Peter Jennings Reporting: Jesus and Paul

I almost never watch TV. It was just by chance that my baby turned on the TV and I saw a special coming up entitled "Peter Jennings Reporting: Jesus and Paul". I decided to watch it. I am glad I did, because it gave me a lot of new ideas and information about the origins of Christianity. Here are some of the ideas. I am not expressing an opinion as to whether I agree or disagree with these ideas. I do not know enough about the subject to express an opinion, so I am just reporting them as ideas:

I do wonder what were the sources for much of what Peter Jennings reports. For example, he says that there were two uprisings against the Romans by the Jews when Jesus was a child. Jesus must have known about these uprisings and therefore knew that his opposition to Roman rule could lead to his death. One uprising took place when Jesus was four years old and the other took place when Jesus was a teenager. Both of these uprisings were brutally suppressed by the Romans and everyone involved was killed.

How does Peter Jennings know this? As far as I know, there are almost no historical sources from this era except for the Bible itself, and I do not recall these uprisings being mentioned in the Bible.

One of Peter Jennings' experts states that there were many messiah-type personalities in the first century AD. They usually ended up with a violent death. When the messiah died, his followers who were not killed had to find a new messiah. I wonder how this expert knows this, since it is also stated that we know nothing about these other messiahs today.

In most cases, Peter Jennings interviews experts or supposed experts who make various statements. These must be viewed as topics for discussion and inquiry, rather than as hard, proven facts. Here are a few:

1. Judas was possibly a mythical person. The word "Judas" and "Jew" are the same in the Hebrew alphabet. Thus, when the Bible says that Jesus was given up by Judas, it merely means that Jesus was given up by the Jews.

2. Paul was not an anti-Semite. He lived his life as a Jew and died as a Jew. It probably never even crossed his mind to be against the Jews. His statements in the Book of Galatians which are regarded as anti-Semitic today were just responding to local situations which existed at that time. When Paul talks about the Jews he is talking about a group of which he is a member.

3. Nobody knows what happened to Paul. He was probably executed on orders of the Emperor Nero, but there is no way to know that. Paul just dropped out of sight near the end of the Bible.

4. The Apostle Peter was held in the same prison in Rome with Paul. Peter was crucified upside down at his own request because he did not want to die the same way that Jesus did.

5. Jesus was probably never buried. Part of the punishment of being crucified was that your body was left hanging on a cross, where it was eaten by birds and other wild animals.

6. There were many other messiah-types in the first century AD. The difference between them and Jesus is that they just died, usually violently, whereas the followers of Jesus said that they had seen him alive after he was dead. It was the belief that Jesus had come back to life which led people to believe in him as opposed to the others.

7. At that time, Rome ruled the world from Spain and France to Israel. Each little region across this wide expanse had their own local gods and goddesses and local beliefs, except for the Jews, who had one god for everybody. It was this unique feature which eventually led to the adoption of Christianity as the state religion, so that all Romans would have the same religion.

8. Nowadays, the areas where Paul traveled are divided up into countries, such as Israel, Syria, Turkey, Greece and Italy. Each time you cross from place to place, you must have a visa and a passport, plus you must pass through customs check posts. However, in the time of Paul, this was all one country: Rome. This enabled Paul to travel more widely and to spread his beliefs further than would be possible today. It was also the fact that Rome was one very large country which accounted for the rapid expansion of Christianity once it was adopted as the state religion.

9. Paul was never really accepted by James and Peter. At first, they probably thought he was a spy. He had been a persecutor of the followers of Jesus, and now he was coming to them, claiming to be one of them. They were probably suspicious. Later, they disliked the new people Paul was bringing to them.

10. Paul was like a Harvard-educated lawyer coming to join a group of simple artisans and fishermen. He was way out of their league intellectually. He was a genius. They often rejected him and never really got along with him.

11. It was Paul who had the brilliant idea which brought about the creation of a separate religion. Without Paul, those who believed in Jesus would probably have formed a minor sect of Judaism, nearly forgotten today. However, Paul wanted to bring in others who were not Jews. To accomplish this, he had to break one of the basic tenants of Judaism. Paul declared that men did not have to be circumcised in order to be followers of Jesus and that believers in Jesus could eat anything they wanted. Circumcision was a painful and dangerous process which could even lead to infection, disfigurement and death. Jesus never said anything about circumcision. It was Paul, on his own, who decided that circumcision was not necessary. It was this decision by Paul which brought about the creation of Christianity as a separate religion and not merely as a branch of Judaism.

12. Paul never intended to start a new religion. He always thought of himself as a Jew. He thought he was simply bringing more people into Judaism.

13. By the time of the end of the life of Paul, there were probably seven million Christians. It was not only Paul who was spreading the word about Jesus. There were many others. Paul was just one of many, and perhaps not even the most important one. However, we do not know much about those others today, because they did not write any books or letters. We do not even know their names or their teachings.

14. The four books, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, provide a window which enables us to catch a glimpse of what was going on at that time. However, through these windows, we can only see part of the picture. We cannot get the full view of what was going on at that time.

15. Nobody knows who wrote Matthew, Mark, Luke and John or when or why they were written. There are other books about Jesus from that time which have not been accepted by Christians. For example, there is the Book of Thomas, which contains sayings of Jesus but does not mention his death or resurrection.

16. Paul's opposition to sex and marriage was not because he was against sex and marriage. Rather, it was because Paul believed that the end of the world was really near and there was no time for sex . If the world is about to end, the production of children is pointless. Paul believed that the world would end at the most in a few years. He could never have imagined that his words would still be read and interpreted two thousand years later.

It goes without saying that Peter Jennings will get a lot of flack because of this broadcast. Traditional Christians will probably try to have him banned from the airwaves. Peter Jennings may become the Salmon Rushdie of Christianity. It took a brave man to air such controversial views.

Sam Sloan

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