Close Scrutiny of Galatians 1: 19

Paul’s first meeting with Peter in Jerusalem c 36 CE, just a few years after the alleged resurrection of Jesus, is a very crucial meeting, because this is when & where Paul first learned of the alleged resurrection in Jerusalem.

In Galatians 1:18 Paul states “Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days.

In Galatians 1:19 he states “I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother”.

Galatians 1:19’s true significance is not really appreciated, even by most Christians, and its authenticity is never challenged, especially by the Orthodox Church. This blog first explains the significance of this verse, and then it challenges its authenticity.

The significance of Galatians 1:19

This short verse consists of two simple statements:

“I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother”

It may not look like much but this simple verse contains very critical information concerning this crucial first meeting, and that second simple phrase “only James, the Lord’s brother” is one of the most significant phrases in the New Testament. Without this second phrase, Paul’s first meeting with Peter reverts to a simple 1:1 meeting without witnesses. This would mean Paul’s entire knowledge of the alleged resurrection in Jerusalem was based on one man’s uncorroborated and unsubstantiated hearsay claims that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. This uncomfortable fact, if true, would seriously undermine Christianity’s credentials, and further weaken an already weak orthodox model of Christianity. The true significance of this simple phrase “only James, the Lord’s brother” cannot, therefore, be overstated.

The authenticity of Galatians 1:19

Given the alleged circumstances surrounding this first meeting, Paul’s claim that he met only James during his 15 day stay with Peter does not ring true,. The meeting occurred in Jerusalem, only 5-6 years after the alleged resurrection of Jesus, and this supernatural event was allegedly witnessed by over 500 people, including by Peter, James and the other apostles. Most of these alleged witnesses were probably still living in Jerusalem at the time of Paul’s visit. Many were also presumably now members of the early Jerusalem church led by Peter & by James. Under these circumstances, Paul’s claim that he saw no one other than Peter & James during his 15 day stay in Jerusalem seems incredible. However, as stated earlier, having James in the equation is crucial as far as orthodox Christianity is concerned.

[It’s worth noting at this stage, that the total absence of any other people at Paul & Peter’s first meeting in Jerusalem is exactly what one would predict if the alleged resurrection never actually happened].

So did Paul really did see James during his stay with Peter?

If you combine the enormous significance and enormous convenience of that second phrase with the ease with which it could have been inserted sometime later, and then you add in this surprising lack of visitors throughout Paul’s 15 day stay with Peter, then in my opinion, we have more than enough reason to start questioning the authenticity of this simple second phrase. Our earliest reasonably complete version of Galatians dates to c 200 CE, which leaves 150 years for someone to add a simple interpolation designed to obviate any suggestion that Peter & Paul’s first meeting was a simple 1:1 meeting with no witnesses.

There’s already been considerable debate concerning possible interpolations in Galatians 1:19, but so far, this debate has focused entirely on querying the identity of James, rather than questioning his presence at this first meeting. Orthodox Christianity obviously has no incentive to recognize this potential interpolation, and certainly no wish to acknowledge its existence. However, the surprising lack of visitors, the transforming nature of that second statement, its extreme convenience and the ease with which it could have been inserted into the text anytime during that 150 year time gap, all suggest this simple phrase “only James, the Lord’s brother” is indeed just a simple interpolation designed to rectify a potential major embarrassment.

Why James?

Having a single solitary witness to this first critical meeting in Jerusalem is obviously not ideal, but it was better than no witnesses, and it had to do, because restrictions imposed by Paul, left the originator of this interpolation with no other choice.

Paul had already dictated who witnessed this alleged resurrection in 1-Corinthians 15: 5-8, namely Peter, the Twelve, more than five hundred of the brothers, James, all the apostles, and last of all himself.

Paul had also already stated in Galatians 1:19 that he saw none of the other apostles.

Whoever engineered this critical interpolation was thus left with Hobson’s choice. It had to be a credible witness, and a simple process of elimination left James as the only potential candidate.

So who engineered this crucial interpolation?

Paul died c 65 CE and any early interest in his epistles would almost certainly have focused on the meaning & significance of Paul’s resurrection claims rather than the details of Paul’s movements. I also think early first century interest would have focused more on the newly emerging gospels rather than Paul himself. Therefore I think we can safely eliminate the second half of the first century, and restrict our search to the second century. This suspected interpolation would obviously have been far easier to engineer early on in the second century, simply because there would have been far fewer “unmodified examples” of Paul’s epistles in general circulation. There may actually have been none in circulation.

