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Renewed Jewish Mysticism
The Jews of galut (or exile) manifested remarkable spiritual achievements throughout the Christian era. For instance fifteenth century Jewish mystic Elias del Medigo (Elijah mi-Qandia ben Moshe del Medigo) and his disciple Picus de Mirandula (Giovanni Pico della Mirandola) were quite influential in the development of Jewish Theosophy.
In 1485 the De Substantia Orbis was released (note 6) . These treatises foreshadowed Western knowledge of the great Aramaic Kabbalistic work known as the Zohar (literally, Book of "Splendor" or "Radiance"). The Zohar first appeared in Spain in the 13th century. It was published by a Jewish writer named Moses de Leon but he did not claim to be its author. De Leon ascribed the work to Shimon bar Yochai (aka "Rashbi"), the famed rabbi of the 2nd century. Most Jewish authorities (including Gershom Scholem) accept this version of the Zohar's authorship.
Rashbi lived during the 2nd century CE Roman persecution of Judea. According to Jewish tradition he hid in a cave for thirteen years studying the Torah. Prophet Elijah, who is often said to visit people with messages from HaShem, told him to write the Zohar. Kabbalists generally believe the Zohar and its teachings are part of the concealed Oral Torah and consider it holy writ. No other non-Talmudic writing has achieved such an exalted position as the Zohar (Z 7). These exciting developments marked the return and restoration of the ancient Jewish mystical traditions that had been forgotten by our people.
According to other sources Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (Picus de Mirandula) actually authored the Zohar toward the end of the thirteenth century (HK 563). Pico della Mirandola was raised in the Christian Church and chosen as a papal protonotary (or principal clerk of a court, a scribe) at the young age of ten. When he was thirteen his mother unexpectedly died and he backed away from the Church, turning his attention to more mystical topics. The claim of his authorship appears to be another attempt by certain Christians to usurp another Jewish creation. Gershom Scholem and the vast majority of scholars agree that it was Rabbi Moses de Leon, not Pico della Mirandola, who published Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's Book of Splendor. Within Orthodox Judaism this is traditional view and is doubtless the correct one in my opinion.
Kabbalah is a powerful revelation (some would say a restoration of what was revealed at Sinai) for the Jewish people and our spirituality. Many of its practitioners see Kabbalah as the means through which the Jewish people will complete the tikkun olam or reparation of the world. This, they say, will usher in HaMashiach (i.e. the Messiah). Some place great urgency on this noting that the global Redemption may be accomplished in a less desirable way if the Jewish people do not properly arise. I discuss the other option here.
In the early days of this restoration the students of Kabbalah guarded these teachings, carefully preserving their mysteries for those who were worthy and spiritually prepared to enter its mystic depths. For this reason only mature (over 40 years old) and spiritually prepared Jewish men were taught its inner truths. As time past more and more Jews were invited to study and apply Kabbalah and many of the restrictions were ignored. The potential dangers inherent in this knowledge are not generally given the needed emphasis in my opinion.
Non-Jews became increasingly attracted to Kabbalah as well. Many Christians and Occidental Occultists delved deeply into its mysteries. Not knowing Torah and lacking that solid foundation they inevitably altered the teachings to fit their own doctrines. Separating the Kabbalistic 'wheat from the chaff' became ever more difficult and today there are many versions of this knowledge, each claiming to reveal the truth.
Cornelius Agrippa of Nettersheim was a Christian mystic of the fifteenth century. He prepared the first known methodology of Kabbalistic practice. His three books, entitled De Occulta Philosophia are still regarded as standard textbooks on the subject for non-Jews (HK 452). I am not recommending this book, just noting its importance in the field.
The teachings of the Ba'al Shem Tov, the Zohar, the birth and development of Kabbalah, the spread and hesitant acceptance of Hasidism and other forms of Jewish mysticism made significant contributions to Jewish thought. These developments however are largely unknown to non-Jews.
The Jewish Kabbalists inadvertently influenced Christianity in fundamental ways. In part as a result of the popularity of Kabbalah many Christians began learning Hebrew and Aramaic and studying the Torah. Becoming more acquainted with Torah some of these Christians left the Church and became Noahides. Many also began seeking to discover the historic and claimed mystical teachings of Y'shua (Jesus) from its doctrines thanks in large to Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. This has led to several sects and cabals. Without rabbinic support and still steeped in essential Church dogma however little real progress was achieved by the Christian mystics.
While these development had a profound impact on Judaism and those left Christianity, their impact on the overall state of the American religious experience was minimal bit noteworthy.
Other Non-Christian Revivals
Another example of non-Christian revival during the ascendancy of the Church occurred among the Wiccan/Pagan populations (note 7). During the "Burning Times" (i.e. the period of Christian persecution of European Pagans and other non-Christians), Christian rulers in Britain tended to be more tolerant toward the practitioners of the ancient indigenous religions than were the rulers on the Continent. (note 8). Although the British Throne enacted several harsh laws against the Old Religion, they rarely enforced them with much zeal. As a result of this limited tolerance British Wiccans (i.e. Witches) faced considerably less persecution than their Continental kin (such as the Streges). The Pagans and Heathens living under English rule bid their time hoping their Christian monarchs would mellow or be replaced by Pagans. For many years the crowns of the Misty Isles passed between Pagan and Christian royals.
