THE EARLY CHURCH AND BIBLICAL FESTIVALS by Merv Watson

In the first century, fundamental changes occurred, which drew the central authority away from the apostolic order into a new philosophical order. As the church of Jerusalem, under the direction of James, lost its effectiveness because of the destruction of the Temple and the dispersion of the believers, the conduct of the church affairs fell under the auspices of more non-Judaistic leadership.

The progressive effect of this change of authority was a disintegration of the Hebraic basis for liturgy, and its replacement by Greco-Roman philosophical ideas. Following the second uprising around 135 A.D., there was a purposeful rejection of many of the Judaistic influences that were part of the establishment of the early church.

Among those things rejected were the annual memorials, known as the Biblical Festivals. There was a desire on the part of the early church fathers, such as Justin Martyr, to gain the sympathy of the Roman rulers who were profoundly enraged by the last rebellion of the Jews in the second century. Since the early church was regarded as part of the Jewish Faith, the political stigma connected with things Jewish attached itself to the church as well.

The Roman influence, instilled in the early Church, fathered a deep abiding resentment towards the Jews. When the first universal Church leader, Constantine, made the Christian church the official religion of the Roman state, he, as emperor of Rome, established practices which completely destroyed any continuity between the fledgling Church, and the roots of the Faith. Instead, pagan holidays (Christmas, Lent, Good Friday, Easter) were substituted for the Biblical ones, and these are in place today.

Under later leaders, the calendar was changed from the lunar calendar, determining time from the moon cycles, to the solar calendar, reflecting the sun worship prevalent in Rome. This changing of the calendar completely altered the Biblical time cycle for festivals, and separated, finally, any relationship between the Biblical time scale and that of the Church. Commemorating Biblical Feasts is a realignment with the early beginnings of the Faith, and a memorial celebration as a reminder of what God has done in History.

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