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    Nothing is so firmly believed as what we know least.
    Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)


    Although we have hardly any first-hand evidence of what happened after the death of Jesus it is apparent that within a few years his followers had split into a number of camps, each with its own interpretation of his teachings.

    The apostles remained in Jerusalem where they continued to practise Judaism. Most of them showed little if any inclination to try to convert gentiles to their faith. Paul, a convert who had never known Jesus while he had been alive, took his own version of Jesus" teachings to the gentiles. A third faction, probably initiated by some of Jesus" Samarian disciples, developed into a loose grouping and came to be known as Gnostics.

    At least in the early stages there was considerable overlap between the various factions, but in the course of time distinct groups developed: Jewish Christians (or Nazarenes*), Pauline Christians and Gnostics. Having many different opinions, and as yet no New Testament to guide them, they each imagined Jesus to have been something different. For the Jewish Christians Jesus had been a great rabbi, for the Pauline faction he became a son of God, and for the Gnostics he became a divine manifestation.



    How odd of God
    to choose the Jews.
    W. N. Ewer (1885-1976), How Odd

    There is some evidence that after his own death, Jesus intended his brother James to take over his ministry and lead the remaining Jewish followers. Josephus refers to James taking over, and appears to refer to James as Christ, though the passage is ambiguous*. The Gospel of St Thomas refers to Jesus naming James as the disciples" leader after his own departure*. In the Secret Book of James, James occupies the dominant role sometimes attributed to Peter in canonical writings*. Church Fathers were aware that James had taken over the leadership of the apostles, and he was acknowledged to have been the first Bishop of Jerusalem*. Furthermore it is clear from the New Testament that James (recognised by the Church as James the Just) enjoyed primacy over the other disciples*. For example James alone makes the final decision about the dietary laws (Acts 15:13-20). A passage in Galatians gives James's name before Peter's , indicating relative rank (Galatians 2:9). Another makes it clear that Peter felt himself subject to James (Galatians 2:11-12).

    From the little that the Bible tells us it is apparent that after Jesus" death the disciples continued to live communally. They visited the Temple together every day, gave generously, and were generally well respected (Acts 2:44-7). With the exception of Peter, there is no reason to suppose that any of them left the vicinity of Jerusalem. Nor is there any reason to suppose that they abandoned their Jewish faith*. Had this Jewish line survived there is little doubt that it would have had the strongest claim to represent Jesus" intentions. James was executed at the instigation of the Sadducees, in circumstances similar to those surrounding the death of his brother Jesus*. James was succeeded by another close relation, a cousin called Simeon (or Symeon)*, though this succession seems to have caused dissent and schism*.

    Like James and Simeon, some later leaders, or bishops of the circumcision as they were known, were also related to Jesus, suggesting some sort of dynastic succession. Their followers may have precipitated the First Jewish Revolt of AD 66, and certainly suffered from the Roman reaction to it. This faction was virtually wiped out during the Second Jewish Revolt of AD 132. When the Emperor Hadrian banished all Jews from Jerusalem in AD 135 he put an end to this line of "bishops of the circumcision", a string of Jewish bishops of Jerusalem. The Church historian Eusebius listed the whole line from the first, "James the Lord's brother", to the fifteenth and last*.

    After AD 135 only gentiles were permitted to enter the city of Jerusalem, and a new bishop was put in charge of those among them who espoused Christianity*. Presumably he was a gentile of the Pauline line who brought a new orthodoxy. The bishops of the circumcision had lost their throne, but the line of Jewish Christians continued in exile. A sect of Jewish Christians, known as Ebionites, survived for two or three centuries. They retained the Jewish Sabbath, Jewish Law, and other characteristically Jewish practices. Some rejected the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, others rejected the letters of Paul, regarding him as a renegade from the Jewish Law. Some believed that Jesus had supernatural virtue and power, but all denied that he was the son of God in the sense now usually accepted by mainstream Christianity*.

    They became isolated from the Pauline branch of the Church and, from the second century, were regarded by them as heretics*. The Ebionites disappear from history still repudiating Paul as an apostate. Conveniently for rival factions all but a few records concerning Jewish Christianity are lost to us. The New Testament contains only one work that might be thought to reflect their views, the general letter of James. Luther called it "A right strawry epistle", though it is possibly the oldest book of the New Testament. Certainly it expresses views on the importance of faith that contrast sharply with those of Paul.


