The Ism’s of Christianity:
©2009 by W. L. Graham
Among several written works that I have posted to BibleRealityCheck.com, is the essay A Cosmic Conspiracy: Down to Earth which concluded with a note to my readers that I would address Christian religious teaching in some detail in the future. The views expressed here are born from personal experience and research spanning many, many years. It should therefore be considered a "personal testimony" relative to my experience with the Christian religion and my own spiritual journey in pursuit of truth and does not necessarily directly reflect upon the subjects or substance of any other articles or essays posted on the BRC website.
Although it would not be possible to provide a comprehensive review of all of the “ism’s” that define Christianity’s belief system, teachings and practices, I shall attempt to present an honest critique of the evolution of the Christian religion as it relates to my discovery of a common thread of lies and misinformation woven throughout the tapestry of Institutional Christianity.
As I try to clarify my own spiritual beliefs for the first time, it is my hope that I will not be perceived as merely hostile toward Christianity or religion in general. While some of my views may seem unconventional, or perhaps disturbing, to first-time readers, they do originate from a thorough study of the biblical literature and Judeo-Christian history. Primarily, this brief essay is about my own discovery of biblical truth over and against deceptively false teaching that I believe has been present within Christianity since the earliest time, hiding in plain sight, as it were.
It is also my hope that readers will give some consideration to my knowledge of the beliefs and practices of many world religions, sects, and cults. That knowledge has served, over a lifetime of experience, to expose a variety of deceptive and harmful religious teachings. To avoid any misunderstanding or offense in applying the term “cult” to Christianity, I will be using the term “Churchism” to refer to the worldly religious practices and exclusivity dynamic where concentric circles are drawn tightly around competing Christian groups and dogmas.
Most modern Christians have heard the clever tongue-in-cheek terms like “churchianity” and “religiosity” directed with mockery at certain church groups that are perceived as uptight and old fashioned. The term Churchism bears no such ulterior judgment. Rather, it is intended to be definitive, serious, and broadly applicable to all Institutional Christian sects which practice “church” in one form or another. Furthermore, I do not focus any special attention on the most extreme, fringe cult groups with controversial beliefs and practices. Indeed, I intend Churchism to include all denominational and independent church teachings and practices, group seminars, wild-fire religious movements, and Christian ministries widely considered mainstream.
The religious activity of Christian Churchism, whether large or small in terms of audience attendance numbers and scope of influence, often share several common characteristics:
Atavistic religious practices and doctrines culled from the Old Testament (Mosaic Law) which is then comingled with unique and distinctive New Testamnet teaching
Group peculiarity, exclusivity, and/or a self-righteous denominational identity
An interior church culture that avoids people and ideas that lie outside a closed circle
A strong, sometimes hostile political or social agenda that is based upon a narrow and highly subjective view of “God’s will”
Obsessive emphasis on end-times apocalyptic prophecy, often with novel or bizarre scripture interpretations
Obedient submission by members to church leaders/authorities (most often alpha-dominant men) who are esteemed to be superior in Bible knowledge and spiritual giftedness, especially prophecy, with persuasive speaking/preaching skills
There is a familiar and well-worn path of being or becoming a Christian which I did travel as a serious and open minded student-observer in an earlier time. Over the course of several years, I participated in many different groups that offered a wide variety of Christian church experience, from the liturgical, solemn variety to the wildly charismatic and Pentecostal kind. Of course one could not possibly attend each of the approximately 40,000 separate and competing Christian denominations in one’s entire lifetime. Still, if I haven’t seen it all, I have certainly seen enough.
And yet, through it all, there was always a subtle but powerful spiritual presence prodding me intellectually to challenge the veracity of all religious teaching and subjective experience. As I attended Christian gatherings, whatever the variety or duration of my stay, I became keenly aware of a palpable spiritual dis-ease—a spiritual darkness that not even the liveliest activities could disguise—that often gave me a cautionary check within. On a few occasions this inner “check” was instantaneous and the spiritual darkness so repulsive that I had to turn away. But most often I would get involved deeply enough in the activities to fully observe the nature and quality of whatever teaching and experience was being served up before moving on to another group.
