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The undue deference to the authority of the
"Apostles" and the Bible is nothing short of both idiocy and idolatry .
The Twin Pillars of Christendom
The structure and theology of institutionalized Christianity are not founded
upon the teachings and message of Yeshua, 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 Yeshua 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 for the human condition.
Peter is the disciple most often rebuked by Yeshua and the one Yeshua called Satan–Blocker
or Adversary. Peter is the disciple who was afraid to admit that he
even knew Yeshua 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,
overconfident, a take
charge guy, least prone to contemplate and do any deep 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 Yeshua. This
is clearly indicated by his course of action before and after the resurrection.
He was so far out of sync with Yeshua's agenda, message, mission and power that he
drew a sword and hacked off the ear of one of the men that came to
arrest Yeshua 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 Yeshua 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 Yeshua 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.
In the Hebrew culture of the day, there was a cultural ethic
over-emphasize the intellectual/spiritual authority of the oldest. Peter was
the oldest of the disciples and he is the one who supported a formal, hierarchal authority system–in
contrast to the explicit instructions of Yeshua–by "electing" a twelfth
"apostle" to replace Judas Iscariot. He is the one who set himself up
with James and Andrew as religious leaders in Jerusalem and established a
powerful triumvirate which began to pass new rules concerning believer behavior
while focusing on building 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 Yeshua breaking Jewish laws and talking and ministering to
Romans, Phoenicians, Samaritans, Greeks, lepers, prostitutes and
thieves, Peter was so far out of touch with Yeshua's 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 Yeshua's 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 Yeshua later concerning the quality of his love. Yet he has
been made into the first Pope. Incredible, outlandish, outrageous! 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 by more
humane civil forces. The religion of Peter, pitifully obtuse and
focused on rituals, sacraments, liturgy, pageantry, architecture, statuary,
and hierarchy mundane, is one of the primary cornerstones for all of what is called
Christianity. In other words, Peter was a spiritual moron! Not so good, is it?
Paul considered himself to be a kind of "Pharisee of Pharisees" in
Judaism, and his earliest relationship with Christianity was to vigorously
prosecute and persecute them all the way to advocating for killing them.
This meant that he was intimately familiar some of their beliefs, but more
importantly their ardor of belief. On the road to Damascus, he had some kind
of quasi-supernatural experience that turned him around. Thus, he went to
Jerusalem and spent some time with the leaders Peter and James.
When Paul went to Corinth he revealed to them what he had been told by
Peter and James, the brother of Yeshua, 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. John was of low social standing and the
youngest, and thus had little influence on what was happening in Jerusalem.
Thomas was the intellectual of the "Twelve", and probably held himself aloof
somewhat. Both of these men were probably withdrawn
somewhat at the time, doing more thinking than talking, while trying almost desperately to
understand all the implications of what they had heard and experienced from Yeshua. But not Peter. He seemed to be always ready to hold forth.
A more literal translation of the description of
Paul in Greek reads, “A man of middling size,
and his hair was scanty, and his legs were a
little crooked, and his knees were far apart; he
had large eyes, and his eyebrows met, and his
nose was somewhat long.”
While getting some basic information about Yeshua from them, Paul was not
beholden to the Christian leadership at Jerusalem for his wider, earlier
education at Jerusalem nor for his conversion. At some point Paul
became VERY disenchanted with the leadership in Jerusalem, and became bitter
opponents with Peter. Peter and Paul were like oil and water.
John Fitzgerald writes, "Luke's happy account of the so-called
Apostolic Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:4-29) whitewashes over the many
running disputes and quarrels between Paul and the Jerusalem Church over
issues like circumcision and eating with gentiles/ None of the fierce
debates that Paul describes appears in Acts: Instead, there is a warm
welcome and friendly discussion of the unfortunate misunderstanding, and
great rejoicing by all afterwards (Acts 15:7-11, 31).
"Compare that with Paul's own words in (Gal 2:2-6), in
which he can barely hide his contempt for the Jerusalem apostles, and
reveals just how close early Christianity came to a total split between
Peter's and Paul's brand of the faith. It is an amazingly
paranoid, venomous and arrogant account of this private backroom deal
with the Jerusalem leaders.
"Paul calls his accusers false believers and spies, and
he "knows" that they were really secretly brought in (by his many
enemies) to enslave them (Gal 2:4). Far from receiving a warm welcome,
having a friendly hashing out of differences, and submitting to their
decrees, Paul refused to go along with them "even for a "moment"(!) (Gal
2:5) - Nailed, Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never
Existed at All, LuLu, 2010, p. 153.
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 Yeshua in orthodox
Christianity. Just as the hierarchal, dark, ignorant,
superstitious side of Christianity is much based on Peter, the zealous,
fanatical, proselytizing, pretentious theological and evangelical 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 Yeshua who struck him blind. Not
only is this something that Yeshua would never do, but we only have
Paul's word for it that this really happened. This could easily have been a
partial complex seizure episode or an hallucination.
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 Yeshua
would negate it, he put his stamp of approval on some of the new fiat rules adopted by the
early Christian community.
Paul was a tortured soul, railed against his "sinful flesh" and wallowed
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
that part of the world like a proselytizing madman. Standing in the
temples and on street corners, he argued with the Jews and Greeks
alike, despite Yeshua 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 mystical righteousness, where a person
can exonerate himself legally with an acceptance of the
righteousness of Yeshua standing in as his substitute. This is right out of
the Old Testament sacrificial system, which should have been dead and buried! 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 Yeshua. 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
fanatic with a false understanding of the Gospel.
Paul was focused
on behavior: His focus was not on the truth about God as
demonstrated by Yeshua. So much so that he despaired for himself. It is the
truth that will set us free, not morbid focus on ourselves 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; it is
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,
and 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 Yeshua, yet he had the audacity to suggest that other people emulate him.
Paul denied the imminence:
He clearly did NOT understand the imminent salvation,
primal creative empowerment and immortality
that are the real substance that Yeshua offered to us. He didn't
even deal with these ultimately most meaningful dimensions of the Gospel.
Paul quoted the
Old Testament instead of Yeshua: 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 Yeshua 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 Yeshua, only once ("You shall love your
neighbor as yourself." Matt 22:39) does Paul ever quote Yeshua; 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
Yeshua 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 Yeshua.
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 Yeshua 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 Yeshua." 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