- Religion and Philosophy
Karaite Comments: To My Brother Yeshua (Jesus) Chapter 14
“Whenever we are witness to the great assemblies of self appointed learned and great men we can expect the world to shake and quake in fear. “
One doesn’t have to dig deep into the history of mankind to see that the quotation is as valid today as it was sixteen hundred years ago. Whether it is an assembly for political change, religious institution, a war council or even a modern day assembly like the United Nations, the truth is that the outcome more than often results in the inevitable destruction and devastation that only mankind can unleash upon his own species. We are guilty of the most heinous crimes yet we appear doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past.
What is it that drives us to unequalled levels of cruelty against our fellow man in order to exercise our narrow minded pursuit to exercise our will over that of others, to both the detriment and neglect of others, as long as it satisfies our own selfish needs? How is it that we can cloak are misguided intents beneath a shroud of liberalism or humanitarianism even though from the outcome it is obvious that our imposition of our myopic view only causes greater suffering to the many while the few we have protested to protect are minor in significance and very often worth.
I have thought long about this dilemma following the outpouring of a fellow Karaite’s heart and soul this past week in which her own personal suffering and that of her family was tested against the rights and privileges of the individual in our society to perpetrate evil are safeguarded to the fullest extent of the law. It would appear in our efforts to appear humanitarian, we have forgotten the meaning of a word which implied the ‘taking care of the human race’ not the interests of an individual or a small group that are opposed to the good of society. To safeguard a minority bent on evil, destructive and anti-social programs is to be anything but humanitarian. From criminals to activists, they are still simply people that feel they have the right to exercise their rights illegally and often violently. We must reexamine the misguided concepts that have pervaded our legal, political and religious structures. We must protect the majority as long as that majority does not persecute or harass the minority. And most importantly we must act in the public good if we are to survive as a species. These last few points are easily forgotten when minorities obtain power and a voice well beyond their proportion and measure and a majority remains both passive and silent. Such was the case with Christianity as it moved towards being granted state recognition. But rather than learn from the mistake of Church development, the error has been perpetrated and perpetuated for countless centuries into modern times and these new minorities, vocal well beyond their numbers, have inherited the legacy of enforcing their will upon the majority simply because they have gained the support of high ranking officials, political pawns, acceptable violence and a legal system that has abandoned the Mosaic Laws with no sentence or sensibility behind its enforcement.
The Arian Church
This setting of an impossible goal led many to fall into the ever widening net of heresy. One of its victims that it ensnared was a questioning priest in Alexandria by the name of Arius. Arius could not understand how God, being so pure and good have any direct contact with the real world. To do so would mean that the Lord would willingly allow himself t be contaminated by impurity and imperfection and that was unacceptable. How could he or his followers believe in a God anything less than perfect? Therefore he concluded, Jesus could not be a version of the same being. He would have had to have been something completely different; an intermediary with a divine spark but not then or ever a manifestation of God himself. That being the case, Arius continued to teach his followers that Jesus was a being completely separate from the Father and therefore should not be worshipped as such. Immediately, the Bishop of Alexandria called for the excommunication of Arius before he could do irreparable harm.
Concerned that this Arian heresy would tear apart the Church that he had so neatly stitched together, the Emperor Constantine summoned the great council in 325 AD, the Council of Nicaea. With close to two hundred bishops from all over the empire, Constantine insisted by the end of the assembly they must have a unified decision on the direction of Christianity, a document we have come to know as the Nicene Creed.
The Attainment of Power
Following Constantine’s Edict of Toleration written 311 AD, the power of religious authority was concentrated in the hands of one church and one church alone, that being the Catholics, then regarded as the official Church of Rome. The word ‘Toleration’ in the title was a misnomer since it was obvious the Catholic Church was proposed as the universal church and all others were discluded from the equation. With the balance of power to determine the future direction of Christianity, the Catholic Church immediately switch its policy from safeguarding the traditions from misinterpretation to that of eliminating deniers of the Truth. What this meant to the early adherents of Judeo-Christian traditions that they could no longer deny the divinity of Christ. To do so would be to refuse the Trinity and accept the Unity of God. Those churches that believed Yeshua was a man in whom the spirit of God dwelt had to adopt the belief that Jesus was a divine spirit that assumed human flesh. And in so doing the belief in Jesus as the Son of God had to be upheld otherwise you could not belong to this new Orthodox Church. The difficulty in accepting the ideology that the Father and Son were actually different designations of the same being was overcome in one of two ways. Either you accepted it at face value, never to question it again, or you were to be branded a heretic and either killed or banished. Doubt, disbelief, endless questioning were all silenced rapidly.
Enforcement of these beliefs to the elimination of all others could only be met by growing resistance. A Yeshua without humanity became an unattainable goal. Why worship a being that couldn’t possibly be a role model for other human beings, since as God he was incapable of performing or contemplating a sin. Perfection couldn’t be tainted and therefore any relevance as a role model was negated. The Jesus of this old-new church was out of touch with the common people.
