The Sect Hiding in Plain Sight

Condemning-Pharisees

With thanks to David Eves.

Back at the start of Christianity, the cult was divided into numerous factions; not unlike its modern counterpart. Acts’ claim that all the new converts – the church – got on famously, sharing all they had and generally taking part in one big love-in is spin, a lie concocted by its author, ‘Luke’. Its not the only lie he invents; later in Acts he tries to present the new faith’s ambassadors, Paul and the original apostles, as being largely in agreement about what the Christian message was about. We know from Paul’s own writing that this wasn’t so.

Likewise the united church. We know that there was part of the cult that had a very different theology and soteriology (doctrine of salvation) from Paul. They didn’t subscribe to his incantational magic about a dying god-man who would save them if they claimed his death for themselves. Instead, this group believed that the way to find favour with God was to be ‘righteous’, by doing good works and generally expending oneself on others. Its members promoted, and probably practised, a yin and yang measure-for-measure philosophy: God would show forgiveness, mercy and compassion, they said, only to the same extent that a believer demonstrated them him or herself. Because they believed Jesus had commanded it and God favoured it, they denounced wealth and advocated a self-deprecating way of life. They were predominantly Jewish. They believed Jewish Law was still valid and should still be followed by cult members. They were, however, hostile towards those who, unable to see any value in the new cult, remained within Judaism. The sect invented anachronistic stories about Jesus sparring with the Jewish leaders of their time, half a century or more after Jesus died.

Though it is unlikely any of members of this sect had ever encountered Jesus in person, they believed he was going to return to the Earth while they were still alive in order to judge humankind. Naturally he would vindicate them while condemning all others, particularly the rich and powerful. He would do this because they were the ones who were doing as he commanded – helping the sick, the hungry and the homeless – which would ensure the returning Lord would look on them favourably. None of them had seen the resurrected Jesus but nevertheless they valued the stories they heard about those who supposedly had, and they promoted these stories themselves.

How do we know this? Because this particular sect left behind a record of their beliefs. They imbued them with authority by putting them into the mouth of a preacher who had lived more than fifty years earlier. Who knows, maybe he did say such things. The sect either believed that Jesus had actually contradicted Paul’s notion that the Jewish Law was no longer valid or they felt it necessary to to make Jesus say so themselves. Likewise, they rejected the magical mysticism preached by Paul that was beginning to take hold in those early days. The group’s beliefs were radically different and their writing specifically designed to counteract ideas they opposed with a passion.

Where will you find this group’s writings? In the bible, at the very start of the New Testament in the book called ‘The Gospel According to St Matthew’; this book is their writing, give or take the odd bit of tampering from later on. Matthew’s gospel details the sect’s beliefs about Jesus, their measure-for-measure morality, their recipe for righteousness and their beliefs about salvation and the coming judgement.* So different are these from Paul’s ideas that the gospel can only have been created to counteract his doctrines. The community that produced Matthew had no truck either with Paul’s theology or his soteriology.

Read Matthew for yourself and see how much it is at odds with Paul. The discrepancy is there for all to see, yet Christians have always convinced themselves, if they’ve thought about it at all, that not only is Matthew’s gospel compatible with the mumbo-jumbo that follows it, but that its ‘good news’ and Paul’s are identical. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

* I’m happy to provide chapter and verse from Matthew’s gospel to support all I say about it.

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7 thoughts on “The Sect Hiding in Plain Sight

    • Good question! I’d guess because he would be a very obvious anachronism – ostensibly the gospels cover events up to around 33CE while Paul was active after that.

      I think there are other reasons too that he isn’t mentioned in the gospels.

      First, I suspect (this is all pure conjecture) he simply wasn’t widely enough known. From our standpoint he is a highly influential figure in the development of Christianity, but at the time, certainly that Mark’s gospel was written, I doubt he was.

      Second, he was a rogue preacher, altering the ‘good news’ as Jesus’ original followers saw it, so while he’s not mentioned in Matthew’s gospel, much of it, as I suggest in the post, is to counteract his ‘false teaching’. The likes of Matthew 7.15-20 & 24.24, about false prophets, may be directed against the likes of Paul. Why name-check the enemy, as it were?

      While Luke doesn’t mention Paul in his gospel either, he does of course give him a leading role in his Volume 2 (Acts).

      John is much later and his Jesus is much more in keeping with Paul’s ‘Christ’. At the same time John goes out of his way to counteract some of Paul’s teaching (John is gnostic in places.) It has long been argued that Pauline Christianity dropped out of favour in the early second century. As Renan put in the 19th century, ‘the memory of Paul after his death appears to have undergone a sort of eclipse during a whole century. Even the churches which he had established abandon him as too compromising a man; so much so, that Paul, in the second century, appears universally disowned.’ It’s unlikely John would give failing, unpopular doctrines much credence, by referring to their progenitor by name. Paul of course would have the last laugh.

