The Evangelist Paul,
And His Theology of Christian Apologetics
(Last revised 4-12-2014)
Many Christians believe that the most important event in human history apart from the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth is the conversion to Christianity of Saul (Paul) of Tarsus. But, is that really true?
Granted, without Paul there would be no Christianity as we know it, because Paul was really the main architect of the new religion as it grew in the mid first century, and Paul’s written works were extremely influential in the development of the later Christianity as we know it. After all, Paul wrote and produced the first seven Christian texts that became part of the official church canon (Bible), and he produced them about twenty-three years before the fist gospel (Mark) was produced in 73 AD (CE).
Of course, many Christians don't know that yet. But in fact, a great article titled A Chronological Order of the New Testament, written by Marcus Borg, a member of the prestigious Jesus Seminar, expresses the consensus opinion of most mainstream religious scholars, that Paul was indeed the author of the first seven Christian texts. And Paul's influence was heavy, because they were the only Christian texts between 50 AD (CE) and about 73 CE, when the gospel called Mark was produced.
Of course, “bible-believing” Christian fundamentalists who believe their Bible is without error and is the perfect “Word of God” will refuse to accept that the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not actually the first Christian texts. However, it is crucial that all Christians now understand that the New Testament as we know it was not written in the order we see in the Bible.
It is also crucial for Christians to understand that since the days when Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth, some of his followers understood him more than others, and some were not able to understand him very much at all. Jews who called him the Mashiach Yeshuah ben Yosef understood that he was a son of man in the Jewish tradition, but few if any of his followers understood that he was not only a spiritually anointed son of man (Mashiach or Christus), but also the world Avatar for the age he ushered in.
In fact, Paul and some of the apostles did not understand the meaning of an age or aeon, as Jesus called it, and they thought that all the prophecies, including the propheies of Jesus, would be fulfilled "before this generation passes" -- during their life times. They thought a "second coming" of Jesus and the "end" of the age was imminent, and they had no idea what would actually happen.
But Jesus did. And he understood that he ushered in an age of conflict and division that would culminate in a terrible tribulation that humanity has been suffering during the last 100 years, with many wars and rumors of war, and with many natural and man made catastrophic disasters -- which would be signs that the coming of the modern son of man is near.
Now the time has come, and the modern son of man has delivered the promised judgment, which declares that Christianity is not yet what it was meant to be, which is why things are just as Jesus said they would be -- with hypocrites claiming to do "many wonderful works in the name of the Lord" when they actually serve Mammon and work iniquity.
Christianity is not yet what it was meant to be because of the Pauline influence on Christianity as we know it. But thank God, even though the Christian Bible as we know it contains much untruth, it nevertheless contains much truth as well. And because of that, all genuine, good Christians understand that the humble, gentle, kind, peaceful and meek manority shall inherit the earth by abiding by the Golden Rule.
Unfortunately, good Christians are drowned out by proud and militant hypocrites who aggressively follow the ways of those who preach the doctrines of men for commandments, and they have followed sanctimonious patriarchs who have masqueraded as Christians as they have wreaked havoc on earth, lusting after and fighting for wealth, power, and domain.
Hypocrites have gotten away with it, and still get away with it, because Christianity as we know it is not what Jesus of Nazareth intended and it contains false doctrines and myths. And Jesus knew it would. He foresaw it, and predicted it.
Amazingly, Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the American Declaration of Independence, understood that, which is why he wrote that: "Paul was the first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus."
The "Christian Right" of Jefferson's day accused him of heresy because of it, of course. But in America that is something not generally known. In fact, during the last 20 years, especially since more scholars have been pointing out such facts, right-wing "fundamentalist Christians" have also been condemning Jefferson as a heretic for saying such a thing. In fact, they not only label Jefferson and certain other Founding Fathers such as James Madison and Thomas Paine as heretics. They even condemned George Washington and Benjamin Franklin because they were Freemasons.
So, since this issue has increasingly become very crucial again during the last 30 years, you should know that even though most of the Founding Fathers, including Jefferson, loved the actual core teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, they were very critical of the traditional Christian dogma that had impacted the world so terribly since the fourth century.
For example, Jefferson wrote: "Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus."However, even though Jefferson loved Jesus, he recognized how Jesus' message had been distorted and exaggerated.
Jefferson also wrote: "But a short time elapsed after the death of [Jesus] the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State."
It is rather amazing that Jefferson and others realized that so long ago, without the benefit of all the modern archaeology, anthropology and scholarly research that has proven Jefferson correct.
