Old Certainties being Challenged A History of those who followed the Torah and Gospel

𝐎𝐥𝐝 𝐂𝐞𝐫𝐭𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐝 𝐀 𝐇𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐟𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐨𝐫𝐚𝐡 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐆𝐨𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐥

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


𝐖𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐧 𝐛𝐲 𝐁𝐫.𝐁𝐢𝐥𝐚𝐥 𝐂𝐥𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐝
𝐁𝐢𝐥𝐚𝐥 𝐂𝐥𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐤𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫, 𝐚 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐜 𝐰𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐫, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚 𝐫𝐞𝐠𝐮𝐥𝐚𝐫 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐮𝐦𝐧𝐢𝐬𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐀𝐌𝐔𝐒𝐓 𝐛𝐚𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐌𝐞𝐥𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐧𝐞.


Muslims are often accused of believing a twisted version of Christian history, borrowed in some way from the early followers of the Christianity of Paul of Tarsus. Modern biblical research is indicating another side to the story. From the viewpoint of Islam, there is no doubt that those who submitted to God, Muslims, were those who followed the teachings of Jesus, son of Mary, peace be upon them both.

Jesus, who delivered the Gospel to mankind, is a figure of central importance to billions of people in the world today. Both Christians and Muslims see him as a person chosen by God for a major mission to humanity and see the Gospel he delivered as reflecting the will of the Creator.

Assumptions about Jesus and his message to the world have become part of mainstream western culture, but those assumptions are being examined as never before in the light of new biblical and historical research. Many comfortable old ideas must now compete with a variety of views on Jesus, the role of James the Just, and the significance of Paul of Tarsus.

The mass marketed “The Da Vinci Code” with its claim that Jesus had a family, created tremendous controversy throughout the Christian world. It is as if the Desposyni  had never been part of the history of the followers of the Gospel, as if the mention of the brothers and sisters of Jesus in the New Testament and of the central significance of James the Just, the brother of Jesus, as overseer of the early Jerusalem community, had never been.

An area of intense debate between Christian followers of Paul of Tarsus and Islamic scholars is the position taken by the Holy Quran:

“And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear God.”  ( Surah Maida 5:49)

This contrasts with the writing of  Paul of Tarsus, who downplays the Law of the Torah in his letter to the Galatians:

“…those who rely on the keeping of the Law are under a curse, since scripture says; Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in observing everything prescribed in the book of the Law. The Law will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: the righteous man finds life through faith. The Law is not even based on faith, since we are told: the man who practises these precepts finds life through practising them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who is hanged on a tree.” (Gal 3:10-13)

The partisan character of the official New Testament is now widely acknowledged. Michael Goulder, Professor of Biblical Studies at Birmingham University, stated in his study of the early church: “The New Testament gives the impression of a united, developing body of belief because it is a selection of writings; naturally it was selected by the winning mission, that is the Paulines, and that is why it consists of the Epistles of Paul (and his followers), and four Gospels, two of them ultra-Pauline and two building bridges to Jerusalem.”   Ehrman concurs, arguing  that “..the New Testament itself is the collection of books that emerged from the conflict, the group of books advocated by the side of the disputes that eventually established itself as dominant and handed the books down to posterity as “the” Christian Scriptures.”

Read the history of the early followers of the Gospel at below:

Old Certainties being Challenged  1

Torah and Gospel or Gospel without Torah?

Muslims are often accused of believing a twisted version of Christian history, borrowed in some way from the early followers of the Christianity of Paul of Tarsus. Modern biblical research is indicating another side to the story. From the viewpoint of Islam, there is no doubt that those who submitted to God, Muslims, were those who followed the teachings of Jesus, son of Mary, peace be upon him.

Jesus, who delivered the Gospel to mankind, is a figure of central importance to billions of people in the world today. Both Christians and Muslims see him as a person chosen by God for a major mission to humanity and see the Gospel he delivered as reflecting the will of the Creator. Much has been made by some scholars of the difficulty of finding evidence of his existence aside from religious writings, but he is known through the impact of his words and the effect his actions had upon his followers. His impact has resounded through the centuries, albeit sometimes in distorted form.

Assumptions about Jesus and his message to the world have become part of mainstream western culture, but those assumptions are being examined as never before in the light of new biblical and historical research. Many comfortable old ideas must now compete with a variety of views on Jesus, the role of James the Just, and the significance of Paul of Tarsus.

In recent years there has been a considerable amount of scholarship on the origins of the Christian Church and its relationship to Jesus. Robert Eisenman has opened  new perspectives in research around James the Just, the brother of Jesus.[1] His innovative ideas are regarded with deep hostility by many academics and he has paid a price. Jeffrey J. Butz, who also dares to challenge traditional assumptions, writes of the prevailing atmosphere in Christian theology, where those who do not adhere to the accepted line of argument or research are ostracized. “Just one of the many recent examples is the shameful treatment of the Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Robert Eisenman, whose peers in an effort to discredit his theories on James and Christian origins went so far as to publicly accuse him of plagiarism (unjustly as it turned out).”[2]

James Tabor, a biblical archaeologist and scholar, also challenges the popular portrayal of church origins. Writing of the foundation of the Gospel community he argues: “The tradition most people remember is that the apostle Peter took over leadership of the movement as head of the Twelve. Not long afterward the apostle Paul, newly converted to the Christian faith from “Judaism,” joined Peter’s side. Together the apostles Peter and Paul became the twin “pillars” of the emerging Christian faith, preaching the gospel to the entire Roman world and dying gloriously as martyrs in Rome-the new divinely appointed headquarters of the Church……We now know that things did not happen this way.” [3]

The mass marketed “The Da Vinci Code”[4] with its claim that Jesus had a family, created tremendous controversy throughout the Christian world. It is as if the Desposyni[5] had never been part of the history of the followers of the Gospel, as if the mention of the brothers and sisters of Jesus in the New Testament and of the central significance of James the Just, the brother of Jesus, as overseer of the early Jerusalem community, had never been. The role of the extended family of Jesus, son of Mary, in the formation of the Jesus Movement, was wiped from the popular memory and the teaching of church history, until very recently.

The role of those who knew Jesus, who were of his Davidic line and who led the community of the Gospel for many years, is now through modern scholarship, returning with potentially shattering impact upon those who genuinely strive to follow the teachings of Jesus, the prophet from Galilee.

The New Testament provides the underpinning for modern Christianity. However what recent research has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt is the biased nature of that collection of books. In the New Testament, Paul of Tarsus is given a central role. Although he did not meet Jesus, hear him preach or report any of his teachings, he is given fourteen epistles or letters in this collection, while James the Just, recognized by Paul of Tarsus as the brother of Jesus,[6] martyred by King Agrippa for his preaching of the truth, and who led the Jerusalem community from the end of Jesus’ mission until about 62 C.E., rates the inclusion of only one letter.

An area of intense debate between Christian followers of Paul of Tarsus and Islamic scholars is the position taken by the Holy Quran:

“And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear God.”   Surah Maida 5:49

This contrasts with the writing of  Paul of Tarsus, who downplays the Law of the Torah in his letter to the Galatians:

“…those who rely on the keeping of the Law are under a curse, since scripture says; Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in observing everything prescribed in the book of the Law. The Law will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: the righteous man finds life through faith. The Law is not even based on faith, since we are told: the man who practises these precepts finds life through practising them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being cursed for our sake, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

(Gal 3:10-13)

Old Certainties being Challenged. 2

History and Scripture – Written by the Victors

One area of great misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians is the difference in understanding Scripture. Most Christians understand the New Testament as being a collection of writings by people they consider to have been inspired by God but only a small percentage would claim that they are infallible and to be taken absolutely literally. There is some difference between the attitude to what are known as the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the Letters or Epistles, mainly of Paul of Tarsus. Muslims on the other hand see the Holy Quran as the direct record of revelations given to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Both Muslims and Christians regard the Gospel of Jesus as a divine revelation but differ over what we know of it.

The official Bible was being agreed upon by the orthodox Christians by the early fourth century. Post-Nicaea, in 331 CE, the emperor ordered 50 copies for new churches in his city. This may well have given the incentive to regularize its composition.

Eusebius of Caesarea records the instruction he received from Constantine: “I have thought it expedient to instruct your Prudence to order fifty copies of the sacred Scriptures, the provision and use of which you know to be most needful for the instruction of the Church.”[7] These were for the use of the capital city churches.

The Codex Sinaiticus is probably one of these originals and is the oldest copy of the accepted Christian Scriptures. It is named after the Monastery of Saint Catherine, Mount Sinai, where it had been preserved from 1600 years ago until the middle of the 1800s when a European adventurer/academic stole it. The degree to which there was still debate and disagreement on what should be included in the text is highlighted by the approximately 36,000 corrections, additions and amendment made over the centuries. No other early manuscript has been so extensively corrected. [8]

Ehrman in his “Lost Scriptures” points out that the debates over what books were or were not apostolic went on for “many years, decades, even centuries”. By about the end of the third century one group had emerged victorious. According to him: “It was not until 367 CE that the powerful Bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius, urged that the current twenty-seven books and only that twenty-seven, should be accepted as the official New Testament.” [9] Even then the debate did not end.

The partisan character of the official New Testament is now widely acknowledged. Michael Goulder, Professor of Biblical Studies at Birmingham University, stated in his study of the early church: “The New Testament gives the impression of a united, developing body of belief because it is a selection of writings; naturally it was selected by the winning mission, that is the Paulines, and that is why it consists of the Epistles of Paul (and his followers), and four Gospels, two of them ultra-Pauline and two building bridges to Jerusalem.”[10]  Ehrman concurs, arguing  that “..the New Testament itself is the collection of books that emerged from the conflict, the group of books advocated by the side of the disputes that eventually established itself as dominant and handed the books down to posterity as “the” Christian Scriptures.” [11]

Those who sought to follow Jesus, son of Mary, had many different writings and theological opinions prior to the imposition of the ideology of the victorious group. Ehrman’s books Lost Scriptures and Lost Christianities are certainly worth consulting for those interested in the history of the development of the Christian Scriptures.  Some modern Christians find it difficult to understand why there were so many differing views of Jesus and His Mission. Ehrman writes:

In the second and third centuries there were Christians who believed that Jesus’ death brought about the salvation of the world. There were other Christians who though that Jesus’ death had nothing to do with the salvation of the world. There were yet other Christians who said that Jesus never died. How could some of these views even be considered Christian? Or to put the question differently, how could people who considered themselves Christian hold such views? Why did they not consult their Scriptures to see that there were not 365 gods, or that the true God had created the world, or that Jesus had died? Why didn’t they just read the New Testament?