    Pauline Christians

    Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course, or that a man should tell a lie?
    Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason , Part I

    Paul's inspiration was to bring Christianity to the gentiles. This inspiration seems to have come only after the Jews had rejected him. Nevertheless, it has won him a key place in the history of Christianity.

    Paul was clearly an unusual and controversial personality. An Hellenic Jew, he seems to have been keen to establish himself amongst Jesus" followers. His writings in the New Testament reveal in him a number of less than admirable qualities: he generally comes over as a trouble-making, complaining, self-seeking misogynist who was clearly out of step with the 12 apostles. Of the many Christians regarded as trouble-makers, the one who caused most trouble was undoubtedly Paul. After his conversion he seems to have developed the knack of creating vast amounts of bad feeling. His visits to towns generally ended up in riots or plots to murder him. The usual picture was that he was at first welcomed into the community and invited to speak in the local synagogues. Sooner or later he stirred up hatred and dissent to such an extent that he was subsequently obliged to flee in order to save his life.

    In Damascus he preached in a number of synagogues, and it was some time before anyone set about trying to kill him (Acts 9:20-24). When they did try, he escaped to Jerusalem, where Grecian Jews made another attempt on his life, so he was sent to Tarsus. Later, with Barnabas, he was welcomed into a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. Before long there was bad blood, and the two of them were expelled from the region (Acts 13:13-52). Off they went to Iconium, where they narrowly escaped death by stoning (Acts 14:1-7). They then fled to Lystra, where Paul was stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:8-20). Later, in Philippi, Paul and Silas were charged with causing an uproar. They escaped a rampaging mob only for magistrates to have them flogged and imprisoned (Acts 16:16-24). Some time after their escape following an earthquake, they went to Thessalonica. Paul spoke in the synagogue there on three Sabbath days before the riots started, and the two of them had to escape to Berea (Acts 17:1-10). Off they went to a local synagogue and before long there was more trouble. Silas stayed behind, but Paul was escorted to distant Athens (Acts 17:10-15). Here the sophisticated citizens seem to have regarded him with bemused contempt, so he was soon on his way again (Acts 17:16-34). When he arrived in Corinth, he spent every Sabbath speaking, and was soon being abused and attacked once again. In Ephesus he spent three months speaking in the synagogue before the derision of the inhabitants defeated him (Acts 19:1-9). He stayed in the area and appears to have provoked a riot (Acts 19:23-41) before deciding to leave (Acts 20:1). He went on to Macedonia and then Greece where there was another Jewish plot against him (Acts 20:3). Later he again narrowly escaped death when the people of Jerusalem tried to kill him (Acts 21:27-36). He owed his salvation to his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:22-30). Next he was transferred to Caesarea in order to avoid an assassination attempt by forty men who, for some unstated reason, had taken a solemn oath to kill him (Acts 23:12-23). He ended up in Rome, where his citizenship failed to save him and he met the death that so many had desired for him.

    Why Paul had such an effect on people is not easy to tell. What he said to cause such hatred, we can only guess. To a disinterested reader, however, Paul's personality would seem decidedly odd. He has visions that are suspect in the extreme. He gives three contradictory accounts of his conversion and claims divine intelligence that was denied to the apostles. He likens himself to an angel of God and even to Jesus Christ (Galatians 4:14). He believes, or at least claims, that he is being crucified along with Jesus (Galatians 2:20), and that he bears the marks to prove it (Galatians 6:17). He refers to an otherwise unknown gospel, which he refers to as "my gospel" and says will be used by God to judge mankind*. He hints, rather heavily, that he has visited Heaven (the third heaven to be precise — 2 Corinthians 12:2-6), and refers repeatedly to his visionary contact with the divine (e.g. Ephesians 3:3 and Colossians 1:25-26). He believes himself able to judge others at a distance, being present in spirit to try them. He can then pass sentence by means of a letter, condemning people to be handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh — presumably some form of unlawful killing (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). When Paul is jealous, it is not with normal human jealousy but with "godly jealousy" (2 Corinthians 11:2).

