Wait a minute! Isn’t Constantine the guy who ran the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, where some of the modern Christian doctrines were first formalized? Didn’t they say Christ was divine there? Didn’t they set up the Christian holidays, such as Easter?
(Actually, they had Easter but couldn’t decide what day to celebrate it.)
So if we are asking whether someone is Christian or Constantinian, isn’t that the same thing?
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To answer this, let’s go to the Cloud and ask Wikipedia.
Here is what it says about Constantine (I have condensed this to save space):
Constantine was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. Although he lived much of his life as a pagan, and later as a catechumen, he joined the Christian faith on his deathbed, being baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia. He called the First Council of Nicaea in 325, which produced the statement of Christian belief known as the Nicene Creed. He has historically been referred to as the “First Christian Emperor”, and he did heavily promote the Christian Church.
As for the definition of Christianity, Wikipedia says:
Christianity is divided between Eastern and Western theology. In these two divisions, there are six branches: Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Assyrians. Restorationism is sometimes considered the seventh branch.
To add to what Wikipedia says, within these major divisions there are many sects, such as Amish, Mennonites, Anabaptists, etc. In all, there are over a dozen different religions that call themselves “Christian”, even though some Christian religions have beliefs in opposition to other Christian religious beliefs.
For the record, Judaism isn’t too far behind, with Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Messianic (although the other sects of Judaism would not recognize Messianic Jews as being Jews.)
Getting back to the original question, let me set some ground rules. Christianity is, for the purposes of this discussion, following the teachings of Jesus Christ, who is Yeshua ha Mashiach. A Constantinian is someone who follows the doctrines of “The Church”, meaning the doctrines established at the Council of Nicaea and at Ecumenical councils since then. A Constantinian is someone who celebrates Christmas, Easter, Sunday Sabbath, ignores the Torah because it is just for Jews, fasts during Lent, obeys the 8th-day baptism, goes through Catechism, etc., and so forth.
Now we need to identify what is different, if anything, from the teachings of Yeshua and the doctrines of the “Church”, which I will refer to as Constantinian doctrine.
(Yes, I know Constantine did not create all the doctrines of the modern church, but for the purposes of this discussion we will use the term “Constantinian” to refer to modern church doctrine.)
Well, this is actually pretty simple to understand. If Christianity is following the teaching of Yeshua, then whatever is in the Old Covenant is Christianity because Yeshua didn’t teach anything else. In truth, there was nothing else to teach from- even the Talmud wasn’t written down in its complete form at that time. The Talmud is composed of the Mishna and the Gemara; the Mishna was written in 200 CE and the Gemara in 500 CE.
Everything in the New Covenant was not written until well after Yeshua was resurrected and raised back into the heavens; the earliest versions of the Gospels and letters from Shaul (Paul) to his newly formed Messianic congregations throughout the Middle East and Asia were not written until sometime around 50-60 CE. So, because there was no New Covenant, Yeshua could not have taught anything from it.
You might be thinking, “Well, DUH! Steve. Of course, he didn’t teach from the New Covenant, because what he taught became the New Covenant.” I would say that makes sense, except for one thing- it is wrong.
Within the New Covenant, we have the Gospels, which are eye-witness accounts of the life and ministry of Yeshua, and the letters that were written by the Apostles, ending with John’s Revelation. Nearly 2/3 of the entire N.C. is made up of the letters from Shaul to the congregations he formed, and their intent was to help these newly converted Believers to stay on the course he set them upon, with regards to learning how to follow the teachings of Yeshua, which (as I stated earlier) are the instructions in the Torah.
The major source of confusion between Christianity (following Yeshua) and modern church doctrine (Constantinian) is that Shaul’s letters were not written to become doctrine, but were only meant to help guide these neophyte Believers in learning how to go from the gluttonous, sinful, sexually perverted lifestyle that they lived their whole lives as worshipers of paganistic gods to righteous, humble and self-controlled followers of God and Messiah. That’s quite a paradigm shift, and no one could do that “cold turkey.” Shaul’s letters were never meant to be absolute and permanent doctrine but instead just “stepping stones”, designed to help get his congregations past their immediate problems and further along the pathway to living (what we would call today) a Jewish lifestyle.
When we compartmentalize God’s instructions in the Torah as “Jewish worship” we are restricting what God wanted to give the whole world to only about one-fourth of one percent of it. The Torah was given to the Jewish people to learn so that they, as a nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) could bring it to everyone.
God has no religion, only those instructions for how to worship him and how to treat each other, and that is what Yeshua taught. The Pharisees had been teaching only the written word or the literal meaning of the Torah (called the P’ shat) but Yeshua taught us the spiritual meaning (called the Remes) so that we would know not just what God wanted us to do, but why we should be doing it.
For me, the answer to the original question is that “true” Christianity is the religion which follows what Yeshua taught, which means following the instructions found in the Torah, which the world would call Judaism.
That means Christianity is Judaism, but with one difference: Christians accept that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised to send, and the “mainstream” Jews do not. Given how many doctrinal differences there are just between Orthodox and Reform Jews, one would think that this difference (Yeshua being the Messiah) would not keep us that far apart, but it does. The reason is because of how Constantinian doctrine has become known as Christianity, which separated itself from Judaism so much that they became totally different religions.
If you call yourself a Christian but ignore the instructions in the Torah, you are a Constantinian. If you are a Gentile who accepts Yeshua as your Messiah and lives according to the Torah (i.e., a “Jewish” lifestyle and worship), you can call yourself a Hebraic Roots follower, a Messianic Gentile, or a Christian, but you are not a Constantinian. And, if you are Jewish (by blood), live according to the Torah and believe Yeshua is the Messiah, you are not a Christian or a Constantinian- you are a Messianic Jew, which means you are still a Jew.
There you have it. A Constantinian will follow the modern day Christian doctrines, but a “true” Christian will follow the Torah. Also, a “true” Christian and a Jew should worship and live the same way, and only disagree on the matter of Yeshua.
One day, when the Messiah comes to straighten this whole “religion” thing out once and for all, we will have no more religions, no more doctrines, no more confusion, and no more hatred and bigotry. We will only have God, Messiah, and eternal peace.
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!