It is because there was no New Testament. To be sure, the books that were eventually collected into the New Testament had been written by the second century. But they had not yet been gathered into a widely recognized and authoritative canon of Scripture. And there were other books written as well, with equally impressive pedigrees-other Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses claiming to be written by the earthly apostles of Jesus.[12]

The victors in these early debates rewrote the history of events, giving the impression “ … that the victorious views had been embraced by the vast majority of Christians from the very beginning, all the way back to Jesus and his closest followers, the apostles.”[13]

Old Certainties being Challenged  3

Partisan Reporting of the Early History

A major issue in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians is that of the significance of the Torah to those wishing to be faithful to the teachings of Jesus. The dispute between Peter and the followers of the Gospel from Jerusalem and its leader James the Just on one hand and adherents of the Pauline school on the other, is briefly reported in the Epistle to the Galatians. [14] Much of this letter is taken up with denunciation of the Law of the Torah.  Ehrman points out only Paul’s account of this confrontation survives, while there were many different accounts at the time. “Even though most of the others have been lost, it is possible that not all of them have been. A close reading of our surviving sources shows that one of our Gospels, at least, appears to represent an alternative point of view.”[15]

This is a reference to Matthew’s Gospel which:

…insists, contrary to Paul, that Jesus’ followers must do so as well [fulfil the Jewish Scriptures]. In one of the most trenchant statements of the Gospel, found only in this Gospel in the New Testament, Jesus is recorded as saying: Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law and the prophets; I did not come to destroy but to fulfil. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest stroke of a letter will pass away from the Law until all has taken place. Whoever lets loose one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that if your righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matt. 5:17-20)

For Matthew, the entire Jewish Law needs to be kept, down to the smallest letter. The Pharisees, in fact, are blamed not for keeping the law but for not keeping it well enough. [16]

The statement recorded in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus berates those who emphasise the narrow aspects of the Law without obeying it in full, is further evidence of his pro-Torah mission:

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who pay the tithe of mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law – justice, mercy and good faith. These you should have practised, without neglecting the others. [17]

This was certainly the view of James the Just, the brother of Jesus. In the one epistle in the New Testament attributed to him, he makes his view of the importance of the Law of Torah very clear. While extolling the poor and denouncing the rich “who lord it over you” he advises the faithful

… to keep the supreme Law of scripture: you will love your neighbour as yourself; but as soon as you make class distinctions, you are committing sin and under condemnation for breaking the Law. You see, anyone who keeps the whole of the Law but trips up on a single point, is still guilty of breaking it all.[18]

In his discussion of the existing disunity amongst the followers of Jesus in the fourth chapter, he advises:

Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who slanders a brother, or condemns one, is speaking against the Law and condemning the Law. But if you condemn the Law, you have ceased to be subject to it and become a judge over it.[19]

The central importance of James the Just in his role as leader of the Jerusalem community for some thirty years until about 62 CE, has been almost expunged from the record of church origins. As next in the Davidic line after Jesus, he was the undisputed leader. Described by Hegesippus and quoted by Eusebius, James was the first Bishop of Jerusalem. Known as ‘the Righteous’  or ‘upright’  he was said to have been ‘ holy from his birth’. “He drank no wine or intoxicating liquor and ate no animal food, no razor came near his head”.[20] A wearer of priestly linen, he was permitted to enter the Sanctuary of the Temple alone. He was so often on his knees beseeching forgiveness for the people that his knees grew hard like a camel’s. These were characteristics of the Nazirites, those consecrated to Yahweh, the most firm of all adherents of the Law.[21] â€œBecause of his unsurpassable righteousness he was called the Righteous and Oblias – in our own language ‘Bulwark of the People and Righteousness’- fulfilling the declarations of the prophets regarding him.”

Clement of Alexandria, who lived 150-214 CE., quoted by Eusebius in his history, had written; “Control of the church passed together with the apostles, to the brother of the Lord, James, whom everyone from the Lord’s time till our own has named ‘the Just’…”[22]  Dr Barrie Wilson, an expert in early Christian origins and a professor at York University in Toronto, has concluded that James, as leader, and  Jesus’ immediate family, his mother Mary, his brothers, Mary Magdalene and the disciples, were the core of the Jesus Movement.  “These loyal individuals, headed by James, were a royal court in waiting. They were the heart of the movement and its undisputed leaders. They knew the historical Jesus, were aware of what he taught and practiced, and were with him when he died. Recognizing what he stood for, they constituted the solid nucleus of the movement. They were leaders with credibility.” [23]

Paul of Tarsus lacked this credibility, as we see from his first letter to the Corinthians. Interestingly enough, this also indicates that Jesus’ brothers were married and took part in the mission to spread the Gospel. Paul writes:

Even if to others I am not an apostle, to you at any rate I am, for you are the seal of my apostolate in the Lord. To those who want to interrogate me, this is my answer. Have we not every right to eat and drink? And every right to be to be accompanied by a Christian wife, like the other apostles, like the brothers of the Lord, and like Cephas.[24]

Old Certainties being Challenged 4

James the Just Survives the Attempt to Eradicate his Memory

The attempt to remove James the Just from the historical record in the New Testament has not been entirely successful. The Acts of the Apostles, the New Testament book which purports to trace the early history of the church, portrays Paul and Peter as playing the dominant role. James is but a peripheral figure. The author of Luke’s Gospel also wrote Acts, and while he must have known that James was the leader of the community, he does not acknowledge it.

“In his early chapters he never even mentions James by name and casts Peter as the undisputed leader of Jesus’ followers. But his major agenda in the book as a whole is to promote the centrality of the mission and message of the apostle Paul. Although Acts has twenty-four chapters, once Paul is introduced in chapter nine the rest of Luke’s account is wholly about Paul-even Peter begins to drop out of the picture. Rather than the “Acts of the Apostles” the book might better be named “The Mission and Career of Paul.”[25]

In his role as Pauline spin-doctor, Luke doesn’t even mention the brothers of Jesus.  They are listed in Mark’s Gospel as James, Joses, Judas and Simon. [26] Tabor remarks that Luke is recasting the history of the whole movement so that Paul comes out as pre-eminent, even over the leader, James. [27] Why?

Luke was a Gentile and the only non-Jewish writer in the New Testament. “He emphasizes the Gentile version of Christianity that Paul espoused.” He could not deny the Jewish roots of Jesus or his movement, but he was writing some twenty years after the Jewish Revolt against Rome when these origins were being marginalized. And as Tabor puts it, “deemphasized.” [28]

Luke was also pro-Roman. Seeking to win the favour of his Gentile Roman readers for the Pauline Christian movement, he portrays Pontius Pilate as a reasonable and just ruler who tries hard to have Jesus released from his trial. “Luke was not writing history; he was writing theology. With that in mind we have to take what he tells us with extreme caution and keep in mind at all times his pro-Paul and pro-Roman agenda.” [29]

Jeffrey Butz, well versed in Christian theology and an ordained Lutheran pastor, has a slightly different take on the attempt to write James the Just out of history.  He sees the motivation as “both benign and malignant.”

Because the knowledge we have of Jesus’ siblings is threatening to those with vested theological or ecclesiastical interests, James was forgotten, downplayed and even intentionally suppressed.  In the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, adherence to the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary makes the notion of Jesus having natural siblings scandalous. In the Protestant tradition, James’s seeming support for “works righteousness,” especially as it was understood from the New Testament letter of James (“Faith without works is dead, “ James says in chapter 1), was viewed as antithetical to the all-important Protestant doctrine  of sola fide (faith alone). It was for this reason that Martin Luther referred to the epistle of James as an “epistle of straw,” and would have much preferred its removal from the New Testament. From about the fourth century, disdain for James and his teachings-and even for acknowledging his existence-spread wide.  As a result, his vital contribution to the early church was lost.[30]

Uncommon amongst partisan theologians, Butz recognizes that James still has an important role to play:

Recovering James and his teaching is not only an important step toward resolving the centuries-old Catholic-Protestant debate over the relative merits of works and faith, but it is also vital to expanding the interfaith dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims. James may well be the missing link that can bring peace and reconciliation to “the people of the Book.[31]

One area which has gained centre stage in Australia recently has been the anti-halal certification campaign by some followers of Paul of Tarsus. The issue of the consumption of blood in the Hebrew Bible and the Quran is an important part of the religion. The Hebrew Bible, the Torah, in Leviticus 17:12-13   decrees: “Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.  Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth.”  In Deuteronomy 12:16 “Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out on the earth like water.”

The followers of Jesus according to the First Council of Jerusalem, presided over by James the Righteous, the leader of the assembly of the Gospel in Jerusalem for 30 years after the end of Jesus’ mission, agreed to a basic law.   Acts of the Apostles, verses 28-29 records: “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to impose on you any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from illicit marriages.”  James, an observant Jew who strictly obeyed Torah, assumed that all understood that abstention from blood assumed the draining of blood from the animal consumed and that forbidden animals such as swine, would be avoided.

Paul of Tarsus is quoted in his First Letter to the Corinthians, as stating 20-21 “…when pagans sacrifice, what is sacrificed by them is sacrificed to demons who are not God. I do not want you to share with demons.”  While this is associated clearly with sacrifice upon the altar in a religious rite, Paul goes on in verses 25-29 to state: “Eat anything that is sold in butcher’s shops: there is no need to ask questions for conscience sake since To the Lord belong the earth and all it contains. If an unbeliever invites you to a meal, go if you want to, and eat whatever is put before you; you need not ask questions of conscience first. But if someone says to you, ‘This food has been offered in sacrifice,’ do not eat it, out of consideration for the person that told you, for conscience’s sake-not your own conscience.” There is some contradiction with the decree of the First Council of Jerusalem.

Old Certainties being Challenged 5

The Role of Paul of Tarsus

In the numerous letters of Paul included in the New Testament, he appears to have accepted the leadership of Jerusalem and James the Just. His letters to the Corinthians, Galatians and the Romans were written in 57-58 CE. [32] He describes the Jerusalem leaders for whom he is taking up a collection, as “God’s holy people” in his first Letter to the Corinthians [33] and again in his second letter.[34]   In his Letter to the Galatians, he says James, Cephas and John were “the ones recognized as pillars.” [35] Again in Romans  he seems to doubt his acceptability to the leadership, asking his supporters to pray “that the aid I am carrying to Jerusalem will be acceptable to God’s holy people.” [36]  In order to validate his mission, Paul had to show that he had the approval of the Jerusalem leadership. In his Letter to the Galatians he describes his first visit to Jerusalem in 14 years, where in a private session with the recognised leaders, he claimed “I expounded the whole gospel that I preach to the gentiles, to make sure that  the efforts I was making and had already made should not be fruitless.”  James, Cephas and John, “asked  nothing more than that we should remember to help the poor, as indeed I was anxious to do in any case.”[37]  Paul claimed in this letter that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been entrusted to him and that this had been recognised by the leadership.

Yet he also appears to be resentful of that same leadership. In the passage in which he lays claim to his mission to the uncircumcised, he also alludes to his own importance.  “…but those who were recognised as important people-whether they actually were important or not: There is no favouritism with God-those recognised leaders, I am saying, had nothing to add to my message.” [38]  His resentment becomes more noticeable in his second Letter to the Corinthians in which he states very boldly “Now I consider that I am not in the least inferior to the super-apostles.” [39] He continues in this vein, describing those who are also preaching the Gospel but not in accord with his thinking, as “counterfeit apostles, dishonest workers disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” [40]  In his Letter to the Philippians, written about 61 CE when he was in Rome, he attacks some who are preaching the Gospel as “preaching Christ out of malice and rivalry.” [41] In that same letter he describes in robust terms those who present a different message, apparently missionaries from the leadership in Jerusalem, as they are circumcised.  “Beware of dogs.! Beware of evil workmen! Beware of self-mutilators! We are the true people of the circumcision since we worship by the Spirit of God and make Christ Jesus our only boast, not relying on physical qualifications.”[42]

Paul of Tarsus was breaking new ground in so far as the Jesus Movement was concerned. It is no wonder he met strident opposition from those who had known Jesus. Wilson writes of this impact:

Nothing in the early Jesus Movement prepares us for Paul. Written in the mid 50s, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians was a “bombshell” document. While intended to settle a dispute within one of the communities he founded, its impact has extended far beyond the mere arbitration of a local and temporary dispute. It laid out the main tenets of Paul’s radical Christ Movement, which is considerably different from both Judaism and the earlier Jesus Movement centered in Jerusalem. Galatians remains one of the most influential documents ever written within Christianity, for its views represent the underpinnings of a new religion. [43]

Paul was totally convinced of his own correctness. He begins his Letter to the Galatians with the claim to be “an apostle appointed not by human beings nor through any human being but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead.”[44] He then goes on to claim what appears to be some sort of mystical pre-eminence “But when God, who had set me apart from the time when I was in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I should preach him to the gentiles, I was in no hurry to confer with any human being or to go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me.”[45]

In his Letter to the Romans, written at about the same time, Paul had what may well have been a barb for the ‘super-apostle’ James, the Nazirite, vegetarian and defender of Torah. “One person may have faith enough to eat any kind of food; another less strong, will eat only vegetables.”[46]

Old Certainties being Challenged  6

Herodian Rule and Jerusalem

Judaea was a politically unstable part of the world, subject to invasions, occupation and struggles for power amongst various factions. Since the imposition of Hellenistic rule as a result of the conquests of Alexander the Great, there had been Hellenisation campaigns, culminating in the great persecution of  Judaism 167-164 BCE and the offering of sacrifices to Olympian Zeus in the Temple of Jerusalem. Then after  decades of divisive battles, Pompey removed the Seleucids in 64 BCE and centuries of  ruthless Roman rule began. Syria, including Judaea, became a Roman province

Roman rule, like  Seleucid rule, was harsh and assimilationist. The monotheistic religion was placed under great pressure. In 41 BCE Mark Antony appointed Herod and his brother as tetrarchs of Judaea, then late in the following year, the Roman Senate appointed Herod as King of Judaea. After a successful struggle against the Parthian appointed king and high priest, to strengthen his claim to the throne in Jewish eyes, he married the Maccabean Mariamne, the granddaughter of Aristobulus II, who had been king and high priest and recognized as a legitimate ruler. Herod executed this wife 12 years later.

