The Conglomination Timeline Narrative

Between 285 and 246 BC in Egypt, a translation of the entire Hebrew Bible into Greek was begun by 70 or 72 Jewish scholars in the city of Alexandria.  Tradition has six scholars from each of the twelve tribes of Israel being represented.

The Jews of Alexandria depended on the Jews of Palestine for directions.  The translation was done with the approval of the High Priest and the collection of Holy Books translated to Greek was done under the direction of Palestine.

Since this translation was to be the official version of Holy Scriptures used in synagogues throughout the world, it stands to reason the Hebrew Texts used for the translation must have been the best Hebrew texts available to the Jewish Priesthood at the time.  Obviously any copies of the scriptures used were much earlier than any copies we have today.

This translation was completed between 250-125 BC and is known as the "Septuagint," which is the Latin word for 70 (LXX), the number of translators.  The Septuagint contained 46 books.

By the time of Christ, the common language of the entire Mediterranean world was Greek.  As Hebrew was a dying language (supported by the fact that Jews in Palestine usually spoke Aramaic), the Septuagint was the major translation of Scriptures at that time.

By 80-100 A.D. all the books of the New Testament had been written in Greek.  Of the 350 Old Testament passages quoted in the New Testament, 300 so match the Septuagint that it is considered the source of the quotes.  Since Jesus, the Apostles, and the first generation of Christians used the Septuagint, the transition from the Old to the New Covenant was brought about under the Greek Language.

Beginning in the year 100 A.D . the Hebrew canon as we know it today (often referred to as the Masoretic text) was established by Jewish rabbis at the Council of Jamnia.  Early Christian apologists like Justin Martyr attacked the canon of the council of Jamnia.  Rejecting Jewish claims that the Septuagint was a bad translation, these apologists claimed that the Council of Jamnia translation had deliberately altered some text and decided upon criteria of canonicity so as to combat the spread of Christianity.

Two major tests a book had to pass was 1) the existence of a Hebrew translation for the book and 2) an original writing date well before the time of Christ.  It is an interesting side note that this Jewish council of rabbis which absolutely rejected Christ as the promised Messiah and therefore would still be waiting for a future messiah, in effect, had closed Scriptures to any new prophets.

The Jews at Jamnia rejected the following books found in the Septuagint which were widely used by Christians: Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, Baruch, Tobit, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.  These rejected books are known today as the deuterocannical books.  Hebrew versions of these books were nowhere to be found by 100 A.D.  In addition portions of Daniel and Esther were also rejected.  The Masoric text would be finalized between 500 and 900 A.D.

In addition to eliminating the deuterocannical books, the rules set forth to determine if a book was inspired eliminated all the books of the New Testament, many of which, by 100 A.D., were considered inspired Scripture in their own right.

The Christian Church continued to use the Septuagint especially since the Greek New Testament books were so closely tied to it.  At the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D the Church officially declared the Old Testament canon of the Bible to include both the books of the Masoretic canon as well as the deuterocannical books.  This declaration was reconfirmed at the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D.  These councils were called so closely due to some works of biblical scholars primarily Jerome whose writing called into questions some of the books.

Jerome completes a translation of the Old and New Testaments into the common language of that time, Latin.  The translation is called “The Vulgate” which means “Common Language”.  The Vulgate included the deuterocannical books as Jerome was extremely loyal and obedient to the Church and its leader in Rome.

In 1054 the Orthodox Church split from the Catholic Church which had been established by Christ over one thousand years before.

In 1441, the Council of Florence upholds the Canon of Scripture as cited in the previous councils.

In 1460 Gutenberg invents the printing press. The Gutenberg Bible is printed using the approved Canon of Scrupture which included the deuterocannical books,the same as are found in the Catholic Bible today. This can be seen as ironic since the printing press was really the enabling tool to start the Conglomination. Plus, popular notions today state the Catholic Church did not allow vernacular translations. Also, many sects among the Conglomination claim that the Catholic Church added books to the Bible after the Reformation, which is about to happen. . .

