I’m going to talk about both Peter and Paul together in this first article about both of them. Later articles will talk about them individually, but the tradition has them so intertwined that we need to talk about them in the beginning together. It is my contention that the Orthodox tradition about both Peter and Paul is greatly corrupted. Whether that is due to accident or deliberate misrepresentation is a question we will hopefully get a grip on in these articles.
Both Peter and Paul, according to the Orthodox tradition, were executed in Rome at about the same time. The general opinion is that these executions occurred during the reign of the Emperor Nero. Obviously Nero was a great persecutor of Christians if one accepts the received tradition. At the bottom of this article are links to websites that discuss St. Peter. One is from Wikipedia, the Free Online Encyclopedia, the other from Catholic.org. In the Wikipedia article it states that a tomb of Peter was found in Jerusalem. Yet the Catholic Church fully believes that the human remains found beneath the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome are the remains of St. Peter. Perhaps the Orthodox tradition is wrong and St. Peter never went to Rome.. We shall see.
In the Orthodox tradition, Peter is seen as the leader of the Christian community immediately following the Ascension of Jesus. Yet, as we have seen in my articles about St. James, it was St. James who some considered the head of the church until his execution. The Roman Catholic tradition says that James was executed by Herod Agrippa, Some traditions say it was the high priest that executed James. It was Peter who ruled on whether Gentiles can be come Christians and whether they need to be circumcised upon their conversion to Christianity. According to the Acts of the Apostles, written by someone who was probably the same author who wrote the Gospel according to Luke, and who more than likely was a Pauline Christian if not a companion to Paul himself, Paul brought several Gentile Christians with him to the Council of Jerusalem to get a ruling from Peter, thereby acknowledging Peter as the primary apostle.
Why would Paul want to acknowledge Peter’s primacy? I think that all of that part of the tradition, including the events of the Council of Jerusalem, are at later addition to the tradition that probably contradicts at least in part what actually happened. Pauline Christianity, read Roman Christianity, wanted to maintain its hold on power. The Roman Christians, many of whom converted after Constantine the great became a Christian and after he declared Christianity to be the state religion of Rome, were members of the Roman power structure, probably even the Pontifex Maximus, the head of the old Roman pagan religion, and a title that was given to the Bishop of Rome at some point shortly after the Donation of Constantine.
As we shall see in the next article, titled The Greatest Heretic of Them All, the original Christian heresy that became Christian orthodoxy is, in fact, Pauline Christianity. It is my contention that the St. Paul of the tradition is not the real St. Paul. As a matter of fact, I question whether Paul ever really existed. There may very well have been a Pharisee from Antioch who persecuted Christians, probably in complicity with the high priest and the Sanhedrin. There may very well have been a Pauline Christian in Rome who preached to the Roman aristocracy, not the gospel of Jesus, but rather the Gospel according to St. Paul, which would help perpetuate the political status quo in Rome. It is possible that there was a early Greek Christian who preached to the various cities in Asia minor and Greece and perhaps he did or did not write the letters attributed to St. Paul. As we shall see in the next articles there are many contradictions within the theology of those letters. Most Christian scholars, at least the serious ones, are fully convinced that not all of the letters attributed to Paul were actually written by the person we know as Paul. They were written perhaps by followers of Paul or…. Use your imagination.