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Go to: Study Home Page.
Go to: Study Overview.
Go to: Part One: How and Why Shabbat Was Given.
Go to: Part Two: Shabbat For All
Go to: Part Three: Jesus and His Disciples Were Shomer Shabbat
So now we come to the question: Since HaShem ordained Shabbat before the 'fall of humanity', before Noach, before Avraham and before Moshe, and since we know that Jesus (Y'shua) observed the Sabbath and ordered his followers and their followers to continue observing it for all time... What happened to Shabbat?
That's the topic of this section. I hope you have read parts one and two first as this page builds on that information. Shabbat was one of the casualties of the events we discussed in part two. Now we'll look more deeply into these events understand both how and why Shabbat was discarded by the emerging Church.
According to the New Testament and a few other sources many of the first century Jews were initially attracted to Jesus' reform teachings (Acts 17:6). Some of his proposed reforms, including those dealing with Shabbat observance, might have been incorporated under different circumstances, however he was being presented as something much more than a religious reformer.
The elders of Israel, who understood the prophecies better than anyone, rejected the sect's messianic claims. They had investigated them and found them lacking in substance. He clearly did not meet the messianic requirements. Despite the charismatic nature of the sect that was developing around him, the rabbis wield the authority of Moshe and Torah and they were responsible for the spiritual and physical guidance of the people. Even Jesus had acknowledged this (Matthew 23:2). It is the responsibility of the elders of Israel to rule on such matters and they had passed their verdict: Jesus was another candidate for the position who lacked the qualifications and the anointing. Since his messianic bid was rejected his proposed reforms were largely ignored by the elders and hence by the Jewish people. Soon the followers of the Way sect were forced to go to the non-Jews if they hoped to expand their movement (Acts 13:46).
In 70 CE the Roman legions, under Titus, brutally attacked the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. The majority of Jews, including the followers of Jesus, were forced to flee Judea for their lives. Thousands died, many more were left homeless and landless. Jewish Judea was renamed Philistia (after the Greek sea faring Philistines from Cyprus -- there was no connection to Arabs who now claim the name) to erase all evidence that the Jews had ever even been there.
The destruction of the Temple and expulsion from Eretz Y'israel changed everything, but the Jews survived.
Having lost the Holy Temple again Judaism was forced to drastically restructure itself. The heart of what came to be known as Orthodox Judaism remained the same however: Shabbat and Torah. It is said that the Jews do not keep Shabbat as much as Shabbat keeps us!
Without the Sacred Temple we could no longer observe Torah's sacrificial requirements. It was no longer possible to observe all of the 613 mitzvot because some of these require the Temple to be standing. During this process the rabbis ruled that the local beit midrash (house of study) and shuls/synagogues would replace the Temple. The 'sacrifice of praise' and Torah study would replace the blood sacrifices. Judaism would remain intact but would have to be reformed to fit the new realities. Several of these changes were harmonious with those Jesus had advocated for thirty years before.
The Jews correctly looked to the rabbis for direction. They reinforced Rabbinic authority, thereby receiving a sense of continuity amid the chaos, and they clung to Tradition:
For the Meshiykhiyyim or followers of the Way sect things went very differently. Because of their belief in Jesus as Messiah the sect had already been largely isolated from the main Jewish communities. They lacked inclusion into the changes that were taking within Judaism and they were forced to find their own way in the Gentile world. While the Jews maintained their religious and cultural continuity within tightly knit and often closed subcultures wherever they found themselves, the Way sect had already opened itself up to the Gentile world. Within their communities were converts who knew the Goyish world well and who welcome a return to it. For these converts the Diaspora opened new doors and opportunities to share their faith in Jesus. They were not accepted by the other Jews, but many of the non-Jews welcomed them with open arms.
But this was a road fraught with unseen dangers!
As the Way sect moved into new communities they began merging with the local cultures, seeking peace and acceptance through ever more intrusive assimilation. Many of the Way Jews and Noahides didn't see the grave danger for what it was/is. They intermarried with locals, began adopting their customs, and predictably they gradually lost their Jewish roots through the assimilation process.
