Freethought Archives > Jeremy Bentham > Not Paul, But Jesus

CHAPTER XVI.

Paul's Doctrines Anti-apostolic.—Was he not Anti-Christ?


SECTION 1.

PAUL'S DOCTRINE WAS AT VARIANCE WITH THAT OF THE APOSTLES.

If Paul's pretensions to a supernatural intercourse with the Almighty were no better than a pretence;—his visit to Jerusalem, from first to last, an object of abhorrence to the Apostles and all their disciples; in a word, to all, who in the birthplace of Christianity, bore the name of Christian, and were regarded as belonging to the religion of Jesus;—if, not only to their knowledge, but to that of the whole population of Jerusalem, he was a depraved character, marked by the stain,—not merely of habitual insincerity, but of perjury in its most aggravated form;—if it was no otherwise than by his having declared himself a Roman citizen, that he escaped from the punishment—apparently a capital one—attached by the law of[Pg 427] the land to the crimes of which he had been guilty; if, in a word, it was only in places, in which Jesus—his doctrines, and his Apostles—were alike unknown, that this self-declared Apostle of Jesus was received as such;—if all, or though it were but some, of these points may be regarded as established,—any further proof, in support of the position, that no doctrine of his, which is not contained in some one or other of the four Gospels, has any pretension to be regarded as part and parcel of the religion of Jesus, might well, in any ordinary case, be regarded as superfluous: and, of the several charges here brought to view, whether there be any one, of the truth of which the demonstration is not complete, the reader has all along been invited to consider with himself, and judge. If thereupon the judgment be condemnatory, the result is—that whatever is in Paul, and is not to be found in any one of the four Gospels, is not Christianity, but Paulism.

In any case of ordinary complexion, sufficient then, it is presumed, to every judicious eye, would be what the reader has seen already: but the present case is no ordinary case. An error, if such it be, which notwithstanding all the sources of correction, which in the course of the work have at length been laid open and brought to view, has now, for upwards of seventeen centuries past, maintained its ground throughout the Christian world, cannot, without the utmost reluctance, be parted with: for dissolving the association so unhappily formed, scarcely, therefore, can any argument which reason offers be deemed superfluous.

For this purpose, one such argument, though on a preceding occasion already touched upon, remains to be brought to view. It consists of his own confession. Confession? say rather avowal: for—such[Pg 428] is the temper of the man—in the way of boasting it is, not in the way of concession and self-humiliation that he comes out with it. Be this as it may—when, speaking of the undoubted Apostles, he himself declares, that he has received nothing from them, and that he has doctrines which are not theirs, shall he not obtain credence? Yes: for this once, it should seem, he may, without much danger of error, be taken at his word.

To see this—if he can endure the sight—will not cost the reader much trouble, Table II. Paul disbelieved Table, lies before him. Under the head of Independence declared, in Paul's Epistle to his Galatians, chapter 1, verses 11, 12, he will find these words. "But I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man: for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." Thus far Paul. If then it was not received by him by the revelation of Jesus Christ—this Gospel of his; nor yet, as he assures us, "of man,"—the consequence is a necessary one—it was made by him, out of his own head.


SECTION 2.

OF CONFORMITY, USE MADE OF THE NAME OF JESUS NO PROOF.

Of the name of Jesus, whatever use he may have made—made (as it was seen) without authority—can any use, made in contradiction to this his own confession, afford any the slightest ground for regarding his Gospel, whatever it be,—his Gospel, or any part[Pg 429] of it,—as belonging to the religion of Jesus? If so, then are all impostors the persons they falsely pretend to be—all counterfeit productions of any kind, genuine ones.

While preaching to Gentiles at a distance from Jerusalem, from any use he could have the assurance to make of so revered a name, it is almost superfluous to observe, how much he had to gain, and how little to lose. In a case of this sort, how much soever there may be that is offensive in the demeanour of the pretended agent eulogizing, no part of it is ascribed to the pretended principal eulogized: and, in such his eulogy, the pretended agent is not hampered by any of those considerations, by which he would stand precluded from all prospect of advantage, had he the effrontery to lay it in equally strong colours on himself. Thus, in the case of Paul, from putting in the foreground where he did, the name of Jesus, there was this great advantage to gain: and, the pretended principal being never present to disavow him, the consequence was—that, so long as no accredited and credited agents, of that same principal, were at hand to contradict his pretensions,—the mere name of this principal would be no obstacle, to the preaching of doctrines, ever so decidedly at variance with his.