The Herodian royal family was ruthless and lacked deep commitment to the religion of the people. Not only were they regarded as foreigners by those who held to Torah, but were guilty of fornication (niece marriage and incest), riches, and pollution of the Temple.  All of these were anathema to the believers. For example, John the Baptist was beheaded for criticizing the niece marriage of Herod’s brother Philip to Herodias.[47]   These three evils were described in the Damascus Scroll as ‘The Three Nets of Belial’. [48] The Herodians were also hated because of their treachery and their subservience to Rome.

In the decade before the Jewish revolt against Rome, Judaea was a bubbling stew of opposition to the power of the Romans and their Herodian puppets. Gamaliel, a widely respected member of the Sanhedrin, is quoted in Acts alluding to two revolts in recent time, that of Theudas and then that of Judas the Galilean.[49] Josephus, the Jewish traitor who became close to Titus, the destroyer of Jerusalem, reported that 2000 of Judas’ followers were crucified by Varus, ruler of Syria.[50]

Such oppressive rule naturally resulted in the development of a plethora of opposition groups within the Jewish community. Avoiding the attention of Herodians and Romans was required for continued health and even Josephus, with his recent history as a Jewish fighter, had to be careful in his presentation.

In order to sort these various groups out, its better simply to group them according to whether they supported the Pharisee Roman/Herodian Establishment or opposed it. Likewise, it is often more edifying to look at groups in terms of who their common enemies were. …Seen in this way, Jewish or Palestinian Christians (whatever might be meant by such designations), James’ Jerusalem Church or Jerusalem Community, succeeded by Ebionites, Essenes, Zealots and the group responsible for the documents found at Qumran – all can be thought of as opposed to the reigning Herodian Establishment and looked on as the various constituents of the opposition Alliance. [51]

In Matthew’s Gospel there is an account of an unsuccessful attempt by certain Pharisees, accompanied by Herodians (supporters of the royal family) to trap Jesus into a subversive statement. [52] This shows that the Herodians were identified with the enemy. That Jesus demanded observance of Torah, as evidenced in chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel put him with those who defended God’s Law from the pagan rulers.  The emphatic insistence by the Jerusalem leadership upon circumcision and dietary law in Antioch was the root of Paul’s outburst against Peter in his Letter to the Galatians. That acceptance by Jerusalem of the centrality of the Law was maintained is clear from the report of Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem in Acts of the Apostles. Paul met with James and the elders, and Acts claims he was well received but that he had to be publicly purified casts doubt upon this portrayal:

Then they said, You see brothers, how thousands of Jews have now become believers, all of them staunch upholders of the Law, and what they have heard about you is that you instruct all Jews living among the gentiles to break away from Moses, authorizing them not to circumcise their children or to follow the customary practices. What is to be done? A crowd is sure to gather, for they will hear that you have come. So this is what we suggest that you should do; we have four men here who are under a vow, take these men along and be purified with them pay all the expenses connected with the shaving of their heads. This will let everyone know there is no truth in the reports they have heard about you, and that you too observe the Law by your way of life.[53]

The purpose of Paul’s visit to Jerusalem was ostensibly to present the collection he had been making on his missionary journeys for ‘God’s holy people’ in Jerusalem. The author of Acts does not mention this collection in his description of the visit. Jeffrey Butz suggests that this omission of what would have been a major event in the history of the Jerusalem community may have been a cover up to disguise the breaking of relations between Jerusalem and Paul. “The silence about the collection being delivered has caused more than a few scholars to conclude that the collection was actually rejected by the elders, for the official acceptance of a collection gathered from Paul’s Gentile congregations would be seen as approval of Paul’s teachings.”[54]

There are strong indications that the position of Paul of Tarsus regarding the Herodians was not that of the Jerusalem leadership. Friendly links to the Herodians are mentioned in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Giving greetings to his friends and allies, he writes: “Greetings to the household of Aristobulus. Greetings to my kinsman Herodion,..”[55] Aristobulus may have been a common name, but it was most prominent among the Herodians and there were at least three of that name living at the time.  Eisenman remarks that Aristobulus who was the nephew of Agrippa I also had a son called Herodion, or ‘littlest Herod’.  That Herodion is Paul’s relative is particularly significant.[56] Aristobulus was later one of the inner circle around Titus, the conqueror of Jerusalem and destroyer of the temple, along with Tiberius Alexander, Josephus, Bernice and Agrippa II. He also married Salome, the daughter of Herodias, who demanded the head of John the Baptist. He proudly proclaimed on his coinage, along with a picture of Salome, that they were “great lovers of Caesar”.[57]  The reference to another apparently highly placed Herodian in the congregation of Paul’s church in Antioch is also important. These were the first group to be called “Christians” and this was the site of the great dispute over the Law with Jerusalem and James. “In the church at Antioch were prophets and teachers: Barnabas…Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch…” [58]

Indeed the whole career of Paul suggests he was socially and politically well connected. Eisenman suggests:

Paul’s Herodian links might even explain how as a comparatively young man he could have wielded such powers when he first came to Jerusalem and been authorized by the “High Priest’ to search out “Christians” in areas as far afield as “Damascus” …They readily explain his easy entrance into Jerusalem ruling circles, all matters that have never been adequately explained.[59]

Old Certainties being Challenged  7

Arrests, Trials and Murder

The period of purification in the Temple assigned to Paul by James, did not turn out well. Towards the end of the seven days, some adherents of Torah recognised Paul and called out: “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who preaches to everyone everywhere against our people, against the Law and against this place.” [60] The whole city apparently erupted into riot. Paul was dragged from the Temple and the doors closed behind him. The Roman tribune heard what was going on and led his soldiers to the rescue. As the tribune actually led his troops, it is likely that the whole cohort, 600 men, was involved. Paul was carried by soldiers into the fortress out of the reach of the crowd which wanted to kill him. According to Acts, only when he was inside and was about to be put under interrogation did he reveal his status as a Roman citizen to the tribune.

Freed the next day, he was taken by the Roman tribune to the Sanhedrin, where he created dissension between the Sadducees and the Pharisees by claiming to be â€œa Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee.”[61] The dispute became so emotional that once again the tribune rescued Paul and put him in the fortress.

Forty men, obviously those ‘zealous for the Law’, decided to kill Paul. “But the son of Paul’s sister heard of the ambush they were laying and made his way into the fortress and told Paul, who called one of the centurions and said ‘Take this young man to the tribune.”[62] The tribune, concerned for Paul’s welfare, called out 200 soldiers with 70 cavalry and 200 auxiliaries, provided a horse for Paul and quietly got him escorted out of Jerusalem under cover of darkness. He was safely delivered to Felix the Roman governor in Caesarea. Here he was lodged in Herod’s praetorium, the palace that was the official residence of the Roman procurator. Felix was also part of the Herodian network, married to Drusilla, the sister of King Agrippa II. Felix himself was the brother of Nero’s favourite freedman, Pallas. [63]

Given the situation in Judaea and the hostility of the believers to the Herodians, Pauls’s statement in his Letter to the Romans surpasses all others in its advocacy of submission to the rulers. It marks his position in the great divide which was emerging in Jerusalem.

Everyone is to obey the governing authorities, because there is no authority except from God and so whatever authorities exist have been appointed by God. So anyone who disobeys an authority is rebelling against God’s ordinance and rebels must expect to receive the condemnation they deserve.  Magistrates bring fear not to those who do good but to those who do evil. So if you want to live with no fear of authority, live honestly and you will have its approval; it is there to serve God for you and for your good. But if you do wrong, you may well be afraid; because it is not for nothing that the symbol of authority is the sword: it is there to serve God too, as his avenger, to bring retribution to the wrongdoers. You must be obedient therefore, not only because of this retribution, but also for conscience’s sake. And this is why you should pay taxes, too, because the authorities are all serving God as his agents, even while they are busily occupied with that particular task. Pay to each one what is due to each: taxes to the one to whom tax is due, tolls to the one to whom tolls are due, respect to the one to whom respect is due, honour to the one to whom honour is due.”[64]

This apparently applied only to the political rulers, not to the Jerusalem leadership under James, for which he had shown disdain, rather than respect.

The two year period of Paul’s detention “under arrest but free from restriction” in the palace of Caesarea is also most revealing. Felix and Drusilla (sister of the king but described as just a “Jewess”) came to discuss his faith with him but found his talk of “uprightness, self-control and the coming Judgment” a tad too discomforting for their taste. After two years Felix and Princess Drusilla left for Rome and were replaced by Festus as new governor.  The chief priest wanted Paul brought to trial in Jerusalem under this new administration but Paul refused to go and appealed to Caesar, as was his right as a Roman citizen.

We get the clear pro-Roman flavour of Acts from the reference to Paul’s speech which he made when he first arrived in Caesarea, before the Roman governor Felix. “I know that you have administered justice over this nation for many years, and I can therefore speak with confidence in my defence.”[65] After his appeal to Caesar, Agrippa II and his sister Bernice, both of them siblings of Drusilla who had just left for Rome, came to visit Festus in Caesarea.  As the governor explains the situation of Paul to the visitors, he is reported by Acts as saying, in response to the demand from the chief priests and elders of the Jews, “But I told them that Romans are not in the habit of surrendering any man, until the accused confronts his accusers and is given the opportunity to defend himself against the charge.” [66] A claim to civilisation and decency that many contemporary Jews would have found rather difficult to accept.

The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 26, describes events around Agrippa’s visit to Festus and Paul. Agrippa and his sister had Paul brought before them and Festus is supposed to have spoken in defence of Paul before he presented his case. Paul was asked to answer all the charges that had been brought against him by “the Jews” (the beginnings of anti-semitism) before the king. Paul says:

King Agrippa, do you believe in the prophets? I know you do. At this Agrippa said to Paul, ‘A little more, and your arguments would make a Christian of me.’ Paul replied ‘Little or much, I wish before God that not only you but all who are listening to me today would come to be as I am – except for these chains.

At this the king rose to his feet, with the governor and Bernice and those who sat there with them. When they had retired they talked together and agreed, ‘This man is doing nothing that deserves death or imprisonment.’ And Agrippa remarked to Festus, ‘The man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.[67]

Old Certainties being Challenged 8

The Roman attitude to Paul of Tarsus and the attitude to James the Just

Paul is sent off to Caesar in Rome. The ship was wrecked off Malta and the crew was about to kill the prisoners for fear that they might escape, but once again a Roman official comes to the rescue: “But the centurion was determined to bring Paul safely through and would not let them carry out their plan.” [68] On arrival in Rome we are told that Paul was allowed to stay in lodgings of his own with the soldier who guarded him. [69] The last we hear of Paul is in the last verses of Acts:

He spent the whole of the two years in his own rented lodging. He welcomed all who came to visit him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete fearlessness and without hindrance from anyone.[70]

Acts is silent about an event which must have been pivotal to the early Jerusalem community, the martyrdom of the brother of Jesus, who had been their leader for about thirty years. This is sufficient to cast doubt upon its validity as a record of the early followers of the Gospel. However the Jewish traitor and friend of Titus left us a record in his writings. Josephus wrote that in the interregnum between the sudden death of Festus, probably of a heart attack and his replacement by Albinus, the new governor, events speeded up. Agrippa II took the opportunity to replace the high priest with his own nominee, Ananus, the son of a former high priest of the same name. Ananus in turn took the opportunity to call together a Sanhedrin meeting and called before it James the brother of Jesus, and some of his companions and ‘delivered them to be stoned.’ However some Jews who disagreed with this went to meet Albinus who was coming from Alexandria and got him to threaten Ananus with punishment for his illegal act. Agrippa dismissed him as high priest and chose another. [71]

Eusebius of Caesarea relies for his description of the martyrdom of James upon the works of Hegesippus ‘who was of the first generation after the Apostles’ but which have been lost to us. This described James as a very effective communicator who brought many believing Jews to the realization that Jesus was the foretold messiah and ‘many even of the ruling class believed’. The Scribes and Pharisees came to James and asked him to quiet the people with the truth about Jesus on Passover Day at the Temple.