With anti-Semitism raging throughout the Empire it was certainly easier and safer to blend in. They had been cast off by the Jewish community anyway so why should they identify as Jews when they could so easily bypass the negatives? A step at the time the Meshiykhiyyim began severing ties with Judaism and with Torah.
Between the later 1st to the later 2nd centuries CE this assimilation process accelerated During this same period the sect experienced impressive growth numerically. They assumed this increase indicated Divine Providence. The Meshiykhiyyim converted a great many Gentiles to the Way, but as they did, the movement was gradually losing its biblical foundation. More and more they came to resemble their Pagan and Heathen neighbors. Without a solid background in Jewish religion and practice and without qualified rabbis the Torah-based underpinnings of the Movement was becoming threadbare.
What was essential and what was optional in the Way teachings? What was divine mandate and what was cultural Jewish superstition? Considering the Jewish rejection of them and the increasing Roman persecution, to what degree should the born Jewish Meshiykhiyyim maintain their Jewish identity and, numerically more important considering the present realities, to what degree should the Gentile converts be required to conform to those Jewish standards? Shabbat observance for instance was dangerous, it marked one as a Jew, but Sunday worship linked one with the acceptable observances of Sol Invictus, the Mithraic sun god. Did a day really make such a big difference? The communities struggled with matters such as circumcision, forbidden foods, Shabbat observance and so on. Without any accepted leadership each community came up with their own answers. Some Christians as there were now coming to be known, observed Shabbat, some Sunday. Some would eat pork, some would not. There was no continuity anymore. This was already become a common concern in the New Testament.
The Way communities were steadily losing cohesion. There was no recognized authority, just various ever debating individuals and sects. Without qualified rabbis to maintain the Torah foundation everything seemed all up for grabs!
Once while visiting Galatia Paul publicly accused Peter and others of going too far in this mixing of cultures. Its clear from Paul's writings that he was keenly concerned that the Way communities were losing their commitments to Torah. One could not simply ignore Torah as some of these people were already doing by the late 1st century! Hence Paul opined: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid!" -- Romans 6:1. In this section of Paul's Letter to the Galatians we glean important insights into how far these communities had already drifted from Torah observance. They were on the verge of abandoning Torah even then!
Galatians 2:11 Furthermore, when Kefa [i.e. Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him publicly, because he was clearly in the wrong.In part one of this series, and somewhat in part two, we looked at how HaShem had ordered His people to remain apart from the Gentiles and not adopt their ways. Most of the woes described in the Tanach have to do with the Jews embracing Pagan religions and doctrines after assimilating into their cultures. Historically assimilation has been a real problem for the Jews. Assimilation may be the biggest single threat facing Judaism today.
12 For prior to the arrival of certain people from [the reform Jewish community headed by] Ya'akov, he had been eating with the [assimilated] Gentile believers; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he was afraid of the faction who favored circumcising Gentile believers [i.e. those who maintained their obedience to Torah].
13 And the other Jewish believers became hypocrites along with him, so that even Bar-Nabba [i.e. Barnabas] was led astray by their hypocrisy.
14 But when I saw that they were not walking a straight path, keeping in line with the truth of the Good News [i.e. they had left Torah], I said to Kefa, right in front of everyone, "If you, who are a Jew, live like a Goy and not like a Jew, why are you forcing the Goyim to live like Jews?
The Messianic tal mi dim were now facing the same dangers. How could Judaism survive with unbridled assimilation and the increasing anti-Torah dogmas? Some of the Way people still maintained the teachings of Y'shua and were disgusted by this new Jesus who was entering their assemblies. And throughout this period the Roman Empire was waging a veritable war against the Jews. Persecution, public executions, floggings... certainly the best way to survive under such conditions was to not be noticed! Not to stand out. To fit in and assimilate.
But at what cost?