If, on the other hand,—in a company, in which he was preaching doctrines of his own, which were not Jesus's,—men should happen to be present, to whom, by reason of their personal acquaintance with Jesus, or with any immediate disciples of Jesus, these same doctrines of Paul's should be perceived and declared not to be Jesus's, here would be an inconvenience: and, on this account,—wherever, without using the name of Jesus, or any other name than his own, he could be sufficiently assured, of obtaining a degree[Pg 430] of confidence sufficient for his purpose,—this course, supposing it successful, would, on several accounts, be more advantageous.

Here then, on each occasion, or at any rate on some occasions, would be an option for him to make: namely, either to preach in the name of Jesus, or else to set up for himself:—to set up for himself, and, on the strength of a pretended revelation from the Almighty, without the intervention of Jesus, preach in no other human name than his own.

From a passage, in the first of his two Epistles to his Corinthian disciples, it looks as if an experiment of this kind—an experiment for adding nominal independence to real—had actually been tried: but that, the success of it was not such as to be followed by continuance. For this suspicion—for it is but a suspicion,—any reader who thinks it worth his while may see the grounds in the subjoined note.[83]

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SECTION 3.

PAUL, WAS HE NOT ANTICHRIST?

A child, of Paul's ready and fruitful brain—a bugbear, which the officious hands of the English official translators of his Epistles, have in their way christened, so to speak, by the name of Antichrist,—has been already brought to view. See Chap. XII. . 4. If there be any persons, to whose religion,—in addition to a devil, with or without horns and tail,—with or without other spirits, in no less carnal howsoever unrepulsive forms,—an Antichrist is necessary for the completion of the polytheistical official establishment; and if, in place of an ideal, they can put up with a real Antichrist,—an Antichrist of flesh and blood,—they need not go far to look for one. Of Saul, alias Paul, the existence is not fabulous. If, in his time, a being there was, in whom, with the exception of some two or three attendants of his own, every person, that bore the name of Christian, beheld, and felt an opponent, and that opponent an indefatigable adversary, it was this same Paul: Yes, such he was, if, in this particular, one may venture to give credence, to what has been seen so continually testified,—testified, not by any enemy of his, but by his own dependent,—his own historiographer,—his own panegyrist,—his own steady friend. Here then, for anybody that wants an Antichrist, here is an Antichrist, and he an undeniable one.

Antichrist, as everybody sees, Antichrist means neither more nor less than that which is opposed to Christ. To Christ himself, the bugbear, christened[Pg 433] by the English bishops Antichrist, was not, by its creator, spoken of as opposing itself. To Christ himself, Paul himself could not, at that time, be an opponent: the Jesus, whom he called Christ, was no longer in the flesh. But of all that, in the customary figurative sense—of all that, in any intelligible sense, could on this occasion be called Christ—namely, the real Apostles of Jesus, and their disciples and followers,—Paul, if he himself is to be believed, was an opponent, if ever there was one.

Paul preached the resurrection of the dead. Agreed. But did not all Pharisees do so, too? And was not Paul a Pharisee? And Jesus—had he not in all Pharisees so many opponents? And the real Christians, had they anywhere in his lifetime, any other opponent so acrid or so persevering as this same Paul?

Paul preached the resurrection of the dead. Agreed. But that resurrection of the dead which he preached, was it not a resurrection, that was to take place in the lifetime of himself and other persons then living? And—any such resurrection, did it accordingly take place?[84]


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FOOTNOTES:

[83] "Were ye baptized," says he, speaking to his Corinthians, 2 Cor. ii. 13. "Were ye baptized in the name of Paul?—I thank God," continues he, "that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius,—Lest any man should say that I had baptized in mine own name.—And I baptized also the household of Stephanas; besides, I know not whether I baptized any other." For an experiment of this kind, it should seem from that Epistle, that motives were by no means wanting. For, among these same disciples, in the preaching of his doctrines, he had found himself annoyed by divers names more or less formidable: there was the name, though probably never the person—of Cephas, the real Hebrew name, of which, in the four Gospels, written as they are in Greek, Peter is the translation: there was the name, and not improbably the person—of Apollos, whom, about three years before, Acts 18:18-26, two female disciples of Paul's, Aquila and Priscilla, had at Ephesus enlisted under his banners: there was, according to him, the name of Christ, though assuredly, never the person of Jesus.

