Wednesday, September 5, 2018

How should the Ten Commandments be divided?

Jews, Protestants, Anglican, and Orthodox groups mostly divide the ten commandments in the same way so that the Sabbath is the fourth commandment.  The Catholics and Lutherans, however, divide the commandments so that the Sabbath is the third commandment.  

In the Hebrew, there are marks after passages made by either a Hebrew letter samekh or peh.  The samekh represents a smaller break in the scroll text, sort of like the pause between paragraphs.  The peh, however, is a larger break, representing something more like a chapter division.  

The ten commandments listed in Exodus 20 have these divisions in the Hebrew parsing the text into nine divisions.  There are samekh divisions between each commandment, except there is a peh division between the second and the third.  In Deuteronomy 5, the commandments are divided into ten parts, but in this case, every division is a samekh.
Since Deuteronomy divides the text into ten parts, the Catholics follow that division.  This requires the 9th and last section of the Exodus record to be separated into two parts to be consistent with Deuteronomy.
Painting by Jen Norton
Since Exodus only has nine divisions, the Jews and other Christian denominations split the first commandment into two commandments to arrive at ten.  However, where this split happens varies between religious institutions.
Ten Commandments Garden Stone

Exodus 32:15 explains that the commandments were written on both sides of the tablets: “And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.”  For the Exodus 20 version of the commandments, the first two commandments are separated from the last eight commandments by a "peh".  If you consider how Moses would have grasped the tablets, whether he cupped his hands below the tablets as a seat for them, or if he grasped them on the side, he would have had a thumb on one face of each tablet and the remaining fingers on the obverse side.  The first two commandments may have been the “thumbs”, one on each tablet, with the remainder on the other side, four per tablet.  The "peh" break, the larger of the two breaks, may have represented the flipping of the tablets before continuing with the remaining eight.  It is an interesting meditative exercise to see which four of the eight latter commandments would be paired with which of the first two.

While the breakdown of commandments is the same in Deuteronomy, there are a few differences.  First, as already mentioned, there are nine divisions in Exodus 20 and ten divisions in Deuteronomy.  Next, there is no “peh” division in the Deuteronomy record – all of the divisions are samekhs.  Second, the reason for the Sabbath is different.  In Exodus, the explanation is because of the example shown in creation, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”  In Deuteronomy, the explanation is based on the deliverance of the Children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, “And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched-out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.”  And finally, the last two commandments are reversed.  In Exodus, the prohibition to covet someone’s house is number 9 and someone’s wife is number 10.  In Deuteronomy, the prohibition to covet someone’s wife is number 9 and someone’s house is number 10.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

When is the Lord's Day?

What day of the week is the “Lord’s Day” found in Revelation 1:10?  Is it the Sabbath day (The Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath – Mark 2:28/Luke 6:5), or is it the 8th day/1st day of the week?  Initially I looked to Leviticus 23, reasoning that all the feast days are days of the Lord, after all He says, “These are my feasts.”  That would include every Sabbath day, and according to the Dead Sea Scrolls Calendar, have particular days that fell on every other day of the week except Mondays and Thursdays.    When the apostles and believers were reported gathering on the “first of the week”, I assumed that they were gathering either the day of the resurrection (First Fruits of Barley) or the day of Pentecost (Feast of Weeks) – isolated occasions in the liturgical year.   

The Leviticus 23 brushstroke worked with the account of the Lord’s day in Didache 14, “But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one who is at odds with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: "In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations."  There is nothing specific there to indicate a particular day.

I found Barnabas 15:8, “… but the Sabbath which I have made, in the which, when I have set all things at rest, I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world. Wherefore also we keep the eighth day for rejoicing, in the which also Jesus rose from the dead, and having been manifested ascended into the heavens.”  Here, there is no label “the Lord’s Day”, but we do have an introduction to the combination of resting on the Sabbath and keeping the eighth day, which is what the New Testament seems to document.  It is clear the Christians, both Jewish and Gentile, met regularly on the Sabbath day for the reading of the Law, prophets and writings, and also went out to pray.  However, the meetings on the first day might not have been limited to the two feast days that landed on the first day of the week.  It might have been a regular occurrence – a way for those who believed in Yeshua to come together and celebrate their Messiah.

Ignatius, in his letter to the Magnesians as he is being led to Rome for martyrdom, writes, “If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death…”  He clearly associates the Lord’s Day with the day of the resurrection.  But, later in the same letter, he clarifies his intentions on the Sabbath – not to eliminate it, but to keep it in the fullness of the Spirit, as Yeshua taught with many other commandments on the Sermon on the Mount. “But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them.”  And then on the day following the Sabbath he says, “And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week].”  Some might read his letter and suppose he is speaking against the Sabbath and Torah keeping in general.  However, he is, like Paul does, speaking against those who say these things must be done to earn their way into the Kingdom.  The Torah is not our ticket in – Yeshua is.  The Torah is the law of the Kingdom once we get there.  Ignatius’ teaching on the Sabbath is also in concert with Yeshua’s teaching on it as he was walking through the grainfields on the Sabbath.  The Priests defiled the Sabbath without sin.  It is not a day for people to go about their own work, but about the Father’s work.  

Given Ignatius’ definition of “work” on the Sabbath being not the work of self-provision, but of study and releasing others from bondage, and the resistance of “Judaizers” being the resistance of those who suppose we can earn our way into the Kingdom of God, it seems that a different view of the ruling from the Council of Laodicea can be made: “Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.”  

