Robbing Peter to Pay Paul by F.F. Powell (2009)
The subtitle identifies the point: "The Usurpation of Jesus and the Original Disciples."
We highly recommend this book. It is in our Amazon Shop bookstore tab above for purchase through Amazon.
Powell tells the story of the modern path to ignoring Jesus' teachings--Jesus' lessons to us as our Lord when in the flesh, and focusing solely on faith in Him as savior, i.e., a transcendent power.
Powell demonstrates that Bultmann is at the head of the list of theologians who direct us away from Jesus' teachings while in the flesh. On page 3, Powell quotes an article about Rudolf Bultmann, the most influential theologian of our century, and then quotes the encyclopedia:
"he [i.e., Bultmann] developed his own theological position, namely that the Christian faith is, and should be, comparatively uninterested in the historical Christ, and should be focused upon the transcendent Christ." ("Rudolf Bultmann," Encyclopedia Brittanica Online (2008).)
In that spirit, "many theologians prefer Paul's doctrines," and focus on the death of Christ (and its transcendent empowering/saving believers), not the life of Christ. Id., at 3.
But Powell points out that Jesus says "anyone who gives heed to what I say and puts his trust in the one who sent me has hold of eternal life...." John 5:24 NEB. (Powell likes the New English Bible issued by the Cambridge University Press.)
Thus, Powell is a great defender of reviving focus upon the teachings of Jesus, and not simply teaching a 'gospel' of faith in Jesus.
In no particular order, here are some points in Robbing Peter to Pay Paul.
Paul the Pharisee
Powell points out that when Paul says he was a Pharisee he uses the present tense. "I am a Pharisee." (Acts 26:5.) (Powell: 26.)
James v. Paul
James scoffs at the faith alone idea. (Pages 67-68.) While Paul uses Abraham to prove faith alone, James uses Abraham to repudiate faith alone. "James obviously believes that Paul is adding an erroneous tenet to the gospel." Id. "His stand against Paul's dogma has accomplished little, however, since Paul's ideas have become the heart of Christianity." Id., at 68.
Because of Paul, Powell points out a modern antipathy to recall Jesus instructed us to feed the hungry, make room for the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the sick. "It appears church members are busy guarding their faith from the contamination of deeds." Id., at 68.
Peter v. Paul
Powell has an amazing quote from the 2d century Clementine Recognitions (transl. 400 AD by Rufinus)-- believed to contain Ebionite writings. This work tells about the confrontation between Peter and Simon Magus whom scholars believe is a code-word for Paul. In this, Peter tells why he does not ask the listener to believe merely because he says so as does his foe, Simon Magus/Paul. Peter says what we believe should also appeal to the reason of the listener - confirming that apostles must persuade and are not de facto oracles. Powell quotes this Recognitions passage at 68-69 of Robbing Peter to Pay Paul:
Do not think that we say that these things are only to be received by faith, but also that they are to be asserted by reason. For indeed it is not safe to commit these things to bare faith without reason, since assuredly truth cannot be without reason. And therefore he who has received these things fortified by reason can never lose them. Where he who receives them without proofs, by an assent to a simple statement of them, can neither keep them safely, nor is certain if they are true because he who easily believes also easily yields. (William L. Reese, Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion: Eastern and Western Thought (N.J.: Humanities Press, 1980) s.v. "Tertullian." See Recognitions of Clement LXIX.)
Powell also points out that Simon Magus in the Clementine Recognitions has doctrines "embarassingly similar" to Paul, while casting Peter in the role of someone defending the Judaic master, Jesus. Id., at 29.
Unfamiliar History About the Pharisees
I always like to learn new things, and Powell offers up background on the Pharisees most of us have never heard about. In 76 BC, Queen Alexandria favored the Pharisees and orders the people to follow them on religious matters. Hence, they started with state support. She gave authority to the Pharesees because she "believed they were the best of all the multitude when they spoke severely against others." (Powell:22.) In other words, she favored them not because of their righteousness but because of their rhetorical skill to castigate others. Confirming this is that we see they tried skillfully to trap Jesus in word puzzles so as to condemn him. This was the Pharisees' tactic since 76 BC, Powell reveals to us.
Then the Sadducees rose in influence under Herod II.
Powell mentions that Josephus criticized the Pharisees for adding traditions not found in the Law. (Powell:25.) The Pharisees believed in two laws: the Torah in writing from Moses and the Oral Law. Id.
Interesting Reading of Matthew 24:14
Powell says Matthew 24:14 is about the false gospel of the false prophets, which few have noted, but Powell is correct. Id., at 106.
