"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

Christianity – How Paul Invented Christianity

May 26, 2011

in Christianity:,Idolatry,Pagan God's/Saviours,Saul/Paul of Tarsus,The Mythical Christ

Abstract

Paul made the Jewish leader, Jesus, who expected God’s visitation to save the Jews from foreign oppression, into the saviour of an Hellenistic mystery cult. Paul was the cult leader. He transferred the divine title of God to the messiah, and substituted effort of will by faith. Faith is a cop out. It is empty without works, as James wrote, even in the New Testament. All modern Christians prefer faith because works means doing something—doing God’s will, actually measuring up to the law, or measuring up to the criterion of loving your enemy. Paul’s rejection of will undercut Jesus, Judaism and Zoroastrianism, because it is the effort involved in trying to do God’s will that is salvific. Trying to fulfil the law, and trying to love others is what takes people closer to God, not any self-indulgent faith. Paul distorted the value of the law, and he taught in opposition to Jesus. Jews stepped away and ignored him. The Christianity of Christ himself was destroyed.

 

“Paul was the greatest fantasist of all. He created the Christian myth by deifying Jesus”.

Hyam Maccoby, The Mythmaker Paul and the Invention of Christianity

Paul in Person

H Wrede and others have pointed out that Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus was of the psychological type in which belief already existed but had been fought against. The vision of the risen Jesus was the crisis that made the contradiction conscious. Having accepted the resurrection of the Jewish rebel, Paul had to rationalize his new and embarrassing belief. He did it by applying to him the solar and salvific epithets of the ancient redeemer gods. Jesus was a heavenly figure from the start for Paul. He had never known him alive, and knew little of his life or teaching in life, but it did not matter to him. His advent to change the world was what mattered to Paul. Above all, it was the expectation of his parousia, the return of the messiah with the hosts of heaven to purge and purify the world that Paul had in common with the early church, and that he was keen to propagate.

Paul is not an apostle of the historical Jesus, whose teachings are of no consequence, even though he is God. Paul knew little about the life of Jesus, or he was not willing to reveal what he did know to his hearers. He never met the living Jesus (1 Cor 9:1) and shows little trace in his letters of knowing the Palestinian traditions about Jesus (R Bultmann), but is committed only to the meaning to him of his visions. What he knew about Christ was that he was:

  1. born as a Jew under the law (Gal 4:4)
  2. descended from David (Rom 1:3)
  3. betrayed (1 Cor 11:23)
  4. crucified by the archons of the æon (Gal 1:3; 1 Cor 2:2; Phil 2:3)
  5. buried and rose again (1 Cor 15:4; Rom 6:4)
  6. prophesied—he was the messiah.

So, Paul put Jesus as a real man in history but made no use of anything that he taught. Albert Schweitzer wrote:

Where possible he avoids quoting the teaching of Jesus, in fact, even mentioning it. If we had to rely on Paul, we should not know that Jesus taught in parables, had delivered the Sermon on the Mount and had taught his disciples “Our Father”. Even where they are specially relevant, Paul passes over words of the Lord.

Paul passes over words of the Lord because:

The gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel, for I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came from a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Gal 1:11-12

Paul’s claim to be an apostle rest on his visions of the risen Christ. Visions are, at best, dreams, and otherwise are far more serious such as hallucinations or delusions. If we take them literally, they are psychological phenomena related to Paul’s uncertain mental stability. Christians do not like to think of this because it is tantamount to accepting that mystical experiences are a sign of psychosis, and any such explanation would wipe out half the best scenes in the bible, and some favoured saints. All the divine voices in the bible would have an explanation that is less than flattering, and visions of talking burning bushes need not be thought of as signs from God but an entirely subjective symptom of neurosis or worse. Christians therefore stick to their hypothesis of God and thereby continue to follow the subjective ravings of madmen, or men on the verge of madness. Paul’s “thorn in the side” is much more likely to have been bipolar illness as it is euphemistically called these days, but which used to be better described as manic depression. He described it quite well himself when he explained it was a…

…messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.

2 Corinthians 12:7

When Paul got too elated or excited he was brought down again by his thorn. In other words he came down from a manic phase into a depressed phase, and had learned to live with it. Manic depressives are not unusually akin to geniuses. They can make a great deal of the immense drive and energy they get from their manic phase, and so can make an impact. At its best, the depression forces the manic depressive to rest every so often, but it can, of course, drive them to suicide. Their manic phase drives all their friends to suicide!

Arguably Paul is meant in some Talmudic passages like the Mishna attributed to Rabbi Eliezar of Modaim:

He who violates the sabbath, breaks fasts, and scandalizes his neighbour, annuls the covenant of our father Abraham, and twists the meaning of the law—even though he has knowledge of the law and can point to good works—will have no part in the world to come.

Elsewhere in the Talmud, Gehazi appears, a faithless servant of Elisha, of whom Rabbi Jochanan said:

Of Gehazi, it is said he was incapable of penance, because he sinned and led others astray into sinning. Moreover, Gehazi became leprous.

If Gehazi really were Paul, some scholars think the leprosy could have been Paul’s thorn in the side, but it is unlikely. Leprosy was a metaphor for precisely the sins that Gehazi committed, and this was the metaphorical leprosy that Jesus had cured. Lepers were teachers of false law. Actual leprosy would surely have stopped Gehazi or anyone else from effectively spreading any message, true or otherwise, to lead people astray. They would be confined most of the time to living in a leper colony, and forbidden to enter the city.

These doubtful allusions might mean Paul because of what we know of him from the New Testament. They therefore cannot add anything new to the New Testament information, particularly his own letters.

Paul openly rejected the gospel taught by Jesus to the twelve apostles chosen by him personally in his lifetime. Yet Christ is God, we are told. Paul was a man. Paul’s teaching of the risen Christ, in short, mysticism, has eclipsed the life and practical teaching of God incarnated on earth. Modern Christians put their emphasis on faith, and not on works, but it was Paul’s emphasis not that of God in the flesh of Jesus who several times made it clear that salvation was not so easy as simply faith. The Christians always had to do something. Doing something means works! Paul makes a fool of Christians by turning them away from the precepts taught by the very man they worship! Paul rejected the faith of Jesus to teach faith in Jesus! No doubt they are convinced it is the same thing, but that is the entire point. It is not! Since Jesus is God, according to Christians, but Paul is a mortal, a man who had the devil’s thorn in his side, the rejection of the faith of God, and of all God’s teaching seems a serious matter, but it never bothers Christians.

For Paul, God only appeared on earth so that he could die and rise again! Accordingly, Paul lists multiple cases of post-resurrection appearances, and Christians tell us that whatever is mutiply attested is true. But these, of course, are not multiple attestations. They are attestations by Paul, and only one of them is from Paul’s own experience, and only one other is separately attested. That is the alleged appearance to Peter, which Peter himself does not confirm. An appearance to Mary Magdalene is not confirmed by her. In the end, of the multiple attestation of the appearance of the formerly dead Christ, only that by Paul is confirmed by the one who actually experienced it. The rest are stories. In US legal jargon, they are “hear-say” and are inadmissable. Even Paul’s is, because no one is certain that the letters attributed to him were not written by someone else!

The only description of Paul is non-canonical. It is in the Acts of Paul and Thecla, a book the church thought was unsuitable for canonization, but the description of Paul in it effectively became canonical and influenced portraits of Paul throughout ecclesiastical history:

I saw Paul coming, a man of small stature with a big bold head and crooked legs but with a noble bearing, eyebrows grown together, and with a rather prominent nose, a man breathing friendliness.

Acta Pauli et Theclae

Paul and Judaism

Matthew 23:15 attests to Jewish missionary activity around the time of Jesus and Paul. All of Strabo, Seneca, Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Horace, Juvenal and Dio Cassius confirm it. Prophesies that a sign of the coming of the messiah was the nations turning to Judaism was the reason for Jewish missionaries. Its immediate aim was not to effect complete conversion, but to get gentiles as Godfearers, associate Jews who accepted a partial Torah called the law of Noah. Paul (Rom 9-10) was appealing directly to Godfearers converted by Jewish missionaries. In this period there were about 5 million Jews at least in a Roman empire with a population of about 70 million. Herod had built his magnificent temple and the port of Caesarea to take advantage of the vast number of Jews in the empire even in the first century BC. It was a big attraction to them as a Passover pilgrimage, and the pilgrims brought in a lot of money. The number of Jews was extraordinarily high for such a tiny country, and missionary activity is too late to explain it. There must have been a large diaspora even in the days of the Roman republic. Where had they all come from? The tiny country of Judaea could not have bred such a vast number of Jews.

The inescapable fact is that all of them could not have been descended from people who once lived in Judaea, and nor could that number of converts have been made in less than a century of proselytism. Jew simply cannot mean what everyone thinks it means. It is not someone from Judaea. It is a religious identity for those who worshipped Yehouah, and they must have been widespread in the ANE if they could not all have come a small part of the Palestinian hills. The gentile who fulfilled the whole of the law of Moses was a Jew. It is proof that Judaism is a religion and not a race. The Ebionites had the same rule:

The non-Jew who fulfils the law is a Jew. If he does not fulfil it, a Greek.

Hom 11:16

The truth is that Jerusalem was like Mecca and Rome for Islam and Catholicism respectively, and Judaea was like the Vatican city. It had been the center of the Jewish religion since around 400 BC when it was set up for that purpose by the Persian kings. The Jewish religion was the common religion of the people who had co-operated with the Persian kings. Whatever their religion had been, it was restored by Persian colonists, and Lo! it was restored as Judaism. Darius II gave them responsibility for the tiny temple state of Yehud and for collecting taxes from “the nations”. So Persian Jews lived all over the Persian empire even when Jerusalem was set up as the Jewish temple state. Judaism began as a diaspora! This, and not the capture of Samaria by the Assyrians is the origin of the legend of the lost tribes of Israel. By the time of Christ, the whole of the western Persian empire had been taken over by Rome, and its Jews too. Egypt, Anatolia and Syria were full of Jews. Carthage too had had many Jews when it fell in 146 BC, and they quickly spread elsewhere as tradesmen and merchants. There were always many more Jews in the east, in the Parthian empire, notably in Babylonia and Media, where they had their own ruler or minister, and Rome was never sure where Jewish loyalty lay. That is why Romans valued the loyalty of the Herod family of puppet kings, and could not tolerate any disloyal or rebel government in Judaea.

Some think it possible and even likely that Paul had already had experience as a missionary to the gentiles but as a preacher of Jewish circumcision. It might explain his eagerness and quick decision to do the job for the Jerusalem Church. Persuading gentiles to be circumcised was too unrewarding, and Paul determined it ought to be easier. His methods caused the unarguable difference that arose between him and the chosen apostles and their church in Jerusalem, but this was settled in his own favour, according to Paul, so long as he collected for The Poor (ebionim) of Jerusalem, and they accepted table fellowship with gentiles. The truth seems to be otherwise. Paul’s teaching about the law, soteriology and eschatology is incompatible with the teaching of Jesus we have in the synoptic gospels.

I was once alive apart from the law.

