I listen to and read from a lot of different teachers, from very diverse camps in the Body of Christ. I learn from them and their perspectives and particular emphases have deepened my own faith.
That being said, I have found that when it comes to "pet doctrines" some teachers can really confuse people, especially on particular issues and/or their interpretations of the Scriptures regarding those issues.
The question about the Jewish roots of Christianity is definitely one of these "issues" and I want to "put my two cents in" and shed the light of the earliest Christians in regards to the Jewishness of Christianity, worshipping on the Sabbath (Saturday) and whether or not it is important to observe the Jewish dietary laws and/or follow the Jewish calendar (which is also growing in popularity).
I should say, none of the teachers I am referring to teach that "observing the law" is a salvation issue. I think they rightly understand the Apostle Paul on this point. But, because of the influence of the Messianic movement, and the more modern "Hebrew Roots" movement (which is quite diverse from moderate to extreme), I find a disturbing level of newly introduced Jewish practices amongst Christians. I use the word "disturbing" because the earliest Christians after the Apostolic age (from the end of the 1st century onwards) entirely contradict what these modern "follow Jewish practices" teachers are advocating. A "version" of history is being propagated by these teachers that the earliest Christians were actually very "Jewish" in their observance and practice and that at some point (usually blaming the early Roman Catholic Church, which is the common whipping horse to blame for everything) the Church was overrun with pagan practices, rejecting its "Hebrew Roots" and became anti-Semitic. They believe their mandate is to "recover" these Jewish roots and practices and purify the Church of the "pagan" practices that were adopted.
But before I quote a number of early Christian leaders, one of whom, named Tertullian, actually coined the term "Trinity" for us (so that no one will dismiss his impeccable orthodox credentials), let me say that the "versions" of Church history that I hear some of these modern teachers advocating often amount to near fiction. We have the writings of the earliest Christians and many of the allegations that are made can be easily refuted.
My main interest in writing this particular blog post was in regards to the keeping of the Jewish dietary laws because one teacher I have started listening to lately makes a huge deal out of it. He doesn't eat shellfish or pork and believes that all "serious Christians" should and will do likewise. I am now going to introduce you to Ignatius, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Origen, Novatian, Lactanius (all of them undisputed leaders in the Early Church) to see if they would meet his standard of being considered "serious Christians".
Didache (AD 80-100)
"But every Lord's Day [Sunday], gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure."
Ignatius (AD 105) - Note: Ignatius was a personal disciple of the Apostle John.
"If we still live according to the Jewish Law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace."
"[Christians] are no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day [Sunday]."
Letter to Diognetus (AD 125)
"The Christians do not observe the same forms of divine worship as do the Jews."
"Their [the Jews] scrupulosity concerning meats, and their superstition as respects the Sabbaths, and their boasting about circumcision, and their fancies about fasting and the new moons…are utterly ridiculous and unworthy of notice."
Justin Martyr (AD 160)
"Is there any other matter my [Jewish] friends, in which we Christians are blamed, than this: that we do not live according to the Law, and are not circumcised in the flesh as your forefathers were, and do not oversee Sabbaths as you do?"
"And on the day called Sunday, all [Christians] who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the writings of the Apostles or the Prophets are read…Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God…made the world. And Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead on that same day."
"There was no need of circumcision before Abraham. Nor was there need of observance of Sabbaths, or feasts and sacrifices, before Moses. Accordingly, there is no more need of them now."
Tertullian (AD 197-207)
"We do not follow the Jews in their peculiarities in regard to food, nor in their sacred days, nor even in their well-known bodily sign."
"Paul blames [the Galatians] for maintaining circumcision, and observing times, days, months, and years according to those Jewish ceremonies. For they should have known those things are now abrogated, according to the new dispensation. …Thus it was said by Hosea [2:11]: 'I will put an end to all her [Israel's] celebrations: her feasts, New Moons, and Sabbaths - all her festivals.'…The Creator had long before discarded all these things, and the apostle was now proclaiming them to be worthy of renunciation."
"…so also the observance of the Sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary."
"The same God, therefore, who prohibited meats also restored the use of them. For He had indeed originally allowed them."
Origen (AD 248)
"We do not regulate our lives like the Jews. For we are of the opinion that the literal following of the laws is not the thing that conveys the real meaning."
"Jesus wished to lead all men by His teachings about the pure worship and service of God. He was anxious not to place any hindrance in the way of many who might be benefitted by Christianity. So he did not impose the burdensome code of rules regarding food."
Novatian (AD 235)
"From these things, it is plain that all those things [i.e., clean and unclean animals] are returned to their original blessedness now that the Law is finished."
Cyprian (AD 250)
"The former Law that had been given by Moses was about to cease. And a new law was to be given."
Lactantius (AD 304)
"Jesus…took away the necessity of abstaining for the flesh of pigs…However he did not do this by His own judgment, but according to the will of God."
Quite a summary! And if anyone wants to simply disregard the teachings of these early Christian leaders on these issues, then don't forget to also disregard the doctrine of the Trinity, forget about the 27 books in our New Testament Canon of Scripture, and throw out the Nicene Creed (to mention just a few key things) – all of which they were a part of articulating, deciding upon, fighting against the heretics for and even dying for. They preserved the faith that we possess today as Christians. And when it came to Christians' ongoing observance of Jewish dietary laws, they all held to exactly the same view. If Jesus had intended for His Apostles to pass this on, then these men, who are literally the next generation, would have gotten the memo. They didn't get that memo, and neither did we!