Enter Marcion. If anyone in the second century was going to “modify” Galatians 1: 19 it was almost certainly Marcion. He joined the Roman church c 135-140 CE and declared Christianity was a distinct from in opposition to Judaism. Marcion believed Jesus was the savior sent by the newly established Christian God, and Paul the Apostle was Christ’s only true apostle. He rejected the Hebrew Bible and saw the wrathful God of Israel as a lower entity. Marcion’s canon [thought to be the earliest cannon] consisted of ten Pauline epistles and an edited version of Luke’s gospel. He rejected all the other epistles and the other gospels that eventually ended up in the 27-book New Testament canon that finally defined Nicene Christianity. Conflicts soon arose and Marcion was excommunicated in 144 CE. Marcionism was denounced as heresy and his writings are now lost, but we can deduce a large part of ancient Marcionism using what later critics, especially Tertullian, said about Marcion and his heretical ideas.

So Marcion was probably the first person to actually focus on Paul’s epistles and the person who first drew attention to their existence. We accept without question that Marcion drastically edited Luke’s gospel to better fit his radical new ideology. Presumably he did this to edit out everything relating to Judaism, but in doing so, he demonstrates his cavalier attitude to inconvenient facts. We also know he was very well versed in Paul’s epistles. Therefore, he was almost certainly the first one to recognize the existence of this problem in Galatians 1:19. He was also one of the few people knowledgeable enough to fix it. So, in my opinion, Marcion was definitely the right man, in the right place, at the right time, albeit with the wrong attitude and the wrong motives. If anybody can suggest a better potential candidate please leave a heads up in the comments section.

The all too obvious weakness.

We know that what Peter told Paul at this very crucial first meeting eventually ended up in the gospels. In other words, all four resurrection claims in the gospels are based entirely on what Peter told Paul at their first meeting. What we don’t know, even now, is whether Peter told the truth or just lied about the alleged resurrection in Jerusalem. We have nothing to go on, and there’s still no credible independent evidence to corroborate Peter’s resurrection claims Total absence of corroborating evidence suggests Peter just lied to Paul about this alleged resurrection, but Orthodox Christianity ignores all this and simply assumes Peter told the truth. It has no choice, but in making this arbitrary decision, orthodox Christianity totally invalidates the claim that the actual existence of these gospels proves the resurrection actually happened. They are just going round in circles [see The Christianity Merry Go Round].

And finally, the all to obvious truth

Christians should note that the veracity of Peter’s resurrection claim does not influence the final outcome in any way. As long as Paul left Jerusalem 2000 years ago actually believing Peter’s claim that Jesus had been resurrected in Jerusalem [which he did], then the die was cast and the outcome was inevitable. We would end up with Christianity and a New Testament if Peter told the truth. We would also end up with the same Christianity and the same New Testament if Peter lied.

So the veracity of Christianity’s central tenet that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem rests entirely, on unverified & now unverifiable claims, made 2000 years ago, by an unsophisticated peasant fisherman fro Galilee.

Yet again, a close scrutiny of the orthodox model of Christianity indicates that Christianity’s balloon is almost certainly filled with nothing but hot air.

P.S. Anyone wanting to know why Peter probably lied to Paul about this alleges resurrection in Jerusalem and/or how Christianity really started, should read the revised updated transcript of my short book, now available free of charge at https://keebostick.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/godless-christianity/

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Why the Deafening Silence?

How did Christianity really start? Was in the result of a virgin birth in Bethlehem, a supernatural resurrection in Jerusalem and a divine revelation on the road to Damascus? Or is Christianity just the logical end product that was produced when a simple hallucination on the road to Damascus was reinforced with a simple lie told in Jerusalem?

A few weeks ago, I posted what I thought was a very provocative 3-part series suggesting how I think Christianity actually started. I fully expected it to stir up a bit of a hornet’s nest. Instead, I’m now deafened by the silence. Not a single comment from the Jesus is a myth fraternity and, even more surprising, no reaction whatsoever from Christians. Why this deafening silence? I’m basically claiming that all you really need to explain Christianity and the New Testament is a simple hallucination on the road to Damascus and a simple lie told in Jerusalem. Put these two simple ideas together, and voila, Christianity without any need for a resurrection in Jerusalem.

I fully accept that I can’t prove Paul hallucinated on the road to Damascus. Likewise, I accept that I can’t prove Peter lied to Paul about the Jerusalem resurrection. But then again, Christians have to accept that they can’t prove Paul didn’t hallucinate on the road to Damascus and they also have to accept that they can’t prove Peter didn’t lie to Paul.

We, therefore, now have two explanations of how Christianity started. One is the 2000 year old orthodox explanation, with all the super naturalistic explanations you would expect from an ancient pantheistic culture. The other is a simpler, more pragmatic, 21st century reinterpretation of the same basic facts. If my version of first century events seems far too simple, just remember Occam’s razor which states:“When you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.”

You can find out why Paul hallucinated on the road to Damascus by clicking here, but you’ll have to read The Christianity Myth if you want to know why Peter lied to Paul about the Jerusalem resurrection, and why Peter’s lies were later immortalized in the Gospels .