That is why the truth should be known by all.
Paul and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles
The book of Acts (of the apostles) was written toward the end of the first century, some 30 to 40 years after Paul had written his epistles and established his extensive theology which had become dominant by the time Acts was written. And as we know, Acts describes Paul’s conversion from a Pharisaic Jew to a Christian three times, apparently to thoroughly document the idea that “the voice of Jesus” told Saul (Paul) from out of the blue that he was called by God and chosen as a “chosen vessel” of Jesus.
Acts 9:1-19 tells how Paul said the conversion happened. Acts 22:3-21 says Paul told a Roman officer in Jerusalem about it, and then Acts 26:1-18 says Paul told the Jewish king, Agrippa II, about his conversion and his theology.
However, the book of Acts regards Paul in a less elevated role than Paul assumes in his epistles. Paul’s epistles, such as his letters to the Corinthians, were written as if he was not only an authorized apostle, but as if he was the chief Christian authority. And that, by the way, was despite the fact that according to the Gospel of Thomas (which was excluded from the Christian Bible in 180 CE and officially rejected in the fourth century), Jesus said his followers should follow James when he was gone.
In spite of that, Paul elevated himself not only as "vessel of Christ" but also as a lawgiver, especially in his letter to the Corinthians. And Paul was the first to claim in writing that Jesus had been born of a virgin (stating that “God sent His Son, born of a woman"); that Jesus died to free the world of sin, and that he overcome death. That is why most modern Christian scholars consider Paul as the actual architect of Christianity as we know it.
However, even though Pauline Christianity became the official canonized version of Christianity as we know it, it is significant that Luke's book of Acts differs in some very certain ways from Paul's claims and opinions.
The book of Acts apparently does accept Paul’s claim that he was a “vessel,” but it does not elevate him above the apostles. In fact, the book of Acts makes it clear that the actual apostles were only the twelve Jesus chose in person (Acts 1:21-22). And that was no doubt to correct what Paul had written in his epistles claiming that he was an apostle, and that he had "seen" and been called by Jesus.
It is also significant that the books of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John make no mention of Paul. But the accounts of Paul’s conversion in the book of Acts support Paul’s assertions in his epistles, and therefore supports Paul's theology of Christian Apologetics -- which is a defense against the objections and refutations of Rabbinical and Talmudic Jews who understand why Paul was wrong about a lot of things.
Even though Paul did get a lot of things right, his basic theology is flawed for a number of reasons, as is explained in the article About Christianity and other supporting articles about Jesus, his birth, life, mission, teachings, and prophecies.
The point here is that even though the three accounts about Paul’s conversion in the book of Acts describes Paul as seeing "a light" and hearing "the voice of Jesus" (Acts 9:3-4; 22:6-7; 36:13-14), none of those three accounts say that Paul saw the face or person of Jesus, or even his ghost. And yet, in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians Paul claims that he did see Jesus himself, and he insisted that he was at least equal in authority with the apostles who actually heard and saw Jesus as he lived and breathed.
In 1 Corinthians 9:1 Paul argues "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?"
In fact, Paul never saw Jesus, but in all of Paul’s epistles or letters, Paul emphasizes or even leads with that claim. In the very first sentence Paul’s epistles or letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul submits that he was an apostle, or that he was called by God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.
In fact, Paul even claimed that “God’s son is in me,” whereas the later writers of the four canonical gospels did not make such a claim, but reported what they thought were the most important things they recalled Jesus said in person. For example, John 14:16-20 reports that Jesus said:
"God will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you will know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will . ... On that day you will realize that I am in God, and you are in me, and I am in you."
In other words, Jesus said even though he would no longer be seen in the world, his disciples would see the Light of the Christ within.
However, that was written long after Paul wrote his epistles, and yet Paul wrote in Galatians 1:15-16 of his conversion and stated that God had “called me by his grace to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach ...,” and Paul even claimed he spoke for Jesus.
That is why it is important to consider the full context of what John wrote later, to report more of what Jesus had said:
"I tell you the truth: I must go away, but I will send the Counselor to you. He will righteously judge the world; because I am going to heaven and you will see me no more. I came not to judge the world, but the rulers of this world must be judged. I have much more to say to you, but it is more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak of himself, because of himself he will do nothing but the will of the one who sent him. He will [write and] speak only what he hears from God, and he will tell you what is to come. He will glorify me by having what is mine and making it known to you." (Paraphrasing and clarifying John 8:28, John 12:47, and John 16:7-15)
John had probably told that part of the story many times by word of mouth before it was written down in about 90 CE, and Paul had no doubt heard the story. However, it does not speak of Paul, even though Paul probably assumed it did. That could have been why Paul made a point of calling himself an apostle and claiming to speak for Jesus. That would indicate that he himself may have believed he was the one Jesus had spoken of.