    He seems to know nothing of the gospels, just as they seem to know nothing of him. Paul threatens, abuses and blusters, appointing himself as an additional apostle. He has no qualms about lying if he thinks that he is doing so for the greater glory of God: "For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged a sinner?" (Romans 3:7). He also freely admits that he is prepared to become all things to all men in order to achieve his aims (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). His writings are threaded through with repeated assurances that he is telling the truth and attempts to deny implied accusations that he is not. He is known to have been ridiculed by other Christian groups. Some theologians have speculated that Paul was insane. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) described him as a morbid crank. Whether or not he was, he is by his own admission totally unreliable as a witness.

    Paul seems to have known relatively little about the historical Jesus. He does not mention Jesus" place of birth, his parentage, or even when and where he lived. He does not refer to any of Jesus" miracles; neither does he mention any of his parables. There is no mention of Jesus" trial, nor even of the place of the crucifixion. This is probably not too surprising as Paul was writing before the gospels had been set down. He was operating in a vacuum, creating a new religion as his inspiration led him. He was a self-appointed apostle and spent considerable time and effort generating support for his interpretation of Jesus" message. It was Paul who first preached that Jesus was the son of God (Acts 9:20), a claim that in the gospels Jesus had never made for himself. Paul had not met Jesus during his lifetime but claimed to have seen him after the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Such claims were met with scepticism: when Paul came to Jerusalem the disciples did not believe that he was one of their number (Acts 9:26). Educated people have continued to distrust him down the centuries. Thomas Jefferson called him the "first corrupter of the doctines of Jesus"*.

    Only after his rejection by his Jewish brethren did Paul offer his version of Jesus" teachings to non-Jews. His first missionary journey introduced a version of Christianity to the gentiles for the first time. This was unpopular among the apostles, not least because Paul appeared to have no qualms about amending teachings in order to make them acceptable to non-Jews. His approach to the Jewish laws provides a prime example of how his teachings differed from those of the living Jesus and of the apostles. Although Paul was a Jew he was an Hellenic Jew. He knew that few gentiles would be willing to accept the Jewish laws, so his solution was simply to drop them. Not being able to claim that Jesus, or any of his disciples, had sanctioned this he was fortunate in being able to state that the gospel he preached had been given to him by divine revelation*. God had suddenly decided to change his mind about the ancient laws. Why he should have revealed these changes to Paul but neglected to inform either Jesus or Jesus" disciples is a mystery to which no satisfactory answer has been provided. The disciples were left with an unfortunate burden of cynicism about Paul and his claims. Gibbon sums up the matter. Speaking of the Jewish followers of Jesus he says:

    They affirmed that if the Being who is the same through all eternity had designed to abolish those sacred rites which had served to distinguish his chosen people, the repeal of them would have been no less clear and solemn than their first promulgation; that, instead of those frequent declarations which either suppose or assert the perpetuity of the Mosaic religion, it would have been represented as a provisionary scheme intended to last only till the coming of the Messiah, who should instruct mankind in a more perfect mode of faith and of worship; that the Messiah himself, and his disciples who conversed with him on earth, instead of authorising by their example the most minute observances of the Mosaic law, would have published to the world the abolition of those useless and obsolete ceremonies without suffering Christianity to remain during so many years obscurely confounded among the sects of the Jewish church*

    Following his visions St Paul gave assurances that gentile converts did not need to undergo circumcision as prescribed in the Old Testament. Not all Churches accepted this, but the ones that did found it easier to attract converts and in time came to dominate Christianity. Now only the Coptic Church still retains the ancient practice of circumcision (though it also became popular among Victorian Anglicans). Again, it was Paul who advocated dropping Jewish dietary restrictions, and again only the Coptic Church still retains them. Gentiles were prepared to accept Paul's new form of Christianity, and did so. Other Churches that tried to retain the traditional practices have since died out,: a confirmation perhaps of Paul's inspiration.

    Paul continued to proselytise and spread his version of Jesus" teachings, despite continuing opposition. He had trouble not only with the Jews, but also with rival Christian groups. It is clear from his letter to the Galatians that he was in dispute with those who insist on circumcision (though he himself had had Timothy circumcised — Acts 16:3). His enmity causes him to become offensive. He goes so far as to claim that Christ will be of no value at all to those who do allow themselves to be circumcised (Galatians 5:2), and expresses the wish that those who favour circumcision should go the whole way and castrate themselves (Galatians 5:12). In the space of a few verses of another letter he characterises them as unruly, vain talkers, deceivers, liars, evil beasts, slow bellies [lazy gluttons], defiled, abominable, disobedient, and reprobate (Titus 1:10-16). The rift seems to have grown wider and wider. He says quite plainly that he does not follow the Twelve in Jerusalem: "For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles"8. These, the original apostles, apparently preach "another Jesus". If we phrase this a little more neutrally we see that on the one hand Paul and on the other hand the 12 apostles were preaching different Jesuses. Later, Paul (or someone writing in his name) refers more dismissively to "false apostles" (2 Corinthians 11:13), whose Jewishness is specifically mentioned (2 Corinthians 11:22). In short he had fallen out with those who held what was then the orthodox line. Peter, it seems, had difficulties in reconciling the Jewish and Pauline factions. In the New Testament he is represented as being initially sympathetic to Paul's views, but then changing his mind after emissaries of James have had a discreet word with him (Galatians 2:12).

