The Ways of the Way, A Book Review by Roy Blizzard
Introductory section review
An examination of the doctrine and facts taught in “The Ways of the Way” a book by Raymond Robert Fisher by Roy Blizzard III.
In writing this examination I have no real desire to chastise others, as it is a waste of my time to do so, but my real purpose is only to correct what I know to be error. Given this, here my findings as pertains to only the introduction. I have no time nor desire to write a 500 page treatise on all of the many errors found throughout this book so I'm only going to deal with his introductory part which is rife with error and it gets worse from there.
It begins that the title to this book is erroneous. The Ways of the Way is a poor English variation of the Hebrew and means nothing really. The first century followers of Jesus or Yeshua usually called themselves Maamin - believers, this coming from the root aleph, mem, nun, the root of Amen which means to be faithful. Mr. Fischer is translating the Hebrew word Ha Derek as “the way”. In Hebrew, HaDerek means footpath as opposed to a broad roadway. It comes from Isaiah 40 were it says," in the wilderness make straight the footpath of our God. There is rich meaning in Hebrew to HaDerek, but none to “the way”. If I said The Way, a Jew would simply say, What Way? Up Down, etc. This is just an attempt to sensationalize something that was rarely used by Believers.
In the introduction on page 1, Mr. Fischer quotes Matthew 5:17-20 and then never explains why or what is the significance of the words Jesus spoke. He then goes on to say that the movement was formed 3 1/2 years after Jesus spoke the words on the Mount. He is wrong, Jesus was crucified at about 31 1/2 years old not 33 years old as there is an error in John and a misunderstanding of Judaism and its foreshadowing by Mr. Fischer that leads to this error.
Also what is the meaning of “all Nazarene”? Have they all been born in Nazareth, have they all taken a Nazarite oath, or do they all belong to the Nazarene denomination? Do they all consider themselves Notzri? There is no proof to this comment. Why does Mr. Fischer choose to use all these terms interchangeably when they obviously have different meanings and connotations. Nothing Jesus said was in any way unique except that he equated Himself to YHWH, and that was pretty unique. Jesus just re-explained or reinterpreted everything according to the Traditions He was raised in..
There is absolutely no proof of anyone in Jesus’ movement as being Essenes, or of them using anything out of the Essene doctrine that wasn't already being used in normative Judaism already. Jesus and his disciples weren’t ascetic peoples who withdrew from society. They went out into the masses, exactly the opposite of the Essenes. Just because the Essenes believed in the Messiah didn’t make them any more of a candidate for Jesus’ movement than any other Jew as almost all Jews were looking for a Messiah. While many volumes of literature were housed at Qumran and some biblical and religious texts were written there as we found a scriptorium, to say that the Essenes wrote the four canonized gospels or any other part of the New Testament is pure speculation. We know the Essenes were finally run off by earthquakes and killed by the Romans at the time of the destruction of Masada so we can't substantiate anything in the New Testament to them.
Which Jews dispersed from Mt. Zion and when? The Epistles were written to instruct the new believers in what? Judaism! So to say these were "Gentile" congregations is a misnomer. Paul was accepted by the disciples of Jesus and again there were no Essenic roots. Paul wasn't a “militant” Pharisee; he was a “zealous” Pharisee. A big difference. He considered himself a zealous Pharisee after the vein of Phineas at Mount Sinai. It is wrong to quip that Paul is the creator of Christianity as Paul like Jesus preached nothing but normative Judaism. So, if that is what they both preached where then did Christianity as we know it come from?
Page 3 of the introduction, who is they who blended this new message. The disciples just preached what Jesus did and they didn't start any “orthodoxy”, which is a later Christian term. The believer’s movement was found wholly within Judaism and was stolen away by the non-Jews outside of Israel as the Jewish leaders of the movement lost power to Byzantium and the Greek Church, then to Rome.
The Jewish believers were still around far longer than Mr. Fischer shows as in the fourth century. There are documents written by the Roman Catholic Church asking what to do with the Jewish believers in the Jordan area. Should they kill them as Jews or let them live as Christians? And this was in the 12th century A.D. What ever orthodoxy passed to what we see as the church into the second and third centuries is far removed from its Jewish beginnings.