However, Paul was wrong if that was his assumption, just as he was wrong about many other things.
For example, Paul was wrong telling his story of the new covenant and many other Hebrew prophecies. He was also wrong in thinking that the “second coming” of Jesus and the “end of the world” were imminent and would happen during his generation. In fact, he was not only wrong about that happening then. He was wrong about it happening at all.
Paul was also wrong in Ephesians 2:8-9 by writing that: "By grace you have been saved through faith ... not a result of works." But that is simply not true.
As Jesus and James said, you will know true Christians by their good works, and faith without good works is dead. In fact, James 2:17-18 states that: “Faith without good works is dead, being alone. For if a man may say, you have faith and I have works, so show me your faith without your works, I will show you my faith by my works.”
Paul's errors were perhaps made because he was a zealous convert, and it was perhaps because of Paul’s assumptions that his initial preaching to people in person wasn't very successful. It was only after a good number of years studying the Tanakh (or Hebrew Bible), arriving at his own interpretations and theological conclusions, and then finalizing and distributing the first group of his letters or epistles in 50 CE that Paul began to be widely accepted by many as a Christian authority, even by Peter, Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Paul’s Theology Becomes Detrimental to Jews
Since Paul was the author of the first seven Christian texts, and since Paul's influence was therefore very heavy, it is helpful to understand why Paul's influence was detrimental to Jews.
Take, for example, one of the first Christian texts, Paul’s I Thessalonians 2:14-16. It was produced in 50 AD (CE) and it states: “For you, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for you also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always. For the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.”
Galatians 1:13-14, also produced in 50 CE, states: "For you have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation..."
Thus Paul blames "the Jews" and makes an obvious distinction between "the Jew's religion" and "The Church of God" -- and reveals that he thinks they are different, despite the fact that Jesus was clearly a Jew and a reformer of Judaism.
1 Corinthians 9:20, also produced in 50 CE, states: "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews." And even though in context Paul was saying how he tailored his message to his audience, saying "unto the Jews I became as a Jew" is indicative of his identifying with "The Church of God and Christ" as opposed to the synagogues of Judaism.
The irony is that Paul used the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible to claim Jesus fulfilled certain Jewish prophecies that were not fulfilled, and Paul's conclusions influenced later authors. Even though Paul's interpretation of the Torah and Tanakh (Old Testament) was inaccurate, his epistles managed to convince the authors of later texts.
Thus Paul established a new religion with his new theology of Apologetics, and he established the idea of a “Church of God” (Galatians 1:14). And the later Christian texts of Mark (in 70 CE), Matthew (between 80 and 90 CE), Luke (around 90 CE), and others went along with that idea, even though James, Thomas, Philip, and others did not.
The point, by the way, which is discussed in more detail in the article About Christianity, is that in the first century the followers of Jesus were not a cohesive or unified body. They were split apart into several groups. Some followed Paul, who was in conflict with James and his followers. Some were in the group now called Gnostics, which included Thomas, Philip, Mary Magdalene, Judas and others who regarded Paul's group as misguided and pretentious. And still others were in groups that identified more with one of the sects of Essenes, or with the teachings of both Jesus and Hillel the Elder.
But, ultimately, it was the Pauline concept of Christianity that became absolutely dominant by 180 CE and was of course completely institutionalized in the fourth century by Roman Emperor Constantine.
Anyway, to get back to how Paul's works were detrimental to Jews, it should be noted that II Thessalonians goes even further in condemning Jews who did not accept Jesus as a Mashiach (Messiah). It was produced decades after the first, but it copies many things from I Thessalonians, and it continues to condemn certain Jews and all others who did not accept Jesus as the Lord and Savior.
It states: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.”
That kind of vindictive thinking is consistent with Paul’s I Thessalonians.
It’s interesting, though, that those two epistles attributed to Paul were written at different times, the first in 50 CE as the first Christian text produced, and the second decades later. According to most mainstream religious scholars, II Thessalonians was not written by Paul, but by someone writing in his name (as well as in the name of Timothy and another less known person) some three to four decades after Paul’s death in the 60s of the first century CE.
