Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Gospel Truth?

A follow up to my previous post.

James, "the brother of the Lord," was no Christian.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from the actions of James as portrayed in The Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles and other early church writings is that the understanding of Jesus held by the Jerusalem church was radically different from that we have from Paul and have inherited as Orthodoxy. James' ruling in the Council of Jerusalem was, in effect, that Paul's Gentile converts must keep the same Noahide Laws that uncircumcised "God Fearers" had been required to keep for years. James was maintaining the status quo vis-a-vis Jew and Gentile. There was no "equality in Christ." He still considered himself and all the other members of the Jerusalem church as fully Jewish. He makes a point of how zealous his followers are for the Temple. When Paul arrives in Jerusalem, James even forces Paul to make a public show of visiting the Temple. Does this sound like a "Christian" church as we know it or more like a sect of Judaism.

One might argue that James was not one of the Apostles and that members of Jesus family did not understand his mission: But Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." (Mark 6:4). Now Peter is portrayed as such a muddled wimp in both the Gospels and the Epistles that one would not expect him to prevent a power play by a relative of Jesus. But what about the "Pillar" John? It strains credulity that James would have been allowed by the Holy-Spirit-led "True" Apostles to rise to the leadership of the group had he not been a long time follower of Jesus.

Now, we have a brother (or cousin, if you are Catholic) of Jesus chosen to lead the Home Church. What happens when James is murdered by the Chief Priests? Who takes over as head of the Jerusalem Church? Is it one of the Apostles? No? Perhaps they were all busy being martyred somewhere. Actually, the church chooses cousin Simeon, another relative of Jesus, as the second Bishop of Jerusalem. They keep it in the family?! Very curious and not at all what one would expect given the Universalist Theology that Paul is selling in Asia and Rome.

This all raises a question: Who would understand Jesus intentions better - those who knew him his entire life and followed him in his ministry? Or, Paul who never met Jesus and even claims to have spent the first three years as a Christian in Arabia, avoiding those who had known Jesus personally?

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