    To the Jewish Christians the Pauline faction was a group of fickle marketeers, changing the unchangeable Mosaic religion to suit gentile preferences. For their part the Pauline Christians keenly felt the need to justify themselves as being the true inheritors of the ancient Jewish faith. This need to justify themselves continued for as long as the Jewish Christians were around and able to demonstrate that they were the orthodox believers. In his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew written around AD 160, Justin Martyr was still preoccupied by the need to establish the legitimacy of the Pauline line.


    Gnostic Christians

    Knowledge itself is power.
    Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Religious Meditations, "Of Heresies"

    As well as the Jewish and Pauline factions, numerous other groups flourished in the early years. These were principally Gnostic sects, claiming that Jesus" true message was not available to all, but granted only to an inner circle of initiates. Such claims were not unreasonable since the gospels represent Jesus as saying as much himself. These Gnostic sects seem to have originally been Samarian offshoots of the main Jewish Church*, and at least some of them had existed before the time of Jesus, anticipating the coming of a Redeemer. They seem to have competed widely with other forms of Christianity, and in some areas, notably Egypt and eastern Syria, they enjoyed a virtual monopoly*.

    Because the Gnostic sects were so numerous and widespread, some of their writings have survived the attentions of later Pauline Christians. Such writings provide interesting background information about the development of early Christianity. Paul himself often made snide and slighting references to Gnostics and Gnosis*. As the Pauline line gained predominance, Gnostic views came to be regarded as heretical. Their heresies amounted to holding definite views on matters about which there was little factual evidence, or laying particular stress on one aspect of the religion. Like the Ebionites, some believed that Jesus was a mortal prophet, born by natural conception. Others, called Docetes, denied his humanity. To them it was inconceivable that the son of God could have been executed like the most contemptible criminal. They held therefore that Jesus had been a divine phantom. He had descended from Heaven to the banks of the Jordan in the form of a man. He had had the appearance of flesh and blood, but this was a deception for he was incorporeal and could not therefore suffer. His death on the cross likewise was only an illusion. The Basilides in Egypt and the Valentinians in Rome were both Docete sects. Soon such Docetes were being condemned by the Pauline line as poisonous, and their opinions those of the antichrist*. Many such sects were rooted out and destroyed by the Pauline Christians on the grounds of being heretical, and yet the same basic ideas have emerged time and again over the centuries. Each new sect to resurrect the ancient ideas has been in turn persecuted into oblivion. Whether there are any true heirs to this early Gnostic line today is doubtful, though there are certainly claimants.


    Further Schismatic Sects

    No kingdom has ever suffered as many civil wars as the kingdom of Christ.
    Charles, Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755), Letters

    The existence of three distinct groupings among early followers of Jesus is well established, and no reputable scholar now disputes that they existed together during the early centuries. Factions soon emerged within each group, just as in modern Churches. There seem to have been other competing sects too: for example there was a group of followers of John the Baptist (Acts 18:25 and 19:3). Some said that there was no resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12), others that the Resurrection was already past (2 Timothy 2:18). Some advocated the renunciation of marriage and abstinence from certain foods (1 Timothy 4:3). Others worshipped angels (Colossians 2:18).

    Leading figures in early Christianity criticised and abused those who disagreed with their own opinions. This was a common and well-documented phenomenon, readily discernible from the New Testament and other early writings. Here are a few early Christians displaying their early Christian approach to their fellow Christians:

    Paul We have already seen that Paul disagreed with other followers of Jesus. He complains of those who preach "another Jesus" (2 Corinthians 11:4). He, or someone writing in his name, warns of diverse and strange doctrines concerning Jesus (Hebrews 13:9). Elsewhere, in the pastoral letters, the author repeatedly warns of "false teachers" and heretics (Titus 3:10). Both 1 Timothy and Titus refer to fables, though it is not clear whether or not these are rival Christian fables.

