There’s a fascinating angle to consider about the beginnings of Christianity.
I think that the Roman government was the driving force behind Paul’s pagan propaganda (which became Christianity’s theology.) The fact that belief in the divinity of Jesus arose in many diverse areas of the empire a number of decades after Jesus’ death suggests to me that it came from a central source, and it wasn’t Jesus’ Jewish friends in Jerusalem.
There was good reason to mar the power of messianic Judaism, and particularly militaristic Nazarenism (the Nazarenes were Jesus’ Jewish followers;) the Romans were trying to stop a war. They had to counter Jewish extremists who promoted the subversive idea that a Jewish king should govern the world on behalf of God and in place of Caesar. If the Romans couldn’t pacify these Jews, it would set a dangerous precedent for other races to revolt. They needed to keep control over the trade routes to Asia and Egypt. The government must have been frustrated at having to repeatedly use force to suppress Jewish extremists, as it was disruptive, expensive, and taxing on the army. Roman vitriol bubbled over when soldiers razed the Temple in 70 CE when there was no military need to do so. Judaism’s nerve center had to be destroyed.
I also suspect that Jewish and gentile intellectuals working for the Roman government wrote the Gospels (this is discussed in depth in my book.) They knew ideas could be as effective as force. I think they tried to weaken Judaism by infiltrating and diluting it with gentiles. A tale that the long hoped for Jewish messiah was Jesus, and he’d already been and gone, and he wasn’t a political activist, but rather a spiritual intermediary between God and man, would have suited their agenda perfectly.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” “turn the other cheek,” “love your enemies” and “pay your taxes,” as promoted by Jesus in the gospels, meant you obeyed your Roman superiors and didn’t cause trouble. To push these ideas to plebs was a lot easier than using the military. If these ideas caught on, there’d be no more messiahs and no more revolts.
This explains why the true identities of all four gospel authors are unknown.
It’s ironic that the gospels, said to be so truthful, became one of the most successful literary enterprises ever undertaken, yet were so fabricated.
I think Paul attempted to infiltrate the Nazarenes to undermine them and their messianic message. His “conversion” (to being the founding member of his own Christ fan club) was his cover, and his novel beliefs were his modus operandi. I suspect (but can’t prove) he would have passed information about the Nazarenes on to Roman authorities.
There could’ve been many “Pauls” working throughout the empire as government agents, spreading propaganda. Paul wrote to a community in Rome to introduce himself, and it’s obvious that this community already had some beliefs about a Christ.
This fits with Paul being a Roman citizen (as claimed in Acts) who had dubious Pharisaic credentials. It fits with the fact he preached during the decades when Jewish messianic fervor was building and needed to be quelled, before it exploded in the first Jewish war of 66 -70 CE. It fits with the fact Paul replaced a messianic political Jewish messiah with his Christ, a spiritual messiah for all mankind.
If Paul was a government employee, it would help explain how he managed to support himself financially. It might also be why he hoped a financial gift to the Nazarenes in Jerusalem would be accepted; he was trying to endear himself to the Nazarenes using bribery. It’s why he often preached that the Torah (the Jewish Law) was obsolete. It clarifies the real reason why, in the book of Acts, he was repetitively roughed up by traditional Jews nearly everywhere he went, yet was never attacked by gentiles. It explains why once Roman authorities knew who he was and what he was up to, he was treated so well, despite the fact he so regularly disturbed the peace. Paul’s so called “arrest” by the Romans doesn’t mean he wasn’t in league with them. Things had got a little out of control and he ended up being a source of civil unrest. He’d become a diehard dogmatist causing trouble wherever he went. Instead of undermining Judaism, he incited Jews to the point of violence, something Rome didn’t want. The “arrest” was, in fact, for his own safety. Reading between the lines, he was never treated like a prisoner. Rather, there were remarkable Roman resources, such as a Roman guard of 500 soldiers, used to protect him.
