Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations; And they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. ~Isaiah 61:4 NASB
The following is chapter 4 in its entirety from my book SANTA-TIZING: What’s wrong with Christmas and how to clean it up http://www.amazon.com/SANTA-TIZING-Whats-wrong-Christmas-clean/dp/1607911159/. Be aware that the subject matter being tackled within is a golden door of purity that Wise Virgins must go through to become part of God’s pure and spotless Bride, so the King of Glory can come into their Beautiful Gate.
The Ancient of Days is calling us to return to His ancient ways. I will only touch on three desolations of many generations, which specifically relate to the focus of this book: the One New Man in Christ, the Essential Commandments for All Believers, and Biblical Time-keeping.
Before the Messiah returns, His Church will reclaim these lost age-old elements. These three are foundational elements due to them being established through God’s Word and by the Christian Church’s first apostles and disciples. These three were first-order practices performed for over two-hundred years. These three are also necessary to understanding what Yeshua meant when declares that the mixture of Christmas grieves His heart.
ONE NEW MAN
In the Chapter 8, you will be more fully introduced to the One New Man in the Messiah concept; and how it’s time to discover some new facets to God’s plans that have always been in the Bible, but their requirements for their manifestation have not been revealed, or necessary, until now. We will also discover how we have just entered a new season where there has been a divine shift in earth’s administration. When the dispensation of Abraham was held supreme, prior to God coming with skin on, the Jews submitted to the ceremonial law of Jews not keeping company with one of another nation; because when Jews mingled with the idolatrous nations, it corrupted them and God’s message through them. But when Yeshua came, a new dispensation was instituted where Jesus crucified in His flesh the enmity caused by the Law that He might create in Himself One New Man – Jew and Gentile – in a single Body by means of the cross (Ephesians 2:15-16). The cross was a natural, objective manifestation where Jesus (perfectly natural and supernatural) began the process of reconciliation of Jew and Gentile into one Body. On earth, we have yet to see the enmity (or feud) end between Jews and Gentiles; but we have entered the dispensation of the fullness of time where it will occur. Now is the time for the spiritual manifestation for God’s Temple to come forth. We will see how its perfection is the One New Man positioned in the New Jerusalem as the Bride of Christ.
History has well documented that Christianity and Judaism share a common heritage. A specialist in Early Christianity and Early Judaism articulates: They were actually inseparable before 60 C.E. (perhaps until the middle of the second century). Christianity was regarded as a “sect” within Judaism first known as “The Way” (Acts 2:5, 14). Many sources reveal that the earliest Christians in Rome were Jews and God-fearing Gentiles.  They were the first fruits of Ephesians 2:15-16: “by abolishing in His [own crucified] flesh the enmity [caused by] the Law with its decrees and ordinances [which He annulled]; that He from the two might create in Himself one new man [one new quality of humanity out of the two], so making peace. And [he designed] to reconcile to God both [Jew and Gentile, united] in a single body by means of His cross, thereby killing the mutual enmity and bringing the feud to an end” (Amplified version, Emphasis mine).
The earliest Christians never knew, nor did they imagine, a Christianity that was not closely connected to the Jewish community. As late as the fourth and fifth century, we have evidence of Christians still existing within Jewish communities, and members of the Christian communities participating in Jewish (i.e. Biblical) festivals. Beyond the borders of Constantine’s empire, these influences persisted even longer.
The preacher of Antioch and later Constantinople, John Chrysostom, complained in a series of eight sermons to his congregation: “You must stop going to the Synagogue. You must not think that the Synagogue is a holier place than our churches are.”  In my research of Christmas, I found that many Christians, who defend their celebration of Christmas, usually cite John Chrysostom. This is understandable, because while he was the church patriarch of Constantinople, December twenty-fifth became a fixed festival for the Church. We should note, however, that he promoted separating the united Jewish and Gentile believers, which caused the woeful separation of the One New Man in Christ.
Chrysostom’s sermons line up with what was proclaimed in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea. “We ought not have anything in common with the Jews… our worship follows a more legitimate and more convenient course… we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews…” “We desire” is the optimal phrase here. It was not what God preferred for this statement blatantly contradicts God’s Word. I agree with most of the Apostolic Creed crafted by the Nicene Council; but if the Christian Church were to literally practice not having anything in common with the Jews, we would be forced to throw out the very foundation we stand on – the Bible and even Jesus for He came to earth as a Jew.
While the earliest Gentile believers weren’t expected to become Jews (as clearly articulated through Paul and the Jerusalem Council), they were expected to obey the first century requirements for the “Righteous Gentile.” Righteous Gentiles were also known as God-fearers. They did not keep the Jewish Law; but prior to the Apostolic Decree of Acts 15 (what I call “The Essential Commandments for All Believers”), they did maintain the Noahiac Commandments. These commandments were linked to the rainbow covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:1-18). They dealt with monotheistic issues such as the rejection of idolatry, and were binding on all of Noah’s descendants whether Jew or Gentile. “Rabbis believed that six of the seven Noahiac commandments had already been given to Adam and his descendants, with the seventh added to Noah, to refrain from eating flesh with blood in it.” This truly is an age-old foundation. The following are the Noahiac Commandments, which relate to matters relating to:
- Adjudication. You shall set up an effective judiciary to enforce the following six laws fairly. (Requirement to have just laws and establishment of courts of justice.) * No false oaths (Genesis 21:23)
- Idolatry. You shall not have any idols before God.No idolatry (Genesis 2:16) * To pray only to God (Genesis 20:7) * To offer ritual sacrifices only to God (Genesis 8:20)
- Blasphemy. You shall not blaspheme God’s name.To believe that God is one (Genesis 2:16) * No blasphemy (Genesis 2:16) * No consulting oracles (Deuteronomy 18:10) * No divination (Deuteronomy 18:10) * No astrology (Deuteronomy 18:10) * No interpreting omens (Deuteronomy 18:10) * No witchcraft (Deuteronomy 18:10) * No conjuration (Deuteronomy 18:10) * No necromancy (Deuteronomy 18:10) * No consulting of mediums (Deuteronomy 18:10) * To honor one’s father and mother (Genesis 9:22-23)
- Sexual Immorality. You shall not commit adultery. No adultery – defined only as a married woman having sex with someone other than her husband (Genesis 20:3) * Formal marriage via bride price and marriage gifts (Genesis 34:12) * No incest with a sister (Genesis 12:13) * No bestiality (Genesis 2:24) * No crossbreeding of animals (Genesis 8:20) * No castration (Genesis 5:16) * No homosexuality (Genesis 2:24)
- Bloodshed. You shall not murder.No murder (Genesis 9:5-6) * No suicide (Genesis 9:5-6) * No Moloch worship – infant sacrifice (Deuteronomy 18:10)
- Robbery. You shall not steal. * No theft – including kidnapping (Genesis 2:16; 6:11)
- A limb torn from a living animal. Dietary Law. * Not to eat a limb torn from a creature while it is still living (Genesis 9:4) * Not to eat or drink blood (Genesis 9:4) * Not to eat carrion (Genesis 9:3)
In the middle of the first century, the Jerusalem Council simplified the legal purity requirements for Righteous Gentiles to address the particular needs of the new Jewish movement called “The Way.”