Why does Mr. Fischer believe that only the “Christian Church” granted eternal life or spiritual education? The educational level of most Christians is somewhere between third to sixth grade and Jewish religious and spiritual education is graduate level. What denomination of the 30,000+ organizations is this eternal life granted through? Who has this perfect copy of the written word?
While the Didache is an early “Church” writing it exhibits many facets of the early Greek Church more so than of any early Jewish believers. Mr. Fischer is horribly wrong in his assessment about the power to stop the declining society etc. which lies within the church. No, it lies within Yeshua - Jesus. It wasn't a quest for new church homes that gave rise to the Jewish Roots movement, it was a desire for truth as opposed to the B.S. of undereducated pastors and leaders.
I still haven't figured out why any sane individual would like a “home church” unless they have a desire to be perpetually stupid, as few men or women in home churches are educated enough to lead one. While some people may be seeking a more first century worship experience maybe they don't know why they think they need it versus any other worship experience. Maybe both experiences are wrong. Most people pick and choose what aspects they want to follow with no real sense of what or why anyway, but the real key is that an almost total failure of the church movement is what is driving this home movement. They're looking for something not found in church.
While Messianic groups are growing in popularity, what is the problem in the quest of biblical knowledge being long and difficult? I've been studying for 44 years. And what is the surprise in finding Gentiles in the Messianic movement since the US is predominantly Gentile. The problem isn't in who is in it, but why is it necessarily any better than what they left? And how are these two groups ever going to be like-minded with such poor education about what the text says? How is a home church more satisfying? They are usually more exclusional and controlled by undereducated men and women so how is it ever going to satisfy that which has been lost?
There was a difference in the first century as to why the believers met in homes daily and they weren’t in any way supplementary to the gathering of the entire congregation in the synagogue. They were a part of the ministry efforts of the congregation. The Motzi Shabbat wasn't to “christen” anything, it was to be a joyful blood covenant celebratory meal and worship!
We don't need a model of second or third century Greek practices or even the sometimes odd practices of the Jews during the times of Jesus. We need to seek an intimate relationship with Jesus and God which clearly supersede any worship experiences or rituals. While the early believers were somewhat schismatic, they lived all over within the Jewish community. In 90 A.D. there were estimated to be 50,000 believers within the Jerusalem area and they lived within the greater region until at least the 12th century.
The only model offered here in this book is Mr. Fischer's model based on his opinion not Jesus’ guidance, and that which Mr. Fischer offers is only a clear way to absurdity. The real reason for his book is revealed on page 9, the establishment of more home churches-staffed with undereducated, poorly led, and powerless men and women. How can this have anything but a terrible impact on “the church”? While there are many fleeing the churches they sure won't find what they're looking for through this drivel. Mr. Fischer apparently doesn't even know that the “upper room” meant a room in the Temple’s colonnaded porches not “The Cenacle” on Mount Zion, which is a converted mosque and underneath houses the so-called tomb of David which in reality was probably the tomb of Manasseh.
No “mother church" ever went forth from it, unless it was based on evil and spoke Arabic. As far as this concept of “triple water baptism” what would you expect from contemporary Catholic scholars except the pushing of the triple water baptism that come straight from the Greek Orthodox Eastern church and paganism not necessarily Judaism which only immersed once. In fact to be immersed three times would be a violation of everything that Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection stood for as Jesus wasn’t killed, buried or resurrected thrice. It only took once for Jesus to save not three times. Again, why do you want to base what you do on what only a few sub groups try to do?
While they may have sang many songs and Psalms etc., as the cantillation marks in the text clearly show, whether or not the Odes of Solomon or any other music was sung we don't know for sure. Some groups probably did and some may not have, we just don't know. Certainly, the farther the believers separated from Judaism and crept into Greek paganism the music probably became more important as the music inspired many in pagan worship.
I'm not sure Camelot or any setting like Camelot existed in the first century. Seems to me it was more like life in the gladiator lane. While those in the movement may have exhibited the Fruit of the Spirit, life wasn't Camelot like, just ask Stephen. James, Peter, and Paul all had a huge theological foundation to show forth. They didn't have to reformulate some new theology, as all theology of the first century believers was found within Judaism. In fact, James’ name “Oblias” signified in Hebrew one who grows old in the study of Torah. There is little evidence of the dispersion as early as 35 A.D. and if in 90 A.D. there could've been 50,000 believers in Jerusalem where is this dispersion and uprooting? They were simply doing what Jesus told them to do and that was to go and make students.
Why would an organized “church” happen before Jesus died? It makes absolutely no sense at all. You couldn't even get a Jewish congregation until after the day of Pentecost! Founding a Church shortly after His Death, Burial, and Resurrection makes some sense but not before. Nothing Mr. Fischer lays out is compelling evidence for a Church in Hippos in Scripture or the archaeological record. While the people may have been astounded and bewildered it never says they converted or repented, necessary ingredients to follow Jesus. While the believers were first called Christians in Antioch, nowhere is it known to be the main center of “Gentile Christianity” as there really wasn't anything known by this name until years later.
If there was a steady stream of believers going out from Israel it was due to them being sent out as Shlechim-Apostles, i.e. missionaries through the synagogue processes, not because they were fleeing anything, at least until after 235 A.D. You have to remember that these people were not participating in the rebellion against Rome, but the Romans just didn't like the fact that they didn’t worship the Caesar, so they got it everywhere not just in Israel.” So why were they “fleeing” elsewhere where they were going to be persecuted just the same? This makes no sense.
While J.T. Milik may be a great Dead Sea Scrolls scholar his assumption about the close parallels to first century believers is nothing spectacular or revealing. These are all Jews and there are similarities abounding, but also dissimilarities. Just because Essenes go to Damascus doesn't mean believers did. As I said before, the ascetic, loner Essenes and the believers who are mission minded don't correlate and wouldn't join together in Damascus or elsewhere for very long. This issue of asceticism goes to the heart of Catholic doctrine where John the Baptist was an Essenes, so Jesus must've been one too. Both in error.
Why was James’ death in A.D. 62 any more of a push to the Jews to leave than any other of the disciples deaths? Why should we be skeptical of the list of 14 ethnic Jews as leader of the believers in Jerusalem? The early believers may have had councils of leaders not just one at a time. This was not unusual within Judaism. But after the revolts in both 70 and 135 people still remained in the regions, they didn't all move or vanish. Some probably did relocate to cities of the Decapolis as they were instructed so it wasn’t unusual to see believers in other areas. Since the believers were not prone to violence against Rome, it made no sense for them to rebel against the Romans as the zealots did and they weren't about to endorse Akiva or Bar Kochba who Akiva had proclaimed the Messiah.
The curse upon the sectarians-Minim (a play on the believers name for themselves-Maamin) was a silent prayer and it failed to drive the Jews from the synagogues. Zachariah 6:12 & 13 means a shoot, that sprouts from the trunk or root not a branch, or it means something that shines forth from something else, such as the Davidic root. Shine forth actually makes more sense given the Genesis reference to light being King Messiah found in The Rabbinic Anthology.
Where in the world do we ever read that the first century believers longed for the rebuilding of the Temple except as found in the End Times Theology? This whole theory is flawed for any number of reasons, one of which has to do with the disciple John, when he died he was actively expecting the return of Jesus at any time, not the rebuilding of the Temple. What did he know that we didn't?
Hadrian actually wanted to ban castration, which would've followed the Torah, but included circumcision which he equated with castration.
Why did the Gentile church rebel against the Jewish believers? Because they weren’t Jews and didn't know enough about the very law they were trying to follow, be it written, oral, or the living and breathing embodiment of it in Jesus. What drove the first and second century Jewish believers away were many factors not just one, two, or three, but the overriding factor was the concept of a “dead gospel” outpouring into the masses. Lots of doctrine, but no spirit. Sound familiar?
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