Groups. There must be a dozen Assyrian and Thomas (Indian) groups, some of whom are Nestorian (so they have been around for something like 1600 years as a separate group).

    The Tewahedo Ethiopian Church was founded even earlier (by 400, right there with the Armenians in terms of early conversions). And they left after Ephesus I think.

    Armenians have the Apostalic Church which has survived unfragemented (but there are younger Orthodox and Catholic Armenian Churches). Very interesting to look at these pre-Chaldean groups (nestorian are pre-Ephesus, I think, so they are even older).

    Pax et amore vincunt omnia, radarmark
     
  2. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    an aside...should it not be Pax et amore omnia vincunt
     
  3. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    The true Church is lost. Literally, we currently can't find it!

    In Hans Kung's The Catholic Church: A Short History, he writes:

    Important parts of the earliest community emigrated from Jerusalem to Transjordan (Pella) as early as 66, after the execution of James, the leader of their community--in other words, before the outbreak of the war between the Jews and Rome. After a further Jewish rebellion, with the complete destruction of Jersualem and the expulsion of all the Jews, the fateful year 135 also brought about the end of the Jewish-Christian community of Jerusalem and its dominant position in the early church. Soon Jewish Christianity and its christology with a Jewish stamp, along with its observance of the law, was perceived by the gentile Christian church as merely a sect surviving from an earlier stage. Very soon it was felt to be heretical. However, where these Jewish Christians preserved the oldest beliefs and patterns of life, they represented the legitimate heirs of early Christianity. Sadly, though, this tradition was later to get distorted and lost, in Manichaeism and probably also in Islam.

    Who were these Jewish Christians? James Tabor calls this earliest community Ebionite/Nazerene:

    Josephus reports four main sects or schools of Judaism: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots. The earliest followers of Jesus were known as Nazarenes, and perhaps later, Ebionites, and form an important part of the picture of Palestinian Jewish groups in late 2nd Temple times.


    The Ebionite/Nazarene movement was made up of mostly Jewish/Israelite followers of John the Baptizer and later Jesus, who were concentrated in Palestine and surrounding regions and led by "James the Just" (the oldest brother of Jesus), and flourished between the years 30-80 C.E. They were zealous for the Torah and continued to walk in all the mitzvot (commandments) as enlightened by their Rabbi and Teacher, but accepted non-Jews into their fellowship on the basis of some version of the Noachide Laws (Acts 15 and 21). The term Ebionite (from Hebrew 'Evyonim) means "Poor Ones" and was taken from the teachings of Jesus: "Blessed are you Poor Ones, for yours is the Kingdom of God" based on Isaiah 66:2 and other related texts that address a remnant group of faithful ones. Nazarene comes from the Hebrew word Netzer (drawn from Isaiah 11:1) and means "a Branch"—so the Nazarenes were the "Branchites" or followers of the one they believed to be the Branch. The term Nazarene was likely the one first used for these followers of Jesus, as evidenced by Acts 24:5 where Paul is called "the ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." Here we see the word used in a similar way to that of Josephus in writing of the four sects/schools of Judaism: Pharisees; Sadducess; Essenes; and Zealots. So the term Nazarene is probably the best and broadest term for the movement, while Ebionite (Poor Ones) was used as well, along with a whole list of other terms: Saints, Children of Light, the Way, New Covenanters, et al. We also know from the book of Acts that the group itself preferred the designation "The Way" (see Acts 24:14, 22, etc.). The term "Christian," first used in Greek speaking areas for the movement, actually is an attempt to translate the term Nazarene and basically means a "Messianist."

    The Essenes (possibly from 'Ossim, meaning "Doers of Torah"), who wrote or collected the Dead Sea Scrolls, pioneered certain aspects of this "Way" over 150 years before the birth of Jesus. They were a wilderness (out in the Arava, near the Dead Sea--based on Isaiah 40:3), baptizing (mikveh of repentance as entrance requirement into their fellowship), new covenant, messianic/apocalyptic group (they were expecting three redemptive Figures—the Prophet like Moses and his two Messiahs), that saw themselves as the remnant core of God's faithful people—preparing the Way for the return of YHVH's Glory (Kavod) as set forth in Isaiah 40-66. They too referred to themselves as the Way, the Poor, the Saints, the New Covenanters, Children of Light, and so forth. Perhaps their most common designation was the Yachad--the brotherhood or community, and they referred to themselves as brother and sister. They were bitterly opposed to the corrupt Priests in Jerusalem, to the Herods, and even to the Pharisees whom they saw as compromising with that establishment to get power and influence from the Hellenistic/Roman powers. They had their own developed Halacha (interpretation of Torah), some aspects of which Jesus picks up (ideal of no divorce, not using oaths, etc.). They followed one they called the True Teacher (Teacher of Righteousness) whom most scholars believe lived in the 1st century B.C.E. and was opposed and possibly killed by the Hasmonean King/Priests at the instigation of the Pharisees. John the Baptizer seems to arise out of this context and rekindle the apocalyptic fervor of the movement in the early decades of the first century C.E.

