Review of “Disciples” in “The Metaphysical Express”

Pat Moauro, the editor of The Metaphysical Express (London, Ontario, Canada), has written a review of Disciples, which is posted below. Pat encourages anyone who wants a copy of this journal to e-mail him at patmor123 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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After reading Keith Akers’ newest book, Disciples, I must admit I found some of his information about the origins of Christianity startling and surprising. Although I left traditional Christianity many years ago in favour of metaphysical and New Thought Christianity, I was still somewhat taken aback while reading this book and its conclusions about Jesus Christ, the organization and church built around his name, and the way Christianity has splintered and shattered into hundreds of competing sects and groups, each claiming to be the “True” church founded by Jesus.

Two areas in particular caused my eyebrows to arch. One is Akers’ thesis that, instead of Jesus gathering disciples and then founding a church, a movement first sprang up and then Jesus emerged as its leader. This movement, the author states, was known to history as “Jewish Christianity” — Jews who followed both the Jewish law, as they understood it, and also followed Jesus, as they understood him and persisted in this even after the rest of Christianity became a gentile religion. Jewish Christianity, Akers writes, is believed to have existed at least 1000 years before Jesus.

The other startling news — to me — was “this movement held vegetarianism and opposition to animal sacrifice as central tenets.” As a practising vegetarian, I found this to be a revelation and one that resonated with me. The opposition to animal sacrifice also resonated with me, since I have always questioned the heavy emphasis that traditional and some non-traditional Christians place on animal sacrifices. “The chief business of the ancient temple was accepting the offerings of slaughtered animals,” Akers writes. “It was more like a butcher shop than a place of worship. For Jewish Christianity, Jesus gave his life when he disrupted the temple business during Passover week. Instead of animal sacrifice, they practiced an alternative ritual, baptism in flowing water, and were vegetarians.” They also proclaimed and practiced nonviolence.

Jewish Christianity eventually disappeared and was replaced by a gentile Christian organization which, some critics claim, became corrupt and deviated from the early truth teachings of Jesus. Akers examines primary sources, including the writings of early church fathers, such as Tertullian, Origen, Irenaeus, Epiphanius, Theodoret and Hippolytus, to shed light on early Jewish Christianity, including the Ebionites of the fourth century and their religious practices. These practices included primarily pacifism, vegetarianism, and a total rejection of the Jewish cultish practice of animal sacrifice — issues which caused Jewish Christianity to split with gentile Christianity’s most famous missionary, Paul.

Along with his previous book, The Lost Religion of Jesus, Keith Akers has made an admirable, scholarly analysis of Jewish Christianity and Jewish/Christian history, and shed increasing light on the origins and practices of these religious movements.