But 'the Church Universal and Triumphant' was relentless and growing ever stronger, and ever more cruel. Eventually it became obvious that the New Religion was here to stay. As a result Pagans across the Continent and the British Isles began seeking ways to resist their Christian occupiers. During this period a significant but little discussed Pagan revival took place. Many of the ancient rites were brought back into the open again. Christian communities began including or at least allowing more of the ancient traditions. Some of these were dressed in Christian garb (such as the Easter sunrise service of goddess Ostera) while others were more blatantly Pagan (such as the Burning Man rites). Resistance leaders such as Helen Philipps of Pembroke, Mrs. Robinson of Kidderminster and Mabel Brigge of York, boldly proclaimed the rebirth of the Old Religion (note 9) in direct defiance of the Church and were martyred. Cadifor Colwen (one of the twelve princes of Wales during this period) established a goddess shrine known as Cadifor's Oven in Pembroke that is still there. Perhaps hedging his bets, he also founded and endowed the Church of Kilrhedyn (Cilrhedyn). Cadifor passed away in 1089 and is buried in the Priory of Carmarthen in Wales. The Church in those times was brutally efficient. While there are many stories like the ones I shared here, most of Europe's population was eventually cowed into submission or exterminated by the Inquisition or during the Burning Times. Once the New World became a viable possible haven many non-Christians, Jews and others, made passaged to the Americas seeking religious freedom.
The Holy Inquisitions
Beginning in 1232 (by order of Frederick II) the Christian rulers seriously sought to quell the spread of what they considered renewed ancient heresies. Sanctioned Catholic terrorism had been in effect for decades, but now the heat was turned up on all who refused to submit to the Vatican. The Catholic Bishops ordered their subjects to disavow all non-Catholic beliefs and practices on pain of torture and death.
On the Continent, this attempt brought in the infamous Inquisitions. This increase in violent persecution was not only directed at the Pagans note 10). It also extended to Jews, Muslims and what were known as Judaizers, i.e. those spiritual descendents of Bishop Arius (250 or 256 - 336 CE) who sought to maintain or rediscover the monotheistic Jewish origins of their Christian faith. By this point the Way sect was long since lost. There were always sincere Christians seeking to rediscover the original sect and restore it, or some version of it. During this period more and more Christians were openly questioning the god-man dogmas or other required Church beliefs. Islam was making noise about Christian polytheism and some Christians were leaving the Church and joining the deen of Islam. The Jews remained quiet for the most part. More troubling to the priests were those Christians who were seeking the Jewish roots of their faith. Christianity could not intellectually defend itself in this area and so the Church decreed Judaizing a capital offense. It was declared illegal for Christians to seek rabbinic guidance or to even consider Jewish interpretations of the Tanach (i.e. the Hebrew Bible). Persecution of the European Jews was heating up again. Many Jews fled into the Muslim East for safety. Muslims during this period mainly viewed the Jews as misguided cousins while the Church sought to eliminate them.
In 1252 torture was being employed by order of Pope Gregory IX. Now the Dark Days were growing darker. In 1479 as the Jews were becoming enraptured in Kabbalistic thought, Ferdinand and Isabella, in conjunction with the Pope, issued the notorious Inquisition as an assault on the Marranos (i.e. the forced Jewish converts to Christianity) and Moriscos (i.e. the forced Islamic converts to Christianity). Many of these Marranos (literally "pigs" in Spanish) maintained their ancestral Jewish traditions while publicly professing Roman Catholicism hoping to escape the growing persecutions.
Likewise, the Moriscos ("people of the moors") were externally converts from Islam but like the Jews, they did so only out of fear. Both these Jews and Muslims secretly continued to observe their beliefs. This word, Morisco, is similar in meaning to the derogatory term Heathen that referenced those of the British Isles who maintained the Old Religion in secret. Heathens were rural people of the "heath" or outlaying areas who continued to worship Odin and other gods. The term came to mean any unapproved (by the Church) religious practices (not necessarily Pagan or nature based). There were also many Pagans (or nature worshippers) who underwent mock conversions for the same reasons. The Church was not fooled! Now they were seeking them out. False conversions would no longer guarantee safety from the all consuming Church. The Inquisition was later extended to include Protestants and other so-called undesirables. Now even religiously lapsed Catholics were are risk.
In 1542, Pope Paul III established the Order of the Holy Inquisition as the highest court in the Land. The Spanish Inquisition was not abolished until 1814 (DRP 337,338).
This darkest period of Christian if not world history is dated in various ways. It can be argued, taking the various inquisitions as one, that the Holy Inquisition lasted from the 12th century, beginning in the South of France with the Church persecution of the Zoroastrian-inspired (dualistic) Cathars (or Albigenses), through the Witch Trials, the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions, and continued until 1965 when the name was formally changed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Under this new name the Office of Holy Inquisition continues to exists. Today the authority of the scandal ridden Vatican continues to decline. The office is thankfully without any real power to enforce its views today but that it still exists surely says something.
Despite Vatican claims of ecumenism the essential beliefs of the "Mother Church" remain the same, it just lacks the teeth to enforce them. Consider the following from The Official Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church (published during the reign of the popular Pope John Paul II: 1978- 2005):
- 7. Which Church is the true Church of Jesus Christ?
- The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church...
- 8. Can any other Church except the Roman Catholic Church claim to be the Church of Jesus Christ or at least part of it?
- No other Church can claim to be the Church of Jesus Christ ... Ecumenism is the movement aimed at the reunion of Christians into the one true fold of Jesus Christ (BQ) (emphasis mine).
