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Middle aged heterosexual, WASP male. Semi retired, semi-sane and semi-serious. And endangered species and I'm not going quietly!!!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Chuch of Allan - The Plain Truth About God

A serialization of the book, The Plain Truth About God.

Chapter 11. “THE JESUS TAPES”

As we have discussed, the way we have come to know the historical Jesus is through the gospels, and as we now know, these Gospels were written relatively late in the dawning of Christianity.

As mentioned in the previous chapter, the reason for the time lag before the biographies were written was that early Christians felt no need for a biography or collection of his sayings.

This was because his followers considered the event of “The Christ” or “Anointed One” was the immediate prelude to the end of the world and final judgment of humanity.

Paul of Tarsus, in his epistles, wrote that his generation would see the apocalypse.

This was because Jesus of Nazareth claimed that the people around him would still be alive for the end days. Since there was no future, there was also no need to record any of these events for posterity.

These early Christians were more concerned with preparing themselves for the expected apocalypse and for spreading what they saw as the truth of Christianity to as many people as possible before the anticipated “End Time.”

(On a side note here, I still vividly recall when I was twelve years old in 1960; our next-door neighbor told me that the world would end on a specific date that year. She was just like any “end of the world” adherent, still trying after 2000 years to experience the rapture, and all she managed to do was scare the crap out of a young kid - me!)

At the same time these apocalyptic stories and sayings were circulating around the Christian world, another set of stories about Jesus were also being created by Paul.

When Paul of Tarsus had his vision, underwent an epiphany, and converted to Christianity, he did so with such energy and creativity that it soon made him the most prominent leader of the new movement.

In fact, Paul was so instrumental in spreading Christianity that the movement became the world religion it is today almost solely on his account.

Unlike Jesus of Nazareth, Paul’s role in the founding of Christianity is clear. The narrative of his career was collected within a few short years of his death so that, unlike Jesus, many of the writings were preserved.

Therefore, we can be definite in ascribing certain ideas and doctrines to Paul, while there is much dispute over what genuinely belongs to Jesus in the accounts of his career.

Different from the other followers of Christianity in those early years, Paul was not a native of Palestine. As a citizen of Tarsus, he was officially a citizen of Rome and was raised in a Greek culture and fluent in Greek.

Because of this, it was only natural that he would take the side of the Hellenists in the dispute over the direction of the Church.

Paul orientated towards the Greek world, and because of this, his innovations in the new religion left it a substantially different one than the material he started out with.

Where Jesus and many of his followers seemed to consider their beliefs as a “religion of the Jews,” Paul, in the debate between the Hebrews and the Hellenists, re-cast Christianity as a universal religion for all peoples.

Paul had to do a lot of juggling with the new religion because of the debate between the Hebrews and the Hellenists about the refusal of the Hellenists Christians to abide by Jewish law.

It was, after all, a foreign law to them.

The main sticking point in the dispute was the Jewish rule of diet and the act of circumcision, neither of which the non-Jewish Christians wanted to adopt.

This made the Jewish Christians consider the Greek Christians unclean!

Paul had an epiphany and came up with the novel idea that Jewish Law was worthless in gaining salvation since the sacrifice of Christ on the cross was what really mattered.

He relied on the Greek and Roman legal concept on the difference between the spirit and the letter of the Law.

He argued that even though the non-Jewish adherent had broken the letter of the Law about diet and circumcision, they had not broken the law in terms of the spirit or intent.

This outright rejection of the Jewish Law was an unheard of precedent since it allowed Christianity, which did not have many Jewish followers anyway, to spread rapidly amongst the Gentile population of the Roman World.

It should also be noted that “Jewish” Christianity was mainly restricted to rural adherents while Paul promoted “Gentile” Christianity amongst the towns and cities in the region.

(Jewish Christianity for the country hicks and Gentile Christianity for the sophisticated townsfolk!)

This led to a rapid rise in non-Jewish adherents and widened the schism between the two.

Despite his efforts to make Christianity a populous religion, some of Paul’s prejudices show themselves in remarkable ways that have caused us trouble for the last 2000 years!

While Jesus strongly focused on women and the status of women, Paul was an old reactionary misogynist.

He was against both Jesus’ radicalism towards women and the Greek liberality that allowed women a stronger voice in the community than was allowed among the Jews.

Do not forget that in the Middle East, then as now, women were culturally treated as no better than chattel and have suffered for it at the hands of men for many millennia.

Paul demanded that women be silent in church and in matters of theology.

Jesus had worked hard to erase these injustices but in the end old habits and cultural prejudices won out.

It was the same with the matter of slavery.

Jesus had nothing to say about slavery but Paul seemed to have approved of it.

While he demands that slaves obey their masters, he also understands the contradiction of one Christian owning another as a slave so he waffles.

(While he does not demand that slave-owners give up their slaves, he does say it would be the Christian thing to do.)

One of the most contentious issues from the works of Paul is the subject of the resurrection.

St. Paul, along with St. Clement of Alexandria after him (115-215 C.E.) took the allegorical / spiritual approach to the scriptures and would have been shocked to see the way today’s “Christianity” often distorts the original reality.

Paul is quoted in 1st Corinthians 15 as saying that Jesus’ resurrection, and by default our own, was categorically and supremely a “spiritual” event!

According to Tom Harper, amongst others, Paul quotes the tradition handed down to him on how various people “saw” the risen Lord as “one born out of due time.”

This was a technical term, widely used in the popular Mystery Religions of the time, to denote a paranormal, psychic vision.

Obviously, he was not talking about ordinary physical sightings at all!

When you move on to verse 35 he discusses and answers the obviously legitimate question, “How are the dead raised up?”

His argument, after all is said and done, is basically that what goes into the ground at death is definitely not what moves on to the dimension of eternal life or the life of the “age to come.”

What goes into the grave is corporeal, physical, and eminently corruptible.

What comes out is immortal, spiritual, and certainly non-corporeal. On the other hand, as the old Egyptians said: “The body to earth, the soul to heaven!”

Paul’s most emphatic statement on this was when he said; “Now this I say…flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption…we shall all be changed!”

This also helps explain why he was not immediately recognized when he appeared after the crucifixion.

*****When you’re dead, you’re dead! The body is gone but the spirit goes on!

Allan W Janssen is the author of the book The Plain Truth About God (What the mainstream religions don't want you to know!) and is available at the web site www.God-101.com

Visit the blog "Perspective" at http://God-101.blogspot.com

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