Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 43

The Nicene Creed~ Part 29

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase We Look for the Ressurection of the Dead in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

We Look for the Resurrection of the Dead

Questions on the destiny of the individual are closely connected with the looming problems that concern the final things. We have already seen the results of the patristic reflection on this in the previous chapter. In fact, after the description of the end of the universe and history, questions of great anthropological import arise concerning the future and the state of human beings after death. In this regard, the greater part of this section presents how the Fathers viewed the resurrection of the flesh and the immortality of the soul, themes that constitute the center of patristic eschatological [1] reflection.

As we learned in the last post, faith in the resurrection of the flesh was simply attested and needed no particular explanation. Very soon, however, the renewed cultural circumstances in which the faith was transmitted and the problems deriving from certain deviating doctrinal trends, such as Gnosticism, prompted the Fathers to further investigate this theme, especially from an apologetic point of view.

Deriving from Judaism, millenarianism is traced back in antiquity in the Asiatic milieu to Cerinthus and Papias of Hierapolis in Phrygia, while the key representatives of the Messianic millenarianism appear to be Justin, Irenaeus, and Tertullian, who established this belief on the basis of Revelation 20:4–6. In any case, the importance of millenarianism in ancient Messianic eschatology was not destined to last: very soon Origen would radically criticize this doctrine for the excessive literalism that the millenarists attributed to the passages of Scripture that they quoted. The last set of selections related to this section of the creed is devoted to the doctrinal positions of Origen. In fact, if on the one hand Origen and his teachings were an object of admiration on the part of many, on the other they were a cause of scandal to the Fathers through nearly the entire patristic age. In particular, his conception of the end of the world, namely, the final apokatastasis (“recapitulation”), which suggests the idea of universal salvation and therefore does not admit the eternity of hell and its punishments, was definitively condemned together with other conceptions defined as Origenist by the emperor Justinian in 543. In spite of the contrasting judgments on the figure and the work of Origen, it was impossible to prevent, for instance, the profession of the doctrine of the apokatastasis by other thinkers of antiquity as well, as in the case of Gregory of Nyssa, who interpreted the final apokatastasis as a restoration of the original condition of the creatures, according to which all the creatures, namely, angels, human beings and demons or spirits, will harmonize one day in goodness.

In conclusion, the passages from the Fathers that are gathered in this section bring to light certain problems inherent in any discussion of eschatological questions. In this regard, a modern Messianic eschatology cannot help but take into consideration, or at least examine, these abundant and valuable sources. [2]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: AND THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME ~ Blessedness and Condemnation

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] A branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world of humankind.

[2] Di Berardino, A., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2010). We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Vol. 5, pp. 139–140).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 42

The Nicene Creed~ Part 28

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase We Acknowledge One Baptism for the forgiveness of sins in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS

Questions on the individual’s destiny are closely connected with the looming problems that concern the end times. This post presents how the early Fathers viewed the resurrection of the flesh and the immortality of the soul, themes that constitute the center of patristic end times thoughts.

In the earliest times, faith in the resurrection of the flesh was attested to and needed no particular explanation. Very soon, however, the renewed cultural circumstances in which the faith was transmitted and the problems deriving from specific deviating doctrinal trends, such as Gnosticism, prompted the Fathers to investigate this theme further.

The passages by the Fathers on the resurrection that we are excerpting are divided into two sections: the first one presents us with texts concerning the resurrection in general; the second presents texts in which the resurrection of bodies and the flesh are discussed.

The first group of passages faces this question in a mostly philosophical sense, relying on the excellent connection between the omnipotence of God and the resurrection of the dead. The other passages, by connecting the resurrection of human beings with that of Yeshua. In particular, Tertullian raised his voice against the Gnostics and the Marcionites, asserting the truth of faith in the resurrection of the flesh. He based his reasoning on the work of God, who had the power to create as well as the power to re-create. He also based his argument on the substantial identity of the present body with the resurrected one.

Among the end-time themes connected to the questions concerning the resurrection is the doctrine on the advent of the millennial kingdom. This doctrine, which is more simply known as millenarianism, circulated among a particular segment of Messianics in the first centuries, even though it was never officially received into the kehillah. It maintains that the universal judgment and the end of the world will be preceded by a future earthly kingdom of one thousand years, which will be entirely new and will be the seat of the heavenly Jerusalem descended to earth where the resurrected righteous will reign with Yeshua, enjoying immense happiness and abundance of blessings.