    John. The three letters attributed to John also demonstrate that schisms had arisen at an early stage. He refers to those who have disagreed with him as "antichrists" and mistakenly believes that their existence signals the "last time", in other words the end of the world:

    Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
    1 John 2:18-19

    It is apparent from the text that the disagreement referred to concerns the status of Jesus. Seemingly some of Jesus" followers did not regard him as the Messiah or the son of God:

    Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
    1 John 2:22-23

    The theme runs through all three letters. Indeed, the letters can be understood only against a background of division within the Church. In any case it is also clear that the author's views were poorly regarded by others of Jesus" followers*:

    I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, recieveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
    3 John: 9-10

    There is no hint of any doctrinal dispute here, merely a squabble about personal authority. We may safely assume that Diotrephes's version would have been different.

    Other biblical writers confirm the general pattern. Jude refers to scoffers following their own passions (Jude v18 NIV). Jude and 2 Peter both criticise "heretics", by which they mean those who disagree with them. James and Paul disagree over major issues, which have echoed down two millennia. While Paul claims that faith is everything*, James insists that faith is nothing without corresponding good works (James 2:14-17). Other contemporary writings confirm the general pattern: Clement of Rome. wrote a letter to the Corinthians that was once counted as scripture. In it he indicated the scope of dissension within the Christian community. Recounting the past he wrote that "Envy and jealousy sprang up, strife and dissension, aggression and rioting, scuffles and kidnappings"*. He referred to "self assertion and braggadocio and stupid quarrelling" and "odious rivalry"* among Christians and to "dissensions over the title of bishop"*. In despair he asked "…why are we rending and tearing the limbs of Christ, and fomenting discord against our own body?"*

    The Martyrdom of St Clement by Bernadino Fungai (1460-1516) York Art Gallery)
    Clement, supposed martyr, saint and first, second, third or fourth Bishop of Rome, exiled from Rome and drowned with an anchor tied to his neck.


    The early Christian Ignatius of Antioch. was famous as the author of a number of letters advertising his own martyrdom. He did nothing to disguise the extent of the dissent within the Church. He referred to fellow Christians as "a pack of savage animals", and in the next sentence as "rabid curs" who advocated pernicious teachings*. He warned of "false teachings and antiquated and useless fables"* and of "plausible wolves"*. He advocated having no dealings whatever with those who disagreed with his views and instructed the recipients of his letter to "Abjure all factions"*. He referred to "troublesome ones" who should be brought to order*. and to "those who put forward their perverse teachings so plausibly"*. He advised his readers to "Be wary of the devices of sinful men" and to preach publicly against them*. These letters were addressed not to one exceptional community but to Christians in a number of major cities.

    In brief, the whole Christian movement, from its birth, seems to have been riven by dissent and argument. As one theologian has put it:

    The tensions between Jewish and Gentile Christian churches, between Paul and the Corinthian enthusiasts, between John and early catholicism, are as great as those of our own day. One-sided emphases, fossilised attitudes, fabrications, and contradictory opposites in doctrine, organization and devotional practice are to be found in the ecclesiology of the New Testament no less than among ourselves*.


    The Triumph of the Pauline Line

    He who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end by loving himself better than all.
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), Aids to Reflection: Moral and Religious Aphorisms

    Despite the great holiness that the Bible accords to early Christians, their contemporaries seem to have regarded them only as trouble-makers. They offended not only the Romans, but also many of their Jewish brethren. Jesus himself was clearly not universally popular, and his enemies were happy to see him crucified. Before long his follower Stephen was stoned to death by the Jews for blasphemy (Acts 6:8-7:60). Other followers in Jerusalem caused such offence that they were scattered throughout Judæa and Samaria.

