The Church Has NOT Replaced Gods Israel: Putting Israel Back in the Picture
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Any examination of this topic is complicated by the multicolored mosaic that is Middle Eastern Christianity. While the Roman Catholic Church and various Protestant denominations do have a presence in the Middle East, most Christians in the region belong to one of the dozens of Orthodox native churches that broke off from European Christianity as a result of theological debates in the 5th century or the Great East-West Schism of Broadly speaking, we can discern three major groupings. The Oriental Orthodox churches—an example is the Coptic church that predominates in Egypt—are in communion with each other but not with the major European churches.
Finally, and smallest in number, there are the Eastern Catholic churches, of which the most important is the Maronite church in Lebanon. Nor do the native churches break down neatly along geographical lines. Historically speaking, however, certain common patterns do emerge early on in the relationship between Middle Eastern Christians and the Jews.
Although this was a common motif in both the East and the West, a regional issue was also at play in the East, where a larger Jewish presence gave rise to competitive animosities. The tension was perhaps the clearest in Alexandria, home to a substantial Jewish community. Such Christian-Jewish rivalry should also be seen against the background of a still larger struggle between the Church and civil authorities. Even more complex relationships developed after the 7th-century Islamic conquests, when both Jews and Christians became vulnerable minorities.
Under Islam, both groups were viewed as dhimmis, tolerated but made subject to a complex system of discriminatory policies including a special tax jizya , distinctive clothing, and prohibitions on riding horses and carrying weapons. Somewhat offsetting this harsh pattern of discrimination was the need of various caliphs and local rulers for the talents of individual Jews and Christians who rose to high-level positions in Muslim governments. Unfortunately, the scarcity of such opportunities only encouraged the sense of inter-communal competition.
Miraculously, according to traditional Coptic historiography, the mountain did indeed move, thus saving the Coptic community from the dire and perhaps fatal consequences it might otherwise have suffered. In this regard, they typify the portrayal in Eastern church histories of the struggle between Christian and Jewish communities over the scraps tossed them by their Muslim rulers. That leads me to the woman with the rainbow hair and the many splendored rings. However one would respond to that young woman, the rule forever is that it has to reflect our religious beliefs and our gospel commitments.
Therefore, how we respond in any situation has to make things better, not worse. And He always did what should have been done to make the situation better—from teaching the truth, to forgiving sinners, to cleansing the temple. It is no small gift to know how to do such things in the right way!
So, with our new acquaintance of the unusual dress and grooming code, we start, above all, by remembering she is a daughter of God and of eternal worth. We start by being grateful that she is at a Church activity, not avoiding one. In short, we try to be at our best in this situation in a desire to help her be at her best.
There Have Been Many Calls to Leave Babylon
We keep praying silently: What is the right thing to do here? And what is the right thing to say? What ultimately will make this situation and her better? There is a sheepfold, and we are all supposed to be in it, to say nothing of the safety and blessings that come to us for being there. It is only the high ground of revealed truth that gives us any footing on which to lift another who may feel troubled or forsaken. Our compassion and our love—fundamental characteristics and requirements of our Christianity—must never be interpreted as compromising the commandments.
In this regard—this call for compassion and loyalty to the commandments—there is sometimes a chance for a misunderstanding, especially among young people who may think we are not supposed to judge anything, that we are never to make a value assessment of any kind. The alternative is to surrender to the moral relativism of a deconstructionist, postmodern world which, pushed far enough, posits that ultimately nothing is eternally true or especially sacred and, therefore, no one position on any given issue matters more than any other.
And that simply is not true.
In this process of evaluation, we are not called on to condemn others, but we are called upon to make decisions every day that reflect judgment—we hope good judgment. For example, parents have to exercise good judgment regarding the safety and welfare of their children every day. No one would fault a parent who says children must eat their vegetables or who restricts a child from running into a street roaring with traffic. So why should a parent be faulted who cares, at a little later age, what time those children come home at night, or what the moral and behavioral standards of their friends are, or at what age they date, or whether or not they experiment with drugs or pornography or engage in sexual transgression?
When we face such situations in complex social issues in a democratic society, it can be very challenging and, to some, confusing. But to make the point, let me use the example of a lesser law. Does everyone have to do what we do?
All Earth or All Israel?
