Why the Jesus Movement Never Survived  

    It would take someone much more learned than I to write this commentary.
[The Appendix is far more important than anything I have to say!!]

    I first started thinking about it 68 years ago while I was waiting for our first baby to be born.  I was in my first year of seminary at Temple University.  Temple was blessed by having retired professors from many other schools come there to teach in their sunset years.
    My Hebrew professor, Doctor Benjamin, was a distinguished scholar who taught us so much more than just Hebrew.  One of the most important realizations I came away with was the almost insurmountable problem  encountered trying to move from one language to another.  I still haven't stopped thinking about it!
    Lying behind and under every language is a distinctive cultural mindset.  One of the primary rewards for learning a language is the help it gives in penetrating that particular mindset.
    I never learned Hebrew well enough to get a grasp on the ancient and venerable view of reality that lies under and behind that language.  Similarly, I never learned Greek well enough to see the world through their eyes.  What I did learn is that translations greatly distort the deeper meanings of the original thoughts.
    It is extremely important to realize that the original Jesus movement took its shape from the Hebrew/Aramaic language family.  The bridge between the Hebrew and the Greek was never crossed!!  Saul was a Jew who wrote in Greek.  The revolutionary and terrorist tone of the original Jesus movement pretty much disappeared when James, the brother of Jesus, died.

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth.
I have not come to bring peace, but the sword."

[MATTHEW 10: 34]

    Before any of The New Testament was written, Saul hijacked the Jesus Movement and turned it into another Greek salvation cult. Saul's version of the movement was set in the strange but distinctive world view of the Greeks.  Most of the concepts of Saul's theology could not have been thought by the real "Jesus of History."

    If you're at all interested in the scholarly account of the morphing of this movement from Jesus to Saul, please read Reza Aslan's Zealot!! You will be well rewarded!!  If you don't want the full thing,  please feel free to read the selected passages I have chosen for a quick summary.

Zealot:  Intro  Part I  Part II  Part III 

    When the Christian Church was established on June 19, 325 CE, its first established creed, The Nicene Creed, was, of course, in Greek.  [ To see The Nicene Creed in Greek, Latin, and English: Click Here. ]
The key word here, of course, is the word ousia!!!

    I have written about this word in previous commentaries.  The problem here is that when the Latin Fathers, like Tertullian, attempted to morph this Greek into Latin, there was no way to do it because the Greek world view and the Latin world view were ontologically different.  The Latin word Substantia doesn't convey the same meaning as the Greek word ousia!!

The Hebrew religion of Jesus was morphed into the Greek of Saul,
and the Greek of Saul was morphed into Latin.
Hence, The Great Schism of 1054

[Is it any wonder we are still killing one another over these things?]

Appendix:  My Sources
Aslan, Reza  
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth .
Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The Hellenists, who worshipped Jesus in Greek, relied on a language that provided a vastly different set of symbols and metaphors than did either Aramaic or Hebrew. The difference in language gradually led to differences in doctrine, as the Hellenists began to meld their Greek-inspired worldviews with the Hebrews’ already idiosyncratic reading of the Jewish scriptures. (Kindle Locations 2814-2817)

Paul holds particular contempt for the Jerusalem-based triumvirate of James, Peter, and John , whom he derides as the “so-called pillars of the church” (Galatians 2: 9). (Kindle Locations 2884-2885)

But Paul seems totally unconcerned with anything “Jesus-in-the-flesh” may or may not have said. In fact, Paul shows no interest at all in the historical Jesus. There is almost no trace of Jesus of Nazareth in any of his letters. With the exception of the crucifixion and the Last Supper, which he transforms from a narrative into a liturgical formula, Paul does not narrate a single event from Jesus’s life. (Kindle Locations 2910-2913)

Paul’s views about Jesus are so extreme, so beyond the pale of acceptable Jewish thought, that only by claiming that they come directly from Jesus himself could he possibly get away with preaching them. Paul  advances an altogether new doctrine that would have been utterly unrecognizable to the person upon whom he claims it is based. (Kindle Locations 2926-2927)

Although “Christ” is technically the Greek word for “messiah,” that is not how Paul employs the term. He does not endow Christ with any of the connotations attached to the term “messiah” in the Hebrew Scriptures. He never speaks of Jesus as “the anointed of Israel.” (Kindle Locations 2932-2933)
Paul does not call Jesus the Christ (Yesus ho Xristos), as though Christ were his title. Rather, Paul calls him “Jesus Christ,” or just “Christ,” as if it were his surname. (Kindle Locations 2938-2939)

During the decade of the fifties, however, when Paul is writing his letters, his conception of Jesus as Christ would have been shocking and plainly heretical, which is why, around 57 C.E., James and the apostles demand that Paul come to Jerusalem to answer for his deviant teachings. (Kindle Locations 2963-2965)

Luke’s description of the meeting is an obvious ploy to legitimate Paul’s ministry by stamping it with the approval of none other than “the brother of the Lord.” However , Paul’s own account of the Apostolic Council, written in a letter to the Galatians not long after it had taken place, paints a completely different picture of what happened in Jerusalem. (Kindle Locations 2979-2982)