Romans 7:9

Paul could mean here that he was not always a Jew, or he once was a token Jew, like them, the Hellenized Jews among his listeners. Acts 21:40 says Paul spoke in Hebrew to his oppressors in Jerusalem but Aramaic is commonly meant when ancient books say people spoke Hebrew. It was a dead language in everyday life. His letters certainly have a strong whiff of Aramaic in them, so it is credible that he was brought up in an Aramaic speaking family and a Greek speaking world. Scholars, particularly Jewish ones, have argued that Paul once was himself a proselyte. Having converted, or returned to the fold if was merely lapsed, he developed a powerful missionary inclination. Alternatively, he might have been a “joiner”—one who joins various cults and sects until he finds one that suits him, or learns enough to start his own.

For a Jew, he is a theologian who is a master of the correct technical method of scriptural exegesis but in consequence of some perversity applies it so falsely that he arrives at nonsensical results.

V Grönbech

But many Jewish scholars cannot see this mastery of scriptural exegesis in the first place, certainly in rabbinic terms, but he could have been a master at Essenic style exegesis. Effectively, it allows the exegete to find whatever suits his purpose somewhere in the scriptures. Paul puts great emphasis on the Holy Spirit as the key to the divine mysteries. In this usage and terminology, Paul echoes the Qumran literature.

Paul and the Law

Essentially Paul’s claim is that the law ends when the æon of the law ends. The æon of the law followed the æon of chaos (tohu wa bohu), each of which lasted 2000 years and ended when the messiah heralded the final æon (IV Ezra 5:5;Barnabas 15:4). The age of the world was therefore 6000 years, a divine certainty that the Byzantines took from Julius Africanus Sextus, and which modern day creationists in the US still believe. All things of the law were fulfilled in the messiah. The trouble is that history has shown that Paul propelled us into an æon of tohu wa bohu again, and not any blissful messianic æon. We have only a few centuries ago started to emerge from the Christian induced darkness, though the potential for more chaos yet increases. The Christian æon has not been any sort of ideal, and only blind deaf and brainless Christians can think otherwise. Paul was therefore demonstrably wrong in his thought and teaching. Christ might have been the end of the law (Rom 10:4) but he did not bring in any kind of golden age.

Of course, the messianic end to the law was not only Paul’s view. Philo said so (Vita Adam 1:13; Vita Mosis 3:22), and the Rabbis thought so generally, although they thought the messiah would bring a new Torah suitable for an age in which “the evil impulse” had been destroyed. Apocalyptic writings also unite in the idea that the law ended with the messianic kingdom, though they do not say so explicitly. They never mention any law in the divine kingdom and do not describe it as the fulfilment of the law, according to Schweitzer.

Christians will claim that Paul’s substitution of love for the law is the new Torah, but where is the evidence in the last 2000 years that Christians, let alone ordinary sinners, have given up the evil impulse for love? That much later messianists like the Sabbatai made the same claim that the law ended with the arrival of their messiah shows they had noticed no intervening messianic age. Only Christians do, but it is always personal to them, and gives them the right, history proves, to oppress everyone else, often including other Christians actually trying to be righteous. Heretics and witches could be legally burned to death because they were Christians in the insane Christian mind set.

In Persian religion, the saviour was sent to prepare the way for the restoration of the perfection of creation when the world was descending again towards chaos. Jewish sages had then to contend with the law. What was its purpose if it did not stop the world being wicked, if it did not make people good? An alternative speculation had arisen that the law did just that, and the messiah arrived when the world was ready for the final step to original perfection. The final step was necessary because the law had made everyone so conscious of guilt that the messiah had to relieve them of it.

Thus the purpose of the law was simply as a measure of perfection, and righteous people got more and more conscious of the small differences in their behaviour from perfection as they got closer to it. In earlier times the sinfulnness of the impious was clear to everyone. Paradoxically, guilt increased the nearer perfect people were, falling short of the law even fractionally was angst-making. It sounds likely to have been Essenic, as the leading Essenes strived for perfection under the law, but still expected the archangel Michael to come with the hosts of heaven. One trouble with this speculation was that it led to the same reaction amongst some as the Gnostic Carpocratians. The law was impossible to meet so—in for a penny, in for a pound—just be unrepentant sinners.

Paul took the view that the law was a measure of sinfulness, it was “to increase trespass” (Rom 5:20; cf Gal 3:19)—to make people aware of their sins. The messiah came when sin was rife, at least to the extent that people realized it. For Paul, the age was wicked and the world was wicked and the law was the measure of it. Those who were most aware of their failing before the law were most plagued with guilt. Paul was one of these!

The form of death by crucifixion of the messiah is a torture introduced into the Roman empire from Persia. Traditionally it was hanging from a tree, not at all like modern hanging by the neck, a quick death if done properly, but a slow and agonizing death by deprivation of food and water, and exposure to sun, wind and rain, the humiliation of excreting and public ridicule, followed by being consumed, even while dying, by carion birds. The myth of carnivorous trees is most likely travellers’ sightings of trees reserved for public executions with bones hanging in them and scattered around. Hanging under the Jewish law was ignominous, an ignoble death as a punishment for ignoble acts.

In Deuteronomy, the hanged man, according to the Greek Septuagint, is “accursed by God”. Exegetes of the Hebrew disagree, saying it is a “cursing of God”, leaving it ambiguous whether God is cursing or cursed. The Ebionites read it this way, according to Jerome (ad Gal 3:14), as does the Talmud. It seems superfluous to say that a hanged man is cursed by God, so the reading that any such punishment is an offence to God is the correct one. Anyway, Paul thought it offensive. In his incoherent, jerky, stereotyped way of thinking almost by word association, he seized on the Hebrew of Deuteronomy21:23 (taluy) given as “hanged” and reads it as “lifted up” or “elevated”, making it synonymous with nasi, a prince or leader. Prominent scholars such as Dodd, Kittel and Bultmann have shown that the word used in northern Syria (bordering Cappadocia) was “elevation”. The crucifixion was the “lifting up” or “exaltation” of Yehouah’s slave in Isaiah 52:13.

What is interesting here is the exegesis by punning, a characteristic of the Essenes. Paul contrives to turn an offensive death into a meritorious one. The cursed one is the exalted one, the one whose head is raised above all others (taluy rosh)! What seems a series of jokes in bad taste is the foundation of Christianity. God moves in mysterious ways, unless, that is, it is not God but an opponent of God! Even so, it is typically Essenic exegesis and links Christianity again to the Dead Sea sect.

Paul almost saw the world in Zoroastrian terms, perhaps a legacy of his background in Cilicia, and the basis of the accusations of Gnosticism against him. His attitude was undoubtedly markedly Gnostic, and it is undoubtedly a degeneration of Persian religion. Humanity is involved in a cosmic battle, so people must chose individually between one side or the other. It is classic Zoroastrianism until the choice is considered. The Zoroastrian choice was truth or lie, good or evil in this material, physical world in which we live—and so too the Rabbis. Paul’s choice was good or evil all right, but good was spirit and evil was flesh. The world is intrinsically evil, and the battle is uneven because the evil spirit has on its side what people desire of the flesh—wealth, success, ability, knowledge—while God only has the human will to resist evil and be good (Rom 7:14-23).

Essenes had a similar view. Humans were born with different degrees of good or evil within them, but no one was born incorrigibly bad, and no one was born perfect. Whatever level of wickedness was intrinsic to their nature, anyone could aspire to perfection still by will power, by determining to resist wickedness and aiming for perfection. Those who were born with an adverse balance of evil within them had a greater struggle, but the reward was exactly the same as those who were born gifted with an essentially good nature and whose struggle was therefore much easier. The reward was, of course, the kingdom of heaven, and it remained up to the individual to decide whether they wanted the reward and were willing to try to achieve it. The effort was worth it for those willing to try, but it involved personal effort, will power! The notion that the flesh is weak appears in the Qumran literature (K G Kuhn, 1952), and is another fragment in evidence that Paul had trained as an Essene despite his Rabbinic claims. Pharisees had no such view.

Central for Paul is that the personal battle was uneven. The human will was at a disadvantage in the struggle. Evidently, Paul failed his novitiate as an Essene and had to escape—from Damascus (a code word for Qumran)! He had suffered a lack of will when faced with the immense personal sacrifices the top Essenes were ready to accept. He had been unable to meet the required standards. It dented his ego, and left him feeling guilty and frustrated. His answer was his mystical inventions. Repentance was not possible. It was too difficult. He has tried it and failed. He did not have the will for it, so there had to be an easier path. Paul believed in God all right. Few could have had more faith than he had. So, salvation must be entirely the gift of God, through His messiah, with no further effort of repentance needed. Faith in God was the salvific effort of will needed, an all together easier proposition than having to be good according to the law. Faith (pistis) effectively replaced will, because it needed no will at all, or not much, more a suspension of all reason, but that too was easier than having to think. Why then was effort now unnecessary? It was because of the advent of the messiah and the messianic age. Now faith sufficed, and Paul had it!

It sounds all fine and dandy, and is, if it is true, but it is not what the incarnated Christian God taught, nor is it what God had taught through Moses. God had always wanted righteous people, measured against His own standards. Jesus had the same message. God, his Father, wanted righteous men in His kingdom, and when they had not been righteous in their lives they could sincerely repent, remain righteous from then until the kingdom came, and be admitted. Being righteous required an effort of will. It was more than Paul could manage, and so he got rid of it for an all together easier faith. God’s purpose was that people should be holy like Him, and perfect like Him, and He had provided a measure of it in the law. The law expressed in one significant word is love, Jesus taught, but whether the law was one commandment or seven hundred, it has to be applied personally, by effort and exercise of the will. It could not be magicked away by a claim to faith.

Faith is a cop out. It is empty without works, as James wrote, even in the New Testament, and therefore in the sight of all modern Christians who ignore it. Works is doing something! It is doing God’s will, actually measuring up to the law, or measuring up to the criterion of loving your enemy. Paul’s rejection of will undercut Jesus, Judaism and Zoroastrianism because it is the effort involved in trying to do God’s will that is salvific. Trying to fulfil the law, and trying to love others is what takes people closer to God, not any self-indulgent faith. Paul’s psychological problem was that all of his efforts seemed to him to have failed. But he is not the judge of them. His ultimate decision that the effort was valueless, and his substitution of faith wrecked what God, if He is the author of the Torah and was incarnate in Christ, taught Himself. So Paul became the enemy of God. He distorted the value of the law, and he taught in opposition to Jesus. He sought to destroy Christianity and Judaism. Jews stepped away and ignored him. It was the Christianity of Christ himself that was destroyed.

The route Paul took was to use Abraham as the archetype of the man who needed no law but obeyed God through faith. Indeed, Hellenized Jews who had effectively discarded the law in the diaspora paraded Abraham’s steadfast faith as epitomizing themselves. Thus Philo (De Abraham 2:39) eulogized Abraham’s faith. Faith was accounted to Abraham as righteusness though he was as yet uncircumcized (Gen 15:6), but it led to circumcision, and that was then laid down as an absolute requirement of salvation. From Genesis, faith was an interim measure fulfilled in circumcision as a Jew. It cannot be properly argued that faith itself is salvific. In the Jewish scriptures, faith is fidelity or trust in God, and therefore trust in His will.

The idea of faith stemmed from the idea of fidelity, of loyal adherence to God and His law. As the law insists on works, so faith becomes a zealous obedience in the matter of fulfilling the law…

A Mayer (1930)

Fidelity is what the Jewish scriptures call the “fear of God”. It does not do not to fear God. Can anyone seriously imagine that a law can be bypassed on the grounds of faith in God? A proper faith is fear of God, and means obedience of God’s law. The Persian kings who gave the Jews their law in 417 BC made this an essential requirement:

Israel, what does Yehouah require of you but to fear Yehouah Elohim?