From Judaism, millenarianism is traced in antiquity in the Asiatic milieu to Cerinthus and Papias of Hierapolis in Phrygia. In contrast, the key representatives of the Messianic millenarianism appear to be Justin, Irenaeus, and Tertullian, who established this belief based on Revelation 20:4–6. In any case, the importance of millenarianism in ancient Messianic eschatology was not destined to last: very soon, Origen would radically criticize this doctrine for the excessive literalism that the millenarians attributed to the passages of Scripture that they quoted.

In conclusion, the passages from the Fathers gathered in this section highlight specific problems inherent in discussing eschatological questions. In this regard, a modern Messianic eschatology cannot help but consider, or at least examine, these abundant and valuable sources.[1]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Look for the Resurrection of the Dead.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Di Berardino, A., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2010). We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Vol. 5, pp. 87–90).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 41

The Nicene Creed~ Part 27

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, w continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase We Acknowledge One Baptism in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

WE ACKNOWLEDGE ONE BAPTISM

Messianic baptism (which means “immersion”) goes back to Yeshua because it is administered because of His mandate. It is distinct from other previous types of baptism in use among the Hebrews. Regardless of who officiates in baptism, it is considered that it is always Yeshua who baptizes: He will immerse you in the Ruach HaKodesh and in fire. In the letter to Titus, baptism is defined as the mikveh [1] of rebirth and the renewal brought about by the Ruach HaKodesh (Titus 3:5b ~ CJB). Already in the Brit Hadashah, there exists a rich theology about baptism as rebirth, regeneration, and purification by the Ruach; as seal of faith, as union with Yeshua in death and resurrection; and as forgiveness of sins and as a condition for entering the kingdom of God.

Mark and Matthew begin their Gospels with the baptism of John and conclude with the command of Yeshua to baptize all. The Gospel of Mark ends with the command of Yeshua: As you go throughout the world, proclaim the Good News to all creation. 16 Whoever trusts and is immersed will be saved; whoever does not trust will be condemned. Kefa, on the day of Shavu’ot, encourages the people to receive baptism for the remission of sins: Turn from sin, return to God, and each of you be immersed on the authority of Yeshua the Messiah into forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh! (Acts 2:38 ~ CJB) Thus, the forgiveness of sins and receiving the gift of the Ruach are closely united. Yeshua, however, did not need a baptism of repentance. The connection between the Ruach and baptism also emerges from the baptism of the centurion at Caesarea, when Kefa affirms that if God gave them the same gift as He gave us after we had come to put our trust in the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who was I to stand in God’s way?(Acts 11:17 ~ CJB).

The Didache, a document that came from the countryside of Syria, from the second half of the first century, describes the rite as follows:

“Concerning baptism, baptize thus: Having first rehearsed all these things, baptize, ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit,’ in running water; but if you have no running water, baptize in other water, and if you cannot baptize in cold water, then use warm water. But if you have neither, pour water three times on the head ‘in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,’ and before the baptism let the baptizer and him who is to be baptized fast, and any others who are able. And you shall bid him who is to be baptized to fast one or two days before.”

In the normal rite, baptism consisted of a triple immersion: each following the response of the candidate to the minister who asked questions on the trinitarian faith. The Apostolic Tradition describes the central rite as follows:

Then after these things, let him be given over to the presbyter who stands at the water. And let them stand in the water naked. And let a deacon likewise go down with him into the water. As he goes down to the water, let him who baptizes lay hands on him, saying thus: Do you believe in God the Father Almighty? And he who is being baptized shall say: I believe. Let him immediately baptize him once, having his hand laid on his head. And after this let him say: Do you believe in Yeshua, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, who was crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose the third day living from the dead, and ascended into the heavens, and sat down at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the living and the dead? And when he says: I believe, let him baptize him the second time. And again, let him say: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit in the holy church and the resurrection of the flesh? And he who is being baptized shall say: I believe. And so let him baptize him the third time.

The whole ceremony ended with the kiss of peace on the part of the whole community.

In the fourth century, these rites tended to expand in number, extension, time, and dramatic power. The more significant number of candidates led to some of the rites being anticipated on Good Friday. One rite acquired a solid spiritual and social significance: the newly baptized wore a white garment for the whole week following the baptism.

Present research on the baptism of infants has come to a complete stop. It is believed that the practice existed from the apostolic period. However, we have explicit evidence only from the following centuries. Baptism of infants becomes more and more common beginning with the fifth century. An adequate period of preparation for baptism is something that caught hold only slowly: we find it fully developed only in the third century, and it reached its high point in the fourth century and then began to decline because of the spread of infant baptism. Several reasons pointed to its necessity and influenced its development: the numerous heresies, the conscious decision to break with the pagan world, the weakening of initial enthusiasm, and apostasy in times of persecution.