In order to lessen the persecution on the community and to attract more members some people began knowingly compromising the Jewish teachings and Traditions so they would be more palatable to the Pagans. Others, for similar reasons, followed the path out of ignorance; they didn't know the true teachings but began devising their own doctrines (arguably with good intentions).
Soon rather than one "Christian" sect there were several rival movements, each claiming to be true Way of Jesus! There were self-proclaimed Messianic groups embracing Gnosticism, Egyptian and Syrian mysticism, the Roman mysteries and a few continued to maintain the Jewish reformed Jewish teachings. Soon it was impossible to identify the true Way sect from the counterfeits. As Paul had warned:
II Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.The leaders of the rival factions began producing publications expressing their beliefs and their followers declared their words to be holy writ. At first these things were done in the shadows so these works were usually published under assumed identities. Examples of these works include:
Despite the raging heresies that surrounded them many remained genuinely faithful to the reform teachings of the historic Y'shua. Seeing the increasing Nicolaitan heresies these Jews and Noahides struggled valiantly to maintain the Way they had received. They worked hard to defend the sect from the rising tide of Gnosticism, Nicolaism and the other post-Way heresies. Many of these people died as martyrs as a result. Their sincerity can not be questioned. They were however also products of their environments and upbringings. They were still monotheists but despite their fervent desires for doctrinal accuracy they had received the erroneous doctrines of the early movement concerning Jesus as Messiah. They were severed from the Jewish community and if they were still Jews it was only by a technically of birth and vague ancestry.
Unwittingly, without contact with 'the Jewish roots of the Tree', they too had embraced Torah-contrary beliefs. Piece by piece the Way Movement was dying. Through intermarriage with Gentiles, the acceptance of unbiblical assumptions, compromise, and through conversion, Gentiles had now become the majority force within the sect. Proper Torah education was non-existent. Without that foundation it was just a matter of time until the Movement would be fully supplanted.
During the first two centuries CE some of the talmidim leaned more toward Essene asceticism and Mandaeism (the religion established by the students of John the Immerser). Following the events at Masada (71-73 CE) the original Essene Brotherhood had largely left the stage. Other people took up their name and established an essentially Gnostic imitation on the skeleton their ascetic Jewish movement. John the Baptist was an Essene and so this usurpation seem unavoidable as his and Jesus' disciples gained ascendency. This blending of monotheistic Essene holiness with the anti-materialism of Gnosticism in the name of Jesus or John appealed to some people for whom the material world seemed ready to implode at any moment. The resulting movements (the Ebionites for instance) are condemned in the New Testament by John the Beloved (for instance at I John 4:3) and yet for a time they were growing quickly.
Another significant strand of the early talmidim wanted to return to the orthodox, Hebrew Pharisee/Rabbinic doctrines. Witnessing the rising Nicolaitan Roman-backed anti-Torah tide within the Way communities, sects of "loyal opposition Nazarenes" arose. Such groups only added to chaos of the day. Among the most historically note worthy of these leaders was Bishop Arius (250 CE or 256 - 336). Bishop Arius forcefully sought to stop the Nicolaitan Pagan deification of Y'shua/Jesus. Christian monotheists since that time have been known as Arians. Alas he failed in the end and Christianity officially became a polytheistic or modified monotheistic religion (depending on the denominational structure). Very few Christian denominations today believe in One God as taught in the Bible. Jehovah's Witnesses are one of these few Arian denominations. Bishop Arius was arguably the Way movements lack best hope to maintain control of and restore the Movement to its biblical roots.
Seeking to appease Rome and begin infiltrating its power bases certain post-Way leaders began holding meetings with like-minded people. They reworked the Way teachings into doctrines that were more acceptable to Rome, less Jewish. A bit of change here and bit of change there until soon the Way had become a wholly different religion from Judaism.
