The question of guidance was of great importance for the early church.
Answer for yourself: Who was to be the authority and give direction to this new movement; the Jesus Movement within Biblical Judaism?
To answer this question to its fullest we need to re-examine the events that surround the first Church Council as found in Acts 15. In this article I will refer to this Church Council as the Nazorean Council. Others have attached other names to it such as the Ebionite Council, but for purposes of this article it will be called the Nazorean Council.
The authority of the Nazorean Council derived from personal knowledge and experience of what Yeshua had said and done in his public life: its chief members had received Yeshua's direct mandate and could pass this on to their successors since having lived with and had personally witnessed his life and ministry for themselves.
But there existed a competition for authority. The creators of the new Gentile authority (Petro-Pauline Propagandists) had to establish a valid title to secure adhesion on the part of the churches.
The church at Rome built on the Pauline foundation, and so was able to make guidance by the Holy Spirit the chief source of Christian authority for the future. In due course any doctrine which the Church found it desirable to proclaim as Universal Truth could be attributed to this guidance, even when there was no warrant for it in the New Testament itself.
Initially, however, despite great successes the church at Rome did not have everything its own way in formulating the new Christianity. In the East and in Egypt the Christian communities were still considerably under the influence of the original Jewish Christian teaching, and a number of them had a substantial proportion of Jews and converts to Judaism among their members. The epistles from Rome bear witness to this in their attacks on the advocates of Judaic doctrines. In these communities no justification was seen for overturning the instruction of the Apostles which had emanated from Jerusalem before the war. This was indeed a time of grave uncertainty and circumstances called for an agonizing reappraisal; but it was not evident that the situation required a wholesale abandonment of former positions.
Some people, certainly, would bitterly resent and oppose the contentions of the Petro-Pauline propagandists. But even those who were greatly impressed by the seeming authenticity of the epistles now put forth, and were especially attracted by the Gospel of Mark, would to an extent resist the implication that the original apostolic body had been superseded. There were yet living members of the family of Yeshua and numerous persons who had known and heard his Apostles. The prevailing tendency would be towards compromise. And this is what we find in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which combine Eastern and Western sources of information, the former particularly (Eastern Christianity/Petrines) incorporating sayings and ideas which cannot be reconciled with the terms of the new Christianity, to the discomfort of subsequent exegetes (Western Christianity/Paulines).
The real struggle was between the apostolic doctrine that Yeshua was the Messiah of God descended from David and the new teaching based on interpretation of Pauline Christology that he was the Divine Son of God sent for human salvation and was not a political figure. Paul himself accepted that Yeshua was born of the line of David, though demonstrated to be Son of God by the resurrection (Rom. 4:3). This was opposite to what the Eastern Church/Petrines believed as attested by the baptism of Yeshua where God adopts Yeshua and calls Him his Son. It is this major struggle which will divide Jewish Christianity, or should I say Petrine (Jerusalem Christianity) from Pauline Christianity in the early church.
What is important for us to understand in our research is that it was the Church of the West (Paulines) who were anxious not to stress the Messianic aspect in its endeavour to procure the toleration of the Roman Government, for in fact Rome considered any claimant to the throne or Kingship of Israel, or any nation for that matter, a political threat against the Emperor and Rome (nothing had changed since the days of Jesus). In the East, where there was much hostility to Roman government and considerable loyalty to the authority of the Nazorean Council, there was no such inhibition. The ruling family, the Heirs of Yeshua, gloried in their Davidic descent and called attention to it from their genealogical records.
Thus the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke would not and could not, if their books were to find acceptance, omit the cardinal testimony of a substantial part of the Church. The Gospel of Mark had had a powerful effect, and was therefore employed by the other Evangelists, but the fact that the end of Mark is lacking has suggested to scholars a scarcity of copies of the work and a loss of popularity once Matthew and Luke were in existence. These other Gospels, Matthew and Luke, were more Petrine (reflecting Eastern Christianity and its beliefs); neither neglected nor played down the Messianism of primitive Christianity, while responsive to the Paulinist teaching of the West which were considered heretical by the Jerusalem Church.
This comes out particularly in the Nativity narratives.
