I just had what might be a good idea – you tell me!

I just had what might be a good idea – you tell me!

July 17, 2021

Dear friends,

To my surprise many (most?) of the comments I got yesterday were related to my question about whether to write about the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 20th century or not.  Thanks to all those who replied!  And the various comments have given me an idea which I want to run by you:

What if, instead of writing a 10’000 words essay (I am only slightly exaggerating!) about the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in the past 100 years (or more!) I did something much, much simpler?  Here is my idea:

It is my claim that 95% or more of so-called “Christian denominations” are Christian only in name and that this is empirically and logically provable! The *only* element required to be able to do so is a correct understanding of what the original Christians (at the time of Christ, His Apostles and the Fathers) adopted as their “criteria of truth”!  Once you (really) “get” “just” that it becomes comically simple to prove that modern “Christianity” has almost nothing in common with the original Christianity of Christ and the Church He Founded.

This is as true for the Latins, as it is for the MP or for the innumerable sects resulting from the Reformation.  Furthermore, I also note with horror that 95% or more of the people who sincerely think of themselves as “Christians” don’t even know the very basics of what Christianity is.  So the real problem is not that this or that off-shot of Christianity sincerely, but mistakenly, thinks of itself as “Christian”, the problem is that the overwhelming majority of those who seek to truly follow the commandments and teachings of Christ do not have the means to find out what these commandments and teachings are!

Yeah, yeah, I know, solo scriptura and all that!  Sounds good in theory, but in practice this is literally a chain-reaction like phenomenon in which the more the slogan solo scriptura is chanted, the more denominations result from this.  Not exactly what Saint Paul intended when wrote “One Lord, one faith, one baptism“…

So rather than dealing with lofty and subtle issues of Patristic teachings on ecclesiology or dogmatic anthropology, which would be a waste of time in our post-Christian societies, why don’t I “go minimal“?  What I am thinking is to start a series of short “Christian vignettes” dealing with basic but important issues: what is the purpose of our life? what is our nature? what is a “saint”? what is the “Church”?  What did Christ teach about His Church?  How did the Fathers deal with heresies and schisms?  What is the “symphony of power” and how is it different from the “caesaropapism” invented by western “theologians”? How did the Fathers deal with all the innumerable crises (persecutions, heresies, schisms, infiltrations by enemies. etc.) the Church of Christ faced in its history (especially since “there is nothing new under the sun” and we have no commandment to reinvent the wheel over and over and over again!)? etc. etc. etc.  Yes, one could write several PhD theses on any of those deceptively “simple” questions, but my goal would be to write a short vignette and maybe add a few useful links to some relevant text.

Again, I won’t be “going after” the Latins, the Sergianists or anybody else.  I will just present what I believe is the “real thing” and you can them compare and contrast it with whatever putatively “Christian” denomination at your own leisure (or not).

Believe me, when, for example, the Latins and the Orthodox use the exact same words (Virgin Mary, Church, grace, sin, redemption, tradition, authority, obedience, etc.) they appear to be using the same categories.  In reality they never do, because the meaning they give to these concepts are radically different.  So I would probably start with simply worded Orthodox definitions (understanding) of some basic concepts.

Here is my underlying view of the original of the Church: Christ very much came into the world to create an “organized religion”, in fact I would even describe it as *highly* organized (at least in theory, on the day to day parish life, not so much, alas!).  He created His Church.  Over the centuries, the external power, influence and authority of this Church in the world went through many ups and downs, and the fall of the entire West into schism and heresy resulted in the post-Christian society we live in today.  That original Church of Christ still exists today, but it is small, almost tiny.  But compared to the times of, Saint Maximos the Confessor, the Church of Christ is booming and doing great!  In fact, any QUANTITATIVE argument in defense of any faith is a logical and spiritual fallacy and was, therefore, never used by the Fathers.  It so happens that my life has lead me to this tiny “spiritual island” (the traditional image would be one of a vessel with Christ at its helm) which is in the world, but not of the world, and which truly (in its essence) is still the same, a-temporal, Church Christ founded 2000 years ago.  I want to share what I found there, if only to convincingly prove that that which is nowadays is commonly referred to as “Christianity” has nothing in common with the real thing.  What I propose to do is to begin my demonstration with the very basics.

My suggestion for a first such vignette?  The question of “how much is enough”, i.e. how big (# of followers or # of bishops) or small can the Church of Christ be to still qualify as the original Church of Christ?  Would one true Christian (however you defined this concept) on a desert island still be “The Church”?  How about 10 Christians and I will even toss in 4 deacons, 2 priests and even one bishop!  So “Church” or “no-Church”?  True, I did hint at the correct answer above, but I did not explain it.  So – interested or not?

Let me repeat here: the original Church, as created by Christ and His Apostles still exists today, this Church has lived through very different historical periods and it has therefore appeared to be externally changing.  And sometimes this Church did change.  Externally.  But in its essence, we know two things: that the Church of Christ is the Pillar and Foundation of Truth which will never and, in fact, cannot “change”, if only because “change” is something which happens over time, whereas the (real) Church is “outside time”.

The Latins call themselves “The Church” and even lapsed-Latins STILL call the Latin Church “The Church”.  Why?  Well, because of the Pope, of course!  What other religion can claim to be headed by this putatively “infallible” superstar with his Papamobiles and an opinion about everything, especially secular matters?! (note for non-Latins: Latins do NOT claim that the Pope is always right, but only when he speaks “officially”, in his quality of Pope, and on issues of faith and morality.  But still, this is a crazy notion, especially if one accepts the Augustinian/Thomistic views on original sin and salvation!).

“Infallibility” is another perfect example!  The original Christians have always believed that the True One Church of Christ is infallible in its essence being the Theandric Body of Christ filled with the Holy Spirit.  But while the ENTIRE CHURCH is infallible, no single individual, not even a saint, is infallible.  The Latins trasferred that which was always considered an attribute of the entire Conciliar Church into one man.  Do yes, both Christians and Latins speak of “infallibility” – but what we mean by that are diametrically opposed concepts!

The truth is that real Christianity is completely in-compatible with not only modern “values”, it is in direct contradiction with the vast majority of the tenets/beliefs/certitudes of our post-Christian world.  So all the forms of “Christianity” which “go with the times” and innovate are, by definition, axiomatically NOT Christian.  Again, that could be the topic of a short “vignette” which can demonstrate that in 2, max 3, paragraphs.

So I want to set the record strait: I only propose to restate present what I believe is a truly Christian understanding of issue/concept “X” and I leave you, the reader, the freedom to choose to accept or reject what I submit (like in an AA meeting!).  I could start with a vignette entitled “a Christian view of pragmatism” or “why are there so many religions?” or even “what is progress” or can dogmas change and, if yes, which ones?”.  I am really talking about the basic “building blocks” of the original Christianity.

So, rather than dealing with the Papacy, the MP or the innumerable Evangelical sects, I will simply present you with a short summary how of original Christianity was different.  Then, at least, you will be equipped to try to ascertain the degree of actual Christianity in your own denomination (or in the denominations you criticize if you are an agnostic/atheist).

Finally, I will place these “vignettes” in my “sandbox” for two reasons: first, this is probably not a topic most readers will be interested in; second these will be short, quickly written, items (“vignettes”) which do not fit into any other category (and I sure am not creating a new, separate, category for that).

So, good idea or goody idea?

Kindest regards to all,

The Saker

PS: one more idea I just had: I could ask a person (I trust does know real, Patristic, Christianity) for his/her “vignette” on this or that topic.  That would make this all much more interesting since different persons would present their understanding of these issue, not just one guy!

IMPORTANT PPS: speaking of “just one guy”.  Yes, I do have a formal (academic) education in Patristics (aka Traditional Orthodox Theology), but that still leaves me “just a guy”!  I have NO clerical title, NO blessing from anybody to teach (though, technically speaking, by Licentiate does give me that right, at least in a seminary) and I claim NO original insights whatsoever, nevermind anything even remotely resembling any “authority” of any kind.  I have received absolutely NO charisma whatsoever besides my baptism!   I am but a sinful layman, please never forget that, and never let me forget that either!

Jewish Supremacism (Zionism) is Coming to an End (Part Two)

By VT Editors -July 13, 2021

In the Name of All- beneficent, All-merciful God (Allah).

God has kept his promise to Jesus ( peace be upon him) that his followers will have the upperhand over his enemies until the day of judgment.

Today the Christian population of the world is 2.3 billion and the Jews, who refused to recognize the Holiness of Jesus and his Holy mother Mary and showed enmity towards them, are only 14.7 million (in pure form) and including their sub categories they are  20 million or so, and the Idol worshippers of then Rome, who wanted to kill Jesus and killed many of his followers, are extinct now.

If a person is told, “God has sent a message that you will never enter paradise and you are definitely going to hell” How  do you think he is going to act?

I think he is going to be enraged and he is going to commit every possible sins and crimes against others and try to destroy others’ lives out of envy, just like what has happened to Satan, when Allah cursed him and drove him away from the Garden, as he refused to obey Allah’s order.

Also, if someone is told that he is going to heaven no matter what, then nothing will stop him from committing crimes against others, since he is assured of heaven. This is the case with the Zionist Jews; they think they are chosen by God. It should be asked: “Chosen” for what, heaven or hell?

Had God really made this promise to any one, He would have first removed the evil intentions from his soul completely, so that he is preserved from all sins and not commit crimes against others, to get what he desires. This is the logical path.

Then, when we see the Zionist Jews are committing great sins and crimes against other human beings, then we have no doubt they have fabricated this saying: “We are not going to be punished for this.”

This very sentence of them, “We are the chosen people” is the root cause of their transgressions in their private and social lives, which had begun long before Jesus arrived, almost two thousand years ago. God says in the Holy Quran:

“The faithless among the children ( descendants) of Israel  were cursed on the tongue of David and Jesus son of Mary. That, because they would disobey and they used to commit transgression.’ (5:78)

A strange looking transgression by Israeli Occupation forces need to be looked at and be given much attention to. Every time Israel attacked Lebanon, it did not forget to  shell Cana, a south Lebanon town bordering northern Galilee. They have killed many innocent civilians there intentionally, even though there were no Hezbollah positions there during those incidents . Much was written about it in Lebanese media at that time and in subsequent anniversaries. The famous and distinguished journalist, late Robert Fisk, covered these stories at length.

Lebanese town of Cana is not like any other town, it is famous for pilgrimage for the Christians and the Muslims. It is said, Jesus( peace be upon him) showed his first miracle there, changing water into a Heavenly wine or drink for his disciples. Some say, he also cured a woman there, his first time, with his miraculous power.

WHY do Israeli Occupation Forces shell this place every time they attack Lebanon?

Questions must be asked to the Christian world, specially to the US politicians:

1. Which is more financially beneficial for the USA, friendship with 20 million Jews or 1.8 billion Muslims?

2. Why are the Jews so dear to you who think Jesus was a fraud?

3. And why are the Muslims so detestable to you, while the Quran is full of beautiful praises for Jesus and his Holy Mother ?

3. Was not Hitler a Christian who killed Jews in Europe? Why have you implanted European  Jews in Palestine? Does Jesus agree with this kind of justice?

4. Why should Muslim be killed and evicted from Palestine  to make space for European Jews, whom you Christians have killed in hundreds of thousands? Why not create a safe heaven for them in Europe or in the USA, if you are so concerned about their plight? What kind of atonement and upholding human rights is that?

5. Is it socially and securitywise an advantage for the USA to support Israel in inhumane crimes against Palestinians and their neighbors and thereby antagonize the 1.8 billion Muslims? (Thanks to American internet, that brings news and footage of American and Israeli crimes against the Muslim world, to every Muslim home everyday)

6. Are you afraid that, if you don’t support  Israel, you are going to lose all the Jewish business people’s money?

In that case, where are they going to go with their money?

7. Why don’t you tell your Jewish friends  “Stop whispering venoms in my ears against Muslims, they have the same rights as you have! They are not hurting you, it is us who have hurt you many times!”

If you do not have the courage to tell it to the Jews, then borrow courage from these verses of the Holy Quran, where God speaks to the faithful through Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him and his infallible family):

” O you who have faith ( faith in God an His messengers and the Judgment Day)!
Be maintainers of justice and witness for the sake of Allah, even if it should be against yourselves or [your] parents and near relatives, and whether it be [someone] rich or poor, for Allah has a greater right over them. So do not follow [your] desires, lest you should be unfair, and if you distort [the testimony] or disregard [it], Allah is indeed well aware of what you do.”
(Quran, 4:135)

And here is another instruction from God which blows away any racism, religious bigotry and other reasons that unfairly treat people, be they Jews, Christians and Muslims:

“O you who have faith!
Be maintainers of justice, for the sake of Allah, and ill feeling for a people should never lead you to be unfair. Be fair; that is Godwariness, and be wary of Allah. Allah is indeed well aware of what you do.

Allah has promised those who have faith and do righteous deeds, forgiveness and a great reward.” (Quran,5:8-9)

And He praises the upright people:

” So give good news to my servants who listen to the word and follow the best of it. They are the ones whom Allah has guided, and it is they who possess intellect.” (Quran, 39:17-18)

More than 1400 hundred years ago, Allah revealed to Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him and his infallible family) that he was going to defeat the big forces of the idol worshippers and take back the control of Holy Kaba, which was built by his forefather prophet Abraham (pubh), known as The idol smasher. These were the verses:

“When Nasrallah ( Allah’s help) comes  with victory, and you see the people entering Allah’s religion in throngs, then celebrate the praise of your Lord, and plead to Him for forgiveness. Indeed He is all-clement.” (Quran, 110-:1-3)

And it happened exactly so. The idol worshippers all fled from Macca before putting up a fight due to great fear.  That fear in the hearts of the pagans was the help from Allah.

This time we have a person named Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah (Allah’s help), the Leader of  the Lebanese Hezbollah, promising the same, that his forces, along with his friends from the region, will liberate entire Palestine from the Zionists with the help from the oppressed Palestinians. Thereby also liberate Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on behalf of the Muslim world.

Is Nasrallah name just a coincidental similarity? Or is it divinely ordained for the liberation of Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem?

In last 22 years he has always made good on his pledges. In the year 2000, he promised to his country men that they would drive out the Israeli forces from south Lebanon, and they did. After the victory he declared to his nation that “There will be no more defeats for Lebanon against Israel.”

In 2006, on the first day of the war, which was imposed on Lebanon by Israel, he warned the Israeli people on a televised speech that their war was not only against Lebanon, but their war was also against Prophet Mohammad and his family (peace be upon him and his family). He declared that his forces were given a divine pledge, that they were surely going to win the war and they will humiliate the Israelis, and it happened exactly so.

After 4 weeks of fighting Israel realised that it was not going win the war and actually was losing, it requested the USA to arrange a cease-fire with Lebanese PM. Before the cease-fire, for a face saving result, Israel pressed hard with a very big number of their best tanks against Hezbollah . I remember, three days before the cease-fire, Israel lost 34 tanks, two days before the cease-fire it lost 55 tanks and on the last day it lost 74 tanks. A real face saver huh?

With his mentioning of the divine guarantee and the great victory, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah proved he has divine connections with Prophet Mohammad and his family ( pubh& his family).

Before Hezbollah entered the Syrian war against the Al Qaeda and the ISIS terrorists, at the invitation of the Syrian government, Sayyed Nasrallah again pledged victory, and he made good on his pledge again. By this, he once again proved he is spiritually connected to the higher world, from where he gets his clues.

My conclusion is, Israel will give up fighting due to extreme fear of death. All of their officers and soldiers know that Sayyed Nasrallah never lies; when he says something, it happiness. We are going to see what used to happen during the days of the prophets and for that, there is no better arena than Palestine.

A few days ago presstv.ir reported that Sayyed Nasrallah has said, while meeting the Hamas Leader Ismail Hanyeh:

“The resistance front has always stood by its words, and fulfilled it’s pledges. The obliteration of Israel and liberation of al-Quds are now within reach and can happen closer than ever. When the resistance front vows to obliterate Israel, it relies on established facts and not illusions.”

Israeli settlers have announced that they are going to enter the Al Aqsa Mosque on 18th of July with the demand that the Dome of the Mosque structure be demolished for building the Temple of Solomon. According to the Jews, their Messiah will appear any time after that.

Allah has a notice for the Zionists though:

” And when your Lord proclaimed that He would surely send against them, until the Day of Resurrection, those who will inflict on them a terrible punishment. Indeed your Lord is swift in retribution, and indeed He is all- seeing, all-merciful.”
( Quran, 7:167)

Irfan al-Huq
Bangladesh

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Editors is a General Posting account managed by Jim W. Dean and Gordon Duff. All content herein is owned and copyrighted by Jim W. Dean and Gordon Duff

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Constantinople & the world – the real story

Constantinople & the world – the real story

October 16, 2020

by Giorgi Nektarios Selimos for the Saker Blog

Please read my words & think about what has happened.
Normal people are not to blame here it is the sin of Greed & Lust for money & power that is responsible. If you truly believe in Christ nothing is lost. But after you read this you must decide what to do as you will know the Truth & God will not hold you blameless.

The Throne of the Pope is an interesting case as there is no evidence in the Bible or any Historical religious texts there was ever 1 single Bishop that should or did preside over all other churches in Christianity.
The Word Pope in the context as the Universal leader is never mentioned by any of the Apostles in the Bible or any Bishops from the 5 churches of the Apostles during the Time of Christ on the Earth.