We all accept what you say: we can vouch for it, and so can all the people, that you are a righteous man and take no one at his face value. So make it clear to the crowd that they must not go astray as regards Jesus; the whole people and all of us accept what you say. So take your stand on the Temple parapet, so that from that height you may be easily seen, and your words audible to the whole people. For because of the Passover all the tribes have forgathered and the Gentiles too.[72]

James refused to be intimidated by the Temple officials and used the opportunity to proclaim the Messiah and impending Judgment.  Some in the crowd called out “Hosanna to the Son of David” a subversive and dangerous sentiment under the Herodians. So the Scribes and Pharisees became afraid and decided he had to be done away with.

So they went up and threw down the Righteous one. Then they said to each other “Let us stone James the Righteous”, and began to stone him, as in spite of his fall he was still alive. But he turned and knelt, uttering the words: “I beseech Thee, Lord God and Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” While they pelted him with stones, one of the descendants of Rechab the son of Rachabim – the priestly family to which Jeremiah the Prophet bore witness, called out “Stop! What are you doing? The Righteous one is praying for you.” Then one of them, a fuller, took the club which he used to beat out the clothes, and brought it down on the head of the Righteous one. Such was his martyrdom….. Immediately after this Vespasian began to besiege them.[73]

These events between 60 and 62 CE bring into sharp contrast the nature of the two paths being taken by those who appeared to follow the Gospel of Jesus. The saving of Paul from the Temple mob, his polite treatment by the Herodian and Roman rulers, and even his salvation from the shipwreck, indicate that he was a valued individual. The murder of James, widely acknowledged as ‘the bulwark of the people’, while there was a period of unfettered Herodian rule after the death of Festus, demonstrates the fear and hatred he engendered in those same rulers. His treatment was similar to that metered out to John the Baptist by the evil family.

Eusebius in his account of the period from Vespasian to Trajan, writes of the change of leadership of those who followed Jesus.

After the martyrdom of James and the capture of Jerusalem which instantly followed, there is a firm tradition that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord who were still alive assembled from all parts together with those who, humanly speaking, were kinsmen of the Lord – for most of them were still living. Then they all discussed together whom they should choose as a fit person to succeed James, and voted unanimously that Symeon, son of Clopas mentioned in the gospel narrative, was a fit person to occupy the throne of the Jerusalem see. He was, so it is said, a cousin of the Saviour, for Hegesippus tells us that Clopas was Joseph’s brother.[74]

There were in fact about four years between the martyrdom of James and the Roman siege of Jerusalem, so the election of Symeon would have occurred as the storm clouds were gathering.

Old Certainties being Challenged  9

The Destruction of Jerusalem and Attack upon the Line of David

The siege of Jerusalem by Vespasian and Titus from 66 CE culminated in the destruction of the Holy City. Josephus, who it must be remembered was a Jewish fighter who had gone over to the Romans, gives us a taste of the destruction which occurred in 70 CE. Chapter 1 of Book VII starts under the heading  “The Entire City Of Jerusalem Was Demolished, Excepting Three Towers. “

“NOW as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury, (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done,) Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne; and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison, as were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.”[75]

This cataclysmic event, comparable to the destruction of Mecca and Medina for Muslims, or of Rome for followers of the Roman Catholic Church, was a watershed in the history of monotheism. For Jews, it threatened a total destruction of their way of life. The seven major sects described by Josephus vanished. Only the Pharisees survived and only under Roman tutelage. According to many Christian scholars, it was the catalyst which put the Pauline school of thought onto the path of total separation from Judaism and stimulated the anti-semitism which was to become such a major problem in the future. They were convinced that this was a judgment on the people of Israel for not accepting Jesus as their Messiah and that it was proof of Paul’s teaching that the Torah was a relic of the past.[76] For those who adhered to the leadership of James and his successors, it was a time of great peril, necessitating retreat into safe havens. They fled to Pella, across the River Jordan where they awaited the Apocalypse.

Ernest Renan, in his history of Christianity, associates the followers of the Gospel and James the Just, with the Ebionim.

The name which these pious guardians of the tradition of Jesus gave themselves was “Ebionim” or “poor.” Faithful to the spirit which had said “Blessed are the poor” (“ebionim”) and which had characteristically attributed to the disinherited of this world the Kingdom of Heaven and the inheritance of the Gospel, they gloried in their poverty, and continued, like the primitive Church of Jerusalem, to live upon alms.[77]

The Romans were apparently aware of the danger of the Davidic line. When some in the crowd witnessing the speech of James the Just as he stood on the Temple parapet in 62 CE called out “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the Temple officials became afraid. According to Hegesippus, this precipitated his stoning.  Eusebius, the friend of Emperor Constantine and eventual Trinitarian, considers this matter to have been of such significance that he records the order of Vespasian, after the capture of Jerusalem, to seek out and eliminate any remaining members of the royal house of David, for they could threaten Roman rule in the future.[78]

Emperor Domitian also ordered the execution of all who belonged to David’s line.  Hegesippus recorded that a ‘group of heretics’ denounced the descendants of Jude, a relative of Jesus, as of the line of David, thus threatening their lives. Brought before Domitian Caesar and admitting that they were descended from David, they were found too poor to be a threat. [79]

The writings of Hegesippus  have been lost, apart from what Eusebius has incorporated. Hegesippus was a follower of the Gospel and Torah.  This is made clear from the record of his journey from Palestine to Corinth and Rome. His discussion of his visits to these churches mentions his satisfaction that “in each city all is according to the ordinances of the Law and the Prophets and the Lord.” As Butz points out, “It is probably not accidental that no copies of Hegesippus’s Church history (Memoirs) have survived, for it likely told a story that was not at all congenial to the emerging Catholic Church.”[80]

Manipulation of history by eliminating those sources which contradict the orthodox interpretation of events or ideas plagues study of the early church. Butz claims:

The actual reason we have no direct records of the Ebionites after the year 70 is that their writings were suppressed and burned by the heresy hunters, including their most precious gospel, commonly called the Gospel of the Hebrews. Also, the first few years of the post-70 period were spent in hiding in Pella, and secrecy was paramount. Fortunately, we do have a few quotes and references from the Ebionite gospel preserved by Epiphanius,…as well as at least some authentic recollections of the Ebionite Acts in the Pseudo-Clementine â€œRecognitions.”[81]

It is believed that the Ebionites fled to Pella in about 66 CE and returned after the devastation, to establish a base on Mt. Zion early in the reign of Vespasian in about 73 or 74 CE. It must have been a synagogue for followers of the Gospel and Torah.[82] Symeon was also eventually martyred. Hegesippus recorded that he was denounced by ‘certain heretics’ for being a descendant of David and that he was killed “…at the age of 120, when Trajan was emperor and Atticus consular governor.”[83] He was probably the last living person to have seen and heard Jesus speak.

Old Certainties being Challenged  10

The Ebionites condemned as Heretics

Hegesippus described the situation at the time of the martyrdom of Symeon. He wrote, according to Eusebius,

“…until then the Church had remained a virgin, pure and uncorrupted, since those who were trying to corrupt the wholesome standard of the saving message, if such there were, lurked somewhere under the cover of darkness. But when the sacred band of the apostles had in various ways reached the end of their life, and the generation of those privileged to listen with their own ears to the divine wisdom had passed on, then godless error began to take shape, through the deceit of false teachers, who now that none of the apostles were left threw off their mask and attempted to counter the preaching of the truth by preaching the knowledge falsely so called.[84]

This passage has been used for centuries to condemn those described as heretics by the followers of Paul of Tarsus. However, as Butz points out, Hegesippus was a follower of both the Gospel and the Torah. ”But what has been little recognized is that Hegesippus was himself a Jewish Christian and this passage is actually a rant against Hellenistic heresies (mainly Gnosticism) that had infested Jewish Christianity.”[85] It was not against the Ebionites.

They were first named as heretics by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (ca.130-200 CE) in his main work “Against Heresies” (Adversus Haereses), but they were not the focus of the book. The rapidly spreading Gnostic sects were his main target, but he did condemn the heresies of the Ebionites. He particularly noted their practice of circumcision, their observance of the Torah and their facing towards Jerusalem when in prayer. They also apparently commemorated the Last Supper using water instead of wine. “This latter practice is a unique clue providing evidence that links the Ebionites to later Jewish Christian groups, such as the Elkesaites, and to medieval sects such as the Bogomils and Cathars.”[86]

Eusebius wrote his history of the church in about 314. Its latest edition was in 324/5. By then the Ebionites were outside the pale of the Roman Church. He wrote of them as foolish, lost heretics.

“They did not deny that the Lord was born of a virgin and the Holy Spirit, but nevertheless shared their refusal (another sect with a similar name) to acknowledge His pre-existence as God the Word and Wisdom. Thus the impious doctrine of the others was their undoing also, especially as they placed equal emphasis on the outward observance of the Law. They held that the epistles of the Apostle (Paul) ought to be rejected altogether, calling him a renegade from the Law; and using only the ‘Gospel of the Hebrews’, they treated the rest with scant respect. Like the others, they observed the Sabbath and the whole Jewish system; yet on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) they celebrated rites similar to our own in memory of the Saviour’s resurrection. It is then because of such practices that they have been dubbed with their present name: the name of Ebionites hints at the poverty of their intelligence, for this is the way in which a poor man is referred to by the Hebrews.”[87]

The division in the ranks of those who followed or claimed to follow the teachings of the Gospel, is highlighted by this declaration that the Ebionites, led by the Desposyni, were heretics. Indeed  these  Ebionim who were led in Jerusalem by Symeon, the successor to James the Just, were also led in the Diaspora, by the relatives of Jesus and descendants of David. Both Hegesippus and Julius Africanus attest to this and to their persecution as descendants of David by the Romans.  It is due to the Desposyni that the detailed genealogy of Jesus was preserved so it could be included in Matthew’s gospel. It was a matter of little consequence to the Gentile Christians but of great import to those who were familiar with Torah.[88]

The second Jewish revolt in 136 CE, under the leadership of Bar Kochba, ended what Eusebius calls “the bishops of the circumcision.” Until then their whole church had “… consisted of Hebrew believers who continued from apostolic times down to the later siege…”[89]

Tabor, a well respected scholar of this period, quoted  by Butz, sums up what is firm fact about the dynastic family of Jesus.

What we can know, with some certainty, is that the royal family of Jesus, including the children and grandchildren of his brothers and sisters, were honored by the early Christians well into the second century AD, while at the same time they were watched and hunted down by the highest levels of the Roman government in Palestine.”[90]

The second revolt was a total disaster. The old city was razed, a pagan temple dedicated to Jupiter was built where the Temple had been, and a new city called Aelia Capitolina was built where Jerusalem had been. All Jews were expelled from the city, which included Ebionites who followed the Gospel and Torah.  A new Gentile Christian church was established in the pagan city under the first Gentile bishop of Jerusalem, named Marcus. The Gentile Christians disassociated themselves from the Ebionites, for association with Jews was now dangerous. There was also rejection from the Jewish community. The new synagogue system which replaced the Temple regarded them as deviant. As the Gospel of John noted, “..for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.” [91]

Old Certainties being Challenged  10A

The Religion of Jesus and the Religion of James

The debate about what constitutes Christian scripture went on for centuries, but today the main debate centres on the content and nature of what has become known as the New Testament. The four gospels are slightly differing accounts of the mission of Jesus and they are just four of the plethora of gospels and other writings which abounded before the Council of Nicaea. To explain similarities in some of the four accepted gospels, a Q source has been postulated. Q is the term given to the second source supposedly used by Matthew and Luke in addition to Mark.[92] According to Tabor; “ The Q source is the earliest collection of the teachings and sayings of Jesus that the scholars date to around the year A.D. 50. As I have previously discussed, it has not survived as an intact document but both Matthew and Luke use it extensively.”[93]

James Tabor, in discussing the legacy of the Jesus Dynasty, the Desposyni, explains the hostility of later Christians to the Letter of James, to illustrate the deep division which had developed between those who identified with the Jesus Dynasty and those who followed Paul of Tarsus.