In 1521 Martin Luther led a revolt against the Catholic Church beginning the Reformation.  In an overly simplified summary, Luther used acknowledged abuses within the Catholic Church as a springboard to promote his own doctrines.  It is often explained that the Catholic Church emphasized the individual’s responsibility to work out one’s own salvation.  Protestant’s beginning with Luther emphasize selected passages of Paul’s epistles and state that salvation as a gift from God required “faith alone”.  In his famous translation of Scripture into German, Luther went so far as to insert the word “alone” after “faith” in Romans 3:28.  Often unmentioned is the Catholic doctrine that salvation is indeed an unmerited gift from God but that, as many scriptural verses state, a person still has responsibilities best described by the first and last paragraphs of the letter of Paul to the Romans as the “obedience of faith”.

Closely associated with the rebellion of Luther was his philosophy of “Scripture Alone”. Luther promulgated that apostolic succession, the papacy, the hierarchy, and the councils of the Church were human institutions. “Scripture Alone” would ultimately lead to thousands of Christian denominations (the Conglomination) based on individual and small-group interpretation of scripture.

Luther ultimately taught that each person was on the same footing with God and no one could influence God on behalf of others.

In 1527 King Henry VIII was not granted an annulment by the pope as he had requested.

Largely as a result of the printing press, Luther’s published works began to influence others to “Reformation” of their own interpretations.  By 1528, Luther himself began to fear that his movement was leading to revolution and chaos.  Luther had established a precedent by stating that his personal interpretation of Scripture (including his own judgment of the merits of some books of scripture) and he did not seem to realize others would come up with different interpretations.  Even followers of Luther began to disagree. As Luther aligned himself more with the property holders in secular control of society he lost some appeal to the masses who began looking to other reformers.

In 1529 Martin Luther proposed the Palestinian canon of 39 books in Hebrew as the OT canon. Luther found justification for removing the seven books from the Bible in the old concerns of St. Jerome and the Council of Jamnia that the Greek books had no Hebrew counterparts, unlike today since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

It should be noted that almost all of the Conglomination use the Canon proposed by Martin Luther.  The most notable exception to this is the Catholic Church which continues to use the Canon as defined in councils 1,200 years before.  Luther also attempted to throw out the New Testament books of James and Revelation but this did not find enough support.

One of Martin Luther’s greatest gifts was his ability to use his own judgment as to which books were inspired.  Books brought against his teaching of faith alone were just ignored.  Easy.  When the papists brought certain books against him he once declared “thou urgest forward the slave, that is the Scriptures and not the entire Scriptures nor their better part, but certain places concerning works.  I leave this slave to you; I urge forward the Lord, who is the King of the Scriptures, who became to me my merit, and the price of my justification and salvation.  Him I hold; to him I cleave, and leave to thee works, which however thou hast none.” 

Luther gave his opinion about several books of Scripture when he said “Finally St. John’s Gospel, and First Epistle, St. Paul’s epistles, especially the Romans, to the Galatians, and that to the Ephesians, and St. Peter’s First Epistle are the books which present to thee Christ and all things which are necessary and saving, even though thou never see or hear another book or doctrine.  Therefore James’ Epistle compared to these is verily a letter of straw, because is has not in itself the Gospel spirit.  Regarding the book of Revelation Luther declared “In this book I leave to every one to his own opinion, and I ask no one to accept my opinion or judgment.  I speak what I feel.  Many things are wanting in this book, which moves me to hold it as neither apostolic nor prophetic.  My spirit is not drawn to the book, and a sufficient cause why I esteem the book no higher is that in it Christ is neither taught nor acknowledged.

The genius of Luther pervades the Conglomination, a full freedom, subjectivism, and sentimentalism can allow more choices in the Gospel than can be imagined.  In 1904 Anglican professor Marcus Dods gave an interesting summation of the Luther’s strength and the foundation of the Conglomination as follows:  “Luther … sees the whole difference between himself and Rome hinges here.  It he cannot make good this position, that the truth or the word of God has power to verify itself as such to the conscience it awakens, he has no standing at all.  The principle which made him a protestant, and which constitutes men protestant always, is simply this, that the should needs not the intervention of any authority to bring it into contact with God and the truth, but that God and his truth have power to verify themselves to the individual.” 

It began to become clear however, that the individual would not always agree with Martin Luther.

In Switzerland, Ulrich Zwingli, much inspired by Luther, promulgated more drastic propositions and would not agree with Luther’s doctrines.  Zwingli eliminated liturgical worship emphasizing only preaching and bible reading, both of which were central to the Catholic liturgy of the past 1500 years.

