Upon This Disciple I'll Create My New Religion?

I've recently been debating with a Catholic man, Ariel, in the comments to Catholic Relevance.

Ariel is rather peculiar religious person, in that he went from a child under Catholicism, to agnosticism, to Evangelical Christianity, to Messianic Judaism, then back to Catholicism. (Wow!) He is now a chief contributor to IsraelCatholics.com.

In the little debate, Ariel points to us to his testimony and lays out the span of events that led him to believe that "Messianic Judaism is not biblical enough and [that] Catholicism really is truly Jewish and truly the faith of the Bible."

He further states,
"Messianic Judaism usually uncritically accepts the two pillars of Protestantism: sola scriptura (the Bible as sole source of authority) and sola fide (salvation by faith alone). Yet both of these doctrines are neither Jewish, neither biblical, nor genuinely Christian!"

Ariel and I debate these points and many others in the comments to Kineti Le'Tzion - Catholic Relevance. The points made are so important, however, I feel this debate deserves more visibility than dueling comments in a buried blog post!

To keep things reasonable short and concise, since so many of you [ahem, Gary] refuse to read long posts, I'm going to address only a single issue today:

Should we have a Pope?

Ariel states the Catholic position this way:

The fact that Jesus appointed Peter to be "the rock on which I will build my Church" is quite clear from the NT. See the wealth of other scriptures and quotes from the early church (way before Constantine!) in this presentation.

Ariel is referring to the following Scripture, Matthew's record of the gospel, ch. 16,

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

It is from this Scripture that Catholics claim the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church of Jesus Christ. Indeed, Catholics claim Peter was the first Pope in a succession of popes leading up to the current Roman Catholic Church head:

While Catholics claim the Apostle Peter was the first Pope, the current Pope is Joseph Ratzinger, now called Pope Benedict XVI, a former Hitler Youth (though it's claimed he had no choice in the matter), is seen above wearing the Mitre (religious headgear), which some folks speculate is the pagan Dagon fish hat, although that is contested.

So, are the Catholics correct? Was Peter the first Pope? Did Jesus give authority to Peter to be the first Pope? Did Jesus authorize the creation of a church built on Peter in Rome?

Let's examine the evidence and come to a conclusion.

The first matter is the very Scripture itself. A few things strike me about this quotation:

  • "You are Peter, and upon this rock..." - This is Greek word play. The Greek "Petras" means rock or stone, so it appears Jesus is playing a word game by saying "You are Petros, and upon this petras..."

  • "I will build my church" - This translation and understanding is based on the faulty assumption that Jesus is starting a new religion. After all, we think of "church" as a big building with a steeple symbolizing organized religion, or perhaps a large religious organization itself like the Catholic Church. However, Jesus did not come to start a new religion, and this is evident in the fact that word "church" here is the very same Greek word "ekklesia", which means an assembly of people. Ekklesia is found elsewhere in the Bible -- even the Old Testament! -- but only in the New Testament is it translated in this way, perhaps intentionally as a way for the Church to validate its existence, sadly.

  • "The gates of Hades will not overcome it" - I always get a kick out of this. Why would Jesus, a Torah-observant Jewish rabbi, talk about the pagan Greek god of the dead, Hades? Given that speaking the name of false gods is a sin according to Torah, if Jesus really did say this, he would not have been sinless - very consequential to Christian doctrine. Interesting! More on this in a moment.
So, what's the deal with all this? Is Jesus starting a new religion founded on Peter? Did Jesus break a Torah mitzvot by speaking the name of Greek god of the dead, thus sinning? The answer lies in the original text.

The book of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, a document attested to by the early Church fathers Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Jerome, Papias, and Irenaeous. (Despite this evidence, some modern scholars debate Hebrew Matthew's existence.)

In any case, we no longer have the original Hebrew Matthew, it has since been lost. We do, however, have a Hebrew manuscript of what is believed to be the original Hebrew, in the form of a medieval document written by a Spanish Jewish physician, Shem Tov ben Isaac ben Shaprut. This Hebrew version of Matthew is dubbed Shem Tov's Hebrew Matthew.

(It should be noted there is debate among scholars and Christians as to whether Shem Tov's Matthew is a manuscript from Hebrew or a translation from Latin or Greek. In the very least, there exists in Shem Tov's Hebrew Matthew some rabbinic Judaic bias, such as writing Messiah's name blasphemously1.)