In the New Testament, much importance is given to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the newly converted. In the case of the centurion Cornelius, that outpouring comes before baptism, but this is an exceptional case. In general, the outpouring of the Ruach comes after baptism and by the imposition of the hands by the apostles, and it is a gesture that is necessary for the completion of baptism. When the emissaries in Yerushalayim heard that Shomron had received the Word of God, they sent them Kefa and Yochanan, 15 who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Ruach HaKodesh. 16 For until then, he had not come upon any of them; they had only been immersed into the name of the Lord Yeshua. 17 Then, as Kefa and Yochanan placed their hands on them, they received the Ruach HaKodesh. ~ Acts 8:14-17 (CJB). In fact, to be a full member of the new community, both were necessary, the immersion (ablution) in water and the imposition of hands. Very soon, the rite became one continuous process, with no intervals in between the various parts. All the components ultimately were included together under the one name of baptism.[2]

Creating this post has been a real eye-opener for me. I was sprinkled as an infant and had hands laid on me when I was twelve. In later years, I was immersed years later after I had prayed for the infilling of the Ruach.

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Acknowledge One Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Bath or pool with a flow of freshwater; used in Orthodox Judaism to this day for ritual purification.

[2] Di Berardino, A., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2010). We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Vol. 5, pp. 87–90).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 40

The Nicene Creed~ Part 26

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

WE BELIEVE IN ONE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC KEHILLAH ~ One Holy Catholic and Apostolic ~ Part 2

The term catholic, not much used before, acquired a new significance in the mouth of Believers. Pacian of Barcelona wrote that no one used to be called catholic during the time of the emissaries. But when heretics had appeared and were striving under various names to tear apart the kehillot, the apostolic people required a name of their own by which they would mark the unity of an uncorrupted people. Ignatius of Antioch was the first to attribute the adjective catholic to the kehillah to warn Believers against the celebration of the Eucharist by renegades.

The final description that the creed uses in referring to the kehillah is the adjective apostolic. Not present in the Brit Hadashah, this term refers directly to the emissaries as a historical reality. In early messianic history, the emissaries enjoyed a privileged position in that they were bearers of the message of Yeshua and about Yeshua. That message could be transmitted only by people legitimately chosen and invested with that authority proper to Yeshua. The first bearers of the message, in turn, sent other emissaries. Its communication was oral. At the beginning of the second century, Papias of Hierapolis considered the oral reception more profitable than the written. Also, Tertullian referred to the methodology of reading Scripture within the oral tradition. In the second century, the apostolic authority was found in written texts that went under the names of the emissaries. All appealed to the emissaries and their teaching, even the Gnostics, who referred to the secret teaching of Yeshua and the emissaries. From this came the necessity of a public and documented succession from the emissaries onward through the drawing up of the lists of bishops.

The terminology of succession is not present in the Brit Hadashah. The preoccupation with assuring the continuity and fidelity to sound doctrine is present in the Pastoral Letters and the Acts of the Emissaries to preserve identity in time and space. For this reason, the priesthood was instituted. The succession was assured through the imposition of hands and the invocation of the grace of God: Do not neglect your gift, which you were given through a prophecy when the body of elders gave you s’mikhah. [1] 6For this reason, I am reminding you to fan the flame of God’s gift, which you received through s’mikhah from me. For God gave us a Spirit who produces not timidity, but power, love, and self-discipline. [2] Clement of Rome was the first to elaborate on the terminology of succession. Tertullian confronted the issues of kehillot not founded by the emissaries. Over time, apostolicity [3] came to carry the weight of institutional and doctrinal importance concerning the catholicity of the kehillah.

One could write the history of the ancient kehillah as a continuous battle against swarms of heresies and schisms. It was a kehillah in continuous tension between unity and division, which it overcame partially through the centralization of power in the hands of the bishops. From this arose the necessity to celebrate numerous conciliar assemblies at various levels (diocesan, provincial, regional, or more than one geographical area, or of the whole empire). For example, in the councils, there was the African practice of rereading the canons of the previous meetings. Why? This rereading was also a sign of continuity. The councils, then, were a model of collegiality at various levels, both geographically and through time.

This continuity was essential for the faith and life of the kehillah. When Believers inserted apostolicity in the creed, they wanted to affirm the historical and verifiable continuity of the faith, of the kehillah, of the individual Believers, and the kehillot religious organization. The two terms, apostolic and catholic, complement each other in that the first explains the present unity and continuity with its origins while the second explains present kehillah.

