Paul And The
Disciples Of Jesus
"It is amazing," they said, "that your Church can read in the writings extant concerning our relations with Paul the account of the mistrust, suspicion, and disfavour with which we always regarded him, and not see that he was never one with us."
It was represented to me that the common view of Paul's character and position with regard to the primitive Church is a totally false one; and the persons who made the communication which I am about to relate, appeared to me to have been personally acquainted with Paul, and to be thoroughly familiar with the events occurring at the time of his apostleship.
They told me, with evident indignation, that the Christian Church of to-day entirely misunderstands the relationship really existing between the apostles whom Christ had instructed and elected as his missionaries, and the converted Hebrew sacerdotalist. "It is amazing," they said, "that your Church can read in the writings extant concerning our relations with Paul the account of the mistrust, suspicion, and disfavour with which we always regarded him, and not see that he was never one with us.
The very leader and chief of our circle withstood him to the face again and again, as though he had been an enemy of the Church; and on one occasion he was forced to fly from the brethren by night and by stratagem, so great and so bitter was the indignation his view of the faith aroused among us who had been the Lord's friends, and who knew the truth as Paul never saw it. For he imported into that pure and simple rule of life a mass of Levitical and Rabbinical usages and beliefs which we had shaken from us as the dust from our feet.
He sunk the realities of the Gospel of Jesus under an overwhelming weight of hard sayings and sacerdotal misrepresentations. He, who had never known the Master as he was, took upon himself to distort his image into that of a strange God whom we had not known. Nor could we recognise in his garbled version of the beautiful and willing martyrdom of the man whom we had so dearly loved, a single trait of his character, or the least resemblance to the doctrine he had taught us.
What we had seen and known as the pure and perfect love of a ready death, bravely borne for conscience' sake, Paul presented to us in a new and unlovely guise as the sacrifice of a victim to appease the anger of the God whom Jesus called his Father and ours. Out of that which had been for us a simple rule of life, a simple purging of the old faith, Paul erected the strange and elaborate system which is called 'the scheme of the Atonement.'
For us and our Master there had been no 'scheme'; God was reconciled to man by love, and not by sacrifice. But Paul would have a 'new religion, and a creed hard to understand; and he left to the world a Christianity of his own which we knew not, but which is yours to-day. And in this he did us greater evil and detriment than if he had persecuted and slain us all physically. For by his false conversion he deceived the world and drowned the truth by a flood of strange doctrines. For this we were all against him, and never acknowledged his apostleship, being persuaded that he knew not Christ nor the faith which Christ taught.
Had he been content with the truth, we would never have set our faces against him; for he had many gifts, among which his eloquence was not the least. But through his fatal perversion of the faith, and through his fatal love of metaphysical doctrines and of Rabbinical subtleties, he falsified that which was the glory of the Church, and brought into the world the monstrous doctrines of the 'Christianity' which is preached in your churches to-day."
I was further told, that on the night before Paul's escape in the basket let down from the wall of Damascus, a violent altercation had taken place between him and the brethren, in the course of which Paul had maintained that the only chance for the final triumph of the Gospel lay in its erection into a system, and one that must of necessity be sacrificial. They then challenged him upon the point, but he insisted that he saw further into the matter than they did, and that his special mission lay in the elaboration of the plan he had conceived with regard to Christ's position as a mediator between God and man.
The personages I beheld bore no resemblance to any of the numerous representations of the apostles made by painters, but I was far from being in a sufficiently lucid condition to obtain an impression of their appearance so vivid and distinct as to enable me, as usually is the case, to make a drawing of them. Neither have I been able, with anything like my accustomed accuracy, to reproduce their words. The tone and substance, however, are faithfully rendered. The tone throughout was that of strong indignation, mingled with regret, against Paul; and of scorn at the folly of Christendom in accepting so gross and palpable a perversion of the teaching of Jesus and nature of God as that involved in the sacerdotal doctrine of vicarious atonement.
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Clothed With The Sun
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