The 1st Bishop of the church in Rome was Pius 1 (142-155) & he never mentioned the Word Pope or ever referred to being the Universal leader of Christians during his service to the Lord & the people of Rome.

For the 1st 1000 years after Christ the Church was essentially one body that had 5 Historical Patriarchal Centres in Strategic locations as advised to by Christ himself & the Mutual agreement of all of the 12 apostles.
As seen in the Bible the Apostles worked as a team with their churches & consulted each other on troubling issues from time to time & were always in full communion with each other.

This is not to say that there was no differences as is clearly exhibited in the Bible when Apostle Paul argues with Peter for not wanting to except ALL people into the Church as Christians. Paul argued with Peter that Jewish laws & customs should NOT be applied to non Jews in order for them to be accepted in the Church. Peter thought that EVERYONE HAD to follow Jewish Laws & customs to be accepted by Christ.

In the end the Apostles agreed with Paul & Peter accepted the decision & so Christianity was able to be spread to the whole world. This documented event in the Bible clearly shows that NO ONE Apostle was the Supreme leader, and that all Apostles worked together in their faith to spread the Words of Christ.

From the Original Christian churches in Jerusalem, Antioch(Syria), Rome(Italy), Alexandria(Egypt), & Constantinople(Greece) the Apostles Spread the word of God. But were persecuted & tortured & murdered by Romans & non Believers .

In 306 Constantine the Roman Emperor had fought his way to power in Rome & had managed to become Emperor for all the Roman Empire. Early on his reign Constantine was a beneficiary of a miracle of Christ
( Battle of the Milvian Bridge) & became a firm believer in Christ & Christ’s teachings & ended the persecution of all Christians.

In Honour of his new found faith in Christ, Constantine decided to built a new Capital for the Roman Empire in the Eastern predominately Christian Greek area of the Roman Empire. He would name this new spectacular city Constantinople & build the Worlds Grandest Church there ” The Church of the Apostles” or “Ayia Sophia’ it was laden with Gold, Marble, jewels, & the finest materials in all mankind it was spectacular in appearance & magnificent in stature. The Russian Royal Delegation would later describe it to Prince Vladimir of Russia as: “When we entered this place of worship we did not know if we were in Heaven or on Earth”

Emperor Constantine would seek to Unite his empire in Christian faith under this Orthodox Church.
In fact Constantine was incredibly successful & Christianity flourished under his rule.
In 325 Constantine established the Council of Nicea , where all Religious matters of the 5 original Apostolic Churches were to be worked out together . Emperor Constantine set up a system where all the Bishops of each church would work together under the Orthodox Church & have full communion with each other.

It was a good democratic system where no one Bishop or Politician could rule alone & where the Emperor would still retain authority of the whole Roman Empire.

Constantine wisely understood that in order for the Roman Empire to remain Strong he needed to keep the Church strong unlike politics this was the one way he could unite the citizens of the Empire in a good manner. To be certain, differences did occur in some religious matters from time to time but ultimately were resolved or not allowed to interfere with the continuation of the Church. Such was a dispute with the Nicene creed, the Roman church Bishop had disagreed with the Orthodox church Bishops of the East on this. The Roman Bishop refused to agree with any of the other Bishops on this issue. So they just defered the matter & nothing was officially changed until the Great Schism of the Roman church.

During his reign, Emperor Constantine built St Peters Basilica in Rome directly over the Apostle Peter’s Tomb. This was done so as to greatly honour the Apostle Peter who had spent much of his time Preaching in Rome .
It took 30 years to build starting in 326. It was a grand Church but not close in stature to the Headquarters Church Constantine had built in the Eastern part of the empire in his new capital of Constantinople.

After Emperor Constantine’s death his successor’s would succumb to political pressure from the Rich & Old Guard Romans who wanted to shift government power back to Rome.
The Political Elite had seen how Constantine had managed to gain peace, great power & riches through the Unification of the empire under one church & most certainly were thinking of a way that they too could emulate his success. But they did not want to operate from this new Roman Empire Capital of Constantinople.

They were desperate to find a way to make Rome the power centre once again. The Great Orthodox Church that Constantine had built & united his empire in Christianity with, was caught in the middle of this political struggle with Western Roman elites & a lot of power & money was at stake. Not to mention many Roman politicians still found it difficult not worshipping the Old Roman Idols from previous Emperors & retaining the mentality of worshiping any Idol they believed would make them rich & powerful.
They were not too concerned about true salvation, much like many of today’s politicians who clearly pretend to be whatever they need to be in order to get elected. They were more interested in Power & money & sex. At the same time the Church in Rome also got caught up in this political power struggle.

Between religious disagreement with the four original eastern orthodox churches & the political pressure to undo Constantinople as the Roman capital, The Roman Church & Bishops were greatly effected & started to break away from the other 4 remaining Patriarchs of the Original church.

During this time the Roman Church bishops suddenly & mysteriously produced
“The Donation of Constantine Decree” a brilliantly forged Imperial Decree in which the now dead Emperor Constantine transfers authority over Rome & all the Western part of the Empire to the Pope .

In this fake decree Constantine purportedly agreed his throne would only retain Imperial Authority in the Eastern part of the Roman empire & rule only from his new imperial capital of Constantinople & was also agreed the Pope of the Roman Church could have control of the rest of the Empire.
The Forged Imperial Decree claimed it was a gift to Pope Sylvester 1 for teaching Emperor Constantine about Christianity , baptizing him, & curing him of Leprosy.
This Forged Decree continued to be of great use to the Roman Church & was used by successive Popes to solidify power acquire more territory & gain more converts.
This document was also used in the Roman Empire as a Propaganda tool for the Roman Church to claim Universal Supremacy over the remaining 4 unified apostolic orthodox churches.

The 1st Pope who had the audacity to use this Forged document in an official act against all the other churches was Pope Leo IX who in an officially recorded letter to the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1054 declared to the remaining 4 Churches of the Apostles that Indeed it was the Roman Church who clearly had Universal Supremacy over all Christians as was the proof under the seal of the Emperor Constantine as well as under a loosely translated reference (Matthew:16:18 ) made in the Bible. The Roman Church then demanded that everyone bow down to them & except this for fact.

When the Orthodox Patriarchs refused, the Roman Pope split away & officially created the Roman Catholic Church independent of the Orthodox churches, thus creating new religious decrees such as celibacy for clergy, no divorce, & the new revelation that the Pope was the infallible Vicar of Christ as well as numerous other new rules that were never part of the original church.

This was the year 1054 & the Roman Church had now officially split with the remaining 4 Original Apostolic Orthodox churches.
It was to be known as the great Schism.
The Roman Church was now officially alone & the 1st church in History of Christianity to split from the remaining Apostolic Orthodox churches.

It was now the 4 Original Orthodox Patriarchal Churches remaining as one, just as they still remain almost 1,000 years later today. The 4 remaining church’s managed to come to an agreement together & agreed not to bow down to the self proclaimed Universal Supremacy of the Roman Pope & all his new rules. It was only due to Christ’s miraculous enlightenment that the Orthodox Bishops did not believe the lies of the Pope & his forged decree.
The Original Apostolic Churches were not lost.

Eventually Pope Pius in 1453 admitted that the decree was a forgery & just as it had suddenly appeared, it was suddenly never seen again & nor ever mentioned or used again by the Roman Church & Pope.
By this time though the Muslim Armies of the East had gained horrific strength & were ravaging the Eastern Parts of the Roman Empire. This area was precisely where the majority of Christians still lived & was the heart of the remaining Apostolic Orthodox Churches.

In 1421 the Officials in Constantinople sent word to the Rome that they needed more help from the Roman Soldiers stationed in the West as the Muslims were barbarically slaughtering people & forcing them to refute Christianity & convert to Islam under the sharp blades of Muslim swords.
Constantinople was clearly still part of the Roman Empire but over the years had developed strained relations with the Roman Government & the Roman Church. The Orthodox Church in Constantinople had become a sore spot for many Roman political & Church leaders. The request for military assistance reached Rome but It was decided by the Roman Government & Pope not to send help to the East & let the current army reserves there try & fend for themselves.

The Emperor & the Pope sensing political opportunity to be finally rid of Constantinople & have Rome return to its rightful position of glory decided to fortify the Western empire & protect it at all costs , the Muslims were never able to get through to Rome & the Popes Roman Church was unscathed.

In Constantinople & the Eastern part of the Empire this resulted in the Unholy Slaughter & Barbaric killings of Bishops, Priests & Christian men of all ages, Women were raped & brutally murdered, children taken into slavery & Christian Churches destroyed or turned into Muslim Mosques including the Grand Church Constantine had built “the Ayia Sophia” which now has once again has been converted from museum to a mosque in 2020 .

The previous Pope John Paul was the 1st & only Pope to acknowledge this great sin against humanity & ask forgiveness from the Orthodox believers in Christ for what the Roman Church did to their ancestors.

This Mass slaughter of the Eastern Roman Empire had now resulted in the Roman Church being the only functioning church left in the Empire. With the Muslims effectively killing all Orthodox Bishops & priests & not allowing any remaining survivors freedom of religion the Roman Catholic church was poised to become the #1 Church in the world.

From this point on the Roman Catholic church did not look back & eventually embarked on the infamous Catholic Crusades & Witch Burnings. The Pope was finally free to spread the Roman brand of religion to the world unopposed.
Catholicism became the #1 Church & religion in the World & The Pope’s Dream of undisputed power in all matters was now realized, all thanks to the mass slaughter of the Orthodox Christians by the Muslims.

It was the Russians & Ukrainians during this bleak time for the Orthodox church that were able to keep the 4 Original Apostolic Churches memory & Traditions alive & in fact rebuild many exact replicas of these great churches in their countries including the Ayia Sophia which was rebuilt in Kiev, Ukraine & still stands to this day as an Orthodox church.

The Muslims were never successful in Conquering Russia & the Orthodox Church flourished in Russia. Attaining still to this day the highest number of churches per capita in the world. Even during the times of communism this fact did not change.
That is how strong the Orthodox faith was & is today. The Orthodox Church of Constantinople where Constantine had ended Christian persecutions & started the flourishing of the Christianity movement was gone…..

But the faith remained.

The Roman Church had now decided it was time to make St Peters Basilica the New centre of Christianity. Pope Julius II embarked on a grand reconstruction plan. Pope Julius II began by destroying Constantine’s original Church of St Peter & rebuilding one on top of the original Vatican grave yard .
Pope Julius also had All the original Orthodox Crosses from St Peter’s Church removed & replaced with new Latin crosses. The Pope then gloriously installed the famous Heliopolis Obelisk courtesy of the evil & debaucherous Roman Emperor Caligula.

This became a Grand church and was thereafter widely publicized as the Greatest Church on earth & the new centre of Christianity.
Later on in the mid 1930’s the Dictator & Ally of Adolf Hitler, Mussolini would add a Grand Monumental Avenue leading to the Piazza. Only the Pope is allowed to celebrate Catholic Mass on this Alter & no one else.

I want to make it absolutely clear that the Roman Catholic believers are not at fault for this lust for power & money in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Most Catholic believers don’t know any of this.

The Roman Catholic worshipers clearly believe in Christ, but unfortunately have been deceived by there church leaders & Roman politicians over the centuries. All in a lustful quest for power & money.
I believe that it is possible some Popes wanted to stop, but the deceit had gone too far & rather than expose it & risk dangerous consequences they probably asked Christ for forgiveness & just carried on the lies.

Other Popes mysteriously died or were removed .
I truly do admire the previous Pope John Paul for his courage to acknowledge the great Schism & ask for forgiveness. I think he was a good man & the only Pope who came close to reconciling with the Original Church. But Tragically by the time he had gotten to this point he died.

I am worried that many Catholics are starting to lose their faith in Christ because of all the repeated sexual scandals & of their clergy & the court ordered payouts forcing many churches into bankruptcy as well as many of the negative movies being made about their church.
The Catholic believers must understand that this has nothing to do with Christ & it is all the doings of their Leaders.
I want them to know that they were once part of the Orthodox Church & they should consider coming back rather than giving up.

Will Confucius marry Marx?

Will Confucius marry Marx?

October 10, 2020

By Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

Chinese scholar Lanxin Xiang has written a book, The Quest for Legitimacy in Chinese Politics, that is arguably the most extraordinary effort in decades trying to bridge the East-West politico-historical divide.

It’s impossible in a brief column to do justice to the relevance of the discussions this book inspires. Here we will highlight some of the key issues – hoping they will appeal to an informed readership especially across the Beltway, now convulsed by varying degrees of Sinophobia.

Xiang delves right into the fundamental contradiction: China is widely accused by the West of lack of democratic legitimacy exactly as it enjoys a four-decade, sustainable, history-making economic boom.

He identifies two key sources for the Chinese problem: “On the one hand, there is the project of cultural restoration through which Chinese leader Xi Jinping attempts to restore ‘Confucian legitimacy’ or the traditional ‘Mandate of Heaven’; on the other hand, Xi refuses to start any political reforms, because it is his top priority to preserve the existing political system, i.e., a ruling system derived mainly from an alien source, Bolshevik Russia.”

Ay, there’s the rub: “The two objectives are totally incompatible”.

Xiang contends that for the majority of Chinese – the apparatus and the population at large – this “alien system” cannot be preserved forever, especially now that a cultural revival focuses on the Chinese Dream.

Needless to add, scholarship in the West is missing the plot completely – because of the insistence on interpreting China under Western political science and “Eurocentric historiography”. What Xiang attempts in his book is to “navigate carefully the conceptual and logical traps created by post-Enlightenment terminologies”.

Thus his emphasis on deconstructing “master keywords” – a wonderful concept straight out of ideography. The four master keywords are legitimacy, republic, economy and foreign policy. This volume concentrates on legitimacy (hefa, in Chinese).

When law is about morality

It’s a joy to follow how Xiang debunks Max Weber – “the original thinker of the question of political legitimacy”. Weber is blasted for his “rather perfunctory study of the Confucian system”. He insisted that Confucianism – emphasizing only equality, harmony, decency, virtue and pacifism – could not possibly develop a competitive capitalist spirit.

Xiang shows how since the beginning of the Greco-Roman tradition, politics was always about a spatial conception – as reflected in polis (a city or city-state). The Confucian concept of politics, on the other hand, is “entirely temporal, based on the dynamic idea that legitimacy is determined by a ruler’s daily moral behavior.”

Xiang shows how hefa contains in fact two concepts: “fit” and “law” – with “law” giving priority to morality.

In China, the legitimacy of a ruler is derived from a Mandate of Heaven (Tian Ming). Unjust rulers inevitably lose the mandate – and the right to rule. This, argues Xiang, is “a dynamic ‘deeds-based’ rather than ‘procedure-based’ argument.”

Essentially, the Mandate of Heaven is “an ancient Chinese belief that tian [ heaven, but not the Christian heaven, complete with an omniscient God] grants the emperor the right to rule based on their moral quality and ability to govern well and fairly.”

The beauty of it is that the mandate does not require a divine connection or noble bloodline, and has no time limit. Chinese scholars have always interpreted the mandate as a way to fight abuse of power.

The overall crucial point is that, unlike in the West, the Chinese view of history is cyclical, not linear: “Legitimacy is in fact a never-ending process of moral self-adjustment.”

Xiang then compares it with the Western understanding of legitimacy. He refers to Locke, for whom political legitimacy derives from explicit and implicit popular consent of the governed. The difference is that without institutionalized religion, as in Christianity, the Chinese created “a dynamic conception of legitimacy through the secular authority of general will of the populace, arriving at this idea without the help of any fictional political theory such as divine rights of humanity and ‘social contract’’.

Xiang cannot but remind us that Leibniz described it as “Chinese natal theology”, which happened not to clash with the basic tenets of Christianity.

Xiang also explains how the Mandate of Heaven has nothing to do with Empire: “Acquiring overseas territories for population resettlement never occurred in Chinese history, and it does little to enhance legitimacy of the ruler.”

In the end it was the Enlightenment, mostly because of Montesquieu, that started to dismiss the Mandate of Heaven as “nothing but apology for ‘Oriental Despotism’”. Xiang notes how “pre-modern Europe’s rich interactions with the non-Western world” were “deliberately ignored by post-Enlightenment historians.”

Which brings us to a bitter irony: “While modern ‘democratic legitimacy’ as a concept can only work with the act of delegitimizing other types of political system, the Mandate of Heaven never contains an element of disparaging other models of governance.” So much for “the end of history.”

Why no Industrial Revolution?

Xiang asks a fundamental question: “Is China’s success indebted more to the West-led world economic system or to its own cultural resources?”

And then he proceeds to meticulously debunk the myth that economic growth is only possible under Western liberal democracy – a heritage, once again, of the Enlightenment, which ruled that Confucianism was not up to the task.

We already had an inkling that was not the case with the ascension of the East Asian tigers – Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea – in the 1980s and 1990s. That even moved a bunch of social scientists and historians to admit that Confucianism could be a stimulus to economic growth.

Yet they only focused on the surface, the alleged “core” Confucian values of hard work and thrift, argues Xiang: “The real ‘core’ value, the Confucian vision of state and its relations to economy, is often neglected.”

Virtually everyone in the West, apart from a few non-Eurocentric scholars, completely ignores that China was the world’s dominant economic superpower from the 12th century to the second decade of the 19th century.