“There were two major reasons that some later Christians questioned the letter of James. The first had to do with what James said and did not say about his brother Jesus. He only mentioned the name of Jesus two times in a passing way and either reference could easily be removed without affecting the content of the letter or the points James was making (James 1:1; 2:1). In addition, the letter lacked any reference to Paul’s view of Jesus as the divine Son of God, his atoning death on the cross, or his glorified resurrection. How could a New Testament document that lacked such teaching be considered “Christian”? The second factor that put the letter in disfavor with some was that James directly disputed Paul’s teaching of “salvation by faith” without the deeds of the Law while strongly upholding the positive nature of the Torah as well as its enduring validity.[94]

The claim that James in some way misrepresents the teachings of Jesus, as people like Luther claimed, is rendered somewhat hollow when it is considered in the context of what can be ascertained about the Q source.

“The most familiar  parts of Q to most Bible readers are in Matthews’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6). What is amazing is that the letter of James, short as it is, contains no fewer than thirty direct references, echoes, and allusions to the teachings of Jesus found in the Q source! A few of the more striking parallels are the following:[95]

 Blessed are you poor for yours is the kingdom of God (Luke 6:20) Has not God chosen the poor to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom (2:5)
 Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments…shall be [called] least in the kingdom (Matthew 5:19) Whoever keeps the whole Torah but fails in one point has become guilty of it all (2:10)
 Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” shall enter the kingdom… but he who does the will of my Father (Matthew 7:21) Be doers of the word and not hearers only (1:22)
 How much more will your Father…give good gifts to those who ask him (Matthew 7:11) Every good gift…coming down from the Father (1:17)
 Woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation (Luke 6:24)   Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you (5:1)
 Do not swear at all, either by heaven for it is the throne of God, or by earth for it is his footstool…let what you say be simply “Yes” or “no” (Matthew 5:34,37)  Do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath but let your yes be yes and your no be no (5:12)

Professor Barrie Wilson, another expert on early Christian origins, argues that Paul represents a religion different from that of Jesus and James.

What we have in Christianity today is Paulinity. It is the religion envisaged and vigorously promoted by Paul and given a respectable history by the Book of Acts. It is a Hellenized religion about a Gentile Christ, a cosmic redeemer, and it is through that perspective that the later gospels are read. It is not the religion of the Jewish Jesus, the Messiah claimant and proclaimer of a Kingdom of God. That religion—the religion of the Jesus Movement and the Ebionites—eventually died out.[96]

In his discussion of the Apostle’s Creed, a statement of belief similar to that of Nicaea, he points out that a brief explanation of the teachings of Jesus would have looked like this:

We revere our teacher, Jesus, who taught us to make the Kingdom of God our highest priority and to prepare for its manifestation on earth, through deeds of compassion and caring backed by an inner spirit of generosity and forgiveness.

We follow the example of Jesus who taught us to be sensitive to the needs of others and to respond appropriately.

We believe in the teachings of Jesus who challenged us to live the life of Torah to its fullest, to embrace correct attitudes as well as right behaviour.

We acknowledge with gratitude the Jesus who gave us the hope that God’s rule would eventually be sovereign over all the earth and that the righteous will truly inherit the earth.

We have confidence in God, creator of the universe, who alone can redeem and who, forgiving us our failings, will resurrect us from the dead into life eternal.

There’s a lot missing from the Apostle’s Creed–all of Jesus’ teachings in fact. [97]

After a review of the history and theology of the Jesus Movement, Butz , another expert on Christian origins, concludes:

In other words, if the first followers of Jesus-including the apostles and Jesus’ own family-were thoroughly Jewish in their belief and practice and opposed to Paul’s interpretation of the gospel, then just what is “orthodoxy” and what is “heresy”? Is Christianity, as it has come to be practiced for close to two millennia, in fact based on a heresy? And is the “heresy” of Jewish Christianity in fact the original orthodoxy?[98]

Old Certainties being Challenged  11

The Ebionites in  the 7th Century

Ibn Ishaq, the biographer of Prophet Muhammad, relates the history of those who sought  the path to the divine will in 7th century  Arabia. He includes glimpses of the search by Waraqa Ibn Nawful, uncle of the first wife of Muhammad, Khadija and some other seekers of truth.

Zayd b. Amr was a Meccan who sought the truth.  He travelled from Mecca in search of the Hanifiya, the religion of Abraham.

Then he went forth seeking the religion of Abraham, questioning monks and Rabbis until he had traversed al-Mausil and the whole of Mesopotamia; then he went through the whole of Syria until he came to a monk in the high ground of Balqa. This man, it is alleged, was well instructed in Christianity. He asked him about the Hanifiya, the religion of Abraham and the monk replied,”You are seeking a religion to which no one today can guide you, but the time of a prophet who will come forth from your own country which you have just left has drawn near. He will be sent with the Hanifiya, the religion of Abraham, so stick to it, for he is about to be sent now and this is his time.”[99]

Waraqa b. Naufal was close to him and when Zayd was killed on his way back to Mecca, he wrote an elegy for him, which was recorded by Ibn Ishaq.

You were altogether on the right path Ibn Amr,
You have escaped hell’s burning oven
By serving the one and only God
And abandonding vain idols.
And by attaining the religion which you sought
Not being undmindful of the unity of your Lord
You have reached a noble dwelling
Wherein you will rejoice in your generous treatment.
You will meet there the friend of God,
Since you were not a tyrant ripe for hell,
For the mercy of God reaches men,
Though they be seventy valleys deep below the earth.[100]

Waraqa plays a significant role in accounts of the life of Muhammad. When he first began to receive revelations, Muhammad  confided in his wife, Khadija, to whom he had been married for 15 years. Ibn Ishaq relates that she went straight to her cousin for advice, a respected figure in her family because he “…had become a Christian and read the scriptures and learned from those that follow the Torah and the Gospel.”[101]  This is a very clear identification of the school of thought of believers who followed James the Just, the Ebionim. Recognising Muhammad as a prophet, he told him; “there has come unto thee the greatest Namus, who came unto Moses. Thou wilt be called a liar, and they will use thee despitefully and cast thee out and fight against thee. Verily, if I live to see that day, I will help God in such wise as he knoweth.”[102]

Jeffrey Butz, the ordained  Lutheran minister and admirer of the famous scholar of “Jewish Christianity,” Hans-Joachim Schoeps, quotes him at some length on the issue of Islam and the Ebionites. He includes this statement:

…Like the Ebionites, Mohammed wanted to correct the falsehoods which had crept into the law and to effect a reformation and to restore the original…And thus we have a paradox of world-historical proportions…the fact that Jewish Christianity indeed disappeared within the Christian Church, but was preserved in Islam and thereby extended some of its basic ideas even to our own day.”[103]

He closes his chapter ‘Jewish Christianity in Arabia’ with a quotation from another leading scholar, Hugh Schonfield, who wrote in his book  “The History of Jewish Christianity” in 1936 :

“With the rise of Islam the real work of Jewish Christianity in the East had finished. It had left in possession at least a faith in which the Unity of God was a fundamental principle and in which Jesus was recognized as a great and true prophet. The story is told of the Emperor Heraclius (575-641), that being warned in a dream that his power would be destroyed by “the circumcised” he ordered the compulsory baptism of all the Jews in his realm: he did not realize that “the circumcised” were really the Arabs. From this time the future of Jewish Christianity lay in the West until the time of the Gentiles should be fulfilled.”[104]

Old Certainties being Challenged  12

The Continuation of the Ebionites in the Middle East beyond the 10Th Century

Were the Ebionites still active in the tenth century Middle East? Abd al-Jabbar’s  “Critique of Christian Origins,” a title given his work by Reynolds, is the subject of some academic controversy. It presents a picture of the development of the Christian church which has been identified as closely related to the views of what are called “Jewish Christians.”[105] The main component of these believers were the Ebionim, who accepted the Gospel and Torah.

Born in the 930s CE, living until 1025, Abd al-Jabbar came from Iran and travelled widely, performing the pilgrimage to Mecca at least twice. He lived in Baghdad and worked for the vizier Ibn Abbad, who appointed him chief judge of Rayy, a provincial capital in Iran.

Abd al-Jabbar’s primary account of the Bible’s corruption describes the Christians as a group among the Jews who, with the collusion of the Roman pagans, changed the Injil out of their greed for power:

So know that the religion of Christ and the religions of all the Messengers (peace be upon them) were not changed and substituted all at once but rather one portion after another, in every age and period, until the change became complete. The party of truth continually grew smaller. The party of wrong grew larger until they prevailed and the truth died because of them.

Now after Christ, his followers conducted their prayers and feasts with the Jews [yahud] and the Israelites [bani Israel] in one place, in their synagogues, despite the conflict between them over Christ. The Romans were ruling over them and the Christians would complain about the Jews to the Roman rulers, showing them how weak they were and asking for compassion.  So [the Romans] had compassion on them. There was much of this until the Romans said to them, “There is a contract between us and the Jews, that we will not change their religion.  Yet if you leave their religions, separate yourselves from them, pray to the East as we do, eat what we eat, and permit what we permit, we will aid you and make you mightier. Then the Jews would have no way over you. You would become stronger than them.” They said, “We will do it.” The [Romans] said, “Go bring your companions and your book.”

So they went back to their companions and informed them of what took place between them and the Romans, saying, “Bring the Injil and come so that we might go to [the Romans].” But their [companions] said to them, “You have done wretchedly! It is not permitted for us to give the Injil to the unclean Romans. By agreeing with the  Romans you have left the religion. It is not permitted for us to mix with you. Rather, we must wash our hands of you and prevent you from getting the Injil.” So a severe conflict occurred between them.

[The Christians] returned to the Romans and said to them, “Assist us against our companions before assisting us against the Jews! Get our book from them for us.” [The companions] took cover from the Romans and fled from the land. So the Romans wrote to their agents around Mawsil and the Arabian Peninsula and thus they were sought. A group of them showed up and were burned. Another group was killed.[106]

He portrayed Paul as one who deviated from the teachings of Jesus on foods which were acceptable, upon circumcision, on ritual cleansing and accepting the Roman custom of praying towards the rising sun.

“So Paul tore himself away from the religions [sic] of Christ and entered the religions of the Romans. If you scrutinize the matter, you will find that the Christians became Romans and fell back to the religions of the Romans. You will not find that the Romans became Christians.”[107]

His version of Acts 11: 4-9 in which Peter is said to have had a vision of unclean foods being  lowered from heaven and being told that they were suitable to eat, reveals a scandal. Jesus had declared such foods impure and for Peter to claim superiority over him clashed with the understanding that Jesus had come to complete, not change or abrogate.[108]

The debate about this interpretation of Christian church history focuses upon whether the Ebionim narrated it to Abd al-Jabbar in the tenth century, long after most historians declared they had vanished. In modern Christian scholarship, adherents to ‘Paul the Apostle’ view of history, attempt to explain away the discerning nature of this critique of Paul of Tarsus and its relation to the Ebionites. That they evaporated centuries prior to this is the most orthodox scholarly interpretation. The Book of Travels suggests otherwise.

Butz suggests that the Book of Travels of Benjamin of Tudela (1169-1171) mentions groups remarkably similar to the Ebionites in the Arabian cities of Teima and Tilmas in the 12th century.[109] The similarity to the characteristics of James the Just –“ the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem, and who do not eat meat nor taste wine” – and the emphasis placed upon “the seed of David, for they have their pedigree in writing,” indicate an alignment with the Ebionim.

