Chapter 6 — Judaizers and the Early Church
The Hellenized rabbis were not done after the Crucifixion.
Taking seriously the claim that Christianity was the logical and historical extension of Moses, they sought to bring all Christians back under proper Talmudic control. Brutal persecution failed; their chief prosecutor switched sides in the middle of his biggest mission to Damascus. After a few more sputtering efforts using the powers of the Law, even with a little backing from Rome, they decided the best plan was to use on Christians what was used on them: Hellenism.
The call of Jesus back to the ancient Hebrew Mysticism was not a simple recall, but a considerable move forward. The Talmud was lies, but the Law of Moses remained an accurate reflection of how God intended men to live on earth. Moses had it inscribed in two languages at once. The obvious was the semi-mystical Hebrew tongue of the people; the less obvious was the fully mystical meaning behind that Law. You could read the Law and obey it, and things would be okay. If you really wanted to see God as Moses did, you had to see the parabolic language in it. But instead of struggling through the Law to discover it’s mystical meaning, Jesus’ plan was to simply give people direct access to that Spirit Realm up front. Then they could turn back and see what the Law meant on a higher level. They need not obey the Law in the letter, but in Spirit. His death literally opened the way into the Presence of God, closing the Covenant of Moses as the sole proprietary means to approaching Him.
Once the Apostles received this experience of Spirit birth, all their human learning and experiences took on a totally new meaning. This new faculty whipped the mind into shape to obey and remember things it would have completely lost on its own. They understood that the value of keeping the Hebrew Scripture was to mine the applicable behavior pattern that the Law suggested, to discover what the Spirit had to say about the meaning of the Covenant in a different context. Sin was still sin; it still meant getting out of equilibrium with the moral fabric. But the political entity of Israel was meaningless now; Israel-the-mission was still very much alive. So these new followers of Jesus dug into Hebrew Scripture to find the less obvious mystical meaning and build a new mystical nation with a different Covenant of the Blood of Christ and the walking in the Spirit.
The rabbis were not fools. They understood this and were utterly certain they had done the right thing in leaving that mysticism behind. They had discovered God more clearly in Aristotelian reasoning, never mind that it was an entirely different “God.” They rejected the contentions of Jesus the Rabbi, but were quite willing to intellectually kidnap all His followers for their own greater glory in the Kingdom of Judah. They realized that this required a nice friendly evangelism, like Alexander the Great used. It also required taking the time to win their confidence, distract them off into probable sounding doctrinal “depth” until they were ripe for leading back into Judaism. It worked better in some places than others, but in general, it did the job.
The first hurdle was convincing the Christians that Jesus was not the Son of God. So long as He was regarded as divine, they couldn’t get far. They set up a logical puzzle about humanity versus divinity and created a very large body of discussion about how this simply didn’t make sense. We don’t know how it was connected in historical terms, but this left the door open for Gnosticism. The Gnostics were mystical-sounding thinkers who carried the same contention as the Judaizers: either Jesus was divine or human, but could not possibly be both.
Never mind how many people were siphoned off this way; the biggest problem was how this required Christian scholars to wrestle with the issue. That was the real trap — suckering them into yielding the battlefield. Once the Judaizers, Gnostics and other wackos got Christian leaders to answer the demand to be reasonable on Aristotelian terms, genuine faith was frozen. We realize through Paul’s blunt statements that God is not hindered by anything in this realm of existence when He decides someone will have spiritual birth. What is hindered is their ability to proceed forward in the power of that spirit and claim the full heritage of mysticism. The entire message of the Bible, including the New Testament, is out of reach because the readers’ minds are still trapped within the walls of human intellect. People cannot claim the full heritage of God’s blessings available in this realm because it owns them, so His power over it is not available. The living moral fabric of God’s justice remains invisible.
So we have a bunch of happy talk about “born-again” with a totally different meaning and implication, as if this divine miracle was something any human can decide, despite blunt warnings they can’t even want it until God gives it to them first. Instead, we have generations of folks quite certain they have eternal life because they feel like it, can act like it (so they believe) and because someone told them they have it. Meanwhile, most of them hold conflicting notions of what a “Real Christian” is without the slightest inkling of what the Bible really means.
Now you know the rest of the story.
Recommended readings: Encyclopedic articles on Judaizers, Gnosticism and Early Church controversies up to 300 AD.