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Monday, May 6, 2024

Bob Thiel's Preoccupation With My Posts About the Paleochristian Church

Although "Dr." Bob Thiel has written two posts and produced one video challenging my narrative about the First Century Church, he claims that Banned by HWA has mischaracterized his reaction as a "meltdown." Nevertheless, I am quite content to let my readers decide whether or not the Grand Poobah of the Continuing Church of God is obsessed with trying to disprove the alternative which I've offered to the Armstrong Churches of God's narrative about the Paleochristian Church. It does seem to me, however, that Bob's interest in attempting to refute my claims are related to a realization on his part that their narrative about the transition from Sabbath to Sunday is the foundation of the whole house of cards that is their theology. In other words, I suspect that Bob is smart enough to realize that the house of cards collapses when this particular card is removed.

Many years ago, Herbert Armstrong speculated that there had been a Grand Conspiracy engineered by Simon Magus and the Roman Catholic Church to hoodwink Christians into abandoning the teachings and practices of Jesus Christ and his apostles. According to this speculative narrative (which had no basis in Scripture or history), one of the chief means of leading believers away from "THE TRUTH" was the intentional substitution of Pagan days of worship for God's Sabbath and Holy Days by these evil conspirators - influenced, of course, by their favorite bad-boy, Satan the Devil! With a limited educational background and almost no awareness of the actual history, Herbie reasoned that there must have been a deliberate campaign to substitute Sunday for the Sabbath. How else to explain the fact that Christ and his disciples kept the Sabbath, while Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant Christians all kept Sunday? Completely ignoring the Christian writings from the First and Second Centuries which existed outside of the Biblical canon, he proposed that there had been a "lost" century, and that the Christianity which had emerged on the other side of this mini–Dark Age was completely different than the original - a "counterfeit" Christianity!

To support this false narrative, Bob has discounted and/or distorted all of the Scriptures and historical records which contradict it. For Bob, the Jerusalem Council referenced in the book of Acts did not eliminate Torah observance for Gentiles. For Bob, the Didache, the epistles attributed to Barnabas, and Ignatius weren't really speaking about the Lord's Day or Sunday - the translators had simply gotten it wrong - they had mistranslated the original Greek into English! Likewise, he ignores the fact that for Justin Martyr to have written in the middle of the Second Century that Sunday was the day that Christians gathered for worship, it would of necessity have had to have been the practice for many years prior. In other words, it must have been a long-standing tradition of the Church by that time. Moreover, his failure to understand that Christians would have had very good reason to revere Sunday based on the Gospels and Acts - Christ's resurrection and the founding of the Church both having occurred on that day of the week! Likewise, he seems to be completely oblivious to the impact that the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple had to have had on both the Jewish and Jewish Christian Community of the First Century. Instead, Bob chooses to focus on the Bar Kokhba Revolt early in the next century (which I'm sure contributed to the further suppression of Sabbath observance).

Bottom line, the old Adventist-Armstrongist narrative about Constantine and the Roman Catholic Church changing Sabbath to Sunday is not consistent with the available historical evidence. The Roman Church's authority to set Christian doctrine and practice was NOT widely recognized until the Fifth or Sixth Century. Likewise, the Emperor Constantine's famous decree about Sunday observance is recognized by most historians as an attempt at making religious practice within the Empire uniform and regular. In other words, the emperor could not have promulgated a decree of that nature which would upset what was already the established practice of the vast majority of his subjects, Christian and Pagan. Hence, I would encourage all of the folks in the Armstrong Churches of God to do their own research on this subject, and I would also encourage them to follow the evidence - not attempting to prove what you think you already know about the Paleochristian Church!

For those who may be interested, I invite you to explore the following:

Notice this excerpt from Early Christianity by Gaye Strathearn of Brigham Young University:

Christianity did not develop in a vacuum. The early church leaders operated in a world that was ever changing and expanding. During Jesus’s lifetime, the apostles were directed to concentrate solely on the house of Israel, but the post-resurrection ministry was fundamentally different. Expanding missionary work to include the Gentiles was a difficult transition—difficult to transition away from the law of Moses and difficult to transition into the Roman world. As Christianity grew, its adherents began to be found in all levels of society. Even so, its growth also led to significant challenges. While the Roman Empire was strong, Christianity’s political separatism and refusal to participate in the imperial religion were viewed as little more than irritants. But when the empire found itself in a state of crisis, as it did in the third century, Christianity was seen as the destabilizing force of the peace of the gods that threatened to destroy the empire.

Christianity’s other major challenge arose as it developed competing theologies. Initially, those competing theologies focused on the role of the law of Moses in the fledgling church. As it increasingly expanded into the Gentile world, however, those theologies were gradually replaced by differing philosophical interpretations. The resulting posturing of different Christianities to claim legitimacy became a divisive element that the Emperor Constantine could not tolerate in his realm. If Christianity was to receive state sanction and be the means of uniting his empire, then it would need to be united. In the fourth century and beyond, this led to numerous councils whose primary goal was to orchestrate that unity.

Notice this collection of Early Christian Writings from the early Church Fathers

You can also find many of those same writings at New Advent's The Fathers of the Church

Notice this excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia Online titled Sunday:

Sunday (Day of the Sun), as the name of the first day of the week, is derived from Egyptian astrology. The seven planets, known to us as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon, each had an hour of the day assigned to them, and the planet which was regent during the first hour of any day of the week gave its name to that day (see CALENDAR). During the first and second century the week of seven days was introduced into Rome from Egypt, and the Roman names of the planets were given to each successive day. The Teutonic nations seem to have adopted the week as a division of time from the Romans, but they changed the Roman names into those of corresponding Teutonic deities. Hence the dies Solis became Sunday (German, Sonntag ). Sunday was the first day of the week according to the Jewish method of reckoning, but for Christians it began to take the place of the Jewish Sabbath in Apostolic times as the day set apart for the public and solemn worship of God. The practice of meeting together on the first day of the week for the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is indicated in Acts, xx 7; I Cor., xvi, 2; in Apoc., i, 10, it is called the Lord's day. In the Didache (xiv) the injunction is given: "On the Lord's Day come together and break bread. And give thanks (offer the Eucharist), after confessing your sins that your sacrifice may be pure". St. Ignatius (Ep. ad Magnes. ix) speaks of Christians as "no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also Our Life rose again". In the Epistle of Barnabas (xv) we read: "Wherefore, also, we keep the eight day (i.e. the first of the week) with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead".

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