Deuteronomy 10:12

God acted through the Persian kings, and they through their judges (suffetim), so obedience was a good idea, as it is to any just law. Faith is doing God’s will, and, as James said, it is, of itself, nothing. It is quite impossible to claim a faith that has no practical outcome. Doing nothing is not an option. For Christ, the law was love. No one who fails to love can be saved, however much faith they profess to have. If Christian faith is not manifest in love of others and all that entails in practical life, then it is empty. It is worthless and not salvific at all. That is how serious the Pauline trick is for Christians.

At the head of Christian self-consciousness stands the apostle Paul, not Jesus nor the early church.

W Köhler, History of Doctrine (1938)

James in his letter could see no value in fear of God or faith without good works, though works without fear of God were equally valueless. A modern outlook would demur. Those who do good without having to fear God must be better at root than those who only do good through fear. The point is, though, that it does not matter whether you do good works out of faith or fear or out of some inate desire to do good, the reward is the same. There are no grades in heaven. It is the doing of the good that is the true criterion, but it requires the proviso that God decides, so no one can assume they ought to be saved. that is something modern Christians fail to do. They are rarely humble. The Ebionites considered Jesus the true prophet who taught the forgiveness of sins through good works (Clem Hom 3:7). The Zoroastrian view was that judgement was on everyone’s balance in the Book of Life, a book which gets a mention in Christianity’s Book of Revelation. All sins were in the debit column and all good deeds in the credit column, and at judgement, the balance was what counted. So wicked deeds (sins) could only be negated by doing good deeds to annul them.

Nor is Paul’s “faith” fear of God. It is a faith in magic rituals, sacerdotal procedures of assurance of salvation. The mumbo-jumbo seems to convince the Christian of the soteriology of it. Paul says that faith in it is bestowed by God and so the Christian has faith by God’s grace. Their own effort has nothing to do with it. They are God’s elect, so why did they need to be saved? Human will and endeavour is not in the loop. What then makes Christians so superior? The whole argument is circular, and circular arguments are never right. Moreover, Paul himself argues against it (Rom 2:17-29). There is no point in boasting of your righteousness, if you are not righteous. A circumcized Jew is not a proper Jew if he habitually breaks the law, despite the outward sign he bears. The law is the measure not anything else. The same must be true of faith. There can be no point in the Christian boasting of it if they do not practice loving others. Love is the measure of their faith. Paul’s angst prevents him form coming to this obvious conclusion, and instead he decides everything is internal, spiritual and to be judged by God. Indeed, that is true for it is obvious that an almighty being can read everything in anyone’s heart. Paul seems to think that the measures God has given to humanity are for Him to use in judgement, but that is obviously not the case. The measures are for humans to use in their relationships with each other, and no one who ignores them can be pure of heart. So, Paul is quite wrong, even in his own terms.

Paul uses more Essenic imagery in speaking of “the body of Christ”, “being in Christ” and “life in Christ”. Essenes considered their own individual people and in mass their community (yahad, church!) as being the true temple of God, not any building however impressive. Paul transfers the notion of the community into the body of Christ. It therefore sits well with the notion of the messianic meal and baptism being communion rituals. The bodies of Christians are members of Christ (1 Cor 6:15), not members of a club, that being another use of the same metaphor, but the parts of him.

Love as the basic principle of the law is common in the teaching of Jesus and Paul, so it is one of the few teachings of Paul’s messiah that he actually used. Either that or they both had a common source, probably in the Essenes.

Having given reasons why the messiah’s coming negated the law, we find that some Thessalonians were taking him literally. The law had been superseded. The messiah had come and was soon to come again to end the æon. So why work? Paul had to start inventing his own rules to replace the law, in some obvious respects at any rate (2 Thes 3:11). Later, the authors of Ephesians and Colossians were having to draw up long lists of dos and don’ts (Eph 5:1-5; 6ff; Col 3:5-9; 4ff). Even to the Romans, he had to explain what was not fitting. So, no sooner had Paul abrogated the law than he had to bring in new ones to keep the lambs good. The list in Galatians 5:19-26 compares with those in the Qumran Manual of Discipline. The ancient document called the Didache, except for 1:3 to 2:1 which is a Christian insertion, is a Jewish proselyte catechism explaining that no one should do to others what they would not like to be done to themselves. It too has echoes of the Qumran Manual of Discipline, as J P Audet first pointed out.

The New Testament letter, 2 Peter, frankly admits Paul is hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16). As Paul was making it up on the fly, it is often literally true, but the Jerusalem Church must have found it hard to understand what he was doing all together. Paul was not, of course, writing for Rabbinic scholars, something the Rabbinic scholars seem to forget, but for a mixed audience of Godfearers and Hellenized Jews, most of whom can have had little theoretical or even practical knowledge of the law, other than the Noachide law for gentiles. Paul’s teaching was aimed at those Jews and Godfearers for whom the law was a nuisance. Even A Harnack admitted (1908) that Paul’s justification for univeralism and abolition of the law was deep but knotty, hardly understood by anyone and unsuccessful. Paul was not the founder of the church of Rome, and it cannot have been Peter whatever Catholics choose to believe. It was surely a proselyte annex of the Roman synagogue for Godfearers and new converts thus fitting what Suetonius had to say in his life of Claudius. It was W Bousset’s view:

The problem of the letter to the Romans is best solved if we suppose as its readers a church consisting mainly of one time proselytes.

Religion of the Jews in Hellenistic Times, Ed H Gressman, (1926)

The Jerusalem Church

Scholars have disputed for most of the twentieth century about the presence or absence of a pre-Pauline church. There is no question about there being a church at Jerusalem before Paul. It was led by James, the so-called brother of the Lord. The doubt is about what it was precisely. There were Christians in Rome before Paul got there. There were churches everywhere before Paul. From the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, there was a church even before Christ! For those interested in history and truth, the pre-Christian church was that of the Essenes, but it was not a Pauline church, though Paul took a lot from it. We only know about the Qumran Essenes, yet they existed elsewhere in Palestine, and apparently in Egypt where they seemed related in outlook to the Therapeutae. Perhaps they also existed in the diaspora. It seems unlikely that they did not, so they would have been another direct element in Paul’s mix of early Christian ingredients.

The Jerusalem church is presented always as the spontaneously generated church of the followers of Jesus—the church of the Nazarenes, set up after his death. But was it, or did it already exist because it was an organisation of the Essenes in Jerusalem? Was it set up and adminstered by the Essenes for Nazarene converts, who had been also recruited in previous apocalyptic frenzies and become what Josephus called the village Essenes? Careful honest study might clarify such issues, but Christians are incapable of it. They have to have a uniquely revealed religion.

Certainly Paul attended one or more apostolic councils in Jerusalem, evidently organized by the Nazarenes. The meeting Paul describes (Gal 2:1-10) seems to have been the one in Acts 15:6-30. (Another apparent meeting in Acts 11:27ff is not mentioned by Paul, and is probably a confusion of the one Paul does mention.) The author of Acts has tried to show it as an innocuous and harmonious meeting, but Paul did not see it that way himself, if his letter to the Galatians is to be believed. In it Paul calls Peter a liar! The chosen representative of Christ, upon whom Jesus allegedly said he would build his church, plainly disagreed profoundly with Paul. The disputes were about the requirements made by the law on gentiles converts.

Jesus had declared that not a jot or tittle of the law would pass away before the End, but had been ready to teach that the law could be abrogated temporarily in extremis, something quite acceptable to orthodox Judaism as laid down in the decree of Lydda, explicated in the Talmud (Sanh 74; Jer Sanh 2:6-21b; Arakhin 21). In times of religious persecution and stress such as warfare, the law could be transgressed in all but its main requirements. There were no justifications ever for incest, idolatry or gratuitous murder. On the grounds that the End was nigh, and the world was in a dire battle against sin, Christians, following Paul claimed much of the law was irrelevant for gentile converts. But Judaism had the Noahide (or Noachide) law, a minimal law of Moses meant for Godfearers as a step to full proselyte status. Circumcision was not necessary, but the Godfearer was not a proselyte and so not a Jew, and the emissaries from the Jerusalem church took this line. The gentile church claimed the Noahide requirements still held for Godfearers, and to become full Christians, they had to accept the full requirments of the law. The argument was therefore about whether circumcision was needed to make a Godfearer a full member of the church. It was about whether the law applied to Christian converts. Titus was circumcized Paul admits (Gal 2:3), having bowed to the seniority of the chosen apostles and the Jerusalem Church, but it is not something that the later Pauline church wanted in Acts, so it does not appear there.

For Paul’s gentile and Hellenized Jewish supporters, the original apostles were Judaizers, and so they have remained. These Judaizers were the actual followers of Christ in life and knew what he had taught and said. Paul knew none of this, and if he did, he did not care. For him, Jesus was a cosmic figure—effectively divine already—and his lifetime teachings were irrelevant to Paul’s own objective—to confirm his eschatological theories as right. The messiah had appeared and the End was imminent. People had to turn to Paul’s concept of the cosmic Christ to be saved. Whatever Christ himself had taught as a man had been superseded now that he was a god. Today, the End has still not come, so Paul’s theories have been proved hopelessly wrong. If Jesus was God, what was Paul?

Acts is a deliberately harmonizing work meant to minimize the divisions between the two factions and tone down the strife. But divisions and strife there were just a few years after the crucifixion. The outcome was to be that the foundation church of Christianity at Jerusalem, led by James and the chosen apostles, was sidelined and its members declared heretics by the church of Paul centered on Rome. Christians ought to find this disturbing, but naturally they do not. They have been taught by Paul not to doubt, to have absolute faith, but their faith is in a theory disproved 20 centuries ago. Their faith prevents them considering that the devil cut across God’s plans by setting up a false belief that negated the divine message God had brought in person. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles successfully hid the divisions, transforming Paul into an apostle of light, though he had succeeded in destroying God’s plan. Paul is the true Lucifer!

Paul and the Essenes

Paul knew of some of the customs of the primitive Jerusalem church including the sacred meal and the initiation by baptism, both taken from Essenic customs, the messianic meal and the purification of the body that accompanied the purification of the soul by repentance. Paul blatantly gave them Hellenized interpretations to suit the Hellenized Jews of the diaspora and godfearing gentiles. Baptism became a ritual dying with Christ and rebirth, and the messianic meal became an Hellenistic communion with the god, a step in the deification of Christ.

These early customs were the customs of the Essenes, of which Jesus was one. Baptism had been institutionalised from the outset as an initiatiation rite, because Paul assumes the Christians in his churches are baptized (Rom 6:3; 1 Cor12:13). Moreover, the rite of breaking bread in a communal meal is attested in Jerusalem before Paul came on to the scene (Acts 2:42-47)—if we accept it is not a retrojection. Jesus broke bread in a ritualistic way, just as the Essenes did. The customs cherished by the primitive Christianity of Jerusalem were used by Paul, but misinterpreted. The Essenic belief of Jesus was undoubtedly apocalyptic, and Paul had the same eschatological outlook. Paul knew the doctrines of the Essenes. Indeed the best explanation of his three years in Arabia (Arabah) is that he had been an Essene novice, but one who apparently failed the novitiate and had to do a runner. His upbringing in a metropolis of the Hellenized east gave him a thoroughly Hellenized base for thinking, and between him and Jesus stood the Jerusalem Church and the chosen apostles. By comingling these various elements, Paul produced Christianity.