In is evident in the Apostolic Constitutions that both the Sabbath day and Lord’s day have continued observances: Book II, LIX “When you instruct the people, O bishop, command and exhort them to come constantly to church morning and evening every day… singing psalms and praying in the Lord's house: in the morning saying the sixty-second Psalm, and in the evening the hundred and fortieth, but principally on the Sabbath day. And on the day of our Lord's resurrection, which is the Lord's day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus, and sent Him to us, and condescended to let Him suffer, and raised Him from the dead. Otherwise what apology will he make to God who does not assemble on that day to hear the saving word concerning the resurrection, on which we pray thrice standing in memory of Him who arose in three days, in which is performed the reading of the prophets, the preaching of the Gospel, the oblation of the sacrifice, the gift of the holy food?”  In the current liturgy, the Lord’s Prayer is said standing three times daily: morning, evening, and at mass.  By the time of the compilations of these writings, the Sabbath is still observed, and there is a clear distinction between it and the Lord’s Day.  

In Book V which outlines various observances, a conclusion regarding feasts and fasts says, “We enjoin you to fast every fourth day of the week, and every day of the preparation, and the surplusage of your fast bestow upon the needy; every Sabbath day excepting one, and every Lord's day, hold your solemn assemblies, and rejoice: for he will be guilty of sin who fasts on the Lord's day, being the day of the resurrection, or during the time of Pentecost, or, in general, who is sad on a festival day to the Lord. For on them we ought to rejoice, and not to mourn.”  Again it is evident that the Lord’s day is not regarded the same as the Sabbath.  Also, those familiar with the Didache will notice the prescribed fast days have not changed.

Book VII expounds on the meanings of the two days, “XXXVI. O Lord Almighty You have created the world by Christ, and hast appointed the Sabbath in memory thereof, because that on that day You have made us rest from our works, for the meditation upon Your laws. You have also appointed festivals for the rejoicing of our souls, that we might come into the remembrance of that wisdom which was created by You; how He submitted to be made of a woman on our account; He appeared in life, and demonstrated Himself in His baptism; how He that appeared is both God and man; He suffered for us by Your permission, and died, and rose again by Your power: on which account we solemnly assemble to celebrate the feast of the resurrection on the Lord's day, and rejoice on account of Him who has conquered death, and has brought life and immortality to light. For by Him You have brought home the Gentiles to Yourself for a peculiar people, the true Israel beloved of God, and seeing God. For You O Lord, brought our fathers out of the land of Egypt, and delivered them out of the iron furnace, from clay and brick-making, and redeemed them out of the hands of Pharaoh, and of those under him, and led them through the sea as through dry land, and bore their manners in the wilderness, and bestowed on them all sorts of good things. You gave them the law or decalogue, which was pronounced by Your voice and written with Your hand. You enjoined the observation of the Sabbath, not affording them an occasion of idleness, but an opportunity of piety, for their knowledge of Your power, and the prohibition of evils; having limited them as within an holy circuit for the sake of doctrine, for the rejoicing upon the seventh period. On this account was there appointed one week, and seven weeks, and the seventh month, and the seventh year, and the revolution of these, the jubilee, which is the fiftieth year for remission, that men might have no occasion to pretend ignorance. On this account He permitted men every Sabbath to rest, that so no one might be willing to send one word out of his mouth in anger on the day of the Sabbath. For the Sabbath is the ceasing of the creation, the completion of the world, the inquiry after laws, and the grateful praise to God for the blessings He has bestowed upon men. All which the Lord's day excels, and shows the Mediator Himself, the Provider, the Lawgiver, the Cause of the resurrection, the First-born of the whole creation, God the Word, and man, who was born of Mary alone, without a man, who lived holily, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose again from the dead. So that the Lord's day commands us to offer unto You, O Lord, thanksgiving for all. For this is the grace afforded by You, which on account of its greatness has obscured all other blessings.”

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. Shalom.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Authority of Priests and Kings, Part 3

In my first post on this series, I established the authority of the priesthood in the Old Testament – the vehicle instituted by the LORD that men may draw near unto Him and live in blessing and fruitfulness.  The authority of that system remained independent of the faithfulness of the priests.  My second post illustrated that Yeshua, before He ascended, established His Government for his Church by which man can come to know Him to salvation, be delivered from the bondage of sin, and be reconciled to the Father in joy.  The authority of that Government also remains, regardless of the faithfulness of its ministrants.  Elsewhere I have written of the common traits of those recorded as “Essenes” and the early church, and my belief that the reason they mysteriously “disappeared” is that they were the group that were first called Christians.  Scouring the doctrines of nearly all denominations, and experiencing far from satisfying results of those trying to emulate the early believers from the writings, I have come up empty.  Until three weeks ago.  It was in plain sight all along, established in every city, just like the Essenes of old – the Catholic Church.   
The Essenes were subdivided into two groups – one that was more of a priestly/monastic group centered in Qumran, and one that was dispersed into communities located within every city.  Historians are often perplexed when stumbling across written accounts of those who encountered one of the two groups, but not both, for their assessment of the sect seem to conflict with those who describe the other.  However, Josephus, in His War of the Jews, Book II, VIII, takes note of these two components of the single Essene sect.  A similar pattern is visible in Israel – the priests in the temple vs. all the rest of Israel scattered throughout their cities.  Most priests, however, lived among their brethren in the cities, and rotated into temple service when their clan was called up, as seen concerning the father of John the Baptizer.  So, there was likely a stronger interaction between the Essenes of Qumran and those dispersed in the cities than we suppose. 