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But Where’s The Proof?

Four people called Matthew, Mark, Luke & John turn up at a police station claiming some guy called Jesus had been murdered. They were all interviewed in separate rooms. Each was asked if they actually witnessed the murder. Each said “Well no, not exactly. A guy called Paul told me about it, but don’t worry Paul is a trustworthy guy. He wouldn’t lie about a thing like that”.

So Paul was taken in for questioning. He was also interviewed in a separate room, and when asked if he actually witnessed the murder he said “Well no, not exactly. A guy called Peter told me all about it. But don’t worry, I trust Peter implicitly. He wouldn’t lie about something as serious as this”.

So Peter was taken in for questioning. He was also interviewed in a separate room, and when asked if he actually witnessed the murder he said “Yes, of course I witnessed the murder. I was there and saw it all happen. So did a lot of others. Ask my mate Paul. I told him all about it when we last met.”

“OK” said the interviewer, “you claim a guy called Jesus was murdered, and you say you saw it all happen. Fine, but I can’t just take your word for it. I need evidence that this Jesus guy was murdered. So if there’s been a murder, where’s your proof?”

“Well that’s the awkward bit” said Peter. “We all saw Jesus murdered, but unfortunately, just after the murder, his body disappeared without trace. I’m guessing Paul has already told you the names of the others who  witnessed this murder. Anyway, don’t worry, the guy who lives in the Vatican will vouch for my integrity, as will 2 billion other Christians  out there”.

If the penny hasn’t already dropped, try reading this piece again, substituting the word resurrection for the word murder.

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Part 3: Christianity’s Achilles Heel

The Christian claim that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem is one of the central tenets of Christianity. If you ask a Christian why they believe Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem they will usually tell you because it says so in the Bible. Ask them why it says so in the Bible, and they will usually tell you because he was resurrected in Jerusalem. Most Christians fail to see the fallacy of this simple circular argument. They also fail to appreciate that the only evidence supporting this Christian claim is that found in the New Testament itself. This New Testament evidence consists of four independent Gospels, all of which claim Jesus was resurrected after his crucifixion in Jerusalem.

But who wrote these Gospels, and when, and why is this momentous event portrayed in these Gospels as a near invisible event noticed only by a handful of Jews? In short, was Jesus really resurrected in Jerusalem? Can these Gospel accounts be believed? Christian scholars claim these Gospels can be believed, because they are historically accurate eye witness accounts. But are they really eye witness accounts that can be trusted? There is still great uncertainty around this issue, because scholars still contest both the authorship of the Gospels and the actual dating of these Gospels. Mark, the earliest of the four Gospels is generally thought to be dated c 65-75 AD, Matthew & Luke c 75-85 AD and John is thought to be dated c 90-95 AD. Many scholars therefore suggest the Gospels are second-hand hearsay accounts written by unknown authors well after the death of all concerned.

Obviously, nobody can be absolutely certain about any of this, including the dating of these Gospels, and Christian apologists often exploit this uncertainty. A classic example can be found on page 165 of Jim Wallace’s book Cold Case Christianity. Here, Wallace tries to prove that Luke’s Gospel is a very early eye witness account. He does so by first comparing two almost identical accounts of the Eucharist [Lord’s Supper], one in Luke’s Gospel, the other in 1-Corinthians, and then he claims that Paul must have copied an earlier Luke, thus implying that Luke was written quite soon after the crucifixion. Wallace totally ignores mainstream opinion that Paul had died well before Luke was written, and thus Luke must have copied Paul. Apologists get away with this sort of thing all the time because their readers don’t recognize when they are being duped.

The consensus view of the Gospel’s dates suggests the Gospel accounts of the resurrection in Jerusalem are second-hand hearsay accounts rather than first-hand eye witness accounts. We thus need to ascertain the origin of these resurrection accounts. This is not as difficult as it may seem. The Gospel authors obviously learned about the Jerusalem resurrection from Paul [1-Corinthians 15: 3-9] and Paul in turn obviously learned about the Jerusalem resurrection from Peter, when they first met in Jerusalem some three years after Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. Thus Peter simply told Paul all about the resurrection when they first met in Jerusalem. Paul then simply passed on this good news to his early Christian communities, and hence to the Gospel authors. The Gospel authors then immortalized in their Gospels what Peter had told Paul about the resurrection .

This chain of events implies the resurrection accounts found in the Gospel are second-hand hearsay accounts, rather than first-hand eye witness accounts. “So what?” I hear Christians say. “Peter actually witnessed the resurrection, and both his and Paul’s credentials are impeccable. So effectively, the Gospel accounts of the Jerusalem resurrection are as close to being eye witness accounts as makes no difference”.

