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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Pauline Christianity

Earlier this year I read a book, which I have linked to in previous posts that I have found to be very interesting. It is an eye opener and not everyone will be happy about it's message. I'm going to post again an excerpt from the book to illustrate a point.

In addition, it is James, by Paul's own testimony in Galatians 2:12, who has sent the messengers - the names of whom for the moment are immaterial - done to the Church in 'Antioch' (Acts 15:1), Acts has many names for these representatives, referring to this episode, as it were, in freeze frame, since it is so important - always coming back to it as one of the only really certain bits of information it can rely on until the 'We Document' intrudes in the text in the next chapter. And James must be present, too, for the climactic final confrontation with Paul five chapters later in chapter 21.

It is the position of this book that the authors of Acts and the authors of the Pseudoclementines are, in fact, working off the same source. Both are Hellenistic romances, but where points of contact can indisputedly be shown between the two narratives - as, for instance, in the First Book of the Recognitions - the Pseudoclementines are more faithful to their original source. Not only is there less fantasy, there is less obfuscation and out and out fabrication. This is particularly the case in the matter of the key attack on James in the Recognitions, where the 'Enemy' (Paul) is introduced, and we can see it paralleled in Acts by the attack on Stephen, introducing 'Saulus" (later known as Paul). But it is also true of the picture of Peter's conduct and teachings - the direct opposite of Acts.

This is not the normal scholarly view, which holds the Pseudoclementines as late. But on this point, scholars - many governed (as in the field of the Dead Sea Scrolls) by subconscious preconceptions or orientations they themselves may often be unaware of - are simply mistaken. There is no other response one can make. It is patent that the Pseudoclementines are superior, at least as narrative - and no doubt ideology and history as well - except where the 'We Document' begins to make its presence felt in the second part of Acts. Perhaps this was why Jerome was so angry at his erstwhile colleague Rufinus who published the Pseudoclementines in the West at the end of the fourth century, probably based on a Syriac original. It is also possibly the reason why no Greek version of the Recognitions has survived - the manuscript went directly from the Syriac into the Latin.

Granted, speeches in the Pseudoclementines cannot, perhaps, be relied on any more than those in Acts (there are exceptions), but neither can they in Josephus, to say nothing of the Gospels. It was the custom in Greco-Roman historical narrative from Thucydides onwards for the narrator to supply important speeches according to what he thought the speaker would or should have said. The same is true for Hebrew literature of the time - and earlier. Therefore, we refer to the vast body of this literature in whatever language as 'pseudepigraphic'. This approach has been raised to an art form in the Gospels, to the extent that little or nothing in them can be relied on as authentic representations of what Jesus did or might have said. The early chapters of the Book of Acts, too - though none the less creative - are on the whole even less convincing.


Which is pretty much the point of the book: Christianity as we know it today bears no relationship to the historical men James and Jesus and their brothers and sisters and the movement that they began in an effort to regain the Temple from the foreigners that were defiling it. They were fundamentalist Jews that wanted to return their faith to its roots and restore it to what it was supposed to be. Christianity was not what Jesus wanted and, in that regard, he failed in his mission.

20 Comments:

Blogger Monica said...

No...I'm sorry. But from actually reading the Bible, New and Old Testaments, it is clear that Jesus's mission was to reveal Himself as the promised Jewish Messiah. Read "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. I really wish I could quote actual verses and such for you...or give better proof of the legitimacy of the Bible as an accurate historical source, but others have devoted years of research to it and as a college student and new Christian (raised Catholic...didn't learn much)quite frankly, I don't have the time I'd like to do as much in-depth research as I'd like. Someday...

12:08 AM  
Blogger Old Blind Dog said...

Monica, Robert Eisenman, who wrote this book, handles the actual Dead Sea Scrolls and is in charge of the translation of them. That is as close to the research as one can get. It's not my opinion, but his that I am posting (although I agree with him). It is historical fact that he is presenting (as well as it can be from the available sources) and asserting that the New Testament is very poor history. Much of the story presented in the Gospels and Acts, etc. is contradicted by the known facts.

It is difficult to convey the complete message contained in this book by a few blog entries - the book is almost 1000 pages (and thoroughly documented). I am, however, trying to convey Paul's duplicity. He engaged in obfuscation and fabrication for his own ends and was ultimately successful in hijacking a whole movement. In addition, because of the fall of the Temple in 70 c.e., which was instigated by the death of James in 66 c.e., Jewish Christianity ceased to exist. Pauline Christianity "wins" by default. It is hard to know what Jewish Christianity was actually like because of this but it is certainly a known fact that James and Peter were against what Paul was doing. Sadly, only Paul's version of what transpired between them is well known today. As a Christian today, you do not have the whole story, but you don't know that you don't. As historians we must rely on more than just the New Testament Gospels.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Monica said...

I may not agree with you/the author but I will still read it.

