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Differing early brands of Christianity

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Apostle attraction: Peter’s conflict with Simon Magnus, as depicted by Avanzino Nucci in this 1620 painting
Khalid Wasi (Photograph supplied)

In spite of the fact that one man has inspired the world to have more than two billion followers, historians have wrestled over the real history of Jesus for centuries.

Archaeological research has done a lot to recreate what may have been the scene at the time. The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, which were not included in the canon created in Rome in the fourth century, provided a very different narrative of what we commonly hear today in Western Christianity.

Unlike believers, historians look for third-party, independent evidence to help corroborate the eyewitness accounts of followers. In that regard, the four gospels are taken on the merit of testimony, but many episodes described cannot be independently verified.

Josephus, the Jewish scribe who wrote the journals for the Romans, briefly refers to James as the brother of Jesus, but does not elaborate. However there is clear account of the followers, many of whom fled Jerusalem and continued their Jewish lifestyle as followers of Jesus. The interesting thing about them is they thought of Jesus as a man, not a god. The Jewish messiah was supposed to be a man from the line of David that will restore the city like a King for the Jews - they were not expecting not a god.

As in modern times, some people have claimed to be the return of God (and there are several instances) - Father Divine, etc, and more at the same time. It seems as a cosmic reality the spiritual energy for these occurrences are not singular or isolated events. At the time of the historical Jesus, there were others making the same claim and performing miracles also.

In context of the line of David, the Samaritans who became dissociated from the Jews were also from the same line of David. In the tales of Jesus, he tried to help his Jewish community to understand their shortsightedness and folly and gave a glowing tribute to the good behaviour of the Samaritan.

The Jewish followers did not embrace the gentiles. It is said that Paul introduced a new teaching, which was embraced by the gentile that did not require circumcision or observance of any of the Jewish laws. Entwined in this clash of ideologies, Simon Magnus, a magician and a Samaritan with spiritual insight, was one of those who made similar claims to Jesus. Seeing the power of some of the apostles of Jesus, laying hands and transforming people, he inquired about that power.

At first Simon the Samaritan was rebuked by the apostle Peter, but he was able to intellectually demonstrate that having direct connection with God was better than just being around or hearing the words of Jesus. In fact his claim was the exact claim of Paul, who said he met the divine on the road to Damascus.

What is absolutely clear is that there were two distinctly different brands of Christianity, one Jewish the other anti-Jewish. There was also a difference early on in what was considered the nature of Jesus and then idea of Christ. The most prolific of the groups in the first 100 to 200 years were the Gnostics.

The predominant idea was that he was a man and at the age of 30 after the baptism by John the Baptist, he was filled with a divine spirit, which carried him through the rest of his term.

To simplify the discourse Jesus spent the rest of his days trying with very little success to get others and his disciples to have the same divine spirit that possessed him. The Pentecost was the beginning of that realisation, or “Gnosis”, which brought his disciples and followers in direct contact with God making them apostles.

All of that would come to an end in the early 300s, when there were so many Christians that Rome decided to make it a state religion. In order to accomplish that there could not be religious disparity, Constantine the Emperor needed one idea.

They assembled several bishops to come to an agreed doctrine and dismissed anything contrary to that which was agreed. Upon agreement of the council in Nicea, of the many books available, they formatted a bible choosing only those books that agreed with their narrative. An inquisition followed and any book that did not conform to the Roman book was destroyed. It is not until recent times that some of those lost books have been uncovered.

Faith and practice of early Christianity was a personal development leading to direct communion with the lord of the universe with no intermediary. It was not professing the apostles’ creed that gained favour of God, or salvation. All of that began after the fourth century and there were plenty of intermediaries, such as the Pope and the priestly class, until the reformation.

Today, as one reaches back to uncover the message of Christ, two considerations come to the fore. The Christ message to the Jews, or the interpolated Christ message given by Simon and Paul - they come from the same spirit, but are not one and the same. However, if you are able to follow his life directly, based on his way, you will make it anyway.

The biggest independent testimony of first century Christianity, while not followers of Jesus, are the followers of John the Baptist (Mandaeans), who continue up to this day the same practices that lead to Gnosis, experiential connection with God.

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Published October 09, 2021 at 7:58 am (Updated October 09, 2021 at 7:45 am)

Differing early brands of Christianity

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