THE ESSENTIAL COMMANDMENTS FOR ALL BELIEVERS
The Christian purity requirements detailed in Acts 15 applied to Gentiles who chose to become part of the believing community; but also became the holiness requirements for Jews living outside Israel among pagan Gentiles. Gentiles turning to faith in the Messiah of Israel need not become Jews. However, equally they could not remain pagan either. Pagans were the embodiment of what Christians were not.
Gentiles attending synagogue in the first century were expected to adopt minimal purity practices, which demonstrated both respect for the righteousness of God and respect for Jewish sensitivities due to their adherence to God’s Word. Polite and considerate behavior was appreciated from Gentiles, who were merely pagan guests; but the expectations for Gentiles claiming to “fear” the God of Israel as the God of the nations was much greater. God-fearers were expected to exhibit behavior that showed they had turned from idolatry to worship the One True God. Gentile believers accomplished this feat by putting off their former deeds of darkness, and adopting a simplistic version of those enlightened – the Apostolic Decree of Acts 15. This was the primordial practice for the earliest Christians.
In the second century, when the young Christian Church gradually included a growing number of Gentiles with no prior contact with Judaism, they increasingly were dependent on their mother soil. A distinct demarcation line had to be firmly drawn between right and wrong Christianity as well as between Christianity and paganism. Christians had to go back to how the gospel was preached to them in the beginning – just as Paul and Jesus preached it. And it just happened to coincide with the points Christians share with Jews: Biblical monotheism, ethics, and rejection of idolatry. Today, it seems that clear-cut line has become blurred once again. Many times the world is having a difficult time distinguishing between those who are Christian and those who are not.
Practicing Jews still keep the essential commandments decreed in Acts 15; therefore, it remains for Gentile believers to restore these ancient ruins long since devastated in our own lives. Historically, we know that Christians observed the Essential Commandments for All Believers through a stirring document preserved by the ancient historian Eusebius, which was entitled Ecclesiastical History. It is a letter written about the cruel persecution of some forty-eight citizens of Lyons, France dating from A.D. 177. While a Christian girl was being tortured, she is recorded to have indignantly voiced, “How can those eat children, who are forbidden to eat the blood even of brute breasts?” This is a clear sign that the Christian community of Lyons still observed the apostolic decrees set-up in Jerusalem.
The Essential Commandments for All Believers actually demonstrate a person’s rejection of idolatry; hence, our connection to the Golden Calf of America – Christmas (Please refer to Chapter 6 or http://wp.me/p158HG-kH or http://wp.me/p158HG-2m ) . It is necessary to emphasize that Christmas will not be the only idolatrous practice that the Lord will require His people to lay down in these last days; but it will probably be one of the most difficult. I personally believe that if a Christian can come out of Babylon and lay down Christmas, they can come out of just about anything. I have been truly amazed at the incredibly strong emotional hold it has had on me. The attachment to Christmas seems magnetic, almost irresistible. Not to mention the incredibly, strong societal pressure.
The Essential Commandments for All Believers prohibit things that had or have connections with pagan customs and/or traditions. They are abstinence requirements to live a holy life just as abstinence before marriage preserves the sanctity of holy matrimony. These abstinence requirements for the Bride of Christ preserve the sanctity of holy matrimony to our Bridegroom. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go into the city. Outside are … the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Revelation 22:14-15).
The holiness requirements for the Lord’s living stones (i.e. you and I) are so important that they were mentioned twice when the founding church fathers were discussing what the nations needed to do to become part of God’s household. Then, incredibly, Paul repeats them again in Acts 21:25 when he arrives in Jerusalem after his third missionary journey. These were Paul’s last days. He topped off his final missionary efforts (gathering funds for the church in Jerusalem) with a final exhortation to the people in the nations to keep the Essential Commandments for All Believers.
When something is repeated twice in Scripture, God is emphasizing that the matter has been decreed by God and that it will happen soon (Genesis 41:32). The significance of the Essential Commandments for All Believers being repeated three times in the Bible is momentous. E.W. Bullinger says that the number three points us to what is solid, real, essential, perfect, substantial, complete, and divine. This is one of the reasons I call the Apostolic Decree of Acts 15 the “Essential Commandments for All Believers.” The other reason is that the word “essential” is expressed in the accurate New American Standard Version of Acts 15:28: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials.”
The Essential Commandments for All Believers are complete. They represent divine perfection, and were first taught in Moses’ writings. Even today, the proper comprehension of Leviticus 17-18 can help one measure a person’s heart. Don’t be surprised. Jesus tells us in John 5:46-47: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. But if you don’t believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” God has written His New Covenant as well as the Law and the Prophets on His people’s hearts. Come. Let us learn more and move onto perfection.
We have already learned that these holiness requirements for God’s household are in reality abstinence requirements, which bind God’s people in holy matrimony to our beloved, heavenly Bridegroom. It’s noteworthy that these abstinence requirements for holiness were the only burdens the Holy Spirit led the Jerusalem Council to specifically place upon Gentile believers. In reality, they regulate chaste behavior for those who are the temple of the living God.
HEAVENLY REQUIREMENTS FOR HOLY MATRIMONY
Let’s take a more specific look at the four Essential Commandments given to All Believers as an apostolic decree from Jesus’ first apostles and elders. Keep a sharp eye out for things sacrificed to or contaminated by idols throughout Santa-tizing. The truth is that all of the Roman holidays are modern holdovers of ancient pagan practices. They came out of Babylon via Rome. Here are all three scriptural references for the Essential Commandments for All Believers:
“Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from (1) things contaminated by idols and (2) from fornication and (3) from what is strangled and (4) from blood” (Acts 15:19-20NASB #s mine).
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourself free from such things, you will do well” (Acts 15:28-29NASB).
“But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote having decided that they should abstain from the thing sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication” (Acts 21:25NASB).
1. Abstain from things contaminated by idols –
In this Sub-section, we will mainly explore the angle of abstaining from food polluted by idols due to this being a common way the first Essential Commandment is translated in Christian Bibles. But know that the most accurate translations of the Bible declare that the first Essential Commandments is: abstaining from things sacrificed to or contaminated by idols. Please notice in the next two chapters that almost every single Christmas custom or tradition is a thing saturated with paganism (i.e. contaminated by idols).
In Rome, the dominant world power at the time of the Jerusalem Council, Jews found the association with idolatry almost unavoidable when among Gentiles, particularly when sharing meals. Like Daniel IN BABYLON (Daniel 1:8-13), Jews refrained from meat and wine, when questionable. They just ate vegetables and drank water, or brought their own food and wine. Often their lifestyle offended Gentiles, and they became a source of ridicule and scorn.
In the first century, idolatry was woven throughout the very fabric of Roman society. At the time, “for most people, meat was a thing never eaten and wine never drunk save as some religious setting permitted. There existed no formal social life in the world… that was entirely secular. Small wonder, then, that Jews and Christians holding themselves aloof from anything the gods touched, suffered under the reputation of misanthropy [i.e. hatred and distrust]!” Acting as a peacemaker, Paul addressed the “strong” directly in Romans 14:1-15:4 asking them to forego their perceived freedoms from Judaic customs in matters of food in view of the priorities of the Kingdom of God. “For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men” (Romans 14:18NKJV).