Paul made use of the Jewish scriptures in Greek called the Septuagint, to judge by the four main letters unreservedly assigned to him. The popularity of quotations from Isaiah in Paul’s epistles reflects its importance to the Essenes, judging from the Dead Sea Scrolls. What is even more Essenic is Paul’s idiosyncratic exegesis, closely paralleled in peculiarity in the scrolls. Not only that, but the way Paul uses typological indicators and proofs is like the scrolls:

It consists in showing how past events disclose the pattern of events to come.

J Danilou (1950)

The Essenes searched the texts looking for words which typified their current interest and extracted a reading from the different contexts in which they were found using divers means including puns. The reading they wanted was a prophesy of the present or future events. The Holy Spirit revealed the “truths” underlying the obvious textual meaning:

The distinction between an apparent meaning which the casual reader does not get beyond, and a deep meaning accessible only to the learned, is the exact definition of allegory whatever be the context in which it is used.

J Pepin, Myth and Allegory (1958)

It is the method often used by Paul, and it is still used by rogues after an easy buck today. Those who claim to be able to see or read what is not there are always crooked and dangerous men. Leo Strauss, guru of the neocons, has even built up a dangerously reactionary philosophy on this sort of “interpretation”.

Both Paul and the Essenes thought they could read the Jewish scriptures as prophecy, not simply as history or doctrine. The accounts of the events in the Jewish bible told more than the obvious. They foreshadowed the messianic age. Allegory was their method of exegesis, the aim of which was to prophesy the the coming of the messiah, and the eschaton. It is all interesting if lunatic stuff, but is subject to a simple test of truth. Does it work? Answer, No! It does not work, and we know it because the prophecies did not come true. The Essenes were used to their prophesies not working and disconsolately, no doubt, returned to their scriptural studies and looked for what they had missed. They realized they had been wrong. Paul would not accept that he was wrong, except in some minor way that required a little fine tuning, which he did on the hoof, so that his theories were always found to be right, with hindsight. The parousia was plainly late and not showing signs of happening, so he claimed it had been somewhat delayed. He found excuses, and his successors continued to find excuses and Christians believed them:

The Christians gave themselves up to a passion for reinterpretation and substitution—a process that cannot possibly have been compatible with a good conscience.

F Nietzsche

 

Paul’s Eschatological Theories

From the time of the apocalypse of Daniel, written under the impact of Antiochus Epiphanes’ desecration of the temple (168-164 BC) up to the collapse of the messianic movement under Bar Kochba (135 AD), there was a period of uninterrupted eschatological tension.

H J Schoeps

Albert Schweitzer thought Paul took his ideas from Baruch and IV Ezra. Cosmic events were happening. Two æons were crunching together with the new one gradually over riding the old. With the resurrection, the new age had already begun and its supernatural properties could already be drawn upon through faith. The End began with the death of the messiah, and his resurrection heralded the final week of years before the old æon passed with the general resurrection. The model of the whole period from the birth of the messiah to new age was the life of king David. For about thirty years the son of David was more or less anonymous, then the kingdom would come over a period of forty years, of which a week of years was transitional. The precise nature of these periods had not been elucidated.

Jesus, it seems, had lived about thirty years and had started his mission fitting the beginning of the schema. He seems to have captured Jerusalem from the Romans, albeit only briefly before the Romans recaptured it and he was killed. The declaration of UDI in Jerusalem had seemed of eschatological significance to the Nazarenes. The Jews having rejected the strangers from the city, they expected God to send the archangel Michael and the hosts of heaven to bring about the kingdom of God. Jesus knew his fate was sealed and expected the eschatological miracle in the garden of Gethsemane, and the kingdom to begin then, because the report in the gospels was that he expected to eat the messianic meal with his supporters that very night. Presumably, this then was thought to have been the end of a period of forty years of struggle. It was a shock that Michael never came and the messiah was crucified. Then the disappearance of the corpse of Jesus made the disciples think he had been resurrected according to Hosea 6:3, and so the kingdom had started to arrive after all. Now they believed Jesus himself would return as the archangel Michael, but the dating had to be reset to another forty years hence, and the first Christians expected the parousia soon!—within forty years, anyway. The Jews of the Jerusalem church were happy simply to wait for the event while trying to persuade as many Jews as they could to repent before the End. Meanwhile, they believed the law of Moses still applied, and they continued to live accordingly. This was the situation as Paul found it.

He began teaching this very belief but all the time struggled with his own problems with it. he was not willing to simply watch and wait but instead began to formulate his own theories. After about twenty years or so, it was getting obvious that there was no parousia in the offing, and he had to find excuses for all the Hellenized Jews and gentile Godfearers he had infected with the certainty of it. He was still preaching but he was in crisis.

The non-appearance of the parousia in the first post-Christian century implies a fact which makes it impossible even for the most orthodox Christian dogmatist to take seriously… true Paulinism.

K Barth and A Schweitzer (1924)

The continued delay in the parousia ought to have aborted the Christian foetus in the first century of its conception, indeed in its first forty years. Yet twenty centuries later, Christians are still waiting with the hope on their lips, “Jesus is coming… soon!”

It is undeniable that Paul with the whole of primitive Christianity erred about the imminently expected parousia.

H J Schoeps (1959)

Pace A Schweitzer, Paul was not an ancient logician. He was a fibberty gibbet who picked up ideas here and there in the Hellenistic environment and put them together in real time, on the hoof, so to speak. Gnostic influence is unquestionable, and so too is the influence of the Hellenistic mysteries. He claimed to have been a Pharisee, but many Jewish critics cannot see it, and the Pharisees were rather more committed to their rabbinic necessities like the law than Paul was. His three years in “Arabia” can be explained if he was an Essene novice in the “Arabah” at Qumran, whence he had to flee. His biblical exegesis is often wild and eclectic, and his thoughts and justifications, especially when he is addressing Greeks, unashamedly draw on Hellenistic concepts. This is the fount of Christianity.

A deliverance of Christianity from its Pauline elements has become for ever impossible. This was decided by the defeat and elimination of the Ebionites.

H J Schoeps, Paul (1959)

Schoeps says Paul’s thinking is dialectic. It is not dialectic in any Socratean sense. What it is is dualistic. When he thinks of death, he thinks of not-death—life! When he thinks of flesh, he thinks of not-flesh—spirit! It is a type of thought that springs from the Persian religion and entered Orphism and Hellenistic Judaism, as shown by the Essenes. Paul is excitable, moody and passionate, and his thinking is discontinuous, reflecting the quick passing of his moods as he thinks. He is a man possessed or at least obsessed, pursuing his ambitions but paranoid that his distracters were pursuing him. He feels he is suffering as an apostle of Christ but is suffering from his own neuroses. He admitted he had a thorn in his side but no one is sure what he meant. Some think he was epileptic. Some think he was a closet homosexual. Perhaps he realised he hovered on the edge of madness.

In any event, Martin Dibelius thought he lacked “any sort of humanism” because his personality lacked organic unity, harmony and integration. He wrote opaquely and using concepts that no one now understands anyway. He was diametrically opposite to the Christian god, Christ, whom he contradicts incessantly, and Christians now accept his views not those of Jesus whom they supposedly follow. Perhaps it is because Paul suits the people of western societies more than does Jesus. Paul was a towny, he was worldly, he had little knowledge of Nature but understood the political affairs concerning the empire, and chatted amicably to Roman governors and their puppet Jewish kings. Jesus was a parochial countryman whose images were of Nature and farming, and whom the authorities pursued as a rebel. Christians seem utterly unable to see the plain contrradictions between the two, or indeed any contradictions in their beliefs at all, though they are shot through with them. They are incapable of criticizing them or of self-criticism, and they approach their study of Paul like all their other studies of Christianity, from fear. They fear that any doubt they admit will mean they have lost their post mortem rewards, and so they refuse to consider anything other than what they have been taught by rogues and leeches. So, what they read is acceptable views, Christian views, and they read their modern opinions into Paul even though it is impossible that he thought like them.

Paul’s Hellenistic Syncretism

No one has understood Paul, if he thinks he can agree with him. The opponents of this assertion involuntarily confirm it in the way they distort his words to wrest from them a satisfactory meaning.

Franz Overbeck (1919)

 

When Overbeck speaks of Paul’s supporters, Christians, “distorting his words”, he means they are lying about what he actually said. Not only can Christians not stop it, they have to do it to maintain their beliefs in the unbelievable. Among the things they have to lie about is that Paul has blatantly amalgamated concepts of the mystery religions with Jewish concepts. Paul Reitzenstein in 1927 showed that Paul was replete with gnostic dualism—sarxpneumapsychepistisergawere all popular gnostic concepts. Combining phos with gnosis is another Pauline characteristic (“the light of the knowledge of God’s glory”, 2 Cor 4:6). It comes directly from the doctrines of Hermes Trismegistus and the mystery religions which parallel the growth of knowledge with illumination as stages of “enlightenment”! Once fully illuminated or enlightened, the mystery initiate was “renatus in æternum”—born again forever. Inevitably, the Christian will protest that Paul’s mystery of resurrection is not the Hermetic mystery of rebirth. It is like saying an oak table is not the same as a teak one. We have to concur, but their purpose is the same.

Nor should anyone be surprised that Paul was thus influenced. He was born in Tarsus in Asia Minor, a large and busy commercial city with a strongly Persian influence and consequently a wide spread of eastern cultures among its cosmopolitan citizens. Particularly significant were the incluence of Persian dualism and the mystery religions. Dio Chrysostom says that the city God was Herakles, albeit called Sandan, whose image was burned annually at a seasonal solar festival. The symbolism of it was the burning up of the vegetation in the hot season to be reborn again when the rains came. So Sandan was a type of Osiris, Tammuz, Attis and Adonis, the dying and rising vegetation deities of the ANE. Inscriptions to the theoi soteres show that these celebrations were considered to be salvific, and it is impossible to believe that Paul, growing up with all this, was not aware of its power to engage and impress people, even if he wanted to remain faithful to his own Jewish upbringing. Besides this, Augustus had started the imperial cult in which the Divus Augustushad the titles of kyrios (Lord) and soter (Saviour). Indeed, Paul effectively described Christ as the emperor awaited by the Christians (Phil 3:20), politeuma having nothing to do with “conversation”, but meaning “government”, an analogy with the imperial government—they were in the Roman empire.

Wilhem Bousset, the prominent scholar, made no bones about Christianity being a syncretistic religion. The Jewish leader who expected God’s visitation to save the Jews from foreign oppression was made into the saviour of an Hellenistic mystery cult. Paul was the cult leader. He transferred the divine title of God to His chosen and anointed one, the messiah. The only “divine Lord” of the Jews was God, so to call a man “Lord” (kyrios), in any context other than a plainly profane one, was to deify him. Paul did this and rationalized it with the theology of the divine man as a son of God, a thoroughly Hellenistic idea, while the notion of the rising god of the mystery religions gave him the idea of the risen Christ. Critics say there is no evidence of any kyrios cult. Christianity is the evidence. What there is no, or little, evidence for is a kyrios cult in Judaism before Paul. Yet the Jews had been subject to Greek influences for almost 400 years before Paul and the cultural climate it created was saturated with the ideas incorporated in the mysteries, the legacy of the mixing of civilizations under the Persian empire and its sudden collapse. The sacramental participation in the death and revivification of a god was well established, and even Judaism might have had a variety of it in the hypothetical cult of Joshua for which there is circumstantial evidence.

