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The undue deference to the authority of the so-called
"Apostles" and the Bible is nothing short of idolatry.
The Twin Pillars of Christendom
The structure and theology of institutionalized Christianity are not founded
upon the teachings and message of Jesus, but are based primarily upon
the thinking and understanding of Peter and Paul with a great deal of
Judeo tradition and mysticism mixed in. This largest of the
world's religions uses Jesus as the masthead, but the ship is built and
powered by the dogmas and doctrines laid down by these two men and
carries a load of misunderstanding as cargo. No
wonder it has never delivered much more than being just another
oppressive coping mechanism.
Peter is the disciple most often rebuked by Jesus and the one Jesus called Satan–Blocker
or Adversary. Peter is the disciple who was afraid to admit that he
even knew Jesus and publicly lied three times about it. Peter was probably the
oldest and most ignorant disciple, the most set in his ways and
thinking. He is probably correctly portrayed as ebullient, a take
charge guy, least prone to contemplate and do any thinking.
Apparently, outside of
some temporary humility after his emphatic denial in the courtyard, Peter never
learned anything very significant from his time and closeness to Jesus. This
is clearly indicated by his course of action before and after the resurrection.
He was so far out of sync with Jesus' agenda, message, mission and power that he
drew a sword and hacked off the ear of one of the men that came to
arrest Jesus in the garden.
Peter is the disciple who led six others back to their "wonderful" and
"rewarding", albeit smelly, slimy occupation of fishing naked at night, when
they had the authority from Jesus to enter the kingship and receive the
power of God. Peter was the one jealously concerned with John's relationship and
destiny instead of his own. Peter is the one who violated the example
and good advice of Jesus in going out and publicly condemning the Jews
and "converting" masses of people. But converted to what? Obviously not
to the truth! And he got tossed in prison and had to be rescued for doing it.
Peter is the one who supported a formal, hierarchal authority system–in contrast
to the explicit instructions of Jesus–by "electing" a twelfth "apostle"
to replace Judas Iscariot. He is the one who set himself up with James
and Andrew as religious rulers in Jerusalem and established a powerful
triumvirate which began to pass new rules concerning believer's behavior
while focusing on a mundane organization.
Peter is the one who solicited and pressured for donations for the "Lord's" work, and
wound up condemning and
frightening to death the two superstitious but reluctant pledgers, Ananias
and Sapphira. The result was, "Great fear came upon the whole
congregation." This is a good result? Sure, this is what we all
including God need?
More fear and less adoration for his compassion and good news? Not!!!
After watching Jesus breaking Jewish laws and talking and ministering to
Romans, Phoenicians, Samaritans, Greeks, lepers, prostitutes and
thieves, Peter was so far out of touch with Jesus' values that he was not even willing to go with some Gentiles to share
information about him until he had a special "vision". This, in spite
of the fact that Jesus' last words were to the effect that they could
now go to any "nation, kindred, tongue, and people" and invite them into
the Kingship of the heavens. Apparently, this ignorant and thick-headed fisherman was
singularly unsuited to be a leader of the ecclesia, and we can question
whether he ever learned a thing except to be temporarily humble when
canvassed by Jesus later concerning the quality of his love. Yet he has
been made into the first Pope. You can't make this stuff up!
Peter may be the cornerstone of the world's
oldest formal Christian organization, but it is a proven system of tyranny if left
unchecked. The religion of Peter, pitifully obtuse and focused on
sacraments and the mundane, is one of the primary cornerstones for all of what is called
Christianity. Not so good, is it?
When Paul went to Corinth he revealed to them what he had been told by
Peter and James, the brother of Jesus, with whom he later claimed to have
spent 15 days previously. It is clear that Paul got his basic information
about what had happened from Peter and James. There is no mention of him
talking with John and Thomas, and both of these men were probably withdrawn
somewhat, doing more thinking than talking, trying almost desperately to
understand all the implications of what they had heard and experienced from
Jesus. But not Peter. He seemed to be always ready to hold forth.