Being labeled a “church hopper” (or worse, “traitor” in some circles) did not concern me since I wasn’t looking to formally join or belong to a specific church or denomination. I simply considered myself a servant in the Lord’s House by virtue of faith. Moreover, I believe that an intimate and faithful spiritual relationship with Lord Yeshua imparts sufficient wisdom to give the devotee liberty to decide whether religious affiliation or a specific church activity is spiritually edifying and fulfilling, or just another worldly, deceptive snare to be avoided.
I have been told that it is a sin to remove oneself from the beliefs and practices of Churchism because of a few biblical references to church authority and “assembling together,” etc. However, in my case, it has been spiritually impossible for me to submit to false teachers, false apostles, false prophets, and other deceivers in a church group simply because they espouse “Christian Faith,” as if that is somehow better than being an “unchurched” believer. The Apostle Paul wrote to the first church at Corinth:
“I am afraid that your minds may be seduced from a single-hearted devotion to him by the same subtle means that the serpent used towards Eve. For apparently you cheerfully accept a man who comes to you preaching a different [Yeshua] from the one we told you about, and you readily receive a spirit and a gospel quite different from the ones you originally accepted.” (II Cor 11:3,4 – Phillips New Testament) [edit WLG.]
With false teaching so prevalent and blindly accepted in Christian churches of every stripe, I was necessarily vigilant to guard my heart and mind from deception whenever in their midst, or else avoid them altogether. I recall once telling an elder clergyman that “They would have to tape my mouth shut and hog-tie me to a pew to get me back in a church!” He found it amusing, but knew I wasn’t kidding in the least. There are hundreds of scriptures relative to adherence to Truth and avoiding or exposing lies, deceitful persons and false teaching, while other scriptures, such as I Jno 2:26-27, has led me to reflect upon the source of all truth.
“I had to write to you about these men who try to lead you astray. Yet I know that the touch of his Spirit never leaves you, and you don’t really need a human teacher. You know that his Spirit teaches you about all things, always telling you the truth and never telling you a lie. So, as he has taught you, live continually in him.” (Phillips NT)
My participation in Christian Churchism was primarily about observing the teachings and practices of various church groups and individuals. Then, most importantly, to compare what I saw and heard to what the Spirit was saying, both in a direct spiritual way as well as through my extensive biblical studies. As it turns out, the Spirit of Truth has been quite consistent in urging me to dig deeper, to study the biblical scriptures and source translations thoroughly, and to question everything. I can say without reservation that I always was, and still am, open to my Lord’s wise guidance and correction; I am not stubborn, arrogant, or set in my (or anyone else’s) ways when it comes to being educated in wondrous spiritual things. However, open as I am to discussing various biblical topics, giving fair consideration to differing viewpoints, I have precious little tolerance for false teaching that abuses the biblical texts, or deceivers who reside in the midst of innocent truth seekers as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
Of course there have been many pure and simple teachings and genuine spiritual experiences that I gratefully received while in the company of studious Christians who, like myself, were “growing up” in spiritual knowledge and faith. And I certainly have no complaint about the discernment and deliverance aspect of my spiritual education which is ongoing. But, throughout the process of attending numerous church services and religious activities, studying countless theological works, listening to hundreds of mind-numbing sermons that twist and distort the truth (whether from the pulpit or delivered by radio, T.V. and audio tapes) and observing with disgust phony “Holy Ghost” stage performances, my Churchism experience can perhaps be best described as an educational marathon that has required a great deal of stamina and forbearance.
It has seemed at times that every Christian I met was competing for my attention, as if they considered it their religious calling to gain my allegiance to their brand of Churchism, or some flavor-of-the-month “spirit filled” teacher or prophet. Such Christian zealots give new meaning to the term “bible thumper,” and they don’t seem to realize or care how annoying and off-putting their incessant proselytizing is to others. Their singular focus to convert others to Christianity, or “save souls from Hell,” very often comes across as a self-centered obsession rather than a kind invitation to spiritual fellowship. In all my years of traveling the world and observing the practices of various religious groups, I cannot recall ever witnessing such bulldog tenacity to obtain someone’s religious conversion as I have seen from American Christian proselytizers. This same underlying motive to convert others is present even among the kinder, gentler Churchists I’ve known, if perhaps more subtle.
The big difference between an obsessive, sometimes forceful, compulsion to proselytize one’s beliefs and a gentler reasoning approach to discussing spiritual things is simply ministering loving kindness to those among us who are hurting, downcast, and in need of sincere caring or spiritual encouragement. Too many times I’ve watched the destitute poor and homeless fed and clothed by church groups, but with strings attached. The oppressed poor are often held captive to Christian proselytizers through a not-so-subtle form of psychological blackmail, the goal being to elicit a Christian “confession of faith” as payment for a handout or a simple meal. I’ve also witnessed devoted, practicing Churchists living in poverty persuaded to give their last dollar to “God” only to see it used for a church building fund, to expand some “ministry outreach,” or provide luxurious private quarters, offices, and personal expenses for church leaders. But, let an impoverished church-member seek help in paying their utility bills or rent, and the response is often a dismissive “We’ll pray for your needs to be met.” There are even many popular preachers that are so audacious as to ask the needy to give more money to their ministry so that they can receive a so-called blessing of a “hundred-fold return” on their investment. I’ll share just two examples from scripture that will point the reader to a much different perspective on giving and caring for the poor.
“For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup, where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?” (James 2:15-17 – The Message)
“Suppose someone has enough to live and sees a brother or sister in need, but does not help. Then God’s love is not living in that person. My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring.” (I John 3:17,18 – New Century)
Beyond the ivory towers of Christendom, the Church’s wealth, materialistic expenditures, tithing and “prosperity” doctrines, etc., relative to the bleak circumstances of the poor is the subject of much derisive criticism. There is a great deal more that could be said on this matter, but I shall simply defer to the consistent teaching of scripture on the subject and urge readers to refer to Lord Yeshua’s strongly worded prophecy in Mat 25:31-46. Institutional Christianity’s history of avarice in the face of human suffering and poverty, impacting believers as well as the world at large, is notorious and disgraceful. A chasm of alienation has been created between Christianity and millions of souls who desperately need relief, hope, and spiritual comfort more than they need religious indoctrination from an authoritative pulpit in a grandiose church building.
In terms of the endless variety of Church doctrines on today’s religious menu, over the course of my studies there have been many that have stood out as obvious, in-your-face doctrinal conflicts that sweep through Christianity like a firestorm. A few examples are postmillenialism, amillenialism, dispensationalism, the “rapture” (take your pick of hundreds of false end-times prophecies there), universal salvation, church altar call and other easy ticket-to-heaven salvation teachings, various and sundry anointings and baptisms, staged “Holy Ghost Power” performances and doctrines that arise from the so-called evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit (e.g. glossalalia, often accompanied by shameful “how to” instruction), spiritual dark powers displaying miraculous “signs and wonders” in the name of “Jesus” (as distinguished from true giftings of the Holy Spirit, most often situationally occurring, to which I can personally attest), cessationism (teaching that spiritual gifts do not exist in the modern era), hell-fire and damnation teachings, trinitarian doctrine unsupported by unadulterated scripture, “Jesus Christism” (defined later in the essay), dominionism, and so on, ad infinitum.
That’s just some of the “plain as the nose on your face” confusion and discord in Christianity, but as my spiritual senses became more finely attuned, I started catching on to the insidious, subtle forms of deception hidden in such teaching, the sort where a teacher/preacher uses clever theistic arguments, often employing complex dialectal circular reasoning accompanied by strong psycho-emotional influences. Such preaching is technique driven. Beginning with a conclusion which may be a seemingly innocuous topic widely regarded as orthodox, the teacher/preacher quotes “key-code” scriptures, cherry-picked from both Old and New Testaments, without the slightest regard for context, in order to reinforce a given doctrinal assertion. Ramp up audience emotion with lively music, “hallelujahs” and “amens” and any well-trained preacher worth his salt can sell almost anything to an eager, sometimes desperate, crowd of believers.