1:59 AM  
Blogger Old Blind Dog said...

I can't ask for more than that.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous Bob Onsted said...

Forgive my intrusion as an interloper, but this whole area of study is one that has consumed my private reading for over a decade now. I am presently reading Eisenman's book on James and find it to be riveting, tho admittedly a laborious pursuit. I have privately come to the same conclusion: that Paul is the true founder of "Christianity"; that Jesus lived and died as a practicing Jew, and had nothing whatsoever to do with Paul's Frankenstein creation we now call Christianity. It is wonderful for me to have found this blog to discuss with other interested and open-minded parties what probably happened 2000 years ago when a renegade megalomaniac (Paul) created--and then rode-- the gravytrain we now know as Christianity. If you'll pardon my being here, I am delighted to have found you folks. Regarding bible study: there is a VAST difference between bible memorization and real bible STUDY. One can never rely on a study of the book in question as the sole reference for its own authenticity. Thus, it is incumbent upon any true academician to access other parallel and concurrent literature to either verify or negate the so-called "truths" one has discovered. This is why the discovery of sources such as the Nag Hamadi scrolls and other established historical documents such as the Pseudo-Clementines to get a more honest view of the life and times of the biblical era which so fascinates us. Playing the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand is not only severelt limiting and shortsighted; it leaves one with little more than superstition instead of truth to give us nourishment. I'm glad I found you folks.

9:46 PM  
Blogger Old Blind Dog said...

Well...glad you're here Bob. I haven't posted much lately because there haven't been many folks reading it. This post is from last October, but I'll try to get something up soon. In the meantime I'll just provide a current link back to this post.

9:53 PM  
Anonymous Bob Onsted said...

Hi again, and thanks for the welcome. In further reading of Eisenman's book it would seem to me that the group that would probably have "succeeded" (altho probably re-absorbed into Judaism)as a direct evolution til today may have been the Ebionites. These were essentially "Christian Jews" who also allowed into their acceptable Judaic teachings the wisdom of Jesus, whom they may have regarded as another great prophet. It is not entirely clear to me, however, whether the Jerusalem church was synonymous with the Ebionites, so if you have any thoughts on this posibility please post or send to me in an e-mail at RDOnsted@aol.com

It is thought by some that the Ebionites were followers of a man called Ebion, but Eisenman states that Ebionites is a derivative of the Hebrew word "Ebion" (pl Ebionem) meaning "poor ones," and according to Eisenman, James refers to them several times in the 2nd chapter of the Letter of James. He also intimates that there were several groups of Ebionites, one of which he refers to as the "Community of bionites.. in the east" who essentially revered James as leader of the Jerusalem church, whatever that may have been.

7:59 AM  
Blogger Old Blind Dog said...

The "ebionim" were the poor that are repeatedly referred too in the NT, i.e. "...the poor are always with you..", etc. They are the essenes.

11:59 PM  
Anonymous Bob Onsted said...

Hi again "old". Gee... I hate to refer to anyone as "old". What is a nick name that I can call you?

Anyway, regarding your last comment on the Ebionites: "They are the essenes" As I unerstand it, the Ebionites were practicing Jews who lived and worshipped in Jerusalem. The Essenes however were Jewish fundamentalists who were so disgusted with the corruption in the Temple that they moved to the desert near the Dead Sea as an independent community, practicing old style Judaism "by the book", as it were, and were probably the sect that was responsible for writing much of the Dead Sea Scrolls (although they also absconded with some of the actual Temple scrolls and burried them along with their own historical writings.)

Anyway.... I was hoping for some interesting dialog with other members of your group. Is there a group of readers who regularly post to your blog... like Monica? How can we get more folks actively interested and participating?

4:53 PM  
Blogger Old Blind Dog said...

There's no group of readers Bob.

In any case, there was only one group of fundamentalist Jews, of which Jesus and James were members. They were called various names by different other groups, ebionim, essenes, sicarii, etc. It depended on the position of the group doing the naming. This is part of the confusion that is perpetrated by the NT.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Pyortor said...

Hey OBD, I'm reading Eisenman's book right now. Like bob, I'm riveted by it. His logic would seem hard to impugn. It always seemed to me that Paul was just an egomaniac sociopath who wanted adoration, like Jim Jones or David Koreth (the "Branch Davidian" leader at Waco). Now I'm certain, Eisenman having led me to see the desperation in Paul's writing and the now obvious supression throughout the "New Testament." Great stuff. Anyway, I have a theory I'd like to run past you and bob.

1:39 AM  
Anonymous RDOnsted@aol.com said...

Hello Pyortor and OBD... sorry I haven't been here for a while to read and respond. Hope we're still alive and "here" on this blog now. I am curious about your theory Pyortor. Would you care to share it and bounce it around a bit?