That would make sense, because that would have been after the Jewish Roman War and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple in 70 CE. So whether the main author was Paul or not, that’s probably why the author of II Thessalonians would have been thinking that the “Jews” deserved it.
This is an important and significant issue because it had horrible ramifications and consequences. Jews began to be persecuted and oppressed in the first century for several reasons. One was partly because of the misguided doctrines in Pauline Christianity that were that were obviously anti-Jewish, as has been shown, despite the fact that multitudes of Jews, along with multitudes of Greeks, had accepted Jesus as son of man and Mashiach.
Paul's first Christian text actually added kindling that eventually fueled the fire that broke out 16 years later. But other kindling, as well as the spark to ignite the fire, was provided by Jews who began to ignore not only the teachings of Jesus, but also the teachings of the peaceful House of Hillel.
Hillel the Elder was a wise Jewish sage who had preached the Golden Rule even before Jesus did. But after Hillel died many Jews began to be influenced by the antagonistic House of Shammai. And the tragic result of Paul's and Shammai's work was the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 CE-AD), which brought a crushing defeat of the Jews and the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
It was those two factors (because of the words and actions of Paul and Shammai) that led to not only to the Jewish uprising and the Jewish-Roman War, defeat at the hands of the Romans and the destruction of Jeruslalem and the Jewish Temple, but also to the Diaspora, the fleeing of many Jews from their home land to other countries and even Europe, and to the persecution and oppression of Jews who settled in Europe and then in America.
That was largely because Pauline Christianity became very dominant between 180 CE and the fourth century, and that led to Christian discrimination and prejudice against Jews. And it eventually led to the extreme prejudice and condemnation against Jews by Adolph Hitler as he was rising to power in Germany claiming to be a good Catholic Christian who was "doing God's will." And, Hitler's feelings were widespread, because as Hitler was rising to power in Germany, Jews even in America were also facing terrible discrimination and persecution, especially in the South, which is why many of them changed their names to hide their Jewishness.
Why and When Pauline Christianity and Theology Became Dominant
By 180 CE Paul's 13 epistles began to be considered official church canon, along with the other gospels. So this is an important issue because, as you will see below, the New Testament in the Christian Bible — as it developed from the last half of the first century CE (AD) thought the fourth century when the official church canon and bible was chosen and officially compiled — essentially makes Paul the chief “architect” of the church. (See A Chronological New Testament, by Marcus Borg, which reveals why the placing the Christian New Testament canon in chronological order makes it clear that the gospels, which were written after most of Paul's epistles, were not the source of early Christianity, but its product.)
That is why Pauline Christianity became dominant over the Christianity of the other groups, such as James' group, which was in conflict with Paul's group.
It would appear that Paul's group included Peter and perhaps Luke (if Luke wrote the book of Acts), even though the gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John and others do not mention Saul or Paul, and it was the apostle James who was the most gifted and enlightened Christian who understood the real intent, mission, and universal teachings of Jesus.
Now, some modern, liberal, progressive Christian scholars agree that the book of Acts does not support the idea that Paul was made chief authority over the Christians. Most progressive Christian scholars would agree that Paul’s calling was inferior to that of the original twelve apostles. And many progressive scholars even see some of the flaws and fabrications in the official Pauline Christian church canon.
However, even the most liberal and progressive Christian scholars still fail to see the complete picture and story. They still see Paul as a legitimate and valid Christian evangelist and missionary.
For example, one prominent progressive Christian scholar, John Dominic Crossan, a member of the Jesus Seminar, submits that the differences between the book of Acts and Paul’s epistles were not because the author of Acts lacked correct information about Paul, but rather interpreted Paul’s viewpoint with hindsight, long after Paul wrote his epistles.
Even though Crossan and other members of the Jesus Seminar (like Karen Armstrong and Marcus Borg) are doing great work, Crossan's viewpoint regarding Paul is problematic, because the acceptance of Paul’s epistles as “gospels” influenced the following gospels, and because Paul was a converted Pharisaic Jew he was antagonistic toward Judaism. For that and other reasons he was a misleading influence on Christians.
Even so, apparently Peter and some other apostles accepted Paul’s take on Hebrew prophecies. And even though Paul was wrong about some things, his writings were successful in establishing the theology of Christian Apologetics which claims that Jesus of Nazareth, among other things, fulfilled prophecies, was literally resurrected, “overcame death” and therefore “freed the world from sin,” and would literally “come again.” Those ideas are based on the writings of Paul and the gospel writers who agreed with him. But they are based on an incorrect interpretation of the Judaic scriptures in the Hebrew Bible – Paul’s interpretation.
