Religion…usually a conversational topic avoided like the plague (and the plague- a contagious bacterial disease usually avoided like a bad conversational topic). It’s all too emotive. One wrong word and you could find yourself on the receiving end of a fatwa. But that’s a shame. There’s a lot of interesting material in religious texts that can make for spirited conversation as long as you refrain from abusive insults and violence (a good rule of thumb for most conversations I find).
Talking specifically here about Christianity – whatever your views on it as a belief system there is no doubt that studying the texts of the early church from a purely historical perspective is fascinating. The underlying tensions, debates and barefaced disagreements are very apparent and, let’s face it, we all love to hear about arguments and the occasional fisticuff. That’s why soap operas are so addictive. It is also clear that very few religions come fully shaped right out of the box no matter how charismatic the original founder. Establishing a new religion in a hostile world is not quite as easy as one might think. Which given my own idea for a new religion troubles me greatly.
“Paul, an apostle —sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead”
He means – Some people there are saying I’ve not been sent by the Jerusalem church leaders – Peter, James & John- on my missions. I say to you who gives a shit. Who gives a flying fuck. I don’t need them. I’m being sent by Jesus. Jesus trumps James. You find that in any pack of cards.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all.
You’re not doing what I told you to do. You’re not believing what I told you to believe. I’m flabbergasted. It’s only been a couple of weeks. How two-faced can you be?
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
After three years I thought it was ok to go – really nonchalantly like – to Jerusalem. I mean 3 years doing my own thing showed how cool I was surely. Yes I did want to meet Cephas too – he’s always been the cool one in my opinion. I mean that whole deny me three times stuff and then the cock crowing thing. Sends shivers down my spine. He’s deep that Cephas. He’s seen some stuff. So me and Cephas hung out for a bit. God – (it’s ok I’m Paul so I can blaspheme – God said so) what we got up to. Cephas told me stories about Jesus and I told him stories about me. Mine were more interesting – even Cephas admitted that. I was forced to see that twat James though – doesn’t know his arse from his elbow that one but shows off because he’s Jesus’s brother. Doesn’t impress me though. My mother always said you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. I bet that’s what Jesus thought every time he had to spend time with that little shit. But that was it. I didn’t see anyone else there (and all rumours that I visited some friendly women of the night while I was visiting are also total horse shit).
Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.
I am sooooo not interested in those Jerusalem church leaders. I went 14 years without visiting them. 14 years! I’ve visited my gran more often than that and I can’t stand her (but inheritance baby- got to think of the inheritance). I did remember to send a birthday card to me old mucker Cephas though. Me and him were tight.
I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.
You’ve heard they summoned me? Total crap. Where are you getting your info from? I went up because of a revelation. It was my idea. Yes some Jerusalem apostles might have brought me a letter saying James “wants to see you now sonny jim, quick sharpish” but that’s not why I went. I went because I wanted to. Plus I wanted to brag about my Gentile convert numbers. Thought I might be up for some commission.
Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.
So those of you saying that the church leaders told me the Law free Gospel I was preaching was blasphemous and that I should stop instantly are wrong- totally wrong. Titus wasn’t forced to be circumcised. He volunteered. He had a bit of an infection down there & he thought the best thing was to lose the foreskin. He wasn’t compelled though. No way.
As for those who were held in high esteem —whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism —they added nothing to my message.
They’re meanies. Total meanies. And I don’t like them. They show off and say they are right and I’m wrong because they knew Jesus and I didn’t. But I know God and he’s better -so there.
On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.
I think some of you may have heard that they told me in no uncertain terms to stop preaching a Law free gospel to the Jews, that all Jews who believed in the message of Christ were still to observe the Torah & I was forbidden to say anything different as that was blasphemy. Well it didn’t go down quite like that in my recollection. They just told me I was better at preaching to Gentiles and they’d prefer that I go away for another fourteen years or so – far away- and do that and leave Peter to preach to the Jews. I was chuffed. I didn’t want to preach the Gospel to the circumcised anyway. I am so over the whole Law thing. If I could reattach my foreskin I would.
James,Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.
I don’t esteem them as pillars by the way but the plebs do so I’ll humour them, shake their hand, make nicey nicey & then move on. It’s called networking baby. Doesn’t mean I’ve sold out.
They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
I was going to give to the poor anyway. But later – after I’d found my wallet (couldn’t lay my hand on it just then). And then I would have had to get some change somewhere. And of course I needed to put petrol in the camel. But I would have then given the poor some money – definitely. I didn’t need telling.
When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
We had a stand up slanging match. The crowd was chanting Fight Fight and everything. It was really cool.
For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.
Cephas is a two faced shit too scared to eat with the Gentiles when James’ men were in town. He’s a James lapdog. I’ve gone right off him.
The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
Barnabas. My beloved Barnabas. He preferred cool Cephas to me. Broke my heart that did. Really broke my heart.
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
No I’m not employing tortuous arguments to justify a position that can’t be justified. I dispute that. It’s quite simple. We who are Jews by birth believe that Jesus not the Law is the true revelation of God, so why are we now requiring those who are not born Jews to obey the Law? …
…What do you mean Jesus never said that he not the Law was the true revelation? What do you mean the Jerusalem leaders are saying Jesus was always Law observant and my message makes no sense in terms of what Jesus actually said? They’re wrong. So wrong it’s laughable. I’m laughing now as I write this – it’s made me smudge my line. I know what Jesus told me on the road to Damascus (and no that wasn’t a heat induced vision combined with a sheep walking across my path – although the risen Jesus is strangely woolly).
“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.
Yes I’m rambling now, I’m just so angry. Look there is no need to observe the Law any longer. I’m free of it. I burnt my books and everything. I’m going to go for a long walk on Saturday and maybe even cook a meal- I just don’t care anymore. I’m free. You’re free. We’re all free. This is the Age of Aquarius.
And that pretty much concludes chapters 1& 2. I won’t go through the rest of Galatians. It’s all much of a muchness from then on. Paul continues to argue on the same theme – it’s Faith not the Law that offers salvation. His views are clearly very different from those of the Jerusalem church leaders at the time and he is very angry (putting it mildly) – but their authority was strong in those days so Paul really did have a bit of an uphill battle at the time.
But…. he won the day. The NT is very Pauline – 13 letters from Paul, a Paul themed history (Acts) & a Gospel likely written by a Paul supporter (Luke – who also wrote Acts).Pauline Christianity was the eventual winner despite the authority of the Law observant Jerusalem church. But I’m not that surprised. A Christianity that says you don’t need to adhere to the rather difficult and complex precepts of the Jewish Torah was always going to be rather persuasive – after all a lot of men are very fond of their foreskin.