Marriage of the Essenes
Josephus writes that Essenes are “Jews by birth and seem to have a greater affection for one another than the other sects have. These Essenes reject pleasures as an evil, but esteem continence, and the conquest over our passions, to be virtue. They neglect wedlock, but choose out other persons children, while they are pliable, and fit for learning, and esteem them to be of their kindred, and form them according to their own manners. They do not absolutely deny the fitness of marriage, and the succession of mankind thereby continued; but they guard against the lascivious behavior of women and are persuaded that none of them preserve their fidelity to one man.”
This description is of the Essenes primarily located at Qumran.  We can hear Paul’s exhortation to remain unmarried (1 Cor. 7), but that if one does choose to marry, it is not a sin.  Including people into the fold through a form of adoption is also echoed in Paul’s writings as we are waiting for our adoption (Rom. 8, Gal. 4:5, and Eph 1:5).  We see a similar pattern in the Church, where those seeking to live their lives with the fullest devotion to Christ commit themselves to celibacy as priests over congregations or monks in monasteries.  Of course, the only way to continue a monastery is to continue to “adopt” and raise up new servants of Christ.

Common possessions
“These men are despisers of riches, and so very communicative as raises our admiration. Nor is there any one to be found among them who has more than another; for it is a law among them, that those who come to them must let what they have be common to the whole order, - insomuch that among them all there is no appearance of poverty, or excess of riches, but every one's possessions are intermingled with every other's possessions; and so there is, as it were, one patrimony among all the brethren.”

This was the passage I first associated with the early Church.  Acts 2:44 “And all that believed were together and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”  The Didache echoes this (4:8) “you will not turn away from the one in need; in fact, you will make your brother a partner in everything, not claiming anything to be your own.” Looking to the Church’s monastic divisions, the Rule of St. Benedict (Rule) instructs “Let all things be common to all, as it is written. And let no one call or take to himself anything as his own. But if anyone should be found to indulge this most baneful vice, and, having been admonished once and again, doth not amend, let him be subjected to punishment” (Ch. 33).

Anointing and the white garments
Josephus observes, “They think that oil is a defilement; and if any one of them be anointed without his own approbation, it is wiped off his body; for they think to be sweaty is a good thing, as they do also to be clothed in white garments.”

Essenes were known to be diligent workers, hence sweaty.  We are admonished in the scriptures and throughout the writings to be diligent workers and avoiding idleness, to be found working when our Master returns.  The white garment is referred to in Revelation and in Ecclesiastes 9:8, “Let your garments be always white.”  When a person is baptized in the Church, they are given or wear a white garment, showing a parallel between bathing and wearing white like the Essenes.

Fathers (presbyters)
Josephus continues, “They also have stewards appointed to take care of their common affairs, who every one of them have no separate business for any, but what is for the uses of them all.”
The apostles are stewards, “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1).  When the first believers began selling their things for the sake of the Kingdom, they laid the proceeds at the apostle’s feet (Acts 4:35).  Upon the rapid growth of the assembly, the apostles ordained presbyters (the priests of the Church) to manage the distributions (Acts 11:30) among their other functions.  In the Church, people address the priests as “Father” followed by their proper first name. 

“There is no man that has left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life”  (Mark 10:30).  This is addressed to Peter, the apostle, after he had declared he had left everything to follow after Yeshua.  This transfer of paternity over the flock is also evident in John the apostle’s writings where he addresses his “little children”.  When the priests commit themselves as presbyters of congregations, they inherit a house full of new family to oversee as a father.  The term, Abbot, which is the head of the monastery, means “father”, and in the monastery, the Abbot, oversaw the distribution of goods (Rule Ch. 33).

In 1 Timothy, Paul exhorts the people to not rebuke the presbyter, but intreat him has a father; and the younger men as brothers.  Likewise, the elder women as mothers and the younger as sisters.  “Intreat” is not actually calling a person by that title, but the way we approach an individual to request something of them.  There is a difference in the way we approach a parent and the way we approach a sibling.  We are taught from a parent, seek permission from a parent, give honor to a parent, and submit in obedience to a parent.  This is the way we are to approach the presbyter of the congregation.  Chapter 63 of the Rule says, “In naming each other, let no one be allowed to address another by his simple name; but let the older style the younger brethren, brothers; let the younger, however call their elders, fathers, by which is implied the reverence due a father.”  This directive echoes 1 Timothy in approach and bears with it the actual titled position.

Protestants freely call one another brother and sister, but struggle with the title of Father for a priest due to Yeshua’s words, “call no man your father upon the earth, for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Mat. 23:9).  However, we freely acknowledge the apostles as Church fathers, and don’t mind singing, “Father Abraham had many sons…”.  We also still call our biological parent a father, and Yeshua likewise recognizes them in the command to honor your father and your mother (Mat 19:19).  Could it be, that in the context of Matthew 23, Yeshua is instead describing those who considered certain rabbis and rulers as their spiritual fathers – seeing themselves reborn as a son of that man instead of our Father in heaven?  We see a similar problem in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 when the people claimed to be “of Paul” or “of Apollos”, which Paul asks, “was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”  There is a difference between calling someone a father over a flock and considering someone your father in the faith.  No man can regenerate a soul – only our Father in heaven.

Traveling provisions
Josephus describes the manner extending to those living in the cities: “They have no one certain city, but many of them dwell in every city; and if any of their sect come from other places, what they have lies open for them, just as if it were their own; and they go in to such as they never knew before, as if they had been ever so long acquainted with them. For which reason they carry nothing at all with them when they travel into remote parts, though still they take their weapons with them, for fear of thieves. Accordingly, there is, in every city where they live, one appointed particularly to take care of strangers, and to provide garments and other necessaries for them. But the habit and management of their bodies is such as children use who are in fear of their masters. Nor do they allow of the change of shoes till be first torn to pieces, or worn out by time. Nor do they either buy or sell any thing to one another; but every one of them gives what he has to him that wants it, and receives from him again in lieu of it what may be convenient for himself; and although there be no requital made, they are fully allowed to take what they want of whomsoever they please.”