Before Christians adopted the Christmas Season, it was called the Feast of Saturn – Saturnalia – in Rome. Several sources say that Saturnalia was a seasonal festival, which began in the middle of December continuing until January 1st. I have adopted this definition to simplify our understanding, but in actuality by the fourth century the Romans celebrated three pagan festivals:
1) The Saturnalia lasted for three to seven days or even longer. One of the common ways to find it defined is as a general time period extending from December 17 to December 23.
2) Halfway through Saturnalia, the idolatrous birth worship of the sun god – Sol Invictus – was celebrated on December 25. Sol Invictus’ solar worship merged with a different pattern of sun worship from the Orient – Mithraism – which became known as Sol Invictus Mithra. Roman emperors following Aurelian were connected to this religion of the sun. Initially, the birth celebration was not an all-encompassing tradition for the masses, especially when compared to the Saturnalia and Kalends. The elite of Rome practiced secret rituals under the name of “The Nativity” or “The Nativity of the Sun” or “The Nativity of the Unconquered Sun.”
3) The January Kalends was a New Year’s party. Today, Western Civilization still follows the Kalends’ tradition of singing and heavy drinking on New Year’s Eve. A fourth century writer, Libanius, describes the Roman January Kalends: “The impulse to spend seizes everyone. …People are not only generous towards themselves, but also towards their fellow-men. A stream of presents pours itself out on all sides…. The Kalends festival banishes all that is connected with toil, and allows men to give themselves up to undisturbed enjoyment.”
Since the focus of this book is the circumstances surrounding Christmas, I don’t emphasize the January Kalends, but I generally include it in my definition of the Saturnalia and the Christmas season. Just note that the gift-giving tradition connected to this ancient Roman New Year’s festival still existed in New York City when Christmas was forged into its modern image in the 1820s. The overwhelming element of our modern Christmas – shopping – was transported into America’s renewed image of Christmas via merchants and the Americanized Santa Claus tradition.
By the way, it also has primordial roots that reach back into Babylon’s twelve-day New Year’s festival (i.e. Akiti) coupled with the magical appeal of its December sun god birth observance. Christmas acts like a homing device or talisman that never fails to point us back to the sensual place where mixture is its modus operandi. Christmas’ homing signal draws people together reminding us to look not just to our immediate friends and family, but towards Babylon. The Yuletide season is the high tide for the year when the world is of one mind. The people of the earth are busy building a tower by our own desires and design to get for ourselves what we believe is a slice of heaven. Remember that the Babylonian “land of merchants” status is exemplified by: harlotry, a continual lust for more, disdain for frugal spending, and shrines at the beginning of every street and in the high place of every town square. Very similar to today, history records that evergreens were used to decorate during the Roman Saturnalia and January Kalends. For now, let’s just center in on the wildly popular Saturnalia to see a few of its many idolatrous connections.
The Saturnalia began with the sacificium publicum in which a young pig was sacrificed in the temple of Saturn in the Forum. It was literally said that, “this boar will make you a good Saturnalia.” A libation offering of a special mulled wine went with the sacramental gift of the Saturnalia swine. Knowing this, I can understand why the “weak” Jewish Christians would have had a problem with the merger of the former, and originally, pagan festival of Saturnalia into The Way. Even church fathers of the faith at the time of the merger, like Tertullian, lamented about the inconsistency of the disciples of Christ. Tertullian recognized that the celebration of Christmas was just a spin off the Feast of Saturn calling it “the heathen being faithful to their religion.” Only a small remnant of upright saints did not become submerged under pagan superstition and celebration.
To this day ham or swine is a traditional Christmas dinner for many people throughout the world. For example, unlike the rest of southern Asia, Christianity is the leading religion in the Philippines. Filipinos on Christmas Day have a traditional holiday dinner, which includes a roast pig.
Additionally, 2 Corinthians 8 tells us that compromised faith is like meat sacrificed to an idol. Faith in the Lord is essential and non-negotiable, which brings us to the Hebraic concept that the primary violation when one sins against God is the breach of the First Commandment – belief in God – before one trespasses any of the Second through Fifth Commandments.
“You shall have no other gods besides Me” (Exodus 20:3). Can anyone protest that “to have and hold” another god basically equates to a compromised belief in God? Casual concessions or compromises are made in relation to the One we can always confidently trust. Why do we cavalierly write off our relationship with the King as if it doesn’t matter and it won’t hurt Him? Perhaps because of His awesome, endless love, kindness and grace or “the heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, morally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]?” (Jeremiah 17:9Amplified).
Next we turn our focus upon the general trait of sexually immorality rather than on the more specific topic of fornication – consensual sexual intercourse between two people not married to each other. 1 Corinthians 6:18 tells us to “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” If we are part of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are members of His Body (1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Ephesians 4:15-16). Hebrews 10:10 NKJV says that, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” If being members of His Body we sexually sin, we are actually sinning against the Body of Christ, i.e. our own body as well as Christ’s. A sobering thought indeed. “Do you not see and know that your bodies are members (bodily parts) of Christ (the Messiah)? Am I therefore to take the parts of Christ and make [them] parts of a prostitute? Never! Never!” (1 Corinthians 6:15Amplified). Sexual immorality has a strong connection to cultic prostitution and its promotion of promiscuity. Is it merely a coincidence that sexual immorality is rampant in American society today?
The author Lucian tells us: “There are no ancient [pagan] rites of initiation without dancing.” “In the Greek mysteria there are dancing and instrumental music, the dancers to be dismissed as “prostitutes,” i.e. professionals.” “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
Galatians 5:19-21 says that sexual immorality is an act of the sinful nature and “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).
“Do you not know that the unrighteous and the wrongdoers will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived (misled): neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexuality, nor cheats (swindlers and thieves), nor greedy graspers, nor drunkards, nor foulmouthed revilers and slanderers, nor extortioners and robbers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10Amplified).
Forgiveness is available for any of these sins for anyone who turns to God with sincerity. However, unrepentant sin is another matter. Any sexually immoral person or any idolater whatsoever will not inherit the kingdom of God. Probably one of the most shocking passages for believers is: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
3. Abstain from the meat of strangled animals –
It is not kosher (i.e. fit and proper), according to Hebraic dietary law, to strangle an animal. The preferred method for killing pigs in the Old Testament was strangling them as they were tied to a tree. Many of the kosher laws are about the sanctity of life. We are to have respect for the life that God made – whether animal or human. I had a close encounter with death once; and the Lord told me to choose life, even if I am on my way out (of this world).
“Strangled meat played a role in some pagan cults.” Origen wrote that blood, including that in strangled meat, was said to be the food of demons: “If we were to eat strangled animals, we might have such spirits feeding along with us.” Strangling was a pagan custom in Alexandria.
Hebrews 9:22NKJV notifies us that, “according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Couple that with Leviticus 17:10-14 being a kosher law: “because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, ‘You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off’” (Leviticus 17:14). Blood is sacred to life, and if the Lord of Life says anyone who eats blood will be cut off from Him, and therefore, His Kingdom, I would definitely not take this essential commandment lightly.