I wanted to get my hands on this and see what the Hebrew Matthew had to say about Jesus building a church on Peter. 2 weeks ago, I did just that, and began studying Shem Tov's Hebrew Matthew. Unsurprisingly, using the Hebrew names1, it reads much differently than the Greek:

[Y'shua] said to him, "Blessed are you, Shimon ben Yochanan, because flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. I say to you: you are a stone and I will build upon you my house of prayer. The gates of Gehenna will not prevail against you because I have given you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Now this is interesting. In the Shem Tov's Hebrew Matthew, we see that no longer is Messiah saying he'll build a church, which implies Jesus is creating a new religion. He instead says he will build a house of prayer, which does not imply a new religion or anything foreign to the Jewish faith.

What did Messiah mean when he said he'd build a house of prayer, you ask? Is He talking about building the Catholic Church? No, it seems obvious what he meant: since Messiah later revealed to Peter that the gentiles are to be included in the faith of the God of Israel, Peter was the foundation of what became a massive gentile following of Jesus that we have today. That gentile following of Messiah is the house of prayer. It does not speak to one particular denomination, Catholic or otherwise. Thus, whether Peter visited Rome or founded a church there -- a debatable point Catholics and Protestants have argued over for centuries -- is irrelevant.

Another interesting bit about this Scripture is how the difficult problem of "Hades" goes away in the Hebrew. While Hades was a Greek god of the underworld, Gehenna was a real place outside Jerusalem that became essentially a garbage dump where fires were burned continuously to consume the refuse of the city. Canaanite pagans had previously sacrificed their children to their false god, Santa Clause Molech, in the valley of Gehenna, so there was also a dark evil associated with the place.

Another interesting bit is how the Hebrew says, "the gates of Gehenna will not prevail against you", as opposed to the Greek reading, "the gates of Hades will not prevail against it [the Church]". The Hebrew is saying Gehenna will not prevail against Peter, the Greek is saying the gates of Hades will not prevail against the Church.

Given this understanding, I see no Scriptural evidence supporting the idea of a Pope, who presumes himself to be Jesus Christ on earth, infallible. On the contrary, I see Scriptures that indicate such presumption to be haughty, if not blasphemous.

The final idea we need to address -- because this confronts both Catholic and Protestant Christianity head on -- is the idea that Jesus came to start a new religion.

Some Christians deny this, saying it is the Jews who created the new religion, or that true Christianity is not different than the original faith in the God of Israel.

But these same Christians betray themselves by saying the Torah is passed away, that Jesus' grace replaces God's Law, or that we safely ignore God's Law because Jesus "nailed it to the cross". Indeed, my father-in-law once said to me, paraphrasing here, "Judah, Israel doesn't matter anymore -- everything changed with Jesus."

Do you Christian folks who profess such things understand what you're saying?

  • If Jesus did away with the Law, then he is a false prophet who would receive capital punishment for leading people away from God.

  • If Jesus did away with the Law, he started a new religion in which the Law is relegated to the back seat, and the Jews would be correct in rejecting Him.

  • If Jesus did away with the Law, or even diminished it in any way, he contradicted his own words and his own actions.

  • If Jesus made less meaningful even the slightest commandment in Torah, he failed to fulfill the messianic prophecies in the Tenakh (Old Testament), thereby rendering his Messianic status a lie.

  • If Jesus replaced Israel with the Church, then Jesus made God out to be a liar; for Jesus would be revoking something God promised to be irrevocable: the Torah will be an everlasting covenant between Himself and Israel.

  • If Jesus "changed everything" such that Torah is diminished, then He did indeed create a new (false) religion, and a Protestant is merely a lesser, misled form of a Catholic, the highest form of follower in this new religion.

Let me spell it out in plain words for you: by claiming Jesus somehow diminished the Law, you are unwittingly stating that Jesus is both a false messiah and a false prophet.

Stop with your foolish claims that Jesus somehow diminished the Torah, you're leading people astray.

Greek Jesus vs Hebrew Yeshua

Let's be frank. If the Greek peacenik adonis Iesous Kristo started a new religion, where we're supposed to have big Churches with steeples, celebrate these new holidays called Easter, Christmas, Lent, and Ash Wednesday, Sunday mass, and all the paraphernalia associated with a new religion, then the Catholic Church is right, and we should all convert to Catholicism.

On the other hand, if the Torah-observant, Jewish rabbi Yeshua HaMoshiach didn't start a new religion, then we need to clean up the mess that was created not 100 years after his death, which culminated in the creation of an official state religion in 325 CE, when the Roman Emperor Constantine declared himself the 'Holy' Roman Emperor and Sol Invictus (invincible sun god) and formalized what is today the Roman Catholic Church, complete with its Sun-day based worship.

So, who do you believe in? The Greek Iesous Kristo? Or the Hebrew Yeshua HaMoshiach? They are not one and the same; one is a perversion of the other. Which is it?