What is indisputable is that Pauline religion, historically considered, shows the “type” of a mystery religion.

H Windisch

Paul pandered to…

…the need of mystery felt by the religiously awakened masses. He seeks a sacrifice, a bloody phantasmagoria which sustains the struggle by means of images drawn from secret cults—God on the cross, the drinking of blood, the unio mystica with the sacrifical victim.

F Nietzsche

As usual we have apologetic attempts to distinguish Christianity from the mysteries. The mysteries, the apologists say, were timeless but the death of Christ was an event in history. 2000 years on, the difference is hard to discern. Christ’s death and vaunted resurrection is as timelessly remembered as those of Attis were, and who can say for certain there was no historical man behind the myth of Attis? The Egyptians believed that their dying and rising god, Osiris, had been an Egyptian king in primitive times, and who can prove that the gospel stories are not themselves merely stories, inventions to uphold the cult of the god. Critics of Christianity would say it is obvious they are because men do not return from death. If they seem to, then the appearance was a fake—a staged trick such as were popular at the time. Either way, nothing now distinguishes the Christian belief from the earlier ones called mythical by Christians.

Another difference apologists have highlighted is that the mysteries were personal but Christianity is communal. It is another empty distinction, and one not offered often these days! So far as we understand, the mysteries involved a personal initiation in which holy secrets were revealed, but otherwise the initiates celebrated en masse as Christians do. Christians are, for their part, usually trained into their religion, and are confirmed in it or are converted to it in some personal way. Thereafter, celebration is communal, but salvation remains personal. Modern “born again” Christians particularly regard their relationship with Christ as a personal one. The subtlety of any distinction from the ancient mysteries is so fine that no one honest can claim there is one. In both Christianity and the ancient mysteries, celebration was communal but salvation was personal. Christianity was a mystery! So even if Paul thought there was some distinction when he used words like mysterion or gnosis or soteria from the practitioners of the mystery rites, the difference quickly disappeared for the Gnostics thought he was their saint. Paul unequivocally writes about æons and archons as wicked rulers of this wicked world by whom the death of Christ was brought about. These and many other technical terms of the Gnostics are used openly by Paul, and in no special way.

This gnosis, considered as irrational awareness, is close to the cultic mystic consciousness of the mystery religions.

H J Schoeps, Paul (1959)

If Paul’s cosmic redeemer in Jesus Christ did not already exist in Hellenistic thought, it must have given succour to the Gnostics who were waiting for something like it, and the later letters, thought once to have been Paul’s own, but no longer, are even more singularly Gnostic. E Käsemann says Colossians and Ephesians cannot be understood outside Gnosticism! Other notable scholars, like Kirsopp Lake and Alfred Loisy concluded that, whatever Christianity began as, it became a mystery religion under Paul’s influence, a conclusion that meant the Hellenistic thoughts of Paul outweighed his Jewish ones—unless there were indeed as yet unknown Jewish mysteries.

Another strand of Christian apologetic ignores this possibility on the basis that the Judaism of Jesus was effectively modern rabbinic Judaism, and so could have had no mysteries of its own. The question of mysteries in ancient Judaism remains moot, but it is certain that ancient Judaism was not like rabbinic Judaism, because the Rabbis deliberately pruned their religion after the Jewish war, and also because, like Christianity, it continued to evolve since. This apologetic strand is yet more absurd because it maintains Paul was never influenced by Hellenistic Paganism as his love of Hellenistic Judaism was so strong. The argument implies two utterly separate non-overlapping religious worlds such that people could choose one and never be polluted by the other. Paul chose Judaism and was never polluted by Pagan culture. Of course, the whole of Hellenistic society was Pagan, and it was quite impossible for Jews in Greek cities to avoid its influence. Paul might have been a pious Jew but he moved in that Pagan world and could not avoid it. More evidence is that Paul claimed to be both an exclusive Pharisee and a Roman citizen. If this was even possible under Roman law, it must have been extremely rare. It is impossible for anyone not brought up in a cupboard to avoid the influence of the world you are brought up in. There were far more diaspora Jews than there were Jews in Palestine clinging to a dying tradition. At the time Jews were keen on missionizing and they readily used the language the Greeks were familiar with for making converts, just as Paul did. It worked for Paul.

C G Montefiore and J W Parkes concluded that pious Jews of the diaspora did not have the same attitude as the Palestinian Rabbis, the Pharisees. In particular the messiah conceived by the Hellenized diaspora Jews had much more cosmic proportions than the supernatural warrior king of the Judaean Jews. Paul took advantage of this non-traditional notion of the messiah because it suited the thinking of the marginal Jews and gentiles he was addressing. Montefiore identifies eight doctrines unnacceptable to the Pharisees of Judaea that Paul espoused:

  1. a divine messiah
  2. despair over the sin in people
  3. insuffient respect for the law of Moses
  4. relative disdain for Jews
  5. a mystical concept of the saviour
  6. the equality of Jews and gentiles in salvation
  7. opposing works with faith
  8. opposing spirit and flesh in a spiritual and material dualism.

In fact, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the revelation of the beliefs of the Essenes shows this thesis is flawed, for the Essenes had some at least of these ideas in Palestine, though they did not have them in the way Paul had. It shows that Paul could have found the basis of his ideas also in Palestine as well as in the diaspora. In fact, the Essenes were in a sense more exclusive than the Pharisees, but this very exclusivity had forced them to devise acceptable ways of interacting with the unclean gentiles. With their carefully worked out rules, Essenes could mix yet remain acceptable pure in their cleanliness. Arguably, then the more pious of the diaspora Jews were Essenes rather than Pharisees. The majority, though, were unpious, and even effectively lapsed Jews with little real knowledge of Jewish doctrine. They held on to their identity in a token way salving their consciences by occasionally taking the Paschal pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and paying their dues and for charities. Paul collected for the Poor, the Ebionites who comprised the Jerusalem Church. The Essenes were decidedly apocalyptic in outlook, and marginal Jews might have been more influenced by them than the more liberal and quietist Pharisees. Certainly, many of the characteristics Montefiore sees as belonging to diaspora Jews were closer to the ideas of Palestinian Essenes than to the Rabbis. Moreover, it is precisely the apocalyptic content of Judaism that the Rabbis excluded to exclude the fanatics.

Paul also seemed to quote his scripture from the Septuagint, albeit in such a free manner that he is considered by apologists to be citing from memory. Anyone of the ability to enter Gamaliel’s school ought to have known the scriptures off by heart. T Zahn thought Paul used different Hebrew translations, but there is a simpler and more likely hypothesis. The Essenes had curious methods of exegesis, and Paul used the same typological methods. Moreover, it is now known that the Septuagint is often closer to some of the Essenic scriptural renderings than to the Jewish Masoretic, for long considered the standard. It suggests that the Essenes had a more significant role at the time than was known until their scrolls were found. Scholars mistakenly gave all the ownership credits of the scriptures to the Masoretes. Now we know Essene versions that are older and different, and they are often closer to the Septuagint. The Masoretic texts are no longer the ipsissima verba of the Hebrew scriptures at all. In fact, the Masoretic version is more often cut to favour Jewish national pride—the effect of the Hasmonaean civil war that set up the Jewish state. The Essenes were nationalistic enough, but seemed to remain more loyal to the original universalism of the Persians. It is one of the ways that Christianity is more true to pre-Rabbinic Judaism than modern Judaism. Paul either favoured non-Masoretic, probably Essene, versions of the scriptures, or he used the Septuagint written for Greek speakers and in a Greek koine that they could understand. It was an Hellenized bible.

Philo of Alexandria, often admired as a Hellenized Jew, proud of his Jewishness also illustrates the tendency. It might be true that he never forgot his Jewish law, but he was, like Paul, interested in proselytizing, and for that purpose, he did just what we have been saying—he used what Greeks could understand, the notions peculiar to the mysteries. He described the Jewish patriarchs and even Moses as did the mysteries—as examples of the ascension of the human soul towards God. Philo really believed it to be so, and perhaps that is what they were meant to be, not historical figures! Moses was a mediator between man and God, in Philo’s view. Surely, it is true. God says to Moses, “Come to me”, but that is not just a simple command to move nearer physically, it is a command to ascend spiritually to the divine level. Thus Moses was more than a man. He was of the third race—a divine man—mediating between men and God. The ascent of Moses to Sinai was a metamorphosis, a transfiguration, and Christianity recognizes it in having Moses appear when Christ has the same experience in his transfiguration. The point is that these parallels or ways of thinking were in use. They were in the ethos of the times, so it is hardly surprising that they were used. Yet that is what fundamentalist Christians deny, though it is essential to the understanding of Paul.

The Critics of Paul

Paul was charged in the second century with being a tool of Satan. Paul “substituted his own dark theology for that of Jesus, introduced antisemitism into Christianity and acerbically shouted down his opponents”.

Garry Wills, a Catholic educated by Jesuits, cover notes, What Paul Meant

The epistle to the Corinthians shows that Paul was faced by several factions in the church at Corinth proving that Christianity from the very beginning was spallated. There were followers of Paul and Peter, but also Apollos and some simply had “Christ” on their banners (1 Cor 1:2). The so-called Judaizers were emissaries from Jerusalem who had the authority to inspect Paul’s work. Delegates were sent from Jerusalem into the diaspora to collect tithes until the fifth century, so Paul could not deny the authority of the pillars (styloi) of the church. In Antioch, they were specifically ambassadors of James and corrected Peter on table fellowship. In Corinth, they were from the Jerusalem Church and had a letter of credit as proof (2 Cor 3:1) that must have been issued by the head of the Church, James. The Clementine Recognitions (4:35) speak of special testimonia from James. In Galatians, the Judaizers insisted on circumcision—and wanted the churches to follow the Jewish calendar of festivals and the Jewish sabbath—but the implied criticism of Paul is inconsistency in requiring it not consistency in not requiring it.

In 2 Corinthians 11:1-12, Paul is manic in his own defence, and in his vigour is clear what his opponents’ charges against him are. Central is that his overweening conceit has distorted his thinking, that he is a foolish boaster, and Paul sarcastically accepts the charges to reply to them. Among the charges he attempts to refute in 2 Corinthians are:

  1. his boasting is unbounded (10:8,13,15;11:23)
  2. he is insane (stronger than “foolish”) with boasting (12:11)
  3. he is deceitful (12:16)
  4. he did people wrong (7:2;12)
  5. he is unreliable (1:17-18)
  6. he is weak (10:1;11:21)
  7. though clever, he admits he is no speaker (11:6)
  8. he has no personal presence (10:1,10)
  9. he can achieve nothing with worldly weapons (10:2f)
  10. his measure is false (10:13)
  11. his experience or evidence is dubious (10:15)
  12. he alters God’s word (4:2)
  13. he hides his true message (4:3)
  14. He preaches himself (4:5)
  15. He denigrates Jews (11:23f) but boasts of being one (11:22).