Believers of the early centuries found and practiced different ways of preserving and promoting communion, unity of faith, and discipline between the numerous kehillot spread throughout the Roman Empire, especially in the first centuries and in the autonomous political entities succeeding centuries. More or less effective and valuable methods were indispensable because of the incredible variety that was very notable. Furthermore, communication and the circulation of ideas were problematic. Still, the organizations that were formed to ensure unity evolved enormously and sometimes assumed permanent forms. In ensuring ecclesial peace, the laity became more and more marginalized when they had exercised a significant role in early times. For example, in the third century, the laity was vigilant about the orthodoxy of their bishop. Contact with other Messianic kehillot served to maintain and develop a consciousness of many kehillot’s unity, like a federation of kehillot. There is a hierarchy of importance, reference, and coordination. In the East, the seats of reference were those of Alexandria, of Antioch of Syria, and, from the end of the fourth century, of Constantinople, which more and more became the center of attention and acquired a type of importance, which was challenged by the other eastern sees. The presence of the emperor in the capital attracted many bishops there who could form a type of permanent council during their stay in the city.

There had to be a close communication system, especially since there was no canon law, norms, and local and regional traditions. Not excluding those of the ecumenical councils, the conciliar canons had a relatively limited circulation, and their knowledge was lacking. A well-defined biblical canon did not exist either at that time. The Bible, a fundamental part of believing, was the constant point of reference in the life of Messianic kehillot, in particular, in antiquity. Biblical exegesis was at the basis of preaching, catechesis, doctrinal elaboration, ethics, the institutions and the liturgy, and the controversies. It was the source of unity and division because of the different possible interpretations, depending on different theologies. For this reason, discussion and communication, and not an imposition from above, created real communion between the kehillot. [4]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Acknowledge One Baptism.

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 40

[1] 1 Timothy 4:14 (CJB).

[2] 2 Timothy 1:6–7 (CJB).

[3] Apostolicity is the mark by which the Church of today is recognized as identical with the Church founded by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles. It is of great importance because it is the surest indication of the true Church of Christ, it is most easily examined, and it virtually contains the other three marks, namely, Unity, Sanctity, and Catholicity.

[4] Di Berardino, A., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Vol. 5, pp. 54–57).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 39

The Nicene Creed~ Part 25

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

WE BELIEVE IN ONE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC KEHILLAH ~ One Holy Catholic and Apostolic ~ Part 1

In the Apostles’ Creed, the profession of faith is personal: “I believe,” while in the Nicene Creed, it is “we believe.” The kehillah expresses its faith together. At the last part of the creed, after the profession in the Ruach HaKodesh and His work, we say we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.” These four notes are fundamental for the definition of the kehillah as the kehillah of Yeshua, and they enable its recognition by all the baptized.

Holiness has always been the first characteristic of the kehillah to be recognized. Already from the beginning of the second century, we find the saying the holy church.” Beginning from here, the texts of the Fathers repeatedly and incessantly define the kehillah as holy, up to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan profession of faith. The biblical foundation for its use leaves us in no doubt. Yeshua, the holy one of God, is the center of the new kehillah chosen and consecrated to raise to God true spiritual worship. This kehillah is the holy temple of God, and the death of Yeshua makes it holy and immaculate. The baptized are called holy ones to indicate their belonging to God and the consecration brought about by the baptismal water. The celebration of the Eucharist highlighted for all Believers the state of holiness in which they participated and to which they were called. This was so profoundly experienced that the emissary felt obliged to write about the necessity for a serious examination of conscience before approaching the celebration of the banquet. The holiness of the kehillah is founded on the presence and action in it of the Ruach HaKodesh. It is, therefore, original holiness that has no analogy in the previous history; it is objective and complete, fount and source of every other personal holiness that is born in the kehillah and is developed. If the kehillah were not holy, it could not proclaim as holy those who give testimony to true evangelical life. The history of the kehillah, then, is above all and before all a history of holiness. It is not possible to ignore or not recognize this dimension without misinterpreting the sacred texts and two thousand years of the history of the kehillah. If the kehillah is holy, then it cannot, because of its nature, sin, or have sinned. This poses another problem that must be faced: the presence of sinners.

The affirmation of the unity of the kehillah finds its root in the tremendous high-priestly prayer placed on the lips of Yeshua in the Gospel of John that they may all be one. Just as you, Father, are united with me and I with you, I pray that they may be united with us so that the world may believe that you sent me. [1] Sha’ul many times exhorts readers to attain this unity by using the powerful image of the body of Yeshua, where all members are connected. According to one bishop’s principle for one city, the unity of the kehillah was affirmed not only in rhetoric but also in the organization: each local kehillah was led by a bishop in communion with other bishops, according to one bishop’s principle for one city his territory. His office was primarily liturgical and one of guidance. He presided over the liturgical assemblies and was aided by presbyters and deacons. The celebration of the Eucharist expressed unity. The bishop decided who would be admitted to catechesis, who admitted catechumens to baptism, who baptized and celebrated the Eucharist, who admitted or excluded people from the Eucharist, who gave penance sinners and pardoned them.