Abstaining from blood in the first century C.E. most probably had connections with refraining from practices of an idolatrous pagan religion. “It was a pagan who described, ‘the priest himself [who] stands there all bloody and like an ogre carves and pulls out entrails and extracts the heart and pours the blood about the altar.’ …The great bulk of the meat eaten in the ancient world had been butchered in temple precincts, most of which, [were] ill-supplied with water.” Accumulated ugly piles of offal were placed in corners and supported not only clouds of flies, but stray mongrels as well.
Haima [blood] refers to the bloody rites of pagan sacrifices. It was one of their most prominent features. It was also the custom in some cults to drink the blood of the victim. The drinking and eating of blood is hard for me to image when I think of the blood disorders and disease merely carried in humans: anemia, hemophilia, HIV/AIDS, leukemia, and sickle cell. “For the life is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:10). Lethal diseases can be transferred through the blood, like the infamous blood-born disease of the human immune system HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is tragically decimating the continent of Africa, causing millions of children to be without parents. Leukemia is often referred to as cancer of the blood, a malignant condition affecting the immature blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. You get the idea.
At first I thought that these four essential commandments were not required for salvation, but a love (i.e. purity) issue. Like a loving parent the Father wants His kids, His family, protected from those things that would harm them and He is infamously known to be a jealous God. But as I have meditated upon theses Essential Commandments for All Believers requiring abstinence from four things, I wonder if these decrees are required for salvation or not. Romans 10:9 says: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.” Since when has mere verbal assent been okay with God? Has the American Church become like the Pharisees? “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Matthew 15:8-9). If we confess, “Jesus is Lord,” it means that Jesus is our master, our Lord, our King and our God. Jesus led His Church in the first century to include these four essential commandments as legal requirements for all believers. If we throw out this portion of His Word, which demarcates pure-hearted worshipers who worship the Father in Spirit and Truth (John 4:23-24), do we truly submit to Him as our Lord?
I know that God extends a tremendous amount of grace when it comes to people’s ignorance, but once He has spoken personally to you or me about an issue of our life or an issue of the heart, He expects obedience. “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9NKJV). God is not after legalistic behavior. He wants us to pursue the way of love. He wants us to turn to Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and exhibit His Lordship in our lives by forsaking all but Him. If you are not “there” yet, it’s okay. Start with an honest request like: “I want to be willing to obey, Lord, please help me,” or “I am willing, but I don’t know how. Please help me.” A heart like that – a heart of David that turns to God – will always get His attention and assistance. I have literally told my Beloved: “I don’t know how to love. Please help me. Please show me.” I have found that He thinks that sort of heart is simply irresistible.
Jesus Christ filled the commandments articulated in the Old Testament full of meaning signifying that the Messiah has redeemed us from the legalistic requirements of the law; but there are still principles that Christ’s followers must abide by being yielded to the dictates of the Lord’s heart, which brings life. For example, Jesus filled the Ten Commandments full of meaning when He said and demonstrated that all the Law and the Prophets hang on two commandments: love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and strength; and love your neighbors as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). That does not mean that the Lord sanctions false witnesses, murder, and the like; but living your life in love will keep you from sin. We have learned that the Apostolic Decree listed in Acts 15:20, Acts 15:29, and Acts 21:25 are four essential abstinence commandments for all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are the minimal requirements for holiness for the sons of the living God.
Of special note, I want to emphasize an important point. Please do not measure people who are not Christians with these same standards (Matthew 7:1-2). We are to seek and save, not accuse and abuse.
“I don’t want you to forget… what happened… in the wilderness long ago. …These events happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did or worship idols as some of them did. For the Scriptures say, ‘The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged themselves in pagan revelry.’ …If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it. So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. …What am I trying to say? Am I saying that the idols to whom the pagans bring sacrifices are real gods and that these sacrifices are of some value? No, not at all. What I am saying is that these sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God. And I don’t want any of you to be partners with demons. …You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is helpful. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is beneficial. …Whatever you eat and drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10NLT Emphasis mine).
The first thing God called holy was the Sabbath (Genesis 2:3). It was the perfect establishment of a measurement of time. Our Bible also calls a burning bush holy, Mount Sinai holy, and the Holy of Holies. What makes these things holy is the same thing that makes people holy – God’s presence.
We must understand that our heavenly Father’s timetable is laid out in the Bible according to His calendar, and its time and seasons always point to the Messiah. As God’s people, we should be pointing to the Messiah too. So returning to this age-old foundation of Biblical time-keeping should be an instinctive process for believers. The Sabbath sets His people’s weeks. The New Moon sets their months. The feasts of the Lord set their years (Isaiah 29:1b). Due to the focus of this book, we will only be exploring the feasts of the Lord, which situates a year in the dimension of time; but please allow me to state a few points about the concept of measurement first. Every player in a game of sports plays by the same rules (2 Timothy 2:5). We just need to understand that in the spiritual realm its God’s rules everyone, including the devil, plays by. Time is one of the closest things we have on earth to the spiritual realm. When God created weeks, months, and years; He gave them as gifts to mankind. His measurements of time help us understand where we are in the process of life. Life is progressive. These measurements of time are not there to make us feel bad or condemned. They simply help us make sure that we are not stagnant or stunted. As time goes by, we see our children growing up, and we periodically ask ourselves: Am I better than I was a year ago? Time helps us see if our growth is heading in the proper direction – maturity.
What society calls the Jewish Feasts, God calls “the feasts of the Lord,” and significantly He emphasizes: “they are My feasts” (Leviticus 23:2). They have been called the Jewish Feasts, because remnants of Jewish people have faithfully rehearsed the feasts of the Lord since they have been instituted. All believers of the first century celebrated the feasts of the Lord. It is the Christian Church’s primordial practice. For example, Paul exhorted the Gentile believers in Corinth: “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, …but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8NKJV Emphasis mine).
The Lord Jesus Christ and the early Church continued to observe the rituals and feasts of the Torah, because they understood that they portrayed the Messiah. These observances were not done for righteousness sake, for the early Church embraced Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross as the only way in which they could obtain their right standing in and before God.
CHANGING THE MARKS OF TIME
Man’s movement of the marks of time has had the intent to glorify the Lord; but like the incident of the Golden Calf, something said to honor Jehovah is not necessarily as we say. The Lord will be the judge. Be encouraged. The ancient Hebrew pictograph for the word “judge” means the door of life. Biblical faith always includes the call to judgment from a heart of love. Judgment is actually the opposite of despair and death.
“Great are Your tender mercies, O LORD; Revive me according to Your judgments” (Psalm 119:156NKJV)
Let my soul live, and it shall praise You; And let Your judgment help me” (Psalm 119:175NKJV).
God’s righteous judgments reveal our actions as they actually are. He already sees us as we are, and loves us nevertheless – forever and always. God’s love is unconditional. Please remember, in God’s judgment, there is forgiveness, which is why there is no reason to fear the truth. Our faith in the goodness and forgiveness of God makes self-criticism possible.
A genuine confession of sin is revealed not merely in words, but also in deed. To truly repent of idolatry requires that we purge its practices from our midst. Authentic repentance presumes desisting from sin. Simply put, repentance makes change necessary. I personally believe that the Church is currently going through the greatest change since its passage from a Jewish sect to a Greco-Roman religion. The Church, with its many members, needs to be ready to acknowledge mistakes wherever they are identified.