While Jesus is born of a virgin through the agency of the Holy Spirit he is none the less in Matthew the predestined king of the Jews, and through Joseph his legal father, is descended from David. Luke makes the angel Gabriel announce to Mary, 'You will conceive in your womb and have a son, whom you are to call Yeshua. He will be a great man, and be termed "Son of the Most High", and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David: he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and his sovereignty shall be without end' (Luke. 1:31-33). The angel of the Lord also announces to certain Jewish shepherds at Bethlehem, 'I bring you news of a great joy which will be shared by all the people, that today in David's town a deliverer has been born to you, none other than the Lord Messiah' (Luke 2:10-11). No Roman official would have had any joy from reading these words.
So long as there were Jews at the head of Christian affairs in the East, that is to say down to A.D. 132 (Down to the invasion of the Jews under Hadrian. There were fifteen successions of bishops (of Jerusalem), all of whom, they say, were Hebrews from the first and received the knowledge of Christ pure and unadulterated. . . . For at that time the whole Church under them consisted of faithful Hebrews, who continued from the time of the apostles until the siege of Jerusalem which then took place' (Euseb. Eccl Hist. IV. v.). Their names are given as James, Simeon, Justus, Zaccheus, Tobias, Benjamin, John, Matthew, Philip, Seneca, Justus II, Levi, Ephraim, Joseph and Judas). What is important for us to understand is that there was some check to the relinquishment in this region of features of the Church's original teaching, though its waning effectiveness was further weakened by the persecuting policy of Domitian, the Emperor of Rome.
One of the products of that persecution, the book of Revelation published in Asia Minor, in spite of subsequent revision retains reference to Yeshua as 'the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David'. This apocalypse, emphatically anti-Roman, continues to proclaim, 'The dominion of the world has become the dominion of our Lord and his Messiah, and he shall reign for ever and ever' (Rev. 11:15). The statement is of great importance since 'our Lord' here is not Yeshua but God himself, and Yeshua is distinguished from God as his Messiah. The position of the Revelation is that of Psalm 2, a favorite with the early Christians. It is this understanding of the nature of Christ which the early Jewish believers held in common. We call them Nazorean or Ebionites today, but sadly their belief system about Yeshua has been re-tooled by the line of Gentile Church Councils which rejected their teachings and substituted their own. More on that later.
Another work, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (Didache), which also underwent some later changes, nevertheless preserves the same concept about Messiah in the eucharistic prayer over the cup of wine: 'We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David thy servant, which thou didst make known to us through Yeshua thy servant; to thee be glory for ever' (Didache 9:2). The relationship of Yeshua to God is the same as that of David to God, to whom alone prayer is to be addressed. The prayer, like others in the Didache, reflects Hebrew liturgical forms. The production in the East of documents in the name of the Twelve Apostles was one way of hitting back at Western Petro-Paulinism which opposed what Yeshua had originally taught.
It is by no means easy to speak of early reactions to what was being put out from the West because of lack of records. But one effect of the prominence given to Peter through the Roman initiative may possibly be seen in the outcrop of Petrine literature in the second century, such as The Preaching of Peter, the Gospel of Peter, the Teaching of Peter, and the Revelation of Peter. An uncanonical quotation which brings in Peter as leader occurs in the Homily known as the Second Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians.
On the other hand, of uncertain derivation, are the canonical epistles in the names of James and Jude, brothers of Yeshua, which attack Paulinist doctrine. II Peter is a kind of reply to Jude, borrowing from it and at the same time endorsing the authority of Paul.
After the middle of the second century in the Memoirs of Hegesippus we have the records, fragmentary unfortunately, of a man who endeavoured to promote a truly catholic Christianity by collecting traditions of East and West and thus furnishing material of consequence for a general ecclesiastical history. We also observe in the remains of the Exposition of the Dominical Oracles by Papias of Hierapolis (c. A.D. 135) the concern of another Eastern Christian to assemble as much as possible of what the Apostles and Elders had taught of the things said and done by Christ as recalled by those who had heard him.