    So, the terminology is flexible; there are a variety of self-designations used by the Jesus movement, most of which had previously been used by the Essenes. In that sense you might call the Jesus movement a further developed messianic "Essenism," modified through the powerful, prophetic influence of Jesus as Teacher.

    Later, when Christianity developed in the 3rd and 4th centuries and gradually lost its Jewish roots and heritage, largely severing its Palestinian connections, the Gentile, Roman Catholic Church historians began to refer to Ebionites and Nazarenes as two separate groups—and indeed, by the late 2nd century there might have been a split between these mostly Jewish followers of Jesus. The distinction these writers make (and remember, they universally despise these people and call them "Judaizers"), is that the Ebionites reject Paul and the doctrine of the Virgin Birth or "divinity" of Jesus, use only the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, and are thus more extreme in their Judaism. They describe the Nazarenes more positively as those who accept Paul (with caution) and believe in some aspect of the divinity of Jesus (virgin born, etc.). What we have to keep in mind in reading these accounts from the Church fathers is that they are strongly prejudiced against this group(s) and claim to have replaced Judaism entirely with the new religion of Christianity, overthrowing the Torah for both Gentile and Jew.

    I think it best today to use the collective term Ebionite/Nazarene in an attempt to capture the whole of this earliest movement, and it would be useful to revive the term Yachad as a collective designation for the community of the Hasidim/Saints. I use Ebionite/Nazarene as an historical designation to refer to those original, 1st century, largely Palestinian followers of Jesus, gathered around Yaaqov (James) in Jerusalem, who were zealous for the Torah, but saw themselves as part of the New Covenant Way inaugurated by their "True Teacher" Jesus. James is a key and neglected figure in this whole picture. As the blood brother of Jesus, authority and rights of guidance were passed on to him. When he was brutally murdered in 62 C.E. by the High Priest Ananus (see Josephus, Antiquities 20.197ff), Simeon, a second brother [sic "cousin" according to Hegesippus] of Jesus took over the leadership of the Jerusalem based movement. Clearly we have the idea here of a blood-line dynasty, and according to the Gospel of Thomas, discovered in 1946 in upper Egypt, this dynastic succession was ordained by Jesus himself who tells his followers who ask him who will lead them when he leaves: "No matter where you are, you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being" (GT 12). Indeed, when Simeon was crucified by the Emperor Trajan around 106 C.E., a third brother of Jesus, Judas, took over the leadership of the community.
    As far as "beliefs" of the Ebionites, the documents of the New Testament, critically evaluated, are among our best sources. There are fragments and quotations surviving from their Hebrew Gospel tradition (see see A. F. J. Klijn, Jewish-Christian Gospel Tradition, E. J. Brill, 1992), as well as the text of "Hebrew Matthew" preserved by Ibn Shaprut, and now published in a critical edition by George Howard (The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Mercer University Press, 1995). Based on what we can reliably put together from other sources we can say the Ebionite/Nazarene movement could be distinguished by the following views:

    1) Jesus as the Prophet like Moses, or True Teacher (but not to be confused with YHVH God of Israel), who will anoint his Messiahs on his right and left hand when he is revealed in power following his rejection and death. These two figures, the Davidic Nasi (Prince of the Yachad) and Priest, will rule with him in the Kingdom of God.

    2) Disdain for eating meat and even the Temple slaughter of animals, preferring the ideals of the pre-Flood diet and what they took to be the original ideal of worship (see Gen 9:1-5; Jer 7:21-22; Isa 11:9; 66:1-4). A general interest in seeking the Path reflected in the pre-Sinai revelation, especially the time from Enoch to Noah. For example, divorce was shunned, even though technically it was later allowed by Moses.

    3) Dedication to following the whole Torah, as applicable to Israel and to Gentiles, but through the "easy yoke" halacha of their Teacher Jesus, which emphasized the Spirit of the Biblical Prophets in a restoration of the "True Faith," the Ancient Paths (Jeremiah 6:16), from which, by and large, they believed the establishment Jewish groups of 2nd Temple times had lost.
    4) Rejection of the "doctrines and traditions" of men, which they believed had been added to the pure Torah of Moses, including scribal alterations of the texts of Scripture (Jeremiah 8:8).
    How the earliest group(s) viewed Paul is unclear. By some reports he was tolerated or accepted as one who could go to the Gentiles with a version of the Nazarene message (Acts 15, 21). Others apparently believed he was an apostate from the Torah and founder of a new religion—Christianity.

