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Divisions
By Shlomo Phillips © 2.18.2013 (last updated 05.27.2014)

There are Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants, Charismatics, Messianics, Hebrew Roots, and innumerable unaffiliated Christian sects, all claiming to follow the Bible. Which belief system is authorized by God? Here's a brief summary that might help clarify things.

Jesus (Y'shua in Hebrew) was a charismatic Jewish reformer who lived and taught during the first century CE., mainly in and around Judea. According to the New Testament he and his students were all devout, Torah observant Jews (even though their applications of Torah caused serious contentions from the beginning).

We have clear evidence of their essential Jewish orthodoxy in the ruling of the greatest rabbi of that period, Rabbi Gamaliel:
Acts 5:34 Then there stood up one in the sanhedrin, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a doctor of the Law honored among all the people. And he commanded the apostles to be put outside a little space.
5:35 And he said to them, Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men....
5:38 And now I say to you, Withdraw from these men and let them alone. For if this counsel or this work is of men, it will come to nothing.
Act 5:39 But if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God.
Had the disciples been preaching something as radically different from Judaism as the Christian doctrines that rose later, the great Rabbi would clearly have condemned them for heresy. Had they believed Y'shua was God, that redemption was attained through faith in him rather than Torah and so on, Gamaliel would have judged against them then and there. He did not. Rather he said that if these reforms were of God it would become clear with time. If not, they would fail. Within 300 years of that pronouncement the Jewish reform movement of Y'shua and his disciples was gone, replaced by the anti-Torah doctrines of the new religion.

About 30 years after Y'shua's execution the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (in 70 CE) and exiled most of the Jews. They renamed Judea and Samaria Philistia, after the Greek seafarers who had once invaded the Holy Land via Cyprus. This term Philistia later became Palestine. Prior to the 1940's the only people called Palestinian were the Jews. The Arabs have no historic connection to this name.

Over the next 300 years or so the Jews and Gentiles who followed Y'shua's teachings gradually merged their beliefs with those of the Roman Empire and abandoned Judaism and Torah. There were many reasons for this: an attempt to avert the persecution, due to lack of knowledge, in response to the Jewish rejection of the disciples' Way movement, anti-Semitism certainly played its role as well. Eventually the Roman Pagan ruler Constantine united all the religions of the Roman Empire into a new universal (Latin: catholic) religion known as Catholicism (Universalism). The Vatican hierarchy he created is the mother of all Christian denominations and sects.

The new universal religion later divided into two main groups: the (Roman) Catholic Church and the (Eastern) Orthodox Catholic Church. Both groups remain significant today and both claim to be the original Church. The two hierarchies ruled the Christian world for centuries. A few other communions also existed, the Coptic Church in Egypt, the Aramaic congregations of Babylon, the Thomas Christians of India, and so on, but the Roman and Orthodox Churches were the main powers. They edited and canonized the New Testament and ruled supreme.

The Anglican Church arose as a religious entity separate from the (Roman) Catholic Church in 1533 when King Henry VIII was excommunicated for moral violations. According to tradition the Church of England was originally planted by Joseph of Arimathea (the rich merchant who provided the tomb in which Y'shua was buried: Matthew 27:57). The Church of England (Anglican), Baptists and other denominations arose through this Church.

Around the same time, at the Diet of Speyer, in 1529, a group of German (Roman) Catholic reformers led by Martin Luther signed and posted a petition consisting of ninety-five theses (statements of belief and demand) to express their dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the Roman Church and its doctrines. You can read them here. This protest movement developed into a major split within the (Roman) Catholic Church. Those who were excommunicated and/or voluntarily left the Church are known as Protestants (i.e. Protestors). The Lutherans and other denominations, including the avidly anti-Semitic Presbyterian church, are included in this reform movement. Martin Luther's On the Jews and Their Lies has inspired generations of Christian Jew haters.

Protestants and Anglicans have their own churches, clergies, rules and beliefs (divided into an ever growing number of separate sects or denominations). Most have little to nothing to do with Catholics and vice versa. At times their differences have led to bloodshed, even wars, as in Northern Ireland.

Despite their differences, most all segments of Christendom (i.e. the Christian world) still base their essential beliefs on the fundamental dogmas developed by Constantine and the early "Church fathers" in the Nicean Creed. Nonetheless there are also many differences, some significant. For instance while almost all Christian denominations and sects believe in a trinity of gods how they conceive of this triad varies.

The Eastern and Western Catholic Churches continue to look askance at one another and both reject the legitimacy of the Protestant and Anglican churches. Protestants and Anglicans vary in their views but as a general statement they consider the Catholic Church to be apostate.

There is so much confusion! The thing to understand is that Christendom began with the words of the Jewish reformer Y'shua of Nazareth and his disciples. Within 300 years of his death the movement he formed had deified him in violation of his words and Torah, and merged their teachings with those of the Pagan world. As Rabbi Gamaliel expected, the Way Jewish sect did not survive. It was co-opted and fundamentally changed by the Romans.

The words of Y'shua ben Yosef continue to ring clear across time however:

"Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews" -- John 4:22.

Be the Blessing you were created to be
And
Don't let the perfect defeat the good