"For it hath been declared unto me of you, brethren," says he, 1 Cor. i. 11, "that there are contentions among you,—Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ." Thereupon follows immediately a short flourish of Paulian eloquence:—"Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" and so forth, as above.

"Division," says he, "among you:" in this phrase may be seen the style of modern royalty. Towards a will so intimately connected with the divine as the royal, no such temper of mind, so intolerable as opposition, is ever to be supposed: were it on all occasions equally known—known to all, and alike interpreted by all, no division could have place: but, some put one interpretation upon it, some another: in some eyes, this course is regarded as best adapted to the giving effect to it; in others, that: hence that division, to which, on every occasion, it is the duty of all to put the speediest end. Now then as to Paul. This same assumed fatherly affection, under the name of elder-brotherly—this desire of seeing concord among brethren—what was it in plain truth? Answer, love of power. Would you have proof? Take in hand this same Epistle of his to his Corinthians, or, if at verse the tenth, it will be to this purpose early enough, and read on, till you come to chapter iv. verses 15, 16. "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you: but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.—For it hath been declared unto me," and so forth, as above. Read on, and at length you will come to the essence of all this good advice, 1 Cor. 4:15. "For, though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ," says he, "yet have ye not many fathers; for, in Christ Jesus, I have begotten you, through the Gospel.—Wherefore, I beseech you, be ye followers of me."

At this time, it should seem that, on the occasion of this his courtship of the Jews of Corinth, not only was the name of Peter an object of his declared rivalry, but the name and person of his own sub-disciple Apollos, an object of his jealousy. "For, while one saith," 1 Cor. iii. 4, "I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not," says he, "carnal?—Who then," continues he, "is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?—I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.—Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one; and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour." Fifteen verses after comes a flourish, in which Apollos is spoken of for the last time. "Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours;—23. And ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." At the word Cephas ends, it may have been observed, common sense: what follows being dust for the eyes: dust, composed of the flowers of Saulo-Paulian eloquence.

As to Apollos, if so it was, that, at one time, in the mind of our spiritual monarch, any such sentiment as jealousy, in regard to this sub-minister had place, it seems to have been afterwards, in some way or other, removed: for, in his Epistle to Titus, bearing date about seven years after, namely A.D. 64, the devotion of the subject seems to have been entire. Speaking to Titus, Tit. 3:13, "Bring with you," says Paul, "Zenas the lawyer, and Apollos, on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting to them."

[84] Paul must have thought that he had the Church at Corinth under complete control of his hypnotic suggestion or otherwise so much under his control as to assume the exalted office of Clairvoyant Oracle without question. He says, 2 Cor. 1-7, "I must needs glory, though it is not expedient; but I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord, I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body I know not; or whether out of the body, I know not, God knoweth). Such a one caught up even to the third heaven. And I know such a man (whether in the body, or apart from the body, I know not, God knoweth); how that he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. On behalf of such a one will I glory: but on mine own behalf I will not glory, save in my weakness. For if I should desire to glory, I shall not be foolish; for I shall speak the truth: but I forbear, lest any man should account of me above that which he seeth me to be, or heareth from me.

"And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations—wherefore, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch. Concerning this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

"And he has said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee."

It would require a Swift, Dryden, Pope, Milton or Knowles to stage the above so as make appreciable objective quantities out of the above verbal terms. They might create characters and give them the plumage of angels, nymphs, spirits, heathen gods, etc., and so feast the imagination into paranoia.

"Thorn in the flesh." This phrase has baffled the Ecclesiastics. The earlier Commentators interpreted it to mean Paul's great disappointment in all his schemes to subordinate the Apostles of Christ to his personal dominion of which so much has been disparaged by the author.

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END.


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