Paul's debt to Gnosticism is shown in his vocabulary and
basic framework of concepts: for example, in his distinction
between 'spiritual' man (pneumatikos) and 'natural' man
(psychikos); and in his terms for cosmic powers of evil, such as
‘principality' (arche), 'power' (exousia) and 'might' (dunamis).[*]
It has been justly said that there is more of Paul than Jesus in orthodox
Christianity. Just as the hierarchal, dark, ignorant,
superstitious side of Christianity is much based on Peter, the zealous,
fanatical, proselytizing, pretentious theological side is represented by Paul and his thinking. So,
let's take a critical look at this devout Pharisee claimed
to be a prophet and spokesman for God:
Paul was an extremist, a fanatic: He thought of himself as the Pharisee of
Pharisees, and had made a career out of actively prosecuting
Christians to be put to death.
Paul's conversion process: While on the road to Damascus he had a "conversion"
experience, the basis for this conversion being a private,
unverifiable supernatural visit from Jesus who struck him blind. Not
only is this something that Jesus would never do, but we only have
Paul's word for it that this really happened.
Paul's relationships: Paul was not
initially nor probably ever completely accepted by the Disciples,
but he became such a strong factor in the early church community
that they didn't bother to have a power struggle when he allied
himself with the existing organizational structure.
Paul was legalistic:
Despite his vaunted reputation for being the great promoter of
salvation by grace, he couldn't get rid of all traces of direct legalism. Paul
really believed in fiat law–even though he chafed under it–so much that he
invented a pretentious way around it. After taking
his position of righteousness based upon this pretension, including
some pretended mystical transaction whereby claiming the merits of Jesus
would negate it, he put his stamp of approval on some of the new fiat rules adopted by the
early Christian community.
Paul clung to cultural
conventions: He allowed mere cultural conventions to become part of the congregational code for
good behavior, such as the demand for women to cover their hair.
Paul's proselytizing: For over 22 years he roamed the world like a madman proselytizing. Standing in the
temples and on street corners he argued with the Jews and Greeks
alike, despite Jesus advice not to "cast your pearls".
Paul's weakness of conviction: After taking a position on the Old
Testament sacraments, rites, and ceremonies that they were now invalid, he allowed other people
to manipulate him into observing the old cleansing sacrament when he
Paul showed appalling
judgment in human affairs: One time he listened to people from a distant church
community give just their one side of a dispute and then pronounced
judgment without even hearing the other side. No wise person would do this.
Paul was legalistically judgmental: He even took upon himself the authority
to "excommunicate" a man because of who he was living with.
Paul's pretentious dogma of "substitution righteousness": This is a pretentious
system based on legalistic, nonsense righteousness, where a person
can exonerate himself legally with an acceptance of the
righteousness of Jesus standing in as his substitute. Right out of
the Old Testament sacrificial system! Easy, and if you say the right
words, talk yourself into it, or have the last rights administered
before you have a chance to sin again, you're saved–someday! This is
tantamount to God devising a system for fooling or blinkering himself,
Paul's theology and
belief system: These were NOT grounded in the life and message of Jesus. To the
end his thinking was still based on wrong concepts of God from the Old Testament.
Paul's advice to believers:
Any advice that Paul gives must be seen as being given in the context of a
false understanding of the Gospel.
Paul was focused
on behavior: His focus was not on the truth about God as
demonstrated by Jesus. So much so that he despaired for himself. It is the truth
that will set us free, not focus us on and despair over our own behavior.
This shows an appalling lack of understanding human nature! The
cornerstone or anchor of our "will" is what we believe, not fervor.
Paul helped institutionalize the church: He fostered and
became an apologist for hierarchal and authoritarian organization.
Paul was irascible:
He was a man who apparently could not get along even with those close to him,
who never came into unity with anyone.
Paul became a self-appointed martyr: The Romans were
reluctant to execute him but he forced the issue and needlessly died, while cold, alone and complaining about it, in prison. This is
not the good news from Jesus, yet he had the audacity to suggest that other people emulate him.
Paul denied the imminence:
He clearly did NOT understand the imminent salvation,
empowerment and immortality
that are the real substance that Jesus offered to us. He didn't
even deal with these ultimately most meaningful dimensions of the Gospel.