His defence exacerbates and illustrates the accusations. The “pillars” at Jerusalem had the authority of Christ, and few scholars disagree, so Paul just defies them. Plainly he was not appointed by Christ as an apostle but says he is no less than those who were because of claimed visions that no one else can confirm—Christians cannot resist anything that cannot be verified! He is not a false apostle, the true apostles are. He does not change God’s words, they do. He does not accept payment, they do. Just in case his visions of Christ are not impressive enough he has been to the third heaven! Hellenistic “pneumatics” made claims like this to uphold their claim to the secret knowledge of gnosis. It shows Paul is a Gnostic or is appealing to Gnostic allies in the Corinthian church against the representatives of the mother church in Jerusalem.

Paul argues that his ecstatic visions are superior to personal knowledge of the incarnated God. The chosen apostles show he is unworthy because he had persecuted them when they were being midwife to the new born church. Had Paul been more successful, there would not have been a church! Paul felt the impact of this accusation strongly and boasted in argument (1 Cor 15:8) that God’s grace was responsible, and he had worked harder than the apostles had.

The pseudo-Clementine writings give the attitude of the Ebionites, the Jewish Christians who emerged from the residue of the Essenes after the Jewish wars. Paul in these works is identified with Simon Magus. He is the enemy, the antiChrist! He was a pseudo-apostle who taught apostasy from the law of Moses and a gospel of lies. This Ebionite work vigorously defends the original chosen apostles of Jesus. Indeed, a thirteenth apostle is as impossible as a thirteenth month in a year (Recognitions 4:35). Peter is shown as upholding the principle expressed by him in Acts when a replacement was chosen to replace Judas—apostles had to bear witness to Jesus in his lifetime when he was teaching and preaching his gospel, the earthly Jesus! A vision was subjective. No one else could verify it, so it could have been a boast, an illusion, or even a satanic trick. Christ, alive for over thirty years and ministering for several years with twelve apostles and a crowd of other disciples and followers, could not have been a boast, a trick or a vision. Those who witnessed Christ in action did in the presence of the others, so they all automatically verified each other. It could not apply to a lone man who could make any outlandish claims that he liked, and did. The pseudo-Clementine Peter is certain that visions, even if genuine, are tools of an evil demon or a lying spirit. He says:

The personal knowledge and the personal instruction of the true prophet gives certainty. Vision leaves us in uncertainty. For the latter may spring from a misleading spirit which feigns to be what it is not.

To the pious in their earthly lives truth comes not in dreams or visions but in the full consciousbness of the waking mind. It was in this way that the son was revealed to me by the Father. Hence I know from my own experience the meaning of revelation. As soon as the Lord asked who men considered him to be, I said at once, “You are the son of the living God”. And he who pronounced me blessed on this account, told me that it was the Father who had revealed this truth to me. Since then, I have known what revelation is, namely, the discovery of truth without instruction, vision or dream.

If Jesus has become known to you through visions, then it is only in such wise as in his anger He grants visions to his enemy. How then can anyone be instructed through a vision so as to be capable of teaching? And if you object that it is possible, how is it then that the Master spent a whole year with us teaching us with our whole minds fully awake? How are we to believe that he, in fact, appeared to you at all? How can he have appeared to you when you believe the exact opposite of his doctrine? If, however, you have become an apostle as the result of an appearance which lasted but one hour, then you should proclaim and expound his teachings, you should love his apostles, and not quarrel with me who was with him on earth. You have opposed me who am an unshakeable rock, the chief pillar of his church. Were you not my adversary, you would not calumniate me, and despise my preaching, with the result that I do not find the response of faith to teaching which I have heard directly from the mouth of the Lord, as though I stood condemned and you were highly praised. When you call me condemned, you are arraigning God, who revealed Christ to me. You are impugning the Lord who, because of this revelation to me, pronounced me blessed. If you really wish to work for the truth, then first of all learn something from us, learn what Jesus taught us, and as a disciple of truth become our fellow worker.

Homilies 17:14-19

Doubt has been cast on the pseudo-Clementine literature, but it seems to contain genuinely Ebionite thinking. The author must have had Ebionite sources when he sat down to write, as well as the Christian canon. Here is the other side of the dispute between Peter and Paul, and put with a great deal more humility and patience than Paul showed on his part. It is not the end of Peter’s critique of Paul (Simon). He also accuses him of preaching only what will please people and so preaching improperly. He denies Paul’s claim to apostleship through visions and revelations that no one else can confirm (2 Cor 12:1-5). He treats as outrageous Paul’s claim (2 Cor 5:16-17) to know what Jesus was sent for better than Peter, the rock upon which Jesus would build his church, because it is old hat. Finally he demonstrates with citations from the Jewish scriptures that visions are unreliable because, even if sent by God, He sends them only to His enemies, otherwise appearing in person and had sent Christ for a prolonged stay on earth to pass on His news. No brief vision could possibly be claimed to be better than knowing God’s messiah. Only a devil could try to make people think it. The scriptures say no one should listen to the words of a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, for God is testing you:

And that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall die, because he has spoken apostasy against Yehouah your God.

Dt 13:5

The followers of Paul have failed God’s test, and Paul should die as a false prophet. Moreover:

The family idols speak iniquity, and the divining ones have seen a lie and have told false dreams. They comfort in vain. On account of this, they wandered like a flock. They were troubled because there was no shepherd.

Zech 10:2

Elsewhere in the Ebionite work (Recognitions 2:61ff), Simon the sorcerer (Paul) boasts of ascending to the world of unfathomable light, just as Paul boasted of ascending to heaven. Peter emphasises truth as the point of genuine revelation, implying that Paul was teaching contrary to truth because it contradicted what Christ had taught in his lifetime, and Christians ever since have distorted the meaning of truth to be whatever they define it to be. The Ebionites considered Paul the antikeimenos or adversary that Paul himself had warned of (2 Thes 2:4). Peter as the first chosen apostle of Christ emphasized that there is no other gospel besides the one that Christ personally taught his disciples. Paul was not teaching Christ’s gospel but the opposite of it, saying that Christ’s word was now outdated by his own! Those whom Christ had chosen to perpetuate his teaching were opposing Paul, opposing what he taught. That is why Peter was denouncing him as the enemy of truth, who had twisted his words by speeches opposed to the law. In the Clementine Recognitions (3:61), Paul is the exthros, the antiChrist. Peter and James were the ones with the true kerygma of Christ, as ought to be obvious, but is not to Christians, and only James as the leader of the church in succession to Jesus could approve the kerygmapassed on by any apostle teacher or prophet. That was why Paul was so keen to seem that he had James’s approval, but the Ebionites said he did not have it, and the Ebionites were those who were closest to James. The Ebionites thought that, under the pretext of proclaiming the truth in the name of the Lord, Paul was actually spreading error. James is the Vicar of Christ in the Coptic gospel of Thomas.

The conclusion is that Paul was not acceptable to any of the earliest Christians that remained close to James, but that his false teaching survived in the Roman empire far away from its source and the people that knew Christ best. Those people, the Ebionites and the Nazarenes were swallowed up by Islam at a later date. The Pauline heresy became the mainstream of Christian belief. Christians are blind to what happened because they are taught never to question their false faith. The spokesman of the Ebionites, Peter explained it all, but the lying spirit, the Druj, has prevailed and has conquered the world, while the gospel of Christ has been ignored. So it is that Satan has frustrated God with his cunning at beguiling stupid humans, and has triumphed in what Paul had said was the messianic age. Cathar heretics of the middle ages tried to bring the right gospel, and the gospel of the Lie incinerated them into extinction. What little remained as Protestantism was so disfigured and compromised with the Lie that it was equally wicked.

The End is Delayed!

Paul’s new theology soon became even newer apology. The messiah expected at the end of the world had come, and had been crucified, but the End of time did not come! So Paul explained it had been delayed! These notions of a saviour appearing at the end of time are Zoroastrian, and in fact it was the Persian king Darius II who had set up the temple state of Jerusalem thus starting Judaism. It had therefore begun full of Zoroastrian ideas, if not effectively as a type of diluted Zoroastrianism, just as the Noahide law was a diluted law of Moses for gentiles at a later date. The treaty that set it up was a covenant (berith) between God and the people. In those days treaties were guaranteed by the gods of either side, and the Jewish side of this treaty was guarded by the Jewish God. It was, through, administered by God’s regent on earth, the king and his chancellery, and the king was the Persian shahanshah, the king of kings, Darius II. The eschatological expectations of Judaism were with it from its inception, brought in by its Persian founders, as scholars like Wellhausen, Mowinckel and Buber have surmised, even though they continued somehow to believe many Jewish myths as history that could no longer be held. Darius said to the Jews:

You shall be my possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Exodus 19:5-6

The Jewish scriptures record this as the word of God, though it makes more sense as a pronouncement of an emperor like Darius. The founder king of the Jews, David, is a mythologized Darius, and David’s kingdom would last forever (2 Sam7:12f), a notion that entered Jewish consciousness. J Héring has noted that the figure of the messiah is absent from the works of prophets considered as pre-exilic, so the messianic idea came with the “return”, some time after the defeat of the Babylonians by the Persians. Bousset, Reitzenstein, Kraeling and other eminent scholars cannot find the title “son of David” for the messiah until the Psalms of Solomon (17:23) written as late as 48 BC, less than a century before Jesus. Jesus, of course, denied in Mark that he was a son of David, but they prefer whatever Paul says to whatever the incarnated form of God said every time, so they believe Jesus was the son of David. It fitted Paul’s notions so must be true.

After the fall of Persia, Jewish history became fraught, the lowest castes of them, the proselytes and the Israelites suffering direly under the rule of get-rich-quick priests, the Ptolemaic kings who backed the priesthood, the Seleucid kings who did not trust them, the Hasmonaeans who fought a long civil war to free the people from Greek oppression, only to oppress them more, and finally foreign rule again under the Romans and Herodians. People suffering apparently interminably put their hopes in the idea of a saviour, the Persian saoshyant, and the ending of the age. The expectation of an eschaton substituted for the loss of all hope in actuality. This despair of the present, the earthly and the real led Jewish sages to project their hopes to the future, the unearthly and the supernatural, and so it has remained since for dreamers and inadequates, being the basis of Christianity. The brief period of about a century of peace and fruitful endeavour setting up and administering the temple state under the later Persian kings became a golden age, and was mythologized. The apocalyptic expectation was that he or his son would return as the messiah, the regent or vicar of God, to begin a new world and end the wicked æons.

Though fantastic, these hopes for some were a miraculous salvation, but for others they were political—hopes for a change in the situation on (or in) earth. Jews expected an ideal ruler to restore the covenant and the golden age of Darius/David, thus fulfilling God’s will on earth. The golden kingdom would rise from the stump of Jesse, Jesse being Israel, Judah having arisen itself from the stump of Israel when it was absorbed by the Assyrians. Some people thought the final age was not the perfect age, the restoration of the perfection of creation, but was another æon before the End, and preparatory to it. The idea of an additional preparatory æon became popular about the middle of the first century BC. The perfection of creation followed that [†]

. After the messianic age, the eternal Sabbath of God’s kingdom began.