Some time, between the second and the fourth century, the Christian Church began to marginalize the Essential Commandments for All Believers. It most probably happened in the fourth century when the birth of Christ was officially designated as a separate festival on the basis of the Roman calendar. To this day, the basic fourth century structure still determines the Church’s ecclesiastical year. Further testimony may possibly be the change in the calendar to measure time against the birth of Jesus Christ. Throughout Christendom, years began to be numbered as Anno Domino (i.e., A.D.). It was not just the past that was being re-defined, but our present and future too.
Man’s declaration of “the year of the Lord,” as in Anno Domino, meaning that the Lord has dominion over time, seems like an admirable practice, except for one thing. The Lord had already set His dominion over time in the beginning; and even before time began, for God is eternal, sovereign, and immutable (i.e. never changes). “Time marks the beginning of created existence, and because God never began to exist it can have no application to Him.” “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Time is contained in Him. “God dwells in eternity but time dwells in God. C.S. Lewis suggests that we think of a sheet of paper infinitely extended. That would be eternity. Then on that paper draw a short line to represent time. As the line begins and ends on that infinite expanse, so time began in God and will end in Him.” Originally, in 526, Dionysis Exiguus insisted that the reckoning from the Incarnation served solely to locate his Easter cycles in time. By the way, Easter has as much pagan-Christian mixture as all the Roman holidays. Anno Domino owed its custom to people recording significant events in the blank spaces of calendars. Harmless it seems; but as you will see, man, via the Church, has had to work extremely hard to perpetuate worshiping God through mixed means and measures. It’s too bad that the Church hasn’t always stuck to God’s Biblical calendar. Let’s examine how man’s effort to be in command of time has been an abysmal failure.
It is the spirit of the Antichrist, which intends first to change God’s appointed times; and then, His laws. “He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws” (Daniel 7:25). We will see how the changing of Biblical time-keeping has caused His people to modify some of what needed to be kept in God’s Word – like the Essential Commandments for All Believers.
We would do well to be students of history. Before the Roman Empire, the Jewish people had already experienced a person and a world-impacting movement, who strove to change God’s times and law. This person was a Seleucid General named Antiochus Epiphanes IV. History infamously classifies him as an Antichrist. The world-impacting movement he promoted was called Hellenism. By the way, when Greek culture mixed with the culture of the Middle East, it created a new hybrid – Hellenism – whose influence on the Roman Empire, Christianity, and Western Civilization has been monumental.
When Alexander the Great overthrew Persia, Judea became subject to him. Alexander was a kind and generous ruler to the Jews. He canceled the Jewish taxes during Sabbatical years, and even offered animals to be sacrificed on his behalf in the Temple. When Alexander died, in 323 B.C., he had succeeded in conquering the important lands around the eastern Mediterranean; and he had also laid the foundation of a cultural revolution that would forever change the world. “Alexander himself had envisaged a synthesis between the classical Greek culture and the old cultures of the Orient”  (i.e. the ancient Middle East). In the wake of the Alexandrian take-over, a new way of defining a person’s identity appeared. Prior to Alexander’s program of cultural conquest, it was rare for any “ism” to exist. Now, people who were not Greeks by descent began to talk, dress, and live like Greeks in Greek-style cities. This new way of life was called hellenismos in Greek, and it was probably the first “ism” in recorded history. No longer did a person’s descent and territory merely define their identity, but now a person could choose to identify themselves by one set of values or ideals or another. Jews responded by beginning to call their way of life ioudaismos  (Judaism). This term was most likely first used by the author of the book of Second Maccabees. Judas Maccabees and his brothers “fought bravely for Judaism” (2 Maccabees 2:21). Just as non-Greeks could become Hellenists, by transferring their allegiance to Hellenism, so could non-Jews become adherents of Judaism. “In fact, we encounter the first known examples of conversion to Judaism in the days of the Hasmoneans.” This new development of conversion was a very important pre-condition for an early Christian’s self-understanding and mission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
After Alexander died, his kingdom was divided among his four generals. Judea, as usual, was caught in the middle, and eventually, ended up in the Seleucid Dynasty in 199 B.C with its ruler Antiochus IV. The ruling dynasty in Syria, the Seleucids, had Greek origins from the time of Alexander the Great.
In 168 B.C. the heathen – in this instance the Syrian Greeks – sacrificed a pig on God’s altar and put a statute of Zeus in the sanctuary, which for all intensive purposes dedicated God’s Temple to the worship of Zeus. A pig, as many people know, is the ultimate non-kosher animal, so this was not a complement; but a statement of utter contempt and degradation to the Jews and their God. An interesting aside is that many ancient cultures offered a pig as a sacrifice once a year at a feast. Those pagan festivals, throughout the world, mainly harmonize with today’s Christmas celebration. Turkeys are traditional for a Thanksgiving feast. What is traditional for Christmas? Ham. In the 1800s, boar’s head was still a standing dish in England at the Christmas dinner, when the reason of it was long since forgotten.
Antiochus Epiphanes IV is rightly portrayed as an Antichrist for he polluted the altar of God by offering up swine on it, knowing that this was against the Law of Moses. Antiochus also forced God’s people to bow before the false Greek god, Zeus, under penalty of death. Many innocent people were massacred. The survivors were heavily taxed. This type of religious persecution was unknown up to its time, because the attitude of polytheism was relativistic. Your truth is your truth. My truth is mine. The pluralism of the polytheistic world says that one person’s religion was as good as another’s. History tells us that the Greek and Roman mythology, which was their religion, blended together with Zeus becoming Jupiter, Artemis becoming Diana, et cetera. No one in the ancient world died for their religion. No one, except the descendants of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.
Before the Church changed the explanation of time and before the marginalization of the Acts 15 Apostolic Decrees, there was another ruler, who endeavored to change Biblical time-keeping. Antiochus IV issued an unheard of decree. He outlawed another people’s religion – both the teaching and practicing of Judaism. The book of the Maccabees tells us: “Not long after this, the king sent an Athenian senator to compel the Jews to forsake the laws of their fathers and cease to live by the laws of God” (2 Maccabees 6:1). The Greeks brutal persecution of the Jews triggered the first religious and ideological war in history – The Maccabean Revolt. The book of Maccabees calls this period a “reign of terror.” We would do well to remember that Antiochus, who took the name Epiphanes – God manifest – took four deliberate steps between 169-167 B.C. to hellenize the people of The Book: 
- Antiochus first dealt with the seat of Jewish power – the High Priest. He removed the sitting High Priest, whose name meant righteous peace; and replaced him with a Jew who would do man’s (i.e. Antiochus’) bidding. By the way, from this point on the high priesthood in Israel largely became a corrupt institution.
- Secondly, Antiochus tried to dissolve the Biblical calendar for he felt these people were time obsessed. They tried to keep their time holy. If Antiochus destroyed the Jews sense of time, he felt that he destroyed their ability to practice their religion. Therefore, Antiochus forbid the observance of Shabbat, New Moon, and Festivals (Passover, Shavuot, Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, etc.), which set their weeks, months, and years according to God’s timetable.
- Antiochus forbade studying Torah (the Word of God) and keeping kosher (respecting the sanctity of life). Torah scrolls were publicly burnt, and pigs were sacrificed over God’s Word to defile them. Antiochus even forced the High Priest to institute swine sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem, as well as permitting worship of various Greek gods (1 Maccabees 1:41-64).