Thomas Jefferson realized that back in the late 1700s, even without the benefit of all the modern historical and archaeological evidence we have now. And Jefferson wrote that: "Paul was the first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus."
That is because Paul’s ideas were antagonistic toward Judaism. He saw Christianity as opposed to “the Jews’ religion.” (Galatians 1:13-14).
James and others, on the other hand, understood the real and true foundation of Jesus' teachings. They understood that the golden rule was originally taught by the great Jewish Essene Sage, Hillel the Elder, whose teachings influenced Jesus and his family. They knew that was why Jesus was a martyr and pacifist, who advised us to judge not, lest we be so judged; turn the other cheek; resist not evil but love good; "render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and love even our enemy.
Paul thought such advice was secondary to his theology and doctrines claiming that Christianity superseded Judaism and was destined to be the supreme and superior religion that must become dominant in the world in order to "save the souls" of Jews and Gentiles (everyone else who is not Jewish).
The problem was that Paul grossly misunderstood the role and mission of Jesus. Jesus was a Jewish Mashiach whose mission was to reform Judaism and make it more inclusive. But Paul, who was technically a Jew and served the Sanhedrin before his conversion, was actually the chief architect of what we now call Christianity. And Paul's theology of Apologetics is antagonistic toward what Paul called "the religion of the Jews."
Paul established Christianity according to his own theology, which was laid out in his first seven epistles produced and distributed to the churches in 50 C.E. -- and according to Marcus Borg, an esteemed member of the Jesus Seminar, they were the first Christian texts written 20 years before the first gospel was produced.
Here are some examples that reveal Paul's real attitude toward the "religion of the Jews."
Galatians 1:13-15 -- "For you have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace."
That reveals Paul's idea of the two separate religions.
Galatians 2:14 -- "But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If you, being a Jew, live after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compel the Gentiles [non-Jewish Christians] to live as do the Jews?"
That reveals that Paul believed that Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians should not have to live and act as Jews or according to the Jewish traditions because they belonged to a different religion and to the "Church of God."
1 Corinthians 10:32 -- "Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God."
That reveals that Paul belonged to the Church of God, not to a Synagogue of Judaism. And Paul used the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Tanakh (Old Testament), to justify his ideas of how and why Jesus fulfilled Jewish prophecies -- and stretched way too far in doing so. That's one of the reasons Paul was at odds not only with Jewish hierarchy, but with James and other Christians (like the Gnostics) as well.
Paul and Paul's followers who adopted the idea that the blood of Jesus was shed to provide salvation and establish the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah did not understand Jeremiah or Jesus. In fact, The New Covenant described by Jeremiah has not yet been fulfilled.
However, Paul and others who adopted the idea that the blood of Jesus was shed to provide salvation and establish the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah, and they did that because they did not understand Moses, David, Solomon, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Enoch, or Jesus.
Jesus knew that he ushered in a age of conflict and division that would be caused by wicked men (many of whom claimed and still claim to be Christians, and many of whom claimed and still claim to be Jews or Muslims). And Jesus knew the New Covenant would not be established until the end of the age.
Paul and others of like mind did not understand what Jesus understood. They did not understand why Moses wrote that God is not a man, nor a son of man. They did not understand why Isaiah wrote that we should not liken God to any man. And they also did not understand that the martyrdom of Jesus was not about “salvation.”
They did not understand why King David had written that salvation comes only from the Lord God and not from a son of man, which was why the martyrdom of Jesus was “an offering for sin” or guilt offering (which is what the prophet Isaiah actually wrote). And it was really about his being a perfect example of a loving, forgiving, peaceful pacifist.
Paul’s doctrines, which became completely dominant by the fourth century, were in certain ways contrary to that, in the sense that they caused Christians to believe that they had an "evangelical mandate" to essentially rule the world to “spread the word of God,” even if it meant living by the sword and killing to do it.
Of course, even Paul would have thought that was wrong. For even Paul wrote that “the weapons of the Lord are not carnal [or lethal], but are mighty through God from pulling down strongholds [of military power].” And he also wrote of the “sword of the Spirit” being the written word of God.
That’s one of many things Paul got right, but, because of his theology and doctrine of Christian preeminence and superiority over Judaism and all other religions, many Christian heads of state focused on that to justify their military industrial empires.
Ironically, Paul gave them even more specific reason to justify themselves. In Romans 13:4 Paul states that “evil doers should be afraid, for the minister of God bears the sword as a revenger to execute wrath upon him that does evil.”
