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Sid: I have on the telephone Pastor Robert Heidler, pastor of Glory of Zion Outreach Center in Denton, Texas. I just got a hold of an unpublished manuscript and I am so anxious for you to get this information all well footnoted. Pastor Heidler is a graduate, has a Master’s, as a matter of fact, from Dallas Theological Seminary. It’s the missing ingredients… I have to tell you Robert I read some things in here that maybe I should have known, but I didn’t know. It’s like the Spirit of God was showing me things, and now you’ve got the documentation of what God was showing. For instance, we know that the first church, and you document it so well in “The Messianic Church” had all the Biblical roots, Jewish roots, were in the first church.  How do we know this for sure?

Robert: Well first of all because that’s the only kind of church they knew. I mean they were the apostles that planted the church were Messianic Jews, they were Jews who came to know Yeshua as their Messiah. As you study the history of the church for the first 3 or 4 centuries, that was the kind of Christianity that they practiced.

Sid: Wait a second.  How do you attend one of the finest Biblical colleges in the United States, and not know what you know inside this manuscript today? How is it that our best scholars don’t know this today? How could things get so twisted?

Robert: Well it’s real interesting because for a thousand years during the Dark Ages, the church really had lost everything that it had had. In the Protestant Reformation…

Sid: You know to me one of the greatest evidences that there’s a God, is that not only did we come out of the Dark Ages, but we have Christianity today.

Robert: Yeah, but it’s when most writers have never gone back to study what the early church was like. One of my favorite overviews of church history is Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity, and it’s a wonderful study of church history. When it talks about the relationship of the church to the Jews, it devotes one sentence to it out of 656, and it just assumes that was not an important part of the church’s life. Yet, when you read the early sources you find it was a very important part. It was very common to the third and fourth centuries for Christians to celebrate the Biblical feasts; to celebrate Shabbat. One thing that surprised me when I began to read is it was very common in the first few centuries for the Christians to really have two holy days. They celebrated Shabbat, to celebrate the God of creation who created the earth and rested, but then they celebrated Sunday as the day of the resurrection of Messiah. They didn’t see anything funny with doing that.

Sid: By the way, they did not celebrate on a Sunday morning did they?

Robert: No! Although sometimes they started on Saturday night and they were still going on Sunday morning.

Sid: [Laughing] Yeah, you mean it was ruckus wild party?

Robert: Yes.

Sid: The reason you point out in your manuscript that most of them did not worship on Sunday morning is Sunday, during the day, was a work day

Robert: Hmm. Yes it was just not a day off for most people.

Sid: You know I have read that the early church celebrated the resurrection on Sunday, but most Christians are really not aware of how it started. I think they put a good Biblical meaning, spin on it if you will, but really there was a dividing line on the vibrant church and the dead the church. I think it began with someone by the name of Constantine, tell me about him.

Robert: He was a very interesting man. The church had been through a time of severe persecution, as a matter of fact, probably the 25 years before Constantine was the most intense persecution the church ever had. It was called the “Age of the Martyrs.” Constantine was a pagan, he was a worshipper of the pagan sun god Mithras. He was fighting with a rival Maxentius to take the throne of the Roman Empire.  He was sort of frightened going into the battle because he had heard that Maxentius was a master of occult arts. So he prayed to his god, the pagan sun god Mithras, and prayed for strength and victory. He reported that when he prayed he saw a flaming cross in the sky next to the sun, and heard the words “Conquered by this.” So he went into battle, he won the battle, and he came to the throne of the Roman Empire announcing that he was now a follower of Christ, and made the cross his symbol, and the church was just thrilled with that. Persecution ended, great blessing was poured out on the church, but the problem was he didn’t seem to really know who Jesus was. Constantine hated the Jews, he didn’t see Jesus as the Son of the Jewish Yahweh, but he really evidently saw Jesus as a manifestation of the pagan sun god Mithras. So he began to… in exchange for the ending of the persecution, he asked the church to honor him as the head of the church, and to allow him to begin to make some changes in the church that he called the Council of Nicaea. Basically that was where he outlawed the celebrating of Biblical feasts, he brought pagan feasts into the church…

Sid: Now why did he hate things Jewish?

Robert: Well as a Roman Emperor you know the Jews had rebelled against Rome twice. So for the Romans the Jews were a conquered people, hostile to Rome, that was how they were described. So he really saw the Jews as enemies, he didn’t want anything to do with them.

Sid: Yes, but how did the Christians accept paganism coming into their worship?

Robert: That’s a good question. I think in the course of the book here, the manuscript, I go into a lot of that. They didn’t accept it very easily. As a matter of fact, they were still passing decrees in church councils for 400 or 500 years after this trying to stamp out the practice of Biblical feasts, and Shabbats, and things like that.

Sid: So you’re saying even after Constantine for 400 or 500 years we know from the records there were real Christians that still tried to hang on to their Biblical Jewish roots.

Robert: Exactly. It’s interesting, and I give a lot of the council decrees in the manuscript. In the Council of Antioch in 345 which is 20 years after Constantine made his decrees, said “Any bishop, presbyter, or deacon who will dare after this decree to celebrate Passover with the Jews let them be anathema from the church.” Basically he says “No one else in the church is allowed to talk to them.” The Council of Laodicea says the same thing in 365, then the Council of Ogday France in 506, council after council issuing harsh punishments and decrees if the church doesn’t stop celebrating its Jewish festivals. That’s just a picture of the commitment the church had to celebrating the Biblical feasts and festivals.

Sid: Well let’s just kind of, for those aren’t initiated in this. How did we go from Passover, which I might add in the King James Bible it literally translates from the Greek, the clear Greek word that means Passover to Easter? I mean that was an intentional mistranslation. How did we get from Passover, which we know the first church celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, to Easter?

Robert: Well that was Constantine at the Council of Nicaea. He said “This is not right that the church should celebrate a Jewish holiday, a Jewish feast.” Basically he outlawed it. He reset the date for celebration of Jesus’ resurrection to the time of the holiday the Romans already celebrated which was the spring fertility festival. The festival was in honor of the goddess Ishtar, or Eostre, and her symbol was the egg. It was a very popular festival for the Romans. So he took the celebration of the resurrection out of the Biblical context of Passover, put it in the context of a pagan fertility goddess celebration. In the King James, in the English speaking world we didn’t even change the name. If you look up the word Easter in any dictionary it will say that is from the name of a pagan fertility goddess. So Christian’s all over the English speaking world will come up to the time of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, and basically say “We are going to celebrate Easter,” which is the name of a pagan goddess.

Sid: And where in the Bible does it talk about celebrating the birth of Jesus, Christmas?

Robert: Well it never does. I think… you know I don’t mind Christians celebrating Christmas.

Sid: No, and I hope people aren’t getting the wrong message from our discussion Robert because… you know there’s nothing wrong with knowing the facts.

Robert: Exactly. You know I tell our congregation I am so thankful we have a time in our culture where it is acceptable for people talk about the birth of Jesus, and talk about who Jesus was.

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