Genesis Of A Church

October 15, 2020 Category: History, Religion

APPENDIX 1: A Note On Divine Mis-Fires

The Vatican demonstrates what happens when power is highly-concentrated and left unaccountable.  Ironically, one thing that the ancient institution tends NOT to show is what Jesus of Nazareth would have done.  But this is no mystery; it is entirely predictable…once we view this not as part of “god’s plan”, but rather as the predictable (if unfortunate) “shit that happens” when ANY institution of this nature exists.  In this respect, there is nothing special about the Vatican.

A single metric indicates the dubiousness of the claim that divine ordinance is at play when an Apostolic Father is selected: duration of tenure.  Note the ten popes who lasted for less than a month:

  • Sisinnius  (20 days in 708)
  • Stephen  (3 days in 752)
  • Boniface VI  (15 days in 896)
  • Theodore II  (19 days in 897)
  • Damasus II  (23 days in 1048)
  • Celestine IV  (16 days in 1241)
  • Pius III  (26 days in 1503)
  • Marcellus II  (21 days in 1555)
  • Urban VII  (12 days in 1590)
  • Leo XI  (26 days in 1605)

Meanwhile, Benedict V (in 964) and John Paul I (in 1978) each lasted for only 33 days.*  Pope Innocent IX lasted just 62 days (in 1591)…after his predecessor had lasted less than a year…and HIS predecessor was the guy who died after just 12 days (see above).  What was god thinking?  Well, we mere mortals aren’t supposed to know that; or even question it.  Yet we can say this: If divine intervention is involved with the filling of such an important position, this doesn’t make much sense.  

Think of it this way: It is very peculiar that a cosmic-level decision would be made to put a man at the head of the Church…only to nullify that decision within the month.  This nullification, it turns out, is often effected via death…which, we can only assume, was god’s will.  Are we to suppose, then, that the Creator of the Universe was simply indecisive?  Does god change his mind?  (“Wait.  THAT’S not the guy I wanted.”)

This does not make sense if we are to presume that the selection process is in any way related to Providence.  But it makes PERFECT sense if we assume that the Vatican is just another man-made institution–replete with all the flaws and foibles of any other institution (omniscient super-being not included).

Contrast these oddly brief tenures with the pair of pontificates that lasted the 57+ years between 1846-1903: Pius IX and Leo VIII.  (Just prior to that, Gregory XVI had lasted over 15 years.)  And a pair of pontificates lasted the 48+ years between 1775-1823: Pius VI and Pius VII…though they were separated by a half-year of stalemate.

Stalemate?  Wait a minute.  Protracted impasses aren’t supposed to occur when god’s hand is guiding the process.  Would he really want his vicar to be put “on hold” for that long?  When the Holy See has a hiatus, is that fine?  What of the papal schism of 1378 to 1417?  Over the course of about four decades, there were three lineages with claims upon the throne of Saint Peter…plus a fourth claimant.

  • Urban VI followed by Boniface IX followed by Innocent VII followed by Gregory XII (in Rome)
  • Clement VII followed by Benedict the XIII followed by Benedict XIV (in Avignon)
  • Alexander V followed by John XXIII (in Pisa)

Each pontifical lineage laid claim during the same period.  For six years, there were actually three pontificates at once.  In the end, the church went with…NONE of these four alternatives.  Instead, Pope Martin V was selected.  It was a comedy worthy of a Shakespearian script.

That this predicament arose is unsurprising.  During that era, vying for the papacy had become a contest of shrewd political maneuvering, underhanded power-grabs, and simony amongst the most wealthy / powerful families.  The key was to mobilize support, not by “proving” oneself in any noble sense, but by making deals, exchanging favors, and forging strategic alliances.

As has always been the case, the denizens of the halls of power tended to seize their lofty stations via shady means.  For centuries, the selection of each pope was based on suspicious criteria.

Alas, none of this is surprising.  In the final analysis, all of that just sounds like the quirky record any other idiosyncratic, man-made institution.  The long history of the papacy illustrates what people can do when given lots of power.  There’s nothing strange about ANY of the Vatican’s scandalous history…once we see it for what it actually is.

In sum: Divinely-inspired selection seems to be rather erratic.  Some popes last for DAYS, others last for DECADES.  Some have been corrupt; some have been murderous sociopaths.  Some were installed by powerful Italian families for financial / political reasons.  Others didn’t really DO ANYTHING.  In any case, subterfuge and avarice were typically involved in the process; and NONE of it had anything whatsoever to do with Jesus of Nazareth.

