What Would Jesus Do?

I have been reading lately about the “life” of Paul (Saul of Tarsus) and was struck by the fact the founder of Christianity and Christian scripture, a well-educated supple writer, never met Jesus, never spoke to Jesus, and if his writings are any clue, knew very little about Jesus, although Paul did claim to have an intimate and ongoing spiritual relationship with Jesus. Good writers were few and far between in Palestine at that time, but I am struck by the fact that there are no surviving written works by any of the disciples, most of whom seem to have been illiterate. But scribes were available fairly readily so if one wanted to have words put down on “paper” it was not impossible to have it done for you. (Surely among the thousands of Christians in Jerusalem following the resurrection, as claimed in Acts, there were a few scribes who would have surely donated their services, so it would not even have been costly.)

If the literature that has survived is any indication, the “Jerusalem church” was led by Jesus’ brother James who was quite respectable and capable of creating a written record preserving the perceptions and experiences of the illiterate disciples, but either that was not done (more likely) or it didn’t survive (less likely). Be aware that all of the writings under the name of this disciple or that disciple were really written anonymously and an author ascribed to the works later (often much later) and are therefore quite unlikely to have been written by the person ascribed.

So, we end up with a religion, Christianity, some sects of which claiming that the written works of scripture were in essence written by Jesus/God and are thus holy and some go farther to claim are inerrant. This brings up the question as to whether such scriptures were ever intended. If they were, the question that comes to mind would be “What would Jesus do/have done?”

Obviously, if Jesus were divinely inspired or a manifestation of Yahweh in himself, he could have written down what he wanted preserved and followed himself. If he didn’t want to seem to be putting on airs in front of his illiterate acolytes, he could have gotten a scribe to do the work for him. But Jesus seems to be represented as also being illiterate in Christian scripture, hardly a viable characteristic for an all-powerful god.

Compare Jesus’ actions with those of the Prophet Mohammed. Mohammed wasn’t quite what you might describe as being literate. Most claim that his wife did the accounts for his businesses. So, when Mohammed started to have revelations, what did he do? He acquired a passel of scribes and had the stuff written down. Even so, there has apparently been more than a few problems identifying what the original script was as there are multiple versions of what the Prophet said, but the mere fact that Mohammed troubled to have his channeled experiences transcribed indicates that he thought that such would become a guide for future Muslims.

With regard to Palestine circa 30 CE, we have documents that have survived that were written well before that time and apparently in circulation. The Jewish Bible wasn’t compiled until the second century, CE and the Christian Bible in the fourth century, CE but many of the documents appearing as “chapters” in those books were available as separate documents well before that. If Jesus were knowledgeable enough to preach in the temple (he didn’t require a license, just had to attract an audience) it is highly unlikely that he was unaware of the tradition of written scripture.

So, if Jesus intended for his teachings to be followed in the future, don’t you think he would have made an effort to have them written down as just sending disciples or other acolytes out to “spread the good news” was not going to be anywhere as effective as supplementing that with documentary instruction. Think of a mammoth game of “Telephone,” the message would have become garbled beyond all recognition.

Either Jesus wasn’t expecting for any such church to be needed (as the “End” was coming soon) or he thought that such a church was not desirable. (The comment about Peter being the “rock” (biblical dudes liked to pun) upon which his church was to be built is clearly a much later addition to the Gospels.)

So, how did we end up with the right end of the Christian spectrum being wedded to unchangeable, timeless scripture? Because … Paul. It should not be called Christianity, it should be called Paulianity, as it has little to nothing to do with Jesus’ teachings.



Categories: Christianity

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23 replies

  1. If you arrange the books of the NT is their supposed chronological order it becomes apparent how daft the whole story is.
    And if you compare Acts with ‘Paul’s’ letters you could be forgiven for thinking they were about two different blokes.

    Jesus was a Jew and ( if he existed) his message was for Jews.
    You’re spot on, Steve, Paulianity is what it is.

    • Obviously the writer who put the words into Jesus’ mouth (I think it was in Matthew) that his message was not for gentiles was no friend of Paul’s. There was a great deal of politics even back then.

      S

      On Sat, Nov 29, 2014 at 12:50 PM, Enquiries on Atheism wrote:

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  2. Try teaching that to deluded christians. Reading their own holy book is thelast thing they would resort to.

  3. I’m confused by your dating, you refer to the Jewish bible, do you mean the old testament or simply the more jewish books of the new testament.

    If you are referring to the old testament, its codification is far earlier than the 2nd century CE.

    If you are simply splitting the new testament up into those that seem written for a jewish audience as opposed to those that are clearly written to convince gentiles, this makes more sense, but is still confusing.

    Overall your ideas about Paul seem spot on, but a point you neglect to unpack is the comparative dating of the Epistles v. the Gospels. That being the epistles accepted as genuinely written by an author we identify as Paul, all date to a generation after the alleged dates of Jesus death 50-70 ce and are older than most of the gospels.

    While Paul claims to know of a gospel, it is a singular record, possible an early copy of Mark, or the mythical Q, but certainly not the codified new testament we have today.

