Paul of Tarsus and Peter of Galilee: as different as two Jews could possibly be. Paul was a city boy; Peter was a red-neck. Paul spent most of his young years in a Rabbinic school where he learned the Torah and the Prophets in both Hebrew and Greek. Peter was lucky he could speak Aramaic, the language of his fishermen buddies who spent their time on Peter’s boat. Paul loved to argue; Peter loved to fish. The two of them lived 400 miles apart and never saw each other.
One day Peter met at man from Nazareth named Jesus, and Peter left his home and his boat and his buddies, and he traveled all over Galilee with this charismatic young man who attracted hundreds of peasants. Jesus talked to them about a topic as familiar to them as the Super Bowl is to us today. It was called: “The Kingdom of God.” Every Prophet in their Bible (the Tanakh) spent pages of scroll space on it: Zachariah (2:10), Micah (4:10), Amos (9:11), Jeremiah (30:9), Ezekiel (37:24).
But the Prophet Isaiah said it best, I think: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders …There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace.” (9:6). Peter heard Jesus enlarge on this theme over and over again as they traveled from one Galilean village to the next, and Jesus said that this Kingdom has come; it’s here now! I’m your man. I will bring about a new government (not the Roman one) and a real peace (not the fake peace of the Pharisees and Sadducees.)
Jesus wasn’t the only one claiming this messianic mantle; these were the years when many others were singing the same song. It sounds pretty harmless to us today, but it was treason to the Romans and blasphemy to their Jewish Leaders, and within a few years, it got Jesus and the other would-be messiahs killed. Peter stayed in Jerusalem with his other buddies and for several years they built up a Jewish group who followed the teachings of Jesus.
At this same time, Paul moved from his elite Greek town of Tarsus on the Sea down to Jerusalem and joined the Temple Police. It was his job to round up these Jesus–Jews and kill them. And, according to his own account (Galatians) he did a good job. However, he tells us that God got inside of him, and he transformed himself into the “Apostle to the Gentiles”, preaching to the Greeks he had known and loved in his home town of Tarsus, just as Peter was preaching to the Jewish peasants in Galilee. But, wait a minute! What were they preaching?
Peter preached the Jesus of Nazareth whom he had known for the past three years. They had hunted together; fished together, ate together, and argued about the Kingdom of God. Peter knew Jesus, and he knew that Jesus was a Jew who went to the Synagogue and followed all the Kosher laws.
Paul, however, preached the Christos, the Messiah of the Prophets, a god-man like the Greek god-man Herakles who “died and rose from the dead.” Paul never knew Jesus of Nazareth, and he didn’t want to know Peter and the others in Jerusalem, and he certainly didn’t want to inflict the 613 laws of Judaism on his Greek converts.
I have previously described the Heavy–Weight fight between Peter and Paul. Peter lost. But then what? Did Peter, James, and John quit teaching the “Jewish” Jesus and begin to teach Paul’s “Christos?” I doubt it. These Jewish fishermen couldn’t speak Greek. So what happened?
Well, we know they didn’t have any “churches” in Jerusalem; they still attended the Synagogue. And we also know that if the Jesus–Jews lasted until the year 70AD, they were scattered when the Roman Emperor sent Titus down from Rome to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem.
During this same time, however, Paul’s “Christos cult”, which eventually became Christianity, had already established itself in all the Greek towns along the Mediterranean Sea and had spread all the way to Spain and Rome. They really didn’t need the “Jewish Jesus” anymore.
I know most Christians today believe that Jesus started Christianity and they quote Mt. 16:18 to prove it, and I won’t argue that point at this time, but it’s my humble opinion that if Paul had not entered the scene, we would not be "Christians."
We would all be Jesus–Jews going to the Synagogue.
Several Scripture scholars and historians say that the “historical Jesus” never really existed at all.
Important scholars like Bob Price and Earl Doherty, and many more “Mythicists” say that Paul and the early Christians made up a series of “Christ Myths” that circulated around Jerusalem and the Greek Islands, and these myths morphed into 10 or 20 different “Christ religions.” Now before you get upset, recognize that they’re right about the explosion of Christian religions.