Almost all of Paul’s epistles in the New Testament were written after the Apostolic Council and are addressed to congregations that had been visited by these representatives from Jerusalem (Paul’s first letter, to the Thessalonians, was written between 48 and 50 C.E.; his last letter, to the Romans, was written around 56 C.E.). (Kindle Locations 2992-2994)

Yet by all accounts, Paul had little success in converting Rome’s Jews to his side. The Jewish population was not just unreceptive to his unique interpretation of the messiah, they were openly hostile to it. Even the gentile converts did not appear overly welcoming toward Paul. That may be because Paul was not the only “apostle” preaching Jesus in the imperial city. Peter, the first of the Twelve, was also in Rome. (Kindle Locations 3048-3051)

The story of James’s death can be found in Josephus’s Antiquities. The year was 62 C.E. All of Palestine was sinking into anarchy. Famine and drought had devastated the countryside, leaving fields fallow and farmers starving. Panic reigned in Jerusalem, as the Sicarii murdered and pillaged at will. (Kindle Locations 3079-3082)

The passage concerning the death of James in Josephus is famous for being the earliest nonbiblical reference to Jesus. (Kindle Locations 3099-3100)

Indeed, James was more than just Jesus’s brother. He was, as the historical evidence attests, the undisputed leader of the movement Jesus had left behind. (Kindle Locations 3107-3108)

By the third and fourth centuries, however, as Christianity gradually transformed from a heterogeneous Jewish movement with an array of sects and schisms into an institutionalized and rigidly orthodox imperial religion of Rome, James’s identity as Jesus’s brother became an obstacle to those who advocated the perpetual virginity of his mother Mary. (Kindle Locations 3149-3151)

The balding, gray-bearded old men who fixed the faith and practice of Christianity met for the first time in the Byzantine city of Nicaea, on the eastern shore of Lake Izmit in present-day Turkey. It was the summer of 325 C.E. The men had been brought together by the emperor Constantine and commanded to come to a consensus on the doctrine of the religion he had recently adopted as his own. (Kindle Locations 3316-3318)

The bishops were not to disband until they had resolved the theological differences among them, particularly when it came to the nature of Jesus and his relationship to God. (Kindle Locations 3321-3322)

After months of heated negotiations, the council handed to Constantine what became known as the Nicene Creed, outlining for the first time the officially sanctioned, orthodox beliefs of the Christian church. Jesus is the literal son of God, the creed declared. He is Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of the same substance as the father. (Kindle Locations 3324-3327)

As for those who disagreed with the creed, those like the Arians who believed that “there was a time when [Jesus] was not,” they were immediately banished from the empire and their teachings violently suppressed. (Kindle Locations 3327-3328)

As for those who disagreed with the creed, those like the Arians who believed that “there was a time when [Jesus] was not,” they were immediately banished from the empire and their teachings violently suppressed. (Kindle Locations 3327-3328)

It is certainly the case that the council’s decision resulted in a thousand years or more of unspeakable bloodshed in the name of Christian orthodoxy. (Kindle Locations 3329-3331)

Even the gospels were deeply influenced by Paul’s letters. One can trace the shadow of Pauline theology in Mark and Matthew. But it is in the gospel of Luke, written by one of Paul’s devoted disciples, that one can see the dominance of Paul’s views, while the gospel of John is little more than Pauline theology in narrative form. (Kindle Locations 3340-3341)

Paul’s conception of Christianity may have been anathema before 70 C.E. But afterward, his notion of a wholly new religion free from the authority of a Temple that no longer existed, unburdened by a law that no longer mattered, and divorced from a Judaism that had become a pariah was enthusiastically embraced by converts throughout the Roman Empire. Hence, in 398 C.E., when, according to legend, another group of bishops gathered at a council in the city of Hippo Regius in modern-day Algeria to canonize what would become known as the New Testament, they chose to include in the Christian scriptures one letter from James, the brother and successor of Jesus, two letters from Peter, the chief apostle and first among the Twelve, three letters from John, the beloved disciple and pillar of the church, and fourteen letters from Paul, the deviant and outcast who was rejected and scorned by the leaders in Jerusalem. In fact, more than half of the twenty-seven books that now make up the New Testament are either by or about Paul. (Kindle Locations 3341-3349)

Two thousand years later,
the Christ of Paul’s creation has utterly
subsumed the Jesus of history.
(Kindle Locations 3353-3354)

The memory of the revolutionary zealot who walked across Galilee gathering an army of disciples with the goal of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, the magnetic preacher who defied the authority of the Temple priesthood in Jerusalem, the radical Jewish nationalist who challenged the Roman occupation and lost, has been almost completely lost to history. That is a shame. Because the one thing any comprehensive study of the historical Jesus should hopefully reveal is that Jesus of Nazareth— Jesus the man—is every bit as compelling, charismatic, and praiseworthy as Jesus the Christ. He is, in short, someone worth believing in. (Kindle Locations 3354-3358)