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2000 years of Christianity : what happened? – Part III – 600AD – 1200AD

Picking up from where we left off, In part II of this study, we saw Christianity which had severed ties with its Jewish origins, and was severely persecuted at times, quickly became a privileged faith with the conversion of Roman Emperors to the Christian faith. With the power and prestige garnered by the Roman Church authority, came schisms, new teachings, heresies as well as rules and regulations through church councils. As the empire divided to the East and West, there were differences in teachings and understanding, while the western capitol Rome would have preeminence, making it’s bishop the pope. The language of the Bible was soon turning from the Greek to Latin and doctrines such as the trinity, veneration of mary & other saints would also become part and parcel of Christianity, while the Sabbath would be outlawed, as well as having any connection with ideas seen as Jewish. The New Testament list of books was finally decided upon, while Christianity steadily spread all over Europe extending the power of Rome throughout most areas, being dominated by the teachings and understandings of the Roman Church. For the 1st part of this study, highlighting the History of Christianity from 30AD – 300AD please go here. For the 2nd part, highlighting the History of Christianity from 300AD – 600AD please go here

As mentioned in the 1st & 2nd Parts of this study, I acknowledge that no two people would agree on a list of the absolutely important events in Christianity. This is only an attempt to simply give you a better understanding of the history of our faith. If you believe that there is an important event missing on this list, please comment with the reason why you think it would have affected the outcome of today’s Christianity, and I will add it in after review.

2000 years of Christian History – Part III – 600AD – 1200AD

614: Siege of Jerusalem by Persia with the help of Jews – The Byzantine Empire (Eastern part of the Roman Empire with Greek as it’s language and Constantinople as the capital) had ruled over Jerusalem for many years, building monasteries and churches after the reign of Constantine. Under Roman rule, the Jews had been exiled, for revolting against the empire. At the time of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, Sharbaraz – the Sasanian Emperor (Last Iranian/Persian Empire before Islam) along with a significant Jewish force, sieged Jerusalem capturing it in the process. It is said that many Christians died in the following riots which occurred. The Sassanids would leave the control of Jerusalem back in the hand of Jews for a short period of time before Heraclius reconquered the whole territory from the Persians by 625.

622: Muhammad’s hijra: birth of Islam – Born in Mecca, Muhammad is said to have received revelations around the age of 40, preaching a monotheism and gathering a steady stream of followers. Under persecution by the Meccan authorities, Muhammed and his followers moved to Medina (commonly known as ‘Hijra’ : Emigration) where he was not only welcomed, but where an islamic state was later established. The rest of Arabia, which saw Medina as a threat, was unable to take medina in the battles that ensued, and by 630, Muhammad gathered together all the warring tribes under the banner of islam, even conquering Mecca.

637: Siege of Jerusalem by islamic empire – With Muhammad’s death in 632, the Rashidun Caliphate was established and Caliph Umar would conquer Jerusalem receiving a formal surrender by Sophronius – the then Patriarch (Head bishop of Eastern Greek Orthodox Church) of Jerusalem under Byzantine rule. The Arab muslims who solidified their rule over the region known as “Syria Palaestina” under Roman rule, and “Palaestina Prima” under the Byzantine Empire would hold control of it till the 11th century. The Al-Aqsa Mosque which stands on the temple mount today, started as a small prayer house, which was rebuilt and expanded in 705. After an earthquake in 746, the mosque was completely destroyed and rebuilt in 754, most of it being destroyed again by an earthquake in 1033, but two years later the Fatimid caliph Ali az-Zahir built another mosque which is what we see on the temple mount today.

663: Synod of Whitby – Two sects of Christianity existed in England – one was Celtic Christianity propagated by Columba in 563 being centered on independent monasteries and abbots. The second was Roman Catholic Christianity being centered around Kent and Essex established by 597. Even though the sects were similar in most traditions, the major distinctions were, when they celebrated easter and whether or not the authority of the pope was valid. Oswy the king of Northumbria, called an assembly at Whitby, where both sides were heard. Celtic leaders quoted Columba while the Catholics cited St.Peter. Even though the Romans prevailed, the two traditions complemented each other bringing about an age of Art and Scholarship in Britain – an example being the Lindisfarne Gospels which was a beautifully decorated version of Gospels written in a medieval script.

716: Boniface brings Roman Catholicism to the Germans – A saxon missionary, Boniface received a commission from the church in Rome, to go the Germanic peoples, later being consecrated as bishop of Mainz and spiritual leader of all Germany. Germans who were known for their veneration of Trees and Groves were said to have a sacred tree called the Donar Oak (also called Joves Oak/Thor’s Oak) which was reportedly felled by Boniface and his retinue. The wood from the oak was used in building a church, and the fact that the German gods could not protect their tree helped Boniface’s missionary work. Because of him Germany would become a stronghold of the Roman Catholic Church up to the time of Reformation in the 1500s.

Miniature from the 9th-century Chludov Psalter with scene of iconoclasm. – hover over image for explanation

726: Controversy over icons begins in Eastern church – The Roman Empire which had broken into the East and West, creating Western Latin Catholicism and Eastern Greek Orthodoxy, were growing apart. Religious images which were abundant in the Churches, were opposed at this time by both Religious and Imperial authorities of the Eastern Church, while the West remained firmly in support for veneration of images. Both, the Emperor Leo III, and his son after him, Constantine V, opposed images and passed edicts against them removing, burning or painting over them. Veneration of images was restored by the Empress Irene of Athens, through the Second Council of Nicea in 787. Although the iconoclast controversy returned in the early 9th century, it was resolved once again in 843 by Empress Theodora, who restored the icons. These controversies would contribute to the further deterioration of relations between the Western and the Eastern Churches.

732: Battle of Tours – Islam which had rapidly expanded, saw muslims taking control over Syria, Palestine, then Alexandria, Mesapotamia, and even Carthage as North Africa was swept across by Muslims. Then they entered Spain, while forces had also entered the Punjab area of India, and was at the door of Constantinople – capital of the Byzantine Empire and the Eastern Orthodox Church. While the Western empire of Rome had fallen to the Vandals, Ostrogoths and finally to the Franks, the Roman Church held onto it’s power, growing throughout the world in influence through missions such as ‘Augustine’s to England’ and Boniface’s to Germany’. The Franks who overran Rome were now in power, and were now being threatened by Muslims who not only overthrew Political authorities, but also offered a new religious system. Charles Martel, the King of the Franks who had converted to Roman Christianity, protected the territory, meeting the forces of the Muslim General Abd-er Rahman, at ‘Tours’ pushing them back to Spain, and ending the advance of the Muslims on Europe. While Constantinople had also successfully defended itself against seiges laid by Muslims in 678 and 718, If it weren’t for Frank Martel, the Muslims could have captured all of Europe and established Islam as the main Religious system, making Christianity seize to exist in most countries around the world.