It was not until the reign of Queen Mary I (i.e. Mary Tudor, half sister of Protestant Queen Elizabeth I) that serious religious persecution began in the land of Shakespeare. When Mary Tudor ascended the British Throne (July 6, 1553), many 'radical Protestants' were forced to flee to Calvinistic strongholds such as Strasbourg, Geneva and Zurich. Bloody Mary, as she is sometimes known, had almost three hundred religious dissenters executed. She brought a reign of Catholic terror to the previously "liberal" Anglican English haven. Under previous reigns, the Pagans were allowed limited freedom, but once Mary proclaimed Britain a Catholic country things quickly changed and the Inquisition entered.
It is commonly believed among Pagan historians that after Mary's death and the ascension of Elizabeth I ("the Virgin Queen") to the throne of England and Ireland as the final Tudor Dynastic monarch, that when the Protestant dissidents returned to England from the Continent, they brought with them a fear and hatred of the Pagans they had previously not held. Regardless of the accuracy of this view, beginning in 1563 Witch persecution in England, Wales and Ireland began in earnest.
Considering the fierceness of the Pagan persecutions on the Continent and the relative safety in England, the British Witches, assuming they had if not popular support then at least the tolerance of their British neighbors, continued to come 'out of their broom closets' as the Protestant exiles returned. They saw no reason Protestants and Pagans could not live together in peace and mutual respect as allies against their common Roman (Catholic) enemy. This mistaken assumption resulted in a major but short lived revival of the Old Religion. This revival is demonstrated by John Jewel's (the Bishop of Salisbury and one of Queen Elizabeth's advisors) warning to the Queen, at some point between November 1559 and March 1560, that:...this kind of people (I mean witches and sorcerers) within the last few years are marvelously increased within your grace's realm. These eyes have seen the most evident and manifest marks of their wickedness. Your grace's subjects pine away even unto death, their color fadeth, their flesh rotteth, their speech is benumbed, their senses are bereft. Wherefore, your poor subjects' most humble petition unto your highness is, that the law touching such malefactors may be put in due execution. For the shoal of them is great, their doings horrible, their malice intolerable, the examples most miserable. And I pray God they never practice further than upon the subject [sic] (The Works of Jewel, ed. Parker Society, 1845-50).This document, known as the protestatio, or The Protest inadvertently placed the negative label of Protestant (Protester) on their religious descendants. The term is negative because it represents the Reform movement as being anti-Catholic rather than Pro-Reform. The result of making the Protestant movement anti-papal is clearly seen in the statements of many Protestant clergy persons. For instance: Fundamentalist Christian scholar C.I. Scofield (note 13) wrote:
Post Christian America
Today Christianity is no longer the most significant religious presence anywhere on earth, although it remains popular among some Americans and others. Secular Humanism, an essentially New Age spirituality, and religious apathy have clearly replaced Christianity in most areas outside of the Islamic world which is becoming ever more religious.
Eastern religious concepts continue to make significant inroads into the American psyche as well as we've discussed. The importance, even the legitimacy, of Christianity is now openly debated, something unimaginable of a mere hundred years ago. In the Third Great Awakening people questioned the nature and identity of God but precious few outside of academia seriously questioned His existence and/or relevance. Sadly today most people in the West are Agnostic. Although most are loath to acknowledge it, their actions and world views make it clear. Confronted by the religious zeal of observant Muslims most Westerners, Jews and Christians alike, stand empty handed and speechless.
Archeological and textual discoveries, the secular sciences, Humanistic and New Age philosophies and so on are now inundating the West in soul destroying doubt and offering nothing meaningful in exchange. Many serious scholars are beginning to question whether Y'shua/Jesus ever actually even existed! The powers-that-be, including the media, clearly intend to de-seat the socially passe' Christian world view from the public table. If a character in a film is mentioned as being Christian you can be almost certain that he/she is the villain of the story. That was never the case before (it used to be 'the butler who did it'). Likewise if the Bible is cited in almost any discussion as being authoritative incredulity if not ridicule is all but certain today. Traditional American religion is dying on the vine.
Due in part to the current philosophic and scientific suppositions of cultural relativism many people today are questioning the basic assumptions upon which traditional Western religions, especially Christianity, are based. They find the Christian exclusionary beliefs lacking in substance, yet continue to feel the need for spiritual insights and experiences. This innate human need is the impetus for the current spiritual hunger that is leading some into the Occult, some into Islam, innumerable into depression, and yet others into almost fanatical versions of Christian Fundamentalism(note 11) . People crave Truth as they desire food and water! It has always been this way, but now they are looking for it in different places. Turning against Torah they are more and more often finding only the void of materialism and/or superstition.
The Ninety Five Theses of the Reformation
Dissatisfaction with Church dogma is nothing new of course. The Sixteenth century Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther (1483-1546), Calvin (1509-1564) and Zwingli (1484-1531) (note 14) did not intend to leave the Roman Church. They merely hoped to reform it. Likewise the historic Y'shua (Jesus) had no intention of leading his followers away from Judaism and the truth of Torah. He mere wished to reform the Rabbinic rulings. But both Y'shua and the Protestants closed and nailed shut the door to meaningful dialogue. Y'shua did this by publicly condemning the rabbis (for instance Matthew chapter 23) and the Protestants did it by literally nailing their demands to the Church's door! Neither strategy worked out as desired! Both led to separation and official condemnation.