It makes clear why he wrote this to a Roman community:
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:1-7 KJV.) A government agent wrote this, not a Jesus fan who’d seen the light!
It fits with the fact the book of Acts states:
“Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul” (Acts 13:1, KJV.) So the earliest Christian community at Antioch boasted a member of Herod Antipas’ family, the pro-Roman Tetrarch who had murdered John the Baptist, and Paul (Saul) was associated with him.
Paul finished off his letter to the Philippians with a salutation:
“All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:22, KJV.) This confirms that Paul had contact with the Emperor Nero’s family.
Throughout history, powerful governments have tried to control popular opinion, and often haven’t hesitated to flagrantly manipulate the truth. I think this was one such example. In those times it was easier to promote propaganda than it is today, because the public was less informed and less able to check out the facts.
Just in case the plan didn’t work, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian (the father and his two sons who ruled Rome as the emperors of the Flavian dynasty from 69-96 CE) sought out members of the “royal house of David” to help make sure there were no more messiahs.
The government hoped the story of the new idol would convince people that true spirituality and the promise of eternal life were synonymous with getting along with them. It was the winners that wrote the history.
In modern times, this is called propaganda, disinformation or psychological warfare. It’s fascinating to realise these subversive tactics were part of the first-century Roman Empire and jaw-dropping to realize the dogma has survived without being widely exposed for what it is, and is still coloring the way people, and in particular trusting Christians, look at the world.
The reader may be wondering why, if this is true, it’s often claimed the government persecuted Christians. The fact is persecution of Christians did occur in isolated areas, but wasn’t a policy of the state until over a century later, and then only for relatively short periods.
Generally speaking, Rome was tolerant of all religions, including Christianity. ( http://www.salon.com/2013/02/24/the_myth_of_persecution_early_christians_werent_persecuted/). In those days the ideas of one government (as controlled by one emperor) were often completely different to the next emperor. After the Flavian dynasty (the rule of Vespasian, Titus and then Domitian) ended with Domitian’s assassination in 96 CE, there was a brand new emperor. Persecution happened sporadically many years later, but usually only if Christians refused to worship the state’s gods. By this time the militaristic ambitions of peasant Jews had been finally and definitively crushed in the second Jewish war of 132-5 CE, and there were different agendas on the government’s mind. (see http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/history/persecution.htm). What’s more, many stories of supposed persecutions of Christians by the Roman government are, in fact, now recognized as ninth century exaggerations and fabrications.
If this propaganda theory is true, Paul was a spy and a charlatan; a cog in the wheel of a cunning government plan. I’m not suggesting that he didn’t wholeheartedly believe in the value of what he was doing. There’s little doubt that if he’d been successful on a grand scale the first and second Jewish wars may have been averted. I am suggesting he knew he was promoting manufactured dogma as a means to an end. This means Rome, via Paul and others, created the Christ, a benign pacifist messiah.
I’m not the only author to have come to this conclusion. Thijs Voskuilen and Rose Mary Sheldon co-wrote “Operation Messiah” in which they postulate that Paul was
“supporting the imperial structure, benefiting from it, cooperating with it, often saved by it. The end product for Rome was exactly what it wanted – a loyal, other –worldly, spiritual movement that was completely divorced from Palestinian revolutionary movements, from Jewish nationalism and from any challenge to Roman imperial authority. Its followers were supposed to pay taxes and be loyal citizens of the emperor.”
Peter Cresswell, Joseph Atwill (whose theory about the origin of the gospels I discuss in my book,) and no doubt many other authors have reached similar conclusions.
I hope the reader understands the significance of this. If this is true, Christianity has been the most monumental fraud ever inflicted on humankind.
Cresswell, Peter 2010 “Jesus the Terrorist” O books, Winchester, UK.
Eisenman, Robert H. “James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls”
Thijs Voskuilen and Rose Mary Sheldon co-wrote “Operation Messiah”