Is Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) the Church from the Far East or Far West?
One of the favorite verses used by the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) to buttress its claim that the Catholic Church apostasized after the death of the apostles and the reemergence of the true Church in the Far East is Isaiah (43:5-6):
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back’. Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” (New International Version)
Moffatt Translation: “From the far east will I bring your offspring, and from the far west I will gather you.” (emphasis ours)
Today’s English Version: “Do not be afraid—I am with you! From the distant east and the farthest west I will bring your people home.” (emphasis ours)
as quoted by Marlex C. Cantor of INC-Pasugo.
But we must note that Isaiah is a Jew and his prophecies are meant for the Jewish people. if we look at the Isaiah passage carefully, we see that the text simply says that the Jews, after their diaspora, will be gathered again from all the four corners of the world: East, West, North, and South. This in fact happenned after their Babylonian captivity in 586 BC and their subsequent return in 538 BC, as recorded in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. This also happenned again after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Romans and the return of the Jews to form the State of Israel in May 14, 1948. Thus, the passage in Isaiah speaks of the gathering up of the Jews after their diaspora and not the formation of Iglesia ni Cristo in the Far East.
Why do the INC insist in the Far East? If we follow the Moffatt translation, the new Church of Christ could also have been in the Far West. And Far North and Far South, for that matter, for these places must also “give up” the sons of Israel.
In the passage of Isaiah, the center of the world is in Israel: everything else is determined with respect to it–East and West, North and South. When INC tries to apply that passage to the modern era, the division of the world into East and West is not anymore centered on Jerusalem, but somewhere between Rome (the Western Roman Empire) and Byzantium or Constantinople (The Eastern Roman Empire)–now in Istanbul, Turkey. Great Britain, a western civilization, became an worldwide empire in the Modern Age and the terms Near East, Middle East, and Far East was invented, still with respect to the old boundaries of the Old Roman Empires:
The term Far East was popularized in the English language during the period of the British Empire as a blanket term for lands to the east of British India. Prior to World War I, the Near East referred to relatively nearby lands of the Ottoman Empire, Middle East to northwestern South Asia and Central Asia, and Far East for countries along the western Pacific Ocean and countries along the eastern Indian Ocean.(Wikipedia)
The Eastern and Western Roman Empires were two halves of the Roman Empire under Theodosius I, who made Catholicism as the empire’s official religion. Thus, if INC insists that it rose from the Far East, then INC accepts the division of the world defined by Christians in general and Catholics in particular. INC is not a Christian church, since it denies the divinity of Christ. INC is closer to Islam, who claims that “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.” For INC, “There is no God but the God of Jesus, Jesus is his prophet, and Manalo is his last prophet.”