End of the Chronicles
Today, I finished the Chronicles.
About twenty-five months ago, I began work on the largest writing project I have undertaken, a complete re-write of the original Torah Club Volume Four. The original version provided a Messianic commentary on all four Gospels and the book of Acts. The new version does the same, but it splits the material into two separate years of study:
- YEAR ONE: Chronicles of the Messiah: An in-depth commentary on the life of Yeshua which harmonizes all four Gospels into a continuous narrative. Theme: Know Jesus Better
- YEAR TWO: Chronicles of the Apostles: An in-depth study on the book of Acts and the story of the apostles and their disciples up until the death of Polycarp in 155 AD. Theme: Rewind your Religion
To keep up with the research and writing on these two consecutive projects, I have mostly lived in my office for 25 months with occasional outings to a local seminary library.
I loved writing Chronicles of the Messiah. It was great to spend a year in the Gospels with the Master. But for me, personally, the Chronicles of the Apostles has been a dream project. I wanted to understand the development of Christianity because it was plain as day to me that we were missing a big chunk of the story. You can’t get from Acts 28 to Gentile Christianity. There had to be some big pieces missing. I wanted to rewind my religion, so to speak, just to better understand it.
Have you ever started watching a movie that was already underway and only seen the last fifteen minutes or so and thought to yourself, “That was pretty good, but I didn’t really know what was going on. I’d really like to see it from the beginning.” That’s how I felt. I felt like, “I would like to see this from the beginning.” It was that desire that led me into Messianic Judaism in the first place.
Initially, I thought that Chronicles of the Apostles would be a smaller, lighter project than the Chronicles of the Messiah. After all, there are four gospels and only one book of Acts. At the outset, it looked like a lot less work. I was wrong.
Looking back over the material from the last twelve months, the Chronicles of the Apostles has been an outrageous amount of work, marshalling a vast diversity of sources, covering an enormous amount of history, and traversing more geography than I ever learned in school. (Luckily, my brother the professional geographer helped with that.) It goes far, far beyond the book of Acts.
Chronicles of the Apostles takes us all over the ancient Mediterranean world, to Rome and back numerous times, as far west as Spain with Paul and as far east as India with Thomas. We have travelled to the Black Sea and Scythia with Andrew and visited North Africa with Bartholomew. We have followed the apostles and their stories from the book of Acts and beyond, into church tradition, legends, tales, and even anecdotes gleaned from apocryphal literature.
We have learned the history of the Caesars from Tiberias to Hadrian, and we have literally marked out the geography of the apostolic journeys. We have sailed the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Adriatic, the Aegean, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and suffered more than one shipwreck along the way. We have seen earthquakes, volcanoes, tidal waves, conflagrations, and all manner of storm. We have been through war and peace and war again.
We have been introduced to dozens, even hundreds, of real characters and personalities from the first and second century: heroes and heroines, philosophers and sorcerers, holy men and hooligans, villains and generals, kings and Caesars, terrorists and tyrants, false-messiahs and anti-Christs, heretics and heresy-hunters, and everyone in between. We have followed the soap-opera dramas of royal dynasties and seen them intersect with the apostles and disciples of Yeshua. We have met the brothers, cousins, and nephews of our Master and watched their adventures unfold.
We have drawn from a vast array of ancient literature, Jewish literature, Rabbinic literature, Roman histories, correspondence, chronicles, Church writings, Christian histories, Christian legends, apocrypha, and so forth. We have squeezed the New Testament for its historical details. We have watched as each book of the New Testament emerged naturally in its historical context, and we have worked hard to understand the issues addressed by the apostolic writers.
We have seen how the blood of the martyrs—both Jewish martyrs and Christian martyrs—soaked the soil from which our faith still grows. We have seen the voice of the apostles fall silent, one after another, as we retold the stories of their heroic deaths for the sake of the Master's name. We have seen our brothers and sisters in Messiah, again and again, stand strong in the face of ruthless and barbaric Roman persecutions. We mourned in countless persecutions and disasters, and we rejoiced in the triumph of faith.
We witnessed the traumatic Jewish revolt, the sweep of war, the siege of Jerusalem, and its devastating consequences. We marched with the legions and defended the walls of the holy city. We saw the Temple burn, and we saw the triumph in the streets of Rome.
The scope of the story is epic, and its still going. The apostolic era ended long ago, but we carry on their legacy today. Click this link to hear an audio teaching about the conclusion of the project and what it means to Rewind Your Religion.mp3.
Click here to learn more about the Chronicles.
Thanks to all of you Torah Club subscribers who made these projects possible, and thank you to all of you have have stepped up to sustain this ministry as an FFOZ Friend. You are the ones keeping the lights on.
Grace and Peace and may you be inscribed for a sweet year,
D. Thomas Lancaster
Elul 24, 5773
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