Our English Jesus Christ descends from the Greek understanding of Him, not the Hebrew understanding. We have a Greek mindset in these things -- it's no wonder Jews find Jesus so foreign and repugnant! He's tainted with Greek, pagan undertones in all we say about Him, everything from the western 'Christian' holidays, to his supposed diminishing of Torah, to the very halo we paint around His head.

We need to return to the teachings of this Jewish Messiah -- Sabbath, the Feasts of the Lord, Torah -- and get away from the man-made, Hellenized bastardization of these things that we have now in the Roman Catholic Church and its Protestant offspring.

Do we need a Pope to govern The Church? When one realizes the church in its current form is a religious invention of men, the answer becomes clear. What we do need is a return to our being Israel -- a holy, set apart people for God, different from the world -- grafted in not by race, but by belief in the God of Israel who gave Messiah so that both Jews and gentiles can be clean.

1. Shem Tov, himself a devout Jew being persecuted by the church, unfortunately substituted Yeshua's name in the Hebrew Matthew text with the shorter acronym YSH'W, which is a Hebrew acronym that meant to slam Jesus. The acronym's full form is Yemach Shemo Vezichro (literally meaning 'May his name and memory be obliterated'). It is an ancient rabbinic word play on Jesus' Hebrew name Yeshua, and Shem Tov used this shameful name in his manuscript of Hebrew Matthew.

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  1. 1st the scripture you gave is very much so mis-quoted by the Satanic Catholic church and their POPE. The scripture clearly by the power of the Holy Ghost even the Spirit of Truth states in verse Chapt. 16:13 Jesus The Christ (Y'shua) asked his disciples , saying Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 6:14 And they said, some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others , Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 16:15 He saith unto them, but whom say ye that I AM?
    16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said. Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
    This is the basis of the argument of the Catholic church being installed by Jesus Christ.
    Instead this is absolute proof of the satanic cult known as the Catholic church.
    Matthew 16: 17.
    And Jesus answered and said unto him. Blessed art thou Simon Barjona: For Flesh and blood HATH NOT REVEALED it unto you. But my Father which is in heaven. THE TRUTH THAT THIS REVELATION WAS FROM THE FATHER I AM THAT I AM THAT JESUS WAS THE CHRIST. The revelation had nothing to do with or was not about the Catholic Church or the Pope but the revelation was not from man but God Almighty The Father of Abraham, Jacob, Isaac revealed this to Peter or Petros which was a play on words. No man on earth can know Jesus is the Christ or the Great I AM THAT I AM unless god himself reveals it to you. Upon this revelation that only the I AM THAT I AM reveals that Jesus is the Son of Man or the Lamb of God or the Messiah can come only from I AM THAT I AM. Upon this rock (this revelation from God) I will build my church (the belief that I AM the Christ I AM the Messiah) and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Not that Peter you are a POPE or the Catholic Church.
    Matthew 23:9 And call no man your father upon the earth for one is your Father which is in heaven. (Catholic holy father who?) That’s not following the teachings of The true Messiah, Master, The I AM THAT I AM.
    Let’s see if Jesus had anything to say about the holy virgin Mary. Luke 11:27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him Blessed is the womb(virgin Mary’s Womb Implying his Mother was to be revered as holy) that bare thee, and the paps (tits or teats were greater than any other woman’s revered as holy) which you hast sucked . 11:28 But he said , Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. This was explicit revelation that Mary his mother was nothing. Notice Jesus the Christ never stated put my mother on a pedestal and worship her as the holy mother virgin another satanic cult worship. Taking away from the words of Christ and I AM THAT I AM.
    These verses reveal the truth about the satanic cult worship of the Catholic church. They call the virgin Mary a saint and pray to and worship her and Peter. The Pope is not the holy father but a mere man who of himself is nothing. Neither are nothing before I AM THAT I AM and his Son Jesus The Christ.
    Now to further back up the proof of I AM THA I AM. Here is the scripture. Exodus 3:14, 15, This is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. There is no other verse in all the torah, the bible anywhere on earth that refutes this revelation that Jesus is the Christ and that he is the words evermore spoken by God himself through the flesh of Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ was the spoken word of the Great Father of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac His Son Y'shua.

  2. Hi Judah,

    Zeppelin from CodeProject here...

    I think you'll find more support for your argument in the book "Ideas: A history from fire to Freud" by Peter Watson.

    He discusses the origins of the Christian church and suggests an argument very parallel to the one you make - Jesus didn't intend to create a new religion.

  3. Thanks for your posts, guys.

    Zepp, I'll have to look into that book, thanks.

  4. Judah, very good post.

    I tend to agree with "i am" that Peter's recognition of Jesus being the Christ was what his followers would be built upon.

