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Relying on primary sources, a new theory emerges that the Jesus of history was really Judas the Galilean. The historical Jesus has been glossed over by other images and impressions. The Jesus of Nazareth we find in the canonical gospels of the New Testament is not the Jesus of history but rather a composite. It is a portrait created by the Pauline Gentile Christ Movement to suit its needs after the Jewish Jesus Movement and Judaism waned due to the disastrous war with Rome in the first century CE. A new Messiah figure was needed, worthy of Roman admiration and devotion. Jesus of Nazareth was created.
“Foundation legends” helped bridge the gap between 60 CE and the reality of the emerging church from 90 CE on. These legends provided answers to troubling questions concerning the continuity of teachings from Jesus of Nazareth to Paul.
Then the four gospels of the New Testament were created based upon a storyline provided by the author of the Gospel of Mark. They reflect the theology of Paul as well as his experiences, a fact rarely discussed by scholars and never quantified. But the astute reader of the New Testament suspects that the gospel Jesus was not the Jesus of history, the person who preached in Galilee and met his tragic end in Jerusalem. The gospel Jesus was a created figure, a fiction, one suited for the Christ Movement and its successors. It was a remarkable creation for it has stood the test of time.
The early Christian Church story has been buttressed by several “foundation legends,” not included in the New Testament but circulated in Christian communities from the early second century. The legends have a twofold purpose: first and foremost, church history had to be consistent and uniform in nature; second, the time period from the end of Acts (approximately 60-62 CE) to the early church historians (early to late second century) had to be accounted for in an appropriate manner.
Two distinct “Christian” movements existed by the fourth decade of the first century: the Jewish Jesus Movement and the Pauline Christ Movement. Most Christians today have not even considered such a split. The traditional viewpoint states that the church began after Jesus’s resurrection and the apostles--including Peter, Paul, and James--all worked together for the same purpose. Any differences between these leaders have been minimized in order to present a unified front.
The fact that Christians today fail to recognize any split is a testament to the Foundation Legends’ success. Would Christians today believe in the traditional Christian unified world if these legends had not been invented?
The Martyrdom of Peter and Paul
When Paul traveled to Achaia to meet Nero in 67 CE, he was not in chains but went of his own accord to lay blame for the Jewish war on Florus (The Jewish War 2.556-58). Nothing at this time points to Paul’s untimely demise. If Paul still lived and traveled freely, then why did the later church insist that he and Peter underwent persecution and martyrdom together? The answer: the church wanted to gloss over any disagreements between the earlier Jewish Jesus Movement and Paul’s Christ Movement.
The first mention of Peter’s and Paul’s martyrdom came from Clement of Rome (30-97 CE). He did not supply a concrete date for the martyrdom but did concoct the falsehood that Paul “taught righteousness to the world.” Clement attached to Paul the righteousness attribute that clearly belonged to Cephas (Peter) and James the Just (followers of Judas the Gallilean and the Jewish Jesus Movement). Righteousness meant dedication to the Torah. Compare this to the Ebionite claim rejecting “the Apostle Paul as an apostate from the Law.” If Paul were an apostate from the law--and his own letters prove it--then no one in the Jewish Jesus Movement could have considered his teaching “righteousness.”
Eusebius wrote, “It is recorded that in his [Nero’s] reign Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and that Peter likewise was crucified, and the record is confirmed by the fact that the cemeteries there are still called by the names of Peter and Paul, and equally so by a churchman named Gaius, who was living while Zephyrinus was Bishop of Rome [199-217 CE].”
By the early fifth century the legend had become so entrenched that Augustine wrote, “Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed.” Augustine differed from Eusebius, who claimed that both were martyred at the same time. However, the important point is that Peter and Paul were viewed as one, with the same teachings and visions of God. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
The martyrdom legend followed upon the misinformation contained in the Book of Acts. In Acts, the argument between Cephas and Paul at Antioch was amicably resolved, but if that is true, then why did the Ebionites consider Paul an apostate from the law? In addition, Paul supposedly went to meet Caesar in Rome in 60-62 CE. In reality Paul met Nero in 67 CE at Achaia (modern-day Greece). The martyrdom legend simply built upon the faulty history of Acts.
The agenda for the legend is clear: Make the apostles agree in all things and present a uniform history of the early church. This legend also brought the working lives of Peter and Paul together. If they were willing to die together, they also were willing to work together. Noted scholars such as the late Hyam Maccoby (The Mythmaker) and, more recently, Barrie Wilson (How Jesus Became Christian) argue that Paul and James represented totally different gospels. (Cephas/Peter followed strict Torah observance.) Much of the evidence for this separation comes from Paul’s own letters and from the Book of Acts. The unity of Peter and Paul in life was as much a foundation legend as their unity in death.