The kehillah of the early centuries elaborated different systems to preserve, favor and develop unity among the kehillot. The lack of centralization and the absence of solid cohesion, in the institutional sense, constituted a weakness of the messianic kehillot in relation to the whole kehillah. Indeed, it was a strength in that all the kehillot were involved and felt responsible. Still, it was also a weakness, especially at a time when the doctrine was being refined and discipline was being constituted. This was true both in the relations between kehillot and inside a particular kehillah because of all the components’ sense of participation.

The affirmation that the kehillah is holy comes from Scripture, as does that of unity. The Brit Hadasah often calls Believers “holy ones.” Sha’ul writes that the Messiah loved the Messianic Community, indeed, gave Himself up on its behalf, 26 in order to set it apart for God, making it clean through immersion [2] in the mikveh, so to speak, 27in order to present the Messianic Community to Himself as a bride to be proud of, without a spot, wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without defect.[3] The first letter of Kefa says, But you are a chosen people, the King’s cohanim, a holy nation, a people for God to possess! Why? In order for you to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. [4] The holy nation is the new kehillah constituted of Believers; its holiness does not mean that there are not sinners in the kehillah, but the kehillah participates in the holiness of God, the only Holy One.

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] John 17:21 (CJB)

[2] Baptism.

3 Ephesians 5:27 ~ (CJB).

[4] 1 Kefa 2:9 ~ (CJB).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 38

The Nicene Creed~ Part 24

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

WE BELIEVE IN ONE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH ~ The Church.

Recall that I prefer to call the “church” the kehillah, which means “community” in Hebrew. I think that it is much easier to think of “church” as “a community” and not as “a building.” So, I will take some liberty to change the word “church” from now on in this post to kehillah. You will also note that I have used numerous quotes from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) instead of my “go-to” version of the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). There is a simple explanation for doing so. This year, I am using the CSB for my reading to see what new gems I might discover for my daily devotions this year.

In our profession of faith, we proclaim, “We believe in … the kehillah.” Rufinus explains why in Latin, we say, “We believe the kehillah,” and not we believe “in the kehillah.” He writes:

“We believe the holy kehillah,” not as God but as the kehillah gathered together to God. And we believe that there is “forgiveness of sins”; we do not say “We believe in the forgiveness of sins.” And we believe that there will be a “resurrection of the flesh”; we do not say, “We believe in the resurrection of the flesh.” By this monosyllabic preposition, therefore, the Creator is distinguished from the creatures, and things divine are separated from things human. [1]

Understanding the Fathers of the significance and the nature of the kehillah is grounded on Scripture, especially on the Brit Hadashah. The strong images of Sha’ul support their explanation: the Messianic community as the body of Messiah, as his bride, as a mother. Because she is a bride, she can generate sons and daughters for the Father. Sha’ul, in describing the nature of the Messianic community, introduces the image of the kehillah as the body of Messiah and expounds it in the Pastoral Letters. Messiah is the head of that body: “He is the head of the body, the kehillah.… Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I complete what is lacking in Messiah’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the kehillah.”[2] There is a mystical identification between believers and Messiah, as is shown in the conversion of Sha’ul: “As he journeyed, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’”[3]

To belong to Messiah, have a personal relationship with Him, and have union with Him implies the result of union with other believers. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Messiah?… But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.[4] The same faith and love unify individuals in Messiah: “So we, though many, are one body in Messiah, and individually members one of another.” [5] According to Sha’ul, believers are members of a body and are connected, serving different functions. It is not only a visible unity, a society with all members in harmony; the unity is of a higher order. It is not only a social or a moral unity but a mystical body. Mystical does not mean something strange or hidden; it means that Messiah binds, guides, ties, unites us to Himself. It is a reality that is not obvious to our intelligence and is beyond our senses, and involves a unique union of all the members with Messiah, who is the head. John uses the image of the vine and the branches:

“I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who stay united with me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from me, you can’t do a thing. Unless a person remains united with me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Such branches are gathered and thrown into the fire, where they are burned up. “If you remain united with me, and my words with you, then ask whatever you want, and it will happen for you. This is how my Father is glorified—in your bearing much fruit; this is how you will prove to be my talmidim.~  John 15:5-8 (CJB)

The members are bound through faith, love, and sacraments to Messiah, who endows us with His gifts: “holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” [6] In the force of this union, the kehillah is the fullness or complement of Messiah: the Father “has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the kehillah, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.”  [7] It forms one whole with him: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Messiah.” [8] This body is nourished by the Eucharist: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” [9]

The visible kehillah is a human, mixed company, with shadows and spots. It is the visible sign of the presence of the kingdom of God among human beings, sustained by hope, whose soul is the Ruach. [10]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Rufinus Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed. In other words, we believe in God and things divine. We do not believe in things human; we simply believe them.