Yeshua borrowed a donkey (Mat. 21:2) and had an upper room prepared for the Passover (Mat. 26:17); the disciples didn’t seem to already be acquainted with the stewards of those places. They journeyed from town to town and would stay at various people’s homes, sent without purse (for money), script (for other belongings), or shoes (Mark 6:8; Luke 10:4; Luke 22:35).  In Luke 22:36, Yeshua changed that directive, because it was time for the new Exodus – the one from the bondage of sin.  In this account, Yeshua specifically indicated the need for a sword, and since they already had two, we can assume carrying weapons was a regular thing, even for the disciples. 

Daily order
This next account from Josephus is long but most effective unparsed: “And as for their piety towards God, it is very extraordinary; for before sun-rising they speak not a word about profane matters, but put up certain prayers which they have received from their forefathers, as if they made a supplication for its rising. After this every one of them are sent away by their curators, to exercise some of those arts wherein they are skilled, in which they labor with great diligence till the fifth hour. After which they assemble themselves together again into one place; and when they have clothed themselves in white veils, they then bathe their bodies in cold water. And after this purification is over, they every one meet together in an apartment of their own, into which it is not permitted to any of another sect to enter; while they go, after a pure manner, into the dining-room, as into a certain holy temple, and quietly set themselves down; upon which the baker lays them loaves in order; the cook also brings a single plate of one sort of food, and sets it before every one of them; but a priest says grace before meat; and it is unlawful for any one to taste of the food before grace be said. The same priest, when he hath dined, says grace again after meat; and when they begin, and when they end, they praise God, as he that bestows their food upon them; after which they lay aside their [white] garments, and betake themselves to their labors again till the evening; then they return home to supper, after the same manner; and if there be any strangers there, they sit down with them. Nor is there ever any clamor or disturbance to pollute their house, but they give every one leave to speak in their turn; which silence thus kept in their house appears to foreigners like some tremendous mystery; the cause of which is that perpetual sobriety they exercise, and the same settled measure of meat and drink that is allotted them, and that such as is abundantly sufficient for them.”

The Rule of St. Benedict is very informative of the hours, as it assigns all the readings and psalms necessary at each time.  The brethren are to awaken at a designated hour of the night, depending on where they are in the liturgical year (which is aligned by the seasons, and hence the length of the day).  They first study, and then offer the morning office (Lauds), which is to be said at the break of day (Rule Ch. 8), as Josephus recorded of the Essenes.  The Rule continues in Chapter 39 to discuss the type of food and quantity of food, and the hour it should be consumed.  Most days, dinner is at the sixth hour, but on fast days is at the ninth hour.  The Essenes worked until the fifth hour, but then had to bath, change clothes, and assemble, likely saying more prayers and giving thanks.  So, dining at the sixth hour is a reasonable outcome.

Also note that there is grace said before eating, and again afterwards.  The Torah commands the grace after the meal, and Yeshua demonstrated the grace before the meal when feeding the multitude and at the Passover.  Didache chapter 9 is devoted to prayers over the bread and wine before the meal, “Now concerning the Eucharist, thus give thanks…”, and chapter 10 “but after you are filled, thus give thanks…”.  The Church today has grace before and after meals.  The petition for the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of Elohim resting in peace echoes the Didache 10 thanksgiving.  Note the common term, Eucharist, used by both the Didache and the Church for the meal that Yeshua proclaimed, “Do this in remembrance of Me,” which the Church offers daily.  As a minimum, members of the Church are expected to receive the Eucharist at least once a year within the window of the beginning of Lent until Pentecost.

Concerning the cold water they bathe in, the specification for baptism in the Didache chapter 7 is that the water is cold if possible.

The Rule of St. Benedict has a few other specifications of the daily order.  First, the weekly servers come in and go out on the seventh day (Chapter 35), as did the priests in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Tanakh.  Also, in the Divine Office, the Rule specifies particular psalms and responses, cycling through all 150 Psalms every week.  The Essenes are also known to have a prominent usage of the psalms as known through the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Among some of the songs prescribed by the Rule of St. Benedict, we have the Gloria, the Alleluia, and the Kyrie eleison, which you will hear at mass even today.   Another rite preserved is the thrice daily Lord’s Prayer, also instructed in the Didache.  This is the “standing prayer” that Yeshua admonishes, “And when you stand praying, forgive, if you have ought against any, that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive your trespasses” (Mar 11:25).  There are many studies written on the Lord’s Prayer as it relates to the Jewish standing prayer, the Amidah. 

Concerning obedience, Josephus writes, “And truly, as for other things, they do nothing but according to the injunctions of their curators; only these two things are done among them at everyone's own free-will, which are to assist those that want it, and to show mercy; for they are permitted of their own accord to afford succor to such as deserve it, when they stand in need of it, and to bestow food on those that are in distress; but they cannot give any thing to their kindred without the curators.”

In Hebrews 13:7 it is written, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of Elohim, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.  Yeshua HaMashiach is the same yesterday, and today and for ever… (17) Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account”.  In the Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 2, it says, “Let the Abbot always bear in mind that he must give an account in the dread judgment of Elohim of both his own teaching and of the obedience of his disciples.  And let the Abbot know that whatever lack of profit the master of the house shall find in the sheep, will be laid to the blame of the shepherd.”  Chapter 5 continues, “This obedience, however, will be acceptable to Elohim and agreeable to men then only, if what is commanded is done without hesitation, delay, lukewarmness, grumbling or complaint, because the obedience which is rendered to Superiors is rendered to Elohim.  For He Himself hath said, ‘He that heareth you heareth Me.’”

