|James V Therrien Wrote:|
|Was Paul the father of Gnosticism?|
I submit, dear readers, the following for your entertainment and thoughtful pondering.
We read in the bible that the first followers of Jesus continued to meet in Jewish Temples:"The believers met together in the Temple every day." (Acts 2:46)
We can safely speculate that these first Christians continued to observe Jewish Law and honored the Torah. From here, we have to deconstruct some long held Christian tradition. One of these traditions is that Peter was the first Bishop. By examining contemporary evidence we will find that James, not Peter, was at the forefront of the Jesus movement.
About James election to succeed Jesus, and about his death, we must go to other sources than the bible. Eusebius of Caesarea, (260-340 CE), Archbishop under Constantine, tells us in his Ecclesiastical History that James was "the Lord's brother, who had been elected by the Apostles to the episcopal throne at Jerusalem," (E.H. 2.23). Knowing Jesus would soon depart from them, his disciples, according to the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, asked him who would lead them, "And Jesus said to them, 'In the place you are to go, go to James the Righteous, for whose sake Heaven and Earth came into existence,'" (Nag Hammadi, logion 12). Palestinian Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis (315-404 CE), had access to works he said were called Anabathmoi Jacobou -"the Ascents of James"- and the Gospel of the Hebrews (used by ancient Jewish Christians called Ebionites, or 'the Poor', the latter one also known to Jerome and others), both now lost, in which "once during a drought, he [James] lifted his hands to Heaven and prayed, and at once Heaven sent rain...Thus they no longer called him by his name, but his name was, rather, the Righteous One [in Hebrew, 'the Zaddik']. I believe this to be the Righteous One named in the dead sea scrolls. In a passage surviving only in Eusebius, Clement of Alexandria (150-215 CE) tells us that the "Gift of Knowledge" was imparted by Jesus to "James the Righteous, to John, and to Peter," and that these in turn "delivered it to the rest of the Apostles, and they to the Seventy, of whom Barnabas was one," (E.H. 2.1).
The first "heresy" to hit the movement was Paul, who proclaimed that the 613 commandments no longer applied. The center of the beginning Christian movement was Jerusalem, not Rome, and between James and the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD there were over a dozen bishops~ all of whom kept the Torah tradition.The Pauline splinter group did not even read the Torah, as they were gentiles, who for some, already had prophesies and/or stories of a man born Divine, and were urged to ignore Jewish genealogy and "fables"; i.e. creation stories, as well as the Torah by non other than Paul.
One of the writings of Paul(Galatians) says that he and James split the designated portions of their respective flocks into circumcised and uncircumcised. Read this as Torah observing, and non Torah observing. There is no source contemporary with Paul that speaks of them ever reconciling their theological opinions, and even the testimony of Luke in acts, which I question as a reliable source, has James issuing instructions on Jewish law: "15:19Wherefore my judgment is, that we trouble not them that from among the Gentiles turn to God; 15:20but that we write unto them, that they abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from what is strangled, and from blood." Which IS Jewish law, and to which Paul had stated bluntly: "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (1 Cor. 6:12)" I would submit that the split was far from amicable, and Paul was given the gentiles because James wanted Paul as far from the Jewish population as possible. It is important to also note that from the verses in acts James was instructing gentile converts in the Torah at the same time Paul was urging gentiles to ignore it. This now brings us to three distinct groups; Jewish Christians, Torah observing gentile converts, and non Torah observing gentile converts.
We have the writings of Paul in his Polemics against keeping the Torah, but the Jewish Christian charges against Paul are missing from the bible. To illustrate the animosity that they held against Paul, we again have to go to non biblical sources. In the above 'Recognitions' we also learn of Paul -Quote, "one of our enemies"- who, upon entering the Temple with a few others while James was reading and interpreting prophecy concerning Jesus, "began to cry out," and "while James the Bishop was refuting him" he "began to drive all into confusion with shouting, and undo what was arranged with much labor." In the ensuing rucas, "in the midst of which, this enemy attacked James and threw him headlong from the top of the [Temple] steps, and, supposing him to be dead, cared not to inflict further violence upon him."Though James doesn't die, both his legs are broken, so "our friends lifted him up...and we returned to the House of James, and spent the night there in prayer. Then, before daylight, we went down to Jericho, to the number of five thousand men [see Acts 4:4]."
