The Invented Conspiracy of The Hebrew RootsPart 2 of the Hebrew Roots Series
In the last post we discussed a key presupposition of the Hebrew Roots movement which posits a faulty hermeneutic. This hermeneutic places the priority of interpretation upon the Old Testament, more specifically, the Torah. In contrast to the hermeneutic of Reformed Christianity, the Hebraist interprets the entirety of God’s written revelation in light of the first five books. Of course, we as Protestant Reformed Christians interpret God’s Word in light of newer, clearer revelation.
In this post, I want to discuss another key presupposition. This pre-belief comes in the form of a conspiracy. The basic thrust of this conspiracy is this: Hebraists believe that the Church has been corrupted, especially by Constantinian influence. In essence, Greek and Roman philosophy is seen to have invaded the early Church causing a false understanding of God’s Word to arise. Because of this, Christianity is seen as a corrupt false teaching which needs to be reformed back to its roots. Zachary Bauer of New 2 Torah writes:
People think I’m crazy and will say that the law is done away with. They argue that Jesus nailed the law to the cross. For every verse you give me that says the law is done away with I can give you 2-3 verses in the NT that says its not. So either we have many contradictions in God’s Word or a misunderstanding spanning generations back to Constantine and the supposed Holy Roman Empire.
There are a few problems presented in light of this basic presupposition of the Hebrew Roots movement. 1) Teachings of today’s Christian Church are consistent with pre-Constantinian theology (ante-nicene Church Fathers, etc); 2) The only primary source of Constantine which we possess today hints at no such conspiracy (See The Life of Constantine, by Eusebius); and 3) an appeal to conspiracy is a fallacious and unreliable way to reach an understanding of objective truth.
The Teaching of Today’s Church
There is absolutely no observable evidence that the Church has been so wildly corrupted that somehow the essential truths of God’s Word are no longer being effectively communicated within our local bodies. This type of teaching is characteristic of cult doctrine. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Christian Church has been corrupted and that the Bible has been misinterpreted for centuries; the Mormons believe that the Church has been corrupted and therefore requires reform, hence The Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith; and Islam believes that the Gospel accounts and the Epistolary writings of Paul and others have been added to or taken away from, thus the Prophet Muhammad is the priority when it comes to knowing the one true god. Therefore, the Quran is seen, by them, as the most up-to-date, incorruptible revelation which supersedes the Bible since the Bible we have today is allegedly not the Bible of the 1st century. However, when these cults are examined closer, many holes are found and the import of man-made teaching becomes obvious.
Within the Hebrew Roots movement, the accusation is made that Christianity has become corrupted by Roman and Greek philosophy, especially by that of Constantine. This is a problem since many doctrines of the Church today are consistent and identical to that of the 1st century Apostles, and the 2nd century early Church Fathers. Constantine was not Emperor until the 3rd century. Examples of the early Church teachings are as follows:
“O Lord God almighty . . . I bless you and glorify you through the eternal and heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom be glory to you, with Him and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever,” (n. 14, ed. Funk, PG 5.1040). -Polykarp (70-155/160 A.D.)
“For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water,” (First Apol., LXI). -Justin Martyr (100?-165? A.D.)
“In Christ Jesus our Lord, by whom and with whom be glory and power to the Father with the Holy Spirit for ever,” (n. 7; PG 5.988).
“We have also as a Physician the Lord our God Jesus the Christ the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For ‘the Word was made flesh.’ Being incorporeal, He was in the body; being impassible, He was in a passable body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts,” (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The ante-Nicene Fathers, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975 rpt., Vol. 1, p. 52, Ephesians 7). -Ignatius of Antioch (died 98/117 A.D.)