“Here dwell the Jews called Kheibar, the men of Teima. And Teima is their seat of government where R. Hanan the Nasi rules over them. It is a great city, and the extent of their land is sixteen days’ journey. It is surrounded by mountains—the mountains of the north. The Jews own many large fortified cities. The yoke of the Gentiles is not upon them. They go forth to pillage and to capture booty from distant lands in conjunction with the Arabs, their neighbours and allies. These Arabs dwell in tents, and they make the desert their home. They own no houses, and they go forth to pillage and to capture booty in the land of Shinar and El-Yemen. All the neighbours of these Jews go in fear of them. Among them are husbandmen and owners of cattle; their land is extensive, and they have in their midst learned and wise men. They give the tithe of all they possess unto the scholars who sit in the house of learning, also to poor Israelites and to the recluses, who are the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem, and who do not eat meat nor taste wine, and sit clad in garments  of black. They dwell in caves or underground houses, and fast each day with the exception of the Sabbaths and Festivals, and implore mercy of the Holy One, blessed be He, on account of the exile of Israel, praying that He may take pity upon them, and upon all the Jews, the men of Teima, for the sake of His great Name, also upon Tilmas the great city, in which there are about 100,000 Jews. At this place lives Salmon the Nasi, the brother of Hanan the Nasi; and the land belongs to the two brothers, who are of the seed of David, for they have their pedigree in writing. They address many questions unto the Head of the Captivity—their kinsman in Bagdad—and they fast forty days in the year for the Jews that dwell in exile.”[110]

Likewise, Muhammad al-Shahrastani, (1086–1153 CE) author of Kitab al–Milal wa al-Nihal (The Book of Sects and Creeds)  mentions Jews living in Medina and the Hejaz who accepted Jesus as a prophet, but also followed Torah. This was typical Ebionite practice.[111]


Old Certainties being Challenged  13

The Gentile Church approaching Nicaea

The Gentile Church which succeeded the “the bishops of the circumcision” after the total destruction of Jerusalem and its replacement by Aelia Capitolina after the Bar Kochba revolt under  Emperor Hadrian, spread across the eastern provinces of the Roman empire. It was organized into congregations around teachers and clerics with common purpose in an empire which was showing signs of decline. The letters of Paul were a uniting factor, but interpretations varied immensely from one congregation to the next.  Bishops apparently became important very early in the Gentile Church. Freeman mentions Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch in the early second century, declaring ‘You are clearly obliged to look upon the bishop as the Lord himself.’   This is the first congregation which was called “Christian”.  Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage 248-58 CE wrote of the authority of the bishops over the church in “On the Unity of the Church.” [112]

Some extreme theories about the nature of Jesus began to emerge from the various congregations, impelling greater focus upon agreed texts, such as the letters of Paul of Tarsus and other documents. One major incentive towards this was the teachings of Marcion in the early second century, who claimed that Jesus had brought with him a completely new God, different from the forbidding God of the Hebrew Bible. He claimed that Jesus was fully divine and only appeared to be human. This teaching survived until at least the fifth century.

Discussing the developments in the Church by the second century, Freeman  notes that it was not until the fourth century that the texts included in the New Testament were finalized. In the absence of any firm definition of what was or was not heresy, Christians could range freely within Greek philosophy and use it to develop insights for their own work.’  Many teachers taught a fusion of Greek philosophy and Christian teaching, which militated against narrow fanaticism but could also change much of what had been received.[113]

The civil authorities, fearing that the support of the gods of Rome was being lost due to the ‘impiety’ of Christians who did not sacrifice to them, Christians were seen as a cause of the crisis beginning to hit the empire. In the 250s they were required to participate in public acts of sacrifice and get a signed certificate to prove it. The congregation in Carthage sacrificed, but Cyprian was martyred for refusing. There was another persecution under Diocletian  and in 304 CE it was decreed failure to sacrifice to the gods meant death.

This was not uniformly implemented as Diocletian had divided the administration of the empire.  After Diocletian seized power in 284 CE, he established the system of two senior emperors assisted by two junior Caesars, who would share responsibility for rule.  A large civil service was established to run the administration.

In 305 both senior emperors abdicated and  the father of Constantine became emperor of the western empire. When he died after a year, his troops proclaimed his son, Constantine, emperor to succeed him.

Constantine apparently saw the favour of the gods as essential to political success. At least he wanted the people to believe that he had the favour of the gods.

Constantine was ambitious and ruthless: he was after absolute power in the empire….The court panegyrists were ordered  to embellish the myth that the heavens were opened to Constantinius [his father] on his death and Jupiter, father of the gods, stood there holding out his right hand to the ascending emperor. The support of the gods was always essential, and Constantine himself told of a vision of Apollo who, accompanied by the goddess Victoria, promised him a reign of thirty years. Apollo was represented by images of the sun, and this underpinned Constantine’s association with the cult of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. On a coin minted in 313, Constantine is shown alongside Apollo with the latter wearing a solar wreath. [114]

He announced in 312 that his victory over his rival Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge just outside Rome was due to the support of the God of the Christians. The Church has made much of the conversion of Constantine to the Christian God. Just what he understood by this is not clear, but he associated himself with Sol Invictus on coins as late as 320.  This victory at Milvian Bridge meant accepting that God willed the rise to power of the emperor by means of bloody warfare. “Constantine’s biographer, Eusebius of Caesarea, had not difficulty in finding relevant texts in the Old Testament to explain the victory……Thus the Hebrew scriptures, which had been adopted by Christians as foretelling the coming of Christ, were now used to foretell the victory of a Roman emperor over his adversaries.”[115]

An ideology of Christian kingship had first been elaborated by the historian Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, between 313 and 339, in his eulogistic Life of Constantine. Eusebius uses Constantine’s vision of a cross inscribed ‘Through this, conquer’ in the sky before the Battle of Milvian Bridge as unassailable evidence of God’s support for his cause. It was God, Eusebius goes on, who drew Constantine’s rival Maxentius out of Rome into open ground where he could be more easily defeated…..God’s will was shown through the ongoing victories of the emperor.  The consequences of this relationship between Christianity, war and imperial conquest still resonate today. [116]

The two emperors issued the Edict of Toleration in 313, “in which Christians were given freedom to worship and the right to have their property returned.” [117]  This Church was tiny in the western empire, making up only 2% of the population, but was more widespread in the eastern empire. In 314 there were only sixteen bishops for the whole of Gaul, while there were seven or eight hundred in the eastern empire.[118] Although very diverse, this  movement had a degree of structure which was valuable.  The centrality of the bishops in the organization and administration of the Church gave them prominence within Roman society.  They led congregations for thirty or more years, built up great influence and often became more important in communities than the magistrates.

“Bishops had not supplanted the secular authorities, the local governors and prefects, in the cities, but they had often built up impressive networks through their congregations…..A bishop with popular support could be a formidable figure, even able to challenge the will of an emperor. It has been argued that Constantine’s prime motive for his conversion was the desire to integrate these important figures into the Roman state. It is certainly true that he used them for public purposes: from Constantine onwards emperors encouraged bishops to use their courts for solving local disputes and for overseeing poor relief….Bishops were given the same rights as secular magistrates to free slaves. So the status of the bishop rose steadily.” [119]

Constantine’s defeat of the emperor of the eastern empire in 324 and his foundation of New Rome, Constantinople, gave him immense power, but he understood that the disunity in the Church could be a political threat in the future. The great cause of division at the time was the Arian debate.  Alexander of the see of Alexandria had excommunicated Arius, a priest, for his views on the nature of Jesus. Arius had sought support for his views from Eusebius of Nicodemia, a well respected scholar and from Eusebius Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, the future biographer of Constantine. Alexander counterattacked with a letter signed by 200 Egyptian bishops. Constantine sent his closest adviser, Ossius Bishop of Cordova in Spain to investigate. He was sympathetic to Alexander but thought it prudent to call a larger council under the auspices of Constantine.[120]

This larger council is known as the Council of Nicaea.

Old Certainties being Challenged  14

The Council of Nicaea and  Homoousios

The Arian debate focused on defining the relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son of God. If Jesus was divine, how did that relate to God. “Alexander and Arius took opposing positions…Alexander arguing for the eternal co-existence of Father and Son, Arius for Jesus as a separate creation, albeit at the beginning of time.”[121]

There was a valiant attempt to reach consensus and build unity in the Church. Constantine permitted Eusebius of Caesarea to make a speech to the council assembled in Nicaea, despite the fact that he had been declared ‘heretical’ by a council of ‘Alexandrian’ bishops in Antioch.

The bishop put forward a formula that accepted the full divinity of Christ, as that had been the position which evolved from the followers of Paul of Tarsus, including the Arians. It said nothing that implied Jesus was subordinate to the Father and Eusebius thought it might be acceptable to both sides.  “Jesus Christ was ‘the Word of God, God from God, light from light, Son only begotten, first-begotten of all creation, begotten before all ages from the Father…”  [122]

However the enemy of the notion of ‘subordination,’ Alexander of the see of Alexandria, understood that Arius could support this and thus be able to  return to Alexandria and go on preaching his views to the Christians of Egypt. This led to the insertion of ‘of the same substance as the Father.’

“It seems to have been Ossius, probably with Constantine’s support, who suggested that there needed to be something added to the statement. The word suggested was homoousios â€˜of the same substance’ – Jesus was to be proclaimed ‘of the same substance’ as the Father, a formulation that would place him unequivocally on Alexander’s side of the argument.”[123]

Homoousios was a term from Greek philosophy, not scripture. No reference could be found in scripture at all. In 268 the term had been condemned by a council of bishops in Antioch. The word ‘substance’ also suggested some kind of physical material. Could God be talked about in this way?

One of the arguments against the term put by Arius and Eusebius was that if Jesus came from the same substance as God, then his creation, by detracting from the ‘substance’ of God, must have diminished the deity.”  [124]

The Nicene statement was to form the core of the Nicene Creed, which forms the basis of faith in the Catholic, Orthodox and many Protestant churches today.  Arius was excommunicated because he could not accept it but was later received by Constantine. He was in the procession to be admitted back to the Church in Constantinople when he died, probably poisoned.

Statement of the First Council of Nicea (325)

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;

by whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth;

who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;

he suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;

from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

And in the Holy Ghost.

[But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’ — they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church]

What is absolutely remarkable about this creed is that it contains nothing of the teachings of Jesus. It is entirely about the nature of Jesus and his relationship to God the Father, which develops from the position taken by Paul of Tarsus about the nature of Jesus as Saviour through his crucifixion. The sacrificial cult becomes the centre of the faith, not the revival and reformation of the Torah.

Commenting on the later adaptation, the Apostle’s Creed, Barrie asks why the Church chose to make such a statement of faith, as it does not reflect what Jesus taught. It applies equally to the statement of Nicaea.

The English text of the Apostle’s Creed  used in the Mass of the Roman Rite since 2011

I believe in God,the Father almighty,Creator of heaven and earth,and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,born of the Virgin Mary,suffered under Pontius Pilate,was crucified, died and was buried;he descended into hell;on the third day he rose again from the dead;he ascended into heaven,and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.I believe in the Holy Spirit,the holy catholic Church,the communion of saints,the forgiveness of sins,the resurrection of the body,and life everlasting. Amen.

“In terms of setting forth who Jesus is claimed to be, the Apostle’s Creed was truly a breakthrough document.
But let’s consider what this statement of faith fails to say. What it ignores is substantial, and this is not usually recognized. Where, for instance, are the central teachings of Jesus? Where are the references to the teachings of the parables, that powerful Kingdom of God message? Where is there mention of the long-anticipated Kingdom of God,  that political reality expected to replace the Pax Romana? What about the Sermon on the Mount, with its reinterpretation of Torah requirements? What happened to Jesus’ demand that his followers practice a pattern of righteousness stricter than that observed by the Pharisees? Where is the cut-and-thrust vitality of Jesus’ message, that radical challenge to the world power of his time with all its startling impact, enhanced expectations, and newsworthy implications? Moreover, where is its daring subversiveness? Everything Jesus taught in his parables or in the Sermon on the Mount is bypassed.[125]

This is also how the Ebionites would have seen it.

Old Certainties being Challenged  15

The End of Toleration

Although the Arians were no longer regarded as orthodox after the Council of Nicaea, they apparently remained able to preach. Even after the Edict of Toleration issued by Constantine was changed by the joint edict of Theodosius and Gratian in 379, Arian bishops appear to have been left in their sees. Bishop Ambrose of Milan was becoming prominent and had exerted influence upon Gratian to tighten the Christian definition. Then came a startling change in January 380 in an edict of Theodosius to the people of Constantinople.

It is Our will that all peoples ruled by the administration of Our Clemency shall practice that religion which the divine Peter the Apostle transmitted to the Romans…this is the religion followed by bishop Damasus of Rome and by Peter, bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic sanctity: this is, according to the apostolic discipline of the evangelical doctrine, we shall believe in the single deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost under the concept of equal majesty and of the Holy Trinity.