Xiang reminds us that a market economy – including private ownership, free land transactions, and highly specialized mobile labor – was established in China as early as in 300 B.C. Moreover, “as early as in the Ming dynasty, China had acquired all the major elements that were essential for the British Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.”

Which brings us to a persistent historical enigma: why the Industrial Revolution did not start in China?

Xiang turns the question upside down: “Why traditional China needed an industrial revolution at all?”

Once again, Xiang reminds us that the “Chinese economic model was very influential during the early period of the Enlightenment. Confucian economic thinking was introduced by the Jesuits to Europe, and some Chinese ideas such as the laisser-faire principle led to free-trade philosophy.”

Xiang shows not only how external economic relations were not important for Chinese politics and economy but also that “the traditional Chinese view of state is against the basic rationale of the industrial revolution, for its mass production method is aimed at conquering not just the domestic market but outside territories.”

Xiang also shows how the ideological foundation for Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations began to veer towards individualist liberalism while “Confucius never wavered from a position against individualism, for the role of the economy is to ‘enrich people’ as a whole, not specific individuals.”

All that leads to the fact that “in modern economics, the genuine conversation between the West and China hardly exists from the outset, since the post-Enlightenment West has been absolutely confident about its sole possession of the ‘universal truth’ and secret in economic development, which allegedly has been denied to the rest of the world.”

An extra clue can be found when we see what ‘economy” (jingji) means in China: Jingji is “an abbreviate term of two characters describing neither pure economic nor even commercial activities. It simply means ‘managing everyday life of the society and providing sufficient resources for the state”. In this conception, politics and economy can never be separated into two mechanical spheres. The body politic and the body economic are organically connected.”

And that’s why external trade, even when China was very active in the Ancient Silk Road, “was never considered capable of playing a key role for the health of the overall economy and the well-being of the people.”

Wu Wei and the invisible hand

Xiang needs to go back to the basics: the West did not invent the free market. The laisser-faire principle was first conceptualized by Francois Quesnay, the forerunner of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”. Quesnay, curiously, was known at the time as the “European Confucius”.

In Le Despotisme de la Chine (1767), written 9 years before The Wealth of Nations, Quesnay was frankly in favor of the meritocratic concept of giving political power to scholars and praised the “enlightened” Chinese imperial system.

An extra delicious historical irony is that laisser-faire, as Xiang reminds us, was directly inspired by the Taoist concept of wu wei – which we may loosely translate as “non-action”.

Xiang notes how “Adam Smith, deeply influenced by Quesnay whom he had met in Paris for learning this laisser-faire philosophy, may have got right the meaning of wu wei with his invention of “invisible hand”, suggesting a proactive rather than passive economic system, and keeping the Christian theological dimension aside.”

Xiang reviews everyone from Locke and Montesquieu to Stuart Mill, Hegel and Wallerstein’s “world system” theory to arrive at a startling conclusion: “The conception of China as a typical ‘backward’ economic model was a 20th century invention built upon the imagination of Western cultural and racial superiority, rather than historical reality.”

Moreover, the idea of ‘backward-looking’ was actually not established in Europe until the French revolution: “Before that, the concept of ‘revolution’ had always retained a dimension of cyclical, rather than ‘progressive’ – i.e., linear, historical perspective. The original meaning of revolution (from the Latin word revolutio, a “turn-around”) contains no element of social progress, for it refers to a fundamental change in political power or organizational structures that takes place when the population rises up in revolt against the current authorities.”

Will Confucius marry Marx?

And that brings us to post-modern China. Xiang stress how a popular consensus in China is that the Communist Party is “neither Marxist nor capitalist, and its moral standard has little to do with the Confucian value system”. Consequently, the Mandate of Heaven is “seriously damaged”.

The problem is that “marrying Marxism and Confucianism is too dangerous”.

Xiang identifies the fundamental flaw of the Chinese wealth distribution “in a system that guarantees a structural process of unfair (and illegal) wealth transfer, from the people who contribute labor to the production of wealth to the people who do not.”

He argues that, “deviation from Confucian traditional values explains the roots of the income distribution problem in China better than the Weberian theories which tried to establish a clear linkage between democracy and fair income distribution”.

So what is to be done?

Xiang is extremely critical of how the West approached China in the 19th century, “through the path of Westphalian power politics and the show of violence and Western military superiority.”

Well, we all know how it backfired. It led to a genuine modern revolution – and Maoism. The problem, as Xiang interprets it, is that the revolution “transformed the traditional Confucian society of peace and harmony into a virulent Westphalian state.”

So only through a social revolution inspired by October 1917 the Chinese state “begun the real process of approaching the West” and what we all define as “modernization”. What would Deng say?

Xiang argues that the current Chinese hybrid system, “dominated by a cancerous alien organ of Russian Bolshevism, is not sustainable without drastic reforms to create a pluralist republican system. Yet these reforms should not be conditioned upon eliminating traditional political values.”

So is the CCP capable of successfully merging Confucianism and Marxism-Leninism? Forging a unique, Chinese, Third Way? That’s not only the major theme for Xiang’s subsequent books: that’s a question for the ages.

An open letter from an Arab Priest to his holiness Pope Francis

Source

Wednesday, 08 July 2020

Your Holiness,

In the Open Letter I addressed to you from Damascus on March 13, 2020, I asked you this question:

“Do you still believe, until today, in the survival of Jesus Christ in the Arab World?”

Today, at the dawn of July 8, 2020, I see it my duty, as an Arab Catholic Priest, to ask you another, far more dangerous, question:

“Can you deny, as the supreme spiritual leader of the Church, that this specific Church has been,effectively, the single main cause of the gradual, profound, and general,excising of Christianity on the scope of the world, starting from the West—at whose headis, as usual, the United States of America—because of its unacceptable sliding into and collusion with the slime of politics and finance since the time of Emperor Constantine until today?”

Nonetheless, Jesus Christ has always been, and will forever be, unique in His beauty, truthfulness, love, and magnetism.

Your Holiness,

At the end of a text that I wrote on April 5, 2020, entitled: “An answer to a friend in the West,” I asked this question:”

In a week, we shall celebrate the resurrection of Jesus!

I wonder: When shall we celebrate the ‘resurrection’ of His Church?” 

As we shall, in three days, celebrate the Feast of the great Syrian Saints, Peter and Paul, I allow myself to call upon you, anew, to visit Syria.

Rest assured, though, that you will not have to kiss the hands of some rich people, nor the feet of some African Chiefs, but, very simply, a handful of Syria’s holy earth… I offer to you on a wonderful piece of Damascene Broquart cloth, while I am standing proudly near our noble President.

Your Holiness,

Damascus awaits you.

Perchance this would be the dawn of the hoped-for ‘resurrection’ of the Church.

Fr Elias Zahlaoui,

Damascus, July 8 2020

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On the liberty to teach, pursue, and discuss knowledge without restriction

 

ac freedom.jpg

by Gilad Atzmon

It didn’t  take long for the American Administration to crudely interfere with an open society’s most sacred ethos, that of academic freedom.  We learned this weekend that the US Department of Education has ordered Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to remake their joint Middle East studies program after concluding that they were offering students “a biased curriculum that, among other complaints, did not present enough “positive” imagery of Judaism and Christianity in the region.”

Academic freedom is a relatively simple principle. It refers to the ”liberty to teach, pursue, and discuss knowledge without restriction or interference, as by school or public officials.”

This principle seems to be under attack in America.  The American administration has openly interfered with the liberty to freely teach, pursue and discuss knowledge.

The New York Times writes:  “in a rare instance of federal intervention in college course content, the department asserted that the universities’ Middle East program violated the standards of a federal program that awards funding to international studies and foreign language programs.”

According to the NYT the focus on ‘anti Israeli bias’ “appears to reflect the views of an agency leadership that includes a civil rights chief, Kenneth L. Marcus, who has made a career of pro-Israel advocacy and has waged a years long campaign to delegitimize and defund Middle East studies programs that he has criticized as rife with anti-Israel bias.”

One may wonder why America is willing to sacrifice its liberal ethos on the pro Israel altar?  Miriam Elman provides a possible answer. Elman is an associate professor at Syracuse University and executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, which opposes BDS. Elman told the NYT that this “should be a wake-up call… what they’re (the Federal government presumably) saying is, ‘If you want to be biased and show an unbalanced view of the Middle East, you can do that, but you’re not going to get federal and taxpayer money.”

In Elman’s view academic freedom has stayed intact, it is just the dollars  that will be  withheld unless a university adheres to pro Israel politics.

Those who follow the history of Zionism, Israeli politics and Jewish nationalism find this latest development unsurprising. Zionism, once dedicated to the concept of a “promised land,” morphed decades ago into an aspiration toward a ‘promised planet.’  Zionism is a global project operating in most, if not all, Western states. Jewish pressure groups, Zionist think tanks and Pro Israel lobbies work intensively to suppress elementary freedoms and reshape the public, political and cultural discourse all to achieve Zionism’s ambitious goal. After all, Jewish power, as I define it, is the power to suppress criticism of Jewish power.

This authoritarian symptom is not at all new. It is apparently a wandering phenomenon. It has popped out in different forms at different times.  What happened in the USSR  provides a perfect illustration of this  symptom. In the early days of Soviet Russia, anti-Semitism was met with the death penalty as stated by Joseph Stalin  in answer to an inquiry made by the Jewish News Agency: “In the U.S.S.R. anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system. Under U.S.S.R. law active anti-semites are liable to the death penalty.”

Germany saw the formation of Jewish anti defamation leagues attempted to suppress the rise in anti Jewish sentiments.* There’s no need to elaborate on the dramatic failure of these efforts in Germany. And despite Stalin’s early pro-Jewish stance, the Soviet leader turned against the so- called rootless cosmopolitans.” This campaign led to the 1950s Doctors’ plot, in which a group of doctors (mostly Jewish) were subjected to a show trial for supposedly having plotted to assassinate the Soviet leader.

In Britain and other Western nations we have seen fierce pro Israel campaigns waged to suppress criticism of Israel and Jewish politics. Different lobbies have been  utilizing different means amongst them the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism by governments and institutions. In Britain, France, Germany and other European countries, intellectuals, artists, politicians, party members and ordinary citizens are constantly harassed by a few powerful Jewish pressure groups. In dark Orwellian Britain 2019, critics of Israel have yet to face the death sentence, but they are subjected to severe reprisals ranging  from personal intimidation to police actions and criminal prosecution. People have lost their jobs for supporting Palestine, others have been expelled from Corbyn’s compromised Labour Party for making truthful statements. Some have even been jailed for satirical  content. And as you might guess, none of this has made Israel, its supporters or its stooges popular. Quite the opposite.  

I learned from the NYT that the administration “ordered” the universities’ consortium to submit a revised schedule of events it planned to support, a full list of the courses it offers and the professors working in its Middle East studies program.  I wonder who in the administration possesses the scholarly credentials to assess the academic level of university courses or professors? Professor Trump himself, or maybe Kushner & Ivanka or Kushner’s coffee boy Avi Berkovitch, or maybe recently retired ‘peace maker’ Jason Greenblatt?

 It takes years to build academic institutions, departments, libraries and research facilities. Apparently, it takes one determined lobby to ruin the future of American scholarship.

*In his book Final Solution David Cesarani brings the story of the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith) that operated in Germany since the late 19th century “suing rabble rousers for defamation, funding candidates pledging to contest antisemitism…” You can read about the association and its activity here


My battle for truth and freedom involves some expensive legal and security services. I hope that you will consider committing to a monthly donation in whatever amount you can give. Regular contributions will enable me to avoid being pushed against a wall and to stay on top of the endless harassment by Zionist operators attempting to silence me and others.

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United Against Forgiveness

The Jewish world is outraged this morning with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who apparently said he believes the crimes of the Holocaust can be forgiven, but not forgotten.

The far-right leader made the comments on Thursday night at a meeting with evangelical pastors in Rio de Janeiro.

“We can forgive, but we cannot forget. That quote is mine. Those that forget their past are sentenced not to have a future,” Bolsonaro said, adding that actions are needed for the Holocaust not to be repeated.

Bolsonaro is probably not the most forgiving person around. He freely spews misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ, and racist statements. However, he  is a devout Christian and forgiveness is central to Christianity of all denominations.  Forgiveness is not an ‘option’ as far as Christianity is concerned, it is actually a must. Forgiveness in Christianity is a manifestation of submission to Christ. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15).

I guess that those who subscribe to the Old Testament’s ‘eye for an eye’ paradigm see forgiveness as an existential threat or a sign of weakness. Otherwise it is hard to grasp the hostile reaction to Bolsonaro’s statement.

But Israelis have been forgiving the Germans for more than a while. Back in 1953 Israel signed a reparation agreement with the West German Government. According to the Agreement, West Germany was to “compensate” Israel “for losses in Jewish livelihood and property resulting from Nazi persecution.” The legendary Israeli diplomat Abba Eban coined the precious adage ‘there is no business like Shoa business’ in the light of the Israeli-German reparation agreement. Israel was happy to transform Germany’s guilt into hard cash, yet some may argue that forgiveness wasn’t part of the deal. As a matter of fact, more than seven decades after the liberation of Auschwitz, the Brazilian president is singled out  by Jewish and Israeli outlets for stating the true meaning of Christian ethics; forgive but don’t forget. Be merciful, however learn not to repeat your past sins.

It is also important to mention that from time to time Israelis and Jewish leaders explore forgiveness when there are clear political or material gains. Back in 2015 we learned from Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu that it was the Palestinian Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haji Amin al-Husseini, who gave Hitler the idea to exterminate the Jews. Needless to mention that Netanyahu’s claim was ludicrous and harshly criticised, but it practically confirmed that within certain political circumstances even Hitler could be vindicated as long as a Palestinian is there to take his place as the ‘ultimate evil.’

But Netanyahu was neither the first nor the last Israeli to forgive Hitler and the Germans. Back in 2014 we learned about Olim L’Berlin (Ascending to Berlin), a movement of young Israelis returning to the German capital because it was cheaper, cleaner and simply nicer. We would like the believe that Olim LeBerlin enthusiasts must have finally forgiven the Germans and even learned to love their new neighbours as much as they love themselves.

I am obviously not a supporter of the Brazilian president. However, I think that for us who dwell within the borders of the English-speaking empire, forgiveness and Christian values may as well be our last hope.  I would have liked to think that president Trump and his dedicated Evangelist vice president Mike Pence take Jesus’s teachings into account when they consider whether to pardon Julian Assange for telling the truth. They should explore Christian mercifulness and reject the barbarian Old Testament vengeance that has made it into the true ugly face of America’s new century.


My battle for truth and freedom involves some expensive legal services. I hope that you will consider committing to a monthly donation in whatever amount you can give. Regular contributions will enable me to avoid being pushed against a wall and to stay on top of the endless harassment by Zionist operators attempting to silence me.

Synagogues and Prisons

synagprison

Jewish Leaders keep the ‘Jewish Rabble’ in Line by Stoking Fears of Gentiles

By Richard Edmondson

One particularly interesting passage from the New Testament I’ve been thinking about lately is Luke 21:12. Here Jesus is speaking with his disciples, telling them a little of what they might expect after he’s gone:

But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.

It’s interesting that Jesus would use the words “synagogues” and “prisons” in the same sentence. I wonder why he would do that?

Back in the first century, synagogues served a variety of uses. They were gathering places, providing a venue for worship as well as socializing, but they also could function as courts. If you violated Jewish law you could be taken before a judge, or judges, to answer for your purported infractions, and this too could take place in a synagogue.

One of the more serious infractions was for a Jew to marry a non-Jew. In the Book of Numbers, chapter 25, we are told the story of Phinehas, who carries out a double execution, plunging his sword into an Israelite man as well as a Moabite woman with whom the man had joined–and even today intermarriage between Jews and Gentiles is forbidden in Israel, and indeed is regarded by some as“treason.”

In Jesus’ time, Jews all over the world, both in and outside of Palestine, were also required to pay annual religious taxes to authorities in Jerusalem. There was a half-shekel sanctuary tax, due each year on the 15th of Adar, and for those who farmed or herded there was also the one-tenth tax. Landowners who did not comply were shunned, the yield of their fields held as “unclean.” In other words, pay the tax or your ability to make a living was jeopardized.

All of this would suggest that one of the fears of Jewish leaders at the time, perhaps their greatest fear of all, was of Jews leaving the fold, so to speak–that is to say, of shedding the chains of their societal reclusion and joining the rest of humanity. And indeed this was one of the biggest threats Jesus posed to those leaders, and probably the chief reason they conspired to bring about his crucifixion.

For what Jesus was teaching was something new–something completely different to what the scribes, chief priests, and  Pharisees were teaching. He called the Jewish leaders on their hypocrisy. He castigated them for their corrupt ways. He was in essence leading a nonviolent revolution in the Jewish world, and had it been allowed to continue it would have been the end of the Jewish religious authorities, and possibly even the end of Judaism itself. At least the end of it in the form that existed at that time and, by extension, in the form that it has come to exist today.

Though the Talmud had yet to be written in Jesus’ day, the oral laws that would later be incorporated into it were prevalent, and Jesus denounced these laws bitterly–with good reason, for it was “Pharisaism” which later evolved into “Talmudism,” and which led to such Jewish legal constructs as mesirah, in which Jews are are prohibited from reporting or testifying to secular authorities regarding crimes committed by other Jews.