This is essentially the argument used by Habermas, a noted Christian scholar & apologist. In the video below, Habermas claims that we can believe the resurrection claims in the gospels because they are based on claims made by a very reliable eye witness [Peter] that are then relayed to the gospel authors via a very reliable intermediary [Paul].

Given the actual dating of the gospels, the chain of events suggested by Habermas is probably true, but what Habermas never addresses is the veracity of Peter’s original claims.  Because he believes the resurrection happened, Habermas tacitly assumes Peter told the truth. He has no choice because there is no other independent evidence available to verify the veracity of Peter’s claims. Peter’s claims are in fact both unsubstantiated claims & unverifiable claims.

So what if the resurrection  never happened? What if Peter simply lied to Paul about this Jerusalem resurrection? All Christian claims that the Gospels really are eye witness accounts, are thus based entirely on two tacit assumptions, the tacit assumption that the resurrection actually happened, and the tacit assumption that Peter told Paul the truth.  These tacit assumptions are Christianity’s unacknowledged Achilles heel. If there was no Jerusalem resurrection, and Peter simply lied to Paul when they first met, then Paul would never know Peter lied. Paul would, unknowingly, simply propagate Peter’s lies, and the Gospel authors would then,unknowingly, simply immortalize Peter’s lies in the ensuing Gospels.

So, simply by making two reasonable assumptions, one that the Gospels were written after the death of all concerned , and the other that Peter lied to Paul about the Jerusalem resurrection, it is possible to deny the resurrection and still explain the Gospel claims that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. All the other basic facts remain unchanged. Paul is still converted on the road to Damascus. Paul still visits Peter three years after this experience. Paul still leaves Jerusalem believing that Jesus is the son of God, and with his belief now turbo-charged by Peter’s news that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. Paul still passes on the good news to his early Christian communities. The unknown Gospel authors still propagate the good news in the ensuing Gospels and we still end up with Christianity and a New Testament. However,in this scenario, there is no need for any resurrection in Jerusalem.

Of course this is all pure speculation on my part, because we can never know for certain if Peter lied to Paul about the Jerusalem resurrection. However, this scenario  does better explain the known facts, and it does so without affecting the final outcome. My scenario not only explains the total lack of independent corroboration of this resurrection. It also explains the need to forge an entry in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews. It also explains what Christians always fail to explain, namely why the alleged resurrection is portrayed in the Gospels as a near invisible event noticed only by a handful of Jews, despite the fact the resurrection allegedly occurred in a Jerusalem teeming with Jews. This is because the Gospel authors could only propagate in the Gospels what Paul told them when he established his early Christian communities. Paul summarizes this in 1-Corinthians 15: 3-9.

517IsBb0cZL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Thus, the proper answer to the second question posed at the beginning of this post is

“Because Peter said Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem”

Christians tacitly assume Peter told the truth about the Jerusalem resurrection, but in The Christianity Myth, I assume Peter lied . If you want to know why Peter lied, you’ll have to read the book.

 

Click here to read it free of charge

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Was Jesus Resurrected in Jerusalem?

Photo credit: Andrew Senay / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: Andrew Senay / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Ask Christians why they believe Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem and they will tell you because it says so in the Bible. Ask them why it says so in the Bible and they will tell you because Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. This circular argument doesn’t bother Christians because they believe the Gospels are historically accurate, eye witness accounts written shortly after the crucifixion. This message is constantly drummed home by the Christian establishment and constantly reinforced by Christian apologist authors all of which have personal emotional agendas that cloud their judgement and personal emotional baggage that corrupts their objectivity.

A typical example of corrupted objectivity can be found on page 165 of Jim Wallace’s book Cold Case Christianity. To prove that Luke’s Gospel is a very early eye witness account Wallace compares two almost identical accounts of the Eucharist [Lord’s Supper] one in Luke’s Gospel the other in 1-Corinthians and then claims that Paul copied an earlier Luke. Wallace totally ignores mainstream secular opinion that Paul was dead when Luke was written, and therefore, it was Luke who copied Paul. Apologist authors get away with this sort of thing all the time, because their readers don’t know enough about early Christianity to realise when they are being duped. Religion and politics have always been fertile stomping grounds when it comes to applying the theory of misinformation.

But if the Gospels are historically accurate as claimed, where is the independent evidence corroborating what was allegedly the greatest single event in the history of mankind? Jesus was supposedly resurrected at the beginning of the Jewish Passover in the middle of a Jerusalem teeming with Jews. News of that spectacular event should have gone viral and it should have been noted by both Jewish and Roman authorities. But there are no reliable independent records of any sort. For centuries the Jewish historian Josephus appeared to offer independent proof that the resurrection really happened but these days most scholars now accept that the relevant passage in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews was altered by the early Christian church to rectify the embarrassing absence of independent evidence.

Continue reading “Was Jesus Resurrected in Jerusalem?”