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Primitive Apostolic Christianity or Sabbatarianism is an effort to combine Old Testament Biblical Law (Some incorrectly call it "Jewish"...'Jew in the OT refers to the Israelite tribe of Judah, in the NT it, most often, refers to a someone living in the land of Judea or one who practiced the religion of the people of Judea) with Christianity. It is a movement based on the belief that pagan, and other non-biblical beliefs have entered into modern "Christianity" and that the true form of Christianity was that which was originally practiced during the time of the apostles. And since Christianity itself was an outgrowth of Judiasm and the Apostles were Jewish proselytes to Christianity and the NT clearly shows they continued to observe Biblical Law as Christians, those practices are still valid today. The movement is often called Primitive since its followers believe their movement to reconstruct the earliest forms of Christianity. It is called Apostolic since its followers believe it to represent the form of Christianity that the twelve Apostles followed. It requires that Christians follow Biblical Law, such as keeping the Biblical Sabbath, and thus can be considered a modern revival of the early church. It is incorrect to consider it a modern continuation of the Judiasers since the Mosiac laws regarding temple ceremonies, animal sacrifices and the priesthood etc. are all to have been fulfilled in Christ.
The terms "primitive" and "apostolic" are used differently by Sabbatarians than in orthodox Christianity such as Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and many other denominations. These groups consider their practices primitive in that they are based on scholarship and research into the actual writings of the Church fathers and other historical documents. They call themselves "apostolic" in that they maintain a literal Apostolic Succession or historical lineage tracing back to the Apostles and the Great Commission. During the early phase of Christianity the Church was persecuted by Roman and Jewish authorities and survived underground. Thus written documents for the Church of the first century are sparse. To remedy this, the primitive church passed down its knowledge verbally and is reflected in the Church writings that appear prolifically in the second and third centuries. This body of literature forms a body of precedence called "tradition."
Sabbatarians, however, reject such tradition and literature and instead attempt to reconstruct (or invent say detractors) primitive church practices as they think they might have been at the times of the Apostles. To do this, they revive practices found in the New Testament that are based on the Hebrew scriptures.
The label Primitive and Apostolic, in terms of Christianity, are used by such authors as Alan Knight, Primitive Christianity in Crisis, and Roderick Meredith, Restoring Apostolic Christianity, to describe Christians, who are sometimes called Messianic Christians (see Ebionites), although the term is not completely descriptive of all who follow Primitive Apostolic Christian doctrine.
Some Christian sects today view these "Primitive Apostolic teachings" and observances as the proper form of Christianity. The collection of non-biblical, pre-Nicene writings is called by some the Ante-Nicene Fathers. These groups often see the verses in Acts 15:19-21 as a directive from the first Council of Jerusalem, also called the Apostolic Decree, to observe the basic understanding of the Noahide Laws in order to be considered righteous Gentiles, and not be required to live completely as Torah-observant Jews. This settled a dispute among the first Christians, which began as a sect of first century Judaism, as to whether the new Gentile converts were required to become circumcised and live completely under the dictates of Judaism (Acts 15:5,24). The Noahide Law was based on the understanding that some ordinances were in effect at least since the time of Noah, and some had been given in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve, thus given to all mankind.
Judaism has continued to observe Gentiles, even when they become proselytes, as not being under the same scrutiny of the ordinances of Judaism. They may have a part in salvation and in the world to come just by observing the Noahide Law according to Maimonides, who was a Jewish scholar of the thirteenth century. There is much speculation, and some disagreement as to what is part of the Noahide Law, even among Jewish scholars (see Noahide Laws for more information on the Jewish perspective).
Some groups consider themselves unique in current observation of Primitive Apostolic Christianity. These include most Sabbatarian Church of God groups, and some Noahide Nazarenes. The doctrines vary slightly from each group, but usually include the teaching that Sabbath was one of the observances given to Adam and Eve, as well as the Sacred Calendar, in order to count the years, seasons, weeks and days. They claim that there is evidence that events such as Abraham's offering of his son Isaac, occurred at the time of the Passover, therefore High Sabbaths are included in the covenant that Noah is said to have observed. Also related is Quartodecimanism. Clean and unclean animals were also understood in the time of Noah, as can be seen in Genesis 7:2. These precepts are viewed to be included in the Noahide Law, and along with the Ten Commandments given to Moses, to be observed by true Christians. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is also specific regarding Antinomianism, which is the rejection of biblical teachings concerning observance of the Law. See also Expounding of the Law.
Mormons also consider themselves unique in current observation of Primitive Apostolic Christianity, but with current revelation given priority. That is, the "latter-day" saints' teachings are primary for understanding. They believe that Christianity lost its priesthood authority sometime before the First Council of Nicaea in 325, but that it was restored to Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The primitive observances are relegated to secondary status in observance of progressive revelation, much as mainstream Christianity is said-to-have changed the appointed times such as fourth commandment obedience.
Early Christian church
- Seventh-day Adventist Church
- Jehovah's Witnesses
- Herbert W. Armstrong
- Restorationist (Church of Christ-Elijah)
- Lord's Day Observance Society
- Messianic Judaism
- Restorationism (Christian primitivism)
- Great Apostasy
- Christian Torah-submission
- Seventh-day Sabbatarianism