Josephus says of the Essenes, “They dispense their anger after a just manner and restrain their passion. They are eminent for fidelity and are the ministers of peace; whatsoever they say also is firmer than an oath; but swearing is avoided by them, and they esteem it worse than perjury for they say that he who cannot be believed without [swearing by] Elohim is already condemned.”

This teaching on oaths of the Essenes follows the instructions by Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount.

“They also take great pains in studying the writings of the ancients and choose out of them what is most for the advantage of their soul and body; and they inquire after such roots and medicinal stones as may cure their distempers.”

Paul similarly exhorts us to study to show ourselves approved unto Elohim (2 Tim. 2:15).  At the end of the Rule of St. Benedict (chapter 73), he indicates that the Rule is not the whole observance in righteousness – it is written as a beginning.  One who “hastens on to the perfection of the religious life, has at hand, the teachings of the holy Fathers, the observance of which leads a man to the height of perfection.  For what page or what utterance of the divinely inspired books of the Old and the New Testament is not a most exact rule of human life? Or, what book of the holy Catholic Fathers does not loudly proclaim how we may go straight to our Creator?  So, too, the collations of the Fathers, and their institutes and lives, and the rule of our holy Father Basil – what are they but the monuments of the virtues of exemplary and obedient monks?  But for us slothful, disedifying, and negligent monks they are a source for shame and confusion.”

The Church has a three-year liturgical cycle that navigates through most of the scriptures in that time period.  In Judaism, there is a currently an annual cycle of Torah readings, but there is also a triennial cycle, which scholars consider to be ancient back to the Temple.  In addition, the Dead Sea Scrolls calendar system has two three-year cycles embedded into the six-year priestly cycle.  In every mass, there are usually Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospel readings, in addition to the psalms, hymns, Gloria, Alleluia, and Kyrie eleison.  Through this daily proclamation, followed up with a homily delivered by the presbyter, the body is taught the Word and encouraged in right living.  Several of the books in the Catholic canon that are not in the Protestant canon were recovered as part of the Essene archive in the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

Josephus now turns to the rites of initiation, “But now if any one has a mind to come over to their sect, he is not immediately admitted, but he is prescribed the same method of living which they use for a year, while he continues excluded; and they give him also a small hatchet, and the fore-mentioned girdle, and the white garment. And when he hath given evidence, during that time, that he can observe their continence, he approaches nearer to their way of living, and is made a partaker of the waters of purification; yet is he not even now admitted to live with them; for after this demonstration of his fortitude, his temper is tried two more years; and if he appear to be worthy, they then admit him into their society. And before he is allowed to touch their common food, he is obliged to take tremendous oaths, that, in the first place, he will exercise piety towards Elohim, and then that he will observe justice towards men, and that he will do no harm to any one, either of his own accord, or by the command of others; that he will always hate the wicked, and be assistant to the righteous; that he will ever show fidelity to all men, and especially to those in authority, because no one obtains the government without Elohim's assistance; and that if he be in authority, he will at no time whatever abuse his authority, nor endeavor to outshine his subjects either in his garments, or any other finery; that he will be perpetually a lover of truth, and propose to himself to reprove those that tell lies; that he will keep his hands clear from theft, and his soul from unlawful gains; and that he will neither conceal any thing from those of his own sect, nor discover any of their doctrines to others, no, not though anyone should compel him so to do at the hazard of his life. Moreover, he swears to communicate their doctrines to no one any otherwise than as he received them himself; that he will abstain from robbery, and will equally preserve the books belonging to their sect, and the names of the angels [or messengers]. These are the oaths by which they secure their proselytes to themselves.”

This three-year waiting period is reflected in the supposed three-year ministry of Christ training his disciples, Paul’s three-year journey into the wilderness (Gal. 1:17-18), and Paul’s training of the presbyters at Ephesus (Acts 20:31).  In the Rule of St. Benedict, if one decides to come, they let them knock for four or five days, and afterwards let them live separate with the recent initiates, hearing the rule after two months, and again after another six months.  It is read again after four more months, and if he agrees to be placed under the law of the Rule, he is received into the community and relinquishes his property.  He is placed in the class of the novices, similar to “neuteros”, usually translated as “young men” when contextually speaking of people, but really only meaning “new” as evident when speaking of new wine (Mat. 9:17).  Just as the Essenes had an initial year where the one that might join is tried, so did the Rule of St. Benedict. 

This is also true of the Church today.  No one outside of the Church is permitted to partake of the Eucharist, and entrance into the Church first requires becoming a Catechumen (someone being taught the current Rule of the Church - the Catechism, not the ancient Rule of St. Benedict which is for monasteries), which lasts up to a year.  If, at the end of the training, the Catechumen is willing to profess the statement of faith and come under the Catechism, they are baptized (if not previously baptized in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), they receive the Eucharist, and they are sealed with oil of the Holy Spirit.  This entrance into the Church occurs on one day of the year only – the evening of Holy Saturday (the Great Sabbath in John 19:31), which is the day before the resurrection (Feast of First Fruits), which the Church calls Easter.  Anciently, this was also the time when strangers entered into the assembly of the House of Israel.  Exodus 12:48, “And when a stranger shall sojourn with you and will keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land.”  They were required to be circumcised (agree to come under the Rule), keep the Passover (the Eucharist), and with the assembly they went through the sea (Baptism), and were given the Torah (seal of the Holy Spirit).  

