Paperback: 444 pages
Publisher: Negev Publishing (June 15, 2012 AD)
Dr. Russ Houck PH.D.’s book’s full title is “EPIDEMIC - Examining the Infected Roots of Judaism and Christianity: How do we find God with all this mess?” and is a book about identifying an epidemic and seeks to examine the infected roots of Judaism and Christianity in order to find God…with all this mess; but you probably already knew that.
Essentially, the book considers non-biblical beliefs and practices within various facets of Judaism and Christianity. It touches upon Catholicism, Protestantism, Rabbinic Judaism and an emphasis on something close to Dr. Houck’s heart; Messianic Judaism (by any other name). Have a gander at parts of the table of contents:
YHWH's covenant basics…Mosaic covenant era 1200 BC-c. AD 200…Rabbinic Judaism prophesied…the Messiah mystery…the timetable of God - His feasts…Changes instituted by Rabbinic Judaism…The rise of Constantine…Reformation era AD 1400 - c. 1700…Didn't the reformation fix everything?...Christianity evolves from pagan Roman Catholicism…Is Messianic Judaism the answer?...The truth about how God exists…Steps to walk in God's new covenant…
From this mere sample, a traipse through history, theology and styled counseling is readily discernable. Seeking to point out problems, an epidemic, within Christianity and Judaism and all of their flavors certainly have the makings of stepping on everyone’s toes. In this regard, Dr. Russ Houck does not discriminate; he goes after everyone.
Dr. Houck received a B.A. in Theology from the School of Biblical Theology in San Jacinto, California, with a major in eschatology and a Masters in Eschatology and Ph.D. in Biblical Philosophy from Homestead College of the Bible in Orlando, FL. He notes the following (pp. 22, 27, 329):
“This study is the result of more than 20 years of ministry and 6 years of focused, in-depth research in the United States as well as Rome, Vatican City, and Jerusalem. Many years ago, after deciding to study my Jewish roots, I arranged an appointment with the rabbi of our little community, Rabbi Ernest Joseph. He was the only rabbi in town and he happened to be Orthodox. I told Rabbi Joseph that I was a Christian believer, but that I had a burning desire to know and understand the Jewish religion and customs. When I asked him to teach me my Jewish heritage, he graciously agreed…
Before we get into the study, I feel it necessary to state that this is a work done in love, without animosity (despite my zeal) directed toward any particular view or group. I know and love brothers and sisters that hold all of these views; I will not condemn them or myself for trying to discover all we can about our God…
I pray you feel the love, even when it's confrontational.”
The book is very thought provoking, challenging, well researched, detailed and will certainly touch upon something or other for everyone. You may be shocked to learn some things, you may find confirmation of your own thoughts and research, you may say “What!!!!” and use it as a springboard to further your own investigations, you may find yourself approaching your religious leaders so as to iron out a thing or two. Either way, it is well worth reading by Jews and Christians (and anyone interested in matters such as history, theology, etc.).
Here is an example of that at which Dr. Houck is aiming (p. 20):
“UNTHINKABLE POSSIBILITIES That We Need To Think About:
What if you found out that... both Judaism and Christianity were not actually Biblically based religions—that is, that neither were birthed in Jerusalem—but rather had their origins in Babylon and Rome? I'll clearly show you this in the historical record.
How would you feel if... you discovered that many of their major doctrines and practices were of man-made paganism and not from the Holy Scriptures? I'll show you where.
What if you discovered that... much—if not all-of the New Testament was originally written not in Greek, as popularly believed, but in Aramaic and Hebrew? And that several scriptures were added to the Greek text to ‘help’ prove certain Roman Catholic doctrines that Protestants never removed? (We will cover some of these.)
What if you learned that ... Protestant denominations were really little more than Roman Catholic sects?
What would you think if... you discovered that all religion, including yours, was an infection and that Judaism and Christianity are just varying strains and degrees of it?
What would you do if ... you learned that there is a diabolical conspiracy to keep you from knowing and understanding the truth? And that this conspiracy makes the Illuminati, the Tri-Lateral Commission, and the CFR (Council on Foreign Relations) look like the Cub Scouts?”
