DISCLAIMER: I believe the Canon of Scriptures as we have them today is necessary and inspired. I’m basically exploring how the early disciples lived their faith and what texts they used as basis to teach and make disciples. And what we can learn from it.
How many times have we heard the longing expressed for a return to the power and simplicity of the Early Church? What gave them this experience and reputation we so envy? Is it possible we are missing something as to where they drew their “doctrine” from? I am becoming more and more convinced that it is the case.
Even Paul in his writings was basically unpacking the massive prophetic legacy contained in the Law and the Prophets, the Torah and the Tanakh. Just as Jesus did for the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. Just as the Bereans did after hearing the Gospel preached to them – they went back to the Hebrew Scriptures of their day. Just as Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. Just as Steven did before being martyred. And so on.
Now, tradition tells us that the first book of the New Testament was written “around” 50 AD. That would be close to 20 years after Jesus’ ascension. Yet, merely 50 days after his ascension the first revival broke in Jerusalem. The Church was born then. Not in 325 AD. Under the power of the Spirit, not under the authority of Constantine. Their Scriptures? Torah and Tanakh. And these are the ones of whom it is said they loved one another so much they shared their wealth, and acted like Christ so much that they were called “Christians.”
So what happened? Have we seen over the centuries the rise of a doctrine born of the New Testament rather than the Old? Indeed we have. There has been a clear Hellenization of Yeshua, the stripping of the Jewish roots of our Messiah, and therefore we ended up with a religious mixture called Christianity, based almost solely on the Canon of the New Testament. History recorded the extreme abominations the Church drew the world into. So completely different from the teachings of Yeshua and the Apostles.
The Law and the Prophets became synonymous with the Old Covenant, and soon were considered nearly irrelevant, secondary, something none of the Apostles ever suggested should happen, as it was their source for ALL their teachings about Yeshua. The Scriptures circulating were mainly in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and in Latin. And the only people owning them were either Jewish, or educated leaders of the Church. So grew the heresies, forceful conversions, and Rome became the center of power for the Early Church. And it boasted again of an authority given to it by God. We know it was nothing of the sort. (I am aware there is also a Greek Orthodox tradition which claims being closer to the Apostles’ teachings).
The Early Church “doctrine” was called The Way, they were teaching Yeshua’s revelation to them which He drew from the Law and the Prophets, covering His Messianic mission to Israel and the world, His death, resurrection and ascension. They were entreating their hearers to repent of their sin, believe in Yeshua’s ransom for them authenticated by His resurrection, and to receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. Disciples were added by the thousands, signs and miracles were part of life, and they started traveling abroad to obey the Lord in bringing the Gospel to the nations.
And then I wonder about Ananias and Sapphira’s demise (Acts 5). “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” I’m wondering… if this could have been one of the turning points, similar to the Hebrews telling Moses at Mount Sinai that they could not bear to hear God’s voice directly, it scared them. Did the Early Church experience this kind of reaction and started drifting away from hearing from God in order to put their trust in men…?
In my opinion, to consider the New Testament Scriptures without their Old Testament anchor can only lead us to a different Gospel, or at best to an anorexic mixture of truth. I should be able to find the revelation of Christ in the Torah and Tanakh just like Paul, Peter, James and John were teaching the early disciples. Maybe then I could witness the same love and power at work in my own life. I’m no scholar, but I’m interested in pursuing this.
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH DIDN’T HAVE A NEW TESTAMENT – THEY HAD THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES AND THE HOLY SPIRIT TO GUIDE THEM INTO ALL TRUTH.
“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Cor 2)
“19 But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (1Cor 4:20)