Paul quoted the
Old Testament instead of Jesus: Given the a priori assumption
that the Bible, especially the New Testament, is the word of God,
Christianity continues to give Paul free reign to interpret and make
"clear" the misunderstood "esoteric" issues dealt with by Jesus in the Gospels. While
Paul–in his magnum opus of the letter to the Romans–reiterates in his own way a few of
the exhortations given by Jesus. Yet only once ("You shall love your
neighbor as yourself." Matt 22:39) does Paul ever quote Jesus; while
he overwhelmingly quotes the Old Testament for support of his theological and
soteriological positions. This, in spite of the fact that among other
examples or passages in his letters, the spirit or meaning of his little doxology of Romans
11:33-36 is in sharp contrast and mutually exclusive with the message of
Jesus recorded later by the disciple John (John 1:18, 6:40, 8:19,47,
12:48, 14:7,9,26, 15:24, 16:13, 17:3,26).
For additional insight and information See:
Christianity and Hellenism
It should be clear that Paul uses the Old Testament and thereby
Judaism as his foundation or cornerstone instead of Jesus.
This is pathetic, pitiful, even outrageous! Christians should be
ashamed of themselves for "deifying" Paul and elevating his
thinking to be the word of God.
Here is what scholar Gerd Ludemann has to say about Paul and the other non-Gospel
contributing authors of the New Testament:
"That the apostle to the Gentiles was a towering figure
in primitive Christianity–indeed the real founder of the Church–is
certain. But the view that his letters and the rest of the New Testament
scriptures represent God's word is a crime against reason and humanity.
Studying them today should make us recognize that such thinking offers
no useful key to the future. Their image of God cannot claim the respect
of nonbelievers..." Gerd Ludemann, Free Inquiry, April-May, 2007 p. 31
Here is the position of
Thomas Jefferson on Judaism and the "apostle" Paul:
The Old Testament was of no interest to Jefferson, who regarded Jesus as
a reformer of "the depraved religion of his own country." He further
repudiated the writings of the Apostle Paul, whom he considered the
"first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus." See:
The Jefferson Bible
Jeferson's Rationalist Bible,
Richard Ostling,- The Associated Press
Here is how a young (and naive) student of philosophy encountering Western theology for the
first time characterizes it.
"Even more disturbing to me at the time was the curious fact that those who
seemed to have the greatest respect for, and the most intimate knowledge of,
the Bible–those who actually knew Greek for example!–were
precisely those whose theology I found most appalling. I'll
probably never forget the time, after a long and heated argument
with the pastor of a Calvinistic church, that I read carefully
Romans 9 for the first time. I was not only shocked; I fell into
a deep depression as well. This was as bad as Gordon Clark! Of
course it never occurred to me at the time that I was simply
reading Clark into the text, or that my naive view of revelation
needed considerable modification. What did occur to me was that
the message of the text seemed clear: According to Paul, God
loved Jacob but hated Esau; and not only that, God has divided
the entire human race into vessels of mercy, or objects of his
love, and vessels of wrath, or objects of his hatred. Concerning
such teaching, moreover, the Apostle seemed to ask exactly the
right questions (first about justice and then about finding
fault), but his answers seemed utterly absurd in the first case
and not a real answer at all in the second. In the end, I
decided I could no longer be a Christian in any orthodox sense.
"If Paul really taught, as Augustine and many of the
Protestant Reformers insist he did, that God restricts his mercy
to a chosen few, then Paul was, if not an outright fraud, just
another confused and small-minded religious zealot. I believed
that then, and I continue to believe it today."
Twin Pillars never decoupled
The bottom line is that these two men–so lionized and sanctified by Christendom–obviously
never decoupled themselves adequately from their old religion, and yet they
and their concepts have been made into the twin pillars of Christian thinking and practice.
Nobody even seems to notice how outrageous this really is! Not so good, is it?
[*] Hyam Maccoby, "Chapter Nine", The Sacred Executioner, Thames & Hudson, 1982