“For it is unbecoming beyond measure that on this holiest of festivals we should follow the customs of the Jews. Henceforth let us have nothing in common with this odious people…We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews…our worship follows a…more convenient course…we desire dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews…How, then, could we follow these Jews, who are almost certainly blinded.” Council of Nicea, 325 CE
This was an ordinance of the Catholic Church that distinguished the celebration of Passover from Easter. The separation of the Jew and Gentile was taking place insidiously over the past two centuries, but with the coming of Constantine the schism was decisive and final. In the prior decade Constantine forbade Jews from living in Jerusalem and ordered them not to proselytize.
Also at this time, Sunday became the day of rest, whereas before gentile believers had observed the Sabbath with the Jews on Saturday. Rick Chamberlain writing about this epochal period states
Nicea, with its theological anti-Judaism, laid the groundwork for anti-Semitic legislation of later church councils. The Council of Antioch (341 CE) prohibited Christians from celebrating Passover with the Jews. The Council of Laodicea in the same century forbade Christians from observing the Jewish (and biblical) Sabbath. (Some Christians had been observing both Sunday and the Sabbath.) Christians were also forbidden from receiving gifts from Jews or matzoh from Jewish festivals and “impieties.”
It wasn’t all bad news in those early centuries. Judaism was not a “prohibited sect,” according to the Codex Theodosianus of 438 CE. Rabbis were entitled to the same privileges as Christian clergy. Jews were not to be disturbed on their Sabbath or Feast Days. Their synagogues were not to be attacked, violated, burned, or confiscated. However, conversion was a one-way street. Jews could convert to Christianity, and were encouraged to do so. However, Christians were forbidden to convert to Judaism. Also, Jews were forbidden to own Christian slaves, but Christians could own Jewish slaves. Christians were forbidden under penalty of death to marry Jews. Jewish tribunals were considered valid only in matters purely religious. The Fiscus Judaicus (Jewish tax) from earlier centuries was maintained, a tax which only Jews were required to pay to government authorities.
The few protections offered by the Codex Judaicus were relatively short-lived. It wasn’t many decades until attacks on Jews and their synagogues became commonplace. The Jew was a second-class citizen, somewhat protected by law, but merely tolerated, something akin to the dhimmi status that is given to non-Moslems in Islamic countries. However, these were the “good old days” compared to the horrors that would be inflicted upon Jews in later centuries by the “Church triumphant.” Rav Shaul (Paul) commanded the Christians to “provoke the Jews to jealousy” with righteous living. Unfortunately, Christians kept only half the commandment; they provoked the Jews.
To some in the church this is a new era where the gospel receives a deeper and more replete authority in the world and for others of the Kingdom of Messiah it is interpreted as a day of infamy. Chamberlain states
More Christians were killed (by other Christians!) in the first century after the Council of Nicea than had been killed by pagans in the century before Nicea.
Have you ever wondered what the Church would look like today had this split from her Jewish roots never happened? Even more profound is the attitude and treatment of the Jews by the established ecclesiastical bodies and how that would effect their acceptance of the Messiah? The hatred that the Romans had for the Jews was carried on by the Church. I have made two trips to the Holocaust Memorial in Washington, DC. In the permanent exhibit are two films, one is about the rise of Nazism and the other, on antisemitism. The films are each about 15 minutes long. Within 2 minutes of the film on antisemitism the first mention of the Church is made and thus remains the main character(culprit) for the balance of the picture. Overcoming this sentiment from the Jewish community is one of the chief obstacles on the way to the salvation of Israel.
So it is a relief to see gentile believers support Israel and Messianic Jews, but also to see them celebrate the feasts of Israel in the liberty of the Spirit. This is the focus of a Jerusalem Connection article by Nicole Jansezian. She begins,
Jews all across Israel and the world will sit down for the traditional Seder dinner commemorating the miraculous exodus of the Israelites form Egypt. Each year, more Christians join in whether with their Jewish neighbors or at Seder dinners of their own.
Wayne Hilsden, senior pastor of King of Kings Community in Jerusalem, said that Christians have a precedent for observing the Passover: Jesus’ last supper was a Passover Seder with his disciples.
The first few Seders I participated in were enlightening. It actually formed part of the foundation of my intercession for Israel. The article continues:
Christine Darg, president of Exploits Ministry, has led Passover conferences in Israel and in countries around the Middle East for Christians over the past 14 years.
“We gain a deeper revelation of the principles and precepts of our God by observing the (biblical) feasts, all of which are types and shadows of Messiah,” Darg said. “Every element of the Passover meal and Seder points in some way to Him. The striped and pierced unleavened bread speaks of Him as the sinless one who was pierced and wounded for our sins and sicknesses.”
Darg noted the striking parallels between Passover and Jesus’ death. The process of the Passover sacrifice began in the temple at 9 a.m.; Jesus was bound to his cross at the third hour, 9 a.m. The temple sacrifices continued until the the evening sacrifice at the ninth hour, or 3 p.m., when then the high priest would cry out, “It is finished.” At the ninth hour Jesus also cried from the cross, “It is finished!” as he died.
The Lord’s Supper was (is) the Passover meal. What a great point of contact for your unsaved Jewish friends? Also, a wonderful time keep the unity of faith with our Messianic brethren. Drag admonishes us,
“The church historically never should have distanced itself from its Hebraic foundations,…It is important to commemorate the death and burial of Jesus, the Lamb of God, and to celebrate the resurrection of Yeshua as the first fruits from the dead at the appropriate season, at Pesach, rather than during the pagan spring holiday named after a fertility goddess.”
This doesn’t mean that Christians don’t or shouldn’t also celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Most do observe Easter, but many call the holiday “Resurrection Sunday” instead.
As part of the reparations of the Body of Messiah to Israel then, celebrating the Biblical feasts can be an easy first step. As with most things in our maturing as believers, more revelation comes in the doing. No room for legalism here, let the Holy Spirit lead us. Maybe, after centuries of ostracizing the Jew we can begin to recover that relationship that was never intended to be broken and facilitate the salvation of Israel.
John Paul is is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Jewish Issues.
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