[2] Colossians 1:18, 24 (CSB)

[3] Acts 9:3-5 (CSB)

[4] 1 Cor 6:15, 17 (CSB).

[5] 1 Cor 6:15ans 12:5 (CSB)

[6] Colossian 2:19 (CSB)

[7] Eph 1:22–23 (CSB)

[8] 1 Cor 12:12 (CSB)

[9] 1 Cor 10:17

[10] Di Berardino, A., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2010). We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Vol. 5, pp. 1–3).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 37

The Nicene Creed~ Part 23

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase He has spoken through the Prophets in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

HE HAS SPOKEN THROUGH THE PROPHETS

In 2 Kefa 1:21, we read, for never has a prophecy come as a result of human willing – on the contrary, people moved by the Ruach HaKodesh spoke a message from God. From the earliest days of the kehillah, the Ruach has been known as the one who spoke through the prophets and writings of the Tanakh. The Ruach is the giver of revelation. Yeshua refers to David as one inspired by the Ruach, as does Kefa. Elizabeth, Simeon, and Zechariah were all filled with the Ruach when they spoke the words recorded in the Gospels. Yeshua, quoting Isaiah, spoke of the Ruach being on Him and anointing Him to preach good news to the poor. He also told the emissaries that when they would be called to speak, it would not be they who speak but the Ruach that He would give to them. Shavuot (Pentecost) and the subsequent life of the kehillah testified to the fulfillment of the prophecy in Yo’el that the Ruach would descend on the kehillah enlivening it and its message. Sha’ul speaks in his first letter to the Corinthians of his preaching, and words have come from the Ruach. Kefa refers to Sha’ul’s writings as difficult to understand and sometimes being twisted out of context, as also happens to the other Scriptures, no doubt including Sha’ul’s writings in what was considered the Scriptures. Here, as well as in what Sha’ul has to say about those who spoke in tongues, we begin to get a picture of the kehillah and its leaders struggling to get a handle on which prophecies and writings were to be understood as authoritative since some claimed the Ruach. Still, neither their words nor their actions were enlightening for the kehillah. Not everyone who claimed inspiration was necessarily received by the kehillah. A sifting process began by which the kehillah decided what was normative for the kehillah’s faith and life.

The challenges of Gnosticism and the teaching of such heretics as Marcion made it all the more important to confess that the Ruach by whom Yeshua was conceived and who was operative in the ministry of Yeshua and the Gospel message was the same Ruach who acted in the Tanakh. Messianic writers from very early on, however, emphasized the normative role of the Ruach and the rule of faith in revelation. At times, the Ruach made itself known in extraordinary ways, such as speaking in tongues as the apostles did at Shavuot. The kehillah, such as the one in Corinth, continued to utilize. These tongues and other signs were viewed as a witness to unbelievers, and they continued as long as there was a need for them in the kehillah. After a time, however, most, although not all, early Messianic writers believed this gift slowly ceased to exist. (I happen to be in the group that does not believe that speaking in tongues has ceased as a gift of the Ruach.) But the work of the Ruach continued and continues to live and work in the life of the kehillah.[1]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Vol. 4, pp 266–267).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 36

The Nicene Creed~ Part 22

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase with the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

WITH THE FATHER AND THE SON

Wherever the Son’s divinity was questioned, it followed that the divinity of the Ruach was questioned. As a result of the Arian controversy, the Council of Nicaea in 325CE worked out the relationship between the Father and the Son, confessing its belief that the Son is homoousios (the same in being} with the Father. The third article of the Nicene Creed of 325CE also confessed a belief in the Ruach HaKodesh but did not expand on what that belief entailed concerning the Father and the Son. It simply said, And we believe in the Holy Spirit, followed by a condemnation of the Arians. It is also true that, while the Nicene Creed may have settled in principle the debate regarding the Son being of the same substance of the Father, it still took another fifty years before the kehillah definitively settled the issue. The relationship of the Son to the Father was being debated during this time. Still, the ancient kehillah writers and the heretics also realized that if the Ruach was in any way denigrated, this too affected the Son: as goes the Ruach, so goes the Son. The logic was inescapable. Thus, at the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 381CE and again at the Council of Rome in 382CE in the West, the full divinity of the Ruach too was confessed and included in the Creed formulated for the Council at Constantinople in 381CE, once the full implications of what had been decided at Nicaea had been debated.