One other element of initiation into the Church is the confession of sins, known as the sacrament of penance.   This is a confession to the local priest of all sins committed since baptism (33 years for me – gonna be a long day).  There are aids, called an “examination of conscience”, usually based on the ten commandments with sub-questions, although, making lists as you read through the Torah, the proverbs, the books on Wisdom, the teachings of Yeshua, etc., work fine, too.  As a Protestant, I was taught that there was “one mediator…” so confessions to a priest were unnecessary and contrary to the plan.  However, the people confessed their sins to John the Baptizer (Mat. 3:6, Mark 1:5), and to the apostles (Acts 2:37).  I recommend a study of the ancient practice of confession in Old Testament.  I can testify that starting my list, determining what I want aired out in a closet instead of announced in an assembly, is a humbling thing.  I’m even going to have to confess that I wanted to conceal things in my confession!  Not a good idea, though, considering what happened to Ananias and Sapphira – yikes.

Back to Josephus - notice he mentions the Essenes preserve the names of the angels.  This is evident in the retention of the book of Enoch and several other scrolls giving account of the angels.  Probably one of the most distinguishing marks of the Church to outsiders is her veneration of the angels and saints, especially Mary, the mother of Yeshua, whom they celebrate as the Queen of Heaven.  It is another distinction where the Church patterns herself, once again, after ancient Israel.  Ezekiel, when shown the court, saw how the idols covered the walls of the sanctuary (Eze. 8:10), which the Church matches with her angels and saints.  She defends herself noting the images dictated by Elohim on the ark of the covenant and the veil of the holy of holies, and that the angels offer the prayers of the saints as incense (Rev. 5:8).  She also adds that we petition the angels to bless the LORD in psalms such as 103:20 and 148:1.

Israel also worshipped the Queen of Heaven, which Jeremiah the prophet persuaded them, for a time, to abandon (Jer. 7:18).  However, when we repent and turn to the Father, we are tested to see if we are genuine about our repentance.  Some of the trials can be more than we think we can bear.  Israel noted how she benefited from her previous petitions to the Queen of Heaven and decided in chapter 44 to return to her.  “We will certainly do whatsoever thing goes forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the Queen of Heaven, and pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.  But since we left off to burn incense to the Queen of Heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.  And when we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?” (v. 17-19).  Countless people have had positive experiences as a result of their prayers to Mary.  However, in Deuteronomy 13, the people are told that if a prophet or a dreamer gives a sign or wonder, and it actually comes to pass, saying “Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them, you shall NOT hearken to the words of that prophet… for the LORD your Elohim proves you to know whether you love the LORD your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul.”  So even if tremendous miracles happen accompanied by an apparition of Mary, all the glory must be given to the Father alone. Only the LORD knows the heart, whether individuals are worshipping Mary and the Saints, or if their hearts are pure, only venerating them, as the Church teaches.  This will be tested when Yeshua returns, like Moses coming down the mountain, with the waters of jealousy.

Reciting prayers to Mary and the saints is not required to be Catholic.  One must, however, acknowledge the authority of the Church to permit or reject such things, and that it was led to do so by the Holy Spirit.  This is not difficult, since she does have the authority to do so, as we have already discussed, but will be held accountable for it.  Furthermore, when Israel declared she was returning to the Queen of Heaven, the LORD acknowledged her words, and responded, “You will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows” (Jer. 44:25), handing her over to the consequences of her defiance.  There is nothing new under the sun. [I would like to add that Hail, Holy Queen, by Scott Hahn, is an excellent resource for those who would like to see scriptural support and prefiguring of Mary's role relative to Yeshua.]

While we are discussing the fingerprint of Israel on the Catholic Church, I must add mention of the crucifix – and I think this is an issue for crosses with and without Yeshua on it.  Yeshua likened himself to the bronze serpent that was lifted up in the wilderness: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14).  This, of course, is speaking of the way he would die upon the cross in the sight of others.  Whosoever would look to his payment on the cross would be healed.  However, in the Old Testament, the bronze serpent was destroyed by Hezekiah because the children of Israel were burning incense to it (2 Kings 18:4).  Yeshua on the cross is another distinction of the Catholic church.  

Continuing on with Josephus’ record of the Essenes, “But for those that are caught in any heinous sins, they cast them out of their society; and he who is thus separated from them does often die after a miserable manner; for as he is bound by the oath he has taken, and by the customs he has been engaged in, he is not at liberty to partake of that food that he meets with elsewhere, but is forced to eat grass, and to famish his body with hunger, till he perish; for which reason they receive many of them again when they are at their last gasp, out of compassion to them, as thinking the miseries they have endured till they came to the very brink of death to be a sufficient punishment for the sins they had been guilty of.”

Likewise, the Rule of St. Benedict outlines the precepts of excommunication in chapters 27-29.  After the various measures of correction the Abbot is instructed to apply fail, the brother is dismissed from the community, “as the Apostle says, ‘Put away the evil one from among you’ (1 Cor 5:13); and again, ‘If the faithless depart, let him depart’ (1 Cor 7:15), lest one diseased sheep infect the whole flock.”  Additional rules are given on how to receive him back again, and if receiving him the third time, warning that he will not again be received should he be dismissed again. 

Josephus notes, “But in the judgments they exercise they are most accurate and just, nor do they pass sentence by the votes of a court that is fewer than a hundred. And as to what is once determined by that number, it is unalterable. What they most of all honor, after God himself, is the name of their legislator [Moses], whom if any one blaspheme he is punished capitally. They also think it a good thing to obey their elders, and the major part. Accordingly, if ten of them be sitting together, no one of them will speak while the other nine are against it. They also avoid spitting in the midst of them, or on the right side.”