    But it makes sense that Paul is the true founder of the ideology we understand as Christianity, he is second or third in the pantheon of individuals seemingly responsible for its spread. He’s also the only one who wrote an account of his life, which we still have, John the Baptist, and Jesus only show up briefly in non Christian literature, and references tend to be more about Christians than about a Jesus.

    • While books of the OT/Jewish Bible (they are not the same but are very similar) were committed to print, the assembly of complete bibles did not begin until after the Second Temple was raised in 70 CE. So, while some of the “books” of the OT were in print, so was a great deal of other stuff (see the Dead Sea Scrolls and other documents pre-dating the time).

      • Again you keep referring to books as bibles, which is confusing. Where do you come up with the date 70CE?

        The Septuagint, or Greek language codification of the Tanak/hebrew bible is understood to have been codified sometime in the second century BCE. This is established by textual reference in documents of that era. Although the oldest complete manuscript we have is dated about 4th century CE.

        However, while the greek language version has only existed since approximately 200BCE, the Dead Sea scrolls prove that as least non codified versions the individual books were recorded far earlier. So whether they were codified as a single volume or understood as individual parts of a full story, they still existed within the religion pretty much as they read today.

        The new testament dates for individual books of the bible begins between 50-70CE. With the approximate date of the oldest fragments remaining being well into the second century CE. Full codification of the bible not being completed for the first time until about the 16th century CE.

        I don’t know where you are getting your dates from, but you might want to look into them. Here’s the wikki on dating the bible, not the best I know, but pretty much agrees with the incredible number of sources I’ve also read on this topic.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dating_the_Bible

        • My point was that Jesus had to have know about written scriptures. I contrasted that with his and his followers eschewing creating any of his own. The Tanakh is not the Hebrew Bible as that contains the commentaries, etc.

          On Sat, Nov 29, 2014 at 7:54 PM, Enquiries on Atheism wrote:

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          • Okay well your point is confusing and your statement misleading, because how could Jesus have known about scripture if it wasn’t codified until 70CE? A factually incorrect statement, as the Greek language Jewish Bible was codified hundreds of years earlier.

            Your post moves into a state of murkiness at that statement, because you fail to clearly identify what your discussing as scripture, and then post it to a date after the approximate understood dates of the person’s existence.

            For Jesus to have been aware of scripture it must be contemporaneous or pre date him. Since Jewish scripture predates Jesus alleged date by a couple of hundred years, it is likely that he knew about it, even if he wasn’t literate. The septuagint had been codified hundreds of years before Jesus alleged existence, and regardless of Jesus Literacy he would probably have known about it.

            His followers did indeed create scripture and didn’t as you say eschew creation of scripture, instead they wrote quite a lot of it. We have hundreds of books that were written as scripture, and fall into three major categories Epistles, Gospels, Apocalypses. Some like Peter, claim to be the work of scribes writing down what the contemporary followers of Jesus had said, their authenticity is often questioned, but they do indeed indicate that someone else had thought enough about the issue that your raising and quite early.

            While non of the copies we have are dated from the alleged period of Jesus life, some like the epistles date from within a relative period of time close enough to his life that their authors could possibly have been contemporaries. This isn’t uncommon take socrates for instance who never himself produced a known work, and who is only mentioned possibly once in a contemporaneous play, and then later used by two of his disciples as a rhetorical device in their philosophical writings.

            So while Paul never meets Jesus, he indicates that scripture of some sort does exist, and that he met contemporaries of Jesus, who agreed that the message revealed unto him was gospel. Again the veracity of this claim is dubious, but it explains why we have a large number of documents purporting to be scripture.

            Christian apologists long ago came up with the claim about divine inspiration to explain away the whole problem and not have to think about what Jesus really would have written, or why the accounts all seem to have their own agendas and teach different things.

            • My bad. I was confounding the effort post 70 CE to commit the Midrash to writing with writing of the scriptures. Obviously the Torah was printed, but not for general dissemination. Ezra’s reading of the Torah was a revelation to most of the people in Jerusalem ca 400 BCE and the general illiteracy of the time precluded general access to written scripture. The translation of Hebrew scripture into Greek was not done for the “average” denizen of the time as they were hardly literate in any language, especially Greek (although Greek was a defacto lingua franca at the time, most Palestinians most spoke Aramaic).

              My point was that Jesus must have been aware of the existence of written scripture and that had he wanted there to be written scripture based upon his teachings, such was available to him, to his followers (and, of course, there was none). I apologize for the confusion.

              On Sun, Nov 30, 2014 at 12:00 PM, Enquiries on Atheism wrote:

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  4. Researching Paul also led me a stronger conviction that Christianity isn’t “true” in any meaningful sense.
    Also, add the psychology of Saul/Paul – a man who (as you point out) only “met” Jesus through visions.
    He also boasted of dragging people from their homes at night. I don’t care what age you live in, this is the sign of a violent, despicable person. He simply changed from the authoritarianism of the brute squad to that of a patriarchal religion.
    Regarding his vision, it’s astounding to think Christians take this seriously. They actually think Jesus appeared to him, in some mystical, magical form. In some ghostly light. This kind of vision is not taken seriously.
    However, some Christians think Jesus appeared in the flesh – that Jesus couldn’t transport himself at will – which means Jesus just happened to be hiding out behind a rock until Saul happened by.
    Either way, it’s clear Paul’s accounts are useless, and really show how easy it is for someone to create a religion. #JosephSmith #L.RonHubbard.

