Good Morning, Siblings!
Today’s readings are Matthew 20-21
We’re going off the beaten path a bit today in order to gather a little background on the journey our Bible has taken to get to us today.
The Bible Demolition Crew (They didn’t succeed, but they sure did try!)
It usually comes as a surprise to modern Believers to learn of the tumultuous past between our current Bible and noted historical figures, some of them considered the founding fathers of modern church denominations. There has been nothing less than an assault on this beloved book since the very beginning of it’s existence and many of the books within that we have collected together today have had to survive strenuous, daunting, and in some cases even vicious campaigns in order to retain their rightful place in this tome.
While the Bible has remained mostly intact, the negative influence and leadership of key individuals, regardless of how contradictory they were towards the Father, can still be seen at work in the body of believers today.
Building a study of an exhaustive list of entities who have served in positions on the Bible Demolition Crew would take up far too much time and not be entirely relevant to our study. Therefore, we are going to focus on two key figures that you need to be aware of and I encourage you to dig deeper on your own as time and interest permit. I will also point you to another paper I wrote to start your journey of learning of a particular council and how they completely reshaped key aspects of the faith, willfully moving us away from YHWH’s commandments.
Ready? Lets dive in!
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Marcion of Sinope:
Marcion of Sinope is considered by some to be the instigator of the New Testament coming into being, certainly being considered as a separate set of writings from the Old Testament, rather than a continuation. He was a very wealthy man and used that wealth to make himself highly influential in the church. However, his unconventional beliefs ended in him being excommunicated by the church, even to the point of having his donations returned to him.
Unfortunately, he still maintained a following for hundreds of years and during his time within the church he managed to influence it in ways that never truly disappeared and seem to be resurrecting themselves today. When you look at his beliefs, it is shocking to think that he ever held sway over the church, and led a nearly successful campaign to remove the foundational texts of our Bible!
What did he believe? Marcion believed that there were two different gods in the Bible, the God of the Old Testament (YHWH), and the god of the new, Messiah. He saw Messiah as a more powerful god (who was not in the least bit Jewish, more on that in a minute). He also believed that Messiah did away with the God of the OT and introduced a new religion. I know this sounds radical but if you think about it, this is exactly how many denominations treat Messiah and the Word today.
Essentially: Marcion taught that Messiah came to replace YHWH.
He also taught that, with the coming of our Messiah, the commandments were done away with and all we had to do was believe in Jesus/Yeshua and we had eternal salvation that we could never lose. No life change or obedience necessary because this new god was a god of love whereas the old god was one of anger. As someone who sought to change the foundations of our faith, it should come as no surprise that Marcion was a huge fan of Paul’s writings – and I do not say this as an insult to Paul but rather a nod to how easily his writings are twisted (which even Paul’s friends warned us about). 2 Peter 3:16
Why did Marcion focus on Paul’s letters? Paul’s writing style was one of straw man arguments. He used a form of debate that set himself up against an imaginary adversary (straw man) in a question and answer or challenge and response type format. He asks a question and then answers it. An example is below:
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. Romans 11:1
See how he sets up a question and then answers it, usually in contrast to what the question implies?
The thing is, people who don’t understand this style can see this (or be told) that Paul is seriously considering the question rather than asking it just to prove it wrong. For example, in the above exchange someone could read it and say “Paul is wondering if God has rejected his people!”
Marcion was such a fan of Paul and relied so heavily on his teachings as a means to justify thwarting the remainder of the Bible, that I would consider Marcion to be far more a Paulinian than a Christian. There are actually many Paulinian churches today that rely predominantly on the letters of Paul as a basis for their doctrines and shun the Old Testament as no longer relevant or applicable to our lives. In doing this, they must then, understandably, avoid many writings (by this I mean teachings, “writings” was a poor word choice) of Messiah or claim Messiah’s example as one we don’t have to follow. Whereas Peter warned us that Paul’s letters are easily twisted to mean whatever you’d like them to mean, Messiah’s teachings are firmly rooted in the teachings of the one who sent Him.
…our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
2 Peter 3:15-16
I want to note that I do find wisdom in Paul’s writings and have no doubt that they are divinely inspired and properly included in the Bible, but it is vital that we emphasize the importance of understanding his writing style, his background as a highly trained Jewish scholar, the context, and recipient of his letters, and his adherence to the law of YHWH. Context is key.
