Paul vs. Jesus

I just finished a book that forcefully argues one of my points in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky—the discrepancy between the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of Paul. In How Jesus Became Christian (copyright 2008), Barrie Wilson gives the Jewish perspective on that gap. Vividly he shows the conflict evident in New Testament letters between Paul, whom he dubs “a Jewish dropout,” and the Jewish Christians led by Jesus’ brother James, who continued Jewish practice while upholding the memory of Jesus. Wilson writes,
So the human teacher . . . became elevated quickly into a Christ and then into a God. . . . How did a God come to replace a thoroughly human, Jewish Jesus?
Wilson attributes Christian anti-Semitism to “guilt at having killed off the historical Jewish Jesus in favor of a Gentile God-human.” Jews were witnesses to this “crime,” the only ones who “could ‘blow the cover’ off” the crime, and this explains “the sustained attack on Judaism throughout Christian history,” according to Wilson.

I don’t think guilt explains anti-Semitism; I think it’s the simple human tendency to oppose the other. Christianity persecuted other religious rivals— “witches,” heretics, and Muslim infidels—just as brutally.

I would correct more of Wilson’s assertions. He assumes, for instance, that Jesus was preaching a political “Kingdom,” that he proposed “sweeping away Roman rule.” It’s true that Jewish messiahs were political, but I join the consensus of Christian scholars that Jesus did not follow that line. He awakened awareness of the inner realm of Spirit inside each person; it’s one reason I insist on the word “Reign” instead of “Kingdom.”

Instead of passing on the teaching of Jesus, Christianity taught the myth of Christ broadcast by Paul. This realization I discuss in my chapter, “The Only-Through-Jesus Stance.” Barrie Wilson adds a credible analysis of Acts, providing detail for the scholarly conclusion that the Book of Acts is largely, maybe mostly, fiction.

Acts would have us believe that 2 rival religions—the Jesus Movement and Paul’s Christ Movement—formed a harmonious whole. Wilson and Christian scholars agree it was not so. This is abundantly clear in Paul’s Letter to Galatians and the Letter of James (not in all Bibles) but even clearer in early Christian writings that did not become part of the New Testament.

Wilson accurately underlines the non-historical direction taken by Christianity—away from teaching Jesus’ message to teaching beliefs about Jesus. Despite my differences with some of his assumptions, I appreciate his very-Jewish perspective.


Timothy said…
Greetings! Saw your post in Google Blogsearch and came to read.

>"Jewish Christians led by Jesus’ brother James"

Jesus was an only child. Mary had no other children according to the Bible and other historical documents of the age.

>"Instead of passing on the teaching of Jesus, Christianity taught the myth of Christ broadcast by Paul."

Um, no. The historical evidence is against this theory.

The best evidence against this theory are the Syro-Malabar Catholics of Kerala in Southern India. St Thomas evangelized in this area and the Christians were isolated from the west until the age of discovery. The Portugese discovered these isolated Catholics and recognized them as Catholics, and also heretics as they knew nothing of Rome and the Pope.

Its a great story, but just that - a story.

God bless... +Timothy
Jeanette said…
"Its a great story, but just that - a story." Well said!

And it's true of all myths, the myth of the virgin birth, for example. Check out Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56 to learn about Mary's other children. The best historical documentation comes from the historian Josephus who reports the stoning of Jesus’ brother James in 62 CE.

A wealth of evidence in the Bible and writings not in the Bible demonstrates the conflict between Paul teaching his myth of Christ and the Jesus followers who did not accept his interpretation. But those who want to believe the myth will find ways to repudiate historical and scientific evidence. This illustrates the power of myths, which are just stories but strike deep spiritual chords inside us.

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