{*  Note that the 33 days of John Paul I was followed by a pontificate that endured for 26 1/2 years (that of John Paul II).  Should we assume that god liked the second choice better?  What’s REALLY going on here?}

APPENDIX 2: Barnabas?

A rigged historiography is a tempting thing in which to indulge.  It requires tremendous discipline to resist this temptation.  We should not impose our own notions of how we WANT things to have been onto our reading of history.  Rather, we should let the past speak for itself. {A}

When it comes to historical revisionism in the service of Islam, desperate measures have sometimes been undertaken so as to give the official version a veneer of legitimacy.  When it comes to the preferred account of “what really happened”, revisionists will countenance confabulations of the past in order to justify their views of the present.

For Islamic apologists, perhaps the most incriminating gambit was the composition of the so-called “Gospel of Barnabas” c. 1600.  The eponym of this Gospel was based on a quasi-historical: Joses of Cyprus.  Joses was later rechristened “Bar Nabya” (Aramaic for “son of the prophet”), which was later Romanized as “Barnabas”.

The fraudulent tract describes the protagonist’s cohort, Saul of Tarsus (later Romanized as “Paul”) as “the deceived”.  This pejorative is a dead giveaway that the tale was fabricated.  For according to the Pauline letters, Paul and Barnabas were inveterate ALLIES.  It makes no sense that a tract by Barnabas would have been devoted to denouncing his closest spiritual companion.  Ideologically, though, such aspersions make perfect sense, as discrediting Paul would be pivotal to undermining the Christology that he established.

We might recall that Paul’s ministry post-dated the death of JoN by at least fifteen years; and the first of his letters by at least two decades. {B}  Paul hailed from Tarsus, an Anatolian city in which a bevy of savior gods [“theoi soteres”] were worshipped–most notably: Heracles (Romanized as “Hercules”).  Mithraic cults would have also been active in Tarsus.  In these cults, it was supposed that blood was shed so as to redeem mankind; and thus give mankind eternal life.  In fact, one of the most prominent sacred rites in the worship of Mithras would have been the drinking of sacrificial blood; or, alternately, a chalice of wine, which represented the blood.  (For more on this, see my essays on “Mythemes”.)

After having met each other in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas preached together in Antioch (present-day Antakya), Iconium (present-day Konya), and on the island of Cyprus–beginning c. 47, and into the 50’s.  Barnabas was executed in Salamis (on Cyprus) c. 61.  Paul would have thereafter spent time proselytizing in Palestine (esp. Damascus), and possibly even in northern Hijaz. {C}

At the time of Barnabas’ death, Paul would have been living in Corinth (in the Peloponnese).  Paul allegedly started writing his letters c. 52…until his execution c. 67.  (Note, though, that the primary source for an account of Paul’s ministry, Luke’s “Acts of the Apostles”, was not written until c. 90.)  Considering their ardent affinities and this timeline, it makes no sense that Barnabas would have penned a diatribe denouncing his fellow evangelist. {D}

Note that the only reference to an ACTUAL Gospel by “Barnabas” was the so-called “Decretum Gelasianum” from the early 6th century–so named because it was attributed to Pope Gelasius (as a decretal he purportedly issued during his pontificate).  In that document, the Gospel-in-question was denounced as apocryphal.  Copies of said Gospel (i.e. the ACTUAL Gospel) no longer exist.

In the fraudulent version of the Gospel, the Islamic version of JoN is presented, whereby the fabled Nazarene is non-divine and explicitly referred to as (merely) a “prophet”.  Moreover, the prophecy of the pending arrival of a “paraclete” (ref. John 16:7-14) is made to seem like a prophecy of Mohammed of Mecca (as the Seal of the Abrahamic prophets).  Comically, the tract reveals its spurious nature by being too “on the nose” with its dispensation.  For it not only mentions Mohammed by name (as the coming “paraclete”), it even includes a rendering of the Shahadah: the Muslim profession of Faith. (!)

Moreover, the tract is suspiciously adamant in its repudiation of Trinitarianism.  This would have been a peculiar point of contention given that the text was reputedly composed in the mid-1st century (i.e. before Trinitarianism had even become a doctrine to be disavowed).  This “Gospel of Barnabas” goes so far as to suggest that it was Judas Iscariot who was crucified, not JoN; and that JoN was–per standard Islamic doctrine–raised up to heaven instead of suffering the Passion: an account that is perfectly in keeping with Koran 4:157-158. {E}

The artifice becomes all the more obvious when we read in 42:2 that “Jesus confessed and stated the truth: ‘I am not al-Masih’.”  Revealingly, the author used the CA term for “Messiah” here–an anachronism, as the Semitic lexeme during Barnabas’ lifetime would have been “Mashiach”. {F}  The contrivance involved is exposed by such post-hoc nomenclature.