One case in which mesirah was actually invoked in a U.S. federal court was in the case of Moshe Zigelman, an Orthodox rabbi who in 2011 refused to testify before a grand jury investigating fraud and tax evasion. Zigelman refused to testify on the grounds that to do so would run contrary to mesirah and would therefore violate the “free exercise” of his religious beliefs as guaranteed under the First Amendment.

“All Jews are family,” said Rabbi Avi Shafran, defending Zigelman’s refusal to testify. “If that fact provides grist for the mills of anti-Semites, that’s unfortunate. But it’s a fact all the same.”

Yet it isn’t only Jewish financial criminals who have benefited from mesirah. The provision has also been used as justification for not reporting Jewish sex offenders to authorities in child molestation cases. In other words, even if you sexually abuse children, you are still part of the Jewish “family,” and if that provides “grist for the mills of anti-Semites,” then too bad. This isn’t, of course, the position held by all Jews, but it has been firmly advocated by some (one wonders if the rest don’t at times get feelings of claustrophobia).

“I am not exactly delighted that another Yid would assist police against an accused, no matter whatever he is accused of,” said Jewish attorney Alex Lewenberg.

Lewenberg at the time was representing Samuel David Cyprys, a convicted serial sex offender who was employed at a Chabad-run yeshiva in Melbourne, Australia. The victim in the case was a 15-year-old Jewish boy who apparently had been pressured not to cooperate with police and prosecutors on the grounds of mesirah. As one analyst commented on the case:

Lewenberg’s remarks to the victim were apparently primarily prompted by the victim telling the court that Israel’s Law of return has a history of being used by Jews seeking to flee prosecution. Jews who have done so – by far only a tiny minority of Jews who have legally immigrated to Israel using the Law of Return – can arrive in Israel and settle there very easily while extradition from Israel is often not an easy thing for countries, even western democracies, to achieve.

If Cyprys had fled to Israel, would he have been granted immunity under the Law of Return? Had this happened, it would not have been the first time a Jewish sex offender had managed to escape criminal justice proceedings by “making aliyah.”

Keeping the rabble in line

One seemingly preferred method used by Jewish leaders to exert control over other Jews–and certainly one which Gentiles are more familiar with–is the strategy of instilling fear. And the fear button is especially manipulated to inculcate fears of rising anti-Semitism.

In the wake of the November Paris terror attacks, Benjamin Netanyahu declaredthat “the terrorists who attack us have the same murderous intent as those in Paris,” and he also insisted, “we are not to blame for the terrorism directed against us, just as the French are not to blame for the terrorism directed against them.”

So if a desperate Palestinian picks up a knife and stabs an Israeli Jew, it’s not because of the Occupation-Without-End that has destroyed countless Palestinian lives, it’s because the Palestinian is simply a hater of Jews. And he hates them for no justifiable reason–this is the propaganda line that is peddled and it is absolutely absorbed and believed by large numbers of Jews both in Israel and America. But we need to do a reality check. All of us, Jews and non-Jews alike, need to stop and ask ourselves: is it possible that the hatred, i.e. the “rising  anti-Semitism” as it’s proclaimed, isn’t being deliberately stoked as a means of keeping the fear level at a sky-scraping height? This is a really fundamentally important question.

Recently reports surfaced about a bill in the New York Legislature that seeks to create a blacklist of people boycotting Israel, and which would impose penalties upon individuals, institutions, or businesses so engaged. The penalties would include denial of state funding and/or cancellation of contracts. Likewise student groups in California are also facing funding cuts should they endorse a boycott of Israel or otherwise express public support for Palestinians.

The right to call for a boycott is a free speech issue. And those seeking to implement penalties of this sort are in essence waging a war against the First Amendment. If there is any document the American people hold sacred and inviolable, it is the US Constitution (the Bible probably runs a very, very distant second), and if there is one part of the Constitution held as sacrosanct above all others, it is the First Amendment. Any attempt to curtail our free speech rights would be bound to elicit a visceral response from a large number of Americans.

So why would Israel supporters seek to impose such measures? Do they really believe it is going to stop the BDS movement? You could in fact argue, quite plausibly, that it will do just the opposite. Whenever a popular political movement encounters government repression, regardless of the country, the almost invariable result is that more people flock to join it. For government repression tends to legitimize social justice movements.

My guess is that the Jewish leaders pushing these initiatives have no realistic expectations of stopping the BDS movement. But the initiatives conveniently serve another purpose as well: they increase anti-Semitism. Attempts to curtail free speech in America will, as I say, trigger a visceral reaction, and if a particular group of people can be perceived as being behind such efforts, the resultant hostility will be directed at that group.

And the members of that group, in turn, will grow more fearful and dependent upon their conniving leaders to push for more and more repressive measures designed to “protect” them. In some respects it is a self-perpetuating cycle, and designedly so.

An ‘Obedience Regulative System’

Recently author and musician Gilad Atzmon published an essay entitled “Jewish Religions and the Prospect of Dissent,” in which he discusses what he refers to as an “obedience regulative system” that Jews must submit to. Failing to do so jeopardizes their standing in the “tribe,” or the “synagogue prison,” to put it perhaps somewhat more precisely. While I’ll only quote a few passages from it, Atzmon’s full article is well worth reading, and you can access it here, here orhere.

Judaism, Atzmon notes, is not based upon worship of a loving and forgiving God, but upon a system of mitzvahs, or commandments, 613 altogether. For a good many modern day Jews, ‘God died in Auschwitz,’ and Judaism is not in reality a spiritual belief system, at least not in the traditional sense in which we would think of Islam or Christianity. Well, if it’s not a belief system, asks the author, what is it? Do Jews believe in anything at all?

The answer is yes: the Jew believes in ‘The Jews’ and the Jews believe in ‘The Jew.’ This mode of mutual affirmation establishes a solid and forceful tribal continuum that serves the collective as well as the singular subject.  Accordingly, the subject adheres to the collective and vice versa. In pragmatic terms, the Jew sticks to the ‘chosen people’ and, together the ‘chosenites’ uphold a collective sense of choseness.

The synagogue prison, in other words, demands loyalty. Not loyalty to God, but to “The Jews,” and it is indeed very much a prison, for as Atzmon puts it, “the Jew can never dump the Jews as much as the Jews can’t allow ‘The Jew’ to go free.” Thus the individual Jew is confined “in a realm of self-imposed commandment and materiality” from which he/she cannot easily escape. Moreover, he/she becomes instinctively aware of a “system of obedience regulation” marked by a “vile opposition to dissent.” Even the secular or liberal Jew, he says, “is equally obnoxious toward dissent or any form of criticism from within.”

Yet perhaps paradoxically in such a system it becomes  curiously convenient at times for the inmate/occupants to drop their “God” and simply invent a new one, and this can be done rather readily. The key word seems to be “convenient”:

In the beginning of the 20th century, for instance, Bolshevism appealed to many Eastern European Jews. It provided a sense of self-righteousness in addition to regulating a strict form of obedience. As we know, it didn’t take long for Bolshevism to mature into a genocidal doctrine that made Old Testament barbarism look like a juvenile fairytale. The Holocaust, that seems to be the most popular Jewish religion at present, may be the ultimate and final stage in Jewish historical development. According to the Holocaust religion, ‘God died in Auschwitz.’  Within the context of the Holocaust religion, ‘The Jew’ is the new Jewish God. The Holocaust religion has finally united ‘The Jew’ and the Jews into a self-sufficient comprehensive and independent ‘God-less’ religious narrative.

Jewish religions are, in essence, “templates that facilitate a sense of chosenness,” and not surprisingly other religions, those that preach a more universal outlook, cannot but come under fire in the Jewish imperium that the West is becoming. For if dissent is not allowed within the “system of obedience regulation,” certainly this would bode ill for any dissenting opinions in the wider world as well.

Tragically enough, intolerance of dissent has become a universal Western political symptom. Incidentally, Christianity, Islam, religion and divinity in general are also under attack within the context of contemporary Western discourse. Is this a symptom of the Jerusalemification of our Western universe? Is the emergence of the tyranny of political correctness a coincidence? And if we are becoming Jews, is there any room for the hope that our universe may, at some stage, embrace a universal ethos once again? Can we once again believe in something?   Or do we have to wait for a new Jesus figure to resurrect our trust in the human spirit and humanity in general?  Or have we been re-designed to self-destruct as soon as we come close to such a lucid awareness?

The universal ethos does seem far away from us now, with fires of hatred being intentionally stoked–between Christians and Muslims as well as between the two largest branches of Islam. Or in other words, between all the peoples who embrace a God of universal love and compassion–precisely these very samepopulations are the ones being divided against each other at present. This is not by coincidence. The questions Atzmon raises are well worth pondering, for quite  obviously a spiritual reawakening is direly needed just now. Yet such a transformation in Western societies, should one begin to metamorphose, would be fervently attacked, for any spiritual reawakening today, just as it did in the first century, would threaten the very foundation of the synagogue prison.

A First Century Prison Break and the Persecution that Followed

In the third decade of the first century Jesus began traveling about Galilee and Judea spreading a very new and different teaching. Blessed are the meek, the merciful, and those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, he said, and he warned against “the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” In one famous episode, related in all four gospels, he even turned over the tables of the Temple money changers.  Try and imagine, if you will, the “vile opposition to dissent” Jesus’ teachings would have earned for him. Virtually everywhere he went he encountered people who taunted him, who tried to trip him up with questions such as, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar,” and when none of that worked, and his followers only grew in number, the prison wardens conspired finally to arrange his arrest and execution.

But it didn’t end there, for by now there was a major fissure in the prison wall. More people were breaking out. In the years immediately after Jesus’ death, the bulk of his followers continued overwhelmingly to be made up of Jews, but they were Jews who had embraced a “universal ethos”and who believed that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Yet their relationship to Judaism as a whole was a contentious one. This probably began quite early, but it most likely would have intensified after the Jewish Christians opened their doors to Gentiles–probably sometime around the mid first century. For the Jewish leaders, this breaking of bread and worshiping with Gentiles was an acute threat, and one that had to be dealt with. According to John 9:22, expulsions from the synagogues began to take place–and the ramifications from this were a lot more severe than simply getting oneself kicked out the front door of a building.

We have to remember that where the Romans were concerned, Judaism was a tolerated religion. Jews were excused from paying homage to the pagan deities, and as long as Christians were considered “Jews” there was no legal reason for the Romans to oppress them. But once the synagogues expelled the Jewish Christians, it was a whole different story. Refusal to participate in emperor worship created legal difficulties for the community, and the Romans, suspicious of Christians anyway, came down hard. This seems especially to have been true among the Johannine Christians. If John 12:10 and 16:2 are any indication, the Jewish Christians were put to death, possibly by the Romans, possibly even by the synagogue authorities themselves, but in either event, what is clear is that the synagogue authorities held almost literally the power of life and death over the Jewish Christians.

Then came the revolt against Rome starting in 66 A.D. followed by the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. Jewish Christians, for the most part, did not join the revolt. A longstanding Church tradition, based perhaps on Luke 21:21, has it that Christians fled to Pella in the Perean foothills, in what is today northwest Jordan. But we know that after 70 A.D. the center of Judaism shifted from Jerusalem to Jamnia, where the Eighteen Benedictions were reformulated to include a curse against the minim, or heretics, and some have theorized that this may have been related to the synagogue expulsions. At any rate, the Jewish Christians were told that they could no longer worship with other Jews. It was a corrosive relationship, to be sure, and interestingly, at some time around 85 A.D., the Eighteen Benedictions were revised yet again, this time to include what appears to be a direct reference to Christians: “Let the notzrim and the minim perish immediately.” This is the wording in Benediction number twelve, the wordnotzrim being a reference to Nazarenes.

In any case, when we have Jesus, in the Gospel of John, speaking of “the Jews” and making casual reference to what is written in “their law,” he is in reality reflecting the attitudes of the Johannine Christians in the latter part of the century. Yet important to keep in mind is that those who carried out expulsions and persecutions of the community’s members in the mid to latter part of the century were looked upon as nothing more than the heirs of the very Pharisees who had impugned and persecuted Jesus. Thus the synagogue prison break was a struggle of prolonged intensity, spanning a good part of the first century and even stretching into the second.

The third and final Jewish revolt, also known as the Bar Kokhba revolt, took place in 132-136 A.D. It was led by Simon Bar Kokhba, a man hailed by his followers as the Jewish messiah. Though the Romans were Bar Kokhba’s main enemy, clearly he did not care much for Christians either. The following is recorded by early Church writer Justin Martyr, who was born in Flavia Neapolis, or what is today Nablus, in the West Bank. Justin Martyr, as his name implies, was indeed a martyr for the Church, but he was alive at the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt, and in his First Apology he relates the murder of Christians by the Bar Kokhba rebels:

For in the Jewish war which lately raged, Barchochebas, the leader of the revolt of the Jews, gave orders that Christians alone should be led to cruel punishments, unless they would deny Jesus Christ and utter blasphemy.

After Bar Kokhba’s revolt, the Jewish Christians seem to have disappeared entirely from the landscape.

Conclusion

All of which brings us back to Jesus’ words in Luke 21:12:

But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.

Maybe it’s time for the Jewish people to try another prison break. But of course it isn’t just Jews. We are, all of us, Jews and non-Jews alike, confined in our prisons of fear and hatred. Christians are told me must fear Muslims; Jews are told to fear Gentiles; Sunnis are told to fear Shias and vice versa; and we’re all  told, while we’re at it, we need to be afraid of “Russian aggression,” “Iranian nuclear weapons,” and the like.

Whatever we haven ‘t come to fear is simply because we haven’t been told to fear it yet. And all of it, all of this fear and hatred, is based upon lies. Those manipulating these fear buttons are master deceivers. They profit off of fear. They spread bacchanals of hatred for the sheer enjoyment it brings them. They put all human emotions to use except for one: love. Love they don’t touch. It is anathema to them. And there is good reason for this: love is the only force in the universe capable of countering hate. Jesus, of all people, would have recognized that, and perhaps it was for this reason he said to his followers–on the very night before his death, no less:

“Love one another as I have loved you, for by this all will know you are mine.”

‘Bastards!’…Andre Vltchek Pens Hate-Filled Screed Against Christianity

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Writer, journalist and filmmaker Andre Vltchek

By Richard Edmondson

Andre Vltchek, a writer whose commentaries appear on a number of sites including RT and Telesur, has published a vitriolic screed against Christianity in which he refers to Christians as “bastards” and accuses the faith of spreading a “monstrous dogma.”

The article was posted Christmas day under the title “The Barbarity of Christianity and the West” at the Dissident Voice, a site touting itself as “a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice.”

Throughout his article, Vltchek seems to equate Christianity with what he refers to as the “Christian West,” accusing Christians of electing “near fascist governments” which then proceed to unleash destruction throughout much of the world.

“Hundreds of millions, all over the world, have died so that the ‘message of Jesus’ could live,” he asserts. “Millions are still dying now, so that Christian fundamentalists can manipulate, rule and plunder the world, unopposed…”

“The only reason why the Christian West prospered and won countless colonialist battles is because it behaved like a beast, a true animal, in short: like the most brutal and barbarous thug on the face of the Earth,” he adds.

Vltchek is particularly concerned, and of course justifiably so, at events taking place today in the Middle East, but rather than look for other possible causes, such as the geopolitical ambitions of certain national leaders and/or powerful political lobbying groups, he seems to place the entire blame upon Christianity. Moreover, his hatred of the Christian religion appears at times to rise to an almost pathological level:

What a sick world they have been creating!

“Our dogmas, our religion raped you. Pray to it for your salvation!” Bastards!

At one point in the article he even seems to advocate violence against Christians:

How to neutralize them? How to get rid of them? During and after their revolutions, the French and then the Russians used to hang them on streetlamps. It is not done like this, anymore.

On Sunday, I contacted Vltchek by email in an effort to get a clarification on his views. Specifically I posed four questions to him. Though he refused to answer any of the questions, he did respond to my email within a few hours. Here is what he wrote:

Dear Mr. Edmondson

I definitely do not intend answering your questions, as I don’t like the tone in which your email is written. All your questions are already answered in my essays, and it appears that you are leading this somewhere where I don’t want to go.

Anyway, my essay is not an attack, or a mockery. It is a list of horrors performed by Christianity for centuries. Nothing abstract or emotional, just concrete, rational stuff.

Regards,

Andre Vltchek

Here is the email I had sent to Vltchek, and which includes the four questions:

Dear Mr. Vltchek,

I am writing about your article on Christianity, posted December 25 at Dissident Voice. I’m thinking of posting a commentary on it on my blog (link below), and was wondering if you would care to answer a few questions.

  1. You rightfully express concern about events in the Middle East. I’m wondering does your concern extend to Christians in Syria and Iraq who have been kidnapped and murdered by ISIS, and has it occurred to you that your anti-Christian vitriol, as posted now on the Internet, could possibly make things even more dangerous for them?
  1. Do you think that generally speaking it’s acceptable to express hostility and contempt for other peoples’ religious beliefs? Specifically, I’m wondering about cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Were those acceptable, in your view, and do you see your attack on Christianity as being any different from that?
  1. I agree with you that the West has unleashed a horrendous amount of destruction in the Middle East, but are you sure Christianity is the main driving force behind that? Are you aware of the extent to which the pro-Israel lobby shapes US foreign policy? I ask the question because you don’t seem to mention either AIPAC or Israel in your article.
  1. Any other comment or point of clarification you would care to make?