- Lastly, Antiochus forbade circumcision. To Jews, this was their physical sign of their covenant of faith with God (i.e. Abrahamic Covenant). Circumcision was the most abhorrent to Greeks, who worshipped the perfection of the human body. Greeks saw circumcision as mutilation.
For the purposes of this book, let us focus on this Antichrist’s second deliberate step to corrupt God’s people, which involved dissolving God’s calendar and His people’s sense of time. It is very important to note that a pronounced antichrist figure felt if he could destroy God’s people’s sense of time, he would destroy their ability to practice their holy faith. Notice also that this was after Antiochus first removed God’s chosen High Priest by replacing him with his own. Prophetically, this is a picture of us setting ourselves up, as god manifest, in our temples (i.e. our bodies) dethroning our Great High Priest, Jesus, from the seat of our hearts. When Antiochus set out to change God’s people sense of time, he prohibited the observance of three things: Sabbath, New Moon, and Festivals. We shall observe that this was the same mistake the Church carried out in subsequent centuries. “He will defy the Most High and wear down the holy people of the Most High. He will try to change their sacred festivals and laws, and they will be placed under his control for a time, times, and half a time” (Daniel 7:25NLT). I believe that this is where the earthly, selfish door opened to enable the eventual institutionalization of the Roman pagan festivals (i.e. holidays) in the Church. Thus, instead of time being sanctified as God designed in His Word, it became triggers for idolatrous behavior.
There is supporting evidence that lends credence to the claim that the Greeks have led the charge to change Biblical time. It is seen with Julius Caesar’s establishment of the Julian year, and additionally, at Constantine’s Council of Nicaea. The Church in Constantine’s day, and after, had a problem with the date of Easter due to their changing God’s set times and ways. In Constantine’s effort to unify a divided empire, he forced the bishops at Nicaea to resolve the Asian Church difference in Easter from the Roman-African Church, by declaring the Quartodeciman practice of the Asian Church heretical. Quartodeciman meant the “fourteenth day.” The Asian Church did as Jesus and His first century believers did as defined in the Bible. They celebrated God’s holy feast called Passover on the 14th day of Nisan followed by the Feast of First Fruits on 17th day of Nisan, which was encompassed by the Festival of Unleavened Bread celebrated on the 15th-21st days of Nisan as prescribed by the Lord Himself and fulfilled in Christ. Constantine’s practice of setting up a difference-obliterating universalism that swallowed up all religious distinctiveness in a triumphant Christianity sided with the Roman-African practice of choosing the closest Sunday to the first full-moon after the spring equinox as the day all Christian communities should celebrate Easter. Thus, Constantine and his compromising cohorts led the movement that no longer looked to scripture as the last word. This was later affirmed by Pope Paul III, when his Council stipulated that scripture be understood in light of tradition. When Constantine’s Nicene Council declared the Quartodeciman practice heretical, they came against what God prescribed as perpetual in His eternal Word. The exact date that God established His Passover Feast was tweaked by the Church. Now, to come up with the universal time for Easter, Constantine turned to the wise men of Alexandria, Egypt to compute Easter and inform the rest of the world of its given time.Alexandria was the center of mathematical learning in the Hellenistic world, which was the same cultural influence being propagated by Antiochus Epiphanes IV.
Heilbron’s excellent, albeit very technical, book entitled The Sun in the Church informs us: “The Romans began with a calendar that tried to respect both sun and moon, But the arithmetic and the politics of intercalation became so entangled that Julius Caesar had to make the year now called 44 B.C. 445 days long to restore the spring equinox to its traditional [Roman] calendar date of 25 March. He decided to keep it there by detaching the lengths of the months from the motions of the moon.” Remember, that a spirit of Antichrist, manifested through people, will aim to first alter God’s times, and then, His law. Gentiles (i.e. the nations) may not like it, but the key to God’s time(s) was given to the Hebrews, and even then, they had to take their cues solely from Him. The Lord instructed His people to begin a month by sighting the new moon at dusk, which could not be predicted far in advance. The rulers of the Jewish people – the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem – appointed an official sighting committee to determine the onset of the month via the astronomical moon. So, the Hebrews followed God’s instructions, by employing the moon, to specify the times of civil and religious transactions. God’s people had to rely on Him by looking up at His dusky sky to see the sign of His time. The Romans, after Caesar, picked the sun to specify civil and religious time. The Christians mixed the two, by compromising between Jewish and Gentile practices of using the moon and the sun to specify a calendar year.
Notably, there is an eleven-day difference between the solar and lunar year. The number eleven in scripture is said to represent disorder, disorganization, imperfection, and disintegration. The “eleventh hour” in Scripture (Matthew 20:6, 9) is proverbial as being contrary, both, to what is right in order and what is right in arrangement. I believe this speaks about orderly time can only be done God’s way. When God made everything on earth according to measure and number, He purposely chose difficult ones for astronomy. “He assigned 29.53059 days for the moon to fulfill its phases, and 365.2422 days for the sun to run from one vernal equinox to the next.” Perhaps. Just perhaps. God want us dependent upon Him to get our time and timing, not on man-made formulas. Time is in perpetual motion. However the days are distributed among the months, they will never sum to a year. Can you say, “We are dependent on God to show us His time?”
To keep the vernal equinox on, or as close to 25 March as possible, Caesar also brought an Alexandian astronomer named Sosigenes to Rome. Recall that Alexandria was the center of mathematical learning in the Hellenistic world. Sosigenes brilliantly came up with the formula for the Julian year, which gave a year 326.25 days. Sosigenes set a year at 365 days, with every fourth year containing 366 days, so the vernal equinox would stay put in the calendar. This Julius Caesar practice of setting a year was so good that we still use the Julian year model in America today. But, was it good enough? Sosigenes made the year too long by about eleven minutes. Eleven minutes? Yes, eleven minutes. A Roman year, set according to the dictates of Julius Caesar, is eleven minutes too long. And a solar year is eleven days too long.
The Roman Catholic Church gave the greatest amount of money to the study of astronomy for six centuries during the late Middle Ages into Enlightment, not because of its love for science; but because the date of Easter throughout the ages was very screwed up. Let go into greater depth by diving into how man’s establishment of Christ’s resurrection, on the basis of the pagan holiday of Easter, resulted in disorder, disorganization, imperfection, and disintegration.
The Church insisted on celebrating Easter on a Sunday close to the first full moon of spring. By the way, “there is a hint of the anti-Jewish spirit of the Nicene fathers in their ban of the celebration of Easter in the same week as Passover.” By the twelfth century, the date of Easter was no longer in harmony with the heavens, which destroyed the image of the miracle of the solar eclipse at the crucifixion.