Paul's Theology Becomes Dangerous
Beginning in the fourth century the Pauline version of Christianity justified Christian Monarchs to carry on the Roman military imperial tradition, and it was the same even after the Protestant Reformation because Paul’s theology and doctrines justified them in building, maintaining and spreading their “Christian” military industrial empires, ostensibly to “save souls” and “spread the Word of God.”
That tradition began with the first “Christian” Monarch, the Roman Emperor Constantine, and his successor, Roman Emperor Theodosius, who was far more zealous in his war against “pagans” to solidify Christian rule, setting a firm and cruel precedent.
That justified the Christian Crusades, which began in 1099 when European Christians conquered and took control of Jerusalem. By 1126 they ruled completely, and during the next several decades they conquered and controlled lands, huge estates and fortresses from England to Egypt. They grew very rich, and owed allegiance to no one but the Pope, and all kings owed them and bowed to them.
By 1187 the "Christian" Kingdom of Jerusalem was so weakened by its own greed, corruption, internal conflicts and disputes over wealth and power, that the Muslim leader Saladin was able to take control, and he took most of the Christian nobility of the kingdom as prisoners. However, Saladin was merciful and treated the Christians well. And when Saladin took control of Acre, Nablus, Jaffa, Toron, Sidon, Beirut and Ascalon, he behaved so mercifully that he was regarded even by Europeans as a noble and merciful warrior.
The same cannot be said of Richard “The Lion Heart,” King of England, who in 1191 led the third Christian Crusade against Saladin in an attempt to retake Jerusalem. Richard in fact slaughtered thousands of Muslim prisoners he had taken. And even though Richard scored one victory over Saladin’s forces in Jaffa, his crusade failed to take Jerusalem, just as the second and the next two crusades failed.
A sixth Crusade was waged by German Emperor Frederick II, who in 1223 was commissioned by the Roman Catholic Pope. But, when Frederick arrived in Palestine neither he nor the Muslim leader, Al-Kamil, had much power, so there were no “grand battles” over Jerusalem. They simply signed a treaty which returned Jerusalem to the Christians and enabled the Muslims to retain possession of the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, and were to be allowed free access to and within the city.
Even so, the “Christian Crusader” and “Christian Soldier” mentality persisted and justified many Christian Emperors and Kings. It persists even today, because right-wing Christians justify themselves with the idea that “Jesus Christ Our Lord” “came not to bring peace, but a sword.”
However, they do not realize that Jesus said that not because he sanctioned or approved of living by the sword. He said it because he knew he ushered in an age of division and conflict during which spiritually blind men would live by the sword.
That’s why Jesus said: “I came not to bring peace, but division.” (Luke 12:51) He also said “those who live by the sword perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52, And, when Peter picked up a sword to protect Jesus from the Roman soldiers who came to arrest him, Jesus said to put it down, because he was a peaceful, forgiving pacifist.
Granted, most reasonable people in the world believe that civilized societies need armed police forces and military forces, and the modern son of man agrees. But he, like most conscientious, civilized, humanitarian people, believes that lethal deadly force should used only as a last resort, to protect people’s lives from those who are killing or threatening to kill them, and to stop armed foreign aggressors from conquering and occupying lands and territories that belong to others.
That, unfortunately, is not what many Christian emperors, kings and heads of state have done during the last sixteen centuries as they built and expanded their empires, largely because they justified themselves with the Christian doctrine of preeminence and superiority.
That is clearly contradictory to the actual teachings and intent of Jesus, and the truth must be told because the false doctrines that became part of the official church canon and summed up in the Nicene Creed in the fourth century have been used to claim that unless you profess that Jesus was the Lord God and Savior "Himself," you will suffer in hell for eternity.
That is simply not true, because as Isaiah wrote, only God is the Savior. Jesus himself knew that, which is why he said things like "God is greater than I" (John 14:28) and “You have not heard God’s voice or seen God’s shape at any time.” (John 5:37) And even though Jesus realized his oneness with God, as we all can, he knew and said he was not God, but God’s servant.
Unfortunately, the doctrine of preeminence and superiority and its threat of hell and damnation has suited emperors and kings and military industrial imperialists since the fourth century. And in modern times it has enabled false shepherds and false prophets on the “religious right” to establish a huge cult in the name of "Jesus Christ," unwittingly becoming as the blind leading the blind, totally unaware that the title of "Christ" is not a last name but a title meaning "anointed one" who serves God.
(Continued at Part 2, which discusses how and why Paul’s theology became dominant.)