 

The messiah was expected to come on the clouds, according to Daniel 7:13. In 1 Chronicles 3:24, the last of the line of David was called Anani, a name based on the Assyrian word for heaven and its God (Anu) which even appears in Greek in words like ouranus (Uranus), and in Latin, Janus and Diana. “Ani” is therefore a word that can mean “a cloud” in Hebrew, and so the last of the line of David was the “One of a Cloud”, like the son of man in Daniel, or otherwise is the “Heavenly One”. Needless to say, Christ did not come on a cloud and has not bothered to return on one. He was born of a woman in the normal way whatever speculations there might be about how she became pregnant. He himself was expecting the hosts of heaven when he waited in the Garden of Gethsemane:

What Jesus expected was the advent of a heavenly man “on the clouds of heaven”, who would inaugurate in the visible world of the kingdom of God…

J Héring

Only by rationalizing Christ’s failure to meet the messianic requirements and inventing a second coming do Christians manage to perpetuate their delusion.

Jews believed the messiah acted for God, but was not Him. God was the saviour, not His messiah (Isa 49:6). So, the messiah was a political figure even though he was an eschatological one. The end of the æon marked the beginning of a new one that the messiah would begin by leading as the king of the Jews. The inscription on the cross is proof of that belief. The divine kingdom was on earth, but it was divine and so perfect. It was the kingdom of heaven, as Matthew calls it, because it was heavenly, a combination of heaven and earth. The mythology of these beliefs was not, however, settled. The doubt was about whether the perfect age began with the messiah, or whether the messiah ruled over an interim period at the end of the dying æon first. Daniel and Enoch imply the resurrection of the dead was at the beginning of the messianic kingdom, Baruch and IV Ezra made it the end of the kingdom so that they arose into perfection not imperfection.

Jews in the first century were discussing IV Ezra 6:7, on when the first historical æon ended and the second began. What distinguished Christians was that they knew when, because the resurrection of Jesus had started it, and Matthew even says men had risen with Christ. It was the general resurrection of Hosea and, at any time, Paul believed the world would transform from being corrupt into being perfect. Then all that were judged worthy would live forever. So Paul considers the messianic age as the end of the old dying æon, preparatory to the coming perfect age of God. Since the resurrection of Christ, everyone was in an interim period preceding the ultimate End. Believers had to endure this interim period. It continued unabated, and Christians now call it the Apostolic Age. But no new æon began, or if it did, no one could distinguish it from the old one—unless it was worse!

There is plenty of Jewish Talmudic evidence for the belief in the interim period of forty years, a Jewish generation, that appears in the gospels, sometimes put in the mouth of Jesus. There are other guesses for the duration of this period too, including 400 years, and even the full millennium. At such a length, it is hardly interim, but longer than that and it is another æon itself. Forty years matched the forty wilderness years of the Jews in the Exodus myth, but more pertinently for Paul, it matched the length of the reign of king David. The Essenes had the same idea but it was a forty year interval between the death of their righteous teacher and the arrival of the messiah of Aaron and Israel. The same interval appears in Qumran fragments like that commenting on Ps 37:10 (4Q171), after which all the wicked would be destroyed. The Essenes perceive this as a period of the final cosmic battle between Good and Evil, the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness. Paul has similar ideas and could have had them from the Essenes. He declares:

The night is gone and the day is at hand.

Romans 13:12

No Essene could have expressed it better. This was written about 56 AD, around 25 years after the death of Jesus on conventional dating, but 35 years after the date of 21 AD, which is more feasible based on clues rather than the probably phony dates inserted into Luke and Josephus by the Church. If Paul was working on a forty year period until the End, then it was getting close. He thought death and corruption would cease at the end of the appointed time of forty years (1 Cor15:24-26), and the appointed time was short (1 Cor 7:29). Christians should…

…rejoice… the Lord is at hand.

Phil 4:4-5

He could hardly have been expecting an interval of 2000 years:

Paul was spurred on by the disquieting thought that the proclamation of the gospel must be speedy, and that the time granted for it had narrow limits, for the risen Jesus had been snatched away from the earth for a short while only. His return would take place within the briefest spell, within a few years. If not weeks or days…

F Overbeck

What Paul expected was the messiah to come down from heaven with God’s host of angels in flaming fire to judge and purge the world (1 Thes 4:16; 2 Thes 1:7-10). Elsewhere it is God himself who comes (Ass Moses 10:7; Enoch 1:3;IV Ezra 7:33; Sibyl 3:308). Jewish speculation associated this cosmic event with the voice of an archangel, a heavenly trumpet, and the resurrection of the dead. The Essenes knew the archangel to be Michael, the angel who was seen as God’s chief general in the battle with Evil. It seems clear that this is the visitation Jesus expected at Gethsemane, where angels or an angel actually appear. Only God knew exactly when the visitation would be, so it would be sudden and unexpected, like “a thief in the night” (1 Thes 5:2). Jesus expected to see this event himself, Paul did too, and it is symptomatic of the self-delusion of Christians that they revere these men as God-sent but are still waiting eighty generations later.

Paul taught and preached frantically convinced that his generation was the last one of the wicked world. The end of the ages was to be visited on the generation he addressed (1 Cor 10:11), the old æon was passing away (1 Cor 2:6), its form was passing (1 Cor 7:31), and, now you see it, now you do not, it had already gone (2 Cor 5:17)! So Paul had no idea that his gospel would have to be passed on to a second generation after this one, then endless others after that. These people would be called now, in the very state they are in now (1 Cor 7:20ff). Jesus had started it all as “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” and the rest of the dead would follow (1 Cor 15:23). If the dead were not raised then Christ himself never rose (1 Cor 15:13). It is impossible to deny that Paul spoke as if convinced the End was so imminent that living people would witness it (1 Cor 15:51). A few years’ later he had been forced to think again, but naturally he did not think he had been wrong, he thought the parousia had been delayed. This time he was right! He had started the Christian tradition of moving the goalposts when shown to be wrong. The general resurrection visible to those stil alive had to be modified into a resurrection only after death:

The doctrine of resurrection post mortem is certainly an innovation imposed by the brutal fact of a delay in the parousia and the numerous deaths in the Church.

J Héring, The Kingdom of God and its Coming

Paul has to distinguish the resurrection of Jesus from that of the saints. He never overestimates the intelligence of believers—he just calls it a mystery, and it suffices! Even so, he understands some of it. The End now happens in stages, different stages and different resurrections. There are two resurrections, as there are in Revelation 20:4-6, where there is also a millennium delay (better make that two millennia). It is called making it up as you go along. Anyone with a brain cell can see the Christians were already having to prop up their unsteady theology before the New Testament had even been finished! Christians cannot see it! Judaism, if it had considered multiple resurrections, had rejected the idea, but Paul was forced into it by his own dogmatic conviction that the End was coming. Jesus had begun it with the first resurrection but the forty years of cosmic battle intervened before the final battle and victory of God when when the general resurrection occurred [†]

.

 

Here the messiah had appeared, initiating the messianic age, but he had been killed and risen again, events not prophesied as messianic. For Paul, it was not the general resurrection but merely a signal of it. Paul began teaching people that faith saved people from death not what Christ had taught, but Paul’s Christians were still dying, even though the messianic age had begun. Though they had been declared delivered from the evil and corruption of the wicked age (Gal1:4), they were still dying. The real problem with Paul’s teaching is the very foundation of Christianity—that faith conveys eternal life and is sufficient to do so. It is the salvation of fools as Paul openly bragged, but his followers did not seem to notice. Paul’s Christians had had the faith to convert, and felt they were therefore entitled to eternal life, just as the clappies of today still do for no other reason! The resurrection of Jesus ought to have meant they would not die, at least so Paul told them.

It was not what Jews, including John the Baptist and Jesus, believed and taught, if we are to accept the gospels. Salvation and eternal life depended on righteousness—living according to God’s will, and the measure of that was God’s law sent viaMoses. A Jew who had not been righteous according to the law had to repent with absolute sincerity and thereafter follow the law without a single transgression. Baptism symbolized before the world that the person had undertaken the vow of repentance before God, and was now spiritually pure. To break the law after that, even in the smallest way, as Jesus insisted without mincing words, was to end up locked outside the gates of heaven. Any sin after baptism debarred the penitent from heaven, irrespective of their faith. Their sin proved their disobedience of God and so their lack of faith. James wrote an epistle apparently to refute Paul’s teaching in which he made it quite clear that faith was empty without works. For the sake of Christians who evidently cannot understand what is fed them on a spoon, “works” means good deeds—for Jews, behaving according to the law! Paul taught the law was no longer necessary, but then had to prescribe to his converts how they ought to behave. Having sold them easy salvation, they continued to behave abominably and he had to tell them how to behave by giving prescriptions to replace the law he had so easily discarded.

Plainly Paul’s picture of Jesus was at odds with that of the apostles and disciples who knew him in life and knew what he had taught them face-to-face. Now Trinitarian Christians will accept that Christ was God incarnate but ignore what he taught in favour of what Paul, a charlatan and opponent of Christ’s chosen successors, taught instead. R Bultmann summarized it thus:

In primitive Christianity, history was swallowed up in eschatology. The primitive church understands itself not as an historical but as an eschatological phenomenon.

History and Eschatology (1958)

The apocalyptic End never came and so all of the teachings that depended spcifically on the coming End and even on a forthcoming imminent parousia were all wrong. They are wrong for the obvious fact that the End never happened and so teachings that revolved around it were mistaken. The only thing to do, once that was realized, was to return to previous teachings that had served people well until then.

Paul knew little about the life of Jesus, and considered it meaningless and irrelevant after Paul’s vision of him. Paul cannot have began by thinking Jesus Christ was God, if he had not the least interest in what the incarnated God did and said while he lived on earth as a man. Nevertheless he treats him as if he were God to his converts by giving him the divine title, Lord. Plainly he cannot have been sincere. He has invented an idol for his converts, and seems to come to believe his own propaganda, but it is typical of his irrational mind set, and unreliable behaviour. Christ is a mindless symbol of his own apocalyptic theories, taken from the Essenes and manipulated to suit himself. He was challenged by the proper apostles of Christ or their emissaries who explained what Jesus had actually said and done. Paul had to deny it. He countered the appointed apostles who appealed to and quoted what Jesus had actually taught with this dismissive principle:

Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

2 Cor 5:16

Paul says there was no didactic purpose in God appearing as a man with his own characteristic ministry. God’s words spoken as a man were pointless because the æon of men is passing. The new age is an age of the spirit, so a God dressed in flesh is irrelevant, even ridiculous. Paul, Christians must believe, knew better than God, and the proper theory, Paul’s theory, is that God appeared on earth only to die and be resurrected, thus proving that the æon was passing. It was not the message that Jesus taught, even though Jesus also thought the age was ready to pass. For Jesus, the imminence of the End meant people had to repent and make sure they were righteous until the End came. For Paul, sinners only needed to have faith. Both were wrong about the passing of the æon, but Christians prefer to stick to Paul’s easy message rather than God’s hard one. The question is why God should implement Paul’s and not his own teaching when it comes to judgement and salvation. Two thousand years on we are waiting for the Age of Aquarius, another æon. It must be time Christianity was exposed as a fraud by anybody’s standards. Paul could find no merit in the stories of Jesus as history except as a type of dying and rising God, so he ignored the whole historical background and detail of Jesus except his death and resurrection, thus changing the message and pushing the historical man into the background in favour of a phantom.