750: Donation of Constantine written about this time – A forged Roman Imperial Decree document, it announced that Emperor Constantine I had transferred authority over Rome and supremacy over the four principal ‘sees’, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople, and also over all the churches of God in the whole earth to the Pope. This document was used in the assertion of power by some of the Popes, furthering the debate that would ultimately lead to the East–West Schism in 1054.

754: Pepin III’s donation helps found papal states – In 751, Pope Zachary had Pepin the Younger crowned king in place of the powerless Merovingian figurehead king Childeric III. Pepin who defeated the Lombards – taking control of northern Italy made a gift (called the Donation of Pepin) of the properties formerly constituting the Exarchate of Ravenna to the pope. In 781, Charlemagne codified the regions over which the pope would be temporal sovereign: a territory which expanded to include Ravenna, Pentapolis, parts of Benevento, Tuscany, Corsica, Lombardy and a number of other Italian cities.

800: Charlemagne crowned Holy Roman Emperor – Charles the Great, who took the throne after his father Pepin the younger, pushed the borders of his kingdom East, controlling Burgundy, much of Italy, Alamania, Bavaria, Thurginia, as well as Saxony and Frisia in the North. After a long time, a large part of Europe had a stable leadership. Pope Leo III, would crown Charlemagne who held the title ‘King’ as ‘Emperor’ – following in the footsteps of Constantine. Under Charlemagne, Art and Scholarship thrived bringing about the ‘Carolingian Renaissance’, which preserved many ancient writings ; as well as the spread of Christianity in his empire.

861: East-West conflict over Photius begins – A well-educated man from a noble Constantinopolitan family, Photios chose to be a scholar and statesman, being appointed Patriarch(Bishop) of Constantinople by Emperor Michael III who deposed Patriarch Ignatius. Amid power struggles between the pope and the Byzantine emperor, Ignatius was reinstated, while the pope deposed Photios. Photios resumed the position once again, when Ignatius died, by the order of the Byzantine emperor. Even though the new pope, John VIII, approved Photios’s reinstatement, this incident was a clear indication of the ever widening gap between East and West.

862: Cyril and Methodius begin mission to Slavs – Methodius, an abbot of a Greek Monastery and Cyril, a philosophy professor of Constantinople, took Eastern Orthodox Christianity to the Slavs, translating scripture and church liturgy to Slavonic. Cyrillic which acted as the foundation for the Russian Alphabet (and is still used by some today) was specifically created by Cyril for this task, based on Greek letters. It was one of the very first times where the idea of worshiping in any language other than Greek or Latin was even heard of. Germany and Rome, both opposed the idea – and Cyril and Methodius traveled to Rome to argue their case, both of whom became Roman monks after the pope authorized the Slavic Liturgy. Cyril died the next year, but Methodius continued with heavy opposition from the Germans till his death in 885. Shortly afterward, Latin replaced the Slavic liturgy, but Cyril and Methodius had created a fiercely independent Christian faith and tradition that would effect the neighboring countries and the world.

909: Monastery at Cluny founded – With political struggles on the rise, church leaders were acting as secular warlords – grabbing land and power, practicing violence, deceit and all kinds of evil. At this time William the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine, setup a monastery in Cluny, built on the rules laid out by Benedict of Nursia in 540 – poverty, chastity and obedience. Becoming the largest church building in western Christendom, until St.Peter’s Basilica, it led as many as 2000 monasteries. Having a reforming effect on the church, cluny created some of the bishops and popes in the west, notably Pope Urban II who launched the First Crusade.

988: Christianization of “Russia” – Even though Christianity had penetrated Russia, it was not generally accepted till the conversion of Vladmir, prince of Russia. Vladmir, who built a number of pagan temples, had 800 concubines, 5 wives, and was known for cruelty and treachery. When he sought out to keep his people content, he reportedly sent men to examine the major religions – of which judaism and islam were not appealing to him because of their dietary restrictions. The prince who had to choose between Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy, chose Greek Orthodoxy – the religion of the neighboring Byzantine empire, marrying Anna – the sister of the Byzantine emperor Basil. In 988 Vladmir was baptized, slowly but surely converting people from pagan religions to Christianity. The Russian church which focused on worship, had the liturgy in their own language Slavonic (Thanks to Methodius and Cyril) and beautiful churches built by Vladmir and his successors.

1054: East-West Schism – In 1043, Michael Cerularius became patriarch of the East (Constantinople) and in 1049, Leo IX became pope in the west(Rome). Leo wanted Michael and the Eastern church to submit to Rome. The pope sent representatives to Constantinople; Michael refused to meet them, so they excommunicated Michael on behalf of the pope. Michael in turn excommunicated the representatives. The East and West had differences such as Language(Greek vs Latin), forms of worship, bread used in communion, date of lent, how mass was celebrated, Eastern priests could marry and grow beards(Western priests could not), the doctrine of purgatory(the East did not accept it), the western addition of “and from the son” to the nicene creed of “the Holy Spirit proceeds from the father”(seen as heretical in the east). All these differences that had existed for so long, erupted as these two bishops of the East and West declared each other as not a true Christian – creating a schism that would be unrepairable.

1077: Emperor submits to Pope over investiture – The struggle for power between pope and emperor rose to a fever pitch when pope Gregory VII attempted to enact reforms to the investiture process, but was met by much resistance from the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. Henry insisted that he reserved the traditionally established right of previous emperors to “invest” bishops and other clergymen, despite the papal decree. Henry renounced Gregory as pope, and was excommunicated in return, being deposed by pope Gregory, at Rome. Gregory stated furthermore that, one year from that day, the excommunication would become permanent and irrevocable. When violence broke out, with many nobles threatening to elect a new king,  Henry felt he had to have his excommunication lifted. Crossing the Alps, he made the long harsh journey to meet with the pope in Augsburg. Reaching the castle of Canossa, the Pope ordered that Henry be refused entry. Waiting at the gate for three full days, henry was finally admitted – and he is said to have knelt before Pope Gregory and begged his forgiveness. Gregory absolved Henry and invited him back into the Church lifting the excommunication. The pope had officially become more powerful than the emperor.