In addition, Zwingli’s doctrine denied the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist which had been an undisputed doctrine for the entire history of Christianity.  Regarding Luther’s belief in the Real Presence Zwingli said. “Clearly and dispassionately I shall show that in the doctrine of this sacrament [the Eucharist] the almighty God has not revealed the secrets of His counsels to Martin Luther.”

In 1529, Luther and Zwingli met to try and come to agreement so they could form a united front against Catholicism but they could not come to agreement.  This was truly the beginning of the Conglomination. 

The Conglomination would ultimately show how God’s “truth” has manifested itself in so many different and conflicting ways, one cannot help but find a “truth” to one’s liking.  The self-evidencing voice of God in Scripture and the personal interpretation of this voice is the cornerstone of the Conglomination.

Numerous other groups tried to associate themselves with Luther and/or Zwingli but were rejected by these two leading reformers.  Brought together more by their dislikes they considered themselves extremely biblical and were named by their Protestant opponents “Anabaptists”.  Anabaptists consisted of many different groups with varying opinions.

Luther and Zwingli both felt the Anabaptists pushed the principles of Protestantism to extremes and worried anarchy would soon follow.  Extremes did indeed follow ranging from extreme pacificism to the 1534 Westphalian community of Munster which historians describe as a scandalous mockery of the kingdom of God on earth.  Zwingli and Luther both advocated harsh measures against the Anabaptists and tens of thousands were martyred.

In 1534, King Henry VIII founded the Church of England and declared himself the leader of this church.  Not surprisingly, he gave himself an annulment. 

In 1535, despite his teachings against the need for the priesthood, Luther assumed the authority to ordain Protestant clergy.  Luther had also predicted the need for Protestant Councils to establish valid teachings as more and more groups began to promote their own interpretations.

Out of the Anabaptists, Menno Simmon founded the Mennonites which would gain respect by their sincerity and peaceful conduct.  Mennonites would inspire the Quakers and later Baptist sects.

In 1536, the second phase of the Reformation was led by John Calvin.  Calvin published the Institutes of the Christian Religion which would be revised over the years and along with the writings of Luther known as Confessions served as Catechisms for Protestantism.  As much as the “Scripture Alone” was supposed to be interpretable, much explanation was, of course, required to be formalized.  The theology of the Institutes became known as Calvinism.

Along with Luther’s teachings of Faith alone, priesthood of all believers, and Scripture Alone, Calvin added an extreme view of Predestination.  According to Calvin, one’s salvation was decided by God and there was nothing one could do about it, although Calvin would state the damned still deserved to be damned.  This of course, created dissension and additions to the Conglomination.  It should be noted that Calvin did teach good works and obedience to God’s laws was a sign of predestination.  Flagrant sinners were “obviously” predestined to damnation.  Regardless of the strict doctrine of Predestination, Calvin supported the burning at the stake of Michael Servetus for his doctrine denying the Trinity.

Jacob Arminius was one of the more successful compromisers of predestination and several successful Protestant denominations grew from his Arminian Party.  Arminius taught a need for people to cooperate with the grace of salvation.

Zwingli and Calvin came to terms and the merging of their follower was formalized with the publication of the Second Helvetic Confession.  The merged denomination became known as the Reformed Protestants.  Another branch of Calvinism was the Dutch Calvinists who followed the Belgic Confession.

The French Calvinists, the Huguenots, are famed more for being the victims of massacre than for their philosophies.

In 1539 the Church of England moved further from Catholicism and closer to European Protestant doctrines but this is largely considered to have been done for financial reasons.

But of course, the Conglomination was to grow in England as well.  Middle class Protestantism favored further moves away from more Catholic teachings.  The Puritans evolved and became strong in Parliament.

The Catholic Council of Trent convenes between 1545 and 1563.  While it is often stated that the council was an instrument of reform it was really an occasion for the redefinition of existing doctrines.  It responded to the Protestant positions.  Protestant leaders including Luther were invited to attend but declined in opposition to the papal authority.

The council specifically reaffirmed the Catholic positions concerning Scripture, the authority of tradition, the efficacy of the seven sacraments, the nature of the priesthood, and papal authority.  The canon of scripture as defined in by the Council of Hippo, Carthage, and Florence was reaffirmed.  So rather than adding books to the bible as is often claimed, the council merely reaffirmed what previous ancient councils had recommended many centuries before.