Sincerely,

Richard Edmondson

richardedmondson.net

Vltchek also refers to “all the horrors committed by Christianity” and insists as well that there is something “encoded in Christianity” that has resulted in “the greatest crimes against humanity, committed, again and again, until this very moment.”

Whatever may be the psychological or underlying causes of Vltchek’s apparently deep-seated hatred, he does describe what he refers to as a “‘Christian episode’ from my youth” in which he encountered a Polish priest who he says attempted to molest him on a train ride from New York to Washington D.C. According to Vltchek, the man’s “insane face was twisted by lust” as his “hands kept grabbing me, searching for the zipper of my fly.” Vltchek narrates that he then stood up and “punched him straight in the face, with all my strength.”  Afterwards, as he relates it, a “reasonable, good-humored African-American man” working as a conductor on the train proceeded to pat him (Vltchek) on the shoulder while confiding, “I was molested in my church on several occasions.”

The piece finally closes with what some readers conceivably might construe as another call for violence. Here Vltchek warns ominously that “without stopping this monstrous dogma,” Christianity in another few decades “could easily devour another 10 or 20 million human lives.”

One need not wonder what the response would have been had the word “Christianity” been replaced in Vltchek’s article with the word “Judaism.” Were someone affiliated with a major media outlet to refer to Jews as “bastards,” and to talk about hanging them from streetlamps, that person would be fired in a heartbeat. No prominent broadcast or Internet news provider, either mainstream or alternative, would continue to offer a platform to such a person.

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A screen shot of Vltchek’s article at the Dissident Voice

The article “The Barbarity of Christianity and the West” seems to have been published at the Dissident Voice website alone. Perhaps Vltchek wrote it especially for them. I do not know. However, you can go here and here to see other articles he has written and which have been published at RT and Telesur respectively. He has also appeared on Veterans Today radio programs, and it is said that he has done work for Press TV as well, though I could not find anything on Press TV’s site, only a video segment uploaded to YouTube more than a year ago in which he was interviewed as a guest commentator. My hunch is that probably Veterans Today, RT, Press TV, and Telesur are all unaware of his views on Christianity, or at least unaware of the extreme nature of them.

Certainly Christianity, in its past, has things such as the crusades for which it should be held responsible, and certainly as well there are Christians today who harbor misguided views on a number of subjects. At the same time there are also Christians who do wonderful work helping to provide for the poor. Catholic Charities, for instance, operates more than 160 local agencies nationwide serving millions of people per year.

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Volunteers at the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen, Scranton, Pennsylvania

The major shortcoming of Christian leaders in America today–and I have said this many times–is their reluctance to stand up and speak truth to power and to denounce America’s invasions and wars of aggression. There are a good many Western Christians today who have openly opposed these wars. Here and here are but two examples. Would that the leaders of the churches they attend might find the courage to speak out in the same way, but alas, for the most part, they don’t.

At the same time, I’m not aware of Obama or any current member of Congress actually citing passages from Christian texts to justify their wars, either–and largely religion seems to be left out of debates on the floor of Congress. (Yes, it’s true Congressional sessions traditionally are opened with a prayer, mainly as a mere formality, but these have been delivered by Christian clergy, Jewish rabbis, Muslim Imams, and, on at least one occasion, by the Dalai Lama.)

By contrast, one might look to Israel where numerous people, including within the government, do appear to use Judaism as justification for Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Or…you could perhaps look to Myanmar, where Buddhists are carrying out a campaign against the Rohingya people that has been described by some as genocide.

The point I’m trying to make is that we live in a corrupt age, and that all religions, to some degree, have become corrupted. But this doesn’t just apply to religions. The corruption spreads across the board–to governments, education systems, the media, the legal system–pretty much you name it. Corruption is in virtually every fiber of the West’s being these days. There are all kinds of ideas on why things have reached this state, but one thing most sensible people would agree on is that it is wrong to blame all members of a group for the crimes or misdeeds of some.

israel’s war on Christianity

When Theology Is So Pro-Israel That It Becomes Anti-Christian

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/when-theology-is-so-pro-israel-that-it-becomes-anti-christian/#ixzz3Vx0zAH1t

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Christian culture sure does love talking about persecution, but there is one group of persecuted Christians that Evangelicalism doesn’t want you to know about: the persecuted Christians of Palestine. Dispensational theology that leads to the errant and blindly pro-Israel position (here’s why that’s unbiblical) has sadly led most of Evangelicalism to become so pro-Israel that it has become anti-Christian. While today they celebrate the re-election of a war hawk who has no interest in peace, justice, or law, today we grieve what undoubtedly means that the ongoing persecution of Christians at the hands of Israeli apartheid will now continue indefinitely.

When we say “Israel” or “Palestinian” one often thinks of Jew vs. Muslim. However, Palestinians include both Christians and Muslims, though Christians are the minority.  Like those who suffered under apartheid in South Africa, Christians and Muslims in Palestine both suffer under Israeli apartheid which strips them of their human rights, their dignity, their freedom of movement, their homes, and sometimes their lives.

Whereas in the West we often hear the phrase “Country _____ wants to wipe Israel off the map” the reality is that this is precisely what Israel is doing to Christians and Muslims in Palestine- wiping them off the map through confiscating their land, destroying their crops, looting and bulldozing their homes, shooting their children for sport (disturbing footage, here) and forcing them to emigrate elsewhere.

Christians in Palestine say they face an uphill battle to have their stories heard, as western media likes to portray their persecution as being at the hands of Muslims, but that’s not the case they say.

A few years ago Father Faysal Hijazeen, a priest in Palestine, wrote for the Jerusalem Post:

“These spokespeople have wrongly propagated a cynical discourse misleadingly touting “Christian persecution by Muslims.” Every Friday, we celebrate the holy mass attended by hundreds of Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jerusalem in the Cremisan Area of Beit Jala. The holy service, celebrated among ancient olive trees, was not a prayer to end a “Muslim-led persecution” but to prevent Israel from confiscating this area of land that belongs to 58 Palestinian Christian families – Israel’s latest attempt to consolidate its ring of settlements that aim to sever Bethlehem from Jerusalem. This is one last attempt to prevent a land confiscation that would have catastrophic consequences for the local Christian population.”

Archbishop Sebastia Theodosios had a fantastic interview recently (the entire interview can be found here) where he said:

“The Palestinian issue is a problem that concerns all of us, Christians and Muslims alike. It’s a problem of every free intellectual individual aspiring for justice and freedom in this world.

We the Palestinian Christians suffer along with the rest of Palestinians from occupation and hardships of our economic situation. Muslims and Christians suffer equally, as there is no difference in suffering for any of us. We are all living in the same complicated circumstances, and overcoming the same difficulties.

As a church and as individuals we protect this people, and we hope a day will come when Palestinians get their freedom and dignity.”

In the interview, Archbishop Theodisios goes on to lament the oppression Christians suffer under the Israeli occupation, such as the destruction of Christian towns to drive the Christians out, Christian churches being attacked, Church property being looted/confiscated, and Christians being thrown into Israeli jails. He again summarizes their plight by saying:

“Christians suffer under the Israeli occupation just the same as Muslims – the entire Palestinian population suffers under it. They don’t distinguish between us.”

Other anti-Christian persecution at the hands of Israelis come by way of “price-tag” attacks. Price tag attacks were started in 2011 by Israeli settlers because the illegal expansions and land-grabs weren’t moving fast enough. These settlers began a movement to make Christians and Muslims suffer the “price” for expansion setbacks, with the hopes of terrorizing the Christians and Muslims into leaving. These attacks have included fire-bombing a monastery of nuns and spray painting “death to Gentiles on the walls,” or then there’s the Church of the Dormition which has been vandalized in price tag attacks– painted with such things as, “Jesus is a son of a bitch, price tag.” We also see arson used to terrorize, much like they used it in the American South, with one church having the door set on fire with the term “Jesus is a Money” painted on it.

Oh- and somewhere around 4.5 million Palestinians can’t vote- let’s not forget that.

Here’s the bottom line: Christians and Muslims are suffering and being oppressed under Israeli apartheid, and we should find this greatly distressing. 

If we were to take this scenario and have it take place in any country other than Israel, we’d see it completely differently. Were there a government systematically and illegally confiscating people’s homes, destroying Christian villages, making them refugees and then treating them like they’re illegal immigrants, tolerating a culture that persecutes and terrorizes Christians in an attempt to get them to flee their homeland– if that were happening anywhere other than Israel we’d not only be outraged, we’d be calling for ground troops and to have their leaders arrested. Apartheid was wrong in South Africa, but apparently it’s good in Israel.

Instead of being outraged, instead of demanding peace and justice, America sends Israel millions of dollars a day to finance their illegal oppression of Christians and Muslims- and not only do we support their actions, but much of the Christian community will quickly jump all over you if you so much as question it. Being a good Christian in too many parts means pledging allegiance to the United States of America and to Israel too.

Why? How did we get in this mess? Why are we tolerating an oppressive regime that we wouldn’t tolerate in any other part of the world?

Bad theology, that’s why. And that’s what makes this so tragic, but wonderfully illustrates the point that theology matters in the real world.

Dispensational theology took the world by storm in the late 1800′s, and the view that “Israel is God’s chosen nation” and the idea that anyone who doesn’t “bless Israel” will be cursed by God is core to that belief system. Dispensationalism overtook much of American Christianity and eventually bled into or government and foreign policy. Then, it somehow got taught to our grandparents, who taught it to our parents, who taught it to us.

And no one questions it.

Since so many accept it as true without researching it, without questioning it, without wrestling with it, we become blind to oppression around us. Left unchecked, pro-Israel theology can get so extreme that it actually becomes anti-Christian, because it quietly lulls one to support very real anti-Christian persecution at the hands of the Israeli government, without so much as even caring.

Here’s a good test: if your theology leads you to support and defend oppression and persecution instead of loving people, it’s bad theology.

My prayer is that American Christians will wake up to these tragic unintended consequences of this unquestioned, generational theology which is so pro-Israel that it actually becomes anti-Christian.

We need peace in the middle east. Peace for Israel. Freedom and restoration for Palestine. But we won’t have any of it until we start questioning the horrible dispensational/fundamentalist theology that’s causing us to support terror against our own Christian brothers and sisters.

Further reading: here’s a more in-depth breakdown of this area of theology and why it’s theologically flawed.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/when-theology-is-so-pro-israel-that-it-becomes-anti-christian/#ixzz3Vx1EfJqX

Christian Zionists Plan to Open University in Nazareth

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Nazareth Academic Institute as it exists today

By Richard Edmondson

Christian Zionists are apparently planning to bring “enlightenment” to the poor, benighted indigenous inhabitants of Occupied Palestine. Governor Rick Perry of Texas, apparently with help and assistance from John Hagee of Christians United for Israel, has struck a deal whereby Texas A&M University will open a branch campus in Israel.

The campus is to be located in Nazareth—populated largely by Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim. In fact the area contains one of the largest concentrations of Palestinians inside Israel’s 1967 borders.

Nazareth presently has an institution of higher learning—called the Nazareth Academic Institute or NAI. It was founded in 2010 by local academics, and while it has applied for funding from the Israeli government, it has never received any. In fact, it is the only college of higher education in Israel that receives no state funding. This means it has been financially strapped from day one. Texas A&M plans to take it over with a cash infusion of $70 million and rename it “Peace University.” Once the deal goes into effect, classes will be taught in English only—and there are concerns that the school’s Arab culture and character will diminish as a result.

The takeover has been written about Jewish blogger Richard Silverstein and by Jonathan Cook, who lives in Nazareth. Both are deeply cynical about the motives behind the scheme. Writes Silverstein:

Who participated in this consortium?  Pride of place goes to John Hagee, the international Christian Zionist apocalyptic firebrand who blamed the Jewish victims of the Holocaust for their own martyrdom.  Hagee, an avid proselytizer of the heathen, also is known as an avowed Islamophobe.  Presumably he’s delighted to plop a U.S. Christian Zionist university in the middle of tens of thousands of Israeli Palestinian Muslims.  One wonders whether Hagee and his followers would play some role in the institution and use it as a base for preaching to the “heathen.”

Another participant was former Texas governor, Rick Perry, a Christian Zionist perennial presidential candidate.  He used a recent political pilgrimage to Israel to announce the deal with a flourish together with Israel’s nonagenarian president, Shimon Peres.  It’s no accident that Texas A&M’s chancellor was a college roommate of Rick Perry.  Though not an evangelical (he’s Catholic), he uses the Christian Zionist lingo when he boasts of his “kinship” with Israel…

The new campus for this mongrel educational institution will sit on land donated by the Israeli Lands Authority.  No one mysteriously has identified where the site is located (if anyone in Nazareth knows, please contact me).  The ILA is the same institution that is working to expel Israel’s 40,000 Bedouin from their native Negev communities and move them to government-sponsored “reservations.”  This is also known as the infamous Prawer Plan.  This land transfer would enable the Judaization of the Negev, just as settlers are gradually expelling East Jerusalem Palestinians from their homes in neighborhoods like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.

Perhaps the crowning glory in all this is the identity of the Sugar Daddy who’s going to finance the construction of this munificent educational palace.  He is none other than Munib al-Masri, the wealthiest Palestinian in the world.  Numerous media profiles of him invariably feature his weirdly out-of-place Italian palazzo in the middle of the West Bank.  Al-Masri has a far-flung empire that includes a construction company that will likely undertake building the campus.  He is a key power player in the PA and Fatah and undoubtedly seeks to curry favor with Israel, which could lead to further business opportunities.

Given that the Israeli government has never seen fit to offer funding to NAI, one must ask the question: why would the Israeli Lands Authority suddenly think it a wonderful idea to donate land for this new school?

Apparently the Palestinian administrators presently running the institute are feeling somewhat like the proverbial drowning victim suddenly tossed a life preserver. Cook supplies a quote from Dean of Students Suher Bisharat:

We hoped and wanted to be an Israeli academic institution in every respect, not a branch [of a foreign university]. But when we didn’t find a budgeting solution, and ran into many problems, we saw that cooperation with Texas, which is a respected university, was a solution.

Cook goes on to comment:

There are good reasons to be worried about this development.

The chancellor of Texas A&M, John Sharp, has this to say: “I wanted a presence in Israel. I have felt a kinship with Israel.”

Also behind this initiative stands the very unpleasant figure of Pastor John C. Hagee, a notorious Christian Zionist who has no love of Palestinians in Israel. He apparently sold the idea to Shimon Peres, who wants to get Arabs better integrated into the workforce to help Israel’s poor OECD rankings.

Lessons will be taught in English, not Arabic – and therefore will do nothing to stop the gradual erosion of Arabic language and culture in Israel. It also seems that the staff will be from Texas A&M, therefore doing nothing to help local Arab academics who are massively under-represented in Israeli academia (currently they’re about 1% of higher education staff).

It will be called the Texas A&M Peace University, reiterating the idea commonly expressed by Israeli Jews that “Arabs” need western education and values to curb their inherent terrorist impulses.

Doubtless, economically this move will be good for Nazareth. But there are reasons for great concern. It will destroy for another generation any hope of a real Arab university in Israel. The foreign staff, with their dubious agenda, risk subtly reinforcing racist colonial stereotypes among the local population. And with Hagee involved, there are good grounds for fearing that the campus could ultimately contribute to increased tensions between Muslims and Christians in the Galilee, one of Israel’s long-standing goals.

Cook has previously written about efforts to divide Muslims and Christians by enticing Palestinian Christian youths to join the Israeli military. Will the new facility, despite being named “Peace University,” endeavor to facilitate this drive? Will it also seek to inculcate a Christian Zionist ideology among the Palestinian Christians who enroll? Silverstein thinks there is a possibility that Palestinians will boycott the new school, but this, he says, will in reality further the Judaization process already under way. In other words, even if Palestinians don’t enroll at the university, Jews will.

This is a significant statement because Israeli ultra-nationalists have set their sights on “Judaizing” all of the territory within Israel with significant Arab populations including the Negev, Galilee, and East Jerusalem.  This is part of a covert attempt to expel Palestinians through attrition.  Trajtenberg is tacitly putting Nazareth further into play in this battle by suggesting that Israeli Jews from around the country may find attractive the opportunity to pursue English-language studies at a low-cost American university.  In such a way, Texas A&M could become an advertent or inadvertent participant in this far-right campaign toward a Jewish majority in the Galilee.

See also:

Israel Seeks to Pit Christian Arabs Against Muslims in Cruel Clash

Israel Stokes Religious Tensions Between Palestinian Christians and Muslims

For more on Governor Rick Perry and his Christian Zionist leanings see my article The Hypocrite’s Masquerade.

Rabbi Opts for Less Logical of Two Explanations

Rabbi Yitchok Adlerstein

Rabbi Yitchok Adlerstein

By Richard Edmondson

Why is support for Israel fading amongst so many mainline Christians? The actions of the Israeli government are contrary to the teachings of Jesus—that’s one possible reason. Another reason could be that the Christians are simply anti-Semites, and that the disintegrating support among them has nothing to do with anything Israel does—whether it be murdering Palestinians, stealing their land, or building illegal settlements—but only their own innate hatred for Jews. So which of the two reasons makes the more sense to you? The former? Or the latter? Rabbi Yitchok Adlerstein of the Simon Wiesenthal Center seems to feel it is the latter.