1093: Anselm becomes archbishop of Canterbury – When William of Normandy conquered England, he brought many Norman teachers and clergy to England. Among them was Lafranc, who became Archbishop of Canterbury – and after him his student Anselm would take the position being appointed by William II, son of the conqueror. Anselm who was exiled again and again, for standing up against kings to protect church lands, funds and power – wrote “Cur Deus Homo” (Why did God become man?) at this time. Anselm’s idea of Christ’s reconciling work on the cross is the best known theological explanation of Christ’s atoning work, being called “the Satisfactory theory of Atonement”.

1095: First Crusade launched by Council of Clermont – In 1088 a Frenchman named Urban II, became pope. When emperor Alexis of Constantinople appealed to the pope for help against the Muslim Turks, even though the Catholic and Orthodox Christians were not one church, Urban sought to draw all Christendom together against a common enemy. Calling the Council of Clermont, Urban preached “Tear that land from the wicked race and subject it to yourselves” to which the people cried “Deus Vult! Deus Vult! (God wills it!) which became the battle cry of the crusades. The pope’s representatives recruited many knights from Europe who were spurred by religious goals, economic gain or the adventure of recapturing the pilgrimage sites which had fallen into Muslim hands – and almost being seen as an act of service to God. Urban assured the warriors that they would enter heaven directly or reduce their time in purgatory by warring against the Muslims. On their way to the holy land, the crusaders stopped in Constantinople. While Emperor Alexis, saw the chain-mail-clad soldiers as a threat, the crusaders saw the emperor as a traitor, for making treaties with the Turks. Provisioned by the Emperor, the army captured Antioch and Jerusalem, in the bloodbath that followed – utilizing a “take no prisoners” tactic. Muslims as well as Jews who lived in Jerusalem were butchered and Godfrey of Bouillon elected as Ruler of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The papacy enhanced its power further by proving that it could muster a great number of soldiers who would die for their faith. The Al-Aqsa mosque was converted to a palace and a church at this time.

1115: Bernard founds monastery at Clairvaux – Known as the greatest Cistercian, he founded a monastery at Clairvaux, establishing 65 Cistercian houses and denying the doctrine of immaculate conception. The Second Crusade which was a failure, was mainly preached by Bernard.

1122: Concordat of Worms ends investiture controversy – An agreement which happened between Pope Calixtus II and Holy Roman Emperor Henry V, near the city of Worms – It brought to an end the first phase of the power struggle between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperors by abolishing the claim of the emperors to influence papal elections.

1150: Universities of Paris and Oxford founded – Higher education which took place in monasteries and cathedral schools, turned to private schools with the opening of universities in Bologna and Paris. Teachers and students who received social privileges of the clergy, yet being separate from them – developed fields of study such as Arts, Medicine, Law & Theology. Henry II who prohibited English students from studying in Paris, led to the opening of the university in Oxford – making such study centers incubators for the Renaissance and the Reformation.

1173: Waldensian movement begins – Peter Waldo, a french merchant, enlisted 2 priests to translate the bible into French, and started teaching the common folk about Christ. Waldo and his followers who believed that Jesus wanted His teachings practiced by all (instead of the prevalent belief of a religious life being required only of monks and priests), started teaching the New Testament to the common-folk by going two by two to the marketplaces. Waldo, who was excommunicated by the Archbishop of Lyons for acting outside the church, taught the priesthood of all believers.  They also rejected relics, pilgrimages, holy water, clergy vestments, saints’ days, church feast days and purgatory. In 1207, pope Innocent III offered to receive the Waldensians back if they submitted to the Catholic authorities. Many returned, and the ones who didn’t were condemned as heretics and many were stamped out by the inquisition, while others spread out through Europe being embraced by Protestants at the time of Reformation.

1187: Saladin takes Jerusalem – A Muslim of Kurdish origin, Saladin was the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. The Muslim armies under Saladin captured or killed the vast majority of the Crusader forces, at the battle of Hattin, reconquering Jerusalem, signalling the end of the first Kingdom of Jerusalem. Saladin, also restored the function of Al-Aqsa mosque to its former state.

1192: Third Crusade – Led by Philip Augustus, Frederick Barbarossa and Richard Lionheart – the campaign which was largely successful, capturing Acre, Jaffa, and reversing most of Saladin’s conquests, failed to capture Jerusalem – which was the main motivation of the Crusade. Saladin who failed to defeat Richard in any military engagements, gave way for Richard to secure several more key coastal cities. Richard departed the holy city after finalizing a treaty with Saladin, which granted the Muslims control over Jerusalem, but allowed unarmed Christian pilgrims and merchants to visit the city. The successes of the Third Crusade also allowed the Crusaders to maintain a considerable kingdom based in Cyprus and on the Syrian coast.

Conclusion
Christianity which was now the Religion of Rome, was spreading all throughout Europe. With the birth of Islam, Rome was threatened as Islam conquered most of the areas under Roman rule, even capturing Jerusalem. While the Eastern and Western churches grew apart finally breaking all ties, Muslims threatened Europe – being pushed back at the battle of Tours. The pope became significantly more powerful, superseding emperors in esteem and even owning land. The 1st Crusade would return power of Jerusalem back to Rome through much bloodshed, but would fail to hold Jerusalem in their grasp as the Muslims retook the city, inciting a failed 2nd Crusade and a partially successful 3rd. Universities of Paris and Oxford were begun creating incubators for the Renaissance and the Reformation, while movements such as the Waldensians signaled the beginning of a free thinking Christianity, which was outside the Church of the Roman Empire.

Jump to Part I – 30AD – 300AD
Jump to Part II – 300AD – 600AD
Jump to Part IV – 1200AD – 1600AD
Jump to Part V – 1600AD – 2000AD

2000 years of Christianity : what happened? – Part II – 300AD – 600AD

2000 years of Christian History – Part II – 300AD – 600AD
Starting off from where we left off – in part I, we saw that in a short span of 300 years, the faith that originated in Judea, having a majority of Jewish followers had completely become separated from its roots, being led by Greek thought and roman minds. Though the church was persecuted heavily, the number of followers grew, becoming a wholly gentile church with it’s base changing from Jerusalem to Rome. Not only did this faith which was regarded as a sect of Judaism shed any connection to its origins, antisemitic views were also on the rise. The church which was now centered on Rome, though fearless in the face of persecution, had already inadvertently added their own interpretations, traditions, thoughts and ideas which were now being embraced by more and more followers, changing the faith and the course, set out for it. For the 1st part of this study, highlighting the History of Christianity from 30AD – 300AD please go here.