The selling of overtly false and/or new doctrines and prophecies is frequently accomplished via extra-biblical courses, books, and audio/video materials (both fiction and non-fiction) that may even employ slick teaching aids or state-of-the-art multi-media presentations. The most popular (and wealthy) show-biz preachers routinely quote scripture out of context and apply various private interpretations to biblical prophecy. Fortunes are made as mesmerized Christians fill mega-churches, convention centers and auditoriums to the rafters, spending vast sums of money to be entertained by false prophets and deceivers. The “God Biz” take may be off slightly due to today’s tight economy, but it’s still doing way better than GM!
For me, it never came down to making a conscious decision to quit church (like one decides to quit smoking) though I had the confidence and liberty to do so; it just happened naturally as my faith grew stronger and my biblical studies and private prayer life deepened. I simply lost all desire to give any more of my time and attention to false teachers and Spiritualists, especially the Christian celebrity types whose messages and “miracles” were continually being exposed as nothing more than a slick con, at best, and spiritually demonic at its worst. And I have witnessed it all up close and personal, becoming acquainted with many “blind guides,” pastor-preachers, and notorious false prophets. As I now realize, this eye-opening process was all being orchestrated by the Spirit of Truth for the purpose of my spiritual education and deliverance from the deception that has taken firm root in Christianity.
Not only did I become spiritually disaffected and alienated toward Christian Churchism in all its worldly forms, but I was being awakened to a new reality that was based on a growing spiritual faith relationship with the Father and Lord Yeshua. At some point I realized that I had already journeyed quite far along the path of faith and had been given sufficient enlightened understanding by the Spirit “who will lead you into all truth” so that there would be no turning back. It became my own personal Exodus, not unlike the story of Moses leading a million tribal Jews who were living a relatively secure and comfortable life of bondage in Egypt on a perilous desert wilderness journey toward an unknown future. That prominent piece of Hebrew history took on a very personal meaning for me, providing me with the insight and courage to embrace my own departure—or escape—from the captivity of “religious Egypt” to become the wilderness wanderer that I remain today.
Practicing Christian Churchists can decide for themselves whether or not their observance of specific religious traditions and embracing the orthodox teachings of Institutional Christianity, in whatever form, is a good thing. I’ve always known that thinking for myself was okay, and that questioning and objectively studying Bible scripture and Christian doctrine for myself would serve my understanding better than just “going along to get along” with what someone else asserts or denies about scripture and the Christian experience.
A particular passage of scripture that had a transformative impact on my perspective on Christian salvation comes near the end of Lord Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount (Mat Ch. 5-7). Following are two of the Lord’s remarks that are quite extraordinary, with my comments. Note that in Mat 7:13 he clearly states that few will find the way that leads to life, followed immediately with the warning “Beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves; you will know [recognize] them by their fruits.” He gives a couple of examples then re-emphasizes the point in v. 18 by saying “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad [corrupt] tree produce good fruit,” concluding in v. 20 “you will know [recognize] them by their fruits.” [Note: please keep this quote in mind while reading the remainder of this essay.]
The Lord then makes a stunning prophecy in vs. 21-23 where we find his unambiguous reference to “many who call me Lord” (referring to practicing Christians who do “great works” in his name) stating bluntly that they will be rejected by him “on that day” as evildoers, emphasizing “I never knew you”. What is most striking to me, is that those many referred to are obviously Bible-believing Christians who thought that they had accomplished those things which they had been taught were righteous, even miraculous, Christian works deserving of the Lord's acceptance. I urge the Christian reader to ponder that prophetic declaration, with all seriousness and humility, in the hope of discovering what it means to be truly “known” by Lord Yeshua and grasp the spiritual significance of this prophecy.