The Final Solution
Homoousios was the word that became doctrine at the assembly in Nicaea. Translated it meant ‘of one substance.’ That was their final decision that the Father and Son were from one substance and Yeshua’s divinity was never to be questioned again. In reality, the decision failed to decide anything. Those that still believed as Arius taught refused to accept the final decision and publicly stated so. As for Arius, he was publicly humiliated, excommunicated and exiled but that resolved little. Even though the majority stood against Arius, he challenged them on their creation of a terminology ‘homoousios’ which was nowhere to be found in either the Old or New Testaments. Therefore, similar to Karaites like myself whom accuse the Rabbanites of constantly inventing religious doctrine to suit their own needs, Arius did likewise to his Catholic brethren. In their defense the Bishops passed a ruling that they too could be divinely inspired and therefore they were permitted to create new doctrine. Now legally backed by their newly established power they were confident they could mold Christianity any way they so desired and in feeling thus, they introduced the dogma of immaculate conception which had no religious foundation in any of the sacred books but they no longer required sacred writings to establish the rules.
Constantine found himself sitting in a quagmire. By initially agreeing with the Council’s doctrine he had given them powers far in excess of any they held previously. By instilling within them the ability to create religious doctrine and dogma based entirely on their own feelings at the time, he had turned them into rivals rather than subordinates. The Nicaean Creed was received well in the West but the Eastern Bishoprics struggled with its introduction since they had the greatest concentration of adherents from the early Judeo-Christian Churches and those members refused to accept the incorporation of absolute power into the hands of the clergy.
Fearing what he had done, Constantine in 328 AD recalled Arius from exile and supported the Arian policies or anti-Nicene party but it was too late.
For the next four hundred years Arianism survived but wherever it raised its head it was hunted down, tortured and eradicated. The Catholic Church was determined to eliminate this threat no matter how long that might take fearing that the policies of Arius called into question their power and the divine nature of Yeshua. As soon as the populace began to question those doctrines then it would spell the end of the control over the minds and bodies of men. Arianism served a purpose; it reinforced the establishment of Orthodox doctrine. Each and every time that the threat of Arianism arose, the Chatholic Church felt compelled to hold a council and introduce even more legislation to safeguard their empire. Most aren’t even aware of the next Nicene Creed, the one that took place in 381 AD. From that the Church obtained, “For us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was made man.” There was also the new swearing of allegiance to the “Holy Ghost, the Lord and the Giver of Life.” But that didn’t succeed in being taken on very well by the congregations and eventually became replaced by the “Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” much easier for most to recite. The concept of the Holy Ghost had to be introduced because Arius refused to believe that the Spirit that infused Jesus was a part of God, insisting that it was no higher in its creation than that of an angel. In this way, the Church ensured that no part of their Trinity could be questioned as being anything less than God.
But by creating this new omnipotence and infallibility of Jesus, God and the Holy Ghost a new threat was created. These were referred to as the “divine mysteries”, unanswerable questions that were beyond man’s comprehension and therefore not required to be answered by the clergy. If God actually manifested Himself on earth, then why had nothing actually improved? If God gave forgave man all his sins, then why did he sin more than ever with each passing year? If had tasted the suffering of mankind during his experience in human flesh then why did he permit man to suffer so? All these divine mysteries and yet so few divine answers, for no other reason that anything divine had been totally eradicated from this new Christianity which claimed to be Orthodox yet had by the end of the fifth century as I have elucidated in these articles removed anything that may perchance have been the original Christian beliefs based on its Jewish heritage. What was left was a hollow shell filled with only the whims and desires a handful of sacrilegious men. What was also clear by the end of the fifth century was that the man in charge was the Bishop of Rome, a position as history has shown could be bought, stolen, killed for and above all, abused. And from that point in time was when the questions should have been asked. Was there ever an original Christian teaching that an institutional Church was the true path? Hardly, the use of the Greek word ‘ecclesia’ in Jerusalem actually translated as an assembly, suggesting leadership would only be via elders, not by something called a church which the Greek now is translated as. Was a single man ever destined to be considered the voice of God? Though James had assumed the mantle of leadership following his brother’s death, at no time did he claim his words to be infallible as the Pontiff of Rome now claimed. Error compounded upon error and every time a spiritual leader appeared that attempted to turn back the clock, he was branded as a heretic and his followers persecuted to death. And therein lies the root cause of so much which has gone wrong with our institutions of today. When the guiding light that a quarter of the world looks towards was based on principles that barely represented the original directives then it follows that all subsequent institutions wallow in their own ineptitude having nothing upon which to define their morality. Like a pendulum, they will swing wildly from end to end seeking the balance but never able to find that point of equilibrium since they are constantly out of sync with every other organization and institution. Without harmony there can be no balance. Without a return to the original beliefs there is no chance to find the guiding light. Without knowledge and understanding of whence we came there can be no comprehension of what we were destined for. And without Karaism there is no way of recognizing what it is we have all lost so long ago.