This is not a campaign to add one more feast day to the Christian calendar. It’s about the church’s pressing need to celebrate a victory over a tyrannical ruling power as the Jews did over Greece in first century BC. Especially since the tyrannical power that has imprisoned and defiled the body of Messiah for centuries is the same Greek culture of corruption.
As testimony to the Hellenization of the church, I could introduce a whole card catalogue of eminent historians and theologians. But I’ll let the words of one Biblical scholar, Norman H. Snaith, speak for all: “Our position is that the re-interpretation of Biblical theology in terms of the Greek philosophers has been both widespread throughout the centuries, and everywhere destructive to the essence of the Christian faith…Neither Catholic nor Protestant theology is based on Biblical theology. In each case we have a domination of Christian theology by Greek thought” (The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, p 187,188)
How did this happen, you ask? And why are so few Christians aware of it? More importantly, what can be done given that most are as clueless of this dreadful state of affairs as I was once. It took a class in Bible College entitled “Early Christian Thought” to open my eyes. That’s where I learned (with no help from the professor) how the early Church Fathers corrupted the church by interpreting the Bible through the philosophical “wisdom” of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates.
Unlike the Jewish disciples who had faithfully delivered the gospel to us, these new Gentile leaders had not been raised on the Scriptures, but converted from paganism. In their zeal to define and defend the new faith, and to steer us away from Jewish hopes and promises for which they had little sympathy or understanding, they moved the church off the bedrock of revealed truth on to the shifting sands of man’s reasoning.
Like a true Trojan Horse, Greek philosophy was ignorantly inserted into the life of the church. But it didn’t take full control until a church council met at Nicea in 325 AD, presided over by the high priest of all Rome’s religions, the Emperor Constantine. The parallel between this man and Antiochus IV, the Greek tyrant who tried to snuff out all worship and knowledge of the one true God in Israel, is eerie. Constantine’s conquering “soldiers,” however, were Christian theologians schooled in Alexandria, Egypt, a hotbed of Greek philosophical study. Applying their scholasticism to the most dividing issues in the church, he imposed a cruel theological unity upon the church backed by the power of the state.
In doing so, compliance to church creeds replaced love as the hallmark of the true believer. From then on, any departure from an approved creed - even when refuted by the plain text of Scripture - defined you as a heretic. Consequently, millions of both Jews and true followers of Yeshua were martyred.
It was at Nicea that the stripping of Christianity from its Hebraic roots began in earnest. The oneness of God, as capsulized in Deuteronomy 6:4, along with the Jewish humanity of Yeshua, were redefined in Greek philosophical terms. The Saturday Sabbath was changed to the Sun’s Day to become the official Christian holy day of rest. The celebration of Yeshua’s resurrection was moved to a week after the Jewish Passover (and later called “Easter”). And to give this new Gentile religion its own worship places, Constantine soon launched a church building program to rival the synagogues.
Through it all, Paul’s dire warning went unheeded: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Messiah” (Col. 2:8).
Well, the body of Messiah has been imprisoned in this Greco/Roman dominated church system now for almost two millennium. Will we get a Hanukkah deliverance? Yes, but only as each of us allows the “Maccabee” spirit within us to rise up and renew our mind in the Scriptures, and to cleanse our own temple. But the institutional church system, like the leavened bread of Pharaoh’s Egypt, must be left behind.
Isaiah cries to us from across the centuries: “Awake, awake, clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion….Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem. Loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Jerusalem” (Isa. 52:1,2).
Remember too, Antiochus IV, like Constantine, are but types and shadows of the coming Satanically-possessed “man of lawlessness” who will martial a world gone mad to try and obliterate all worship of God from this earth. He will no doubt appear as a champion and unifier of apostate Christianity and unite it to the State, as did Constantine. And then, as Antiochus IV did, try to crush the one nation that by its very existence testifies the Lord Almighty lives - Israel.
What can believers do? We’ve already been told: “Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have no hope; This very day I am declaring I will restore double to you. For I will bend Judah as My bow, I will fill the bow with Ephraim. And I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece; And I will make you like a warrior’s sword” (Zech. 9:12,13).
Brian Hennessy is author of Valley of the Steeples