  5. Paul was definitely a brilliant spin-doctor for his era. There is gathering evidence that the ‘New Testament’ is largely his invention and orchestration. If so, claims for the Bible’s ‘eye-witness’ credibility lose whatever warrant they still have left. Although I think myatheistlife is right, this will not mean anything to most believers, who don’t even care to read their own ‘sacred book.’

    Even some liberal Christians will admit to Paul’s invention of what we know as ‘Christianity.’ But most have no trouble in falling back on ‘divine inspiration’ as explanation of the ‘Pauline’ phenomenon.

    But in the age of neuroscience, whatever could ‘divine inspiration’ mean? god decides which neurotransmitters to trigger for the ‘inspired’ to ‘get it right?’

    • Neuroscience is still trying to get a handle on what a “religious experience” is, but it also seems to be getting closer to such an understanding. Paul seems to have claimed that he had his revelation and fell. It might have been a simple juxtaposition of him having fallen and had his revelation (from a blow to the head). His continuing “revelations,” though are more than a little suspect (as is much of his personal story). I wonder how many people realize how very far Paul was from Jesus (at least as much as we know from the gospels) and how very much close he was to Greek and other mystery religions.

  6. Ok, sure, the Paul story suggests some problems of fact, here and there, but God is greater than the details. If you truly see Him, none of this historical stuff matters. If it does matter to you, then you haven’t seen Him. If you haven’t seen Him, then you have willfully chosen not to look, and don’t deserve to be saved. You are being tested and clearly you have failed. May God have mercy on your soul, although obviously, the deal is that He won’t, so take a long sauna and start getting used to your eternal future. For good measure, have somebody lock you in the sauna overnight and turn up the heat and put “Christian Rock” on the public address system. In the morning, Paul will have become completely irrelevant.

    • It is hard to stop laughing … wait a minute … okay. Now, how are you going to feel when you have made the choices you made and then you die and … nothing … no Heaven, no Hell? And you won’t even have the capacity to feel embarrassed at your gullibility.

      On Mon, Dec 1, 2014 at 4:19 PM, Enquiries on Atheism wrote:

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  7. I have thought about the issue of Paul often myself. It just doesn’t add up.Just remember that they are indoctrinated to take it on faith. The crazier and more outlandish it seems, the more they say it proves their faith. With reasoning like this, it doesn’t matter what was said, or who said it.

  8. St. Paul was not the “founder” of Christianity nor of Christian scripture. This is false and inaccurate. Boy, when you miss…you really take a great big whiffffff. And actually, the fact that he never “met Christ” is one of the very deepest matters of the New Testament that convicts me, personally. That St. Paul’s Apostolic mission runs so strongly consistent with the very gospel and preaching of Christ.

    • Clearly, you have drunk the Kool-Aid. If Paul agrees with the Gospels (written with Paul’s works in hand) it is because the gospel writers wanted to support Paul’s stance on Christianity. All of the Gospel rantings about the “Pharisees” and Paul’s claim to have been one, for example, do not make sense except in a political sense. It is most likely that Jesus was a Pharisee, any way.

      The Christianity we have now is more Paul’s doing than any other person, including Jesus. Your Gospel of Matthew has Jesus saying that his teachings were not for Gentiles and where was Paul’s Mission, exactly? The Book of Acts tries to gloss over Paul’s disagreement with the remnants of Jesus’ group in Jerusalem, but is contradicted by Paul’s own letters. So, Jesus said “Don’t share this with the gentiles and what do we end up with? An anti-semitic Christianity made up of Gentiles. Figure it out!

      • I have it figured out just fine actually, quite apart from your selective use of scripture. For starters how about: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?”

        Christ tells his disciples not to go among the Gentiles but later in that same chapter of Matthew he explicitly tells them about being brought to testify in front of Gentiles:

        You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. (10:18)

        Even more glaring deeper into the chapter:

        Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

        Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. (10:32-34)

        Unless you’re at a different part of Matthew, nowhere does Jesus explicitly state his teachings were “not for Gentiles.” Your failing to see the immediacy of his disciples’ ministry and its significance to “the lost sheep of Israel.” More power to you in the regard; however I’m perfectly entitled to draw the line where you’re just pulling nonsense out of a hat and brandishing the kind of sexy exegesis that makes college freshmen ripping bong hits in their dorm room. Doesn’t faze me very much, though.

  9. Your comment “It should not be called Christianity, it should be called Paulianity” is spot on. Have you read The Christianity Myth by K.A.G. Thackerey? It’s an interesting take on first century Christianity and well worth a read.

  10. Sorry Steve, seems I’ve cocked up some how and posted my comment under your name.

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