“The leadership of most American ‘mainline’ Protestant churches is top-heavy with anti-Israel agitation, especially among those on mission committees,” he commented in a recent interview with the Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva. “By now, a substantial number of their members have been influenced by anti-Israel rhetoric. Furthermore, younger members, due to anti-Israel attitudes on campus, are increasingly hostile to Israel.”

‘Anti-Israel,’ of course, is the phrase most Jews use nowadays in lieu of slandering someone as an ‘anti-Semite,’ but really it comes down to the same thing: Israel is the Jewish state, so if you’re anti-Israel, you’re anti-Jewish, and all Jews are Semites in the Zionist worldview. Adlerstein’s use of the term is frequent and repetitious during the interview (three times in the three short sentences above, with five additional instances in his comments as a whole), signifying, perhaps, a rather considerable depth to his dislike.

What’s good about Adlerstein’s comments is that he does acknowledge that erosion of support for Israel is in fact occurring among mainstream Christians—for indeed it is, and it’s good to see Jews finally taking note of it. The rabbi further comments that “if the Palestinians make further progress here, it will be a great blow to the self-understanding of America as ‘firmly in Israel’s camp.’” Adlerstein seems to be implying here that Christians have been duped by Palestinian propaganda (must be all those Palestinian media owners!)—but otherwise we can regard this as a welcomed point of view and belated realization coming from a Jewish rabbi.

But in addition to the pastiche of ‘anti-Israel’ solecisms, Adlerstein also tosses in the old standard ‘anti-Semitism’ troglodyte for good measure—and additionally he suggests that part of the problem with these wrong-headed Christians might be “the misdirection of Christian love”—ah, but then he quotes an unidentified Christian friend who quickly straightens him out on the matter:

“I frequently converse with friends in churches, pondering the sundry causes of anti-Israel sentiment. When I attribute much to the misdirection of Christian love, I am often interrupted by someone saying: ‘Rabbi, I wish it were true. There is far more old-fashioned anti-Semitism in this church than any of us would like to admit.’”

The Christian denominations Adlerstein seems to have the most problem with—i.e. those he actually mentions by name—are the Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and the United Church of Christ. In discussing them, he cites a Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions resolution passed by the Presbyterians, and he remarks also upon the World Council of Churches—which he says “has frequently condemned Israel, yet never protested attempts by Israel’s neighbors and by terrorists to erase it from the map” (more ‘anti-Israelism’ on their parts presumably)—and upon Sabeel, whose founder, Naim Ateek, he lambasts for making “the ancient murderous Christian charge of deicide against the Jews.”

There is one other group of Christians our rabbi also mentions disparagingly—Palestinian Christians, whom he accuses of touring the US and “tugging at Christian heartstrings with emotional tales of woe.”

But the point at which Adlerstein perhaps most discredits himself is his description of the Kairos Palestine Document as “hateful.”

“Several churches supported the hateful Kairos Palestine Document published in 2009 by some Palestinian Christians,” he says.

I have read the Kairos Palestine document front to back, and have discussed it in a previous blog post, and I can tell you there is nothing “hateful” about it, and to suggest there is, frankly is not only disingenuous but borderline offensive.

You can read Adlerstein’s entire diatribe at Boldface News, along with some introductory comments by Ariadna Theokopoulos.

 

We Are Closing Our Apologies

closed

We Are Closing Our Apologies

A locked and boarded department store
A bakery that is no more—
This is how, it seems to me,
Christians close their apologies.
An end to the never-ending,
A glance up high into the trees,
Terminus to condescending,
The songbirds’ mouths now all shut,
The vessel empty, the cord is cut—
In suchlike manner do songbirds choose
To close our apologies to the Jews.

No more the ‘anti-Semite’ cap
To wear upon our tousled hair,
It always was a clumsy fit
Never looked right in the sun
Toss it now, get rid of it!
Leave as well Steinberg’s book,
Cohen’s movie, the dour look
Of Gershon and his Jewish mom,
Halakah of the grave, be gone!
A vestibule of hope protect
A new enlightened intellect,

A new and improved detergent
To wash away the Jewish Marxists
Who understood the rules of the footrace
As they hotfooted from the left
To the right side of the political spectrum;
Ready…set…go!
The race is on. Don’t be slow!
That ignus fatuus is dead now, thank God.

***

Jewish suffering was an indoor houseplant
That grew out of a tiny clay pot, but ended up eventually covering
The entire living room window
And blocking out the sun.
We are closing our apologies because
There is nothing left to apologize for, and because
No one could really remember why we were apologizing
In the first place, as a maggot was found in the pudding.

Simka, Simka!
I’ll be damned! Whatever happened to you?
Woodstock, Monterey,
Cantata on a drizzly day
LSD potpourri
With wild and free casuistry

On and on…
A thousand apologies cracked open and stirred
Into an omelet of failure, as Jews carried the banner of
Equality and civil rights in Alabama, Mississippi,
Hell, everywhere but in Palestine!

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
Kind of rings a bell now, doesn’t it?

Penetrating benevolence:
Mother preparing dinner
Father smiling donnishly out on the porch;
The table is all set, oh yes—
Finest china! Polished silver!
Forks, knives, spoons,
Crystal goblets most exquisite—
But we noticed an ant crawling
Across a napkin…

Isn’t it a marvel?
Isn’t it a pity?
Verily streams of blood,
The traffic in the city!
A benediction on a cattle pen,
Let’s be friendly,
You and I,
This stall is auspicious.
The goyim are donkeys.
Isn’t it propitious—
A mohel with a new
Mathematical game theory
To calculate the dependability of the nations
To kowtow, roll over,
And beg for their
Bellies to be rubbed?
Born is the darksome
Mother’s son.

…and then another,
And after a day or two
The house was overrun with them.

***

Standing up for civil rights—that’s fine—
Everywhere but Palestine!
Inconsistencies and consistencies
Inhabiting the mind like litanies
Hypocrisy…hypocrisy…hypocrisy…

This cup is the new testament in my blood
Which is shed for you,
But behold the hand of him that betrayeth me
Is with me on the table.

Be sensible.
This is madness.

A locked and boarded department store
A bakery that is no more—
This is how, it seems to me,
Christians close their apologies.
An end to the never-ending,
A glance up high into the trees,
Terminus to condescending,
The songbirds’ mouths now all shut,
The vessel empty, the cord is cut—
In suchlike manner do songbirds choose
To close our apologies to the Jews.

No more the ‘anti-Semite’ cap
To wear upon our tousled hair,
It always was a clumsy fit
Never looked right in the sun
Toss it now, get rid of it!
Leave as well Steinberg’s book,
Cohen’s movie, the dour look
Of Gershon and his Jewish mom,
Halakah of the grave, be gone!
A vestibule of hope protect
A new enlightened intellect…

A new enlightened intellect.

By Richard Edmondson

A Man Who May Have Had a Good Idea

marcion

 

 

Why was the early Christian Church so in love with the Old Testament as to adopt it as sacred scripture? There was one man who warned them against it.

 

By Richard Edmondson

He was a native of Sinope, a predominantly Greek city and important commercial center on the south shore of the Black Sea. He lived roughly 85-160 AD, and during his lifetime he founded a church that grew astronomically in prominence, that had a powerful influence on the development of early Christianity, and which for several centuries would end up rivaling the Catholic Church. His name was Marcion. And it is worthwhile to ponder just how the world would be different today had the Marcionite Church, rather than the Catholic Church, prevailed and become the dominant strain of Christianity. For one thing, we can conjecture almost assuredly the state of Israel would never have been founded in 1948.

Marcion, you see, was deeply opposed to what he referred to as the “Judaizers” in the early Christian Church, and he advocated a Christian Bible wholly devoid of any part of the Old Testament, consisting solely of the Gospel of Luke and the letters of Paul. With amazing prescience, he seems to have instinctively realized the pitfalls that awaited the new faith should it try to reconcile and balance the vengeful God of the Old Testament with the God of love and compassion taught by Christ—pitfalls which indeed managed to trip the church at various times through the centuries, but which became so manifestly egregious in the latter half of the twentieth century that today we find Christianity swamped in a sea of irrelevance, unsure of what it even stands for, with people leaving the faith in droves.

And when you really, truly stop to think about it, the contradictions are so obvious they would seem all but insurmountable: the Christian God versus the Jewish God; a God of love versus one of wrath and vengeance; a God whose embrace of humanity is universal versus a partial and highly selective God who favors one people above all others. These are aberrations we hardly question today, but we have to remember that back in the second century things were very different. There was no such thing as an established “orthodox” wing of Christianity. What was “orthodox” and what was “heterodox” were still very much up in the air. Many people could not, and would not, adopt such incongruities in their views of God, and these were the people who flocked to Marcion’s churches—by the thousands, possibly even the millions.

Modern scholarship of the early Christian era is tainted to a certain extent by what has been referred to as “post holocaust biblical scholarship.” This is reflected in the fact that scholars today have a tendency to view Marcion as an “anti-Semite.” However, the prevailing view of him by scholars of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was quite different. In this essay I will rely in the main on two sources: Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God, by Adolf Harnack, and Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, by Bart D. Ehrman.

Born in 1851, Harnack was a German scholar, who taught at several universities, including the University of Berlin. His book on Marcion, published in 1920, remains a classic today, and is even cited by Ehrman (who does not quote from it directly, but who does reference it in a footnote). The latter is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina who himself has authored a number of books on Christianity and is considered one of the leading New Testament scholars today. Ehrman does not specifically use the word “anti-Semite”, but he does describe the Marcionite Church as “anti-Jewish,” and he asserts that Marcion himself “seems to have hated Jews and everything Jewish.” Harnack, for his own part, indeed acknowledges that Marcion waged a lifelong struggle against “pseudoapostoli et Judaici evangelizatores” [“false apostles and Jewish evangelists”], but this was because the doctrine they propounded, in Marcion’s view, “considered (Jewish) law and gospel as a unity and thus denied the essence of the gospel. Where separation was essential it had bound things together!”

Moreover, says Harnack, Marcion took up “the work and the struggle of Paul,” who had “abolished the validity of the Old Testament law”—Marcion, as a result, saw in Christ alone “the face of the gracious God,” knowing himself “inseparably bound to this God of goodness and mercy in faith and love.” But this God of goodness, it needs to be repeatedly emphasized, assuredly was not the Old Testament God; that God Marcion rejected outright.

In this essay, I will focus not only on Marcion, his beliefs, and the church he founded, but will also try and provide a comparative study of Marcion’s treatment by the two scholars in question, the one of the past, the other of the present.

Marcion’s Basic Beliefs: Two Gods

To the modern Western mind, the idea that there might be two Gods, as opposed to just one, and that large numbers of people could actually entertain and embrace such a view, probably sounds a bit bizarre. But again, this was the second century—a time when Greeks and Romans were worshipping multiple Gods, and the notion of two Gods was no more difficult to accept then than the idea of no God at all would be today. At any rate, this is the most fundamental aspect of Marcion’s belief system you have to understand: that there were two Gods moving and shaping events to one degree or another. One was a punitive, petty, and cruel God, who presided over a corrupt world. This was the God of the Old Testament, referred to by Marcionites as the “Creator God” (but his “creation” was a world far from perfect in their view). The other God Marcion saw as a redeemer, a God of love, mercy, truth, and compassion. This was the God of Christ. Marcion referred to him as the “Alien God”—“alien” in the sense that prior to Christ’s appearance on earth he had been unknown to humanity.

One of Jesus’ sayings Marcion seems especially to have zeroed in on was his teaching about the two trees and their respective fruits. Harnack puts it this way:

When he (Jesus) spoke of the two trees, the corrupt and the good, which are able to produce only such fruits as are given by their very nature, he can mean thereby only the two great divine authors, the Old Testament God, who creates nothing but bad and worthless things, and the Father of Jesus Christ, who produces exclusively what is good. When he forbids the placing of a new patch on an old garment and the pouring of new wine into old wineskins, he thereby strictly forbids his people in any way to connect his preaching with that of the Old Testament. (1)

Marcion viewed the Old Testament God not only as cruel, petty, and unmerciful, but also as the ‘conditor malorum,’ the author of evil, the one who incites wars, is deceitful in his promises, and is wicked in his deeds.” (2) Something about this obviously—given the Marcionite Church’s phenomenal success—resonated with large numbers of people at the time. You have to wonder why.

At any rate, the Old Testament, while parts of it may be worth reading, had to be wholly abandoned as sacred scripture. But since most of what was then “Christendom” equated the God of the Old Testament with the God of Jesus, the Christian faith suffered from a rather serious problem: it had become “Judaistic” almost to its core in the years since Christ. Marcion set about to change things. He founded a church—and he produced two great literary works. One of these was called Antitheses. No copy of it still exists today. But it was quoted by a number of early writers, such as Tertullian, whose works we do still have today. Here is how Antitheses is viewed by Ehrman:

Some of the book may well have consisted of direct and pointed antithetical statements contrasting the two Gods. For example, the God of the Old Testament tells the people of Israel to enter into the city of Jericho and murder every man, woman, child, and animal in the city (Joshua 6); but the God of Jesus tells his followers to love their enemies, to pray for those who persecute them, to turn the other cheek (Luke 6:27-29). Is this the same God? When Elisha, the prophet of the Old Testament God, was being mocked by a group of young boys, God allowed him to call out two she-bears to attack and maul them (2 Kings 2:23-24). The God of Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me” (Luke 18:15-17). Is this the same God? (3)

In other words, the God of the Old Testament and the God of Jesus were not merely separate deities, they were deities who were, at least to a substantial degree, antithetical to one another.

Marcion’s other great literary endeavor was not a work of his own composition, but rather a canon of other works—those he regarded as sacred and divinely inspired. And here it needs to be mentioned that Marcion is given credit for being the first Christian to put forth a New Testament canon. To be sure, it was not the same canon that would later be officially adopted by the Catholic Church; it consisted solely of the Gospel of Luke and the letters of Paul. But it is testimony to his influence upon early Christianity that his enemies took his ideas and built upon them—and yes, Marcion did have enemies. He was branded very much a “heretic” by those who made up what later came to be the “orthodox” wing of the church.

Another thing about the Marcion canon that very much needs to be kept in mind: Marcion totally rejected the assertion that Christ had in any way come to fulfill the law and the prophets. These and other similar claims found in the gospels were corruptions, he believed, added later by the Judaizers within the church. Likewise, he felt that certain passages within the letters of Paul had probably undergone similar treatment. Thus, he not only viewed himself as a critic, but also as a “restorer,” as Harnack describes it. In other words, his canon became what could almost be thought of as a whole new Bible, consisting of Pauline letters and a Gospel of Luke which had undergone revisions, emendations in which Marcion rendered them into what he believed were, or must have been, their original states—something seized upon by his critics, who denounced his refinements as nothing more than “adulterations.” For the church-going public it didn’t seem to matter. They flocked to Marcion’s banner by multitudes, which drove the critics into further fits of apoplexy. Early Christian apologist Justin Martyr, a contemporary of Marcion’s, complained that the heretic’s teachings were spreading to “many people of every nation.” (First Apology 26)

A couple of other things need to be said about Marcion’s basic beliefs: first that he was a Docetist, which has led some scholars to lump him in with the Gnostics, some of whom did indeed subscribe to Docetism. So what is Docetism? It is the view that Christ did not have a real, material body, and that he only appeared to be human. Human flesh, created as it was by the Creator God, was inherently unclean, something even the Creator God himself had come to recognize, or as Harnack puts it, “Even in the mind of his originator man is a spoiled creation, a monster.” For Marcion, this could not, in any way, describe Jesus.

The other thing that needs to be understood is Marcion’s devotion to the Apostle Paul. While Christ did indeed pick the original twelve disciples, they had failed to understand his true message. Why? In large part because they were followers of the Jewish God—a factor which hampered their ability to grasp Jesus’s true teachings. With the resurrection they finally seemed to have “gotten it,” and for a while indeed appeared set upon a trustworthy path, but in time their “Jewish identity” (as we might refer to it today) reasserted itself and they began to compromise on questions such as adherence to Jewish law. Thus, lest they botch things completely, Paul had to be specially called. His mission? To refute Jewish law and the Judaizers within the church.

Marcion’s Life and Times

Marcion’s hometown, Sinope, was on the shore of the Black Sea in what was then the province of Pontus. We know for a fact there were Jewish communities there at the time. Aquila, the protégé of Paul mentioned in Acts 18:2, was born in Pontus, while another Jew, coincidentally of the same name and known to have translated the Old Testament into Greek, was not only a native of Sinope but was in fact Marcion’s contemporary. This is mentioned by Harnack, who comments, “It is remarkable that from this city there emerged simultaneously the sharpest adversary of Judaism and the most scrupulous translator of the Jewish sacred scriptures.” (4)

In Pontus also was a strong Christian community, and apparently Marcion’s own father was a bishop in the early church. This would certainly explain Marcion’s extensive knowledge of the Old Testament. But Marcion and his father seem to have had a falling out, presumably over Marcion’s views of the Old Testament, and after leaving his father’s home, Marcion journeyed to Asia Minor, where he managed to acquire considerable wealth—apparently as a ship owner.

To understand anyone’s life, of course, requires an historical knowledge of the time in which they lived. The three major Jewish revolts against Rome probably had a great deal to do with shaping Marcion’s view of the world. The second and third revolts took place during his lifetime, while the first transpired to completion in the decade before he was born. Most likely even as a child, and certainly later as a young adult, he would have heard talk of these revolts. He would have listened as people expressed the opinion, for instance, that Jews are violent, that they hate non-Jews, and that they seem to feel entitled to disregard all laws other than their own. These are views that would most especially have been in vogue after the second revolt, which broke out when Marcion was approximately 30 years old.