As time rolled on, the errors in the reckoning of Easter compounded. In 1276, man’s computations for setting Easter displayed its incompetence to the entire world by erring by a whole month. The calculated Easter differed from the set date by eight days in 1345, a month in 1356, five weeks in 1424, and one week off in 1433 and 1437. “The professional astronomers then took the matter in hand, calculating not from average, but from real moons.” The Church tried to square its year with the astronomy of the sun, and its Easter to the moon in 1511; but to no avail. Martin Luther recommended that the problem be dissolved by nailing Easter in the calendar like Christmas. When the Catholic-Protestant split happened to the Church, they each followed different calendars. During the seventeenth century, correspondence between Europeans usually bore two dates, for example, “10/20 January.” The Catholic Easter had coincided with the Anglican Easter less than half the time (36 years out of 80) despite placing both of their vernal equinox on the same day of 21 March. In the seventeenth century, the Catholic Easter preceded the Anglican one by one week 26 times, by four weeks 5 times, and by five weeks 13 times. This sounds like an acute case of disorder to me. All mathematicians knew that the discrepancies would only grow worse in the eighteenth century. The civil calendars would diverge by eleven; count them, eleven days rather than ten owing to the Gregorian suppression of the Julian leap day of 1700. The religious calendars of the Church were moving further and further out of step, which is a progressive phenomenon that happens when man makes calculation errors. In hindsight, we could say that when the Church chose to run itself according to an earthly kingdom rather than God’s kingdom, it made a calculated error. “Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net, and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them” (Ecclesiastes 9:12NASB).
Christ’s Church has been set adrift upon the sea of Greco-Roman forgetfulness where, in general, we have lost much of our sense of time according to God’s Biblical calendar – according to His time. Easter and Christmastime triggers ancient idolatrous practices in and out of the Church. The ancient festival from which the world derives today’s Christmas Season is the Roman Saturnalia. Saturnalia itself developed from the older rituals of midwinter (i.e. the winter solstice) and goes all the way back to Babylon in the ancient land of Mesopotamia, where the midwinter king’s (initially Tammuz) birthday was celebrated on December 25. As the name “Saturnalia” suggests, the celebration was in honor of Saturn. It is no mere happenstance that Saturn is defined as the Roman god of time as well as agriculture. “He …shall intend to change times and law…” (Daniel 7:25NKJV Emphasis mine).
This is not the most ancient path of the Ancient of Days; but the path of antiquity, which glorifies man and feeds his flesh. Materialism, sensual gratification, and carnal pleasure readily apparent at Christmastime cannot, and does not, satisfy one’s soul for these vices are earthly and sensual. It leaves people lusting for more as the manic shopping of December 26th attests. The Kingdom of God is in direct opposition to the Kingdom of Self. How will the American Church be able to stand before God justifying our Babylonian practices and our Greek mindsets? Instead of time being sanctified as God designed and desires, it became triggers for idolatrous behavior, and shows us a worldly pattern for assimilating God’s people into pagan practices; and thus, corrupting God’s priesthood, who are supposed to be holy, with customs associated with idols.
Copyright October 2008 – Author: Robin Main.
The information in this article is Chapter 4 “Age-Old Foundations” in the book: SANTA-TIZING: What’s wrong with Christmas and how to clean it up (available on amazon http://www.amazon.com/SANTA-TIZING-Whats-wrong-Christmas-clean/dp/1607911159/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353692179&sr=1-1&keywords=SANTA_TIZING.
 The Mystery of Romans by Mark D. Nanos, The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letters, Part 1.3, p. 68
 Ibid, p. 71-72, Footnote 105
 Ibid, p. 75, Footnote 120
 Separation from Judaism by Dr. Wayne Meeks, Professor of Biblical Studies at Yale University, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/first/wrestling.html
 Life of Constantine by Eusebius 3.17-20, specifically 3.18 NPNF 2nd sermon 1:524
 There are 613 commandments of the Torah (first five books of the Bible). A person cannot keep every commandment, because there are different commandments applicable to men versus women versus children versus animals… For example, there are laws involving Temple service (Levitical priests and sacrifices); animals (kosher); concerning the land; Sabbath, fasts, and worship; moral laws having to deal with relationships (how to act towards man); holiness laws (how to act towards God); etc. Yeshua says that the New Covenant is the Torah commandments written on your heart (the same ones), which are the simplest things in your house and His. The common sense of right and wrong has been written in people’s hearts. The Torah’s name means “the teachings,” and its object is to help people know God. Your attitude towards God determines what the term “commandments” means to you. Commandments will either be burdens to disobedient hearts or instructions to obedient hearts. The Torah never teaches that it can save you. Remember that it was Abraham’s faith that was counted as righteousness.
 Tosefta Avodah Zarah 8.4, dated circa 300, quoted in Talmud Sanhedrin 56. First detailed in the Tosefta (late second or third century C.E.).The Seven Laws of Noah (Hebrew: שבע מצוות בני נח, Sheva mitzvot B’nei Noach), often referred to as the Noahide Laws, are a set of seven moral imperatives that, according to the Talmud, were given by God to Noah as a binding set of laws for all mankind. According to Judaism any non-Jew who lives according to these laws is regarded as a Righteous Gentile and is assured of a place in the world to come (Olam Haba), the Jewish concept of heaven. Adherents are often called “B’nei Noah” (Children of Noah) or “Noahides” and often networked in Jewish synagogues. The Noahide Laws were predated by six laws given to Adam in the Garden of Eden.The Talmud states that the instruction to not eat “flesh with the life” was given to Noah, and that Adam and Eve had already received six other commandments. Adam and Eve were not enjoined from eating a living animal since they were forbidden to eat any animal. The remaining six are exegetically derived from a seemingly unnecessary sentence in Gen 2:16. Later at the Revelation at Sinai the Seven Laws of Noah were re-given to humanity and embedded in the 613 Laws given to the Children of Israel along with the Ten Commandments, which are part of, not separate from, the 613 mitzvot (commandments). The Noahide Laws are regarded as the way through which non-Jews can have a direct and meaningful relationship with God or at least comply with the minimal requisites of civilization and of divine law. One should also keep in mind that these laws are only the minimal basis for a Righteous Gentiles service to God, since there are many Jewish mitzvos that non-Jews are encouraged to adopt to accomplish more. Through these laws a Gentile refines himself and the Creation as a whole, fulfilling his purpose for existence.
 The Mystery of Romans by Mark D. Nanos, The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letters, Part 1.2, p. 52
 The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism: An Historical and Constructive Study of the Noahide Laws by David Novak, p. 3-4
 The Mystery of Romans by Mark D. Nanos, The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letters, Part 1.2, p. 53-54
 In The Shadow Of The Temple by Oskar Skarsaune, Part 2.11, p. 259
 Ecclesiastical History 5.1-4 by Eusebius
 In The Shadow Of The Temple by Oskar Skarsaune, Part 2.11, p. 235-239
 Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance by E.W. Bullinger, Three, p. 107-108
 The Mystery of Romans, The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letters by Mark D. Nanos, Part 1.2, p. 57
 Paganism in the Roman Empire by Ramsay MacMullen, Chapter 1.3, p. 40
 The Mystery of Romans, The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letters by Mark D. Nanos, Part 1.3, p. 81
 The Real Story of Christmas – Saturnalia, The History Channel, http://www.history.com: In Rome, … Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring, Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.
