The Jewish roots of the Christian Church
by Robert Randle 6/17/2009 / Bible Studies
It goes without saying that were it not for the Jewish Scriptures, Christianity as it has been known for two-thousand years wouldn't even exist; at least, in the form that it is today. The expected Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah, and descendant of King David and Savior of the world as prophesied in the sacred and inspired Jewish Old Testament writings, is the head of the Church which bears His name. And yet, the Christian Church essentially jettisons the Old Testament in favor of the New Testament, which is akin to tossing out the baby with the bath water. In reality, Christianity is not separate from Judaism; it is the spiritual culmination of it. This point is essentially Paul's argument in the book of GALATIANS (2: 16 5: 6). Furthermore, the inauguration of the Church or "The Great Commission" started in Jerusalem of Judea (Cp. Luke 24: 46-48; Acts 1: 4-5, 8).
In the beginning of the Christian Church, it started in Jerusalem with about one-hundred and twenty disciples of Jesus Christ, including Jesus' mother and brothers; mostly of whom are probably Galileans (Acts 1: 14-15, 2: 7). The Church came under persecution in Jerusalem and so the believers scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria (Acts 8: 1). Philip, one of the leading brothers from the Church in Jerusalem (Acts 6: 5) preaches the word to the city of Samaria ("Sebaste") in SAMARIA (Acts 8: 12-13), and converts are made there. Philip reaches Caesarea in GALILEE and preaches the word there (Acts 8: 40), and in all probability makes converts in that city, too.
There are other places where the Apostle Peter met disciples; the towns of Lydda, Sharon, and Joppa (Acts 9: 32, 35, 38, 43); all of which were in the region of Judea. In Damascus of Syria there was a Jewish synagogue where a disciple named Ananais was associated with (Acts 9: 1). This particular passage just cited is important because it goes to the heart of what is forgotten in Christian theology, and that is of a Jewish foundation.
In fact, the very person credited with the theology of Western Christianity, the Apostle Paul, would doubtless be surprised at the separation of the Church today because he wrote in Ephesians 2: 11-14: Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh; who are called uncircumcision by what is called 'the Circumcision' made in the flesh by hands; that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now in Jesus Christ you who were once afar off have brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both ["Jew and Gentile"] one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.
Not only that, but the European Missions that the Apostle Paul embarked upon and made converts in the various cities and towns was the result of proclaiming the word of God in the synagogues by quoting and teaching from the Old Testament Scriptures.
Acts 13: 14-15, 48-49
Arriving at Pisidian Antioch ["Galatia"] on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them and asking if they had any words of exhortation. The Gentiles began glorifying the word of God and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed, and the word of the Lord was spread throughout the region.
Acts 14: 1, 6-7
At Iconium ("Galatia") they entered a synagogue of the Jews and a great multitude believed, both Jews and Greeks. They fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra, and Derbe ("Galatia") preaching the gospel.
NOTE: Although the author doesn't say that they went to the Jewish synagogues in these places, you can be for sure that if one was located there, this is where they would have gone.
Acts 16: 12
And from there to Phillipi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days.
And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.
NOTE: There is supposedly a Jewish custom where if a city or town doesn't have a synagogue, then you are to meet by a riverside for prayer and religious instruction.
Acts 17: 1-2, 4
Now when they came to Thessalonica (MACEDONIA) where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths, reasoned with them from the Scriptures (II Timothy 1: 5; 3: 15). And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.
Acts 17: 10-12
And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea (MACEDONIA); and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily (II Timothy 1: 5; 3: 15), to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.
Acts 18: 8, 11
And he departed from there and went to the house of a certain man named Titius Justus, a worshipper of God whose house was next to the synagogue. And Crispus the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
Acts 18: 19
And they came to Ephesus ("ASIA"), and he left them ("Prisca and Aquila;"18: 18a) there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
And it came about while Apollos was at Corinth (GREECE), Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus (ASIA)
And he entered the synagogue and continued and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of 'the Way' ("Ha-Derekh") before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
It seems clear, after all the internal Scriptural evidence, that Christianity in the beginning was the product of Jewish theology emanating from the temple in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and then from the various synagogues in Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Syria, and from the ones in Europe. So closely was the Christian Movement associated with Judaism (perhaps a more radical form), that a certain attorney named Tertullus, accused the apostle Paul before the judgment seat of Felix, Governor of Caesarea, as being the ringleader of "the sect of the Nazarenes" (Acts 23: 33; 24: 1-6). That this group of believers is Christian and connected with Judaism and the Old Testament, there can be no doubt; based upon Paul's testimony before King Agrippa and Festus the Governor(at this time).
Acts 24: 14-16
But this I admit to you, that according to 'the Way' ("haDerekh;" Cp. 19: 10: 10, 23) which they call a "sect" I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
Acts 26: 23, 24b-25, 27-29
That the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles. Festus said in a loud voice, "Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!" But he said, "I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth." "King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know you do. And Agrippa replied to Paul, "In a short time you will persuade me to be a Christian." And Paul said, "I would to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains."
The evidence is irrefutable and if it were presented in a Court of Law the jury and Judge would see that it contain more than enough to get a conviction; far exceeding the legal threshold of 'reasonable doubt' to almost 'absolute certainty.' The Jewish and Christian communities really need to come together on this issue because this is what the cross of Christ is about, too; and not just for the remission of sins. Lastly, in Ephesians 2: 15b, 16, it states: that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both [Jew and Gentile] into one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.