      Those are my thoughts anyway. Why do you think Paul might be absent from the gospels?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Difficult to say, and I am by no means a bible scholar in any sense, merely a fascinated onlooker.
        I have read it proposed that Paul was actually Marcion – I have no way of knowing if this also is pure conjecture, but I also read somewhere – don’t ask, I can’t remember! that he was the one responsible for ”collecting” Paul’s epistles.
        Add to this that, in genuine biblical academic circles Acts is now regarded as more or less fiction/historical fiction, it begins to paint a picture that while maybe not screaming it certainly shouts
        ”They made it all up!”

        If the truth is out there to be uncovered I feel that someone will … eventually.

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  1. Many things can be believed or discounted by “facts” and evidence compiled from sources all over the world and throughout time. The essential question remains, “What is truth?”.
    Truth can be found by an honest heart asking honest questions and leaving preconceived ideas out of the equation.
    The final conclusion must be reached by observing the results of a belief or teaching in the lives of those who truly follow their creed.
    There are those who follow Jesus and his teachings and provide evidence that His teachings are Truth. In doing so they prove that the Bible is His word and God is love.
    But….when all of his teaching is not followed it leaves a hollow, fake, and powerless religion that smacks of self rightness and formality.
    Study His Word. Then follow what He teaches. And a life of spiritual blessing and peace will flow from Him, through you.

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    • Facts and evidence is all there is, Jim. You can’t have ‘Truth’ without them. Belief and faith on the other hand are neither fact nor evidence. They are feelings and wishful thinking. They do not lead to truth even if you’ve persuaded yourself they do. This is delusion, not truth.

      So where’s your evidence that Jesus teachings are true? His teaching that the world would end while his disciples yet lived, for example? His teaching that the Son of Man would judge the tribes of the Earth within the generation of his audience? His teaching that angels exist and illness is caused by demons? His teaching that you should relinquish wealth? (Have you, or is this a ‘truth’ you think optional?)

      The blessing and peace you claim is of your own making, Jim. There’s nothing supernatural about it. How do I know? Because I have the same sense of well-being, gratitude and peace and it sure doesn’t come from a long-dead, failed Messiah.

      I recommend you read more of my blog than you have. I’m not for converting, Jim (been there, done that) but you might just find something to help you realise life is more than the delusion you’re currently trapped in.

      Have a nice day.

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      • Thanks for taking the time to reply!

        I will agree that facts and evidence are primary building blocks in our reasoning, but they are not “all” we have.
        Faith is an integral part of our being. Any relationship or belief can not exist without faith. Marriage, friendship, business, religion, government, all are based on a belief or faith in an idea or the people involved.
        A person without faith in someone or something is miserable.
        As to the teachings of Jesus being untrue; just because they do not match your criteria of facts does not mean they are not true. I dare say you would accept the teachings of Hawking or Einstein even though you yourself have not proven their theory true. Many people have confronted the same struggles as yourself and have been convinced at the end of an almghty, loving, God!
        As to your other questions:
        Jesus himself said none but the Father knows when the end of time will be; so then using the same reasoning of science today when a previously known “fact” is proven untrue,(Higgs boson, dynamic expanding universe, etcq) we must accept that He had a different meaning.
        As for judging the tribes; His life of love and service and sacrifice for the good of others both judged that generation and all others and is still doing so today.
        Yes, I believe in angels.
        As for disease being caused by demons: Sickness, pain, and all evil in this world is due to the fall of man.
        I am not a wealthy man and have never been. Obviously, many citizens of the U.S. have it much better the the majority of people world wide. I try to live responsibly and be a good steward of what God has given me. Included in that is to give of my time and money to those around me.

        Now….
        As to the peace and blessings I enjoy.
        They most definitely do not come from me! Although I can effect the circumstances that bring them. My Faith in God is firm. What I have seen of His power in the hearts and minds of my Christian brothers and sisters is real and lasting.
        My own experience in life from the loss of my two year old son and many other experiences has only enhanced my love for God and my Faith in Him!
        Their are a people who love God in truth and prove His teaching true. I invite you to find them.
        God Bless!

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      • I am truly sorry to hear about your son, Jim, and I can see how that might make you turn to religion for solace. That’s perfectly understandable and I’m glad you found some comfort there.

        At the same time, faith is not a way of knowing. There is no evidence for the things you believe, none for God, Christ, angels, demons, heaven or hell. They have no existence independent from the human imagination. Nor do the peace and power you’ve convinced yourself come from God. They derive from the sense of belonging, community and, yes, love that comes from being a member of a group. I experience them too, but my group is not a church – it’s a collection of like-minded people. As social creatures we derive a great deal from being with others, particularly those who share our views and values.

        I’ve written much about the timing of Jesus’ return. Please read some of those posts. You misquote him when you say he said no-one knows the time of his return. What he is actually made to say is no-one knows ‘the hour’ (i.e. the specific time), but nonetheless he was sure it would be within the lifetime of his listeners (see Matthew 16.27-28 & 24.27, 30-31, 34; Luke 21.27-28, 33-34.) No amount of cherry-picking gets around this fact, Jim.

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