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The Jewish Roots of Christianity

— A Landmarks of Faith Seminar —

Jewish Roots of Christianity Seminar

Wild Branches:
The Gentilization of Christianity

Booklet  See notes below. (Sections in parentheses are covered in the longer form of this seminar and in the book version: available in print and on Kindle.)

Lecture #2b:

Or click here for more listening options at Internet Archive.

Jewish Roots of Christianity Lecture #3a ⇨
⇦ Jewish Roots of Christianity Lecture #2a


Lecture #2b Notes

Sibylline Oracles (Continued)


While the original endtimes expectation of Christianity was the conversion of the Jewish people, an essentially pro-Jewish vision, it soon became anti-Jewish. The Antichrist was identified as a Jew who would attract the Jewish people, who were assured only of damnation.)


Rom. 14:5: One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. (Compare Gal. 4:10.)

Seventh Day Christian Groups: Seventh Day Adventists, Seventh Day Baptists, many Messianic groups.

The Perpetual Sabbath: The belief by many early Christians that belief in Christ brings us into a continual Sabbath, not just one day a week, but every day.

Heb. 4:10: For the one who has entered his [Sabbath] rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from his [after the Creation, i.e. permanently]

Sunday worship: At first, Sunday was simply a convenient day for worship because it had become the pagan day of rest in the Roman Empire (the day of worship of the pagan sun god). Also, observing the Jewish Sabbath had become illegal.

Victorinus of Pettau (304): Christians worshipped on Sunday to avoid appearing to observe the Sabbath with the Jews, of which the Lord of the Sabbath himself…says by his prophets that his soul hateth.

Sylvester of Rome (314-335): Sunday worship is in execration of the Jews.


The Passover of the Lord (or the Feast of the Savior’s Passover): Was originally celebrated as a single evening meal similar to the Jewish Seder. The idea of a Holy Week (Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter, etc.) did not become popular until the 4th century.

1 Cor. 5:7-8: For Christ our Passover [Lamb] has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast.

Passover Controversy: A disagreement over when and how to celebrate the Passover/Pascha. The Quartodecimians (Fourteeners) continued to celebrate on the Jewish date. Rome and the West began to celebrate every year on the following Saturday evening, then added an all night vigil with a focus on baptism at dawn on Sunday.

Victor of Rome (c. 190 AD): Wrote a letter demanding that eastern churches accept Easter Sunday. When they refused, he excommunicated them.

The Council of Nicea (325 AD) forbid the celebration of Passover at the same time as the Jews because: it is best not to follow the detestable company of the Jews since they are the murderers of our Lord and we should have nothing in common with them.


Established a church that broke away from the rest of the Church (i.e. a cult).

  • Rejected the Old Testament (along with parts of the New Testament) and any connection with Judaism.
  • Claimed the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are two different Gods.
  • Taught that Jesus came to destroy the Law and the Prophets.
  • Taught that Jesus came not as a baby, but as an adult (he rejected the birth stories of the New Testament).
  • Rejected the Millennium.

Mild forms of his views continue:

  • The Old Testament is bad while the New Testament is good.
  • Paul is anti-Jewish.
  • Christianity is completely separate from Judaism.


An attempt to explain the truths of the gospel from the pagan religious world view of Roman society and culture (Middle Platonism and Neo-Platonism).

Neo-Platonism: An updated philosophical paganism, which rejected the gods, and replaced them with the abstract god of the philosophers (of Plato), a distant, unknowable God.

The Gnostics taught that:

  • The spiritual world is good but the material world is evil.
  • The God of Creation is a lesser god, different than God the Father.
  • The Fall of man is a parable of man’s fall from the spiritual to the material world.
  • Salvation is liberation back into the pure realm of spirit.

What is the eternal destiny of the human soul?

Rev. 6:10: How long, holy and true master, will you not judge and avenge our blood on those dwelling on the earth?

Galileo: 17th cent. Italian astronomer whose discoveries of physical imperfections in the heavens scandalized Europe.


Vestal Virgins: Celibate priestesses of the Roman goddess Vesta.

Some Gnostics taught that marriage and procreation were from Satan, and that the fall of man in the Garden of Eden was from sexual sin.

(The Protoevangelium of James (2nd cent.): An apocryphal writing which is the source of much legendary material about Mary. It falsely claims she was dedicated as a virgin to the Jewish Temple.)

(Traditional Judaism considers the physical act of marriage (sex) a necessary part of marriage (a duty, 1 Cor. 7:3), intended to give pleasure to the wife (Gen. 18:12, Deut. 24:5). Withholding these rights was forbidden by the rabbis and the New Testament (1 Cor. 7:5).


The spiritual face-to-face vision of God considered to be the eternal condition of the saints in heaven. This replaced the original Christian hope for resurrection in an earthly Millennium followed by life in a new heavens and new earth.

Some at Rome (the Alogoi) rejected the book of Revelation because of its Millennium teaching. The Eastern Church rejected it for 500 years. The Millennium was finally interpreted to be now, with Christ reigning through the Church. Belief in a literal future Millennium was considered the heresy of chiliasm.

Contemplative Movement (Monasticism): Sought the Beatific Vision in this life.

(Indulgences (Penitential System): A weakening of the original moral focus of Christianity.)

(Sacraments: Contact with God sought through rituals rather than obedience to God’s Word.)


Originally referred to all believers. Later came to mean certain special individuals chosen by the Church.

Acts 10:26: Stand up; I, too, am just a man.

Pagan cult meals with the dead: Were the custom in Rome at certain festivals and the anniversary of the person’s death.

Canonization: The process of elevating a person to sainthood, similar to the old Roman process of apotheosis.


Early Christian worship was very plain and simple.

  • Meetings were in people’s homes.
  • The communion (or eucharist, giving thanks) was part of a meal (the agapé meal).

Later, the communion was removed from the meal and moved into the morning worship.

  • The table used for the meal was called an altar, and moved away from the people.
  • Elements were added from pagan (and Temple) worship: processions, candles, incense, bells, stamped bread.
  • The role of the worshipper became more and more passive.
  • Ceremonies were read from books.
  • The communion came to be seen as a mystery (transubstantiation).


Others tried to fit Christianity into pagan art forms.

  • The first Christian images appeared among the Gnostics.
  • Pagan artistic conventions were used to depict Biblical individuals or stories.
  • Angels were shown as fat babies or ladies with wings, which are pre-Christian pagan symbols.
  • Halos also originated in pagan art.


Churches were originally independent congregations led by a group of elders, just like the synagogues.

Beginning in the 2nd cent., bishops (who were originally more like head elders) came to have much more authority over the local church (the monarchical bishop pattern of church organization).

Later these bishops became even more powerful, ruling over many churches in large regions. This eventually led to many abuses of power.)

Copyright © 2014-15, 2019-2020 by Jeffrey J. Harrison.
Many of the Scripture verses quoted have been translated or modified by the author to bring out details of the original Greek or Hebrew text. Otherwise: Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright the Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission.
Unattributed photos are by the author. All rights reserved.