We command that persons who follow this rule shall embrace the name of catholic Christians. The rest, however, whom We judge demented and insane, shall carry the infamy of heretical dogmas. Their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitten first by Divine Vengeance, and secondly by the retribution of hostility which We shall assume in accordance with the Divine Judgment. [126]

The background to this is to be found in the hair-splitting debates about the nature of Jesus which still went on after Nicaea. Constantinius, the son and successor of Constantine, was inclined to a subordinationist  understanding, which meant that Nicaea and homoousios would be rejected.  He and his supporting bishops proposed that, not wanting to make the distinction between Father and Son too great, Jesus should be described as ‘like’ the Father rather than ‘of the same substance’. The two councils he called in 359 to sort this out got bogged down. The Greek speaking Christians seemed prepared in the main to drop Nicaea but the Latin speakers supported it.  The emperor ended up making the delegation of western Christians support the ‘like’ creed but he died the next year before it had been widely accepted. Succeeded by the last pagan emperor Julian, who hated the Christians as his whole imperial family had been massacred by the family of Constantine, the issue fell into abeyance. Jovian restored Christianity to its old position at his death.

Bishoprics became important sources of wealth. Some helped lepers and the poor, others like Ambrose of Milan went on building sprees, others lived lives of luxury.

With such opportunities at hand, it is hardly surprising that when Liberius, the Bishop of Rome, died in366 there were conflicts between rival factions in which a hundred are believed to have died before Damasus emerged as the new bishop. The high level of religious violence in this period has been largely ignored by historians, but a close reading of the sources shows that almost every vacant bishopric gave rise to murder and intimidation as rival candidates fought for the position. Unrest of this sort was so threatening to the authorities that there are at least two instances where men who had a reputation for being able to keep order, Ambrose of Milan in 374 and Nectarius in Constantinople in 381, were appointed bishops even before they had been baptized.[127]

Jesus the human did not seem to fit so well into the role of the Church in the powerful empire, where he was worshipped in massive and opulent buildings, through huge theatrical performances, in support of the gloriously magnificent emperor. More and more the divinity of Jesus was emphasized over his human role and following the ideas of Paul’s letters, the death and resurrection were transformed into cosmic events rather than reflections of the struggle of the Jews against the Roman occupiers of Palestine.

The ‘like’ position of Constantinius was strongly challenged by Athanasius of Alexandria, bishop from 328. “From the 350s Athanasius insisted that the creed of Nicaea represented orthodoxy. …Athanasius drew an impenetrable barrier between the Creator and the created, with Jesus as ‘one in substance’ with the Father on the side of the Creator.” [128] He also began to bring the Holy Spirit into the debate, which had been marginalized at Nicaea.

Emperors Valentinian and his successor Valens, maintained the position of tolerance and generally favoured the ‘like’ position of 360. Nicene bishops generally remained in their sees, unless they threatened order. The whole debate would probably have died a natural death but the intervention of Theodosius with his decree of 380 threatened subordinationists with the criminalisation of their position.

Theodosius proclaimed that the defeat and death of Valens in the Battle of Adrianople against the Goths was due to his false beliefs. A strong proponent of the Nicene faith:

Theodosius now claimed that Valens had been defeated because he had forfeited divine approval as a result of his ‘heretical’ views. When Theodosius cleverly equated his Nicene beliefs with the promise of divine approval, he was not alone. At much the same time, in the western empire, the Bishop of Milan, the formidable Ambrose, claimed that those areas of the empire where the Nicene faith was strong were stable, while those where Arianism prevailed, notably along the Danube, were the most unsettled. He was building on the tradition that God expressed his support of the ruling emperor through bringing him victory.[129]

By July 381 the Nicene definition of the Trinity, with the three components ‘of equal majesty,’ was extended to the whole of the eastern empire. Then in that same decade, it was extended to the whole of the western empire. Subordinationism, the ‘like’ formula and all forms of pagan worship were gradually banned.

The 380s were truly a turning point, and the story of how freedom of thought was suppressed needs to be brought back into the mainstream of the history of European thought.[130]

The Crucifixion of Bacchus-Orpheus

Appendix A   


Graves. Kersey. The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors or Christianity before Christ. The Book Tree, California. First published 1875. This edition 1999.

“For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified”  [ First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians ii.2]

There must have existed a very considerable amount of skepticism in the community as to the truth of the report of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the country and era of its occurrence to make it necessary thus to erect it into an important dogma, and make it imperative to believe it. There must have been a large margin for distrusting its truth.”  p. 102

Mr Taylor informs us that some of the early disciples of the Christian faith demolished accessible monuments representing and memorializing the crucifixion of the ancient oriental sin-atoning gods, so that they are unknown in the annals of Christian history. Hence, the surprise excited in the minds of Christian professors when other cases are mentioned.
Such influences as referred to above have shut out from the minds of the disciples of several  religious systems a knowledge of all crucified gods but their own. Hence, the hindoo rejoices in knowing only ‘Chrishna and him crucified. ‘ The Persian entwines around his heart the remembrance only of the atoning sufferings on the cross of Mithra the Mediator. The Mexican daily send up his earnest, soul-breathing prayer for the return of the spirit of his crucified Savior-Quexalcote. While the Causasian with equal devotion, chants daily praises to his slain ‘Divine Intercessor’ for voluntarily offering himself upon the cross for the sins of a fallen race. And the Christian disciple hugs to his bosom the bloody cross of the murdered Jesus, unhaunted by the suspicion that other gods died for the sins of man long anterior to the advent if the immaculate Nazarene.” p.103

At the conclusion to Chapter XVI Sixteen Crucified Saviors, Graves writes:  “ Christian reader, what can you now make of the story of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ but a borrowed legend-at the least the story of being crucified as a god.”   p. 133

Appendix B


  1. Astarte, the “Great Mother”.

Manasseh, one of the “two wicked kings” mentioned in 2 Kings 27, a book of the Old Testament, is accused of setting up a statue of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar in the Temple of Jerusalem. There is even a slander against Solomon in 1 Kings 11:4-5, where he is accused of lapsing into the worship in his old age, of this same false goddess, Ishtar, or Astarte as she was called by the Greeks.

In the myths of the pagan people of the region, Astarte was the Great Mother. Adonis, or Tammuz as he was known to the Babylonians, was her lover, possibly also her son. Byblus in Lebanon was a major religious centre for this pagan cult. Each year in spring, when the rains fell on Mount Lebanon, red earth was washed down into the rivers. The reddening of the water by the “holy” blood of Adonis was a sign to his worshippers that he had died. They believed that he had been mangled by a wild pig. His torn body bled onto the land and into the river. The scarlet anemone, which flowers in spring, was sacred to him for it was also said to have sprung from his blood. His worshippers mourned his death, fasting and shaving their heads in sorrow. They believed he had died for them, to allow them to live. The sorrow of his death was replaced on the next day, by great rejoicing and public celebration. After passing through the underworld, Adonis rose from the dead to ascend up to heaven in the presence of his worshippers. The dying and reviving god was interpreted by the ancients themselves as representing the reaped and sprouting grain.

There were other forms of the rites in Babylon, in Antioch and in Cyprus. In all of them, the violent slaying of the youthful god was part of the belief. Effigies of the god were paraded through the streets and then buried. Once human sacrifices had been killed and buried but by late antiquity this barbarism had been modified.

  1. Cybele and Attis.

The Mother of the Gods, Cybele, and her young lover or son, or both, Attis, were worshipped in Rome before Christianity became the state religion. This pagan cult was introduced to Rome from Phrygia, now called Anatolia, in about 200 B.C. It also involved the death and resurrection of the divine son. Every year on March 22 a pine tree was cut and wreathed in violets, flowers which were sacred to Attis for they represented his blood. The effigy of a young man was tied to the tree. On the third day, the Day of Blood, the high priest cut his veins and sprinkled blood on the tree, to be followed by other worshippers.(i) The effigy and the tree were buried. While involved in these rites of mourning for the dead god, all his worshippers fasted from bread, for corn was sacred to Attis. On the next day, March 25, the divine resurrection was celebrated by the whole city. Every man might do or say as he pleased. The effigy was taken to the river and washed by the high priest.

Beside these public ceremonies were the secret rites which involved a baptism in blood. Frazer writes of the devotee descending into a pit covered by a wooden grating. A bull was brought onto the grating and killed with a sacred spear. Blood poured down into the pit onto the worshipper, who tried to make sure every part of his body was soaked. He emerged from the pit “born again to eternal life for he had washed away his sins in the blood of the bull.” This blood baptism was carried out at the time of the resurrection of the god and occurred at the sanctuary of Cybele on Vatican Hill, at or near the spot where St Peter’s basilica now stands. (Frazer Part iv Vol 1 p.274-275)

Christians regularly celebrated the crucifixion on March 25 in Phrygia, Cappadocia and Gaul and at one time, in Rome. Frazer suggests that the similarity between the rites of Attis and Easter are more than coincidence.  â€œThe inference appears to be inevitable that the passion of Christ must have been arbitrarily referred to that date in order to harmonize with an older festival of the spring equinox….the resurrection of Attis, who combined in himself the characters of the divine Father and the divine Son, was officially celebrated at Rome on the same day.” (Frazer Part iv Vol 1 p.307-308) This coincidence even led to controversy between the Christians and pagans, with the pagans claiming that the resurrection of Christ was but a spurious imitation of the resurrection of Attis.

  1. Resurrection and Vegetation.

The theme of the young god, lover and/or son of the Great Mother goddess who suffers, is violently killed, buried and who then rises from the dead, is central to the pagan cults of the temperate zones of the world. Frazer regards this as having roots in the primitive belief that the cycle of the death and resurrection of vegetation was due to the behaviour of divine beings. The death, burial and resurrection of the young man-god represented the planting, growth, and harvesting of corn. Bread was sacred to the god for it represented his body. Frazer writes:

” Like tree-spirits in general, Attis was apparently thought to wield power over the fruits of the earth or even to be identical with the corn. One of his epithets was ‘very fruitful’: he was addressed as the ‘reaped green ear of corn’; and the story of his sufferings, death, and resurrection was interpreted as the ripe grain wounded by the reaper, buried in the granary, and coming to life again when it is sown in the ground.” (p.279)

The name Attis meant “father”, so that at the same time this god represented both the divine Son who was killed, buried and resurrected, and the divine Father. Frazer reports that dedications have been found in Italy to “Atte Papa” (p.283)

  1. The Egyptian Trinity.

Osiris, Isis and Horus were the trinity of Egyptian gods. Osiris was god of the underworld and the father, Isis was the sister and wife of Osiris and mother of the god Horus. Amongst many other gods, these three were worshipped throughout ancient Egyptian history and were of major importance. Isis and Osiris were closely identified with agriculture. Isis was credited with the invention of crop cultivation and Osiris was the one who ensured that each season, the corn grew to sustain life.

Each year in ancient Egypt the period of sowing the crop, the planting of grain in the earth, was a period of sorrow. It was believed that Osiris was being buried. Then, during the flooding of the fields as the Nile rose, the god was seen to rise again from the grave as the corn grew. However, as the Nile waters fell and the time came to gather the crop, the period of mourning began again. Harvest, which occurs in spring in Egypt, was a sad period, for it was the body of the god which was being cut and trampled.

The mythical cycle of the suffering and death of the god, his burial and his resurrection was the central theme of Egyptian religious life for thousands of years. It was so similar to the cult of Adonis that some of the people of Byblus in Lebanon believed it was Osiris they mourned, not Adonis. It was the basis for belief in life after death.

“And from the death and resurrection of their great god the Egyptians drew not only their support and sustenance in this life, but also their hope of a life eternal beyond the grave.” (Frazer Part iv Vol 2 p. 90)

  1. Acceptance of Paul by the Gentiles.

The emphasis placed by Paul upon the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ, can be understood as the influence of this ancient ideology upon his mind. He was a Jew, but he was also a Roman citizen who had grown up and been educated in an environment in which human gods and sons of gods and mothers of gods had been commonplace. Tarsus in Cilicia was a centre of the cult of Cybele and he must have grown up in an environment of paganism. He saw himself as specially chosen in his vision of Jesus to carry the new Gospel to the Gentiles and although he preached against the worship of the old gods very strongly, there were elements of his teaching which opened the way to future misunderstandings.