This scripture provides a natural segue to a serious consideration of what sort of “tree” Institutional Christianity is by looking at its “fruit.” Having educated myself on the origin, development and dark history of Christianity, my own affiliation with, or participation in Institutional Christianity is now unthinkable. Let us never forget the unjust imprisonment, brutal torture and massacre of millions of souls throughout history in the name of “Christ.” Add to that the discovery of manipulation of the biblical translations by Greek and Latin scribes of the Church that has inspired numerous false doctrines, and it should be readily apparent that historic Christianity has evolved over time into what can only be described as a massive religious conglomerate that bears little resemblance to the original Messianic Faith.
This realization does not, however, prevent faithful devotees of Messiah from contending for the truth. For me, it has strengthened rather than deterred my own faith which honors the Eternal Father, Yahweh, and Lord Yeshua Messiah. Somewhat ironically, I have found that the further I have distanced myself from the religion of Institutional Christianity the stronger my spiritual faith and hope in the Lord has become. Of course I’ve heard all of the arguments positing that the historic and/or present misdeeds by church authorities are “forgiven by Jesus” and that the stain of sin from two-thousand years of church history does not accrue to today’s Church system. While I do not wish to engage such denial or rationalization of Christianity’s sordid past, I will offer the opinion that there is a great deal of continuity to be found in Christian history (both beliefs and practices) that has survived into the modern era which Christians should address honestly in a spirit of humility.
World domination appears to remain on the agenda, and spiritual corruption and carnal sin of every sort is ever-present in most, if not all, Christian churches, notably among pious church leaders. I feel I must also add that I find the frequent scathing condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church by Protestant Churchists to be quite hypocritical. Since the Protestant Reformation, many false doctrines and an authoritative church hierarchy system propagated by the first Roman councils of Bishops have been approved of, replicated, and widely observed by Protestants. Even Dominion Theology (a modern movement popularized by Christian evangelical fundamentalists) which seeks to force Christian religious principles onto secular society through political control of governments, mirrors the historic ambition of the Roman Church-State. I ask readers to examine the ambition of Christian conquest throughout history and note the similarities. The impassioned tenor from the following quote is an example of the fundamentalist “Christian ambition” to which I refer:
“Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ—to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness. But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice. It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after. World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less... Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land—of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ.” – from George Grant’s The Changing of the Guard
The subject of Christian fundamentalism’s theocratic ambitions (Christianism/Christianists, are the terms most favored by many in the media and political arena), has been widely discussed. I’ll leave the subject for readers to consider on their own, if interested. Without endorsing specific writers, the serious student can find many relevant articles and books on the subject of “Christian Theocracy” and political intrigue involving “The Church.”. Jeff Sharlet’s recent book, The Family, does a good job in exposing the self-proclaimed “Christian Mafia” of C-Street notoriety. It reveals a secretive Washington enclave of lusty, Christian hypocrites and political scallywags who patrol the halls of power advancing right-wing Christian political ideology. I also think Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent & former NYT Mid-East Bureau Chief, Chris Hedges, author of I Don’t Believe In Atheists, has an interesting and balanced perspective, introduced in a Q&A interview found online at www.salon.com/2008/03/13/chris_hedges/
Paradoxical as it may seem coming from a faithful devotee of the “Way” (i.e. the original Messianic movement described in The Acts of the Apostles) it is from many years of research and prayerful contemplation that I have concluded that the Christian religion we know is a deceptive, evil construct of ecclesiastical reprobates inspired by the adversary of truth, the “devil,” whom Lord Yeshua called “a liar and the Father of Lies.”