One event triggered Martin Luther's actions, or more correctly, acted as 'the straw that broke the camel's back'. In 1517, the Universal ('catholic') Church began selling indulgences to the German Catholics. These Catholics were told that in exchange for their financial assistance in building Saint Peter's Cathedral and other monuments to Rome's glory, they would receive full pardons for all sins, past, present and future. For a little more gold, all of their loved ones residing in purgatory (note 15) would also be granted immediate access to Heaven! That was too much for Luther! He and his compatriots felt they had to speak out in opposition. At the Diet of Speyer in 1529 this group of Catholic Reformers signed and posted a petition consisting of ninety-five theses to express their dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the Roman Church and its doctrines (note 16). They did this as members of 'the loyal opposition'.
The Ninety Five Theses of the Reformation
Despite what some believe, the Protestant Reformers were not seeking a return to biblical religion nor the teachings of Y'shua ben Yosef. They accepted all of the essential Catholic dogmas without question. They never challenged any of these anti-Torah beliefs. There is no mention of rejecting the Trinity dogma nor the deification of a human being, of returning to the biblical Sabbath nor the biblically prescribed holidays, there is nothing about seeking restoration with the Jewish people and the rabbis, whom Y'shua acknowledged 'sit in the seat of Moses' (Matthew 23:3). Rather, the theses only address technical issues about the exercise of papal authority over the people. The essential beliefs of the Protestors and the Protestant Christian religion remain basically the same as those of the Catholic hierarchy. This continues to be true of their religious descendents.
This modern translation is borrowed from Here.1. When Jesus said "repent" he meant that believers should live a whole life repenting
2. Only God can give salvation - not a priest.
3. Inwards penitence must be accompanied with a suitable change in lifestyle.
4. Sin will always remain until we enter Heaven.
5. The pope must act according to canon law.
6. Only God can forgive -the pope can only reassure people that God will do this.
7. A sinner must be humbled in front of his priest before God can forgive him.
8. Canon law applies only to the living not to the dead.
9. However, the Holy Spirit will make exceptions to this when required to do so.
10. The priest must not threaten those dying with the penalty of purgatory.
11. The church through church penalties is producing a 'human crop of weeds'.
12. In days gone by, church penalties were imposed before release from guilt to show true repentance.
13. When you die all your debts to the church are wiped out and those debts are free from being judged.
14. When someone is dying they might have bad/incorrect thoughts against the church and they will be scared. This fear is enough penalty.
15. This fear is so bad that it is enough to cleanse the soul.
16. Purgatory = Hell. Heaven = Assurance.
17. Souls in Purgatory need to find love - the more love the less their sin.
18. A sinful soul does not have to be always sinful. It can be cleansed.
19. There is no proof that a person is free from sin.
20. Even the pope - who can offer forgiveness - cannot totally forgive sins held within.
21. An indulgence will not save a man.
22. A dead soul cannot be saved by an indulgence.
23. Only a very few sinners can be pardoned. These people would have to be perfect.
24. Therefore most people are being deceived by indulgences.
25. The pope's power over Purgatory is the same as a priest's.
26. When the pope intervenes to save an individual, he does so by the will of God.
27. It is nonsense to teach that a dead soul in Purgatory can be saved by money.
28. Money causes greed - only God can save souls.
29. Do we know if the souls in Purgatory want to be saved?
30. No-one is sure of the reality of his own penitence - no-one can be sure of receiving complete forgiveness.
31. A man who truly buys an indulgence (i.e. believes it is to be what it is) is as rare as someone who truly repents all sin i.e. very rare.
32. People who believe that indulgences will let them live in salvation will always be damned - along with those who teach it.
33. Do not believe those who say that a papal indulgence is a wonderful gift which allows salvation.
34. Indulgences only offer Man something which has been agreed to by Man.
35. We should not teach that those who aim to buy salvation do not need to be contrite.
36. A man can be free of sin if he sincerely repents - an indulgence is not needed.
37. Any Christian - dead or alive - can gain the benefit and love of Christ without an indulgence.
38. Do not despise the pope's forgiveness but his forgiveness is not the most important.
39. The most educated theologians cannot preach about indulgences and real repentance at the same time.
40. A true repenter will be sorry for his sins and happily pay for them. Indulgences trivialise this issue.
41. If a pardon is given it should be given cautiously in case people think its more important than doing good works.
42. Christians should be taught that the buying of indulgences does not compare with being forgiven by Christ.
43. A Christian who gives to the poor or lends to those in need is doing better in God's eyes than one who buys 'forgiveness'.
44. This is because of loving others, love grows and you become a better person. A person buying an indulgence does not become a better person.
45. A person who passes by a beggar but buys an indulgence will gain the anger and disappointment of God.
46. A Christian should buy what is necessary for life not waste money on an indulgence.
47. Christians should be taught that they do not need an indulgence.
48. The pope should have more desire for devout prayer than for ready money.
49. Christians should be taught not to rely on an indulgence. They should never lose their fear of God through them.
50. If a pope knew how much people were being charged for an indulgence - he would prefer to demolish St. Peter's.
51. The pope should give his own money to replace that which is taken from pardoners.
52. It is vain to rely on an indulgence to forgive your sins.
53. Those who forbid the word of God to be preached and who preach pardons as a norm are enemies of both the pope and Christ.