The ancient cults had been part of pagan life from before history had been written. The Gentiles of the Mediterranean were used to this type of religious imagery. A suffering young god, who was killed, buried and rose again from the dead was easier for them to understand and accept than the restrictions and life-long devotion to God imposed by the Law. The philosophers of Athens who laughed at Paul when he preached to them that God had raised Jesus from the dead, which is related in Acts 17:31-32, were rejecting what they thought were the notions of the common people beyond which they had been elevated by their knowledge of philosophy. The death, resurrection and ascension of Dionysus was familiar to all Greeks of pagan times. Although Paul was not guilty of introducing the notion of the trinity or the worship of Mary the mother of Jesus, he did promote the notions of the divine blood sacrifice which freed those who believed in it from the Law, the resurrection which delivered believers from death, and that God had begotten a son. The Gentiles with their pagan cultural baggage soon introduced the rest.


Butz. Jeffrey J., The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity.  Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont. 2005

Butz. Jeffrey J., The Secret Legacy of Jesus. Inner Traditions. Rochester. 2010

Codex Sinaiticus    http://codexsinaiticus.org/en/

Eisenman. Robert.  James the Brother of Jesus. Recovering the True History of early Christianity. Faber and Faber. London 1997

Eisenman. Robert. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians. Element.  Brisbane 1996.

Ehrman. Bart D., Lost Christianities; The Battles for Scriptures and the Faiths We Never Knew. OUP  NY. 2003

Ehrman. Bart D., Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. OUP.  NY. 2003

Eusebius of Caesarea. The Life of the Blessed Emperor  Constantine. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/vita-constantine.asp

Eusebius of Caesarea. The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine. Translated by G.A.Williamson. Penguin Books.  London. 1965

Frazer, Sir James George. The Golden Bough.. Macmillan. 1980

Freeman. Charles “AD 381. Heretics, pagans and the Christian State.” Pimlico. London 2009

Goulder. Michael. A Tale of Two Missions. SCM Press London 1994.

Graves. Kersey. The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors or Christianity before Christ. The Book Tree, California. First published 1875. This edition 1999.

Guillaume. A. The Life of Muhammad. A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah. OUP. Pakistan. 1967

Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. in Josephus. Complete Works. Translated by Willian Sanford LaSor.  Kregel Publications. Michigan. 1978

Josephus. Wars of the Jews.    in Josephus. Complete Works. Translated by Willian Sanford LaSor.  Kregel Publications. Michigan. 1978.

Renan,  Ernest. History of the Origins of Christianity.1877  http://www.ccel.org/ccel/renan/gospels.vi.html

Reynolds, Gabriel Said. A Muslim Theologian in the Sectarian Milieu. Abd al-Jabbar and the Critique of Christian Origins. Brill. Leiden 2004

Tabor. James J., The Jesus Dynasty. Stunning New Evidence About the Hidden History of Jesus.  Harper Element.  London 2006.

The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: Travels in the Middle  Ages. NightinGale Resources. NY 2010

The New Jerusalem Bible. Doubleday. NY. 1985

Wilson. Barrie. PhD. How Jesus Became a Christian. St Martins’s Press. NY. 2008

𝐑𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐢𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐈𝐧𝐭𝐨𝐥𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞: 𝐌𝐮𝐬𝐥𝐢𝐦 𝐨𝐫 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐨𝐝𝐨𝐬𝐢𝐮𝐬?

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐌𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐎𝐟 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐡𝐞𝐭𝐬 𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐎𝐟 𝐏𝐚𝐮𝐥 𝐎𝐟 𝐓𝐚𝐫𝐬𝐮𝐬

𝐄𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐲 𝐃𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐉𝐞𝐬𝐮𝐬 𝐌𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭


[1] Eisenman. Robert. James the Brother of Jesus. Recovering the True History of early Christianity. Faber and Faber. London 1997

[2] Butz. Jeffrey J., The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity.  Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont. 2005 p.3

[3] Tabor. James J., The Jesus Dynasty. Stunning New Evidence About the Hidden History of Jesus.  Harper Element.  London 2006. p.222

[4] Brown. Dan. The Da Vinci Code. Anchor Books. New York. 2003

[5] â€œAmong these are those already mentioned, called Desposyni, on account of their connection with the family of the Saviour. Coming from Nazara and Cochaba, villages of Judea, into other parts of the world, they drew the aforesaid genealogy from memory and from the book of daily records as faithfully as possible.”—Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia Ecclesiae, 1.7.11,13-14

[6] Galatians, 1:19

[7] Eusebius of Caesarea. The Life of the Blessed Emperor  Constantine. Ch 36

[8] http://codexsinaiticus.org/en/

[9] Ehrman. Bart D., Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. OUP.  NY. 2003 p. 3

[10] Goulder. Michael. A Tale of Two Missions. SCM Press London 1994. Introduction.p.x

[11] Ehrman. Bart D., Lost Christianities; The Battles for Scriptures and the Faiths We Never Knew. OUP  NY. 2003 p.2

[12] Ehrman. Bart D., Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. OUP.  NY. 2003 p.2-3

[13]  Ibid p.2

[14] Galatians 2:11-13

[15] Ehrman. Bart D., Lost Christianities; The Battles for Scriptures and the Faiths We Never Knew. OUP  NY. 2003 p 98

[16] ibid p 98-99

[17] Matthew 23:23

[18] James 2:8-10

[19] James 4: 11

[20] Eusebius of Caesarea. The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine.  c 325 C.E. Translated by G.A. Williamson. Penguin Classics. 1989 p. 59

[21] Numbers. 6:1

[22] Butz. Jeffrey J., The Secret Legacy of Jesus. Inner Traditions. Rochester. 2010. p.15

[23] Wilson. Barrie. PhD. How Jesus Became a Christian. St Martins’s Press. NY. 2008 p. 96

[24] 1 Corinthians 9:3-5

[25] Tabor. James J., The Jesus Dynasty. Stunning New Evidence About the Hidden History of Jesus.  Harper Element.  London 2006. p. 223

[26] Mark  6:3

[27] Tabor. p. 224

[28] ibid

[29] ibid

[30] Butz. Jeffrey J., The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity.  Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont. 2005  p. 18

[31] Ibid p. 19

[32] The New Jerusalem Bible. Doubleday. NY. 1985 p. 2071

[33] 1 Corinthians  16:1-4

[34] 2 Corinthians 9:1

[35] Galatians 2:9

[36] Romans 15:31

[37] Galatians 2:1-10

[38] Galatians 2:6-7

[39] 2 Corinthians 11:5

[40] 2 Corinthians 11:13

[41] Philippians 1:17

[42] Philippians  3:2

[43] Wilson. Barrie. PhD. How Jesus Became a Christian. St Martins’s Press. NY. 2008 p. 109

[44] Galatians 1:1

[45] Galatians 1:16-17

[46] Romans 14:2

[47] Matthew 14:3-5

[48] Eisenman. Robert. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians. Element.  Brisbane 1996. p. 223-224

[49] Acts of the Apostles 5:-37

[50] Josephus. Wars of the Jews.  Book II, Chapter V.  in Josephus. Complete Works. Translated by Willian Sanford LaSor.  Kregel Publications. Michigan. 1978. p. 473-474

[51] Eisenman. Rober. James the Brother of Jesus. Faber and Faber. London 1997 p.

[52] Matthew 22:15-16

[53] Acts of the Apostles 21:20-24

[54] Butz. Jeffrey J., The Secret Legacy of Jesus. Inner Traditions. Rochester. 2010 p. 108

[55] Romans 16:10-11

[56] Eisenman. Robert. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians. Element.  Brisbane 1996. p. 239

[57] Eisenman. Robert. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians. Element.  Brisbane 1996. p 232

[58] Acts of the Apostles 13:1-2

[59] Eisenman. Robert. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians  p. 238

[60] Acts of the Apostles 21:27

[61] Acts of the Apostles 23:6

[62] Acts of the Apostles 23:16-18

[63] Eisenman. Robert. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians  p. 235-236

[64] Romans 13:1-7

[65] Acts 24:11

[66] Acts 25:15-17

[67] Acts 26:27-32

[68] Acts 27:43

[69] Acts 28:16

[70] Acts 28:30-31

[71] Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. Book Book XX Chapter IX in Josephus. Complete Works. Translated by Willian Sanford LaSor.  Kregel Publications. Michigan. 1978. p 423-424

[72] Eusebius of Caesarea. The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine. Translated by G.A.Williamson. Penguin Books.  London. 1965 p. 59-60

[73] ibidp. 60

[74] ibid p.79

[75] Josephus, Flavius.  The Wars of The Jews. Book VII, Chapter I, Section 1. Written in 75 AD

[76] Butz, Jeffrey J., The Secret Legacy of Jesus. Inner Traditions. Vermont 2010 p. 138-9

[77] Renan,  Ernest. History of the Origins of Christianity. Book V. The Gospels. Chapter III. 1877  http://www.ccel.org/ccel/renan/gospels.vi.html

[78] Eusebius of Caesarea. The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine p.79

[79] Ibid p.81

[80] Butz, Jeffrey J., The Secret Legacy of Jesus. p. 141

[81] Ibid  p. 142

[82] Ibid p.144-46

[83] Eusebius of Caesarea. The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine. p.93

[84] Eusebius of Caesarea. The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine. [32.6]  p.96

[85] Butz.. The Secret Legacy of Jesus.  p. 141

[86] Ibid p.141

[87] Eusebius of Caesarea. The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine. (28.4) p. 91

[88] Butz.. The Secret Legacy of Jesus. p. 152-53

[89] Eusebius. The History of the Church (6.2) p. 107

[90] Butz. p. 165

[91] Gospel of John 9:22

[92] http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/q-exist.html

[93] Tabor. James D., The Jesus Dynasty. Stunning New Evidence about the Hidden History of Jesus.  Harper Element.

2006 p. 248

[94]  Ibid p.247-8

[95] Tabor p.249-50

[96] Wilson, Barrie Ph.D.  How Jesus Became Christian.  ST. Martin’s Press. New York. 2008 p.149

[97] Ibid 105-6

[98] Butz. Jeffrey J.,  The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity. Inner Traditions. Rochester, Vermont. 2005 p.138

[99] Guillaume. A. The Life of Muhammad. A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah. OUP. Pakistan 1967 p. 103

[100] Ibid

[101] Guillaume. p. 107

[102] Guillaume p. 107

[103] Butz. The Secret Legacy of Jesus. p.248

[104] Ibid. p. 249

[105] Reynolds, Gabriel Said. A Muslim Theologian in the Sectarian Milieu. Abd al-Jabbar and the Critique of Christian Origins. Brill. Leiden 2004  ch.1

[106] Reynolds. p.86

[107] Ibid p.109

[108] Ibid p.102

[109] Butz. The Secret Legacy of Jesus. p.234

[110]The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: Travels in the Middle  Ages. NightinGale Resources. NY 2010 p.106


[111] Butz.. p. 234

[112] Freeman. Charles “AD 381. Heretics, pagans and the Christian State.” Pimlico. London 2009   p. 43-45

[113] Ibid p.35

[114] Freeman. p. 46-47

[115] Ibid p.49

[116] Ibid p.13-14

[117] Ibid p.47

[118] Freeman p.51

[119] Ibid p.49-50

[120] Ibid 53-54

[121] Freeman p.52

[122] Ibid p. 54

[123] ibid

[124] Ibid p. 55

[125] Wilson, Barrie Ph.D.  How Jesus Became Christian.  ST. Martin’s Press. New York. 2008 p..105-06

[126] Freeman p. 25

[127] Freeman. p. 67

[128] Ibid p.69

[129] Freeman p.24-25

[130] Ibid p.2

(i) â€œWe may conjecture that in old days the priest who bore the name and played the role of Attis at the spring festival of Cybele was regularly hanged or otherwise slain upon the sacred tree, and that this barbarous custom was afterwards mitigated into the form in which it is known to us in later times, when the priest merely drew blood from his body under the tree and attached an effigy instead of himself to its trunk.” Frazer, Sir James George. The Golden Bough. Part IV. Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Vol 1. Book Second. Attis. Macmillan. 1980 p. 289.