That is probably enough for starters and yet, the book covers much more as it delves into the details of such topics. Having studied the various Rabbinic Jewish views about the Messiah (find lecture here), I found the following to be very interesting indeed (p. 99):
“The Rabbinical Jews said you couldn't be Jewish if you did accept Yeshua (Jesus) as The Messiah and the Christians said you couldn't go to heaven or be saved unless you believed He was The Messiah. Isn't it ironic that they are both wrong! More infected thinking. More religious error. The Messianic Myth, Messiah-ism, Christianity, Messianic Judaism; are all built on the same false premise: that Yeshua (Jesus) is The Reigning Messiah King. He is not! He is the seated Lamb of God, the only Begotten Son of the Almighty, YHWH! Stop the myth!”
Being aware of concept such as the two Messiah theory this was not very surprising to me but for many; this will be a brand new concept.
A fascinating portion of the book, and of particular interest to me, was the downright shameful and unbiblical conflict between “Jews” and “Christians” (p. 139):
“By the third century, most new churches were founded by gentiles with only echoes of its Jewish lineage intact, but Messiah-ism was still considered a Jewish sect. To make matters worse, many Rabbinical Jews arrogantly referred to gentiles as ‘sons of whores’ and ‘sons of dogs.’ This aggravated an already intense feeling of animosity toward Jews in many communities. Furthermore, because the Romans (who also considered Christianity a Jewish sect) could never truly conquer the spirit of the Jewish people, a state of unilateral hostility existed between the Jews and Christians. All of these sentiments seemed to come to a head throughout the third century.
Although the Gnostic movement began to formally die out during this time with the early Church defeating its heretical doctrines, the bad news was that Gnosticism had already impregnated the Church with many of its paradigms.”
The issue of Constantine is fascinating as well as he is, variously, portrayed as heroic and villainous, here are some interesting details (pp. 144-145):
“The giant P is in all of the record books for anyone to see. The Roman Catholic Church decided that what he saw was actually the first two letters of ‘Jesus’ in Greek, ‘P’ and ‘X’ (A pagan Roman sees Greek letters that refer to a Jewish Messiah? Hmmm...). For the record, subsequent events of Constantine's life radically refute the notion that he ever converted to Christianity. If he did, it was probably not until a few days before his death when he also was baptized (a common custom of the times).
On October 28, AD 312, the morning after the visionary incident, Constantine's army painted the ‘P’ on their helmets and shields, and went on to a great victory over Constantine's brother-in-law, Emperor Maxentius, at the Battle of Milvian Bridge. Maxentius drowned in the Tiber during the battle, and Constantine, ‘the newly converted Christian,’ ordered the dead emperor's head to be impaled on a pike and carried through the streets of Rome.”
On the issue of Catholicism there is much to consider such as Purgatory, the priesthood, the confessional, etc. and even then, Dr. Houck notes that “our subject here is the recurring pattern in the evolution of religion.” He notes that Catholicism denotes, “a repeat of the religion of the Babylonians, a system of rites and practices” much of which is certainly true. However, he reference Alexander Hislop’s book The Two Babylons which must be taken with many grains of salt. While the book’s main points are solid, much of Hislop’s scholarship has been called into question (for details, see Babylon mystery religion and Alexander Hislop’s “The Two Babylons”).
Note also that Dr. Russ Houck denies that, generally speaking, Trinitarian doctrine. I will state here and now that I am a Trinitarian and was not convinced otherwise. However, he did raise some interesting question to which I will seek answers.
Note the reasonable manner whereby Dr. Houck goes about his advice, keeping in mind the previous reference to his zeal which is quite evident throughout the book (p. 397):
“If you keep the Sabbath because I do, then you are keeping it unto me instead of unto God. If the Lord convicts you to keep the Sabbath, then you should. This is a question that one should take to the Lord on an individual basis. However, I believe this to be a Primary Injection for the Infection, and the beginning of the return to biblical doctrines and the basis on which all covenants are built. It is impossible to return to ‘Biblical Truths and Hebraic Roots’ without observing the Lord's Sabbath.”
So, wrapping up this review; did Dr. Houck resolve all problems relating to Judaism (Rabbinic and Messianic) and Christianity (Catholic and Protestant) and the various offshoots from them? No, and I do not think that Dr. Houck would claim to have resolved all issues either. Rather, what he has done is to open the doors for a multifaceted dialogue. He has provided enough fuel to power decades worth of research and this is EPIDEMIC - Examining the Infected Roots of Judaism and Christianity’s true value.
You can reach Dr. Russ Houck and purchase his book as per below: