A theory for the origin of Christianity
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15-06-2011, 09:19 AM (This post was last modified: 15-06-2011 09:25 AM by Mark Fulton.)
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
(15-06-2011 07:21 AM)Shannow Wrote:  Okay – I think we’re getting to the meat and potatoes.

Let’s try and narrow the scope a bit first.

Your book appears to assert that Paul was manipulated by the Roman government? I’d like to call this Fultons Paul Puppet Theory (FPPT).

OR

Is the assertion of the book that Paul was ‘one of history’s first examples of a typical power hungry cult leader’, we’ll call this the cultist theory.

Or is it both? A cult leader being manipulated by the Romans to undermine the Jews/Christians?

The most recent bit you’ve shared will make theist academics very happy because it isn’t sourced (arguably it can’t be). So you’re asserting something that they can (and will) easily dismiss.

I’ll tackle FPPT first.

Firstly a point of order, you’ve previously stated that Paul was used by the Roman government to “undermine the foundations of Christianity”, most recently you said that Paul was “Trying to undermine the foundation of Judaism.” Are you suggesting both?

As I’ve already said, there is no evidence to suggest that Nero even knew who Paul was! There is no evidence that he was discussed in the senate and no evidence that he colluded with Romans in any way. If you’ve got source material to support FPPT, then you’ve struck gold. If you haven’t then I’d be a little nervous about the reaction you’ll cause. Tacitus, who was active just a few decades after Paul, doesn’t even mention him. Neither does Pliny the Elder who was likely in Rome when Paul visited and was possibly killed (although Pliny was not close to Nero). Pliny the Younger doesn’t mention Paul either. I can’t find any evidence to support his.

So I don’t think collusion with the Romans won’t get a lot of traction with historians. What about trying to “undermine traditional Judaism?”

Hmm…

Weighty writers (Including FL Cross who edited the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2005) have asserted the exact opposite, that Paul did not want separation with the Jews. A quick check on Wikipedia also supports a prevailing view that E.P Sanders, James Dunn and N.T Wright all assert that Paul thought there were two ways to get into heaven – by being Jewish or by being a gentile following Jesus. You’re going up against some heavyweights there mate.

I vaguely remember reading something by EP Sanders at uni…it was dull, but well sourced and is worth a look if you have a local library. Getting your paws on the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church is an absolute must if you haven’t already. It costs something stupid like $150US so best to access from a library…use their weapons against them Wink

All the other snippets from your book that you’ve shared have been largely underpinned by viable source material. The challenge with FPPT is that I’m unclear as to how you prove it. If you can, then great, please share your sources.

What you’ve shared below is well written, thought provoking and interesting, but very easily dismissed by academics due to this lack of source work. I guess it depends on what the purpose of the book is. If it’s to challenge the established view of history, then I don’t think that this passage succeeds, if it’s to challenge theists, make them think and encourage them to look with fresh eyes on a text they’ve taken for granted for far too long then from I’ve read you’re going in the right direction.

Anyway, onto the ‘cultist theory’ – this is far more credible. If I had to choose between FPPT and this, I’d sign up to this.

Catholicism arguably still is a cult…with the Pope figure at the top as the “Divinely Appointed One”, dispensing infallible wisdom to those of us not blessed with his humility or magic hat or whatever. And in early Christianity, it was far more obvious.

As you’ve already said, the Christians were anti-establishment, gentiles gate-crashing the Jewish party, they had no doctrine, no dogma, they were politically subversive, didn’t acknowledge the divinity of Caesar and most importantly, they were spreading like wildfire.

We’ll never know exactly how high Pauls position was in the early church because his stature has been so bloated by Marcion as we’ve already discussed, and subsequently the ‘organised’ church, but the construct is very persuasive to me as an atheist and as someone who’s studied the period a little. Theists would be foolish to argue these points because the Nicean council is so well sourced and it’s obvious that they adopted Pauls teaching above all others when building the New Testament.

Personally, and I must stress it’s a personal view. I would drop FPPT and focus purely on the cult angle. It’s easier to build a compelling argument around Paul as a cult leader, pulling strings and ultimately influencing the future of Christianity. Look forward to talking further.

Ok...thankyou so much for your well thought out comments. I really appreciate it. I'll give you my thoughts.

Re..."Firstly a point of order, you’ve previously stated that Paul was used by the Roman government to “undermine the foundations of Christianity”, most recently you said that Paul was “Trying to undermine the foundation of Judaism.” Are you suggesting both?" SO SORRY! I meant Judaism, not Christianity.

Re...
-"Your book appears to assert that Paul was manipulated by the Roman government? I’d like to call this Fultons Paul Puppet Theory (FPPT)." Just to put this in perspective.....my book makes many assertions, many of which you and other readers will have heard before. It is an attempt to put the origins of Christianity and the Bible and today's churches into perspective, so it is a book that covers a very broad range of topics. The bit about Paul the Roman puppet and Christianity being a Roman plot is by no stretch of the imagination a major theme for the book...the discussion is 2 pages out of 280. I mentioned it as an interesting hypothetical possibility that probably has some truth in it when one considers the circumstantial evidence. I absolutely admit there is no firm evidence for it. I introduced it to this forum because it is a fairly original ( I honestly thought of it myself, and only 6 months later found a very few other people on the net who were saying the same thing). Also...it is fascinating to ponder on it if there is truth in it.

Please appreciate this point...one which Liithe has made too. The gospels, and to a lesser extent Paul's letters "evolved" over the 2nd and 3rd centuries. So there was plenty of time for gentile agents to mould the Jesus (and the Christ) stories into literature that undermined Judaism. Half of "Paul's" letters weren't even written by him! So in a sense it is somewhat irrelevant whether Paul was a card carrying paid employee of the Roman government or not. It makes a good story if we imagine he was....but....doesn't change the fact that Christianity was a slap in the face to Judaism. I hope the following demonstrates just how Paul's ideas upset the Jews...

"Paul and Judaism
Jews nearly universally despised Paul and rejected his message and they still do. The idea that their mysterious perfect God could be incarnated in the person of a human Jesus revolted and enraged them. They refused to believe that their God could die, and they refused to believe Jesus’ death somehow addressed a primordial, sinful, nature of man. Their messiah was never meant to be the saviour of an individual’s soul, but of an entire people.

The Jews of the first century knew what the prophets had said and Jewish tradition indicated: a true messiah was supposed to prove himself in the historical arena by heralding in a glorious age in which Israel ruled and bought the pagan empires of the world to the realisation of the glory of a single God, their god, Yahweh. He was supposed to build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28) and gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6). The messiah was to bring an end to the rule of the Romans and an end to exploitation, injustice, famine, disease and war. Paul’s fictional Christ had been nailed to a cross and had done none of this.

The Jews knew then, and still know today, that there was no mention in the Scriptures of there ever being an end to the covenant God made with their ancestors on Mount Sinai. They believed that the way to achieve salvation was to obey “the Law” i.e. the Torah, as taught by Moses (or so they believed). Paul was trying to usurp this centuries old tradition by creating a new path to salvation, using faith rather than the Law. Paul claimed
“...Though we were born Jews and not pagan sinners, we acknowledge that what makes a man righteous is not obedience to the Law, but faith in Jesus Christ...” (Galatians 2; 15-16).
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law.” (Galatians 3:13)
“Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith. Now that that time has come we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourself in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:23-28 NJB). Yet Jews did not consider the Law a curse or an imposition on freedom, but a pleasure to follow because it was their way to serve God. They considered the Law a gift from a merciful and forgiving God. They knew God’s rules were written in Scripture hundreds of years earlier and none of Paul’s ideas were in Scripture. Why should they give up centuries of tradition to believe a self-righteous renegade Pharisee?

Jesus, who had died over a decade before Paul appeared on the scene and could not have ever even heard of his theology, would have totally rejected the idea that his own death somehow gave certain gentiles a ticket to heaven. Jesus would have cursed gentiles (who did, after all, nail him to a cross) with his dying breath, not imagined his God would give them a place in heaven! I’ll make the point again that Jesus never rejected the Law God had given to his ancestors. He said
“Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them but complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved.” (Matthew 5:17-18 JB). Jesus could not have made himself clearer; he had no intention of altering the Law. Paul and Jesus undeniably contradicted each other!

Many Christians say that Jesus came to do away with the Jewish Law. They are not considering Jesus’ words, but those of Paul or Calvin or Luther. The exact opposite is true: Jesus kept the Torah and commanded his disciples to keep it too.

Paul also made a cavalier dismissal of the importance of the Jewish land (Israel) by suggesting that the Temple in Jerusalem was no longer the central focus of worship. He said all believers become a temple for God;
"…and that is what we are-the temple of the living God." (2 Corinthians 6:15 NJB)
“Didn’t you realise that you were God’s Temple...” (1 Corinthians 3;16 JB). By saying this Paul was attempting to expand God’s influence out into the whole Roman world by downplaying the idea God dwelt in the Temple at Jerusalem and claiming God lived in people’s minds. Yet for a Jew this was to deny the geographical pivot of Judaism. Consider how Jesus angrily drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. For Jesus, God’s dwelling place on earth could only ever be at the Temple, the magnificent centrepiece of God’s holy land.

Paul also undermined the ethnic pillar of Judaism;
"Those therefore who rely on faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, the man of faith." (Galatians 3:9 NJB);
“Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.” (Galatians 3:29 NJB). Paul claimed that anyone who believed what he taught could consider themselves one of God’s chosen. He was trying to make those who believed his theology think they were something special. He was trying to weaken Judaism by downplaying the exclusivity of being Jewish. Jews, including Jesus, had always thought they were Abraham’s descendants and therefore a nation of God’s special people, so didn’t accept this idea.

Throughout Paul’s travels there was a repetitive pattern portrayed in Acts. He was initially welcome in the synagogues because he masqueraded as a traditional Jew, but after Jews heard what he had to say he was rejected, sometimes even beaten and pelted with rocks. To all true Jews Paul was a blasphemous heretic, a traitor, a charlatan, and a wannabe cult leader simply making up his own theology. As Paul was a Jew, the Jewish community imagined he was upsetting their relationship with God and that the whole Jewish community would suffer as a consequence. Is it any wonder they physically attacked him?

Paul’s teachings undermined Jesus’ religious beliefs and cultural heritage. Jesus, if he had been alive, would not have been happy about that. His family and disciples, who were still alive, very clearly weren’t happy about it either. They were implacably opposed to Paul, as demonstrated by the verbal slanging match described in Paul’s letters, the anti-Pauline tone of James’ letter (found in the Bible) and the fact James sent Paul to the Temple to purify himself and prove he was still a true Jew (see Acts). This led to Paul’s arrest, imprisonment, and transportation to Rome where he remained under house arrest for at least two years. The supporters of James in Rome were pleased to let Paul languish in prison. The Romans kept him incarcerated because he caused trouble nearly everywhere he went. James, the brother of Jesus, thereby effectively terminated Paul’s missionary career!

Paul's mission to go out to the gentiles and bring them into the flock was something that some elements in Judaism, particularly some of the Diasporan Jews, had been trying to do for hundreds of years. He was obsessed with the idea he needed to emancipate pagans from idolatory and immorality, so his mission to change the world was a deeply ingrained part of his psyche. He was not deterred by his incarceration and the interruption to his evangelism. To the best of our knowledge, he never gave up.

His reputation as an inspired teacher of religious truth carrying on the message Jesus taught has no truthful foundation, yet it has become part of Christian tradition, in part because of what Luke wrote in Acts. By the time Luke was writing Acts, sometime around the middle of the second century, Paul’s reputation needed more credibility, so Luke attempted to link Paul with Jesus by having Jesus’ ghost appear to Paul on the road to Damascus, which was pure fiction. Also fictional was the story of Paul becoming good friends with the disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem, as both parties obviously disliked the other intensely. Luke also tried to shore up Paul’s credibility by having him perform a number of miracles. Yet Paul failed to mention these miracles, an impossible omission if they were true. Paul revealed many personality traits in his letters, but genuine modesty definitely wasn’t one of them. "

Re "Is the assertion of the book that Paul was ‘one of history’s first examples of a typical power hungry cult leader’, we’ll call this the cultist theory. " There is no doubt in my mind he was this. Permit me to cut and paste again....
"Paul the Cult Leader
A cult is a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs regarded by others as strange or sinister. That was how the outside world must have regarded Paul’s communities. Like all cult leaders, Paul was very focused on building his own power and status. Despite his wordy protestations that he was only working for everyone else’s benefit, every one of his letters revealed his burning need to convince the reader that he was the ultimate human authority. Paul referred to his teachings as “my gospel”, a very apt description. It was his own theology that elevated him to the status of master teacher. He demanded his communities look up to him;
“Take me for your model, as I take Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NJB). Paul thought he was the next best thing to God! He thought he was the personal deputy of his messiah.

A few years later he wrote
“In law I have died in the legal sense. I have shared Christ’s crucifixion. I am alive, it is true, but strictly speaking it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me…From now on let no one deal me any more blows, for I carry the scars of Jesus on my body.” (Galatians 2;20). By the time he was writing this he had transformed from just being God’s best mate to being God himself. His delusions of grandeur had taken him as far as he could go.

He did not have an easy task selling the idea that he was the living embodiment of Jesus. He had never met the real Jesus, and people knew this, which was why Paul had to replace “Jesus according to the flesh” with “Jesus according to the spirit”. (Romans 1:1-4)

Paul insisted his gospel was the only path to salvation;
"Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you-believing anything else will not lead to anything." (1 Corinthians 15:1-3 NJB). One of the key attributes of a wise man is a genuine willingness to not be too dogmatic and to respect the opinions of others. Yet Paul was totally closed to the consideration of any alternative view. A genuine person respects and cares for his fellow men and does not try to control them, but allows them space to find their own path to meaning and happiness. Paul would have none of that.

Status and power were not the only things Paul craved. He also needed to earn a living. He needed food and shelter. He didn’t talk much about money, yet it must have been a recurrent niggling issue;
"That is why I have thought it necessary to ask these brothers to go on to you ahead of us, and make sure in advance that the gift you promised is all ready, and that it all comes as a gift out of your generosity and not by being extorted from you. Do not forget that thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap. Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:5-7 NJB). Cult leaders love a cheerful giver too! Paul attempted to justify living off the communities he visited as follows;
“Nobody ever paid money to stay in the army, and nobody ever planted a vineyard and refused to eat the fruit of it. Who has there ever been that kept a flock and did not feed on the milk from his flock?” (1 Corinthians 9;7 JB). Paul obviously milked the communities he visited. Anyone who disagreed with him was not only threatening his ego but also his income.

There is no evidence Paul attempted to set up any organisation to promote his ideas. He apparently didn’t care what would happen when he was gone.

He didn’t have an easy time selling his ideas as he repeatedly wrote about his own credentials. If he had impressed communities as much as he would have liked there would have been no need to write so much about himself."

Re.."The most recent bit you’ve shared will make theist academics very happy because it isn’t sourced (arguably it can’t be). So you’re asserting something that they can (and will) easily dismiss. " Yes....you are right......doesn't concern me too much because I'm only discussing it as a possibility.

Re.."Catholicism arguably still is a cult…with the Pope figure at the top as the “Divinely Appointed One”, dispensing infallible wisdom to those of us not blessed with his humility or magic hat or whatever. And in early Christianity, it was far more obvious." Mate...I couldn't agree with you more!

I'd like to point something out. There is no doubt Paul was the creator of Christian theology.....however......I think it is a mistake to call him a Christian. If we examine the genuine Pauline letters, there is no mention of a new separate religion totally divorced from Judaism, which Christianity as we know it, is. Paul was just trying to reinterpret Judaism. He would be totally perplexed by the idea of a "church" in the sense of a building ( Jews worshipped in synagogues ). Nor did he ever mention a hierarchial structure ie priests and bishops etc. Nor was he particularly obsessed with building wealth and institutional power, which was what Catholicism was all about. These things only happened in the second century, a number od decades after Paul was dead.

Re "We’ll never know exactly how high Pauls position was in the early church"
My opinion......there was no "church" in the Christian sense in Paul's time, as per above. In his own day he was only a "two bit "player, and not very successful. His followers often ignored him in his absence. The original followers of Jesus, led by James, were far more influential and successful. Paul was only a legend in his own lunch box in his own day. He was rescued from obscurity by Marcion, circa 140, and his letters only became important after this.




(14-06-2011 07:33 PM)Lilith Pride Wrote:  I think it looks good, unfortunately your only current credits towards it are the childhood of Paul and the bible itself which proves that Paul met (or did not meet) a completely different man, not to mention the fact that it's provable Paul lived after Jesus. It would be nice if there was a little more meat to back it up. It is easily shown that Christianity is a much better religion for Rome as it contains the same hierarchical structure (built to copy the Romans like the US =p). So it is very easy to see that he was more a gentile than a jew even during the times he preached. If only there were more writings speaking out against Paul, but Rome removed all of that to propagate his version. I've not looked into the life of Paul much myself so there is not that much that I can add.

Hi Lilith ( sorry for spelling your name wrong). I've got some more really interesting stuff to share with you re above. Right now its 130 am in Aus, I need some sleep. Will comment tomorrow. Warm regards, Mark
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15-06-2011, 10:43 AM (This post was last modified: 15-06-2011 10:47 AM by Lilith Pride.)
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
Take your time, I'm enjoying reading your insights. I hope I've helped a little. I'm sure posting here has given you a good deal of potential book sales since we are quite interested in the topic. And people always mess up my name =p It's really uncommon to hear anyone suggest where they've heard it. Usually if they do, they mention the christian demon legend of non-catholic christianity that is about the stories from the Talmud, or Frasier's wife on cheers. Not believed by catholics as the story of Lilith (a ruination of the Sumerian succubus Lilitu [in Sumeria incubi and succubi were a separate race from male and female not always being bad]) was not canonized as they formed the definitive bible of christianity. It sits in the apocrypha along with many other stories that just didn't work out.

I'm not a non believer, I believe in the possibility of anything. I just don't let the actuality of something be determined by a 3rd party.
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15-06-2011, 03:37 PM
 
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
What I perhaps was trying to say was that the Romans were not particularly sharp operators when it came to subterfuge. If they didn't like somthing, they just got rid of it. There are parallels with the way soon after the invasion of Britain they destroyed the Druids and the ancient tree groves on the isle of Anglesey.They had no concept of morality like the Greeks did or we do now.
But I see if Judaism was ingrained in the region, it would have been tough to get rid of.
Paul the player fits more clearly into the picture. This is a man it would be easy for anyone to imagine.
I like the way the Jewish orthodoxy of jesus and his family is bought out, nicely contradicting pretty much all of today's churches teachings.

I'm enjoying reading this, and I'm certainly going to get the book when it comes out.
Have you tried raising this topic on any other websites, perhaps those of a more theistic leaning? It might be interesting to gauge the response from the religious section of the Internet.
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15-06-2011, 06:35 PM (This post was last modified: 17-06-2011 01:00 AM by Stark Raving.)
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
(14-06-2011 07:33 PM)Lilith Pride Wrote:  I think it looks good, unfortunately your only current credits towards it are the childhood of Paul and the bible itself which proves that Paul met (or did not meet) a completely different man, not to mention the fact that it's provable Paul lived after Jesus. It would be nice if there was a little more meat to back it up. It is easily shown that Christianity is a much better religion for Rome as it contains the same hierarchical structure (built to copy the Romans like the US =p). So it is very easy to see that he was more a gentile than a jew even during the times he preached. If only there were more writings speaking out against Paul, but Rome removed all of that to propagate his version. I've not looked into the life of Paul much myself so there is not that much that I can add.

Hi Lilith ( sorry for spelling your name wrong). I've got some more really interesting stuff to share with you re above. Right now its 130 am in Aus, I need some sleep. Will comment tomorrow. Warm regards, Mark


[/quote]

Hi Lilth, I agree with you Paul was ignorant about the historical Jesus, and I don't think he was particularly interested in him either...

"Paul Knew Nothing of the Gospels’ Jesus
“If Christianity needed an Anti-Christ, they need look no further than Paul”

(The English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, 1748-1832)
Most Christians assume Paul was preaching the wisdom of Jesus, but Paul rarely claimed he received inspiration from Jesus and never from Jesus’ disciples. Paul claimed the message he taught came from God and was about his Christ. It was not from Jesus.

Paul's Christ was someone completely different from the Jesus we think we know, the charismatic preacher the Gospel authors created. Amazingly, in the 21stcentury, we know more about “Jesus” than Paul did! Paul, like all first century “Christians”, was not even sure of the true nature of his Christ figure;
“Must I go on boasting, though there is nothing to be gained by it? But I will move onto the visions and revelations I have had from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago, was caught up – whether still in the body or out of the body, I do not know; god knows – right into the third heaven. I do know however; that this same person – whether in the body or out of the body. I do not know; god knows – was caught up into paradise and heard things which must not and cannot be put into the human language.” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4 NJB). Paul was claiming he had received visions (ie. visual hallucinations) and revelations (ie delusionary thoughts) from the Lord (ie his imaginary God). He was unsure whether Christ was a man or a spirit. Some rabbis distinguished seven degrees of heaven, and Paul thought Christ ascended to level three.

Paul preferred to think of his Christ as not human. He wrote
"...Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now...” (2 Corinthians 5:16 NJB). He was obsessed with the idea of a resurrected spirit, his Christ figure, to the extent he ignored the humanity of Jesus.
Paul thought Christ was a mystery.
“In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4)
“Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds” (Colossians 4:3). These quotes imply he considered Christ a spirit, a “god-man”. He barely talked about what a human Jesus said or did as that didn’t suit his agenda. This is a difficult idea for modern readers to understand. At times such as now it really helps to remind oneself that Paul was just odd.

In the Gentile world of the time there was competition from many dying and rising gods. Mithras was an example well known to Paul. Those gods often did not have a mortal life that was remembered, just like Paul’s Christ. It was only the myth of them dying and rising again that gave them significance, just like Paul’s Christ. Paul’s Christ may well have been his own Judaic myth used to subconsciously mimic these other cults. The fact there had happened to be a human Jesus a few years earlier was not important.
Bible readers are accustomed to considering Jesus as an inspired teacher, someone with amazing charisma and full of wisdom. That is an image created by churches using a carefully selected collection of Jesus’ sayings from the Gospels. Paul knew none of this. Outside of scripture he only ever acknowledged one teacher of wisdom - himself. An authoritative Jesus, even one recently deceased, would have focused the limelight on someone more important than himself, and he wouldn’t have countenanced that. "

It really is amazing that Christian theologht became based on the imaginative ramblings of paul, a man who had little respect for the supposed teachings of jesus.

I agree Paul was more gentile than Jewish.

(15-06-2011 03:37 PM)TAJD Wrote:  What I perhaps was trying to say was that the Romans were not particularly sharp operators when it came to subterfuge. If they didn't like somthing, they just got rid of it. There are parallels with the way soon after the invasion of Britain they destroyed the Druids and the ancient tree groves on the isle of Anglesey.They had no concept of morality like the Greeks did or we do now.
But I see if Judaism was ingrained in the region, it would have been tough to get rid of.
Paul the player fits more clearly into the picture. This is a man it would be easy for anyone to imagine.
I like the way the Jewish orthodoxy of jesus and his family is bought out, nicely contradicting pretty much all of today's churches teachings.

I'm enjoying reading this, and I'm certainly going to get the book when it comes out.
Have you tried raising this topic on any other websites, perhaps those of a more theistic leaning? It might be interesting to gauge the response from the religious section of the Internet.

Ok...thanks for the point re Roman subterfuge. I guess its hard to make generalisations on this.

Thanks for kind comments about book. Of course I would love people to buy it, and one for their friends too!( LOL). Actually, its a real pleasure to be able to discuss these issues with intelligent people who are interested. Everyone seems to be so busy with their lives its hard to get good conversations going about history.

I've seriously tried to engage many Christians on these issues ( I have genuinely wanted to learn from them) but most just fail to discuss their beliefs in any depth. The cognitive dissonance is too disturbing so they slink away. I haven't had any abuse yet, but am prepaired emotionally for that. As I try to establish an internet presence I will continue to try to engage with some of the more open minded Christians.
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15-06-2011, 07:59 PM (This post was last modified: 17-06-2011 12:58 AM by Stark Raving.)
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
PS....EVERYONE ! Consider what Paul wrote about government....

"Paul the Totalitarian
Many groups throughout history have used Paul’s letter to the Romans to legitimise controlling others. He wrote to a Jewish community in Rome and encouraged them to be servile to the Roman government;
"You must all obey the governing authorities. Since all government comes from God, the civil authorities were appointed by God, and so anyone who resists authority is rebelling against God's decision, and such an act is bound to be punished. The state is there to serve God for your benefit. The authorities are there to serve God: they carry out God's revenge by punishing wrongdoers." (Romans 13:1-5 NJB). Consider what Jesus would have thought of this as he was nailed to the cross by Roman soldiers!

Paul was a Roman citizen. He claimed that to obey the Roman government was to obey God. Not only is this gross generalisation obviously untrue, it is extremely ironic because Jesus thought he was working for God by trying to destroy the Roman government! I think Paul was, in fact working for the Roman government as an anti Jewish agent.

The way Paul worded these verses legitimised any governing authority, no matter who they were. The unfortunate consequence is that throughout the centuries Paul's letter to the Romans has been used to justify any behaviour, no matter how immoral, of governments, monarchs, popes and other dictators. "

I should have quoted this earlier as it does give extra weight to the Paul the agent idea. Cheers, mark
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15-06-2011, 09:22 PM (This post was last modified: 17-06-2011 12:57 AM by Stark Raving.)
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
PPS (I'm on a roll LOL)...consider what the author of the book of James (a book in the New testament), who may have been the brother of Jesus, wrote ...
"Jesus’ Brother Contradicted Paul
James was a strict and pious Jew, as one would expect of a High Priest. A central theme of the letter was that those who obey “the Law” will be rewarded. James referred to the authority of the Torah to back up his instructions on how to live a moral life.
“You see, if a man keeps the whole of the Law, except for one small point at which he fails, he is still guilty of breaking it all.” (James 2:10 JB).
“But the man who looks steadily at the perfect law of freedom and makes that his habit-not listening and then forgetting, but actively putting it into practice - will be happy in all that he does.” (James 1:25 JB). James was referring to the Jewish Law, a fact the Jerusalem Bible admits in a footnote. This was the opposite of Paul’s claim that salvation is obtained by releasing oneself from obedience to the Law, which is also admitted in a footnote in the Jerusalem Bible.
James didn't mince his words when he stated that faith was useless without good works.
“Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.” (James 2:14-17 NJB)
“If there are any wise or learned men among you, let them show it by their good lives, with humility and wisdom in their actions” (James 3:13 NJB). These were the thoughts of a man who had heard Paul’s teaching about faith and salvation and point blank rebutted it as flawed. They also strike a chord with today’s humanist."

He may as well have said
"this guy Paul is a heretic....don't take any notice of him".

This is further evidence that paul was trying to undermine traditional Jewish thinking and they weren't at all happy about it.
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16-06-2011, 05:39 PM
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
(15-06-2011 09:19 AM)Mark Fulton Wrote:  
(15-06-2011 07:21 AM)Shannow Wrote:  Okay – I think we’re getting to the meat and potatoes.

Let’s try and narrow the scope a bit first.

Your book appears to assert that Paul was manipulated by the Roman government? I’d like to call this Fultons Paul Puppet Theory (FPPT).

OR

Is the assertion of the book that Paul was ‘one of history’s first examples of a typical power hungry cult leader’, we’ll call this the cultist theory.

Or is it both? A cult leader being manipulated by the Romans to undermine the Jews/Christians?

The most recent bit you’ve shared will make theist academics very happy because it isn’t sourced (arguably it can’t be). So you’re asserting something that they can (and will) easily dismiss.

I’ll tackle FPPT first.

Firstly a point of order, you’ve previously stated that Paul was used by the Roman government to “undermine the foundations of Christianity”, most recently you said that Paul was “Trying to undermine the foundation of Judaism.” Are you suggesting both?

As I’ve already said, there is no evidence to suggest that Nero even knew who Paul was! There is no evidence that he was discussed in the senate and no evidence that he colluded with Romans in any way. If you’ve got source material to support FPPT, then you’ve struck gold. If you haven’t then I’d be a little nervous about the reaction you’ll cause. Tacitus, who was active just a few decades after Paul, doesn’t even mention him. Neither does Pliny the Elder who was likely in Rome when Paul visited and was possibly killed (although Pliny was not close to Nero). Pliny the Younger doesn’t mention Paul either. I can’t find any evidence to support his.

So I don’t think collusion with the Romans won’t get a lot of traction with historians. What about trying to “undermine traditional Judaism?”

Hmm…

Weighty writers (Including FL Cross who edited the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2005) have asserted the exact opposite, that Paul did not want separation with the Jews. A quick check on Wikipedia also supports a prevailing view that E.P Sanders, James Dunn and N.T Wright all assert that Paul thought there were two ways to get into heaven – by being Jewish or by being a gentile following Jesus. You’re going up against some heavyweights there mate.

I vaguely remember reading something by EP Sanders at uni…it was dull, but well sourced and is worth a look if you have a local library. Getting your paws on the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church is an absolute must if you haven’t already. It costs something stupid like $150US so best to access from a library…use their weapons against them Wink

All the other snippets from your book that you’ve shared have been largely underpinned by viable source material. The challenge with FPPT is that I’m unclear as to how you prove it. If you can, then great, please share your sources.

What you’ve shared below is well written, thought provoking and interesting, but very easily dismissed by academics due to this lack of source work. I guess it depends on what the purpose of the book is. If it’s to challenge the established view of history, then I don’t think that this passage succeeds, if it’s to challenge theists, make them think and encourage them to look with fresh eyes on a text they’ve taken for granted for far too long then from I’ve read you’re going in the right direction.

Anyway, onto the ‘cultist theory’ – this is far more credible. If I had to choose between FPPT and this, I’d sign up to this.

Catholicism arguably still is a cult…with the Pope figure at the top as the “Divinely Appointed One”, dispensing infallible wisdom to those of us not blessed with his humility or magic hat or whatever. And in early Christianity, it was far more obvious.

As you’ve already said, the Christians were anti-establishment, gentiles gate-crashing the Jewish party, they had no doctrine, no dogma, they were politically subversive, didn’t acknowledge the divinity of Caesar and most importantly, they were spreading like wildfire.

We’ll never know exactly how high Pauls position was in the early church because his stature has been so bloated by Marcion as we’ve already discussed, and subsequently the ‘organised’ church, but the construct is very persuasive to me as an atheist and as someone who’s studied the period a little. Theists would be foolish to argue these points because the Nicean council is so well sourced and it’s obvious that they adopted Pauls teaching above all others when building the New Testament.

Personally, and I must stress it’s a personal view. I would drop FPPT and focus purely on the cult angle. It’s easier to build a compelling argument around Paul as a cult leader, pulling strings and ultimately influencing the future of Christianity. Look forward to talking further.

Ok...thankyou so much for your well thought out comments. I really appreciate it. I'll give you my thoughts.

Re..."Firstly a point of order, you’ve previously stated that Paul was used by the Roman government to “undermine the foundations of Christianity”, most recently you said that Paul was “Trying to undermine the foundation of Judaism.” Are you suggesting both?" SO SORRY! I meant Judaism, not Christianity.

Re...
-"Your book appears to assert that Paul was manipulated by the Roman government? I’d like to call this Fultons Paul Puppet Theory (FPPT)." Just to put this in perspective.....my book makes many assertions, many of which you and other readers will have heard before. It is an attempt to put the origins of Christianity and the Bible and today's churches into perspective, so it is a book that covers a very broad range of topics. The bit about Paul the Roman puppet and Christianity being a Roman plot is by no stretch of the imagination a major theme for the book...the discussion is 2 pages out of 280. I mentioned it as an interesting hypothetical possibility that probably has some truth in it when one considers the circumstantial evidence. I absolutely admit there is no firm evidence for it. I introduced it to this forum because it is a fairly original ( I honestly thought of it myself, and only 6 months later found a very few other people on the net who were saying the same thing). Also...it is fascinating to ponder on it if there is truth in it.

Please appreciate this point...one which Liithe has made too. The gospels, and to a lesser extent Paul's letters "evolved" over the 2nd and 3rd centuries. So there was plenty of time for gentile agents to mould the Jesus (and the Christ) stories into literature that undermined Judaism. Half of "Paul's" letters weren't even written by him! So in a sense it is somewhat irrelevant whether Paul was a card carrying paid employee of the Roman government or not. It makes a good story if we imagine he was....but....doesn't change the fact that Christianity was a slap in the face to Judaism. I hope the following demonstrates just how Paul's ideas upset the Jews...

"Paul and Judaism
Jews nearly universally despised Paul and rejected his message and they still do. The idea that their mysterious perfect God could be incarnated in the person of a human Jesus revolted and enraged them. They refused to believe that their God could die, and they refused to believe Jesus’ death somehow addressed a primordial, sinful, nature of man. Their messiah was never meant to be the saviour of an individual’s soul, but of an entire people.

The Jews of the first century knew what the prophets had said and Jewish tradition indicated: a true messiah was supposed to prove himself in the historical arena by heralding in a glorious age in which Israel ruled and bought the pagan empires of the world to the realisation of the glory of a single God, their god, Yahweh. He was supposed to build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28) and gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6). The messiah was to bring an end to the rule of the Romans and an end to exploitation, injustice, famine, disease and war. Paul’s fictional Christ had been nailed to a cross and had done none of this.

The Jews knew then, and still know today, that there was no mention in the Scriptures of there ever being an end to the covenant God made with their ancestors on Mount Sinai. They believed that the way to achieve salvation was to obey “the Law” i.e. the Torah, as taught by Moses (or so they believed). Paul was trying to usurp this centuries old tradition by creating a new path to salvation, using faith rather than the Law. Paul claimed
“...Though we were born Jews and not pagan sinners, we acknowledge that what makes a man righteous is not obedience to the Law, but faith in Jesus Christ...” (Galatians 2; 15-16).
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law.” (Galatians 3:13)
“Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith. Now that that time has come we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourself in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:23-28 NJB). Yet Jews did not consider the Law a curse or an imposition on freedom, but a pleasure to follow because it was their way to serve God. They considered the Law a gift from a merciful and forgiving God. They knew God’s rules were written in Scripture hundreds of years earlier and none of Paul’s ideas were in Scripture. Why should they give up centuries of tradition to believe a self-righteous renegade Pharisee?

Jesus, who had died over a decade before Paul appeared on the scene and could not have ever even heard of his theology, would have totally rejected the idea that his own death somehow gave certain gentiles a ticket to heaven. Jesus would have cursed gentiles (who did, after all, nail him to a cross) with his dying breath, not imagined his God would give them a place in heaven! I’ll make the point again that Jesus never rejected the Law God had given to his ancestors. He said
“Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them but complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved.” (Matthew 5:17-18 JB). Jesus could not have made himself clearer; he had no intention of altering the Law. Paul and Jesus undeniably contradicted each other!

Many Christians say that Jesus came to do away with the Jewish Law. They are not considering Jesus’ words, but those of Paul or Calvin or Luther. The exact opposite is true: Jesus kept the Torah and commanded his disciples to keep it too.

Paul also made a cavalier dismissal of the importance of the Jewish land (Israel) by suggesting that the Temple in Jerusalem was no longer the central focus of worship. He said all believers become a temple for God;
"…and that is what we are-the temple of the living God." (2 Corinthians 6:15 NJB)
“Didn’t you realise that you were God’s Temple...” (1 Corinthians 3;16 JB). By saying this Paul was attempting to expand God’s influence out into the whole Roman world by downplaying the idea God dwelt in the Temple at Jerusalem and claiming God lived in people’s minds. Yet for a Jew this was to deny the geographical pivot of Judaism. Consider how Jesus angrily drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. For Jesus, God’s dwelling place on earth could only ever be at the Temple, the magnificent centrepiece of God’s holy land.

Paul also undermined the ethnic pillar of Judaism;
"Those therefore who rely on faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, the man of faith." (Galatians 3:9 NJB);
“Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.” (Galatians 3:29 NJB). Paul claimed that anyone who believed what he taught could consider themselves one of God’s chosen. He was trying to make those who believed his theology think they were something special. He was trying to weaken Judaism by downplaying the exclusivity of being Jewish. Jews, including Jesus, had always thought they were Abraham’s descendants and therefore a nation of God’s special people, so didn’t accept this idea.

Throughout Paul’s travels there was a repetitive pattern portrayed in Acts. He was initially welcome in the synagogues because he masqueraded as a traditional Jew, but after Jews heard what he had to say he was rejected, sometimes even beaten and pelted with rocks. To all true Jews Paul was a blasphemous heretic, a traitor, a charlatan, and a wannabe cult leader simply making up his own theology. As Paul was a Jew, the Jewish community imagined he was upsetting their relationship with God and that the whole Jewish community would suffer as a consequence. Is it any wonder they physically attacked him?

Paul’s teachings undermined Jesus’ religious beliefs and cultural heritage. Jesus, if he had been alive, would not have been happy about that. His family and disciples, who were still alive, very clearly weren’t happy about it either. They were implacably opposed to Paul, as demonstrated by the verbal slanging match described in Paul’s letters, the anti-Pauline tone of James’ letter (found in the Bible) and the fact James sent Paul to the Temple to purify himself and prove he was still a true Jew (see Acts). This led to Paul’s arrest, imprisonment, and transportation to Rome where he remained under house arrest for at least two years. The supporters of James in Rome were pleased to let Paul languish in prison. The Romans kept him incarcerated because he caused trouble nearly everywhere he went. James, the brother of Jesus, thereby effectively terminated Paul’s missionary career!

Paul's mission to go out to the gentiles and bring them into the flock was something that some elements in Judaism, particularly some of the Diasporan Jews, had been trying to do for hundreds of years. He was obsessed with the idea he needed to emancipate pagans from idolatory and immorality, so his mission to change the world was a deeply ingrained part of his psyche. He was not deterred by his incarceration and the interruption to his evangelism. To the best of our knowledge, he never gave up.

His reputation as an inspired teacher of religious truth carrying on the message Jesus taught has no truthful foundation, yet it has become part of Christian tradition, in part because of what Luke wrote in Acts. By the time Luke was writing Acts, sometime around the middle of the second century, Paul’s reputation needed more credibility, so Luke attempted to link Paul with Jesus by having Jesus’ ghost appear to Paul on the road to Damascus, which was pure fiction. Also fictional was the story of Paul becoming good friends with the disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem, as both parties obviously disliked the other intensely. Luke also tried to shore up Paul’s credibility by having him perform a number of miracles. Yet Paul failed to mention these miracles, an impossible omission if they were true. Paul revealed many personality traits in his letters, but genuine modesty definitely wasn’t one of them. "

Re "Is the assertion of the book that Paul was ‘one of history’s first examples of a typical power hungry cult leader’, we’ll call this the cultist theory. " There is no doubt in my mind he was this. Permit me to cut and paste again....
"Paul the Cult Leader
A cult is a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs regarded by others as strange or sinister. That was how the outside world must have regarded Paul’s communities. Like all cult leaders, Paul was very focused on building his own power and status. Despite his wordy protestations that he was only working for everyone else’s benefit, every one of his letters revealed his burning need to convince the reader that he was the ultimate human authority. Paul referred to his teachings as “my gospel”, a very apt description. It was his own theology that elevated him to the status of master teacher. He demanded his communities look up to him;
“Take me for your model, as I take Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NJB). Paul thought he was the next best thing to God! He thought he was the personal deputy of his messiah.