To briefly summarize this view of Christianity’s early development, Emperor Constantine sought a One World religious institution as a solution to numerous religious conflicts that brought chaos and civil disorder to the expansive Roman Empire. Constantine issued decrees favorable to Christianity and gave the Council of Bishops at Nicaea, and the subsequent convening councils, full authority to determine every detail of Christian doctrine, an enterprise full of controversy, strife and political intrigue, with the power to brutally enforce their dominance throughout the Empire. Though it has been said that Constantine was converted to Christianity, there is no historical evidence to prove that claim. What is known is that, like most other military commanders and elder statesmen of Rome, Constantine was a member of the secretive Mithraic Order, holding the highest rank of “Father.” He erected many monuments honoring Mithras and other pagan deities following each of his successful war campaigns throughout his life.
Under the rule of Constantine and Theodosius, anti-Semitism was rampant, resulting in one of history’s most ruthless persecutions of the Jews as Rome set about to diminish the religious and cultural connections between Judaism and Christianity. With Emperor Theodosius’ decree that Christianity was the exclusive world religion of the Roman Empire, the doctrinal Creeds were further established. Whenever a Christian cleric dared to dissent over newly developed doctrines, such as The Triune Godhead concept or Jesus Christ being declared “Very God of Very God,” etc., they were branded as heretics; the grim fate for voicing disagreement being gruesome torture and/or execution.
These same ruthless and reprobate Bishops of the Roman Church also had complete authority over the translation of the original biblical texts into Latin and Greek, showing no regard for preserving the Aramaic NT or other Semitic language texts. Sadly, no original apostolic manuscripts are known to exist for comparative study, however biblical scholars acknowledge that numerous copies of copies have been mistranslated and/or intentionally altered (e.g. the Comma Johanneum) beginning in the first century A.D. and continuing for many centuries. The intent is quite clear. The architects of Roman Christianity were developing the creeds and orthodox doctrines as they went, doctrines that serve as the bedrock of Institutional Christianity to this day, and were willing to manipulate the biblical texts that were in their sole custody in order to support their newly established creeds.
It is pretty obvious to this student of Christian history that, at the beginning of Yeshua’s earthly ministry and continuing on into the first-century Apostolic period, the Adversary and his servants were at work to overthrow the true faith and establish worldwide dominion through a counterfeit religion that would establish their Greco-Roman “Jesus Christ” as the new “God” of the Empire. Fortunately, the dark Lord and his false apostles of The Church were not entirely successful, being restrained by a higher authority. Much remains that is not dependent on the scriptural interpretations of corrupt church authorities or even perfecting the biblical literature, an impossible human undertaking. For most of Christian history, commoners had no access to the “Holy Writ” to search the scriptures for themselves, being forced to rely entirely on The Church for scriptural interpretation and doctrinal teaching.
Only through the Lord’s grace and the simple faith and spirituality of individuals has the purest gospel message survived among the community of believers, having slipped through the cracks. From the very beginning, Lord Yeshua’s teaching was simple. The “Kingdom of Heaven” (i.e. the cosmic elohim empire of Yahweh) was considered to be the central gospel message, or “good news” proclaimed by Yeshua and the Apostles, though it is rarely taught that way. Yet, Yeshua said plainly, “I was sent for this purpose” (to preach the “Kingdom” message) declaring, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John (the Baptist); since then the gospel of the Kingdom [of Eloah, i.e., Lord Yahweh] is preached.”
Perhaps because of the simplicity of faith and childlike devotion of true believers, the Lord’s adversaries were never 100% successful in destroying the Way regardless of the Church’s persistent attempts to fill believer’s heads with all sorts of religious nonsense and forcing upon them strict obedience to Church-State authority. However, despite the best efforts of numerous martyrs and reformers throughout the ages, the damage has been done. The deceptive beliefs and practices of Christianity has been, in large part, successfully maintained by those same conspiring demonic forces resulting in widespread spiritual corruption. From a perspective on eschatology it is also an inescapable conclusion that today’s Christianity is the Apostate Church of end-times prophecy, having fallen away from the simplicity of faith as originally practiced by disciples of the Way. It is my view that, since the time of its earliest inception as a worldly religious institution, the Apostate Church has been marching down a broadening path of spiritual declination.