    Nazarenes and Ebionites

    Jerusalem, the home of the earliest Christian Church, was no more. Rome took its place as the center of Christianity. Besides the letters of Paul, Christian theology was written by the Apostolic Fathers in response to persecution. The Hellenization of Christianity came from these apologists (such as Justin). One effect of this is the strong focus we see in the Catholic Church on what you believe; however, the truth of Christianity, the one with Hebraic origins, was not seen through theoretical concepts, like the Trinity, but it was practiced: Jesus is "the way, the truth, and life" (John 14.6). Hebraic Christianity was practical; Hellenistic Christianity was about revealed teachings. A focus on the law in the former, a focus on orthodox beliefs in the latter. Unfortunately, these orthodox believers would reject Jewish Christians as false teachers or heretics.
     
  4. fadded blue jeans

    fadded blue jeans New Member

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    Lutherans have been telling them for centuries You will never see it ..its in the heart only God can see the true church.

    those who trust in Jesus merits alone for their salvation.
     
  5. Servetus

    Servetus New Member

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    Thank you for the informative post, Ahanu,

    I once undertook an in-depth study of especially the ante-Nicene period of Christianity and think that the Ebionites were, as your post points out, an interesting lot. So, too, were the Essenes (of first century Judaism). Maybe, if we could locate the Essenes, who seem to have disbanded once their “Teacher of Righteousness” arrived (assuming, of course, that he did arrive on schedule), we could find the Ebionites and their precursors.

    With that said, I was recently directed to this fascinating video. I understand that it is presented by an unapologetic partisan of sorts, Dr. Patton, and I have not had time to read his detractors and their rebuttals to his findings, but if and only if it is true that fragments of St. Mark’s Gospel and other New Testamentary writings have been excavated in cave -and what other number would it be- seven at Qumran, the locale of the Dead Sea Scrolls, then it is a significant discovery indeed. Again, caveat lector, but, while we search through the hoary mists of antiquity for the true church and missing links thereto, this seems well worth noting:

    Cave Seven at Qumran
     
  6. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Ahanu, thaks for the post. I quite agree. Both you and Severus should also look at those ante-Chaldeon groups (like Armenian and Ethiopean), while they are not as interesting (perhaps) as the extinct groups you speak of I believe the arguement can be made that the Ebionites and Essenes were "Orthodox" before Masada (or the the latest) Bar Kochba.

    Pax et amore vincunt omnia. Radarmark.
     
  7. Servetus

    Servetus New Member

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    Probably because, as my nick-name suggests, I never met a heresy I couldn’t call my own and a heresiarch I could not in turn hug, I tend more toward Marcion than the Ebionites, despite the fact that the latter have a greater claim to antiquity and are probably closer to the historical Jesus than to the mythological Christ (if the clearly facile distinction between the two, Jesus and Christ, be permitted to at least momentarily stand). I tend, moreover, to view Christianity, at least the received, canonical teachings of Christ, as something more in the nature of a repudiation of Judaism than as its reputed “fulfillment.” In other words, I do not see the line between the Law and the Gospel as seamless, by any means, as did the Ebionites, apparently, and neither do I hear the two pieces of music, the one played by Moses and the other by Jesus, as being in the main harmonious (in relation to each other).

    With that said, and given the self-confessional nature of this therefore embarrassing post :D, I might also have a bias in favor of Marcion because, with some exceptions, and this is probably due in part to the occasional reader of Nietzsche to say nothing of Philo of Alexandria in me, I tend to consider Greek/Hellenic civilization as in many respects superior to Judaic/Hebraic. There. I've said it. That is my bias. Here, then, is a final confession for this post: I may well be one of those whom Nietzsche called a “three-quarter” and whom his countryman, Sigmund Freud, referred to as a “half-converted” Christian. But please don't tell anybody.
     
  8. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    I personally am more of a Cretean (love Katzanzakis and all things Oriental Orthodox). So while I do not go back to Rome and Marcion, I get halfway from Israel to Rome. Actually, Mom was Jewish, Dad Catholic. Compromized and raised me Methodist. So now I am a Quaker. Makes sense.
     
  9. Servetus

    Servetus New Member

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    That’s interesting. It never occurred to me, until now, that John Wesley might somehow provide the workable, if at times ill-defined, Concordat between Moses Maimonides and St. Augustine.
     
  10. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Well, they "compromised", since Wesley founded arguably "the most liberal" branch of Catholicism and Dad did not have to convert.
     