54. It is blasphemy that the word of God is preached less than that of indulgences.
55. The pope should enforce that the gospel - a very great matter - must be celebrated more than indulgences.
56. The treasure of the church is not sufficiently known about among the followers of Christ.
57. The treasure of the Church are temporal (of this life).
58. Relics are not the relics of Christ, although they may seem to be. They are, in fact, evil in concept.
59. St. Laurence misinterpreted this as the poor gave money to the church for relics and forgiveness.
60. Salvation can be sought for through the church as it has been granted this by Christ.
61. It is clear that the power of the church is adequate, by itself, for the forgiveness of sins.
62. The main treasure of the church should be the Gospels and the grace of God.
63. Indulgences make the most evil seem unjustly good.
64. Therefore evil seems good without penance or forgiveness.
65. The treasured items in the Gospels are the nets used by the workers.
66. Indulgences are used to net an income for the wealthy.
67. It is wrong that merchants praise indulgences.
68. They are the furthest from the grace of God and the piety and love of the cross.
69. Bishops are duty bound to sell indulgences and support them as part of their job.
70. But bishops are under a much greater obligation to prevent men preaching their own dreams.
71. People who deny the pardons of the Apostles will be cursed.
72. Blessed are they who think about being forgiven.
73. The pope is angered at those who claim that pardons are meaningless.
74. He will be even more angry with those who use indulgences to criticise holy love.
75. It is wrong to think that papal pardons have the power to absolve all sin.
76. You should feel guilt after being pardoned. A papal pardon cannot remove guilt.
77. Not even St. Peter could remove guilt.
78. Even so, St. Peter and the pope possess great gifts of grace.
79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross is of equal value with the cross of Christ.
80. Bishops who authorise such preaching will have to answer for it.
81. Pardoners make the intelligent appear disrespectful because of the pope's position.
82. Why doesn't the pope clean feet for holy love not for money?
83. Indulgences bought for the dead should be re-paid by the pope.
84. Evil men must not buy their salvation when a poor man, who is a friend of God, cannot.
85. Why are indulgences still bought from the church?
86. The pope should rebuild St. Peter's with his own money.
87. Why does the pope forgive those who serve against him?
88. What good would be done to the church if the pope was to forgive hundreds of people each day?
89. Why are indulgences only issued when the pope sees fit to issue them?
90. To suppress the above is to expose the church for what it is and to make true Christians unhappy.
91. If the pope had worked as he should (and by example) all the problems stated above would not have existed.
92. All those who say there is no problem must go. Problems must be tackled.
93. Those in the church who claim there is no problem must go.
94. Christians must follow Christ at all cost.
95. Let Christians experience problems if they must - and overcome them - rather than live a false life based on present Catholic teaching.There are two forms which Babylon is to have in the end-time: political Babylon (Rev. 17:8-17) and ecclesiastical Babylon (Rev. 17:1-7) ... Ecclesiastical Babylon is all apostate Christendom, in which papacy will undoubtedly be prominent; it may even very well be that this union will embrace all the religions of the world (SB. Rev. 18: 2 footnote).Many Protestants continue to loath all things Catholic. For Protestants living after the Reformation, the Catholic Church became vilified as Babylon the Great, Mother of the Harlots even though very little theological diversity exists in the core teachings. This clearly was not the intention of the Reformers. The Protestant Fathers saw much good in the Roman Catholic Church and embraced most of its beliefs and practices. They still (incorrectly) regarded it as the Church Jesus had built. They merely wanted to purge it of certain abuses of power. The hierarchical inflexibility of the Church prevailed however and the Reformers were excommunicated.
As the United States was establishing it principles this ongoing conflict is part what inspired their determination to protect religious freedom while making sure that no sect would have the power to restrict the others nor to determine government policy.
The Papacy first ordered Luther's superior to silence him, but to no avail. The Reformers were adamant. Next, Luther was commanded to go to Augsburg, Germany for a hearing. There Cardinal Cajetan, the Papal legate, personally ordered Luther to desist and publicly withdraw his protests against the Church. Luther refused, demanding that scriptural evidence should judge matters of belief and practice. This resulted in a debate at Leipzig with Catholic apologist John Eck. During this debate, Luther was coerced into rejecting the infallibility of the Pope and Church. Because of this 'heresy', a papal bull was issued ordering the destruction of Luther's writings. Instead of obeying the order, Luther publicly burned the bull in protest. Shortly thereafter, Luther was excommunicated from the Holy Roman Catholic Church and, in 1520, he declared the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in his tract On Christian Liberty with the words: A Christian man is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian man is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all (IBC 78-81). This document is available for download from Gutenberg.org.
The Vatican had elevated Papal authority and Church tradition above the scriptures. Martin Luther was a biblical conservative, both politically and theologically, and he accepted no authority in either realm that did not arise from his understanding of the Bible alone (by which was meant the New Testament as he understood it). It is incidentally for this reason that Karaism is sometimes referred to as Jewish Protestantism. Luther and his peers, especially Calvin ("each in his own way"), stressed the importance of God's absolute transcendence, the importance of personal revelation and the subsequent faith it invoked, the preaching and ultimate authority of the Bible (even above Church Tradition and Papal authority) and the observance of rites prescribed in the New Testament only.
The Protestants also demanded a much higher standard of ethical conduct from the Church hierarchy. Again, even though all these points were already being discussed within the medieval Church, the Reformers believed them to be down played by the labyrinth of medieval theology and corrupted by the notorious abuses of the Church hierarchy and clergy of the day. In this Luther was doubtless correct.
While the Reformers sought to establish individual freedom and expression, what they created, according to Geddes MacGregor, were, "orthodoxy's too rigid and liturgies too limited to accommodate the light the Reformers sought to kindle" (DRP 507,508). Hence, the new Protestant communions, although established on the principles of individual religious liberty, quickly became as intolerant as their Roman counterparts. Indeed, as mentioned above, upon their return the Protestant exiles instigated the most brutal persecution of non-Christian British subjects experienced during the Burning Times.