As mentioned in the 1st Part of this study, I acknowledge that no two people would agree on a list of the absolutely important events in Christianity. This is only an attempt to simply give you a better understanding of the history of our faith. If you believe that there is an important event missing on this list, please comment with the reason why you think it would have affected the outcome of today’s Christianity, and I will add it in after review.

311: Edict of Toleration announced – Under Diocletian’s rule, Maximian was named Emperor of the West while Diocletian ruled the East as Emperor. Constantius Chlorus (father of Constantine) was Caesar of the west and Galerius in the east. Galerius, who was strongly anti-Christian came to power in 305 in the East along-with Constantius in the West (according to the 20 year term started by Diocletian). Galerius unleashed a fierce persecution against the Christians in the East which lasted till 310, while Constantius was generally lenient towards Christians in the West. In 311, on his deathbed, Galerius – who could not wipe out the Christian faith as per his plans, issued the Edict of Toleration which allowed Christians to meet freely, declaring “it will be their duty to pray to their god for our good estate”. This edict effectively paved the way for Constantine, who would later walk in Galerius’ footsteps making Christianity the preferred religion of the Empire.

312: Conversion of Constantine – At the death of his father Constantius – a power struggle broke out, with Constantine, being proclaimed ruler by his loyal soldiers. Maximian, who had retired after his term as Emperor, now eyed for the position again, along with his son Maxentius, who forced his father out of power. Meanwhile, Galerius had appointed one of his favorite generals ‘Licinius’ for the position in the West. Constantine forged an alliance with Licinius and fought against Maxentius. At the decisive ‘Battle of Milvian Bridge’, Constantine prevailed. It is said that Constantine saw a cross of light in the sky with an inscription “In this conquer” along with having a dream where he was instructed to mark his shields with the Greek letters ‘Chi’ and ‘Rho’ (first two letters of Christos – Greek for Christ). He won the battle after marking the shields as per the instructions, becoming the first Roman Emperor to believe in Christianity.

constantine_coin

A gold multiple of “Unconquered Constantine” with Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun – the Solar deity of the Romans), struck in 313 – Ancient Roman coins in the Cabinet des médailles, Paris

313: Edict of Milan – Under the new government of Constantine and Licinius, they issued the Edict of Milan, granting religious freedom within the Empire, declaring “Our purpose is to grant both to the Christians and to all others full authority to follow whatever worship each man has desired”. Constantine who was now a Christian convert, restored property to the church, granting them money and calling church councils – changing the position of the church from a persecuted faith, to a privileged one. Although Constantine is known as the first Christian emperor, his actions proved otherwise, ousting Licinius in 324 and carrying the official Sun God “Sol Invictus” on his coinage up until 325. He was also the first person to decree Sunday as the Roman day of Rest saying “On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or vine-planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost.”

312: Donatist Schism begins – One of the first Christian sects, Donatism was centered on the Roman province of Africa and existed upto the 5th century. Named after Donatus, they came to being after the persecution of Diocletian – and held to the belief that people (especially in priestly positions) who betrayed/renounced the faith should not be accepted back into the congregation. As a result towns were divided into Donatist and non-Donatist congregations creating the first major rift in the church. Even though the majority of the Roman church would rule against Donatism, it was a show of free speech and rising up against all sorts of corruption inside the church.

323: Eusebius completes Ecclesiastical History – The figure who is best known as the “Father of Church History” created the work known as Ecclesiastical History, using the vast access to documents he had through the Library in Caesarea, and stands as the main source of information from the 1st – 4th Century AD. For example he wrote “Matthew composed the words in the Hebrew dialect, and each translated as he was able” quoting Papias.

325: First Council of Nicea – A pastor named Arius in Alexandria, who held that God is unknowable and unique according to Greek Theology, taught that Jesus was divine but not God, that he was a created being who was like the Father, but not truly God. While this portrayal of Jesus was familiar to former pagans who were used to the divine superheroes of Greek mythology – Arius’ bishop had him condemned to the church council, even-though he was popular in Alexandria, with many supporters. Soon riots erupted in Alexandria, threatening the security of the Roman Empire of Constantine. To settle this issue, an empire-wide council was called in the city of Nicea, to which Constantine himself attended in multicolored, jewel encrusted garments among 300 bishops. After much debate Arius’ views were condemned and denounced, while a creed was formulated to describe the relationship of God and Christ. It described the son as “true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father” – of which “one substance” (homoousios in Greek “homo-same” and “ousios-substance”) was critical. The Arian party(followers of Arius) wanted to add one more letter to form “Homoiousios” which meant “similar substance”. Two bishops and Arius who held to the belief were exiled, though his theology remained for many centuries afterward.

363: Council of Laodicea outlaws the Sabbath – A regional synod of thirty clerics met with the main purpose of putting together a set of rules on the conduct of church members. Among the 60 rules(canons) put together at this council were (• “Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day” • “It is not lawful to receive portions sent from the feasts of Jews or heretics, nor to feast together with them” • It is not lawful to receive unleavened bread from the Jews, nor to be partakers of their impiety”.) Although there were pious rules put together at this council, they effectively outlawed Sabbath keeping, calling all who rested on the Sabbath “judaizers” and that “let them be anathema from Christ”. They further sort out to break any connections between Jews and Christians, making any relationship unlawful.

367: Athanasius’ letter defines New Testament canon – Even though various lists of works were read in churches as the New Testament at the time, Athanasius was the first person to identify the same 27 books of the New Testament that are in use today. This list would be later repeated by a few other synods, being officially accepted at the Council of Carthage in 397AD as being final – officially creating the New Testament we have today in our hands. Even though there are quite a number of writings that did not enter this list, no one has deviated from the list Athanasius created.

380: Edict of Thessalonica makes Christianity, state religion of the Roman Empire – Jointly issued by the Roman Emperors Theodosius I & Gratian – this decree would be focused against the Arian theology. The decree that enforced the “Nicene creed of trinity”(created in 325), would call all of its followers to be known as Catholic Christians (from the word katholikos, “universal”) making Christianity the religion of Rome.

