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The Great Awakenings

The Essence of Contemporary American Religion

Part Six


By Shlomo Phillips © 1989
(most recent update February 23, 2015)

The Noahide Church

According to Acts 1:4 and 2:1, the Jewish Way sect of Y'shua ben Yosef formally began in Jerusalem on Shavu'ot, the Festival of Weeks. This day is also called Hag ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of First Fruits), as well as the Day of Pentecost. To be clear, the Christian festival of Pentecost is not observed as described at Leviticus 23:15 and bears little similarity to it. None of the Christian holidays are biblically founded.

Y'shua's brother James led the first century disciples and sent missionaries out into the Diaspora. The others were answerable to James as 'chief rabbi' of the sect. Through the efforts of the Twelve Disciples (especially Peter and Paul), the Way Movement quickly spread throughout Judea (renamed Philistia by the Romans after Greek Cyrian immigrants), Syria, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, North Africa, Italy, Spain and points beyond.

As the sect gained momentum the Way attracted ever more non-Jewish followers and by the 2nd century it had become a primarily Noahide (i.e. monotheistic non-Jewish) sect only marginally associated with Judaism. Most of its members and elders were no longer Jewish nor identified with Klal Y'israel. John warns his Jewish friends about this developing sect which he calls the Nicolaitan here:

Revelation 2:9 ... I know the blasphemy of those who 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, who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
Verse 15 may have been in reference to Zechariah 8:23 that speaks of the non-Jews going to the Jews for truth in the Olam Haba (or World to Come).

Under the leadership of James (Acts 1:4 and 2:1) most Gentile followers of the sect observed Torah as Noahidim. To educate the newcomers, in the late middle first century CE James established a sub-movement based on the Sheva Mitzvot B'nei Noach: the Seven Noahide Laws for these people. This is discussed at Acts chapter 15.

Within three hundred years of its inception, the Jewish Way Movement had been usurped by the Romans and ceased to exist as part of Judaism. The New Religion that arose from its shadow became the dominant religious and political force of the Roman Empire throughout the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Over the next six hundred years the new religion spread like wildfire, largely through the Roman sword and coercion. Jews did not fare well under this expanding Christian reign.

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