Other ancient doctrines were reaffirmed such as the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (Transubstantiation), the Mass as a meritorious sacrifice, Purgatory, indulgences, praying to saints as part of the Body of Christ, and celibacy of religious.

For years wars and persecutions were common between Catholics and Protestants as well as between different Protestant sects.  With the death of Luther in 1546, internal strife caused by the forces of Protestant individualism within were about to come forth.  Differing system of Lutheran theology were developed with differences that served to justify political disputes between the different governments supporting each view.  As Calvinism spread into Germany additional political divisions were caused in Germany.

In the early 1600’s many of the Protestant sects were forming.  The Puritans of England after failing in attempts to change the Church of England emigrated to Holland and North America where they could more freely develop their doctrines.  Anabaptists sects formed the English Baptists.  Presbyterian and Congregationalists convictions regarding church authority resulted in multiple groups.

While persecution of Catholic flourished under the government of England, the monarchy of Spain, which was loyal to a papacy which had virtually no control over it, persecuted non-Catholic under the Inquisition.

It should be noted that Nestorianism was still in practice in Persia, India, and China.  Monophysites and Monothelites practiced in Armenia and Syria. 

Orthodox Churches stayed well established.  In 1672 a council met in Jerusalem endorsing a creed to serve as a general definition of Eastern Orthodoxy but authority over the Eastern Churches was held by a nation that had no association with its origins.

Russia during this time had no conformity in its various religions and traditions.  This stemmed back to the 1400’s when Constantinople fell to the Turks and the prince of Moscow declared his city a “third Rome” and himself a “Caesar”.  In 1666 the patriarch of Moscow undertook efforts to reform Russian Orthodoxy and bring it in line with Eastern Orthodox traditions.  Resistance to this resulted in the Old Believers who denounced the government and warned of the imminent second coming of Christ.  Peter the Great placed the Russian Church under direct control of the government and dominated its direction.

In the late 16th century and much of the 17th Protestants became acutely aware and annoyed by the fact that their appeals to Scripture resulted in more disagreements among themselves than with their main opponent, the Catholic Church.  As a result of the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church had been regaining converts throughout Europe. 

Protestant leaders realized more and more that they had to solidify their doctrines more precisely than the original reformers had.  It seems that the philosophy of Scripture Alone needed the aid of various creeds, confessions, and catechisms.  Being unable to claim authority, the Protestant authorities attempted to use the Bible as a collection of propositions from which doctrines could be interpreted.  Contradictions and differences of opinion were dealt with by appealing to reason and analysis.  As a result, the writings mimicked the early style of previous Catholic writings. 

Conservative Lutheranism and Calvinism tended to dominate but of course not all agreed with these attempts of ad hoc subtle authority.  The 17th century saw the establishment of many Christian sects.  Pietist beliefs flourished at this time both as new sects (such as Quakers) and within already established sects.  The Methodists were also influenced by the Pietist teachings but while John Wesley their founder lived they stayed part of the Anglican Church.  After the death of Wesley the Methodists became their own denomination.

The emigration of Protestants into the New World was the result of each generation producing its own set of reformers and radicals wishing to establish their own church and denomination.  Protestants were antagonistic to other Protestants as much as the Catholic/Protestant disagreements.

Deism began to flourish as a result of the achievements of Sir Isaac Newton and the theories of Rene Descartes. This period is often referred to as the age of Enlightenment. Deism puts forth the commonality of all religions to prove the existence of a deity and the belief that reason could produce a better religion than interpretation of scripture.  While much of the original denominations of the Americas were intolerant of other denominations, during this time many expressed the opinion that there were no important differences between denominations and even religions.  An agreement of the heart was expressed.   Deism flourished for the first half of the 18th century.

In the 19th century ideas originating in Deism formed into enthusiasm for science and technology.  Theologians of this time began to show Christianity as a philosophy needing rational explanation.  In this era, an emphasis on religious feelings and emotions began to spread among the various denominations now beginning to mushroom very much into the Conglomination.  The works of Friedrich Schleiermacher very much describe this theology of feeling.  Thus began the liberal tradition of Protestant theology which allowed for the validity of differing beliefs to be justified by the feelings of the followers of those beliefs.