  11. Servetus

    Servetus New Member

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    I know Protestantism is and was considered, by many, to be a “Judaizing” tendency within Christianity. Martin Luther, for instance, grew increasingly annoyed with Jews –to the point of calumniating, or defaming them- when, after he had, from his perspective, largely purified Christianity of its Roman encrustations, they still refused to convert to his religion en masse. I am not sure, but I suspect that, before his death, Exodus 32:9 became one of his favorite verses.
     
  12. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Well, he did lay the framework for the holocaust (see Constantine's Sword). That is a long and bloody hard road to trod. But Protestentism does not really "Judacize" christianity. The Jewish beliefs are not literal nor merely scriputurially based. Most of the Talmud and Rabbinic reflections are based on reasoning about the intent of the scriptures, not their literal reading. In this way (I think) they allow for those .001% cases (like abortion due to rapes by the nazis or allowing Pi = pi, not 3).

    Pax et amore omnia vincunt.
     
  13. Servetus

    Servetus New Member

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    I have read sections of that book. It is becoming increasingly customary for authors to lay this charge against Luther, but, for a more nuanced view, I would refer, as well, to the witty, begrudgingly baptized (and still identifiably Jewish) Heinrich Heine who, writing before the era of the Third Reich, spoke highly of Luther, despite the latter’s serious flaws and notoriously sharp tongue. Heine was, as I recall having read, educated in the finest (Protestant) German gymnasium, or private school, and, in that circle, it was customary to praise Luther and to see him as in a long line of German philosophical heroes. Karl Marx, whose father was a baptized Lutheran, was also no fan of usury, which he practically identified with Jews, and, in one of his lesser known pamphlets, described usury, or “shacher,” as the de facto god of secularized Jews. Ouch! Maybe Karl Marx got carried away by reading Luther and, in his writings, laid the framework for the vast expanse of Soviet gulags over which Kaganovich presided, and none too lovingly at that.

    Anyway, that tangent aside, I think another reason why Luther is said to have Judaized Christianity, quite apart from his move away from the rites and locus of Rome, is because he was instructed in Hebrew by Johannes Reuchlin.
     
  14. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    However, it did him no good. I would point out that non-literalism, care for the less fortunate, and respect for learning are traits of Judaism that definately did not transfer over, even on his best days. We can get into this if you want, but his own words pretty much can be interpreted as literalist, tribal, and small-minded (I am not saying that of the chrch that bears his name, nor even him, but rather what his words on their own say).

    Pax et amore omnia vincunt!
     
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Hi Servetus — a pleasure to meet you, too.

    Indeed so, but apostolic succession provides the best and most reliable line, I think.

    I'm not sure I understand you ... ?

    Oh, indeed! I think all one can look for is a continuity of teaching.

    As a Catholic, for example, I find the schism between ourselves and the Orthodox Patriarchates a nonsense. I'm sure if St Peter were around, he'd bang heads together.

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  16. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Brava again, Thomas! The Armenian, Ethiopean, Assyrian, Oriental, and Eastern Orthodox of good will would probably appaud as well. The differences across this spectrum of "Early Chistianities" is much, much smaller than those within Protestentism. As I sid elsewhere, the majority of Protestant groups seem to me to be but "new traditions". Sometimes, methinks that Gnosticism, Marcionism, Montanism (sp?) and Manicheanism are older traditions than most mainstream christian groups. If one's tradition cannot point to anyone between Ephesus and Huss, I think "new tradition" is perhaps appropo.

    Pax et amore omnia vincunt.
     
  17. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    The beauty of Latin, and other case-system languages, is that word order is quite free, and can be used for emphasis: Pax et amore omnia vincunt would emphasize that peace and love conquer everything, but his order Pax et amore vincunt omnia stresses that they conquer everything.
     
  18. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Hi Radarmark —
    I like to think so ... certainly it seems that way in some quarters.

    I think 'gnosticism' is a tag covering a particular manifestation of the universal aspect of knowledge-based traditions, it's a very exoteric aspect of jnani yoga of the east, as opposed to say Stoicism or Platonism for example, or indeed orthodox traditional Christianity, which preached a gnosis of being, rather than a gnosis of knowing.

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  19. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    I really do not think that really covers the early Christian heretics, but it might. I was thinking of the Thomasine, Valentinian and Basilidian schools (all three, for different reasons called "gnostic" and "heretic"). But the emphasis (IMO) is always on knowing beyond knowing (hence, gnostic fits well).

    Pax at amore omnia vincunt
     
  20. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Wot? I don't think the Mandeans consider themselves Christian?

    The Armenians claim apostolic succession, the Ethiopians claim their foundation from the eunuch converted by Philip the Deacon as recorded in Acts. Either way, they are off-shoots from the stem.

    God bless,

    Thomas
     

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