Finally, I would like to address the matter of mistranslation and corruption of the Bible’s original language texts. I have found that one does not need to be literate in Semitic languages to glean the original meaning and spirit of the biblical texts, although one does have to study and cross-reference words and phrases using dictionaries and other reference tools. Errors in biblical translation can be easily identified and repaired through honest scholarship, but few biblical translators are willing to step outside of their Christian traditions. The average Bible student should expect to dedicate considerable effort to such word studies.
Why is this sort of study important? Because the English Bible translations are something of a mess, and many believers want to know the true definitions of words and phrases as they may impact the meaning of scriptures, in order to fully understand what the original writers believed and tried to communicate in their own native language. Bible scholars know from historical commentaries and ancient texts that, prior to the Greek codices, the Semitic language originals did exist. Also there are many examples of tampering made obvious from the peculiar placement of certain Aramaic words alongside, or in place of, Greek NT words. It is also well known to Hebrew and Aramaic scholars that there are many instances where nuanced meanings and idiomatic expressions used by the native Semite scribes who wrote the first NT documents and letters, were simply discarded. I have yet to hear a single Semitic or Greek language scholar argue that the NT texts were originally penned in Greek by the Aramaic-speaking Jewish disciples of Lord Yeshua, the debate over Greek or Aramaic primacy notwithstanding. With the original documents undiscovered or destroyed, the process of re-translation can seem “backwards,” in a manner of speaking. Referring to the Greek and the Aramaic biblical library, one must try to accurately define or amplify the original Aramaic-Hebrew meaning, correct the text, and then arrive at the best English rendering.
This brings me to what I believe is one of the most egregious abuses of translation in the NT texts. Even the worst instances of mistranslation of words and phrases does not begin to compare to the replacement of the divinely bestowed birth name of Yeshua with the Greek Iesous (rendered as “Jeez-us” in English, having no similarity in spelling, sound, or likeness whatever to the name pronounced “Ye-shoo-ah” in Hebrew), being as different as the name Michael is from Jimmy. One certainly would not call a human friend by a totally different name, but the sacred name of the crucified Lord, Yeshua (meaning “savior” or “deliverer” in Hebrew), is much more significant. The importance of the Lord’s true name, Yeshua, is prominently and repeatedly emphasized throughout NT scripture, and is said to be the one “name that is above every name that can be named” and “the only name by which we are saved.”
So, if we are to believe this to be true, that Yeshua is the Lord’s authentic and most sacred name, it would seem to be an extraordinary achievement that the forces of darkness could, almost successfully, completely blot out the real name of the Lord, resulting in the glorification of a completely different name (Jesus) by Christianity and the world. I want to emphasize that this has nothing whatsoever to do with the mere translation of a word into another language. It is not the same thing; this isn’t just any other “word” – it is a name, a blessed name, and not at all difficult to pronounce correctly. There was a time when, in the company of Christian Churchists, I too used “Jesus Christ”, in ignorance, as is customary. But once I knew the truth and saw this as another brazen example of deception and disrespect toward Lord Yeshua, I have used his true name ever since. I will also share, from personal experience, that Lord Yeshua is always graciously responsive to the usage of his true name!
The same exegetical criticism should also apply to “Christ,” a word that derives from the Greek kristos, meaning “to smear or rub with oil,” physically, on the head or body, a common ritual practice since ancient times by practitioners of various religions and also performed to confer secular authority on kings and other ranking officials. The use of various oils and balms was also commonplace among physicians and practitioners of healing arts, regardless of religious belief. How kristos became a name, title, or proper noun “Christ” is anyone’s guess, but there is not a single NT reference to Yeshua having oil poured on him as an anointing ritual in order to confer upon him the title and authority of Messiah. It simply does not exist in scripture. John the Baptist used water in the Jordan River to baptize Yeshua, and alluded to his authority on that occasion, but there was no “oiling.” So, when the vast body of biblical literature says “Christ means Messiah”, that’s just plain false.