My "take" on present day Christianity is that it is simply a case of a religion promulgated by the side that "won" due to the military strength of Rome. There were several main pre-christian groups in existence in the 1st thru 3rd centuries, (Ebionites, Marcionites, Gnostics, Proto-Orthodox, etc) but the version of it that was dearest to the Romans is the one that has survived until today... but most likely not in its original form (as biblical texts were written and re-written;- and changed by successive scribers). Truth be told... had another military power other than Rome backed what we now call Christianity, we might very well be "believing in" a very different form on it, as each of the groups I mentioned saw Jesus as an entirely different type of being.

So we really NEED to question the so called "truths" we believe in and know how and why it came down to us thru the centuries as it did, and compare it to what it could have been. There are HUNDREDS of religions in the world today, and each one thinks they have "THE" answer... each thinking that they alone are "right." But if they are all right... then NONE of them is right!! What say ye to that?

9:22 AM  
Blogger ebionite said...

I thoroughly agree with you, Old Blind Dog, about the preferability of the Pseudoclementines against Acts, which does its unsuccessful best to paper over the huge cracks among the earliest followers of Yeshua. There is one particularly trenchant speech (unfortunately don't have the reference to hand) where Peter cries out in exasperation, how is it possible that the vision of one man, which only he can vouch for, is to overturn the teaching of those who lived and moved with Yeshua? I also agree with one of the commenters who called Paul/Saul an arrogant megalomaniac. Paul was trouble, was usually kicked out unceremoniously of wherever he ended up, and his missions were usually disastrous failures. His reputation depends entirely on the letters attributed to him, many of which were not by his pen.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi folks.
Sorry to intrude.
I was raised a Pauline Christian. Really, though, so dominant in the Christian community is Paul that I didn't see anything else.
One perception that brought me to doubt Paul's doctrinal sovereignty was his lectures in 1 Corinthians 7.
Translated to plainspeak, Paul says that what he says here is not a commandment of God but Paul's opinion.
The shock of realization came to me in verse 7. Paul therein says, clearly, he wishes there be no more children born, no issue of Christian children to carry on the faith. That all men be like him.
Paul was not married, therefore Paul was celibate.
But, he says, since he recognizes that all men won't, get married.
In my opinion, a man's wishes define his doctrine, and the overall direction of that doctrine. Paul evidentially had some serious problems in the above area. What problems, less obvious, had he in other areas?

9:41 AM  
Blogger Dashiell said...

Dear Old Blind Dog (and others who have found the time to contribute to this discussion),
I cannot say how excited and happy I am to have found you! I am currently reading Robert Eisenman's eye-opening book JAMES THE BROTHER OF JESUS and it is like a puzzle has been magically assembled in front of me. My great-grandfather was a circuit rider for the Free Methodist church. I was brought up in that faith, baptized as a Baptist at the age of 21 and again as a 7th Day Adventist eight years later. Throughout my life, I struggled with the Paulist teachings that dominate "Christianity" and I wondered why we were expected to constantly fight against our devilish natures when Jesus taught that we could be born again and led by the Holy Spirit into a new life. It is wonderful to live at this time in history, when we have scholars such as Mr. Eisenman and discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls to shed such light on the apparent contradictions in the teachings of the empty and spiritless churches. When I first read about Paul's attempt on James the Righteous' life, things started to fall together in my understanding. Now, I've found this book and you. It's like coming home.

6:11 PM  
Blogger oldblinddog said...

Hello to all. It has been a long time since I have been to this part of my blog and addressed this subject. I am certainly glad that many find it an interesting topic as I do.

I am currently (for about a year now) reading Eisenman's second book, "Then New Testament Code". It is even more of what he wrote before and expands and concludes (I believe) his ideas.

Thanks for reading.

7:14 PM  
Blogger oldblinddog said...

The new blog is here.

7:27 PM  
Blogger Dashiell said...

... and THANK YOU, Old Blind Dog, for being so prompt in acknowledging my post. While wandering about the Internet tonight, I also discovered Mr. Eisenman's promised followup book and I've put it in my amazon.com WISH LIST.
It would be (possibly) an exaggeration and a sycophantic whine to say you are a light in the darkness; but, I'm proud to know you. I live up in the north woods of Michigan: you're in the beautiful state of Texas, and yet... we have the same S/W handgun. God bless you, sir.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Dashiell said...

... and THANK YOU, Old Blind Dog, for being so prompt in acknowledging my post. While wandering about the Internet tonight, I also discovered Mr. Eisenman's promised followup book and I've put it in my amazon.com WISH LIST.
It would be (possibly) an exaggeration and a sycophantic whine to say you are a light in the darkness; but, I'm proud to know you. I live up in the north woods of Michigan: you're in the beautiful state of Texas, and yet... we have the same S/W handgun. God bless you, sir.

8:23 PM  
Blogger oldblinddog said...

Well, thanks for your kind comments but I'm just a reader trying to figure things out, like you are.

8:52 PM  

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