A telling counterblast to the new Christianity of the West, however, could only come from the Nazoreans/Ebionites, the direct heirs of the apostolic doctrine. Ever since the destruction of Jerusalem they had undergone great vicissitudes which made it extremely difficult for them to have adequate contact with other bodies of Christians and thus to be sufficiently informed of what was going on. They were in danger from the Romans, especially their leaders of the family of Yeshua who proclaimed their Davidic descent, as actual or potential rebels. They were regarded as a menace by rabbinical Judaism, now concerned to put a damper on apocalyptic and Messianic enthusiasm in order that the Jews should be able to settle down quietly under the new conditions and avoid the risk of Roman reprisals and restrictions of their religious liberties. Consequently, the rabbinists from about A.D. 90 sought to ban them, the Essenes, and all Last Day fanatics from the synagogues. The rabbinists attempted to suppress the reading of apocalyptic writings, which many Jews regarded as inspired, and denounced those who calculated the Time of the End. Under Gamaliel II a prayer against sectaries was composed by Samuel the Little to be used in public worship in the synagogues. This may be the prayer inserted in the Eighteen Benedictions, originally commencing, 'And for sectaries let There be no hope' (i.e. of a share in the world to come). The rabbinical reference is Talmud Babli, Berachoth, fol. 28b-29a. One ruling seems directed against the Essenes: 'If a man said, "I will not go before the Ark (i.e. the sacred chest containing scrolls of the Torah) in colored raiment," he may not even go before it in white raiment (Mishinah, Megillah, iv. 8-9).
These descendents of Yeshua, as well as the original church of Nazoreans/Ebionites were looked at despairingly by later Christians on account of their Jewish nationalism and maintenance of Jewish observances. Thus, it is easy to see that Paulinist Churches despised the Nazorean/Ebionite steadfastness in rejecting this new Paulinist teaching about Yeshua, thus again increasingly despising them for their refusal to acknowledge his deity. The early Gentile Catholic Church Fathers, in their natural opposition to Jewish Christianity, ignored all evidence that Jewish Christianity represented an unbroken tradition from the time of the Apostles.
Oppressed and afflicted, forced to live for the most part in outlying areas in Galilee, Auranitis and Gaulanitis, the Nazoreans/Ebionites nevertheless continued active and made numerous Jewish converts. In certain places they could openly have synagogues and communities. They suffered especially in the persecution initiated by Domitian, and later in the Jewish revolt under Bar-Kokhba when they refused to recognize this leader's Messianic claims. In the Jewish war which lately raged, Bar-Kokhba, the leader of the revolt of the Jews (A.D. 132-5), gave orders that Christians alone should be led to cruel punishments, unless they would deny Yeshua Christ and utter blasphemy' (Justin, I. Apol. xxxi. The majority of those affected in Palestine must have been Jewish Christians at this time.
The Nazoreans/Ebionites, having their own problems, could devote little attention to developments in the Church at large, especially in the Paulinist Churches in the West, and probably before the first quarter of the second century they were not too familiar with what had been happening. By the time they could make a rejoinder there had been changes of emphasis in their own outlook, and some groups had acquired various eccentricities as a result of new teaching and relationships with remnants of Baptist, Essene, Samaritan and other sects of 'Saints' of the pre-war period.
Our information about the Nazoreans/Ebionites is still slender, and outside the New Testament no documents are earlier than A.D. 150. Many of the authorities who can be quoted are not well informed or are hostile to the original Jewish Yeshua Movement in Jerusalem. We therefore have to run ahead somewhat to glean what we can of Nazorean/Ebionite reactions to the Petro-Pauline propaganda. While what we can learn derives from sources extending from the second century to the tenth, and allowing for the fact that much of it is second-hand knowledge, there is a remarkable amount of consistency in the traditions which argues both for their antiquity and general reliability.
Antagonism to Paulinism was not, of course, a Nazorean/Ebionite novelty of the second century. Nazorean/Ebionite feeling must indeed have been strong to leave behind such a legacy of enmity, so that for centuries in their teaching the Nazoreans/Ebionites harked back to the initial conflict, embroidering the account with additional hostile details. But rankling memories of what after all had taken place a long while ago would not sufficiently account for the intensity of the animosity betrayed subsequently. Remote generations could not have kept these memories alive so acutely unless much had transpired later to fan the flames.
We see the justification for the persistent and virulent attacks on Paul in the realization by the Nazoreans/Ebionites that an idolatrous religion had been founded on his thinking, a religion which blasphemously identified Yeshua with God.
The crime was aggravated by an assertion that the new Faith was the true apostolic Faith; by having invented and perverted many things about Yeshua; by having been plotted in Rome, enemy of God's people; and by the audacious falsehood that the venerated Peter had apostasized and given his blessing to Paulinism. As most of the Church progressively went over to the new religion, and dared to call the Church of the Apostles heretical, and when this religion finally became that of the Roman Empire and mercilessly persecuted the inheritors of the Truth and drove them away, the seed sown by Paul had indeed become a tree bearing bitter fruit. No wonder that by the Nazoreans/Ebionites Paul was vilified and execrated continually!