So just how did Marcion feel about the Scriptures?
We can get a clear picture of Marcion’s view on Scriptures based on what books he felt should be retained in the Bible.
Remember, there are 66 books in our modern Bible, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation.
Out of those books, the following are what Marcion chose to have in his version of the Bible:
- Gospel of Marcion (His edited version of Luke)
- 1+2 Corinthians
- 1&2 Thessalonians
- Laodiceans (another letter from Paul)
And that’s it!
Only 11 books made the cut. Notice how much wisdom is missing. Our very foundational texts. The creation of man, the implementation of covenants, the ten commandments, and so much more that is precious to us – all gone. He edited even those eleven books down and removed references to the Old Testament, which he saw as completely irrelevant with the coming of Messiah.
As shocking as this sounds, we still have vestiges of Marcionism in our world today and it seems to be making a comeback in modern churches. People are taught that Grace didn’t come until the new testament (which is not true, the OT is FILLED with instances of YHWH’s Grace) and that Yeshua came to free us from any need to walk in obedience to the Father (Which would obviously necessitate the book of Matthew being removed). Matthew 5:17
Further, the long held view that the Old Testament is done away and that Messiah came to bring an entirely new religion are all remnants of Marcionism, perfectly situated to be fertilized and lauded in our modern culture of self love and indulgence above all things.
Dr David L Baker in his book Two Testaments, One Bible said: “There is in the church a habit of simply ignoring the Old Testament. Bible study groups spend little time on Old Testament passages. It is clear therefore that the modern church, in spite of its official rejection of Marcionism, has often allowed implicit Marcionism in practice.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Martin Luther.
Next up on our wall of fame is Martin Luther, a man who is celebrated by the church today as the father of the reformation movement. Luther had an impressive life, dedicating himself to studying the Bible, teaching in Bible colleges, and setting himself up as a champion for the word. His efforts to translate the Bible into German inspired other scholars to do the same with their own languages and this led to greater first hand access to the word for countless people. I’ve spent hours and hours studying Luther and honestly, the first 3/4 of his life are nothing short of impressive.
The fact that he accomplished so much in the first portion of his life only to leave a legacy of devastation in his end game is horrifying to say the least, and a fall of Solomon proportions.
In the earlier part of his life, Luther sought to convert Jews to Christianity. Unfortunately, he did not understand that Jews did not have to abandon their Jewish identity in YHWH in order to accept the Jewish Messiah. For more on this, read my paper, Christianity and Judaism: Why The Family Tree Can’t Get Along.
When this predictably failed, he went off the deep end and began a campaign against the Jews, even going so far as to write and promote the now infamous publication “On the Jews and their lies”, which would later go on to serve as inspiration for Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement. This book inspired hatred and mistreatment of the Jews in his own time as well. In one city, there was a call from the Jews to ban the disbursement of his books after a pastor who followed him urged his church members to murder them in one of his sermons. Historians have noted that almost every anti-Jewish book published by the Third Reich contained references and quotes to Luther’s works. One Oxford professor even cited Luther’s writings as the blueprint for the Nazi regime. Historian and Luther biographer, Roland Bainton, once tragically observed “One could wish that Luther had died before On The Jews And Their Lies was written.”
How did this affect the Bible? Luther also sought to remove texts from the biblical canon that he deemed “too Jewish”.
Books that didn’t make the cut were Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation. He is also thought to be the first to remove seven books from the OT and place them in a collection of books he called the Apocrypha, considering them of lesser importance. The Apocrypha was eventually removed entirely from protestant Bibles and the period of time these books covered has been taught to be a “silent period” in their absence. We talked a little more about this mythical silent period in my Matthew 1-4 notes.
While Luther did many good things for the church, his nurtured hatred of the Jews and actions towards them can’t help but overshadow his life and have had a profound effect on widening the breach between Christianity and Judaism, as well as the breech between the church today and YHWH’s Word. This is not to mention over 6 million lives brutally taken during the Holocaust – and the continuing anti-semetism that flows as a visible but oft denied undercurrent in the church today.