Must they behave as we do? And you have to do this without demeaning those who transgress or who believe differently than we believe because, yes, they do have their moral agency. My young friends, there is a wide variety of beliefs in this world, and there is moral agency for all, but no one is entitled to act as if God is mute on these subjects or as if commandments only matter if there is public agreement over them. In the 21st century we cannot flee any longer. We are going to have to fight for laws and circumstances and environments that allow the free exercise of religion and our franchise in it.
That is one way we can tolerate being in Babylon but not of it. I know of no more important ability and no greater integrity for us to demonstrate in a world from which we cannot flee than to walk that careful path—taking a moral stand according to what God has declared and the laws He has given, but doing it compassionately and with understanding and great charity.
Talk about a hard thing to do—to distinguish perfectly between the sin and the sinner. I know of few distinctions that are harder to make, or at least harder to articulate, but we must lovingly try to do exactly that.
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Believe me, brothers and sisters, in the world into which we are moving, we are going to have a lot of opportunity to develop such strength, display such courage, and demonstrate such compassion—all at the same time. And I am not speaking now of punk hairdos or rings in your nose.
Now lastly, the difficult story from Kansas City. Not many of us are going to be police officers or social service agents or judges sitting on a legal bench, but all of us should care for the welfare of others and the moral safety of our extended community. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve devoted an entire general conference talk to this subject two years ago. In speaking of the need for us to influence society beyond the walls of our own home he said:. Those children in that home without food or clothing are sons and daughters of God. That mother, more culpable because she is older and should be more responsible, is also a daughter of God.
Such situations may require tough love in formal, even legal ways, but we must try to help when and where we can because we are not checking our religion at the door, even as pathetic and irresponsible as some doors are. When we leave this evening, there will still be poverty, ignorance and transgression, unemployment and abuse, violence and heartache in our neighborhoods and cities and nations. Without being naive or Pollyannaish about it, we can live our religion so broadly and unfailingly that we find all kinds of opportunities to help families, bless neighbors, and protect others, including the rising generation.
I have not uttered the word missionary in this context for fear you would immediately think of white shirts and name tags. Stay with the big picture—the huge need—to share the gospel always, whether you are a full-time missionary or not. Latter-day Saints are called upon to be the leaven in the loaf, the salt that never loses its savor, the light set upon a hill never to be hidden under a bushel.
We know that. The earliest known attempt to create a canon in the same respect as the New Testament was in 2nd century Rome by Marcion, a Turkish businessman and church leader. Disapproving of the effort, the Roman church expelled Marcion. Second-century Syrian writer Tatian attempted to create a canon by weaving the four gospels together as the Diatessaron.
The Muratorian Canon, which is believed to date to A.
Land of Israel
It was not until the 5th century that all the different Christian churches came to a basic agreement on Biblical canon. The books that eventually were considered canon reflect the times they were embraced as much the times of the events they portray. During the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, books not originally written in Hebrew but Greek, such as Judith and Maccabees, were excluded from the Old Testament. These are known the Apocrypha and are still included in the Catholic Bible.
Additional Biblical texts have been discovered, such as the Gospel of Mary, which was part of the larger Berlin Gnostic Codex found in Egypt in Among the Gnostic Gospels were the Gospel of Thomas—which purports to be previously hidden sayings by Jesus presented in collaboration with his twin brother—and The Gospel of Philip, which implies a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The original texts are believed to date back to around A. The Book of Judas was found in Egypt in the s.
Dated to around A. These have never become part of the official Biblical canon, but stem from the same traditions and can be read as alternative views of the same stories and lessons. These texts are taken as indications of the diversity of early Christianity. First printed in , this edition of the Bible was commissioned in by King James I after feeling political pressure from Puritans and Calvinists demanding church reform and calling for a complete restructuring of church hierarchy. In response, James called for a conference at Hampton Court Palace, during which it was suggested to him that there should be a new translation of the Bible since versions commissioned by earlier monarchs were felt to be corrupt.
King James eventually agreed and decreed the new translation should speak in contemporary language, using common, recognizable terms. This version of the Bible was not altered for years and is credited as one of the biggest influences on the English language, alongside the works of Shakespeare. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible. John Rogerson, ed. The Book: A History of the Bible.
Christopher De Hamel. New Testament History and Literature.
Christian Zionism, by Dr. Ninan Koshy - Global Ministries
Dale B. The Gnostic Gospels. Elaine Pagels. From Jesus To Christ. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present.