A fragment from an early Chrestiene document; commonly referred to as The Axe of the Apostles.
Certain people came from Jerusalem to Antioch saying to the believers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the law of Abraham, you cannot be saved!”
Paul and Barnabas completely disagreed with them and an enormous dispute erupted.
So Paul and Barnabas, along with some other believers from Antioch, went up to Jerusalem to discuss this with the Apostles and Elders there.
On their way, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria. They shared with the believers there how the Gentiles had received the Gospel and there was great rejoicing at this news.
Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were welcomed by the entire church, including the Apostles and Elders. Paul and Barnabas reported on all that God had done through them.
But some of believers, who belonged to the group called “Traditionalists” stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and you must order them to keep the Law of Moses!”
The Apostles and Elders gathered to consider this matter.
The arguments went back and forth, getting more and more heated.
Finally, Peter stood up and said, “Brothers, you know that I had an unbelievable vision in Joppa, followed by a vivid encounter with Cornelius and his household in Caesarea. But now in hindsight, I realize that I was swayed by emotion and misled by the warm reception Cornelius gave to me. Really, what is there to discuss? We know the scriptures and the scriptures are abundantly clear. Our Lord Jesus did not alter them. We have always followed the Law of Moses, and so must any Gentile who wishes to join with us.”
The whole assembly fell quiet.
Paul and Barnabas tried to counter Peter by telling of the enthusiasm and success among the Gentiles, but no one was taken in by their deception and treachery.
Then James refuted them and said, “Brothers, listen to me! Peter has told us how initially he was misled by his meeting with the Gentiles, but now he has come to his senses. Gentile believers must be circumcised, eat only clean foods, and obey the entire law of Moses, just as we do. This is in keeping with scriptures which say, ‘Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people. He has broken my covenant’ and again, ‘I will keep your law continually, forever and ever.’ So my decision is obvious and irrefutable. We must tell all Gentiles who wish to be with us that they must be circumcised and follow our laws for eating, indeed the entire law of God. We must convey this clearly and publicly in Antioch and everywhere else the Gentiles have thought that they could join us in following our Lord Jesus.”
All the Elders and Apostles concurred, except Paul and Barnabas. They tore their clothes and wept and departed from Jerusalem. More significantly, Paul and Barnabas departed from our fellowship and joined the damned on the road to perdition. God will deal harshly with them and all who are like them, and all who listen to them, and all who depart from the Law of Moses.
Chrestiene or Chrestienism
A highly apocalyptic sect of Judaism from the Second Temple period. It claimed that Jesus of Nazareth, a wonderworker and itinerant rabbi, was the “Chrest” (the Messiah or Anointed One). Historical evidence suggests that Jesus was executed in Jerusalem about 40 years before the destruction of the Temple. His followers assert he was then raised from the dead, later ascended to heaven, and sent his spirit to empower them to share his message. These events are recorded in a small collection of extra-canonical Chrestiene writings.
His followers, (together called the ekklesia, or kirche/church in Germanic languages) experienced unprecedented, dynamic growth in the following years. The sect spread widely in Judea and then to synagogues throughout the Roman Empire.
It was in this more cosmopolitan environment that Chrestienism encountered gentiles who also adopted it in large numbers. This sparked a great dispute about whether gentiles could be followers of Jesus the Chrest, especially if they must obey the ancient Jewish Law, observing the rite of circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and avoiding “unclean” (non-kosher) food.
A Council, or gathering, of Chrestiene leaders in Jerusalem stated definitively that all Chrestienes must keep the Jewish Law in its entirety. Citing indisputable passages from the Jewish scriptures and that Jesus himself never seemed to give clear directives about this, the Jerusalem Council’s actions ostensibly ended the mission to the gentiles, and extinguished the growth of Chrestienism among gentiles. Evidence is imprecise, but those gentiles who were already part of the sect either drifted away or were driven out by the original Jewish Chrestienes.
A census and survey undertaken in 2007 by researchers from Leicester City College (Leicester, England), estimated that there are today about 600-800 Chrestienes in northern Israel and southern Lebanon. Other smaller pockets may exist in Jordan and Syria.