Now, perhaps James immediately forgave Paul his transgressions upon Paul's conversion, but somebody didn't....they took the time to try to paint Saul as a beast straight out of hell. This simmering resentment in the congregation is important as it gives us another clue as to why Jewish Christians would not later accept the letters of Paul, and a possibility of how the story of Peter traveling to Rome came about.
A story centering around Peter traveling to Rome circulated either intentionally or inadvertently, gave the later heretics, the catholic movement a history to attempt to unite the two groups under one faith; the Jewish Messianic movement refused to yield, and were essentially written out of the Christian story, however, simultaneously the Jewish genealogy and creation stories were introduced to the (non Torah observing) gentile Christians, but not without resistance. Lets go back a ways, and look at some of the things that are possibilities before the time of that movement.
Ignatius wrote in his letter to Rome he associated "the apostles" with "Peter and Paul" (Ig. Romans 4:3). Now recall that all our evidence shows that Paul and Peter parted companies on extremely bad terms at Antioch (Galatians 2:11-14), and we have no evidence of any reconciliation that took place there. Now for Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch, which was in now Turkey, to make such an association between Peter and Paul, is admitting that it is not first hand knowledge, but a tradition acquired from outside of Antioch. Rome itself perhaps?
The evidence on Peter's trip to Rome is based almost entirely onthe apocryphal Acts of Peter, a document composed around 180-190.In fact there is evidence that Peter did not go there at least up to the point of Paul's imprisonment. Paul in his letter to the Romans, did not mention Peter in connection to the church there. This would be surprising if Peter actually was in Rome during that time. The epistle to the Romans was Paul's first attempt at reconciliation with the Jerusalem Church. Remember that in Galatians Paul had called Peter a "hypocrite" (Galatians 2:13) and had referred to James, Peter and John as the "so-called" pillars (Galatians 2:9). Now Paul is calling those in Jerusalem as "saints" (Romans 15:25). It would certainly be to Paul's advantage to mention the connection of the Church in Rome with Peter had that been the case.The author called Luke was supposed to have chronicled Peter's missionary activities and the whole theme of Acts was the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome. If Peter had gone to Rome, and if Luke had known about it, he certainly would have included this here, since it fits his theme so well. This applies similarly to the end of the account when Paul was in Rome, having Peter there with him would been a feather in Paul's cap. Thus we can say with some confidence that if Peter did go to Rome, he went there after Paul's death in 62 CE.
Now, here is where the previous history begins to cast some possibilities on the Christian Gnostic movement; Reading a well laid argument by Herman Detering , who also points out that Paul was detested by a portion of the Jewish church, we can find this other powerful being was out to destroy the church in Rome; He came to embody the resentments of the church in scripture and lore: Simon Magus. According to Hermann Detering, Simon Magus may be a proxy for Paul of Tarsus with Paul originally been detested by the church, and the name introduced to take the heat off from Paul by the latter catholic movement. Paul being thus identified with Simon, Detering argued that Simon's visit to Rome had no other basis than Paul's presence there, and, further, that the tradition of Peter's travel to Rome rests on the assumed necessity of his resisting the arch-enemy of Judaism there as elsewhere.
This connection is not as ridiculous as it may seem; In the recognitions, the similarity to Paul is striking. Simon is there made to maintain that he has a better knowledge of the mind of Jesus than the disciples, who had seen and conversed with Him in person. His reason for this strange assertion is that visions are superior to waking reality, as divine is superior to human. The patriarchs of a latter heresy, catholicism, wrote polemics condemning Simon Magus as the source of all Gnostic thought!
To summarize; We have Simon Magus identified with the source of Gnosticism. We have Paul identified with Simon Magus. We have two separate traditions claiming Apostolic succession from Paul who state that the creator is a lesser being.
There are only two possibilities on the origin of the "gnostic" school of thought in Christianity. 1) the theology originated with at least one (or more) of the Apostles or 2) The theology originated from the outside. If Christian Gnostic theology originated with a single Apostle then the preponderance of evidence states that Paul is the father.
Musings of a Christian Mystic in training
Like the titles says, opinions and speculations is Christian and Gnostic Christian mysticism