The second Jewish revolt against Rome, also known as the Kitos War, took place in the years 115-117, and it seems to have been especially bloody. The revolt started in Cyrenaica, particularly its capital Cyrene, and from there spread to Alexandria, then to the island of Cyprus, and finally, in its latter stages, to Palestine. Accounts of it are available at Wikipedia and also at Historum. Both articles are sympathetic to the Jews (the Wikipedia account perhaps more so), but both make clear that Jews committed widespread atrocities, and both reference the writing of the Roman historian Dio Cassius (150-235 AD), who penned the following grisly and graphic (and perhaps somewhat sensational) account:

Meanwhile the Jews in the region of Cyrene had put one Andreas at their head and were destroying both the Romans and the Greeks. They would cook their flesh, make belts for themselves of their entrails, anoint themselves with their blood, and wear their skins for clothing. Many they sawed in two, from the head downwards. Others they would give to wild beasts and force still others to fight as gladiators. In all, consequently, two hundred and twenty thousand perished. In Egypt, also, they performed many similar deeds, and in Cyprus under the leadership of Artemio. There, likewise, two hundred and forty thousand perished. For this reason no Jew may set foot in that land, but even if one of them is driven upon the island by force of the wind, he is put to death. Various persons took part in subduing these Jews, one being Lusius, who was sent by Trajan. (5)

The Andreas mentioned by Dio Cassius was known also as “Lukuas,” and during the war he seems to have anointed himself with the title “King of the Jews,” probably in a bid to pass himself off as the Jewish Messiah (a tactic later used by bar Kokhba, the leader of the third revolt). “Lukuas definitely appears to have been grinding an axe of a religious nature—he is credited with destroying the temples and cult buildings of every Graeco-Roman god worshipped in Cyrene,” says the Historum article. “For good measure, Lukuas’ followers also destroyed Roman government buildings and burnt down the Roman bath houses of the city, apparently viewing these as symbols of government oppression and gentile influence, respectively.” We are also told that from Cyrene, Lukuas and his followers pressed on to Alexandria where the result was “an orgy of bloodshed and arson similar to that which had taken place in Cyrene.”

romanwar

Given that the revolt transpired in multiple locations (in addition to Cyrene, Alexandria, and Cyprus, violent rebellions also broke out in the Jewish population of Mesopotamia), this bloody uprising launched by Jews would have been widely talked about almost literally in every province of the empire, virtually everywhere, and most likely it had a profound impact on Marcion’s thinking. Perhaps now we may better understand how he came to view the Creator God as “the ‘conditor malorum,’ the author of evil, the one who incites wars, is deceitful in his promises, and is wicked in his deeds.” But more was to come.

The third Jewish revolt against Rome took place in Palestine in the years 132-136, led by Simeon bar Kokhba (also spelled Koseba, Kosiba, or Kochba), who also claimed to be the messiah. History buffs will of course remember that Jerusalem had been razed and the Jewish temple destroyed back in 70 AD, during the first Jewish revolt. In the intervening years, the city had remained pretty much in ruins, a status quo which continued through the Kitos War and even beyond. However after visiting Judea in 130, the Emperor Hadrian undertook to rebuild Jerusalem. He seems initially to have promised, or at least hinted, that Jews might be given permission to reconstruct their temple, but apparently decided on second thought that it might not be such a wise idea after all. A temple to Jupiter was built instead. Also large numbers of non-Jews began settling in the newly rebuilt city, and it seems a law against circumcision, or at any rate against circumcising babies, may have been passed as well.

Bar Kokhba and his followers launched their revolt in 132, establishing hideouts around the country, including a fortress at Betar (a village in the Judean highlands whose name would later be adopted by Zionists of the Jabotinsky movement in the twentieth century). Dio Cassius’ account of the war can be found here and includes the following:

At first, the Romans took no account of them. Soon, however, all Judaea had been stirred up, and the Jews everywhere were showing signs of disturbance, were gathering together, and giving evidence of great hostility to the Romans, partly by secret and partly by overt acts. Many outside nations, too, were joining them through eagerness for gain, and the whole earth, one might almost say, was being stirred up over the matter.

One group of people who did not join Bar Kokhba were the Christians. This was addressed by a number of early writers, including Justin Martyr, who, though no fan of Marcion, offers an especially interesting comment about the war in his First Apology: “For in the Jewish war which lately raged, Barchochebas, the leader of the revolt of the Jews, gave orders that Christians alone should be led to cruel punishments, unless they would deny Jesus Christ and utter blasphemy.”

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “The war became so serious that in the summer of 134 Hadrian himself came from Rome to visit the battlefield and summoned the governor of Britain, Gaius Julius Severus, to his aid with 35,000 men of the Xth Legion.” The revolt was finally crushed in 136. According to Dio Cassius, 580,000 Jews were killed, as were many Romans. Fifty towns and 985 villages were destroyed. The Bar Kokhba revolt, keep in mind, was the third Jewish rebellion in 70 years, and by this time the Romans had apparently had enough: Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina, while Jewish law and the Hebrew calendar were annulled. Jews themselves were banned from entering Jerusalem (now renamed Aelia Capitolina) other than one day of the year.

The Emperor Hadrian

The Emperor Hadrian

For Christians who still, in spite of all this, clung to the Old Testament, contradictions quite naturally abounded. Marcion “saw the main body of Christendom around him in an internal struggle in which all seemed to be lost,” and initially he set out to change the church from within. That is to say, he went to Rome, where he met with church leaders and expressed his view that Christ had abolished the Old Testament and its God (6).

Because of historical records we know exactly what years Marcion was in Rome. He arrived in 139—three years after the Bar Kokhba revolt. Joining the Christian community there, he made a substantial donation of 200,000 sesterces, and remained in the city until the year 144. It was a five-year period in which he most likely produced his great work, the Antitheses.

Toward the end of his sojourn in Rome, Marcion requested a hearing before the church presbyters. It took place in July 144 and became the first Roman church council on record. But the church elders appear to have been totally unreceptive to his views. The council “ended with a sharp rejection of the unprecedented teaching,” the return of the 200,000 sesterces, and Marcion’s expulsion from the church. Harnack mentions that even though he departed Rome with what almost certainly was “a heavy heart,” nothing like rancor can be found in Marcion’s writings. “Even for the period after his break with the great church it is characteristic that not a single abusive or angry word about the church and its members is handed down to us.” (7) Needless to say, this charitable act of diplomacy was not returned in kind.

Leaving Rome in the year 144, Marcion returned to Asia Minor where he founded his new church. This seems to have occurred in a remarkably brief amount of time. In fact, later Marcionites would put the founding of their church as occurring exactly 115 years and six months after the death of Christ. In any event, Marcionism and the Marcionite Church became phenomenally successful, a fact which can be gauged by the number of early writers who wrote polemical treatises opposing the movement. Justin, Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, Hyppolytus, Origen, and others all denounced Marcion in writing. In fact, there was, as Harnack puts it, “an abundance of counterliterature composed everywhere.” Particularly was this true between the years 150 and 200, yet in this same period the church “spread throughout all the provinces of the empire,” Harnack reports.

Harnack’s Study on Marcion

Harnack’s study on Marcion is not without criticisms of its subject, though it is far more sympathetic than Ehrman’s. So let us take a look now at Marcion through the prism of Harnack’s monumental work. Perhaps the most obvious place to start would be the early Christian leader’s view of the two Gods as expressed through his book, Antitheses, a work which Harnack feels was intended to be a bedrock for the Marcionite community, and indeed its “creedal book.”

A reconstruction of Antitheses is not possible, the author informs us, in part because “not even the arrangement of the work is clear,” but a number of things can nonetheless be determined or gleaned based upon quotes from it found in the works of other early writers. For instance, we can safely deduce Marcion’s purpose in writing it was to “demonstrate the irreconcilability of the Old Testament with the gospel,” along with the latter’s origin from a different God. (8). We also know its opening lines: “O wonder beyond wonders, rapture, power, and amazement is it, that one can say nothing at all about the gospel, nor even conceive of it, nor compare it with anything.” Moreover there seems to have been a special emphasis on one word in particular—“new.” We can find references to “new God,” “new deity,” “the new kingdom,” “new and unheard of kingdom,” “new master and proprietor of the elements,” “novel doctrines of the new Christ,” “new works of Christ,” “new miracle,” and so on.

Harnack also proposes a series of sample antithetical statements that possibly or most likely were included in the work. Here are a few:
* Joshua conquered the land with violence and cruelty, but Christ forbade all violence and preached mercy and peace.

* Upon the exodus from Egypt the Creator-God gave Moses the charge, “Be ready, girded, shod, staff in hand, sacks on shoulders, and carry away with you gold and silver and all that belongs to the Egyptians.” But our Lord, the Good One, upon sending the disciples out into the world, said to them, “Have no shoes on your feet, no sack, no change of garments, no money in your purses!”

* The prophet of the Creator-God, when the people were locked in battle, climbed to the top of the mountain and stretched forth his hands to God, that he might kill as many as possible in the battle; our Lord, the Good, stretched forth his hands (to wit, on the cross) not to kill men but to save them.

* In the law it is said, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” but the Lord, the Good, says in the gospel, “If anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.”

* Maledictio characterizes the law, and benedictio characterizes faith (the gospel)

* The creator of the world commands us to give to our brothers, but Christ simply says to give to all who ask. (9)
Marcion saw the Creator God as vengeful, wrathful and unmerciful, but perhaps most significantly of all he viewed him as ignorant. For instance, he had not known where to find Adam in the Garden of Eden, and had found it necessary to ask Adam whether he had eaten from the forbidden fruit. But even worse was his ignorance of the Alien God.

The utter ignorance of the World-Creator about the other God is the worst aspect of all his ignorance; it shows him to be inferior in the most extreme degree. But since, because he does not know the other God even the sphere and the nature of that God are incomprehensible to him, true goodness is also completely closed to him. It is true that he too has “goodness”, indeed is himself “good” [Marcion thought Jewish law had some just aspects to it, and gave the Creator God credit for that—ed.]; but this is a kind of goodness that, when measured by genuine goodness, actually does not even deserve this name. (10)

And be assured, this ignorance has its dark implications.

Marcion had darkened the picture of the World-Creator afforded by the Old Testament by defining, according to his own whim, in various passages the character of the creator of the world in terms of the character of the world. The wisdom of the creator of the world coincides with the wisdom of the world! Thus how contemptible is the wisdom of the creator of the world! God is the world, and the world is God—not in the pantheistic sense but in the ethical; each is the mirror of the other. (11)

Marcion saw the Creator God as possessed of a number of other qualities as well. These included his “evil partialities, pettinesses, and limitations; and finally his weakness and self-contradictions, his unprincipled whims, and his precepts and commandments which were so often ethically doubtful.”

By contrast, the Alien God is sublime, above every principality and power, a God of true goodness, who favors no one people over another.

By virtue of this goodness, this God is “blessedness and incorruptibility” which “brings no trouble upon itself or upon anything else” (Tertullian I 25); he is merciful love. But this God is so utterly and completely goodness alone, that is, love…that no other qualities are to be expressed concerning him, or that his other qualities form a unity with love. He is spirit, but “beneficient Spirit” (Tertulian I 19); he is “tranquil,” “mild,” “placid”; he simply does not become angry, does not judge, does not condemn. He is also “just,” but the justice in him is the justice of love. He is “wise,” and so on, but he is all of this because he is love, which as such incorporates all these qualities. For just this reason, however, there can be no work for this God other than self-revelation, and this in turn can be nothing other than redemption

But because the good God intended to redeem sinners, he brought his redemption to the whole of humanity; for they are all sinners. He knows no partiality for one people but brings a universal redemption. However, he also recognized that along with the world and its creator it is the law from which mankind must be redeemed; but because it is the law, it is also the lawgiver, for the two belong together. The law is the power of sin. The law has intensified the comfortless state of mankind. The law is a fearful burden. The law has made the “righteous” slavish, fearful, and incapable of the truly good. Thus it must be taken away, along with the entire book in which it is contained. The good God came in order to dissolve the law and the prophets, not to fulfill them. He does this by means of the gospel, in order to redeem souls. (12)

So there are two Gods, then, who in many respects are the “antithesis” of each other. But an important distinction to make is that Marcion did not regard the Old Testament God as the devil, or as pure evil. Rather he is simply the God of the law, and Marcion viewed the law, keep in mind, as not without some positive aspects, including a limited measure of justice. To be sure, the God who gave this law is petty, fickle, impatient, jealous, and warlike. However, Harnack also points out that “iustitia, in the sense of formal justice (‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’) and in judicial practice, and miserable pettiness are the basic characteristics of the Creator-God, but wickedness is not.” (13)

But even if not wicked or wholly evil, this God does show malice in the following ways (emphases added):
1) In the creation of men, in that he formed man weak, helpless, and mortal and allowed him to be tempted; and it is also show in the fact that he even tolerates sin, death, and the devil (who indeed is his creature) as well as every kind of evil:

2) In the numerous punitive ills that he inflicts, in the disproportion of punishment to guilt, and in the sending of ills in general;

3) In the numerous examples of harshness, cruelty, warlike rage, bloodthirstiness, and so on;

4) In his practice of punishing the children for the sins of the fathers and allowing the innocent to suffer for the guilty;

5) In the hardening of the heart that he inflicts upon the obstinate;

6) In the jealousy with which he kept the first men from the tree of life;

7) In the partiality with which he favors those who worship him, even if they are wicked, allowing or even encouraging them in injustice, deception, plunder, and acts of violence of all kinds against his adversaries. (14)
Marcion died about 160, and despite all the official orthodox opposition—first against him, then against his church—it seems he did have a lasting impact upon the faith insofar as he managed to push Christianity in a certain direction:

Previously there had been a burning danger that the Old Testament would be explained, in part literally, in part allegorically, as the Christians’ basic document and that it would be recognized and the church would be satisfied with it. Now, to be sure, this danger still was not entirely eliminated and a satisfactory clarity had not yet been achieved, but the conviction that in the Old Testament “the ore still lies in the ground” and that it is the submission to servitude over against the New Testament’s submission to freedom gained a place and recognition for itself…

Marcion wanted to free Christianity from the Old Testament, but the church preserved it. He did not forbid his followers to pick up the book but even recognized that it contained material that was useful for reading. But he saw in it a spirit different from that of the gospel, and he wanted nothing to do with two different spirits in religion. Was he right or was the church, which did not detach itself from the book, right? The question must be posed, for we are confronted not by some theologian without following or influence but by the man who established the New Testament and created a great church that flourished for centuries. He may rightly lay claim to the honor of deserving to be taken seriously even today. There is not yet universal recognition of that philosophy of history that does justice in all circumstances to what has happened. (15)

Finally, Harnack goes on to conclude:

The Old Testament brought Christianity into tragic conflict; it was not to be resolved, in the second century and beyond that time, as Marcion would resolve it but rather as the church resolved it. From the close of the second century onward the church managed to cope with this problem and eliminated at least some of the oppressive difficulties and the sophisms with which people had been blinding themselves. Now it was permissible to distinguish levels and to place the Old Testament on the lower level; of course, this distinction continued to be threatened for—this seemed self-evident—there can be only one inspiration and only one law of truth that is established by that inspiration. (16)

Ehrman’s Presentation of Marcion

As previously stated, Ehrman, the contemporary scholar, sees Marcion as a Jew hater. Moreover, the view of the Old Testament God as a God of wrath Ehrman seems to regard as mere “notion,” rather than actual fact. He writes:

On the other hand, orthodox Christianity shared with (or borrowed from) the Marcionites the sense of the newness of God’s revelation in Christ; they accepted the idea of a closed canon of Scripture, the primacy of the literal interpretation of the text, and an emphasis on Jesus’ divinity. At the same time, they shared with (or inherited from) the Marcionites a disdain for and distrust of all things Jewish, along with the notion, still found among Christians today, that the Old Testament God is a God of wrath, whereas the New Testament God is a God of love and mercy. (17)

Ehrman’s views, then, seem to have been shaped, at least to some degree, by the post-holocaust biblical-scholarly perspective. That being said, however, his depiction of Marcion’s core beliefs, including his view of the two Gods, does not differ greatly from Harnack’s.
There are two Gods, then, and according to Marcion, Jesus himself says so. Moreover, Jesus explains that no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the old wineskins burst and both they and the wine are destroyed (Mark 2:22). The gospel is a new thing that has come into the world. It cannot be put into the old wineskins of the Jewish religion. (18)
And as to the precise nature of the two Gods, here again, we do not find striking differences:

The God of the Old Testament insisted that people keep his Law and penalized them when they failed. He was not evil, but he was rigorously just. He had laws and inflicted penalties on those who did not keep them. But this necessarily made him a wrathful God, since no one kept all of his laws perfectly. Everyone had to pay the price for their transgressions, and the penalty for transgression was death. The God of the Old Testament was therefore completely justified in exacting his punishments and sentencing all people to death.