In defense of these doctrinal changes the new religion produced forgeries and pseudo-scriptures For instance forgeries like the Book of Barnabas sought to replace the Jewish Shabbat:
Barnabas 15:9 Wherefore also we keep the eighth day for rejoicing, in the which also Iesus [i.e. Jesus] rose from the dead, and having been manifested ascended into the heavens.Here the Nicolaitan plagiarist writes in effect that 'Like you Pagans, we also gather on the day of the Sol Invictus the sun god.' Sell people on the book and they had their doctrinal support! With so many books floating around and no established cannon to rely on, who could say what was true? Only those few who knew Torah and such people were now few and far between, outside of established Judaism and they were unwilling to help the mashugana Goyim.
From early on Nicolaitan leaders like Ignatius of Antioch (107 CE) were busily at work trying to redefine the Way in terms the Romans would accept. To this end he wrote:
Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables [i.e. the Torah], which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish Law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace. If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day [i.e. Sunday], on which also our life has sprung up again by him and by his death.But HaShem says:
Exodus 12:14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to HaShem throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
Such Goyish false talmidim were openly promoting heresy! Still many of the Way talmidim maintained their faith in Torah and in the teachings of Y'shua they had been given. John the Revelator warned that this heresy was taking root within the movement even during his days at the dawn of the second century:
Revelation 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan...The Nicolaitan heresy refers to the mixing of Torah with Pagan error. This process began very early on. In my Rise and Fall of the Universal Church I go deeper into related topic.
2:15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate....
3:9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
The Nicolaitan founders of the New Religion considered the Torah to be nothing but "old fables," outdated myths from a backwater province that should be outgrown and discarded. They intended to create something new and enlightened: a Universal Religion that would unite the world under the flags of a Holy Roman Empire! These were the architects of an entirely new religion that had little in common with the doctrines of the historic Y'shua and the Sacred Torah he cherished.
Another of these influential Nicolaitans opined:
Furthermore, I do not suppose that you need to learn from me how ridiculous and unworthy of any argument are their [i.e. the Jews'] scruples about food, their superstition about the Sabbath, their pride in circumcision, and their shame in fasting (Letter to Diognetus, 125 AD).
Note the absolute arrogance as this famed "Church Father" derides those who maintain faith in and obedience to the Sacred Scriptures of HaShem! God calls His Sabbath eternally sacred and this Nicene Christian founder calls it a ridiculous superstition!
The obvious question then is: Should you side with the One True God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Who revealed His Torah to Moshe, Who declared Shabbat eternally sacred, Who was praised and obeyed by the historic Jesus and his disciples... or should you accept the arrogant teachings of Roman Pagans who deliberately altered the teachings of Y'shua for their own purposes and who changed the biblical day of worship to that of Sol Invictus?
Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve Adonai, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Adonai.
Even generally respected men like Justin Martyr intentionally misrepresented the Bible's teachings in order to remove the Way teachings from its roots. Read his words carefully:
On the day called Sunday all who live in the cities or in the country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read... But Sunday is the day on which we all hold a common assembly, because it is the first day of the week on which God made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead."
What's wrong with this? Only God's word!
Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
These early Nicolaitan heretics could not support their doctrinal changes scripturally and so in some cases they wrote allegedly inspired books (like the Gospel of Barnabas quoted above), altered the words of what later became the New Testament, or simply cited as evidence verses not found in the Scriptures as though they were!
As most people were illiterate in those days these lies were seldom discovered and the people became ever more deeply indoctrinated by them.
As the Church's power increased disagreeing with the Pope became hazardous to ones health! A few years later the Vatican outlawed the reading of the Bible by anyone but priests in order to prevent opposition to their unbiblical teachings! In time their doctrines came to be accepted as Christian orthodoxy.
By the time the Protestant Reformers rose to oppose the Vatican so much had been forgotten and so much error had been accepted as Christian Orthodoxy that although their intentions may have been good they simply didn't understand how deeply the Way had been compromised. The Reformers focused on obvious heresies: the selling of indulgences, the transformation of Mary into a veritable goddess... but they missed the more serious errors, the Oneness of God among them. This and other errors entered right into their reform movements unchallenged.
