When I became saved, you know that time in your Christian life when you start sharing your faith with everyone you know? Your zeal is real, your enthusiasm spreads, and people you know starting being affected? I went through this “phase” as I’ll call it.
I had started a new sales job, and the other new sales person my age and I hit it off pretty good. I was sharing with him my Christian Faith. He wasn’t a Christian but he asked me this question, that sort of stumped me. He said, “If Christianity is real, why are there so many Denominations?” I didn’t have a pat answer for this, and later I found out how much I hated rejection and ended up leaving the company without giving him an answer.
The question stayed with me for some time though. Then I met Bob Enyart, when he came to Hawaii to talk about his book the “Plot of the Bible”. And he put forth the fact that there are contradictions in the bible, and his approach at reconciling them. Now up to this point I had not critically looked at the bible, I said what I heard from many a pastor, “there are no contradictions in the bible”, and “scripture is used to interpret scripture”, etc. So the idea that some believed there were contradictions, even those whose faith was strong made this study all the more important to me. I soon realized that because there are different denominations was because people were dividing over different doctrines of the bible. I had considered myself a Born Again Christian, and wanted to do everything, including my business from a Christian Perspective. So I set about studying the ancient Christian Church. I knew there were problems with the current church because the evidence was there were so many different denominations, therefore I wanted to find out in history where it went astray.
One of the things I was very interested in was trying to find out what the first Christians believed. As I mentioned in my last post if anyone has played the game telephone, that the story changes over time, if you want to get the true version, you need to go to the source. So I went to the library and began searching, and on the internet for anything written by the first century Christians. I found out about books that were preserved in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and voraciously read everything I could find. I found a set of books survived that detailed Peter’s message. It is in the Clementine Recognitions. I realized this was the mother load of teachings of Jesus, that most Christians were not given.
I was also interested in books that were considered Gospel, but weren’t included in our Bible today. One of those books is the Gospel of Barnabas. The Codex Sianiticus is the oldest existing bible with us. It was written in Greek on skins, rather than parchment. It includes all of the books of the New Testament including the Gospel of Barnabas. So I wondered why does a bible that was written over 1600 years ago have books that the modern bible doesn’t have?
The answer is the Bible as we call it has been changed over the years. Most people don’t know this but the Macabees were removed from the Protestant bible as recently as a 100 years ago. There have been many changes over the centuries. So I asked myself, why are books being removed from the bible if the bible is really the inspired word of God?
The fact is the bible is a compilation of Books that “Men” judged as being worthy of being the Bible. Some Men wrote the books, and some men judged what was canon and what wasn’t. There are many other books that have been considered scripture, that have been part of the Christian Tradition, only to fall out of favor and removed.
For example the first book that was considered legit Christian Material was the book written by the Apostle Matthew. Matthew wrote a book in Aramaic, that was entitled “The Hebrew Gospel”. No other book in the new testament would exist for at least 10 years, because at this time Saul (Later Paul) was on a mission to kill and destroy the work of the Apostles. Now the Hebrew Gospel was what The Apostles used as the teachings of Jesus Christ. They were Jewish Christians, who believed that Jesus was a Man, a Prophet, and King of the Jews. This book was eventually destroyed by the Pauline Christians who claimed it was heretical. Even those who were found in possession of it, it was a capital offense. I believe the reason for this was because it was the truth, and the versions that lasted such as the synoptic gospels we have today are derived from it, and have been corrupted.
But if you try to destroy an organization from the outside, they will band together in unity. The most effective way to destroy a group is to do it from the inside. And conveniently Saul had a Vision on his way to Damascus, and he was now a Christian. Now Barnabas was also an Apostle, who had taken the place of Judas Iscariot. He initially received the new believer Paul. He even tried to convince Peter that Paul had really changed, but the evidence is that the apostles rejected him. As Paul began his missionary journeys it became clear to Barnabas and others that Paul was teaching a different message than Jesus had given them to preach. The issue came to a head when Paul was summoned to Jerusalem to lay out his case before Jesus’ Brother James the Just, who was the Pope or religious leader of the Christians in Jerusalem. The out come of that meeting which became known as the Council of Jerusalem shows the difference of opinion existed between the early Christian Church, which was essentially Jewish, and this new religion Paul was teaching that was considered Anti-nomian, Hellenistic in nature, and failed to require the new Gentile Converts to adhere to Circumcision, or the Law.
In the epistle of James, James wrote about faith and works to try to counteract the false teachings of Paul. Paul claimed it was not by works that we are saved. James was almost removed from the bible, but because there was so much evidence that it was accepted as authentic to the early Christians, it survived.
Essentially Paul was teaching a different doctrine, which became more anti-law later in his career. You could say he was the first great cult leader, who led many away from the truth. Even the story of Paul’s conversion in the three accounts in the book of Luke have minor contradictions when compared side by side. Paul’s version of Christianity differed from the original teachings by Peter and the Apostles. I define these different set of teachings as Pauline Christianity. Peter’s version which was from a Jewish perspective would be True Christianity.
Based one these definitions, the contradictions are seen for what they are. Different teachings by either True Christianity – Jesus and the Apostles in one group, and Paul and the Pauline teachings in another group. The funny thing, is when I started sharing my findings with my Christian Relatives, they immediately assumed I was in some cult. The Irony, is their beliefs are the cult, not mine.
So the conclusion is that most religions that consider themselves “Christian” and “Catholic” are denominations that come from Pauline Christianity. And because Paul teaches doctrines that contradict those of Jesus and the Apostles, that is why we have so many denominations today.