There was no inclusion of the homoousios in its confession of the Ruach, however. Such an omission may reflect the unwillingness of the period evidenced in such writers as Athanasius. Still, Basil, who said to worshiped and glorified, was as close as they came to say that the Ruach HaKodesh was God. Gregory of Nazianzus also reflects the ambivalence prevalent among some at that time when he remarked, “To be only a little in error about the Ruach HaKodesh is to be orthodox.” Such caution of not using homoousios in its confession of the Ruach may also stem from the attempts at the time to be conciliatory to the bishops who were allies against the Arians but followed the teaching of Macedonius and were present at the Council of Constantinople. There may have also been the realization that not everyone among even the orthodox, had come around yet fully to the idea of the Ruach HaKodesh being consubstantial with the Father and the Son. But this would not remain so for long. The full divinity and consubstantiality of the Ruach with the Father and the Son was soon the consensual teaching of the entire kehillah.

HE IS WORSHIPED AND GLORIFIED

The ancient kehillah’s worship and glorification of the Ruach HaKodesh is perhaps the most precise witness to its understanding of the role of the Ruach in the divine economy before such an understanding became enunciated in the Nicene-ConstantinopolitanCreed. The worship life of the kehillah not only informed the kehillah’s theology; it also expressed that theology in a way more often caught than taught. The technical way of referring to this is lex orandi et lex credendi (the rule of prayer expresses the rule of faith). Such a rule is already evident in the commission of Yeshua to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Ruach HaKodesh. While not the only formula used in the Brit Hadashah period, this formula for baptism became the most common and then the only one used in the subsequent life of the kehillah. The benediction of Sha’ul in his second letter to the Corinthians includes the Ruach in the same breath with the Father and the Son. The enlivening and unifying role of the Ruach in the life of the early kehillah and its worship is clearly evident throughout the pages of the Brit Hadashah and the post-apostolic documents of the second century. References to the Ruach’s work and activity, especially in worship, continue in the writings leading up to the fourth century and beyond. [1]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Vol. 4, pp 225-246).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 35

The Nicene Creed~ Part 21

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase who proceeds from the Father and the Son in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

WHO PROCEEDS FROM THE FATHER AND THE SON

It would be placing far too great a burden on the Creed confessed at Constantinople in 381CE to say that the holy fathers gathered to establish the dogma of the procession of the Ruach HaKodesh in all its precision and fullness. In their writings, the Cappadocians had noted that the Ruach was distinguished from the Father and the Son by his procession. Thus, the Creed uses the language of John 15:26, which speaks most directly of the procession of the Ruach from the Father: When the Counselor comes, whom I will send you from the Father – the Spirit of Truth, who keeps going out from the Father – He will testify on My behalf. (CJB) The phrase, who keeps going out from the Father distinguishes the Ruach from the Father and the Son, even as the following phrase of the Creed demonstrates that the Ruach is to be worshiped and glorified along with the Father and the Son. Thus, the present phrase provides a distinguishing scriptural characteristic while also tying the Ruach’s procession to the Father.

To a certain extent, both Eastern and Western traditions have emphasized what is known as the Father’s monarchy in speaking of the Ruach’s origin. The Father’s monarchy implies that the Father is the source, principle, cause of the Ruach HaKodesh and the Son. One might even note that both the Son and the Ruach are spoken of as proceeding from the Father in our English Bibles and Latin ones. However, this was part of the problem between East and West that arose beginning around the fifth century, when working in both Latin and Greek was not as expected. In Greek, the origin of the Ruach HaKodesh from the Father is based on the Greek word ekporeuetai, which alone is used of the Ruach HaKodesh in John 15:26. The Greeks acknowledge the Latin Church that the Son too is spoken of as proceeding from the Father. But this does not occur with the Greek word ekporeuomai but the Greek word proiēmi – an important distinction that Latin does not make. The Father was unbegotten, the Son was begotten, which was a procession from the Father, but not the same as how the Ruach proceeds.

The question remained to be asked: What is the relationship of the Ruach to the Son in this procession, since Scripture, especially the Gospel of John, speaks of the Ruach of the Son, the Son giving the Ruach, breathing out the Ruach, etc.? This the Creed did not answer. As noted, at least up through the fifth century but even beyond, all the way to the time before the great schism of 1054, the dominant patristic understanding is that the monarchy of the Father is what binds and grounds the Trinity in its unity. And so, more often than not, the question of the Ruach’s procession is first of all addressed in the sense of His procession from the Father. But in no way does this exhaust all that the fathers had to say about the procession. The doctrine of the Ruach HaKodesh and His procession is not limited to His relation to the Father. Still, it is extended to His relation to the Son in a way that is not always so easily distinguished or held distinct from that of the Father.