The first admission of the existence of two opposing Christianities comes from Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with the Jew Trypho. Justin was born in Samaria at Flavia Neapolis, the modern Nablus. He studied philosophy and later became a Christian. His travels as an evangelist finally brought him to Rome, where he suffered martyrdom about A.D. 165. While Justin subscribed in the main to Western Christianity, he still adhered to some of the tenets of the East, including that of the restoration of Jerusalem and the millennial reign of Christ on earth. He did not agree with Nazorean Christianity, but tolerantly refused to condemn it as the Neo-Pauline Christians were doing. In the Dialogue Justin allows that the Jewish followers of Yeshua were entitled, if they chose, to observe the Mosaic Law, though he does not approve of their requiring Gentile believers to do so. He cannot go along with those Paulinists who would have no intercourse with the Jewish Christians or give them hospitality, and denied that they could be saved. He himself was prepared to associate with them in all things as kinsmen and brethren.
We can see from Justin's statements that by the middle of the second century Western Christianity had achieved dominance and the old Faith of the Apostolic Church was now being treated as sectarian. The fundamental difference between the two Christianities was that the new (Western/Paulinist) proclaimed that Christ was God, while the old (Eastern /Jerusalem /Petrine) declared that Christ was of God. Justin sides with the Christodeists, holding that Christ existed as God before the ages and submitted to be born as man while remaining God even as man. But he will not denounce those who hold the contrary conviction, that Yeshua was solely man, anointed by election and thus becoming the Christ (Messiah). The vital thing, whether Yeshua was God or not God, is that he should be acknowledged as Christ (Justin, Dial. With Trypho, 47-49).
This, however, is not the position of Irenaeus a few years later, who though he too came from the East and was a millennarian is more decisively in the Roman camp as a result of his close relations with the Roman Church when bishop of Lyons. He emphatically affirms the dogma of the West that as Son of God Yeshua Christ is God, and expresses its creed in terms that anticipate the Nicene formula of the fourth century (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, I. 10.1; II. 1.5). But he did not depend wholly on Western thought, being also influenced, as Justin may have been, by the Fourth Gospel, whose author was the protagonist in the East of the deity of Christ as the incarnate Word of God.
Irenaeus attacks the Nazoreans as heretics under the name of Ebionites. The name is from the Hebrew for 'the Poor', a designation employed both by the Essenes and the early Christians to signify their humble following of the way of God. Later Christian writers would have it either that Ebion was the name of the man who founded the sect, or that at any rate the name was rightly bestowed on those who had a poor opinion of the dignity of Christ. Whether one branch of the Nazoreans particularly adopted this name is not known for certain; but it must be allowed that Ebionism came to represent those Jewish Christians who deviated in some respects from the main body, being strict vegetarians and therefore opposed to animal sacrifices. It would, however, be going too far on the available evidence to regard the Ebionites as a denomination wholly distinct from the Nazoreans.
According to Irenaeus, those of this persuasion believe that Yeshua was born in the normal manner as the son of Joseph and Mary and declared to be the Christ at his baptism. 'They use the Gospel of Matthew only,' he says, 'and reject the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the Law. As to the prophetical writings, they endeavour to expound them in a somewhat singular manner they practice circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the Law, and are so Judaic in their way of life, that they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the House of God. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, I. 26.1-20).
The passage is important in many respects. The reference to the use of the prophetical writings indicates that the Jewish Christians employed similar methods to those of the Essenes in interpreting the Old Testament in the manner found in the Commentaries among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Of course in relation to Yeshua as Messiah this had been done in testimonies in the Gospels and elsewhere; but what Irenaeus states is confirmed by remains of the Nazorean Commentary on Isaiah quoted by Jerome (Jerome Commentary on Isaiah, quoted by Schonfied, Saints Against Caesar, p. 180f.). Evidently, too, the Nazoreans turned towards Jerusalem in prayer like other Jews. Jews in the West turn to the East during the recitation of the Eighteen Benedictions. The Nazoreans when they fled to Mesopotamia had to turn towards the West in order to face Jerusalem. But we are particularly interested that it is here for the first time stated that the Nazoreans acknowledged only one Gospel, that of Matthew, and that they would have nothing to do with the Pauline epistles, denouncing Paul as an apostate from the Law.