The Abrogation of Old Covenant Law
“Do not be deceived by strange doctrines or antiquated myths, since they are worthless. For if we continue to live accordance with Judaism, we admit that we have not received grace. For the most godly prophets lived in accordance with Christ Jesus. This is why they were persecuted, being inspired as they were by His grace in order that those who are disobedient might be fully convinced that there is one God who revealed Himself through Jesus Christ His Son, who is His Word which came forth from silence, who in every respect pleased Him who sent Him. If, then, those who had lived in antiquated practices came to newness of hope, no longer keeping the Sabbath but living in accordance with the Lord’s day, on which our life also arose through Him and His death (which some deny), the mystery through which we came to believe, and because of which we patiently endure, in order that we might be found to be disciples of Jesus Christ, our only teacher, how can we possibly live without Him, whom even the prophets, who were His disciples in the Spirit, were expecting as their teacher? Because of this He for whom they rightly waited raised them from the dead when He came. Therefore let us not be unaware of His goodness. For if He were to imitate the way we act, we are lost. Therefore, having become His disciples, let us learn to live in accordance with Christianity. For whoever is called by any other name than this one does not belong to God. Throw out, therefore, the bad leaven, which has become stale and sour, and reach for the new leaven, which is Jesus Christ. Be salted with Him, so that none of you become rotten, for by your odor you will be examined. It is utterly absurd to profess Jesus Christ and to practice Judaism. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity, in which “every tongue” believed and “was brought together” to God.” (10) -Ignatius (110 A.D.)
“Finally, He says to them: ‘I cannot bear your new moons and sabbaths.’ You see what He means: it is not the present sabbaths that are acceptable to Me, but the one that I have made; on that Sabbath, after I have set everything at rest, I will create the beginning of an eighth day, which is the beginning of another world. This is why we spend the eighth day in celebration, the day on which Jesus both arose from the dead and, after appearing again, ascended into heaven.” (11) -Epistle of Barnabas (130 A.D.)
With the examination of these few, of many, examples, it can be seen that even the earliest members of the Church, proceeding the Apostles, understood the teaching of Scripture to indicate a discontinuity between the Old Covenant and the institution of the New Covenant. For this reason, it cannot be accurately claimed that Constantine corrupted the Church concerning the issues at hand.
The Emperor Constantine
Constantine has been criticized heavily both in our generation and in generations past. However, if one were to read the first hand account of Constantine’s life, it would be difficult to find a conspiracy common to our ears today. It would appear that the Emperor was a true convert to Christianity and was, in fact, not utilizing the religion for political gain. The man did have some theological misunderstandings which Eusebius recorded in his work. However, these misunderstandings haven’t really washed out into mainstream Protestantism. Furthermore, even if the Emperor did have ulterior motives, it would be almost impossible to prove. One would have to appeal to conspiracy, or base what they know off of less reliable, secondary sources. What is more, it wouldn’t really matter if he made an attempt to corrupt Christianity since our essential teachings are consistent with those who lived long before Constantine. (i.e. the Apostles, Church Fathers, etc.)
The Appeal to Conspiracy
In light of the above material, it can be seen that there is no other route for the Hebraist, when it comes to the corruption of Christianity, but to appeal to conspiracy. However, as discussed above, this is fallacious and unreliable. Also, the concept of this particular conspiracy is dissolved upon closer examination of the evidence. (See above)
Hopefully, it can be seen thus far, that two presuppositions which the Hebrew Roots movement relies upon for its existence are compromised. These two presuppositions are their hermeneutics and their appeal to conspiracy (claiming the corruption of the Church). In the next post, I want to begin discussing their soteriology. Now that the foundational presuppositions of the Hebrew Roots movement have been addressed, we can begin polemically addressing various theological and exegetical issues. Continue visiting the Reformed Collective for the latest content concerning this matter!
The Life of Constantine, by Eusebius
n. 14, ed. Funk, PG 5.1040, Polykarp
First Apol., LXI, Justin Martyr
Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The ante-Nicene Fathers, Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1975 rpt., Vol. 1, p. 52, Ephesians 7, Ignatius of Antioch
Epistle of Barnabas