No, not the folk singing trio from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Rather, I am talking about the three most important figures in the discussion of who was, or were, the true successors of Jesus. I am going to use this post to tie together a bunch of ideas I’ve had, some of which I have mentioned before, some of which I haven’t stop that means this post is going to be somewhat longer than what you’re used to seeing from me. I ask your indulgence on that part.
St. Paul, probably the one that we have the most “information” available in the Christian tradition, is the most enigmatic of the three. As I said in an earlier post, I am not sure that the Paul of tradition is one and the same person. Rather, he is at least two or maybe even three different people. One is a Jewish Pharisee. Two is a Greek steeped in the dualism of Greek philosophy. The third is someone within the Roman establishment who, probably several centuries later then the crucifixion, created the mythos of the Christ as a way to perhaps preserve the Roman status quo. After all, by the third and fourth centuries the Roman empire was crumbling and it needed something to help it limp along what better way then a religious system (set of symbols with very powerful meanings) that would serve as a unifying force for the Roman establishment. After all, look at the unifying force that Islam turned out to be several hundred years later and still is.
Peter is the most respected in some ways of all of Jesus’s followers. He is “the rock upon which I will build my church.” Trouble is, there is no real evidence, other than the Gospel of John, that Jesus ever talked about establishing a new church. As Jesus said repeatedly in the synoptic Gospels, quote I come not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.” The law here is the covenant between man and God. Covenant requires a blood sacrifice to build the covenant. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his own son Isaac, but God relented at the end and presented Abraham with an alternative sacrifice, a ram caught in a thorn bush. Trouble is, given the nature of the covenant between man and God, a ram provided by God is not sufficient to fulfill man’s role in this covenant, or God’s role as well. Ultimately, a man had to be sacrificed. A man of God. Jesus fit that role. That is why he is called the son of man. Jesus never claimed that he was the son of God, except in the Gospel of John, which we will discuss in a minute. Rather he always claimed he was a man. Interesting note, here, the Hebrew word for man is Adama. Look familiar? Jesus, when he called himself the Son of Man, he was really referring to himself as the Son of Adam. Aren’t we all?
Finally, there is Mary Magdalene. In the canonical Gospels, Mary plays a rather small role. She is rarely mentioned except briefly in the Resurrection story. For centuries and centuries, Mary was considered to be the prostitute who anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped those feet with her hair, a mark of respect preparing Jesus for his burial. It is only recently that the Catholic Church has admitted its error. Magdalene was not a prostitute. Some researchers think she may very well have been the wife of Jesus, Whether they actually got married in a legal ceremony or merely a common-law arrangement is really not relevant. The Gospel of Philip mentions that Jesus kissed her full on her -… and then the word is missing, although most people assume it was mouth. It is highly unlikely that Jesus would go around regularly kissing a woman on the mouth that was not, in some sense, his wife. The Gnostic tradition has Mary going to France when she flees Palestine after the Crucifixion. She is pregnant with the daughter of Jesus when she flees. That daughter, Sarah, married a Merovingian king, and early French tribal dynasty, So it is possible that there are, to this day, blood descendents of Mary Magdalene and Jesus running around the world, perhaps in France (among other places). There are two books, one fiction, one nonfiction, that deal with this concept. The fictional work Is the Da Vinci Code; the nonfiction work is Holy Blood, Holy Grail. I suggest you read both. Much food for thought in either of them.
According to the Orthodox tradition, St. Peter is buried underneath the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Supposedly, the remains are wrapped in purple cloth, obviously denoting his role as Bishop of Rome, the first Bishop of Rome. I am somewhat skeptical about whether Peter ever really did go to Rome. There is evidence that suggests he served as the Bishop of Antioch, which makes a great deal of sense since Antioch is not all that far from Jerusalem. Why would an illiterate fisherman from Galilee go to Rome. Where he does not speak the language and the people of Rome certainly do not speak Aramaic, the common language of Palestine at that time. It is uncertain whether even Jesus spoke anything other than Aramaic and may be a little Hebrew, since he was familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures.
As far as Peter be buried wearing purple robes, that seems a bit far-fetched for the first century. Remember Christianity was a clandestine religion at the time, not only illegal but sorely persecuted. If those phones really are St. Peter’s, and again I am dubious on that one, if they were buried in purple it was a reburial probably centuries later, which calls into question whether those really are the remains of St. Peter. Also, according to the tradition of the Catholic Church, St. Peter was crucified upside down stop that is a rather unusual request because in the folk traditions of Western Christianity, and upside down crucifix is the mark of Satan and of Satanic worshipers. Are we to assume then that Peter was not really a follower of Christ but rather a follower of Satan?
Paul, on the other hand. Whether he was a Pharisee or whether he was a Greek or whether he was a Roman, probably was literate and at least one or two languages the common language of the middle east and Asia minor in the first century was koine Greek. The earliest texts of the New Testament and the Gnostic texts dealing with Jesus are all written in koine Greek. There is no Aramaic text for any of the gospel, although it is highly dubious that the writers of Mark Matthew. Luke, on the other hand, who tradition says he was a physician, probably was fluent in koine Greek and perhaps even knew some although that is highly debatable. The point that I’m trying to make here is that the text that we have, even those dating back to the third century for a little before, are not the original. Or are they? I think it can be argued that perhaps the gospel are not as old as some Christians would like us to believe. Perhaps even the letters of Paul are not that old. I would dearly love to be able to research the textual history of the Gospels and Paul’s letters. I think it is a plausible argument that those claims of dates back to the first and second century maybe Spirit. It may be that the whole New Testament is nothing more than a great fiction, and I think I might even include the capital Gnostic capital Gospels in that fiction. I think a great deal more textual research needs to be done before we make any claims as to the historical validity of those Stop as I have said earlier, Paul may very well not be who we think he. It may be a fiction as well stop it certainly as valid an explanation as the conversion on the road to Damascus stop
Finally, at least for now, the idea that Peter required Paul to take up a collection among the churches of Asia minor (what churches in Asia minor? I thought Paul started does churches.) Is a bit ludicrous in my opinion. Why would Peter want all this money in the first place? Did not Jesus say that the disciples and Christians in general by implication should not be concerned about material wealth? That God would provide for them? I think this whole thing about the collection for the poor in Jerusalem is a fiction created to try and give Paul some validity in the eyes of early Christians or to make him more important in the early history of the church than he really was to me, it seems an attempt to support the idea that Jesus appointed Peter the rock upon which he would build his church, if indeed Jesus plan to build a new religion. Paul, in my eyes, comes off as a self serving hypocrite, whose only interest is in getting as much influence/power as he can in the church that he himself founded in order to make Christianity the cornerstone of the new Roman hierarchy.