Regarding the Nazorean Gospel, Irenaeus elsewhere says that Matthew had written his Gospel in Hebrew, and he probably deduced this from what Papias of Hierapolis in Asia Minor had set down some fifty years previously that 'Matthew compiled the Oracles in Hebrew, and each one interpreted them as he was able'. Papias was almost certainly referring to a primitive collection of Biblical passages which proved that Yeshua was the Messiah, which Matthew may well have prepared and a copy of which was in the possession of the Nazoreans (Passover Plot, Schonfield, pp. 234-238). But it is established from many Patristic sources that they also had a Hebrew or Aramaic Gospel comparable to those in the New Testament, reputed to be by Matthew, but commonly known to the churches as the Gospel according to the Hebrews, and of which extracts have been preserved. A discussion of the subject would take us too far afield, but we may briefly say, because this is relevant, that the composition of a Gospel of the type of the canonical books would be unlikely as the natural literary expression of a Jewish body. The cause of its production would more probably be deliberately to counter the New Testament Gospels and undermine their effect on Jewish Christians by furnishing a document that was consistent with Nazorean/Ebionite teaching and tradition. The passages available for examination tend to support this view, and it would appear that in due course more than one form was in circulation, such as that significantly entitled The Gospel of the Twelve or According to the Apostles. The remains we have exhibit knowledge of canonical Matthew and Luke. It is possible that John was also known. The only effective way to reply was by composing a corrective Gospel.
We have abundant evidence that many groups from eccentric Christians to outright Gnostics were producing Gospels from the second century onward to get their ideas across under apostolic names, and their literature also included Acts, Epistles and Revelations. We learn from Epiphanius bishop of Salamis in the fourth century that the Jewish Christians had created an anti-Pauline Acts of the Apostles. Of the Ebionites he writes: 'They have other Acts, which they call those of the Apostles, in which are many things filled with their impiety, whence they have incidentally furnished themselves with arms against the truth. For they set forth certain Ascents and Instructions in the Ascents of James, representing him as holding forth against both temple and sacrifices and against the fire on the altar, and many other things filled with empty talk; so that they are not ashamed in them to denounce Paul in certain invented utterances of the malignant and deceitful work of their false Apostles (Epiphanius, Panarion (Refutations of All Heresies), xxx. 16 & 23).
Epiphanius is an important if erratic witness. He was himself of Jewish origin and became a violent champion of Christian orthodoxy. He became acquainted with another Jewish convert to Nicene Christianity called Joseph who had been a student in the household of the Jewish Patriarch Hillel II. This Joseph reported that in Jewish possession were Hebrew copies of Matthew, John and the Acts of the Apostles, and it is to be inferred that these were books obtained from the Nazoreans rather than translations of the canonical Gospels made either by the Church or by the Jews themselves. When Jewish Gospel parody was produced in the Toldoth Jeshu this was based on the Nazorean-Ebionite Gospel and not on he canonical texts.
We have some confirmation, therefore, that the Jewish Christians felt obliged to combat the onslaughts of the Church Fathers and reveal the errors of the New Testament writings. We should not conclude that the Nazoreans were entirely inventing: they must have had a certain amount of genuine traditions which they had preserved and which gave a different picture of Christian beginnings. But polemics forced them to go much further when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and they became the victims of Christian persecution. Their attacks on Paul as the root cause of what had happened became more virulent, and they were now saying that his parents had been Greeks, that he came to Jerusalem because he desired to marry the high priest's daughter and therefore became a proselyte to Judaism. When his suit was rejected, angry at the slight, he wrote against circumcision, the Sabbath and the Law (Epiphanius, Panarion, xxx).
Lately further light has been thrown on the Jewish Christians and their attitude to the dominant Christian Faith by an Arabic manuscript in Istanbul dating from the end of the tenth century. The manuscript is No. 1575 in the Shehid 'All Pasha collection in Istanbul, and entitled The Establishment of Proofs for the Priesthood of Our Master Mohammed, by 'Abd al-Jabbar al-Hamadani chief Qadi of Rayy (d. I024/5). This important text has been edited and translated by Pro£ Shlomo Pines as regards the anti-Christian section and proved to contain much Jewish Christian material. See Pines, 'The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity According to a New Source' (Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Vol. II, No. 13, Jerusalem). This document reflects to a considerable extent the developments between the fifth and tenth century and much relates to the Islamic challenge to Christianity. But the author, a Muslim controversialist, appears to have had access to Jewish Christian literature or sources of information which furnished him with ammunition, and what he presents reveals much more of the Nazorean arguments and traditions and rabid anti-Paulinism.