The God of Jesus came into this world in order to save people from the vengeful God of the Jews. He was previously unknown to this world and had never had any previous dealings with it. Hence Marcion sometimes referred to him as God the Stranger. (19)

Ehrman also deals with Marcion’s esteem for the Apostle Paul in a manner worth noting:

As we have seen, Paul claimed that a person is made right with God by faith in Christ, not by doing the works of the Law. This distinction became fundamental to Marcion, and he made it absolute. The gospel is the good news of deliverance; it involves love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption, and life. The Law, however, is the bad news that makes the gospel necessary in the first place; it involves harsh commandments, guilt, judgment, enmity, punishment, and death. The Law is given to the Jews. The gospel is given by Christ.

How could the same God be responsible for both? Or put in other terms: How could the wrathful, vengeful God of the Jews be the loving, merciful God of Jesus? Marcion maintained that these attributes could not belong to one God, as they stand at odds with one another: hatred and love, vengeance and mercy, judgment and grace. He concluded that there must in fact be two Gods: the God of the Jews, as found in the Old Testament, and the God of Jesus, as found in the writings of Paul. (20)

In Ehrman’s work, we also find the author venturing into areas Harnack does not go. For instance, he offers the view, perhaps correct, that the Marcionite Church probably never would have been accepted, because of its complete “novelty” and “newness,” as the official religion of the Roman Empire, this due to the fact that in ancient Roman culture, high value was placed upon ideas that were old and established. (21) It is worth mentioning here that many Romans were not terribly fond of Jews, and that Jewish expulsions from Rome took place in 19 AD and again in 49 AD, yet Ehrman tells us that credit was nonetheless given to the fact that Jewish scriptures were some number of centuries old. By adopting these scriptures as their own, the orthodox/catholic church “overcame the single biggest objection that pagans had with regard to the appearance of this ‘new’ religion.” Thus in laying claim upon the Old Testament, the Catholic Church had the advantage when Constantine came to power in the fourth century and designated them the favored religion of the empire, says Ehrman.

But what if the Marcionite Church had prevailed? What if it, rather than the Catholic Church, had emerged out of early Christianity as the dominant player? How would the world be different today? Ehrman calls it “rank speculation,” but does nonetheless offer some thoughts on this as well:

Had Marcionite Christianity succeeded, the Old Testament would be seen by Christians today not as the Old Testament but as the Jewish Scriptures, a set of writings for the Jews and of no real relevance to Christianity. So, too, Christians would not see themselves as having Jewish roots. This may well have opened the doors to heightened hostilities, since Marcion seems to have hated Jews and everything Jewish; or possibly even more likely, it may have led simply to benign neglect as Jews and their religion would have been considered to be of no relevance and certainly no competition for Christians. The entire history of anti-Semitism might have been avoided, ironically, by an anti-Jewish religion. (22)

Did Christians who expressed “anti-Semitic” views in the first through fifth centuries do so because they viewed Jews as “competition”?

Jerusalem, April 27, 2013: Ultra-Orthodox Jews dance around a bonfire on Lag BaOmer, a Jewish holiday that has been reinterpreted in modern times as commemorating the Bar Kokhba revolt.

Jerusalem, April 27, 2013: Ultra-Orthodox Jews dance around a bonfire on Lag BaOmer, a Jewish holiday that has been reinterpreted in modern times as commemorating the Bar Kokhba revolt.

Ehrman continues, over several passages, to speculate on what might have been, offering at one point the somewhat peculiar thought that Christians might perhaps have been more likely to adopt the practice of usury had there not been the constraints against it in the Old Testament:

Economic and political history might have turned out to be quite different, since there would have been nothing in the sacred Scriptures, for example, to oppose lending money at interest or to promote the system of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Who knows what would have happened to the environment, given the circumstance that so much of modern environmental concerns stem ultimately from a conviction, filtered through many layers, but with Judeo-Christian roots, that God is the creator of this world and that we are its caretakers. Different, too, would have been so much of modern socialism, even (odd as it may seem) so much of Marxist theory, as it is ultimately rooted in notions of economic justice, fairness, and opposition to oppression that trace their lineage back to the Hebrew prophets. (23)

The author also ruminates on the history of anti-Semitism, and here, perhaps especially, the “post-holocaust” perspective seems to appear:

If the Marcionite Christians had gained ascendancy, would people still ask, “Do you believe in God?” Or would they ask, “Do you believe in the two Gods?” Would anyone except scholars of antiquity have heard of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John? Would we have an “Old” Testament? How would the social and political relations of Jews and Christians over the centuries have been affected? Would Christians who rejected the Jewish God and all things Jewish feel a need to polemicize against and attack Jews? Or would they simply ignore Jews as not presenting any real competition to their own claims of the knowledge of the other God, who saved them from the creator? Would anti-Semitism be worse, or would it be nonexistent? (24)

Note also, again, the use of the word “competition,” as if the problems between Jews and Christians have sprung mostly from competing with each other in the marketplace of ideas, causing Christians to “polemicize” and to “attack” Jews.

Of course, what would seem to be the most glaringly obvious historical outcome—the history of Zionism and the founding of the state of Israel—is the one Ehrman doesn’t get into. (Perhaps for American university professors it’s too hot to handle.) But without an Old Testament, there would never have been a view of Jews as “God’s chosen people,” and without this, there would have been no significant Christian support for a state of Israel. Early Christian Zionists such as Cyrus Scofield and John Nelson Darby would not have had a leg to stand on; and John Hagee would perhaps be a used car salesman today; Theodor Herzl probably would never have gained much of a following other than among Jews, and the Balfour Declaration well may never have been issued by the British government. In short, it’s possible to conjecture that had the Marcionite Church prevailed, there would be no state of Israel today.

The Marcionite Church and Marcion’s Legacy

That Marcion’s church became as popular as it did, spreading “throughout all the provinces of the empire,” is all the more astounding when you consider that the master’s teachings included renunciation of material comforts and an overall ascetic lifestyle, including sexual abstinence. Here is how Harnack puts it:

Maracion absolutely forbade marriage and all sexual intercourse among his believers, and therefore he baptized only such catechumens and admitted to the Supper only such as took the vow of remaining unmarried or such married people as pledged a complete separation from that time onward. Thus he staked the life and growth of his communities exclusively on the winning of new members, for the believers were not permitted to reproduce. (25)

One reason for this was the usual motivation—liberation from sinful flesh—embraced by Buddhism and other religions. But Marcion had a second purpose in mind as well: that “one should not help to enlarge the realm of the World-Creator but one should rather restrict it, insofar as it lies within human capacity to do so.” Thus Marcion and his followers were in protest against the God of this world, and their renunciations were a “sign of deliberate abandonment of that God and withdrawal from his company.” This abstinence extended also to certain types of food and drink, and Harnack tells us that the Marcionites most likely were vegetarians as well (though he believes they did allow the consumption of fish).

But there was more. It appears Marcion taught his followers—in this era of on-again/off-again persecution of Christianity under various Roman emperors—a willingness to undergo martyrdom for the faith. And many in fact did. But none of this seems to have hampered the momentum. People flocked to Marcion’s churches:

Justin’s statement that Marcion himself had already disseminated his teaching “throughout the whole human race” is confirmed by the testimonies that we possess with reference to the second half of the second century for Asia, Lydia, Bithynia, Corinth, Crete, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, Lyons, and Carthage…Everywhere people were writing against the dreadful devilish sect which already in the second century was proclaiming its teaching even in the Latin language and by the beginning of the third century at the latest in the Syriac language as well. (26)

The community’s worship services were open to anyone and everyone, and reportedly one could see Marcionite churches in cities as well as the countryside. All of these churches, so far as is known, remained united in their rejection of the Old Testament God as well as their affirmation of the Alien God.

The danger that this church presented to Christianity was greatest in the generation between 150 and 190. In this period it and it alone was actually a counterchurch: this observation is evident from the abundance of opposing writings, and it can be read from the nature of the opposition offered by Justin and from the work of Celsus as well. Justin counted Marcion among the demonic new founders of religions with a Christian adornment. Celsus often spoke as though there were only the two churches, the “great church” and the Marcionite, and alongside them only the Gnostic underbrush. (27)

In the latter half of the third century the movement began to recede in the west, but still held on strong in Cyprus, Palestine, and in Syriac-speaking areas, including parts of Syria, all the way to Persia and Armenia. Harnack tells us it was particularly popular in Cyprus, which had undergone such ravages in the Kitos War, and that the city of Salamis “was simply besieged by Marcionites.” Laodicea in Syria, near the present day city of Latakia, seems to have been a large center as well, and there even were such things as “Marcionite villages” scattered here and there. By the fourth century orthodox Christians were still writing polemical tirades against Marcion, though by the middle of the fifth century the faith had receded in the east as well. Why? Certainly the fourth century designation of Christianity (i.e. the Catholic version) as the official religion of the empire had much to do with it—Harnack speaks of certain church bishops who began persecuting, or in some cases converting, Marcionites in the years after this. Changing perceptions of Jews may have been a factor as well. The revolts of the late first/early second centuries had receded into dim historical memory, and doubtless Jews were no longer regarded as the threat they once had been. We also can’t ignore divisions within the church itself. Marcion died about 160 AD, and while the church continued to revere his name and memory, there arose different “schools” within the faith which put forth variations on his principle beliefs. This became especially true from the third century onward. Yet Harnack tells us that even outside the church, the Antitheses continued to be read “by those who had freed themselves from the Old Testament.”

So what can we say about Marcion’s legacy and his contributions to the development of Christianity? Certainly one of his most lasting contributions is the high value he placed upon the letters of Paul, which resulted in an elevating of Paul’s status in the early church and probably also was a decisive factor, maybe the decisive factor, in the inclusion of the Pauline letters in the New Testament canon. The following quote from Harnack’s book states the case very well:

For decades, copies of Paul’s epistles were lacking in catholic churches…But furthermore, it is both obvious and highly important that Irenaeus, the founder of the church’s soteriological doctrine, as well as Tertullian and Origen, developed their biblical teachings about goodness and righteousness, about the creator God and the redeemer God, and so on, in the struggle against Marcion and in that process learned from him. Finally, it was through Marcion also that Paul was recovered for the great church, Paul who, for example, had been altogether pushed aside by such a teacher as Justin and whom the Roman Christian Hermas had utterly ignored. (28)

Moreover, it was only after Marcion that those in the “great church” began adopting the idea of the church itself as the “bride of Christ,” and only post-Marcion did they begin the practice of combining congregations into an actual community, a community united on the basis of a fixed doctrine rooted in the New Testament—just as Marcion had done. And herein lies what probably is Marcion’s single greatest, most lasting contribution of all—the concept of a fixed New Testament canon.

Marcion’s Relevancy Today

Marcion saw himself called to liberate Christianity from a crisis of identity. It is a crisis which has continued to plague the church over the years and is today more serious than ever. We find ourselves caught up in the “contradictory drama” of worshipping a dual purpose God, a God of discrimination, whose partisanship and favoritism are reserved either exclusively, or mainly, for one people, but who somehow also poses himself as a God of universal love and a God of all. The thermodynamics of this have led the Christian faith into a state of entropy—a problem compounded by the fact that when we look around today we see Jews in the state of Israel committing horrendous crimes against humanity.

To help clarify some of this, I will use a metaphor which Harnack uses—that of the “halfway house.” Think of someone who has been confined for a great long time in a prison or a mental institution. Upon release, he/she might reside for a while in a “halfway house” prior to making the full leap back into society and a life of freedom. In terms of liberating Christianity from its slavery to the Old Testament, Paul in essence represented the halfway house. It is true he invalidated Jewish law, but at the same time he was “grounded in the soil” of the Old Testament, as Harnack puts it. As a result he could not break from it entirely. Marcion, on the other hand, though fully admiring of Paul, wanted to take things further—out of the halfway house and into complete freedom and independence from the yoke of Judaism and its angry God. (29) In the interest of Christianity’s newness, “it’s unambiguous nature,” and its power, Marcion desired to take the “decisive step” of separating the gospel from the Old Testament. But the church, then as now, was beset with “Judaistic pseudoapostles” who were determined to keep it and retain it as part of their “holy scripture.”

“If one carefully thinks through with Paul and Marcion the contrast between ‘the righteousness that is by faith’ and ‘the righteousness that is by works’ and is persuaded also of the inadequacy of the means by which Paul thought that he could maintain the canonical recognition of the Old Testament, consistent thinking will not be able to tolerate the validity of the Old Testament as canonical documents in the Christian church.” (30) So says Harnack in the final chapter of his book, and he is right. “Consistent thinking” can only reach the conclusion that Marcion did—that the gospel, with its message of love and mercy taught by Christ, is and must be regarded as a thing separate entirely from the Old Testament. Harnack adds: “If Marcion had reappeared in the time of the Huguenots and Cromwell, he would once again have encountered the warlike God of Israel whom he abhorred, right in the very middle of Christendom.”

And so it is today, with Christian Zionists applauding every Israeli aggression in the Middle East, only with one very major difference: with a Nile-to-Euphrates agenda spelled out in the book of Genesis, and in a world with a nuclear-armed Jewish state, and with AIPAC-like lobbies reaching into virtually every Western country, the problem has truly reached crisis proportions—not only for Christians, but for all peoples on the planet.

monsternation

Earlier I offered a critique of Ehrman’s analysis of “what might have been” had the Marcionite church prevailed, coming to the conclusion that in all likelihood the modern-day state of Israel would never have been born. One can of course carry the conjecture further: without the establishment of the state of Israel, there would have been no Nakba, no Deir Yassin massacre, no 1967 war, no 1973 war, and no pro-Israel lobby in America today. Without the pro-Israel lobby, the wars in Iraq would possibly have been averted. The half a million Iraqi children, whose deaths the Jewish Madelaine Albright felt were “worth it,” could well still be alive. The Palestinians would have a state of their own, would therefore not be subject to having their homes bulldozed or destroyed by bombs, conceivably there would be no blockade of Gaza, no checkpoints in the West Bank or mothers giving birth at them, and no apartheid wall. The Palestinians who were killed in the first Intifada, the second Intifada, those who perished in various Israeli missile attacks on Gaza, including Operation Cast Lead, would either still be alive today or else possibly have died of natural causes.

Who else would have been spared besides Palestinians and Iraqis? Without a state of Israel, would there ever have been a 9/11 attack? And without 9/11 would thousands of Americans, Afghans, British, Pakistanis, Libyans, and people of other nationalities have died in the ongoing wars that have been fought since then? Moreover, without Israel, and without, by extension, a pro-Israel lobby, would we have leaders pushing even now to take us into new wars? These are questions which legitimately should be asked. Also—was Jesus correct in saying that it’s possible to judge a tree by the fruit it produces, and if so, was Marcion right in zeroing in on this statement and making of it what he did? This, too, is a legitimate question.

“Marcion’s heretical tradition is flooding the entire world”—so lamented the ancient writer Tertullian in approximately the early third century. But maybe at last it is time for Christianity to give Marcion his due, to finally come to recognize that Jesus was indeed something “new” entirely, that his teachings were an “antithesis” if you will, a complete, total, outright departure from the Old Testament, and that in separating the two Marcion may well have had the right idea.

__________________________

When published in the original German, Harnack’s work, Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God, included appendices that apparently covered multiple pages. The modern American edition excludes these appendices and offers the following editor’s note by way of explanation: “Because of the length and complexity of the appendices to Harnack’s Marcion and because scholars will need to consult those appendices in the original form in which Harnack presents them, the editor and translators have decided not to include the appendices in the present edition. References to them, however, have been retained as an aid to further study.” An English edition of the book with the appendices included would obviously be helpful for further understanding of Marcion’s theology. Hopefully the current publisher, or some other, will undertake to publish one.

Endnotes:

1. Harnack, Adolf, Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God, translated by John E. Steely and Lyle D. Bierma, Wipf & Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1990, p. 22.

2. Ibid, p. 58.

3. Ehrman, Bart D., Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, Oxford University Press, New York, 2003, p. 106.

4. Harnack, p. 15.

5. The Jewish Encyclopedia acknowledges Dio Cassius as “the most important source” on the Kitos War, though expresses the view that the ancient Roman’s account is “exaggerated,” according to Wikipedia.

6. “Abolishing” the Old Testament outright probably was not Christ’s intention. However, his conflicts with the Jewish establishment are well known. Also it should be kept in mind that the leaders of the Jewish revolts were for the most part of the Zealot sect of Judaism, which was closely aligned with the Pharisees. As I discussed in a previous article, the Zealots took their name from the Old Testament character Phinehas, who in Numbers 25 bursts into a tent and drives a spear through an Israelite man and Moabite woman, ending up being described as “zealous” for his God for so doing. The Zealots of Jesus’ day were known to have preached that Jews should obey no laws other than those given them by God.

7. Harnack, p. 17.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid, p. 60-62.

10. Ibid, p. 71.

11. Ibid, p. 71-72.

12. Ibid, 81-82.

13. Ibid, p. 69.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid, p. 131, 133-134.

16. Ibid, p. 134.

17. Ehrman, p. 252.

18. Ibid, p. 106.

19. Ibid, p. 105.

20. Ibid, p. 104-105.

21. Ibid, p. 111-112

22. Ibid, p. 111.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid, p. 247.

25. Harnack, p. 96.

26. Ibid, p. 99.

27. Ibid, p. 100.

28. Ibid, p. 131.

29. Harnack believes Paul would have looked upon Marcion and seen him as “his own authentic pupil” in many respects, but absolutely would have “turned away in horror” at his concept of the two Gods and his complete rejection of the Old Testament.

30. Ibid, p. 133.

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