Such councils are recorded in Acts 15 when clarification was necessary for the entire body to operate in the same fashion.  The Church was to operate with one mind and one mouth (Romans 15:6).  “Fulfil my joy that you be likeminded, having the same love, of one accord and one mind” (Php 2:2).  Ignatius writes to the Philadelphians, “Those, indeed, who belong to Elohim and to Yeshua HaMashiach – they are with the bishop.  And those who repent and come to the unity of the Church – they too shall be of Elohim, and will be living according to Yeshua HaMaschiach.  Do not err, my brethren: if anyone follow a schismatic, he will not inherit the Kingdom of Elohim.  If any man walk about with strange doctrine, he cannot lie down with the passion.  Take care, then to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to Elohim; for there is one Flesh of our Master Yeshua HaMaschiach, and one cup in the union of His Blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons.”  He also writes to the Romans, “to the Church also which holds the presidency in the place of the country of the Romans, worthy of Elohim, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification.”

Sabbath keeping
On Sabbath keeping, Josephus recounts, “Moreover, they are stricter than any other of the Jews in resting from their labors on the seventh day; for they not only get their food ready the day before, that they may not be obliged to kindle a fire on that day, but they will not remove any vessel out of its place, nor go to stool thereon. Nay, on other days they dig a small pit, a foot deep, with a paddle (which kind of hatchet is given them when they are first admitted among them); and covering themselves round with their garment, that they may not affront the Divine rays of light, they ease themselves into that pit, after which they put the earth that was dug out again into the pit; and even this they do only in the more lonely places, which they choose out for this purpose; and although this easement of the body be natural, yet it is a rule with them to wash themselves after it, as if it were a defilement to them.”

This is one of the areas where the Church is identifiable as the virgin daughter of Israel, who likewise profaned the Sabbath throughout her generations.  We have record of the early church still keeping the Sabbath.  Yeshua went up to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and read (Luke 4:16), taught on the Sabbath (Luke 4:31, 6:6, 13:10), and healed on the Sabbath (Luke 6:7, 13:14, John 5:9, 9:14).  Likewise, the apostles continued this practice after His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of His Father.  Not only did the apostles and Jewish believers keep it, (Acts 13:14), but so did the Gentile believers (Acts 13:42, 44, 16:13, 17:2, 18:4).  In the council of Acts 15, the judgment for the requirements of salvation was established, because the rest of the things that they would gradually be taught would occur in synagogue attendance on the Sabbath, “For Moses of old time has in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day” (v. 21).  It was and still is the custom to read the law and the prophets in the synagogues at this time (Acts 13:15). 

The early believers gathered in holy convocation on the Sabbath to hear the Word among the non-believing Jews.  They then met as believers to share the apostles teaching and celebrate the resurrection of Yeshua on the first day (Acts 20:7), and to take up collections of charity (1 Cor. 16:2).  We read of this continued practice in the Didache, “But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.” The epistle of Barnabas explains, “Wherefore also we keep the eighth day for rejoicing, in the which also Yeshua rose from the dead, and having been manifested ascended into the heavens” (15:9).  When he says “also”, it is because he just finished discussing keeping the Sabbath. 

The names of the days of the week are not pagan as some suppose.  They are from the Temple menorah.  Josephus records the identification of the lights of the menorah corresponding to seven heavenly luminaries in Jewish Antiquities III, 6, 7.  Philo writes on it at length in Moses II, 102-103, Questions and Answers, II 75, and Who is the Heir of Divine Things, 221-225.  In these accounts, the order of the luminaries on the menorah proceeds as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Mercury, Venus, Moon, the sun holding the central branch.  At every hour, the luminary changes, beginning with the first hour of Saturday being governed by Saturn and going along in order.  Since there are 24 hours in a day, which is not divided evenly by 7, there ends up being a different luminary in the first hour of the day of the next day, which would be the Sun (Sunday).  The cycle continues to the first hour of the successive days, which is the Moon, then Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and back to Saturn.  If a person knows any of the Latin-based languages, this alignment will be familiar to the day names.  While the cycle begins with Saturn, the first day of the week is the day of the Sun.  Similar cycles are represented in the scrolls like the 22nd of the 24 priests starting the priestly rotation cycle, the sun starting the year a quarter the way through its path, the year beginning on the 4th day of the week, and so on.  Everything runs in a circular cycle, and it has to start somewhere.  The reason Sunday is called Sunday is because the hour of the sun holds the first hour of that particular day. 

Particular hours of the day are dedicated to Divine Office and the liturgy of the hours.  More of this is available in the Rule of St. Benedict, the Apostolic Constitutions, and has been continued down to the mass one participates in daily in the Catholic church. 

What happened to Sabbath keeping?  There was growing discord between the Jews and the believers, especially after the destruction of the temple, when the Jews were being killed by the armies of Rome for rebellion against Roman rule, and the Christians were being martyred for their faith which was contrary to the Roman gods.  Not only did the people die, but the writings were also burned.  The flock was scattered and understanding lost, once again.  The bishops (which were the biggest target for martyrdom) continued to hold council and consider the traditions they were taught, the ancient writings, and the leading of the Holy Spirit to develop instruction for the body of Christ.  When people within the Church didn’t agree with these decisions, they started rising up teaching things contrary to what was agreed upon.  Councils convened to hear and evaluate these objections, but if they were rejected as inconsistent with what was understood and handed down, schism resulted.  Even if the dissenters were right (I am not saying they were), they should have humbled themselves to Yeshua’s body in love and sat in prayer petitioning the Father for this understanding to come to light, remembering Yeshua’s warning about a Kingdom divided.  Since we are in our Father’s house, to try to take matters in our own hands when the leadership appears to err demonstrates a lack of faith in and honor of the One who is really in charge.