We have yet to deal with another vital consequence of the bid for leadership of the church. Rome initiated, in the latter part of the first century, tactics which involved a denigration of the original Christian authority vested in the Apostles of Yeshua and members of his family, and conveyed that Peter was the supreme spokesman for the Twelve, and that he had been converted to Paulinism. This enterprise, when it had fully matured and brought into being the new Christian religion, could only give rise to a counter-attack by the Nazoreans in which it was demonstrated that the true teaching of and about Yeshua was held by the Apostles mandated by him while on earth, that the rightful chief representative of Yeshua had been his brother James, and that Peter had never defected to Paulinism.
The only substantial presentation of the Nazorean response is contained in the pseudo-Clementines, the Homilies and Recognitions. These works unfortunately are only available to us in Latin translations from the Greek, to an extent abridged and edited, made towards the end of the fourth century by Rufinus of Aquileia. The original compositions probably belong to the early third century. As they stand the ideas expressed are not exclusively Ebionite, and there is a mingling of the doctrines of various Syrian bodies. But incorporated in the text are elements from second-century works, and these are often Jewish Christian.
The Clementines have two main ingredients, which are interwoven. The first is a romance telling how a Roman family was broken up by misfortune and its members scattered abroad undergoing many sufferings. But there is a happy ending, since all are finally reunited, having become or becoming Christians. This tale previously existed as a distinct book of which we have a Syriac exemplar. The second ingredient is a narrative of Peter's pursuit of the anti-Christian Simon Magus (scholars recognize this as a code name for Paul who himself was gnostic on many beliefs) from city to city to combat his teaching and influence. This too probably goes back to an independent work entitled The Travels of Peter. In the Clementines the hero of the romance part of the story is Clement of Rome, converted by Barnabas, who journeys to Palestine to become Peter's disciple, and it is in the course of Peter's travels that Clement becomes reunited with his father, mother and two brothers. Among other distinct works drawn upon are The Preaching of Peter and the Ascents of James referred to by Epiphanius.
Preserved by the Clementines is a clear aim to counter Western propaganda. It is not Peter who has joined the Paulinists but the esteemed Clement of Rome who comes to Palestine and joins Peter and the true Apostolic Church, which is headed by James. Paul is alluded to as 'the enemy' and the arch-heretic Simon Magus is also used as a medium through whom Paul and Pauline teaching are attacked. The obvious intention was to reach Christians who had gone over to the opposing camp. Prefacing the Homilies is a letter from Peter to James, of which we may quote a part. Here we have a retort in kind.
'Peter to James, the lord and bishop of the holy Church under the Father of all, through Yeshua Christ wishes peace always.
'Knowing, my brother, your eager desire for that which is for the advantage of us all, I beg and beseech you not to communicate to any one of the Gentiles the books of my preachings which I sent to you, nor to anyone of our own race before trial; but if anyone has been proved and found worthy, then to commit them to him, after the manner in which Moses delivered his to the Seventy who succeeded to his chair. Wherefore also the fruit of that caution appears even till now.... In order, therefore, that the like may also happen to those among us as to those Seventy, give the books of my preachings to our brethren, with the like mystery of initiation, that they may indoctrinate those who wish to take part in teaching; for if it is not so done our word of truth will be rent into many opinions. And this I know, not as being a prophet, but as already seeing the beginning of this very evil. For some among the Gentiles have rejected my legal preaching, attaching themselves to certain lawless and trifling preaching of the man who is my enemy. And these things some have attempted while I am still alive, to transform my words by certain various interpretations, in order to the dissolution of the Law; as though I also myself were of such a mind, but did not freely proclaim it, which God forbid! For such a thing were to act in opposition to the Law of God which was spoken by Moses, and was borne witness to by our Lord in respect of its eternal continuance. . . . But these men, professing I know not how, to know my mind, undertake to explain my words, which they have heard of me, more intelligently than I who spoke them, telling their catechumens that this is my meaning, which indeed I never thought of But if, while I am still alive, they dare thus to misrepresent me, how much more will those who shall come after me dare to do so."