381: First Council of Constantinople – The restructuring of the empire done in 284 under Diocletian broke the empire in two, making Rome the capital of the West, while Constantinople became the capital of the East. Just as there were 2 emperors ruling the 2 parts of the empire, 2 Bishops headed the church from these capitals.  This council which was called by Emperor Theodosius, set out to appoint a Bishop of Nicene faith, in the East, which was bent towards Arianism. It also declared that because Constantinople is the ‘New Rome’, the bishop of that city should have a pre-eminence of honour after the Bishop of Old Rome who was the pope.

385: Ambrose defies the Emperor – The son of a high ranking official, Ambrose was the govenor of Milan, while Auxentius (an Arian) was the Bishop there. At the death of the bishop riots broke loose as the church tried to choose a successor. Ambrose who came to quell the riots was later named bishop of Milan. Ambrose who took his position seriously, excommunicated Emperor Theodosius, who had overreacted to a disturbance in Thessalonica, by sending an army to massacre the citizens. The emperor is said to have returned to the cathedral in sack cloth and knelt before the bishop asking for forgiveness. The pattern of bishop being more powerful than emperor would start off with Ambrose.

387: Augustine converts to Christianity – Known as a theologian and philosopher, Augustine was a student of Rhetoric, who later became the bishop of the North African city of Hippo. A major opponent of Donatism and Pelagianism, he wrote hundreds of letters and commentaries, making Augustine’s teachings part of both Catholic and Protestant theologians. Luther and Calvin who liked his emphasis on God’s grace would constantly quote him, making his teachings part of today’s Christianity.

398: Chrysostom consecrated bishop of Constantinople – John who was nicknamed Chrysostom, Greek for “Golden Mouth”, was a skilled preacher who was appointed bishop of Constantinople. John who borrowed heavily from Origen was envied by Theophilus – bishop of Alexandria who banished him by condemning his teachings. John preached against sin (even among the clergy) and suggestive dress of women, and was one of the few who would stand courageously before emperors for the truth.

405: Jerome completes the Vulgate – Damasus who was Bishop of Rome from 365 to 385 wanted to free Western Christianity from the dominance of the East. He wanted the accepted language of the church – which was Greek turned to Latin. Jerome, who was Damasus’ secretary was trained in Latin and Greek classics – and was handed over the job of creating a Latin translation of the Greek Bible. Jerome who moved from Rome to Bethlehem, consulted many Jewish rabbis, finishing his translation after 23 years. He also included the Apocrypha into his translation, which was known as the Vulgate (Latin for Vulgus meaning “common”). This translation was held in so much high regard by the Church, that it was prohibited to translate the bible to a common tongue from the original Latin for many years afterward.

431: Council of Ephesus and the veneration of Mary – Nestorius who was arch bishop of Constantinople had taught that the virgin mary gave birth to a man, Jesus Christ, and not God. God, he said, only dwelled in Christ, as in a Temple (Christ, therefore, was only Theophoros: The “Bearer of God”.) Consequently, virgin mary should be called “Christotokos,” Mother of Christ and not “Theotokos, “Mother of God.” The Council denounced Patriarch Nestorius’ teaching as erroneous, decreeing that Jesus was one person, not two separate “people”: complete God and complete man, with a rational soul and body, confirming the Nicene creed and forbidding any additional changes to it. The Virgin Mary, they proclaimed, is “Theotokos” because she gave birth not to man, but to God as a man.

432: Patrick begins mission to Ireland – Born in Roman Britain, Patrick was enslaved in Ireland. Later escaping slavery, he fled to a monastery in France. Going back to Ireland, he would convert most of the Irish to Christianity, establishing 300 churches and baptizing over 120,000. Because Patrick evangelized without relying on the established church in Rome, Christianity in Ireland would develop outside the Roman system of hierarchy. Centered around monasteries, Irish abbots preached, studied and ministered to the poor lacking any sort of bureaucracy. Ireland would not become Catholic until 1100s, when the pope gave the English king, Henry II, sovereignty over Ireland.

445: Decree of Valentinian strengthens papal authority – Issued by Emperor Valentinian during Leo I’s pontificate, this edict recognized the primacy of the bishop of Rome(pope) based on the merits of Peter, the dignity of the city, and the legislation of the First Council of Nicaea; and provided for the forcible extradition by provincial governors of any bishop who refused to answer a summons to Rome: Effectively making the Pope more powerful than before.

451: Council of Chalcedon and the form of Christ – A head of a monastery in Constantinople, named Eutyches taught a belief that Christ’s nature is lost in the divine. While the bishop of Constantinople declared Eutyches a heretic, Alexandria upheld him. The Council of Chalcedon, summoned by the emperor, on Leo I’s request with 400 bishops, came up with a statement of faith in reply, to end any and all disputes regarding the form of Christ – “acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation… the characteristic property of each nature being preserved, and coming together to form one person”.

452: Pope Leo meets Attila the Hun –  Attila who had invaded Italy, was sacking cities heading for Rome. Emperor Valentinian III, sent an envoy of three inclusive of pope Leo to negotiate with Attila. Not much is known of the negotiations, but that Attila withdrew. Pope Leo is credited with this victory, showcasing his power in the field as well as in the church. Even though he managed to defend Rome from the huns, he was unable to save it from the vandals who sacked the city 3 years afterwards.

540: Benedict establishes his monastic order – Born to an upper-class family and gone to Rome for study, Benedict became a hermit. Moving to Monte cassino, he destroyed a pagan temple and built a monastery, where the monks would not have to go outside for necessities. Creating three vows – “poverty”, chastity” and “obedience”, his rule has guided monasteries for centuries, being in effect even today.

563: Columba establishes mission community on Iona – An Irish Christian traveled across Scotland and Northern England evangelizing, becoming an abbot of a large monastery in Iona. The abbots who came after him, retained his power, spreading out into Europe and beyond.

590: Gregory the Great elected Pope – Rome was no longer the capitol of the empire, though it still retained it’s prestige as it was connected to the apostles Peter and Paul. The bishop of Rome was the pope, the highest authority of the church. Gregory, who was born to a noble family, rose to the highest civil office which was Prefect of Rome. He later resigned to join a monastery, becoming an abbot, and in 590 was unanimously asked to become pope by the public. He insisted that the clergy see themselves as the shepherds and servants of the flock. During his papacy, veneration of the body parts, clothing and so on of saints was encouraged, to the extent that no church could be established without a relic of a saint placed in it. He also taught that ‘masses’ celebrated on behalf of the dead could relieve their pains in purgatory. Gregory also authorized an evangelization mission to Kent, under a missionary called Augustine, who would later become the 1st Archbishop of Canterbury – extending the power of Rome to the British Isles which had already received Christianity.