    Already, in AD 66, after the outbreak of the First Jewish Revolt, the Christian community in Jerusalem had withdrawn to Pella, across the Jordan. In AD 70 the Romans destroyed the Temple, which the Jews believed to be divinely protected. Now they were excluded from Jerusalem altogether, beaten and scattered. The Pauline Christians saw the destruction of the Temple as a divine judgement, inaugurating a new dispensation by which sacrifices were abrogated. The further humiliation of the Jews in AD 135, when they were expelled from Judæa, enabled the Pauline faction to consolidate their belief that the Jewish Christians were a deviationist sect rather than the true successors of Jesus. They were dismissed as "the hypocrites"*. As we have already noted, Jewish Christians carried on for a time. Small communities survived in Syria at least until the fourth century, but the balance of power had changed. The great centres of Christianity were now Alexandria, Antioch and Rome — areas where gentile Christianity could flourish.

    It is significant that a large proportion of the New Testament is devoted to the doings of Paul, always sympathetically. In the Acts of the Apostles he is always portrayed as the hero of the story, even when he opposes the 12 apostles. We hear of his travels, his visions, his miracles, his suffering, his humility, his authority and even his stigmata. He had established himself, at least to his own followers, as a thirteenth apostle. By the time of the first Church historian he was not merely an apostle, but the apostle. Almost all surviving sources glorify Paul. On the other hand we hear little of the apostles appointed by Jesus. Most of them disappear from history. Only James (the Great), John, and Peter are more than mere names, and even Peter is portrayed as a hypocrite (Galatians 2:11-14). It is well within the bounds of possibility that the Pauline faction suppressed much of the material concerning the others. In particular, many scholars suspect that inconvenient material concerning James (the Just), the brother and successor of Jesus, has been destroyed. We have only one side of a story that had at least three sides, and possibly many more.

    Setting aside New Testament writings, most of the other surviving documents of the early Church also reflect Pauline views, almost certainly because other versions were sought out and destroyed. As Gibbon says:

    The scanty and suspicious materials of ecclesiastical history seldom enable us to dispel the dark cloud that hangs over the first age of the church*.

    It is known that there were texts that ridiculed Paul, but these have been "lost"*. From the available evidence it would appear that early Christians followed Paul in making a practice of visiting synagogues and expressing their views in such a way as to cause offence. By around AD 85 the Jews had had enough of Christians disrupting their services, and a formal anathema was incorporated into the synagogue liturgy "May the Nazarenes and the heretics be suddenly destroyed and removed from the book of life"*. For a long time Christians continued to disrupt Sabbath services in synagogues. In the third century a Christian called Callistus was charged with brawling in a synagogue on the Sabbath. In his lifetime he was known as a criminal, but his Christian friends saved him from his punishment in the mines of Sardinia. He later become Bishop of Rome, and is now regarded as both a pope and a saint. In many ways he epitomises the triumph of the Pauline line.




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    § Circumcision was popular among the English upper classes, apparently because Queen Victoria believed that the English were one of the lost ten tribes of Israel and so ought to circumcise in the Jewish manner.

    § Jesus sounds distinctly Gnostic when he says that he speaks in parables so that only an elect inner circle will understand him (Mark 4:10-12, Matthew 13:10-13, Luke 8:9-10). Matthew 7:6 (including the famous injunction not to cast pearls before swine) is more convincing as a Gnostic injunction than one about profaning sacred things, which is the usual Christian gloss. Gnostic themes occurs elsewhere e.g. Hebrews 5:11-14. Remember too the characteristically Gnostic secret initiation ceremonies in the Secret Gospel of Mark, information about which was suppressed by Pauline Christians.

    §. The word Nazarene was used of Jesus himself (John 18:5 and 18:7) and Nazarenes of the sect of which he was the "ringleader" (Acts 24:5). It is now generally applied specifically to Jesus" Jewish followers who formed a distinctive group after his death.

    §. Josephus, Antiquities, XX:9.1 (200-3). The relevant passage could be rendered "James (the brother of Jesus) who was called the Christ.... " or as "James (the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ).... ". The first option attributes the title to James, the other attributes it to Jesus.

    §. Nag Hammadi, Gospel of St Thomas, Logion 12. The following translation is from J M Robinson (ed.), The Nag Hammadi Library, p 119: "The disciples said to Jesus. We know that you will depart from us. Who is to be our leader? Jesus said to them “Wherever you are, you are to go to James the Righteous ...”."

    §. The Secret Book of James, see for example passages 1:2, 3:1-2, 3:12, 5:1.

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 2:23 , quoting Hegesippus, refers to James (the Righteous) as the "first to be elected to the Episcopal throne of the Jerusalem Church". He (Eusebius) identified James the Righteous with James the Lord's brother who was counted among the apostles (2:1) , and who was (according to Clement of Alexandria cited by Eusebius) chosen by his brother Jesus as Bishop of Jerusalem (2:1).