    Does the Torah include the Levitical laws like not shaving your sideburns, etc. Just curious.

  5. Hey H-Dog,

    You asked, "Does the Torah include the Levitical laws like not shaving your sideburns, etc. Just curious."

    Yes, absolutely the Torah includes commandments regarding the Cohen (Levitical priests). However, the "don't shave your sideburns" thing isn't actually what the Torah says, that's just the rabbinic interpretation.

    The actual Torah mitzvot you're referring to commands Israelites to not shave the sides of your head or beard in mourning for the dead, like the Canaanites had done in mourning for their dead. For more information, see Should Torah observant believers trim their beards?

    It has little relevance today, obviously, but nonetheless it is one of God's commandments, all of which Paul says are "sane, holy, and righteous", every one.

    Shalom in Messiah,

  6. Hello, new friend. I'm glad you thought my one article worthy of sharing in your post. I haven't had a chance to read through your post in full but from what I've gleaned, I think I agree with you very much. Good for you for having dialogue with others. :) May your words be seasoned with salt and bring HaShem blessing!

    I think the reference your friend is looking for regarding the beards is Leviticus 19:27 which says not to mar the edges of your beard. That can be interpreted in several ways - to let the sideburns grow out all the way, to grow a beard and not shave at all, not to cut your hair above the temples, etc.

    I agree that what a lot of traditional Christianity teaches makes Jesus out to be a false prophet by Biblical standards. This simply cannot be the case. If it were the case then He would not have been the Messiah. I agree that the "Jesus" of today is not much like the Yeshua of Scripture.

    And no, I don't believe that it was Shimon Kefa (Simon Peter) that the "new" congregation would be built upon. If that were indeed the intent of such a statement then why would Ya'akov HaTzadik, the brother of Yeshua (also called James the Righteous or James the Just) be the leader of the congregation in Jerusalem and not Kefa? If Yeshua were indeed a Torah breaker, would the leaders of the Judeans in that day allow Ya'akov special privileges at the Temple or respect him so greatly, even today? I think not. There just isn't evidence to back up such a claim, only writings of men from later times without an understanding of the foundation of the faith.

    I believe that it is upon the faith that Shimon Kefa had when making the statement that Yeshua was indeed the Sent One, the Sprout of Jesse, the long awaited Messiah - THIS faith, this trust, this belief is what the believing congregation would be built upon.

    Blessings to you and keep up the good work!

    BTW - Shem Tov Matthew. I have an audio file by Brian Tebbitt discussing the work. I'd be happy to share it with you if you are interested.

  7. Hi ancient paths,

    I've listened to Brian Tebbitt's teaching on Shem Tov's Hebrew Matthew. He believes that Shem Tov's Hebrew Matthew is a translation from the Latin or Greek into Hebrew, and not a manuscript from the original Hebrew.

    I'm aware that scholars are divided on this issue. I don't know whether Shem Tov's is a manuscript from Hebrew or a translation from Greek. It is interesting to note. I hope someday we'll find the original Hebrew that was mentioned by the early church fathers; we'll then have the ability to properly discern whether Shem Tov's Hebrew Matthew is more correct than the Greek-based translations we have today.

  8. Judah, do you know where I can get a CORRECT Translation of the New Testament, from a Hebrew perspective? Thanks, Jed

  9. Hey Jedidiah,

    I'd say the one that gives the best Hebrew perspective would be perhaps David H. Stern's Complete Jewish Bible, which contains both Tenakh ("Old Testament") and New Testament.

    That said, because we don't have the original Hebrew for any of the gospels, despite at least some of them being originally authored in Hebrew, it's hard to say which is the most accurate. Most of our Bibles are based on Greek translations of the New Testament.

  10. St Paul said, to know them that have the eldership over you and to be respectful. Your fast conclusions are stated not in the humble way the Apostles commend. In their day, there was Peter and the Twelve; there was the Primacy and their was the Collegiality. It was our Lord's intention to give His new mystical body a strong head. "who is that wise steward who gives the household their meat in due season?!"
    Now there have been good chief stewards and there has been evil chief stewards, but what good body has no head? and what keeper of the keys of david is not a shepherd and a high priest?
    My friend, do not speak ill of dignities!

  11. Ephrem,

    "there was the Primacy and their was the Collegiality"

    Where is the Scriptural support for this? I don't see the word "primacy" or "collegiality" anywhere in Scripture.

    The head of Messiah is Y'shua himself, not a Pope elected by humanity. Paul told you this in Colossians 1:

    And Messiah is the head of the body, the assembly; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

    No pope shares in that supremacy. To exalt such a human is nothing short of idolatry, friend.