597: Ethelbert of Kent converted – With Augustine landing on Kent, which was ruled by an Anglo-saxon King named Ethelbert, and successfully converting him to Christianity – churches were established, and a wide scale conversion to Christianity began in the Kingdom. Ethelbert would provide the new mission with land in Canterbury, becoming the 1st English King to convert to Christianity.

Conclusion
Christianity which had severed ties with its Jewish origins, and was severely persecuted at times, quickly became a privileged faith with the conversion of Roman Emperors to the Christian faith. With the power and prestige garnered by the Roman Church authority, came schisms, new teachings, heresies as well as rules and regulations through church councils. As the empire divided to the East and West, there were differences in teachings and understanding, while the western capitol Rome would have preeminence, making it’s bishop the pope. The language of the Bible was soon turning from the Greek to Latin and doctrines such as the trinity, veneration of mary & other saints would also become part and parcel of Christianity, while the Sabbath would be outlawed, as well as having any connection with ideas seen as Jewish. The New Testament list of books was finally decided upon, while Christianity steadily spread all over Europe extending the power of Rome throughout most areas, being dominated by the teachings and understandings of the Roman Church.

Jump to Part I – 30AD – 300AD
Jump to Part III – 600AD – 1200AD
Jump to Part IV – 1200AD – 1600AD
Jump to Part V – 1600AD – 2000AD

2000 years of Christianity : what happened? – Part I – 30AD – 300AD

Introduction
How did a small group of disciples take Christianity to the whole world? How did Christianity become so wide spread, but so fragmented? Why are there so many denominations and so many different beliefs of the same book? What happened? Christians seldom ask these questions. And more rarely do people bother themselves with history. “All we need is the Bible”. “History is for scholars”. These are some of the popular notions of the day.

As the famous adage goes “Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it”. This quote has proven true, time and time again, in my personal studies, as most of the erroneous doctrines that cling to our Faith, are not new concoctions, but ancient ideas which have been handed down to us through tradition. They are passed down from parent to child, from teacher to student, from priest to layman – being taught, learnt and retaught without question.

It is my belief that each and every Christian should have, even a basic knowledge and understanding of how we have inherited the faith we believe in. We did not get these teachings straight from Yeshua(The biblical name of Jesus), His disciples, Paul or any of the 1st apostles – rather we inherited what we know through a series of events through history, which has thrown our faith off-course from Biblical truth. Knowing what has happened in between today and the 1st century church, would help us look at the Scriptures in new light, and would also help us understand why things are, the way they are.

A recent research indicated that half of the Christian population is Catholic with more than a billion followers, while 800 million were Protestant and 260 million were Orthodox. While I have enormous respect for each and every Christian denomination, I may not agree with everything that each of them teach. This “history lesson” (if I may call it so) is in no way an attempt to take a stab at any particular tradition. It is strictly a list of events that have shaped the outlook of today’s Christianity.

Structure
Boiling down hundreds of important events in history into a single post, is a task that is next to impossible, which can only be achieved at the cost of clarity. Because of this reason, the current study will be broken down into 6 parts, making it readable for many. Each of these events carry a brief description which will provide you with the gist of the incident. While this description might not provide all of the details, it has been purposely kept short. Each of the events which have been chosen for display, are incidents that have had an effect on the outcome of today’s Christian faith in one way or another.

While no two people would agree on a list of the absolutely important events in Christianity, this is an attempt to simply give you a better understanding of the history of our faith. If you believe that there is an important event missing on this list, please comment with the reason why you think it would have affected the outcome of today’s Christianity, and I will add it in after review.

2000 years of Christian History – Part I – 30AD – 300AD
I have started at the point of the Crucifixion of Yeshua (Jesus’ biblical name), even though this is not the starting point of the Church or our faith. For a timeline from Creation upto the Assyrian & Babylonian exiles please go here

(Please note that most of the following indications of timings of specific events are approximations agreed upon by most historical scholars)

30: Crucifixion/Resurrection of Yeshua

35: Stephen martyred; Paul converted

46: Paul begins missionary journey

48: Council of Jerusalem

57: Paul’s Letter to the Romans

64: Fire of Rome; Nero launches persecutions – In the dominant empire of Rome, more and more people were embracing eastern religions such as worship of Mithras, Dionysus, Isis, Cybil and the like. While some of these religions were outlawed, Judaism had a protected position, and Christianity was not seen as a separate religion by the romans or Christians for that matter. It was seen as a sect of Judaism(Acts 28:22) that believed Yeshua was messiah -nothing more. The rift between Judaism and the sect of messianic believers were widening by AD 64. With a fire that broke loose on some of the wards in the working-class section, many people died, being brought under control after 6 days. Nero is said to have blamed the Christians for setting the fire, vowing to hunt them down and kill them. Many Christians were crucified, set on fire, mauled by dogs in the arena – their bodies lining the roman roads. But this was only the start of the persecution.

65: Peter and Paul executed

70: Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus including the 2nd temple – With Judea in revolt, Emperor Nero sent a decorated general named Vespasian to recapture Jerusalem. Vespasian quickly recaptured Galilee, Transjordan and Idumea, but was called back to Rome at the death of Nero, before he could capture Jerusalem. Vespasian appointed his son Titus for the job – and according to Jewish historian Josephus, when the romans broke into Jerusalem, Titus wanted to preserve the temple, but his angry soldiers burned it to the ground, killing some of the Jews, while selling others as slaves. This was the end of the Jewish state, and the beginning of the 2nd Exile. Christians who lived in Judea had fleed to Pella and Transjordan heeding Christ’s warning (Luk 21:20-24) and were seen as traitors by the Jews, as they refused to fight for Jerusalem.

titus

The Arch of Titus located in Rome, was built by the Roman Emperor Domitian around 82AD in commemoration of Titus’ victories including the siege of Jerusalem – The relief on the right showcases the treasures taken from the Temple, including the Menorah (seven branched lamp stand).