A few years later he wrote
“In law I have died in the legal sense. I have shared Christ’s crucifixion. I am alive, it is true, but strictly speaking it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me…From now on let no one deal me any more blows, for I carry the scars of Jesus on my body.” (Galatians 2;20). By the time he was writing this he had transformed from just being God’s best mate to being God himself. His delusions of grandeur had taken him as far as he could go.

He did not have an easy task selling the idea that he was the living embodiment of Jesus. He had never met the real Jesus, and people knew this, which was why Paul had to replace “Jesus according to the flesh” with “Jesus according to the spirit”. (Romans 1:1-4)

Paul insisted his gospel was the only path to salvation;
"Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you-believing anything else will not lead to anything." (1 Corinthians 15:1-3 NJB). One of the key attributes of a wise man is a genuine willingness to not be too dogmatic and to respect the opinions of others. Yet Paul was totally closed to the consideration of any alternative view. A genuine person respects and cares for his fellow men and does not try to control them, but allows them space to find their own path to meaning and happiness. Paul would have none of that.

Status and power were not the only things Paul craved. He also needed to earn a living. He needed food and shelter. He didn’t talk much about money, yet it must have been a recurrent niggling issue;
"That is why I have thought it necessary to ask these brothers to go on to you ahead of us, and make sure in advance that the gift you promised is all ready, and that it all comes as a gift out of your generosity and not by being extorted from you. Do not forget that thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap. Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:5-7 NJB). Cult leaders love a cheerful giver too! Paul attempted to justify living off the communities he visited as follows;
“Nobody ever paid money to stay in the army, and nobody ever planted a vineyard and refused to eat the fruit of it. Who has there ever been that kept a flock and did not feed on the milk from his flock?” (1 Corinthians 9;7 JB). Paul obviously milked the communities he visited. Anyone who disagreed with him was not only threatening his ego but also his income.

There is no evidence Paul attempted to set up any organisation to promote his ideas. He apparently didn’t care what would happen when he was gone.

He didn’t have an easy time selling his ideas as he repeatedly wrote about his own credentials. If he had impressed communities as much as he would have liked there would have been no need to write so much about himself."

Re.."The most recent bit you’ve shared will make theist academics very happy because it isn’t sourced (arguably it can’t be). So you’re asserting something that they can (and will) easily dismiss. " Yes....you are right......doesn't concern me too much because I'm only discussing it as a possibility.

Re.."Catholicism arguably still is a cult…with the Pope figure at the top as the “Divinely Appointed One”, dispensing infallible wisdom to those of us not blessed with his humility or magic hat or whatever. And in early Christianity, it was far more obvious." Mate...I couldn't agree with you more!

I'd like to point something out. There is no doubt Paul was the creator of Christian theology.....however......I think it is a mistake to call him a Christian. If we examine the genuine Pauline letters, there is no mention of a new separate religion totally divorced from Judaism, which Christianity as we know it, is. Paul was just trying to reinterpret Judaism. He would be totally perplexed by the idea of a "church" in the sense of a building ( Jews worshipped in synagogues ). Nor did he ever mention a hierarchial structure ie priests and bishops etc. Nor was he particularly obsessed with building wealth and institutional power, which was what Catholicism was all about. These things only happened in the second century, a number od decades after Paul was dead.

Re "We’ll never know exactly how high Pauls position was in the early church"
My opinion......there was no "church" in the Christian sense in Paul's time, as per above. In his own day he was only a "two bit "player, and not very successful. His followers often ignored him in his absence. The original followers of Jesus, led by James, were far more influential and successful. Paul was only a legend in his own lunch box in his own day. He was rescued from obscurity by Marcion, circa 140, and his letters only became important after this.




(14-06-2011 07:33 PM)Lilith Pride Wrote:  I think it looks good, unfortunately your only current credits towards it are the childhood of Paul and the bible itself which proves that Paul met (or did not meet) a completely different man, not to mention the fact that it's provable Paul lived after Jesus. It would be nice if there was a little more meat to back it up. It is easily shown that Christianity is a much better religion for Rome as it contains the same hierarchical structure (built to copy the Romans like the US =p). So it is very easy to see that he was more a gentile than a jew even during the times he preached. If only there were more writings speaking out against Paul, but Rome removed all of that to propagate his version. I've not looked into the life of Paul much myself so there is not that much that I can add.

Hi Lilith ( sorry for spelling your name wrong). I've got some more really interesting stuff to share with you re above. Right now its 130 am in Aus, I need some sleep. Will comment tomorrow. Warm regards, Mark

HI EVERYONE! HAVE I BEEN PRESSING THE WRONG REPLY BUTTON AS THESE COVERSATIONS SEEM TO BE REPEATING THEMSELVES?
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16-06-2011, 07:49 PM
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
Yes, hit the new reply at the bottom of the page or simply type in the text box at the bottom at the bottom of the page. I was about to discuss this with you.

I'm not a non believer, I believe in the possibility of anything. I just don't let the actuality of something be determined by a 3rd party.
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16-06-2011, 09:25 PM
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
ok...thanks
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16-06-2011, 09:28 PM
RE: A theory for the origin of Christianity
Much better, now we can get back to discussing things.

I'm not a non believer, I believe in the possibility of anything. I just don't let the actuality of something be determined by a 3rd party.
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