Ignatius wrote to the Magnesians on his way to martyrdom, “Those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day…”  By that statement, it seems he is saying that the Sabbath is completely void, but the scripture says, “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, a covenant for ever” Ex. 31:16.  Ignatius continues, “Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for "he that does not work, let him not eat." For say the [holy] oracles, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread." But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week].”  We can see that he still upholds the sabbath, as he says, “Let every one of you keep the Sabbath,” and again, “after the observance of the Sabbath.” His criticism is to not keep it after the Jewish manner, which is only concerning the things of the flesh.  However, just like the ruling in the council of Acts 15 can be misunderstood, so can writings such as these, leading to the further distance from Sabbath keeping.

Ignatius’ interpretation of the spirit of the Sabbath keeping is consistent with Yeshua’s teaching. Yeshua and His followers taught on the Sabbath, healed on the Sabbath (which they were condemned for), and ministered to others.  Yeshua, when accused while plucking corn on the Sabbath, did not deny it was against the Law.  He likened it to David and his men eating the shewbread, which was unlawful.  However, both were acceptable because of the greater mercy in the situation.  Likewise, the Sabbath is acceptable for healing, so that mercy would prevail.  In fact, He goes on to say the “priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless” (Mat. 12:5), and declares, “My Father works until now, and I work” (John 5:17).  Identifying as part of this kingdom of priests, Ignatius likely saw the Sabbath day as a day to be kept in service to Elohim and neighbor, not our dead flesh which was crucified with Christ, distributing healing and mercy.  

In a similar thread, circumcision was also abandoned by the Church, like ancient Israel did in the wilderness.  The Acts 15 council met to discuss it.  The question, though, was not if circumcision should happen (it should), but if it is a requirement of salvation.  The answer was no.  This is the ministry of Paul – to establish what must happen for salvation.  Eventually all the other stuff happens in its proper timing in the cycles, but if the foundation of our salvation, Christ crucified, isn’t established, the rest is meaningless.  In speaking of the temple in the coming Kingdom, Ezekiel writes, “No son of a stranger, uncircumcised in heart nor uncircumcised in flesh shall enter into my sanctuary, of any sons of strangers that are among the sons of Israel” (44:9).  This shows both the spiritual and physical need for circumcision.  Should we stress out because the Church doesn’t keep the Sabbath, nor circumcision?  When the children of Israel entered into the land, was it due to their righteousness, or due to the Promise?  Joshua (foreshadowing Yeshua), took care of the circumcision thing on the other side of the Jordan.  It’s all good.

Back to Josephus, “Now after the time of their preparatory trial is over, they are parted into four classes; and so far are the juniors inferior to the seniors, that if the seniors should be touched by the juniors, they must wash themselves, as if they had intermixed themselves with the company of a foreigner. “

The parting into sections and the necessity to wash if contact is made with a lesser part reminds me of Galatians 2:11 when Peter, after being visited by James, started to separate himself from the Gentiles, as did others that followed him.  Paul corrected this behavior, restoring Peter to his previous understanding as taught by Yeshua and his vision of the sheet.  Another correction that Yeshua made of the Essene doctrine was the part back in the section on the oath of initiation, where they would vow to hate the wicked.  Yeshua taught that they should rather pray for their enemies.

Josephus admires the steadfastness of the Essenes amidst persecution, “They are long-lived also, insomuch that many of them live above a hundred years, by means of the simplicity of their diet; nay, as I think, by means of the regular course of life they observe also. They contemn the miseries of life, and are above pain, by the generosity of their mind. And as for death, if it will be for their glory, they esteem it better than living always; and indeed our war with the Romans gave abundant evidence what great souls they had in their trials, wherein, although they were tortured and distorted, burnt and torn to pieces, and went through all kinds of instruments of torment, that they might be forced either to blaspheme their legislator, or to eat what was forbidden them, yet could they not be made to do either of them, no, nor once to flatter their tormentors, or to shed a tear; but they smiled in their very pains, and laughed those to scorn who inflicted the torments upon them, and resigned up their souls with great alacrity, as expecting to receive them again.”

On the forefront of Church history is her martyrdom.  The description here matches all the ways she suffered for the faith.  During my daughter’s recent wedding, in the reading of 1 Corinthians 13, I took note of verse 3, “… though I give my body to be burned and have not love, it profits me nothing.” Clearly such persecutions had already started at the time Paul wrote this. 

Josephus continues a bit more on the more mystical elements of the Essenes, which I am insufficient in understanding to address.  But, I think I have covered enough of his account that one can recognize that the doctrine of the Essenes is a match to that of the early church.  And while I am not suggesting the typical believer adhere to the Rule of a monastery, I offered it to show through a comprehensive writing about 500 AD, that the components of the Essene doctrine continued on in the Church.  

Furthermore, it is evident that Yeshua’s Church, the Catholic Church, One, Holy, Catholic (universal), and Apostolic, is the body that matches the characteristics of ancient Israel, good and bad.  It is still His authoritative body on this earth, the rock that the House was built on, that the gates of Hell will not prevail against when the floods come and winds blow.  It carries the legitimacy of those anointed to teach, admit, and seal members into the body.  It still administers the Divine Service.  It is still the one He is returning for.  This is not to diminish the salvation and work of those who have been separated from the Church through the ages.  And it is not to diminish the severity of her crimes in times past.  The LORD is sovereign and His will is done in spite of us. “And the times of this ignorance, God winked at; but now he commands all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). Hear our Redeemer, “Neither I pray for [the apostles] alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be ONE, as you, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be ONE in Us, that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”  Can we enter into the assembly and worship as one?  Can we petition the leadership to repentance (not stirring up revolt in the lay members), and if that fails, fall on our faces before the Father – the way it should have been done in the first place?  Is it of us that Solomon writes, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land”? "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."