Martin Luther himself was one of history's most notorious Jew haters. Consider a couple of Martin Luther's quotes:
Therefore be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer selfglory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practiced most maliciously and veheming his eyes on them.
I shall give you my sincere advice: First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly and I myself was unaware of it will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.
Those who left the Catholic Church were quite diverse in their doctrinal views and practices, although most of them retained belief in the anti-Torah Nicean Creed. These groups continued to subdivide and today there are thousands of non-Catholic/non-Orthodox Christian denominations and sects. What it means to be a "Christian" today is a totally open question. The religion is hopelessly divided doctrinally and in fellowship.
Judaism is also divided into movements (four main ones) and rival sects. Within traditional Judaism (which is usually but not always called "Orthodox") are many sects. Sometimes these groups are as, or even more, divisive than the Christian sects among themselves, and most of them are dismissive of the non-Orthodox sects completely. The three non-Orthodox Jewish movements are usually less divisive among themselves, although usually very critical of the Orthodox. Still Judaism is much more unified than Christianity.
Today as the Church is dwindling in numbers and social relevance one segment appears to be almost holding its own: Fundamentalist Christianity.
This group is composed largely of neo-Protestants like Free Methodists, Anglicans (like the Baptists), heterodox sects (like the Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses etc), and non-denominational groups (such as Calvary Chapel), the Pentecostals etc. These groups are currently in a state of mild revival even as Christianity's influence over the society continues to wane before the rise of Islam and Secular Humanism.
Whereas the more traditional forms of the religion are losing members and political/social authority like never before, this branch continues to grow (although at a much slower place than before). Because of this, non-Christians (by observance the majority of Americans) are more inclined to view the Christian religion as outdated and exclusionary and its serious observance as cultic and superstitious. This situation does not bode well for the future of moderate Christendom.
Christian Fundamentalists generally claim to be the only true reflection and restoration of Jesus' original teachings (even though their essential dogmas are at variance with his). They typically reject both branches of Orthodox Christianity (i.e. Roman and Eastern Catholicism), as well as many of the traditional mainline Christian denominations which they considered to be too 'watered down' and compromised. Christian Fundamentalists often point to what they consider the apostasy of many Christian organizations and individuals, citing the New Testament condemnation of 'lukewarm Churchianity' (Revelation 3:15). They blame this as the cause of Christianity's rapid decline (note 12) .
Being generally apocalyptic in their beliefs Fundamentalists often claim that this chaotic and non-observant situation was predicted for the 'last days' before the return of Jesus (LGPE). While more liberal minded mainline churches seek to update their teachings in an effort to be more inclusive, more politically correct and relevant to modern society, Fundamentalists tend to do the exact opposite. They typically seek to root out all hints of 'modernism,' and what they see as 'compromises with the world of Satan'.
One result of this is that more liberal Christians tend to stand with the Hamas backed Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement (BDS) and similar anti-Jewish groups, while many of the more conservative Christian groups are standing firmly with Israel. There are MANY exceptions to this general statement however. There are Fundamentalist Christians who are just as anti-Jewish as the Presbyterian Church USA, the Quakers, etc.
Nevertheless, most Christian Zionists are also "Fundamentalists" and "Right Wingers." This is creating a confusing problem for Jews and Christians alike. While the support is certainly appreciated, Jews must be careful because most Fundamentalist Christians practice a "replacement theology" that states that Jews must be converted to their religion in order to be "saved." While some seek to murder the Jewish body, replacement theology seeks to murder the Jewish soul, which is a far more serious threat! This leads some Jews to seek isolation from the Christians assuming they are all seeking our conversion.
Whereas support for Israel used to be "liberal" position, the new "progressives" that have replaced them are more and more often siding with those who would genocide us. This change is having a devastating impact on Jews in America and Europe. Far too American Jews still have not realized this shift in liberal policies. They have been betrayed and do not yet realize it.
"Messianic Judaism" Jesus warns his followers:Revelation 2:9 (King James version) 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.
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.
An old/renewed heresy is taking place among Fundamentalist Christians today. It has been growing since the 1970's: so-called Messianic Judaism. These people are not religiously Jews, and the vast majority are not halachically Jews. This Christian sect began with the group Jews for Jesus, a Trinitarian heresy of born Jewish converts to mainly Baptist Christianity. Most "Messianics" today are Fundamentalist Christians from one of the denomincations. Many of them are also committed Zionists. They often use Zionism to gain acceptence from Jews and then seek to convert them away from Torah.
"Messianic Jews" maintain all or most of the essential Christian beliefs and dogmas but put forth a Jewish veneer meant to establish them as "spiritual Israel." This is the most offensive form of Christian Replacement Theology of all. Their intention is to convert Jews away from Torah and to Christianity. Sadly their deception is producing the desired results. Some Torah ignorant Jews are being deceived. The ultimate goal is to turn the nation of Israel into a Christian nation and thereby usher in the Messianic era as they conceive of it. To accomplish this, they hope to spiritually genocide the Jewish people. These Christians are not our allies!
There are many forms of this anti-Jewish "Messianic" community. Some go back to Jews for Jesus, while other date back to the Third Great Awakening in the mid to late 1800s. Messianic Jews include Jews for Jesus, the Netzarim, the Holy Name and Hebrew Roots movements, Chosen People Ministries, Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, Messianic Jewish Alliance Israel, Union of Messianic Congregations, British Israelism (i.e. Garner Ted Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God splintered groups), and many others. For more information about this biblically misguided belief system feel to contact me. If you are Jewish and considering this heresy you also may wish to contact Jews for Judaism.