One can distinguish different emphases or tendencies between East and West on the Ruach’s procession even as there are also areas of overlap. The later addition in the West of the Ruach’s procession from the Son began locally in Spain at the Council of Toledo in 589CE. However, it is preceded as early as the third century by writers such as Tertullian and then later with Marius Victorinus, Ambrose, and Augustine. The addition eventually received papal authority and became the standard creedal confession in the Western Roman Catholic and later Protestant traditions. The East has always considered it as a unilateral addition to the Creed without ecumenical consensus. But it is worth asking why the West perceived the phrase and the Son as a necessary addition in the first place? From the Western perspective, if the Ruach proceeded from the Father alone, this could appear that the Son did not have everything the Father had. Thus, the Son would appear as a subordinate being – especially to the new converts coming from barbarian tribes in the hinterlands of the West who had been heavily influenced by Arian Christology, which tended to subordinate the person of the Son. Thus, the original purpose of the addition was to protect the Son against such subordination by establishing the procession equally from Father and Son. And so, it is not surprising that the phrase filioque began to appear in the Creed spoken in the liturgy of the church. How the church worships is an expression of its faith. However, a change in something as basic as the ecumenical Creed shared by all the faithful was inadvisable – even if the doctrine itself, charitably and adequately understood, was true. It did not help that the West had no vocabulary for distinguishing the different types of the procession as the East had, even though theologians such as Augustine did speak of the Ruach proceeding principally from the Father. Thus, misunderstandings were inevitable. But neither East nor West was interested in denigrating the Godhead of Father, Son, or Ruach HaKodesh.

Rather than speaking of the Ruach as proceeding from the Father and the Son, the East spoke in terms of the Ruach proceeding from the Father through the Son, in effect guarding against any understanding that the Ruach HaKodesh derived his existence from the Son which would thus cause Him to appear as a lesser being. Perhaps it is an oversimplification to describe the emphasis in the East as that of safeguarding the Ruach’s full divinity. At the same time, the West emphasized a concern to guard the Son’s full divinity. No doubt other issues such as authority, both of popes and councils, are intertwined in these discussions and have complicated ecumenical discussions far beyond the issue of the Ruach’s procession. [1]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version

[1] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Vol. 4, pp 217-220).​

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 34

The Nicene Creed~ Part 20

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase the giver of life in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

THE GIVER OF LIFE ~ In Sanctification

Sanctification is made up of two Latin words: Sanctus, meaning Holy, and the verb Facere, meaning to make. The primary work of the Ruach HaKodesh in the Trinity’s interaction with the world is to make us Holy, that is, sanctified. From its inception, the ancient church was concerned with the Holiness of the Believer. Clement of Rome, for instance, lauds the Corinthian congregation for its Messianic piety and character while also calling on the congregation to persevere in Holiness in the face of division. Polycarp exhorts the Philippian congregation to Holy living, good works, and a faith that remains steadfast. Holiness as a way of life was considered so important that, should the baptized depart from it, there was a minimal possibility for return. Baptism was the point of entry into the life of faith and Holiness, leaving behind sin and being conformed to the divine image. With its considerations as to whether one could sin after baptism and still be called a child of God, one might get the impression that the early church believed in salvation by sanctification, or, more concretely, salvation by good works. This would, however, place a sixteenth-century dichotomy onto the texts of the early centuries of the church they were not meant to bear.

The early church was more fluid in its discussion of sanctification and justification. It did not always use terms consistently. It did not have a well-established order of salvation that consistently worked out the logical sequencing of the various components of salvation. This at times can create misunderstanding or lack of clarity in what the church meant concerning sanctification. It is clear that when it came to the issue of standing before the judgment seat of the throne of God or when they were in trials or tribulations, it was not to their good works that they turned for certainty. When ruminating on the effects of sin or the coming judgment, they put their faith and trust in Yeshua alone and not on the works they had done. But they obviously spoke favorably of good works and the life of sanctification and demonstrated a fear and reverence for God often lacking today. Sanctification was integral to Messianic faith and life. It was not just a series of acts that takes place, nor did it simply imply the betterment of human life or moral improvement – although these will take place in those who are being brought to maturity in the faith.

Sanctification was considered to be the entire process of indwelling by the Ruach HaKodesh by which one is conformed to the image of God, a process that begins in baptism when sin is drowned and left behind so that a new life can begin. That new life grows and matures in people as they are joined to the community of faith centered around Word and sacrament, which were deemed essential to a life of Holiness for its members. [1]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Vol. 4, pp. 37–38).