90: The curse recited against heretics and Nazarenes in the synagogues – With the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, all Jews relied on the synagogues, led mostly by the Pharisaic sect. One of the key acts at this time in the synagogues was to recite a 18 part blessing known as the Amidah – and the leadership added another part to this recitation known as the “Birkat haMinim” – which was a curse against “heretics and nazarenes(Acts 24:5 – the believers in Yeshua) – effectively driving out the Christians from the synagogues. The recitation exists in various forms, one of them being “For the apostates let there be no hope. And let the arrogant government be speedily uprooted in our days. Let the noẓerim(hebrew for nazarene) and the minim(hebrew for heretic) be destroyed in a moment. And let them be blotted out of the Book of Life and not be inscribed together with the righteous. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant”. This drove a wedge between Jews who believed in Christ and Jews who didn’t, effectively breaking all ties with them.

95: John writes Revelations from the island of Patmos

135: The Bar Kokhba Revolt – The last of the Jewish revolts against the Romans would drive the Christians to end any and all ties with the Jews, giving rise to teachings of Antisemitism. The revolt would start because of Emperor Hadrian, who first promised to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, but then wanted to build a temple there to Jupiter instead. A prominent Jewish rabbi is said to have named Simon Bar Kokhba who led the revolt, as the Messiah. Christians who dismissed Bar Kokhba as Messiah and refused to fight with him were said to have been killed as per reports of Eusebius. Not only did this event break bonds between Christian and Jew, the Roman provinces of Syria and Judea were merged together under the Emperor Hadrian, who renamed it as “Syria Palaestina” (where we get the name Palestine today) – leading to the existing conflict in the middle east.

145: The rise of Marcionism – The teachings of “Marcion of Sinope”, which were later labelled as heresy, were many. One of his critical teachings was that the God of the Old Testament was jealous & wrathful, being different to the God of the Gospel, who was quite unknown before Christ and is only love and mercy. He further rejected Christ as the Jewish Messiah, and is credited by Tertullian for separating the New Testament from the Old. He was finally excommunicated from the Church, but his teachings and following remained for more than 300 years afterwards.

150: Justin Martyr writes “Apologia” – Addressing the then Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius who was indifferent to the Christian faith, Justin wrote a work which aimed to explain his beliefs in a logical way. Using Greek thought, he explained “Christ as Logos(the word)”. He agreed with Plato on God being holy and separate from evil humanity, and called Christ a part of God, even though separate – as a flame lit from a flame. These ideas would fuel the development of the Trinity doctrine later in the Church. Justin was later arrested, tortured and beheaded earning him the name Justin “martyr”.

155: Polycarp martyred – Roman authorities had developed the idea that the Emperor was divine, and he was being worshiped by Romans everywhere alongside other gods. The Christians worshiped quietly and in secrecy in their homes at this time, and saw this as idolatry refusing such acts. One such authority of the church in Smyrna was Polycarp. He is reported to have been put to be burnt alive, but was not hurt by the flames being finally killed by stabbing. Such reports were treasured at the time, and it made followers celebrate the lives and deaths of the martyrs. In the centuries to follow many would start celebrating these saints, which became part of Christian tradition.

172: Montanist movement begins – Founded by a certain Montanus in Phrygia, was a movement which was focused around prophecy. Eusebius speaking about Montanus records “And he became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning”. The movement was labelled a heresy.

180: Irenaeus writes Against Heresies – Gnosticism which believed in secret knowledge, was also a prevalent heresy of the day. Fusing Christian terms with concepts from Greek Philosophy and asian religion, they taught the world was evil and was governed by angelic powers and that God is distant to this world. Salvation, they said, could be attained only through special secret teachings that they who were Spiritual, knew, being superior to regular Christians. Irenaeus wrote an enormous work against this heresy, aptly named “against heresies”, disproving Gnosticism while appealing to the Authority of the Apostles who had taught in public, keeping nothing secret. He declared the Bishops as the successors of the Apostles, enhancing the respect paid to Bishops as guardians of the faith.

196: Tertullian begins writing – While Greek was perfect for philosophizing, Tertullian was one of the first writers to use Latin instead of Greek, with a practical, moral oriented style. While Greek Christians squabbled over the divinity of Christ and His relation to the Father, Tertullian – a Roman Lawyer, came up with “God is one substance, consisting of three persons” – drawing inspiration from the Roman Law Courts. Disturbed by the bishops’ claim of having power to pardon sins he later joined the Montanist movement.

215: Origen begins writing – An amazing scholar, Origen produced over 2000 works in his lifetime, trying to relate Christianity to science and philosophy. Adopting ideas from Plato, he believed in the preexistence of the soul before birth, teaching that man’s position in the world was due to his conduct in a preexistent state. He also denied the material resurrection, finally being excommunicated by bishop Demetrius of Alexandria. Though the Roman and western churches excepted this excommunication, the Eastern churches did not – gaining him the reputation as the father of Orthodoxy as well as father of heresy.

230: Earliest known public church buildings built – Built in a Roman city in Syria, the Dura-Europos house church is the earliest identified church building in existence. It is a normal domestic house converted for worship with wall-paintings as decorations, and stood close by to the Dura Europos synagogue, which have many similarities between them.

248: Cyprian elected bishop of Carthage – A renowned orator and teacher of Rhetoric, Cyprian became bishop of Carthage in 248. In an ever fragmenting church, he used the authority of the bishops to unite the church – writing a work named “On the unity of the church” he said that the church is the bride of Christ, and that there can be only one bride. An individual, he said, cannot be saved outside the church. Since Christ established the church on Peter, all bishops were successors of Peter and should be obeyed. Not only should they be obeyed, he implied that the spirit worked through them. He also promoted that the mass was a sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood.

270: Anthony takes up life of solitude – Selling all his possessions and donating the money to the poor, Anthony withdrew from the world and lived for a while in a tomb, moving to an abandoned fort where he lived for 20 years without seeing a human face. After his death, a cult following grew around him, portraying him as the ideal monk. A young companion of Anthony’s would start the practice of communities of monks living together – and his ideas of a truly religious person withdrawing from the world, abstaining from marriage, family and worldly pleasure would go unchallenged till the Reformation.

284: Changes to the Roman empire under Diocletian – One of the most brilliant Roman emperors, Diocletian, restructured the imperial power of the empire by dividing it into East and West. He decreed that each side would have an Emperor and Caesar (Vice Emperor) who would serve 20 years in power one after the other. This breaking of the empire would result in the division of the Roman Church into Roman/Western Catholicism and Greek/Eastern Orthodoxy making 2 of the dominant denominations in Christianity today.