Matthew 24:14 in the Greek canon reads:
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
In the abstract, one might think this is a positive thing, and Christ's gospel is spreading and spreading and then the end comes. But Powell points out that it is the gospel to the nations --the Goyim -- the target of Paul -- which will receive a false gospel when you read in context:
The curious words from Matthew 24, let the reader understand, have challenged cleric and laity throughout history. During their training period, Jesus warned his disciples that false prophets would appear when he was gone. He also warned them that a time was coming when the laws of God would be denied, and when that happened, men's love for another would "grow cold" (Mt. 24:12.) Following these changes, "this Gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the earth" (v. 14). After that Gospel had spread, and the disciples recognized "the abomination of desolation...standing in the holy place," a calamity that would threaten their lives would occur. (Powell, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, supra, at 106 (emphasis in original).)
Mark Is Closer to Paul Than Peter
Powell also makes points that Mark, the author of the gospel of the same name, is closer to Paul than Peter. Powell believes much has been made by a small reference by Luke to Peter visiting Mary who had a son named John Mark. Papias is the one who claims Peter gave his recollections to Mark from which the gospel of Mark derived. However, Irenaeus ca. 120 AD believed that Mark waited to write the gospel until after Peter died. Eusebius said that Clement, an early leader at Rome ca 92 AD, said Peter was unaware Mark had written a gospel until it was completed, "and that when the matter came to Peter's knowledge, he neither strongly forbad it nor urged it forward." (Powell, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, supra, at 71, citing Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 6.14.6-10.) But then the belief that Peter approved Mark's gospel came much longer afterward from Origen (ca. 185 AD) and Jerome (born near 340 AD.) Thus, it "appears the farther from Peter's lifetime we get, the closer Mark is to him." (Powell, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, supra, at 71.)
Powell notes that "most of what we know about Mark puts him in the company of Paul, not Peter." Id., at 71. Powell points out that Luke said Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on his first missionary journey as "their assistant.' Id. See Acts 13:5.
One of the examples of the closeness of Mark to Paul is that Jesus said all foods are clean in a text similar to Matthew, but which Matthew did not contain such a declaration and was only excoriating putting traditions above the Law. But in Mark 7:19 the lesson is against obeying the Law in part: "In saying this Jesus declared all foods clean."
On this Powell comments:
"Here is yet another of those pesky inconsistencies one finds in the Bible: Matthew calling attention to the arrogance of men who put their rules above God's laws while Mark has Jesus sanctifying unclean food. Putting a spin on events has a very long history after all." (Powell, id., at 72.)
For this and other reasons, Powell concludes Mark is a Pauline gospel. Powell quotes an authority in agreement -- B.W. Bacon -- who said of Mark's Gospel:
"A Greek product, from the Pauline church of Rome, framed in the interests of Pauline doctrine, saturated with Pauline phrases and ideas." (Edwyn Clement Hoskyns, The Fourth Gospel (ed. Frances Noel Davey)(London: Faber & Faber, Ltd., 1940, 1947) at 38.)
Evidently, the quote of Bacon comes from his work Is Mark A Roman Gospel? (Cambridge: CUP, 1919).
Pharisees Are Not Legalists
Powell repeats what I have been saying about whether the Pharisees were legalists. While Paulinists portray them as such, to make it appear Jesus was against 'legalism' (i.e., against the continuity of the Law), this is a false depiction. Powell will use Josephus as one source of proof, as do I.
Josephus says the Sadducees judged religious theories by the Torah. If no basis for a doctrine could be found there, it was worthless. Josephus goes on to explain: "The Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the Law of Moses." [Josephus, Antiquities 13.10.6.] The Pharisees saw themselves as the true keepers of the oral tradition. They eagerly presented their interpretations and expansions of Torah to their followers. Samuel Sandmel explains the Pharisaic justification for their approach to Scripture this way: "Jews developed the idea that there had been two simultaneous revelations at Sinai: one was the written Torah and the other was the oral Torah." [Samuel Sandmel, The Hebrew Scriptures: An Introduction to their Literature and Religious Ideas (N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1978) at 528.] Hence the oral laws and statutes seem to have been Pharisaic territory. (Powell, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, supra, at 25.)
This is an excellent book which highlights the defective position of Paulinism. It has a lot of new research on Paul. It is well-written. It is also a rather short book -- just over 200 pages, yet is jam packed with information. This book can be previewed at books.google at this link, and an ebook purchased for $4.62.
F.F. Powell is the author of an article "Saint Paul's Homage to Plato," The World and Ii (April 2004). The point of this article was succinctly stated by its author:
Hence, persons choosing Paul's gospel over Jesus' teachings are embracing the version of ideality created by the Greek philosopher Plato (427?--347? b.c.), rather than the spiritual wisdom of the Hebrew prophets and the Messiah. Paul of Tarsus, the man responsible for a major portion of the New Testament and its oldest source materials, used the Greek philosopher's ideas when he described the church as Christ's body, the gifts of the Spirit, ecstatic utterances in worship, putting on righteousness as a garment, conscience as a guide, and love as the greatest of Christian virtues. Paul, who seems to have studied all of Plato's works, used these in his gospels, issued as his own revelations about God. As a result, many of the subjects Plato used in his discourses have become tenets of the Christian church.