It is interesting to note that while the prevailing opinion is that the United States was very Christian in its first decades, less than 10 percent of the population was affiliated with a church in the year 1800 and there were numerous reports of widespread ignorance regarding basic Christian doctrines.  The 1790 census placed the total population at four million with only twenty-five thousand Catholics and two thousand Jews.

A result of religious freedom in the United States was the numerous splitting and fractioning of major denominations including the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Congregationalists.  Baptist and Methodists became the largest major denomination but they of course have splits as well.  The Great Awakening and Frontier Camp Meetings served to revive Christianity and spread multiple denominations.  In addition, the Mormons came into existence, the Adventists and their more radical offshoot, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Christian Scientists, as well as numerous other sects and cults.

The years prior to the Civil War in the United States saw many denominations split along racial and political lines including the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists.  After the war, the economy grew and the plight of the immigrant began to further segregate churches.  A teaching sarcastically known as the “Health and Wealth” gospel gained popularity.  Preachers such as Dwight Moody and Bill Sunday taught that the wealthy, by way of their Protestant American work ethic, were being blessed for their efforts and the poverty and hardships of others were punishment for sin.

A result was the rise of evangelists who brought many Americans back to the various churches.  These Revivalists, as they were called, are of particular importance to the Conglomination.  Preachers such as Charles Finney were often at odds with the Lutheran and Calvinist beliefs.  Finney taught that man needed to take charge of his salvation.  While still professing salvation as an undeserved gift from God, Finney taught that man’s free will influenced his outcome.  Finney’s meetings are considered to be the source of the famous “alter call” where repentant sinners come to the front and profess their acceptance of Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.

The Catholic Church in America for a time tried to persuade the papacy to adopt the Church to current society and a more democratic position.  As the Catholic Church held to doctrines since the very earliest times of Christianity, these proposals were rejected by the pope and defined as a heresy called Americanism.

Scripture itself began to be analyzed by using critical methods.  As technology progressed more liberal theologians began to teach that religion was a part of human self-awareness within the world.  Of course, the liberal theologies were opposed by more conservative views. 

The 19th century gave rise to Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and hundreds of denominations as well as churches refusing to be labeled as denominations.  The Fundamentalists spanned denominations and their conservative beliefs caused many splits as part of this “holiness” movement.  The Church of the Nazarene, the Assemblies of God, the Free Methodists, and multiple Pentecostals churches are notable creations of this movement.

But since the Christian World Encyclopedia, in seeking to document the thousands of beliefs must call these churches something, they are called denominations.  These non-denominational churches constitute the reason for 40,000+ denominations listed in the Christian World Encyclopedia, hence we have the Conglomination.

In 1947, Arab shepherds stumbled on a cave in the Qumran region, near Jericho, and their findings led to what has become the greatest archaeological discovery of the twentieth century -the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Dead Sea Scrolls prove that not only does the Septuagint derive from an ancient Hebrew text pre-dating the Masoretic text by some 700-1100 years, but that the Septuagint version is acknowledged to be superior to the Masoretic text in some cases, and that it was not a bad translation as was once believed by Biblical scholars.

Four of the deuterocannical books were found including Hebrew versions of Tobit and  Eclesiasticus.

Since the New Testament quotations from the Old Testament often do not correspond to the Masoretic text, it has again been suggested that the Jewish scribes in their defense of Judaism against the "upstart" Christian religion, altered certain passages of the Old Testament, so that their version deliberately would not correspond to the New Testament documents, as opponents had claimed.

Remember, the Masoretic "text," as we have it today, was not itself finalized and completed, in its final form, until the years 500-900 A.D., centuries after the time of the early apostles and the beginnings of the New Testament Church.  More often than not, the Dead Sea Scrolls agree with the Septuagint.

So the question becomes what did Christ mean to do when he established His Church?  Or should we say churches?  Did he mean to establish an inconceivable amount of choices with numerous conflicting doctrines?  Did He give each person the power and authority to make his own rules and doctrines and found their own church if they so desire?  Are all the Churches in the Conglomination as good as any other one?  Or is it possible that Christ established a church that would last throughout the ages and always be visible to the masses?  Is there a church with doctrines remaining the same through centuries of political upheaval?  A church that does not split along opinions and cultures of the day?

Hopefully this web site will help answer these questions.