Even as the Protestant Reformers sought not the disintegration of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather its reformation, so too contemporary Fundamentalists are seeking to ignite a Church-wide revival, one that generally excludes the Catholics which many believe to be "Babylon the Great" even though the Catholic Church is their mother organization (for a bit of irony on this see Revelation 17:5). The Messianic Movement is a key part of this strategy as converting Jews is seen as a confirmation of their beliefs. Like so many of their beliefs, this one directly contridicts the Biblical prophets:Zechariah 8:23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.And yet they seek to convert us. The Fundamentalists hope to spark a return to what they deem traditional, biblical Christian beliefs and values. As discussed above, those beliefs arise from the dogmas of the Catholic Church, not from the Bible nor from the historic Y'shua ben Yosef.
In support of their agenda, Fundamentalist Christian scholar C.I. Scofield (note 13) wrote:There are two forms which Babylon is to have in the end-time: political Babylon (Rev. 17:8-17) and ecclesiastical Babylon (Rev. 17:1-7) ... Ecclesiastical Babylon is all apostate Christendom, in which papacy will undoubtedly be prominent; it may even very well be that this union will embrace all the religions of the world (SB. Rev. 18: 2 footnote).
Modern Fundamentalists are following in the footsteps of the predecessors, the Protesters. They are generally sincerely seeking to correct problems within the Church, however like the Protestant Reformers, they fail to recognize the central problem: Their beliefs violate the Torah (see Matthew 5:18, Revelation 2:9, 3:9).
Das Aufklärung and Haskalah
For over a thousand years the Church had been viewed as the bastion of intellectual thought and authority in the West. Through its priesthood the Church hierarchy had always produced the most well educated people and leaders. It was often illegal for non-clergy people to be literate without specific Church permission however, and so being the most educated in such a society was not quite as impressive as it sounds! The Church sought to maintain complete intellectual as well as physical control over the masses during these many years. There was enough debate within the hierarchy already! Why teach the commoners? (note 17)
Due in large part to the frequent religious conflicts, turmoil and controversies of the seventeenth century, the previously assumed authoritative position of the priesthood among European Christians and non-Christians alike was forfeited during the eighteenth century in what came to be known as the Age of Enlightenment or Das Aufklärung. This period is dated from the 1650s to the 1780s. Immediately following this primarily Gentile Enlightenment came the Jewish Enlightenment known as Haskalah.
Once freed from Papal shackles the newly educated Europeans began questioning everything! As a result they began rejecting the Church's claims of theocratic jurisdiction as well as its endless restrictive mandates concerning morality and most other issues. The Papacy's mystical pretenses were first elided and then ridiculed by much of the public. If the Anglicans and Protestants could find freedom then so could everyone else who wanted it!
It was not only the Protestants and Anglicans challenging the Vatican now! Rumors of secret societies began to be whispered and previously heretical philosophies began coming into the light of day. In Germany, Das Aufklärung (the Enlightenment) reflected this growing dissatisfaction with the self-proclaimed authority and teachings of the Church. This revolutionary spirit of personal freedom inspired those who emigrating to the New World and had profound impacts on America's development. The American dedication to individuality arose directly from Das Aufklärung.
The Enlightenment had among its lofty ideals the goal of religious toleration. People should be allowed to believe whatever they wished but prevented from forcing their views onto others. This led to religious and cultural relativism and the new belief that ultimate truth, if it exists, is relative to personal experience. This view was admirably expressed in Lessing's Nathan der Weise and manifested in the political policies of Frederick the Great. While the Enlightenment demanded religious toleration and plurality, it also insisted than any religious system wishing to be taken seriously had to make reason the basis of its religious (and all other) rulings. This became a guiding principle for the citizens of the New World as we will discuss as we continue. It also foreshadowed the faith destroying skepticism we see today.
For Jews there was no Papacy to challenge, no Vatican from which to rebel. Traditional Judaism is hierarchical however there is no supreme Jewish Pontiff to answer to. Traditional Jewish religion is based on the Talmud and is filled with the contradictory opinions of the Rabbis and sages. Hence the saying, "Ask 8 Rabbis a question you get 10 different answers!" Despite this, traditional Judaism has the Thirteen Principles determined by Rambam, the generally accepted list of 613 Mitzvot (Commands), and Jews were for most part united. Then came Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment.
Because of Das Aufklärung European Jews were now tasting a freedom they had not known for over 2000 years, and they liked it! The idea that Jews could now be accepted as normal members of European society was exciting! To this end many began to assimilate into the greater European culture. They cut off their payot/payos (biblically mandated forelocks), they hid or abandoned their tzitzit (biblically mandated fringes), they intermarried with the Gentiles, and appeared and acted just like other Europeans. Like many Christians, their Judaism became something one "did" once a week. It was no longer who they were. For these upwardly mobile Jews life in the shtetl and everything that went with it was history!
Haskalah was an intellectual movement in Europe that lasted from approximately the 1770s to the 1880s. The Haskalah was inspired by the European Enlightenment but had a distinctive Jewish character.