Without a doubt, Luther’s writings inspired atrocities which we will be reeling from for eternity.
I shall give you my sincere advice: What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews?…First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. ~Martin Luther, The Jews and Their Lies
“We are at fault for not slaying them.” ~Martin Luther, The Jews and Their Lies
For more information about Martin Luther, the early church, and the council of Laodicea and it’s influence over anti-semitism in Christianity today, please see my writing on Christianity and Judaism: Why The Family Tree Can’t Get Along.
What you need to know:
The Bible we have today was preserved by the divine hand of YHWH.
Many gave their lives so that we could have the the tremendous blessing of holding this book. It is our responsibility to read it in its entirety, in context, not casting aside a single word from our Father, with the understanding that YHWH is timeless, He does not change, and His Word is eternally relevant.
Sources for further reading:
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the entities that have sought to edit, dismantle, or even do away with the Bible we hold today, but it is a start. I speak at length on the chasm created between us and the Word by the Council of Laodicea in this paper.
Moving onto some quick notes on our reading today!
Matthew 20:1-16 is a beautiful parable to help us wrap our heads around the beauty of YHWH’s kingdom. Wherein the workers who were working at the start of the day may feel it is unfair for those who came into the fold later to receive the same payment, those of us who came in late are ever grateful for this grace and generosity. While we should understandably be appreciative of this generosity, we should still practice consideration and respect towards our brethren who were here long before us – and set our hearts not to be jealous when it feels we are the first hour hires and we see the Father bringing in folks on the eleventh hour. Our joy should only increase that they have been shown the same grace as ourselves. Something to turn over in your mind today.
A different model of leadership
Matthew 20:25-28 Rulers at this time (and some still today) tend to consider themselves great by the power they wield. They often delight in subjecting others to their will and whim. Typically, a man was elevated among his peers and then insists on more elevation. Messiah’s prerequisite for a leader was not status, wealth, or power. Rather, it was humility, compassion, love, and a heart to serve others. This was radical then – and it is just as radical now.
32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Matthew 20:32-33
Wow. I’ve prayed a similar prayer and, while I had physical vision, it was at a time in which I was spiritually blind. He opened my eyes as well. HalleluYah!
Matthew 21:5 is quoting Zech 9:9
When we see Messiah enter Jerusalem it is with much fanfare. Up until this point we have seen Him act with varying levels of discretion but now He is all in, the people are tossing their cloaks and fresh cut branches on the road as a sign of honor, devotion, and victory that the Messiah has come (Throwing down cloaks was a way that people honored new kings in this culture). They shout His royal title (son of David) to further declare their faith, and Messiah allows it to be fully known just who He is and what He came to do. (However, the end is not what the people expect).
The next scene in this passage shows Messiah flipping tables in anger at the money changers in the temple courtyard. I want to point out that many people like to cite this as justification for them acting on their unchecked emotions or anger, but if we want to claim the right to flip tables as Messiah, we need to stop and consider the punishment He suffered for us as well. What I’m saying is that we have a lot of Believers who want to flip tables when Messiah called us to love and serve our enemies.
Lets go a little deeper into just what was taking place in these temples. Have you ever been to Disney World? Outside of the Magic Kingdom, you can purchase a 20 ounce bottle of coke for about a dollar. Step into the park and you’ll pay $5 for that same bottle. Likewise, merchants were working in cooperation with the temple priests to sell animals for people to sacrifice. One noted scholar, William Barclay, stated that a pair of doves in the temple courtyard was sold for 20 times their actual value anywhere else.
Matthew 21:23 brought to mind a thought so bear with me and turn this over in your head a bit. By what authority have we made the changes that we have made in the faith that are clearly not in accordance with His word? There will be some hard questions asked one of these days and we will have to answer them. Edit: I edited this portion of the notes after publishing.
One level of the The Parable of the Two Sons in Matthew 21:28-31 can be summarized by saying that the Father desires Fruit, not just lip service.
There is a lot to think on today and I can’t possibly have enough time and words to do justice to the Messiah and all that takes place in our reading so I will leave it at this, trust you will dig deeper, and pray we use this time to draw us closer to Him.
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!
May YHWH bless the reading of His Word!