In the Recognitions 'Peter' warns believers against accepting any other authority and teaching than that of the Nazorean Council and attacks the new Christianity of the West.
'Our Lord, confirming the worship of the One God, answered him (i.e. Satan): "It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." And he, terrified by this answer, and fearing lest the true religion of the One and True God should be restored, hastened straightway to send forth into this world false prophets, and false apostles, and false teachers, who should speak indeed in the name of Christ, but should accomplish the will of the demon. Wherefore observe the greatest caution, that you believe no teacher, unless he brings from Jerusalem the testimonial of James the Lord's brother, or of whosoever may come after him. For no one, unless he has gone up thither, and there has been approved as a fit and faithful teacher for preaching the word of Christ . . . is by any means to be received. But let neither prophet nor apostle be looked for by you at this time, besides us. For there is one true Prophet, whose words we twelve Apostles preach; for he is "the acceptable year of God", having us Apostles as his twelve months.' (Recognitions, IV, xxxiv-xxxv. There is no room for Paul as the 13th Apostle).
Paul had contended that his gospel was the true one because he had received it by direct revelation from the Christ in heaven, unlike the twelve Apostles who depended on the teaching of Christ while on earth. The new Christianity, which gave rise to the Catholic Church, continued to hold that in the formulation of its doctrine it was progressively guided by revelation through the Holy Spirit. Peter in the Clementines combats this claim in his controversy with Simon Magus (alias Paul). Simon argues:
You (Peter) professed that you had well understood the doctrines and deeds of your teacher, because you saw them before you with your own eyes and heard them with your own ears, and that it is not possible for any other to have anything similar by vision or apparition. But I shall show that this is false. He who hears anything with his own ears is not altogether fully assured of the truth of what is said; for his mind has to consider whether he is wrong or not, inasmuch as he (i.e. Christ) is a man as far as appearance goes. But apparition not merely presents an object to view, but inspires him who sees it with confidence, for it comes from God. Now first reply to this.'
Peter has a ready answer. 'The Prophet, because he is a prophet, having first given certain information with regard to what is said objectively by him, is believed with confidence; and being known beforehand to be a true prophet, and being examined and questioned as the disciple wishes, he replies. But he who trusts to apparition or vision and dream is insecure. For it is possible either that he (i.e. the one who reveals himself) may be an evil demon or a deceiving spirit, pretending in his speeches to be what he is not. But if anyone should wish to inquire of him who he is who has appeared, he can say of himself what he will. And thus, gleaming forth like a wicked one, and remaining as long as he cares to do, he is at length extinguished, not remaining with the questioner as long as he wished him to for the purpose of examination.'
We can summarize the sense of the extract to make it clearer. The Pauline is saying, 'He who relies on what a man says cannot be sure he has received the truth, since the man may be right or wrong. But he who obtains his revelation by a vision knows that he is getting information from a superhuman source, from God Himself, and therefore the truth of what he is told is guaranteed.' The Petrine answers, that there is a difference when the man is known to be a true prophet, and has given evidence that he is. 'The man does not appear and disappear. He remains with the disciple to explain his words, and can be questioned indefinitely. But an apparition provides only a brief encounter. Before it can be questioned at length it has gone. Moreover, the apparition can falsely claim to be someone whom it is not, and the disciple has no opportunity to test whether it may not be a demon in disguise deliberately deceiving him.'
We may bring our treatment of tile rival positions to an end here, though the evidences have by no means been exhausted. Our concern has been sufficiency to establish and illustrate beyond any doubt this fact:
Christianity as we know it must not be imagined to be identical with what Yeshua taught about himself and what his immediate Apostles proclaimed. Catholic Christianity is based on a radical deviation, which progressively by dubious ways and means was converted into an orthodoxy. Historical conditions, which we have depicted, favored the supremacy of a Church and its doctrines predominantly Gentile in outlook and composition. But the direct heirs of original Christianity did resist strenuously to the limited measure of their capacity. The victory was not won without a prolonged struggle, and a running battle sustained for centuries. Just as the insignificant Jews dared once and again to match themselves against the might of the Roman Empire, so did the Jewish believers in Yeshua as the Messiah manfully contend with the overwhelming forces the Roman Church was able to unleash against them.
If you are the typical Christian you know from your experience and religious doctrines that you most likely have been taught and currently hold...that the Jewish followers of Jesus were again conquered by Gentile Rome...first militarily then theologically