 Christmas Customs and Traditions: Their History and Significance by Clement A. Miles, p.168
 Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition, talisman: 1: an object held to act as a charm [i.e. practice or expression believed to have magic power; a trait that fascinates, allures, or delights; a physical grace or attraction] 2: something producing apparently magical effects
 The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas by John Matthews, The Solstice Dream, p.23
 Christmas Around the World by Victoria Westlane, Tidbits of Fort Collins, December 21, 2005, p.1
 Paganism in the Roman Empire by Ramsay MacMullen, Chapter 1.2, p. 24
 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Gerhard Kittel (Hrsg.), Geoffrey William Bromiley (Hrsg.), Gerhard Friedrich (Hrsg.): musth,rion mustarion in Greek or mystery in English – The etymology of the word is itself a mystery. Probable, though not certain, is derivation from μύειν “to close” (the mouth, lips)… μυστήριον (predominantly plur.) is the term for the many ancient mystery cults whose intensive development can be studied from the 7th cent. b.c. to the 4th a.d. In line with the command of silence typically imposed by them—a command strictly enjoined and in the main carefully observed—our knowledge of the mysteries is so fragmentary that we can only approximately delineate the main features. …For all the multiplicity of cults, we can descry common features which are constitutive of the μυστήρια. Mysteries are cultic rites in which the destinies of a god are portrayed by sacred actions before a circle of devotees in such a way as to give them a part in the fate of the god. Integral to the concept of the mysteries is the fact that those who wish to take part in their celebration must undergo initiation; the uninitiated are denied both access to the sacred actions and knowledge of them. The ceremony which makes the candidate a devotee of the deity embraces many different offerings and purifications. It is so firm a part of the whole mystery ritual that it is often hard to fix any precise distinction between the initiatory actions and the true mystery celebrations. By entrance qualification and dedication the candidate is separated from the host of the uninitiated and enters into the fellowship of initiates who know each other by confessional formulae or symbolical signs. This society-forming element is of the very nature of the mysteries. All mysteries promise their devotees salvation (σωτηρία) by the dispensing of cosmic life. Their deities are chthonic [i.e. underworld or infernal] gods (Dionysus, Cybele and Attis, Adonis, Isis and Osiris). Their myths and feasts are closely connected with the change of seasons, also with human life and death. … Their πάθη, which are enacted in the cultic drama, embrace sorrow and joy, seeking and finding, conception and birth, death and life, end and beginning. These πάθη are not present equally in all the mysteries, but it is true of all mystery gods that in their mythical-personal destiny the living forces of periodically perishing and returning nature hold sway.
 Paganism in the Roman Empire by Ramsay MacMullen, Chapter 1.2, Footnote 28, p. 152-153
 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Ed. Gerhard Friedrich, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 6, p. 455-458
 Father of the Church (c. 185-254), who was called the most influential theologian of the early church, was the first to promote the idea that the church had replaced Israel as God’s chosen people.
 Luke,Wilson, p. 96-97
 Ibid, p. 89-91
 Paganism in the Roman Empire by Ramsay MacMullen, Chapter 1.3, p. 41
 In Acts 15, the word for blood is ai-ma pronounced as haima. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Gerhard Kittel (Hrsg.), Geoffrey William Bromiley (Hrsg.), Gerhard Friedrich (Hrsg.): “Hellenistic blood mysticism is to be seen in the Dionysus-Zagreuscult, in which union with the god is achieved by eating the divine animal torn and consumed in a wild frenzy, and especially in the Attic mysteries, with their regeneration and divinization of the devotee through the blood of the sacred animal sprinkled over him.”
 Luke,Wilson, p. 97-98
 In The Shadow Of The Temple by Oskar Skarsaune, Part 4.21, p. 433
 Popularized by the Church historian Saint Bede (c. 673-735).
 John 1:1; Revelation 1:8.
 The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer, Chapter 7, p.39
 i.e. Denis the Lowly, was a compiler of canon law and a good computer.
 The Sun in the Church by J.L. Heilbron, Chapter 1, p. 36
 A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays by Robin Scarlata & Linda Pierce
 In the Shadow of the Temple by Oskar Skarsaune, Part 1.1, p.27-28
 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Gerhard Kittel (Hrsg.), Geoffrey William Bromiley (Hrsg.), Gerhard Friedrich (Hrsg.): “The process of Hellenising non-Greeks began before the establishment of the Macedonian Greek empire. It was greatly accelerated by this important event. The first result of the conquests of Philip and Alexander was the incorporation of Macedonia and its hinterland into the sphere of Hellenic culture. There followed the superficial Hellenisation of the kingdoms of Asia and Egypt, especially of the existing cities and of the newly established colonial cities, which were under the supervision of Macedonian Greece and the populations of which were partly Hellenised with the adoption of the Greek language and customs. Through mixed marriages there very quickly arose a semi-Greek world. The development took different forms in the different territories. In the kingdom of the Ptolemies the term “Greek” was reserved for the ruling caste which maintained its traditional language, culture and religion in the new land. In Asia, however, there was a wider acceptance of the culture of the Ἕλληνες by native non-Hellenes. Here the number of new cities was greater, and these became centers for the Hellenisation of the surrounding districts. There was an increasing integration of those born Hellenes with Hellenes of barbarian origin who had accepted ἑλληνισμός, i.e., the Greek language, culture and religion. Almost as important as the Hellenisation of the East is the spread of Greek culture and language to the West.
 Ἰουδαϊσμός is the spelling in 2 Maccabees 2:21.
 Although First & Second Maccabees are extra-canonical books, they are considered to be accurate historical accounts of events surrounding Chanukah.
 In the Shadow of the Temple by Oskar Skarsaune, Part 1.1, p.40
 Josephus – The Essential Works by Paul L. Maier, The Maccabees, p. 211
 Revelation from a dream given to Stephanie Hillberry
 The Sun in the Church by J.L. Heilbron, Chapter 1, p.28
 In Hebrew, the Passover Feast is called Pesach and was initiated in Exodus 12:6-7 – Leviticus 23:5; 1 Corinthians 5:7.
 In Hebrew, the Feast of First Fruit is called Bikkurim – Leviticus 23:9-14; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, which is the actual date Jesus rose from
the dead being the first fruit of many brethren.
 In Hebrew, the Feast of Unleavened Bread is called Hag Ha Mazhah – Leviticus 23:6-8; 1 Corinthians 15:7-8.
 Leviticus 23:1
 The Sun in the Church by J.L. Heilbron, Introduction, p.13
 The Sun in the Church by J.L. Heilbron, Chapter 1, p.28
 Ibid, p.26
 Ibid, p.26
 Number in Scripture, Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance by E.W. Bullinger, Part II, p. 251
 The Sun in the Church by J.L. Heilbron, Chapter 1, p.24
 Ibid, p. 26
 In Chapter II, Section I of The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop quotes Zonaras, who finds concurrent testimony from ancient authors that arithmetic, magic, and astronomy came from the Chaldees to the Egyptians, and thence, to the Greeks. Although I greatly appreciate the value of mathematics and astronomy, we need to be aware that their origins on earth did not begin with the Lord initiating their practices.
 The Sun in the Church by J.L. Heilbron, Introduction, p.3
 Ibid, Chapter 1, p.36
 Constantine’s Sword, The Church and The Jews by James Carroll, Part Three, Chapter 19, p. 191
 The Sun in the Church by J.L. Heilbron, p.37
 Ibid, p. 38
 Ibid, p. 38-39
 Ibid, p. 39
 Ibid, Chapter 5, p.144
 Ibid, p.145
 The Winter Solstice, The Sacred Traditions of Christmas by John Matthews, The Solstice Dream, p.23
 Refer to Genesis 4:1-7. Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground for which the Lord had no regard.