Within 300 years his death Jesus' Jewish doctrine had been so compromised that most people could not determine what he actually taught. Rather than bringing light to the world his grand disciples ushered in an age of darkness that would last for over a thousand years. Its shadow still covers much of the planet.
The persecutions endured by the Way sect were severe. History is written by the victors. In the end the Nicolaitan Vatican won and Shabbat was lost to the Christian world. The Roman Papacy deliberately and fundamentally altered the teachings of Jewish into something not supported by the Bible and seriously odds with Torah.
There were several reasons why the followers of the Way allowed their movement to be usurped by Roman Pagans and why they allowed Shabbat to be stolen from them. Some were Roman converts who genuinely didn't know any better. Others accepted the claims of others rather than study these things for themselves... many were anti-Semitic, blaming the Jews for Jesus execution, and wanted nothing to do with anything Jewish. But perhaps the main consideration was that embracing the newly emerging Roman religion meant an end to the persecutions.
By embracing the Nicolaitan teachings of the Vatican the Believers made it clear to Rome that they were no longer Jews, that they, like the Romans, now renounced God's chosen people completely. Now they too rejected the Shabbat of HaShem. They too had turned their backs on the Jews and they hoped that by doing so they had saved their own skins.
History does repeat.
Antisemitism became a 'Christian virtue' as the historic Passion Plays make clear. That this is true can be demonstrated in their own words:
Tertullian (200 AD) wrote:
We solemnize the day after Saturday in contradistinction to those who call this day their Sabbath.Shabbat was not replaced by a symbolically better day (i.e. because Jesus rose on a Sunday morning), it was replaced "in contradistinction of the Jewish practice." This quote also demonstrates that Sabbath keeping was still an issue as of the third century CE. At that point in time there were still followers of the Way who were trying to maintain Shabbat but the leaders and elders of the emerging Nicolaitan/Universal Church maintained their heretical work without respite until Shabbat was all but forgotten... except by the Jews.
In their ongoing efforts to transform the Way the Church employed direct lies:
"The Apostles further appointed: On the first day of the week let there be services and reading of the holy Scriptures and the oblation, because on the first day of the week our Lord rose from the place of the dead" (The Didascalia, 225 AD).Where did the Apostles EVER say this? They didn't and that's not why Shabbat was stolen from the followers of Jesus!
Eusebius of Caesarea even directly equates Sunday observance with the Day of the Roman Sun God (Sol Invictus):
"The day of the light... was the day of his Resurrection from the dead, which they say as being the one and only truly holyday and the Lord's Day." [sic]This is very telling! The Way sect was usurped by the Roman Church under the tutelage of Roman Pagans like Eusebius of Caesarea and was fundamentally altered into what Rome hoped would be the Universal ("catholic") religion through which its reign could be continued....
Its no wonder the Universal religion abandoned the biblically mandated Sabbath and embraced the holy days of other gods (such as Sol Invictus)!
The change from the Jewish reform movement of Y'shua and his followers to the Universal Religion formalized by Emperor Constantine (who was a lifelong worshiper of Sol Invictus and only converted to Christianity on his death bed) took about 300 years.
The abandonment of God's Sabbath was finalized in 364 CE.
As the official Catechism of Catholic Doctrine says on page 50 (3rd edition):
Question: Which is the Sabbath day?
Answer: Saturday is the Sabbath day.
Question: Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
Answer: We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 364), transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.
I.E. By their own authority. Not by the authority of the Torah nor even the New Testament.
...we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews -- Jesus at John 4:22Jews honor and observe the Shabbat as commanded in both versions of the Ten Commandments.
Shabbat is the only day declared holy by the God of Israel or observed by Jesus and his followers.
Honoring the Day of HaShem
Go to: Study Home Page.
Go to: Study Overview.
Go to: Part One: How and Why Shabbat Was Given.
Go to: Part Two: Shabbat For All.
Go to: Part Three: Jesus and His Disciples Were Shomer Shabbat