Everybody recognizes the Pelagians and the Arians, but there were so many more “Christian religions” that Emperor Constantine in the year 325AD had to lock up 318 Bishops until they came up with one Church. They called their new Church: Christianity, and declared that all the other branches were heresies. But it didn’t last long. Look around; we have even more branches now than they did. There are two Catholic branches, the Roman and the Eastern Orthodox, each claiming to be the one True Church, and there are hundreds of Protestant denominations. (Maybe we need another Emperor Constantine?)
But back to Jesus. How do we know he existed? Christians believe he existed, but can historians prove he existed? Let’s take a look.
Dr. Bart Ehrman and Dr. Dominic Crossan, two of the most well-known and respected Scripture scholars and historians in our world today have produced enough proof that even gnarly old sceptics like myself have to accept it. Bart wrote a book called: Did Jesus Exist? And Dom wrote: The Historical Jesus. Both authors use historical documents, as well as Scriptural and non-scriptural sources that I bet many of you didn’t know existed. For example:
But the proof I like the best is the one Dr. Ehrman uses, called “Aramaic Words.” If there really was a Jesus, he spoke Aramaic (which sounds a lot like Hebrew). He didn’t write anything; maybe he was illiterate like 98% of his peers. But he talked a lot and people repeated his words, first in Aramaic, then in Greek as that language took over the region.
The Gospels were all written in Greek, 40-70 years after Jesus died by men most scholars say never knew him. They wrote down “oral traditions” that had been passed down from one generation to the next. Were there additions and redactions? Of course. But every once in a while we see an Aramaic word or phrase attributed to Jesus. If these were all made-up Greek myths, we’d never see that. A phrase like “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani” (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me) is Aramaic, not Greek; why would a Greek myth-maker switch languages? And then there’s the touching story in Mark (5:41) where Jesus goes into the bedroom of the 12-year-old girl whom they think is dead, grabs her by the hand and says: “Talitha Koumi” (Get up, little girl!)
Oh I suppose a clever story teller could make his story seem more realistic by switching to the original language and that would explain all those Aramaic words, but I agree with Bart: they sound too much like our man.
At least, that’s my opinion on this Easter Sunday morning and I’m sticking to it.
Were there two people named Jesus? Well, there was an historical Jewish man who lived and died in Galilee in the late 20’s, who was charismatic and bold and fearless, and then there was a “biblical man/God” who walked on water and rose from his grave and started a new religion. Were they the same person? Most Christians say yes.
But many Scripture Scholars say no. Here’s why:
We have some quasi-historical proof mainly from a Jewish writer, Josephus—born in Jerusalem, whose father was a priest and whose mother claimed royal ancestry—who said that there was a Jewish man named Yeshua who lived during the time of John the Baptist and preached a brand of political and religious sedition. Like hundreds of displaced and persecuted Galileans who fought against the Roman occupation and the Pharisaical hypocrisy, this Jew was crucified.
But here’s the kicker: in all probability, this Jew was illiterate. Of the men who lived in that territory at that time, 98% could nether read or write. And the 2% who could, the Priests and Pharisees, didn’t waste their time writing about peasants. Regardless, it is a fact: this Jesus didn’t write a thing. Nothing. He died in Jerusalem around the year 30, and left nothing in writing. And that was the end of the Historical Jesus.
Now the Biblical Jesus begins, not in writing, but in some kind of oral tradition. Hundreds of Jewish men and women who had listened to him speak, begin to repeat what they heard. These peasants can’t read or write so they recite his stories and parables and pronouncements in their own words, first to their own children and grandchildren, and then to anyone in the synagogue who will listen. This goes on for 40-50 years!
Now we have to ask: did each peasant remember the same words of Jesus, spoken in Aramaic, and pass them down, sometimes in Greek, sometimes in Hebrew or Aramaic, without any changes or additions – year after year, generation after generation, for all these 50 years?
Let’s examine this.
We know that the first gospel was Mark’s, written in Greek sometime in the 70’s or early 80’s. We always put Matthew’s gospel first in our Bibles (even though it was written in the late 80’s) because it starts with the birth of Jesus; Mark obviously didn’t have that story. But let’s ask where Mark did get his stories about Jesus, and his exact quotes, and even those statements that Jesus made in a silent prayer with no one around to hear him (Mk.14:36). I think there are three possibilities:
What do you think?