Many churches, and their parent denominations, do not like to talk about the schisms that occurred within the Christian church. As such, there is a little mystery as to how and why the Christian church ended up where it did almost 2,000 years after the founding by Jesus Christ. With a little patience and time, one can easily access documents and information that has been buried for centuries thanks to the internet. Today’s study delves into the mystery of the very first schism between Judaism and Christianity.
During the First Jewish Revolt, many Jewish-Christians helped the Jewish military to fight against the Roman oppressors in the hopes of having an independent state. These same Jewish-Christians worshiped alongside their fellow Jews in the synagogue and kept all the Laws of Moses. In the end, the revolt was crushed and Rome instituted tyranny. They expelled the Jews from Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. This only added salt to the wound and would cause animosity between the Jewish people and the Roman occupiers.
Sixty years later, this animosity continued and finally reached a boiling point. A man leading the armies of Israel rose up in defiance to the rule of Rome. His name was Simon bar Kokhba. During his revolt many Jewish-Christians were killed due to their lack of support for the revolt. This had to do with Rabbi bar Akiva naming Simon bar Kokhba a Massiach or Messiah. Since Christians already had a messiah they couldn’t say that there was two messiahs and this caused friction within the Jewish communities of Israel.
In response to the lack of support from Christians, Jewish or not, they were killed or ran out of the towns they lived in. They were expelled from the synagogues and made pariahs within the eyes of the rabbinic circles that supported Bar Kokhba and his revolt. The Jewish-Christians faced a tough decision of being Jewish or being Christian. If they chose Jewish they were allowed to stay, but expected to support the rebellion. If they were Christian then they suffered the fate described above.
The Jewish people are not wholly at fault here, because at roughly the same time Rome issued a decree to all Jewish-Christians that said you are either Christian or you are Jewish. You cannot be both. Those that chose to be Christian maintained a double life and held secret meetings in where they were far from the prying eyes of the Romans. If they were found out then they were executed as traitors to the state. Those that chose to remain Jewish were immediately executed as being traitors to the state of Rome.
This was a tough time for Jewish-Christians and Christianity as a whole. The belligerents on both sides forced Christianity from the hands of the family of Jesus into that of the Gentiles. The holy see of Jerusalem was lost to the Jews and replaced with pagan believing Gentile Christians. A true tragedy that continues to haunt Christianity and Judaism today. Imagine if both sides hadn’t forced Jewish-Christians to chose to be Jewish or Christian at how much richer in spirit the Christian Church would be. Imagine if Jesus’s family were able to continue to guide the church as he intended at the tragedies that the future held for the Jewish people at the hands of Gentile Christians that could have been avoided.
Without reconciliation, both Christianity and Judaism suffers. Christianity has lost it’s Jewish roots and support. Judaism has lost a budding branch that was grafted in and up until recently support from Christianity. Truly a tragedy of epic proportions.
Reverend Richard Littles