The significance of this point concerns the very authenticity of designating Yeshua as the true Messiah of Hebrew prophecy, with all of its attendant meanings, past, present, and future—something much more important than, say, being “oiled.” So, what we have discovered in this case is nothing less than the arbitrary re-identification of Lord Yeshua, the Messiah, as the Anglicized-Greek Bible character “Jesus Christ.” It would therefore be fair to say that a “Christ-ian”, prior to any other declarations of belief, is one who worships the Greco-Roman Jesus Christ as “God”—thusly, “Jesus Christism.”
This almost universally recognized religious construct has had the (presumably) unintended consequence of reinforcing a distinction between the historic Greco-Roman tradition that holds forth Jesus Christ as “Very God of Very God” and the original faith that honors Lord Yeshua as the Messiah of Hebrew prophecy (“Adonai Yeshua ha Meshiach” in Hebrew and Aramaic speech) who “sits at the right hand” of The Eternal Father, Yahweh. Whereas the identity of Jesus Christ was developed to proselytize specific Greco-Roman religious dogma, traditions, and practices of the Christian belief system, the other belief (one which I personally embrace) values a simpler and decidedly more non-religious spiritual faith. [Note: For a further analysis of the translation issues pertaining to the sacred names and the true definitions/usages of biblical terms for Hebrew deity, I recommend this brief paper.]
Lord Yeshua obviously had some serious issues with the religious authorities of his day. The scribes and Pharisees were esteemed as the “righteous of the righteous” among the Hebrew leaders in the NT period, but Yeshua was not impressed. Indeed, he instructed his disciples not to behave as they did, not to be authoritative and religious as they were, and not even to pray openly in public as they did. He frequently admonished such religious leaders with scornful correction over their religious views and practices and generally showed them only disrespect, calling them vipers, blind guides, pretenders, and worse. He even likened the pious Pharisees to “white-washed tombs” that look good on the outside but inside were full of death and corruption. Perhaps that explains why Lord Yeshua frequently avoided their synagogues, preferring to teach and minister in private homes, on street corners, and countryside byways. On one occasion he was led to invoke the prophet Isaiah’s blunt condemnation, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me; in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
It is my hope that this testimonial of my own faith and pointing to the darkness of Institutional Christianity will be viewed as a spiritual word of encouragement to the Christian seeker of truth to break free of the bonds of religious deception and re-turn to “the faith once delivered.” The way to true spiritual and intellectual freedom can be a difficult journey down an uncertain, sometimes lonely, road. Yet, how can we ignore the shouted prophetic warnings found throughout the Bible which says that, in the last days, “evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived”? We read that the road is wide and well-traveled that leads to destruction and in this world religion certainly appears to be a super-highway with lots of traffic. However familiar, comfortable, and secure it may seem to just follow along with the flow of that traffic, we must take care to observe the warning signs and know our destination.
I am certainly not opposed to the comfort of familiar fellowship that one may find with other believers and am sympathetic toward those who have been deceived by the adversaries of truth. This is not meant as a personal attack on those who are under the spell of deceptive religious teachings or are simply uninformed, however I do wholeheartedly recommend the simplicity of personal spiritual faith over the religious traditions and doctrines of Institutional Christianity. I’ll take this opportunity to urge Christian readers to study diligently and seek what is good and true in life, remembering always that “a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.” And then, if one decides to depart “religious Egypt” to walk an unfamiliar path of new discovery as a wilderness sojourner, know that such a decision takes courage and real faith. But, included in the good news message of the Kingdom is the certain knowledge that we are never alone.
For those Christians who are humbly seeking to understand the deeper spiritual principles of the Elohim Kingdom while avoiding the rotten fruit of religious deception, I would enjoy hearing from you. Comments and questions will be forwarded to my attention though the contact email address on the BRC website; while I may not be able to personally respond to every email, peaceful contact from readers is always welcome. May Lord Yeshua ha Meshiach lead you to the Way and give you peace!