In Philippians 2:6ff, Paul does affirm that Jesus was a God before he became a man, and in 1 Corinthians 15:44-49, a letter written about the same time, Christ had his origin in heaven. It is an idea that the Persians had first and passed into Judaism, as Dibelius pointed out. The descent from heaven also spurred on the idea of this being descending further into hell, although this world was the hell meant, and either by misunderstanding or extension, the saviour was made to descend further. This man from heaven was also a rock (1 Cor 10:4), more Iranian imagery. Though the Jews did not identify the pre-existent rock with the messiah, Philo did identify it with the pre-existent Logus which John then identified with Christ.

So, the poor man of the synoptic gospels, the poor Galilean, was exalted by Paul into a cosmic assistant to God, superior to the angels, then God Himself, and this is still how Christians like their God to be. Though they think it romantic that God wanted to appear on earth as a poor man, it is not considered any sort of recommendation. Blessed are the poor in spirit must mean to them that depressed people are blessed, so heaven is full of sad people! Nor has it seemed a warning to them that poor people should not be killed when they can be characterized as an unlikely threat and so the murders justified. So much for the Prince of Peace.

Sacraments

“If Christ is not risen then our faith is in vain.” And at a stroke there evolved from the gospel the most despicable of all unfulfilled promises, the most immodest doctrine of personal immortality.

F Nietzsche

The primitive Jerusalem Christians had an initiatory rite of baptism, and a communal meal, in which bread was ritually broken and blessed and water, perhaps called “new wine”, drank. The baptismal rite was a simple purification of the body, symbolizing the purification of the spirit by repentance, and the meal was an anticipation of the heavenly meal with the messiah. Paul ignored both and gave them his own sacramental, magical interpretation as remedies for death. The baptism rite was made to replace circumcision—it was the circumcision of Christ (Col 2:11-12)—thus conferring to Christians the fathership of Abraham and the title Israel. Circumcision was itself a replacement for human sacrifice (Exod 4:24-26), so baptism stood for a symbolic sacrificial death and resurrection, like Christ. Baptism “in Christ” or “in the name of Christ” meant something to Greeks as a kind of communion, and so it was for Paul. A Oepke wrote that Paul gave “an interpretation of the rite of immersion on the lines of the mystery religions”. It guaranteed the believer deliverance from an adverse judgement, when it came, through communion with the God. Baptism as a ritualized death and entombment with Christ to rise again to a new life with him was something Greeks could understand, and Paul offered them what they wanted and their society had accustomed them to—a sacramental participation in the death of their God. Paul even uses the language of putting on a divine garment, a rite of Isis, which conferred immortality:

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Gal 3:27

Equally, the Eleusinian mysteries had a baptism which made the initiates “born again” into immortal life. Baptism happened in the rites of Osiris and Isis, the latter described by Apuleius, each being a form of ritual death and rebirth. Paul did something new for a Pharisee—made baptism into a sacrament. Since such a procedure did not exist in Judaism, it had to have come from the obvious alternative source—the Hellenistic mysteries. In the Hellenistic world, a sacrament was:

An action which by natural means brings into operation supernatural forces mostly by the use of spoken words which accompany the action, and which by their mere utterance according to the prescribed formula release such forces… So the idea of a sacrament rests on the presupposition that supernatural forces may be linked to natural earthly objects and to spoken words as their vehicle and mediator.

R Bultmann

This is magic—thaumaturgy or theurgy (Gk theourgia, from theos, god, and ergon, work)—the art of making a god work on your behalf. Sacraments are a magic or miracle working event or activity. The Christians ones were to channel the Holy Ghost to work his magic to the advantage of the Christian. The vicarious baptism of the dead mentioned by Paul in1 Corinthians is a gross example. Based on the illusion of supernatural coercion, it is the opposite approach to that taught by Christ, based on personal effort. The later heretics, the Cathars, had no sacraments other than the consolamentum and despised Catholic sacramental rituals which they mocked, giving Catholics the weapon of accusing them of the Black Mass. They were closer at root to the Ebionites and the true apostles of Christ.

The apostle Paul thinks sacramentally. His teaching is even more in the style of the mysteries than the mysteries themselves.

A Schweitzer (1911)

The messianic meal of the Essenes and the primitive church—described in Enoch 60:7-8; IV Ezra 6:49-52; Syr Baruch29:4; Test Isaac 8:11, 20, and in the Dead Sea Scrolls—is a case in point. Before Paul, it was a joyful feast celebrating the coming of the messiah and the expected uniting of heaven and earth, with a simple ritual within it of bread breaking. This was what the Last Supper in the gospels was. As it was a celebration, rather than a sacrament—which was always serious and solemn—it degenerated among the gentile converts into drunken partying. Paul insisted it was serious and solemn and and so turned it into a sacrament. It was a “remembrance” even though Jesus and Paul expected the world to End. Obviously, it became a remembrance when the parousia had receded, but it could not have been initiated as one. Christians no longer notice these contradictions because they never realize that Christ was expecting the End. But he was, as any careful reading of the bible makes plain, and he and Paul were both wrong. They will stick to faith however misguided it is. Paul made the messianic meal into another communion just like the Orphic omphagia where believers eat the flesh of the god, in the Christian case magically transformed from a wafer biscuit, and they were supposed too to drink his blood. Eating a god made the god part of them, and they were therefore partly god and could participate in the god’s immortality. That is what a communion is.

Doctrine, song and prayer stem from the synagogue tradition, but Paul’s interpretation of the rite brings the young Christian church into line with Hellenistic mystery brotherhoods. The explanatory words in Eleusis come close to the words of institution of the kyriakon deipnon [Lord’s Supper].

H J Schoeps (1959)

 

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ.

1 Cor 10:16

Christians must think this ancient and savage ritual is the best that an almighty God could dream up to save them.

Similarly with baptism. Rather than being an outward token of inner repentance, Paul made it a magical act of spiritual cleansing and therefore of consecration. The new sacramental bath miraculously washed away sins with little or no inner conviction, or determination needed. The later habit of baptizing infants who could not repent and could have had no sins to repent of proves that Christian baptism had lost its original and proper meaning and become a sacrament. Christian sacraments meant the rejection of the baptism in repentance of John the Baptist and Jesus, and instead the reception of some gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 19:1-6). It is the gift of communion with the god and so participation in his immortality.

This interpretation springs doubtless from the Hellenistic churches which understood the initiatory sacrament in which they were instructed on the lines of the initiatory sacraments of the mystery religions whose meaning was that the adept shared in the destiny of the cult god who had suffered death and risen again to life, like Attis, Adonis and Osiris.

R Bultmann

It is quite true that the Essenes saw salvation as the absolute gift of God. Salvation still had to be earned, though the reward remained the whim of God, but they did not believe that God was dishonourable, and so those who followed His will were rewarded. The reminder that the reward was God’s gift, and not an obligation of anything they had done, was to keep them humble, for God could not be expected to treat graciously any presumption on their part. It reminded them that they really must try to be perfect like God, and could assume nothing on His part.

The conclusion is that Paul fashioned the Essene tradition of the messianic feast, a prominent feature of the Qumran scrolls, to make it a divine communion popular in the Hellenistic mystery cults. He made it into a sacrament which by a magical or miraculous ritual confers to the participant the qualities of the god, most notably immortality. What began as an eschatological feast, even for Paul, applicable to the last human generation oif the final age, transformed with the failure of the parousia into a syncretized Jewish-Pagan sacramental ritual with no timescale implied, thus laying the basis of the Christian churches.

No one sensible at the time, notably the Jews, could see anything in Paul’s claims. The primitive Church was typically Jewish in being cautious about prophecies of the End. The Essene prophets tried to read the future in their allegorical interpretations of scripture but when things did not turn out the way they expected, they admitted error and returned to the texts to decide where they had gone wrong. Doubtless they were no less deluded in making the attempt to prophesy from old books, but they accepted the precept of Deuteronomy that the prophet was false who prophesied falsely. Not so Paul and the Christians. The law could not be right because it had been superseded, and so Paul must have been right. He could always be right by the simple expedient of moving the goalposts. The resurrection of Jesus did not foreshadow the End of the world. Nothing changed. Most Jews who had remained loyal to Jesus even though he had been crucified rejected him as the messiah because nothing changed. Pauline Christians persisted in their belief and still believe it all these centuries later even though no supernatural End happened, and there was no new beginning in a perfect world.

Martin Buber explains that Jews cannot accept that God interrupts history, so there can be no cessation of an age until the very end of time, when His own creation is brought back to perfect completion or consummation. At this time alone does God assert his divine unity over all things, His ultimate sovereignty over creation in its fullness, not merely over one section of humanity who think they alone are redeemed. Jews saw no enclaves of redemption. The synoptics are clear that Jesus and John the Baptist both thought the End of the World was nigh, preaching “the kingdom of God is at hand”. So, they, Paul and the primitive church were all wrong.

The failure of all these expectations should have led to the abandonment of an absurd belief, but Paul’s manipulation gave rise to its continuation. He started a dogmatic theology that justified the absurdity, and that is his real triumph. He developed it ad hoc to transfer an imminent End into an ever receding future. This was his motivation for writing—to remove the difficulties of believers in the face of the failure of Christ to come, and especially to counter the jeers of the infidel. Later generations, those that should never have been, had to face the same ongoing problem, because for many, as today, the belief remained that Christ was coming soon. It was overcome by Paul’s great invention, the elevation of hope into faith, the elimination of sight, reason and practical experience by substituting blind, unquestioning and illusory faith in an impossible dream—the acceptance of a never-ceasing, imminent coming.

God has obviously rejected them as deluded or even satanic. What was a temporary mingling of the old æon with the new has produced no observable change in reality over two millennia. History proceeds as it always did. Christian faith blinds to the interminably repeated obvious. It was obvious then, as biblical authors make clear (2 Peter 3:3-4). Fathers had died yet their children waited, 1850 years ago! The Christian saviour and his chief saint, so they believe, were both as wrong as could be. Who could benefit from this other than Satan?

An excuse offered and still believed is that God did not understand human time. For Him a thousand years were as a day, so that when God tells us the End is tomorrow, He does not really mean it! Really, in God’s reckoning, it is a thousand years off. But an almighty God would realise that, surely? Christians will accept this as a reasonable excuse, nevertheless. Yet the same Christians will not accept that when God’s word speaks of a day in creation, he could really have meant a God’s day. And, if a day of an eternal God could be a thousand years, it could as easily be a million or a billion. The parousia never happened arounf 1000 AD either, so we are no wiser about what a day is to God. If the scientific timescale of geology is accepted then six days to Good is about 13 billion years so each God day is really about 2 billion years, and Christians have a very long time to wait before “soon” yields what hope for.

The fact is that the world goes on as before. The false theories of Paul were wrong. The laws of Nature are unchanged. Dead men only walk in “living dead” movies and the gospel of Matthew. Wars continue apace, not infrequently started by Christians. Crime expands, often organized by church going believers. Believers peddle drugs and build gambling empires with no fear of active disapprobation by their Christian peers. Paul’s theology brought nothing new to the world except an obtuse refusal to use the brain and senses God had given the creatures who flattered themselves were made in God’s own image. One can only conclude the Gnostics were right. Satan intercepted God’s plan, and put bags over Christians’ heads leaving them to live in their own imaginations.

Life, example, teaching, death, the meaning and right of the gospel as a whole—nothing existed any longer

© Dr M D Magee

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