As a result of Haskalah Reform Judaism gradually developed. As with most reform movements, originally there was no thought of creating a separate form of Judaism. German Jews such as Israel Jacobson, Abraham Geiger, Samuel Holdheim and Leopold Zunz, sought to fundamentally reform Jewish belief and practice and assumed that all Jews would welcome their reforms. These 'modern' Jews could not understand why so many of their fellow Jews did not join them in their new found freedom. Why did so many of their peers cling to shtetl life and 'outdated' halacha (Jewish law) when the Gentiles had finally opened the doors to equality?
Many Jews rejected the liberalizing reforms but so many accepted them that by 1873 there were many Reform "temples" throughout the world, including America. The Union for Reform Judaism was founded in 1873 by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.
In response to the rise of Reform Judaism traditional Judaism organized itself as the Orthodox Jewish Movement. Orthodox or traditional Judaism is the form of the religion that arose following the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in 70 CE. Its essential beliefs and structure date to shortly after Masada (71-73 CE). The Orthodox Jewish Union (OU) was founded in 1898 by Rabbi Henry Pereira Mendes. It serves about 1,000 synagogues and congregations of varying sizes today. It and the other Orthodox Jewish agencies seek to preserve and advance traditional Judaism as that is now conceived.
The Reform Movement hoped to modernized Judaism and to provide a home for Jews living within contemporary societies throughout the Diaspora. The founders of the Reform Movement did not completely agree with the advocates of Haskalah, however they did reject the strictly defined Judaism of traditional Halacha (i.e. Jewish law). They sought to establish a Judaism that embraced das Aufklärung ideals of personal freedom in a way that would be meaningful for modern Jews, yet that was consistent with what they considered the traditional spirit of Jewish ethics and morality, while rejecting what they regarded as the superstitions of past ages (such as the divine authorship of Torah, the objective reality of the Covenant, the idea of Jews as the uniquely chosen people, cultural practices like wearing kippot, beards, and tzitzit, and so on).
Today the Reform Movement offers a mixture of traditional and modern ideas while leaning towards the modern in all cases (female rabbis, open to LGBT rights etc). The findings of the Lenn Report in 1972 presents a rabbinate in transition. At that time a significant percentage of Reform rabbis were questioning the existence of God as historically conceived and other standard Jewish beliefs. At that point many Reform rabbis viewed God in ways that were very similar to many current Reconstructionist rabbis (under the influence of Mordecai Menahem Kaplan: June 11, 1881 - November 8, 1983). Over the years however the Reform Movement has become somewhat more traditional in some of its views, and today:Reform Judaism believes in God. This belief has been demonstrated from the earliest days of the movement; specifically, the Pittsburgh Platform in 1885, which said, "We hold that Judaism presents the highest concept of the God-idea as taught in our holy Scriptures." It was reaffirmed in 1937 in the Columbus Platform: "The heart of Judaism and its chief contribution to religion is the doctrine of the One, living God, who rules the world through law and love." It was reaffirmed yet again in 1976: "The affirmation of God has always been essential to our people's will to survive" (Source of quote).Other Jewish movement and sects as well. For more information on this topic see my study Who is a Jew?
The AwakeningsReturn to: Part 1
Continue with: Part 3
- Note 6: It was edited and republished by Isaac Reggio in Vienna in 1833. It is this edition which is best known. Return
- Note 7: Wicca is a Pagan religion which was widely observed throughout the British Isles and Europe prior to the political ascendancy of Christianity. Return
- Note 8: The Burning Times refer to the period of legal English Witch persecution which lasted 173 years, from the reign of Elizabeth I (1563) to that of George II (1736). Some date this differently. The Inquisitions are sometimes referred to as the Burning Times but these terms are best kept distinct. Return
- Note 9: All three of these women were burnt at the stake due to their religious convictions. Return
- Note 10: With a special emphasis on Spanish Wiccans. Return
- Note 11: Or, is the current period of uncertainty due to the Awakening? Return
- Note 12: In the Book of Revelation Jesus describes seven churches. According to most Fundamentalists, these refer to seven Church ages. This interpretation is based largely on the works of the Reverend Clarence Larkin (DT). According to this view, the present dispensation is the seventh and final. It is known as the Church of Laodicea and reflects the hypocrisy of the modern Christian religion. If accurate, then of this Church Jesus said: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So, then, because thou art lukewarm ... I will spew thee out of my mouth." Fundamentalists believe themselves to be among the few who open the door to this truth and receive Divine favor (Revelation 3:14-19). Reverend Larkin taught during what he defined as the Third Great Awakening. This little known scholar was profoundly influential among student of Christian prophecy. Return
- Note 13: Reveren Scofield is still considered by many to be one of the most authoritative Christian Bible scholars. He live and worked during the Third Great Awakening. Return
- Note 14: The three men were quite different in their approach. It has been said that if Luther was the prophet of the Reformation, then Calvin was its theologian (RNA 89) while Zwingli, as its counselor, worked to keep the Protestants within the Church. Return
- Note 15: Luther rejected the Church's teaching concerning the existence of Purgatory. Return
- Note 16: According to legend, these demands were nailed onto the doors of the university chapel, as if in rebellious outrage. For what its worth, Luther's spiritual decedents point out that this particular chapel door was commonly used as the town bulletin board. The Reformers merely sought to evoke public (especially Church) discussion of their issues not to deface their buildings (IBC 79,80). Return
- Note 17: It should be remembered of course that the Enlightenment was foreshadowed by the work of the old rationalists such as Descartes, Leibniz and Spinoza, as well as the rise of modern (old paradigm) science in the 17th century. Return
Be the Blessing you were created to be
Don't let the perfect defeat the good