Paul and Jesus. How the Apostle Transformed Christianity. James Tabor. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012.
This is a marvelous little book which is basic to understanding the “historical Paul.” It’s so simple, elegant, and straightforward, that after reading it, one can’t help wondering why someone hadn’t written it earlier. Not only is it important to understanding the historical Paul, but it’s also important to understanding the historical Jesus — because it is through Paul that we have some of our best information about the early Jesus movement.
James Tabor is a key figure in the growing movement to recognize and understand “Jewish Christianity.” Continue reading
A Polite Bribe is an excellent representation of Paul’s journeys as presented in Acts. Because Paul describes his first two journeys to Jerusalem (as a Christian) in his letters, we have the opportunity to “compare and contrast” events in Paul’s letters with the same events described in Acts, written at least fifty years later. But we are adrift when it comes to Paul’s third journey. Paul never mentions this third journey in his letters — except prospectively, as a journey he intends to make at some time in the future. Continue reading
There’s a point in A Polite Bribe when we approach the dramatic confrontation between Paul and Peter at Antioch. Paul thought that he, James, and Peter, had a deal: the message of Jesus could go to the gentiles. But in Antioch Paul is furious that Peter has betrayed this agreement, and denounces Peter to his face. Continue reading
Stephen Kaufman wrote the following review of Disciples. It appeared in the May 15 issue of the e-newsletter of the Christian Vegetarian Association.
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Nearly all Christians accept without question the assertion that Christianity started with Jesus. In this remarkable book, Keith Akers argues convincingly that the movement now called Christianity preceded Jesus’ ministry. It regarded Jesus as an exemplary leader, but evidently it did not consider Jesus divine.
Akers focuses on the Jewish Christian movement – those Jews who followed Jesus during his life and honored him after his death. Though they were the ones who knew Jesus best, their understanding of his teachings was eventually deemed heretical by a Gentile church that was heavily influenced by Paul. Continue reading
The following review of Disciples appeared in Lee Harmon’s blog “The Dubious Disciple”:
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Wow. I wish I had written this book. Speculative but convincingly argued, it strikes a perfect balance between reason and wonder, as it traces the evolution and demise of Jewish Christianity.
I have both curiosity and sympathy for the Ebionites, that early Jewish Christian sect which probably stemmed from the first Christians in Jerusalem, headed by Jesus’ brother James. Their disagreements with Paul, their emphasis on simplicity, and their primitive Christology have always intrigued me. Continue reading
A great new video on early Christianity, A Polite Bribe, has been released. If you’ve never read Paul’s letters or the book of Acts, well guess what–now you don’t have to! They’ve made a movie out of it!
Moreover, it’s a movie that makes some critical points about the history of the early church. There was a split in the early church between Paul and the Jerusalem church. Paul made a collection for the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:10, Romans 15:25–27, etc.). This collection was likely refused by the Jerusalem church. Whoa! What was this all about? Continue reading
Pat Moauro, the editor of The Metaphysical Express (London, Ontario, Canada), has written a review of Disciples, which is posted below. Pat encourages anyone who wants a copy of this journal to e-mail him at patmor123 (at) gmail (dot) com.
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After reading Keith Akers’ newest book, Disciples, I must admit I found some of his information about the origins of Christianity startling and surprising. Although I left traditional Christianity many years ago in favour of metaphysical and New Thought Christianity, I was still somewhat taken aback while reading this book and its conclusions about Jesus Christ, the organization and church built around his name, and the way Christianity has splintered and shattered into hundreds of competing sects and groups, each claiming to be the “True” church founded by Jesus. Continue reading
If you’re in the Denver area, come hear me give a talk on “Christianity in the First Century and Today” on Sunday, May 4, at the First Universalist Church of Denver, 4101 East Hampden Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80222. It will be held at 12:30 p. m. The event is the weekly “Community Forum.” It is scheduled to be held in the Colvin Commons; I will update this post if the room changes.
The church is at the northeast corner of Hampden and Colorado Blvd. Their phone number is 303-759-2770. For more information, check the web site of the First Universalist Church.
I will be interviewed by Mormon Vegetarian Radio (BlogTalkRadio) on Thursday, May 1, at 8 p. m. Mountain Daylight time (that’s 7 p. m.Pacific, 9 p. m.Central, and 10 p. m. Eastern). You can go to the above link and click on Episode 16. They have a copy of Disciples and I will be interested to see what sorts of questions they ask. I will have a copy of The Doctrine and Covenants, section 89. If you want to call in to the program with questions, the number is (347) 324-5516. UPDATE: If you missed the program, you can hear it here.
Ignoring the factionalism in the early church plays into the hands of the Christian traditionalists. When you try to identify the original foundational teaching in the New Testament, without taking into account the factionalism, it’s a confused mess. A variety of completely contradictory views about Jesus is possible. Jesus supported animal sacrifice, or Jesus opposed animal sacrifice; Jesus was apocalyptic, or Jesus was not apocalyptic; and so forth.
The end result is that there is no meaningful scholarly consensus on who Jesus was. Since the scholars don’t agree among themselves, there is no single scholarly consensus about Jesus that can effectively be set up in opposition to Christian traditionalism, and thus by comparison the Christian dogmas don’t look so bad.
But ignoring factionalism also plays into the hands of the mythicists — those who hold that Jesus is himself a myth. Continue reading