303: “Great Persecution” begins under Diocletian – Even though persecution against Christians in the Roman empire was normal, under emperor Diocletian a great persecution began. As per his orders, Christian scriptures and places of worship across the empire were destroyed, and Christians were prohibited from assembling for worship. Many were arrested, tortured and killed, but the persecution was unsuccessful in eradicating Christianity. In less than 10 years this persecuted faith would turn into the preferred religion of Rome, having both positive and negative effects on the faith itself.

Conclusion – 30AD – 300AD
In a short span of 300 years, the faith that originated in Judea, having a majority of Jewish followers would completely become separated from its roots, being led by Greek thought and roman minds. Though the church was persecuted heavily, the number of followers grew, becoming a wholly gentile church with it’s base changing from Jerusalem to Rome. Not only did this faith which was regarded as a sect of Judaism shed any connection to its origins, antisemitic views were also on the rise. The church which was now centered on Rome, though fearless in the face of persecution, had already inadvertently added their own interpretations, traditions, thoughts and ideas which were now being embraced by more and more followers, changing the faith and the course, set out for it.

Jump to Part II – 300AD – 600AD
Jump to Part III – 600AD – 1200AD
Jump to Part IV – 1200AD – 1600AD
Jump to Part V – 1600AD – 2000AD

What are Phylacteries?

Have you ever noticed or been puzzled by the word “Phylacteries” in the New Testament? Ever wondered what Christ was talking about in Mat 23:5? His words were “But all their works they do to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments”.

Pharisee I had paid little notice to this word before, picturing in my mind that it was some sort of clothing item that the Pharisees wore. Not paying full attention to details in the Bible can, and have, had a major impact on the beliefs that are prevalent in the Christian congregations.

The “Pharisees & Scribes” who were wearing phylacteries mentioned by Yeshua (Jesus’ true name) would have looked something like this. The “Phylacteries” or “Tefillin” as it is called in Hebrew, is a small box which contains Scripture with a strap, which can be bound on the Head or the Arms.

The importance of this verse is in the fact that it sheds light on a major misunderstanding in Christianity. Which one, you ask? “It’s the common belief among Christians that the Scribes and Pharisees Kept the Old Testament Law, and that this is why Yeshua called them Hypocrites and white washed tombs – because the Old Law was done away”.

The problem with this understanding is that both biblically and historically, we have evidence that the Pharisees did not keep God’s Law. In fact, wearing “Phylacteries” was not a Commandment given by God. Then why did the Pharisees wear these things? Because it was part of their “Oral Law”, known as the “Traditions of the Elders” throughout the New Testament (Mat 15:2,3,6, Mar 7:3,8,9,13, Gal 1:14). TefillinWearing “Phylacteries” was how they had interpreted Exo 13:9,16 & Deut 6:8, 11:18 which says that “God’s Word should be a sign upon our hands and between our eyes”. Obviously, this was a figure of speech to say “that we should do or obey as well as remember God’s Word”.

The Pharisaic Sect of Yeshua’s day had taken a piece of Scripture out of context and made a separate Law out of it. The “Oral Law” which is still in use today, known as the “Talmud” is strictly adhered to by Orthodox Jews around the world. Not only do they wear it, the “Talmud” provides strict laws on how to even put it on. (If you want to learn more about the Pharisees and their traditions, I recommend that you watch this video, brought to you by former Orthodox Jew – Nehemiah Gordon)

What does this mean? Are all Jews like Pharisees? Are all Pharisees alike? The picture of “Pharisees” and some times, even “Jews“, in a Western Christian mind, is that they were wicked, legalistic and nonspiritual people. This is hardly the case. We know that there were quite a lot of Pharisees who respected Yeshua, as well as some who believed in Him (Luk 13:31, Joh 9:16, Act 15:5). We should by no means generalize people. Furthermore, it is important to remember that Yeshua, His Disciples, His followers and even Apostle Paul, were all Jews.

The Orthodox Jews of today, still adhere to a plethora of extra laws (from the Talmud), thinking that it is genuinely what God expects from them. They are misguided, as much as the Christians who think the Law is done away in Christ. We must understand that not all Jews are like the Pharisees of Christ’s age. Consider the Karaite Jews who reject the Talmud and anything other than the Old Testament, and the Messianic Jews who believe in Yeshua.

The many persecutions which have fallen on the Jews have always happened because of this huge misunderstanding. A lot of people have persecuted “Jews” standing under Christ’s banner, making it impossible for them to except Yeshua as the prophesied Messiah.

What was the main Commandment which the Pharisees broke through their traditions?
God’s Word specifically instructs that no one can add or remove anything from God’s Law/Commandments.
Deu 4:2  Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Deu 12:32  What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
The Scriptures call anyone who adds to God’s Law, a Liar (Pro 30:6). This was one of the main concerns Yeshua had regarding the Pharisees, when He said “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men”(Mar 7:8) & “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (Mat 15:3).

Are all traditions bad? Are all traditions sin? definitely not. But the moment we put “Tradition” over “God’s Commandments”, or teach “man made Traditions” as “God’s Law”, we are breaking His Words. This is why Yeshua said (quoting Isaiah 29:13)”But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men“(Mat 15:9) regarding the Pharisees.

Adding and Diminishing & the 2 Houses of Israel
If you know about Biblical History, you would know that the people “Israel” divided into 2 Kingdoms after the death of King Solomon. These 2 Kingdoms were called “The House of Judah” & “The House of Israel/Ephraim”. “The House of Israel” was carried away by Assyria and scattered in the nations with a promise of being regathered, while “The House of Judah” was exiled for 70 years in “Babylon” being let back into the land. (Please go to this link for more info) It is interesting to see how “the Jews” (House of Judah) add to God’s Law, through their various traditions and man-made laws written in the Talmud, while “the gentiles” (House of Ephraim) diminishes from God’s Law, saying it is done away and that they are free from it.

“Phylacteries” are a good reminder of checking our lives, our doctrines and our thoughts for anything that we may be adding or diminishing from our Creator’s Words. It is a call to really put His Words in our hearts and souls, binding them on our hands by being obedient to Him, that His Words may be always foremost in our minds (Deut 11:18), so that we do not turn to the left or to the right from them (Jos 23:6) choosing God and His Word alone in the midst of man-made commandments & traditions.