    §. See for example Acts 12:17, 15:13 and 21:18.

    §. According to writings sympathetic to the Pauline line Peter abandoned the need to eat clean food (Acts 10:14) and avoid contact with gentiles (Acts 11:3), but even if these writings are correct (and there are reasons to suspect that they are retrospective rationalisations) they do not establish the apostles as Christians rather than Jews.

    §. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, XX:ix.1 (197-200) says that James was tried by the Sanhedrin, prompted by the high priest Ananus, was found guilty of transgressing the law, and sentenced to be stoned. This James is not to be confused with James the brother of John, who was beheaded on the orders of Herod Agrippa AD c. 44 (see Acts 12:2).

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 3:11 and 4:22, cf. John 19:25 (and Luke 24:18).

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 4:22. Cited by Michael Goulder in (ed. John Hick) The Myth of God Incarnate, p 66, where it is convincingly established that all or most of the schismatics mentioned were Samaritans.

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 4:5.

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 4:6.

    §. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 3:37. Different early Christian authors use the terms Nazarene and Ebionite differently, so it is difficult to be sure of exactly how Nazarenes and Ebionites differed from each other — or even whether they comprised two distinct groups within the Jewish Church. St Justin Martyr (Dial. 47) distinguishes the Ebionites as rejecting the Virgin Birth.

    § Ignatius of Antioch. (AD 98-117), in his letter to the Magnesians 10, is already becoming hostile in the early second century: "To profess Jesus Christ while continuing to follow Jewish customs is an absurdity". In the very next passage he coins the word "Christianity".

    §. Romans 2:16. See also Romans 16:25 and 2 Timothy 2:8.

    §. Thomas Jefferson, from an 1820 letter to W Short reproduced by George Sildes in The Great Thoughts (Ballantine Books, 1985), p 208.

    §. Referring to the gospel he preached Paul says "I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ" — Galatians 1:12 (New International Version).

    §. Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Penguin, pp 266-7.

    §. 2 Corinthians 11:5 and 12:11. Sometimes rendered in modern translations as "arch apostles" or "super apostles". The Authorised Version refers to the "very chiefest apostles". As modern translations make clear, Paul is claiming in these two passages that he is in no way inferior to the Twelve.

    §. "It was the unanimous and confident opinion of the [Church] fathers that the Samaritan teachers had been the first Gnostics" — Michael Goulding in (ed. John Hick) The Myth of God Incarnate, "The two roots of the Christian Myth", p 67. Goulding provides a number of references to support this view, the earliest of which is St Justin Martyr, I Apol., 26.

    §. W. Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, SMC Press (1972), pp 44-60.

    §. Paul is talking about Gnosis for example in 1 Corinthians 8 and again in 13:2. Translations often disguise the true meaning by translating the word Gnosis as knowledge instead of leaving it in the Greek (and thus suggesting esoteric knowledge).

    §. See for example Ignatius, Epistle to the Trallians 10 and Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians 7.

    §. For a more detailed treatment of the differences mentioned in John's letters see J. L. Houlden, The Johannine Epistles, A & C Black (1973). {TMoGI p 15}

    §. Paul's view that faith is all important is expressed throughout the Pauline writings of the New Testament, e.g. Romans 3:27-8 and 4:3-6.

    §. Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians 3.

    §. Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians 13 and 14.

    §. Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians 44.

    §. Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians 45.

    §. Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians 7.

    §. Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians 6.

    §. Ignatius, Epistle to the Philadelphians 2.

    §. Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 8.

    §. Ignatius, Epistle to Polycarp 2.

    §. Ignatius, Epistle to Polycarp 3.

    §. Ignatius, Epistle to Polycarp 4.

    §. Evans, Is Holy Scripture Christian?, p 87.

    §. Jewish Christians were dismissed as hypocrites for example in the Didache 8 {ECW p 194}.

    §. Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Penguin, p 260.

    §. The existence of such a document is mentioned by Eusebius, The History of the Church, 4:29.

    §. Chadwick, The Early Church, p 21. This official curse was inserted into the synagogue's chief prayer, and authorised by Rabbi Gamaliel II around AD 85. See Barrett, C.K. (ed.), The New Testament Background: Selected Documents ( London, 1974), pp 166-7.















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