Later we read that JoN exclaimed: “Cursed be every one who shall insert into my sayings that I am the son of god” (53:6)…as if it were already a major misconception DURING JoN’s ministry–to wit: one that JoN himself felt he needed to dispel.  Again, the anachronistic rhetoric is a dead give-away.

Also notable in this ersatz Gospel are myriad mistranslations of Koine Greek that reflect those of the Latin Vulgate Bible–which was composed by Jerome of Stridon [Pannonia] in the late 4th century.  For example, in referencing the forbidden fruit (from the Tree of Knowledge in Eden), “apple” and “evil” are conflated by being rendered with the same Latin lexeme: “malum”.  Hence the text must post-date c. 400.

What else seems to be taken from accounts of Barnabas and inserted into Islamic lore?  Note the tale of Paul and Barnabas visiting “Lystra” (in Lycaonia, Anatolia), which the Koran vaguely refers to as “Ya-Sin”.  The tale is about two messengers who visit a city and are stoned by the locals (36:13-21 in the Koran; chapter 14 in the Book of Acts).

Incidentally, it was the Epistle of Barnabas that was likely the source of the “Good Shepherd” leitmotif (i.e. the “Shepherd of Hermas”)–a piece of lore that served as the basis for Docetism.  In that short-lived creed, it was supposed that JoN was merely an apparition; and that the “Passion” (crucifixion) was an illusion.

Forgery in the service of an ideology was commonplace throughout the Middle Ages.  (I mention the fabricated “treaty of Umar II” from c. 720 in Endnote *133.)  The same machinations could be found in Christendom.  The “Corpus Areopagiticum” was a series of mystical writings from the 6th century intended to reconcile Neo-Platonism with Christian theology (falsely attributed to “Dionysius the Areopagite”, an Athenian disciple of Saul of Tarsus).  The “Donation of Constantine” was a tract from the 15th century used by the Vatican to legitimize the pontificate’s arrogation of political power to itself.  It enumerates decretals falsely attributed to Roman Emperor Constantine well over a thousand years earlier.  The letter of Publius Lentulus is another example–forged during the Renaissance.  (I enumerate other forged texts in my essay on “The History Of Sacred Texts”.)

Hoaxes can even be in the form of artifacts–as with the so-called “shroud of Turin”.  The purported cloth in which JoN was wrapped when he was entombed was revealed by carbon dating to be from the 13th century.

The Gospel of Barnabas is part of a long history of shams–from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to the diaries of Jack the Ripper.  This particular document is testament to the fact that religious apologists will go to great lengths to legitimize their version of history.  The “catch”, of course, is that this could have happened with ANY ancient text.  What is and isn’t considered apocryphal has more to do with the designs of the powers-that-be than with what REALLY IS–and is not–apocryphal.

* * *

{A  For other examples of rigged historiography, tailored to serve an ideological purpose, see my essay on “The Forgotten Diaspora”, “The Land Of Purple”, ‘City Of The Beloved”, “America’s National Origin Myth”, and “The Obsolescence Of The 2nd Amendment”.}

{B  As the story goes (at least, as presented in Luke’s “Acts of the Apostles”), Paul converted after having seen a vision of JoN on the road to Damascus at some point in the late 30’s.  Though he never met JoN, Paul claims to have been acquainted with JoN’s brother, James.}

{C  During this later phase, Paul’s primary companion would have been Luke, the putative author of the synoptic gospel (and–ostensibly–the author of the “Acts Of The Apostles”).  The two men concurred that Gentiles should be brought into the fold, and conducted their evangelism accordingly.}

{D   Saul of Tarsus has been the subject of many apocryphal tales–some of which are little known to the Occident, yet that proliferated in Oriental regions.  One of the most notable was the romantic tale of Saul and a woman known as Thekla of Ikonion (conventionally referred to as the “Acts of Paul and Thecla”) found in the “Acts of Paul”.  It also crops up in the first and third letters from Paul to the Corinthians.  The “Acts of Paul” was circulated in Coptic, Ethiopic, Syriac, Greek, and Armenian…and eventually in Latin.  It was denounced by Tertullian for its advocacy of a woman’s right to preach and to perform baptisms.}

{E  Another source of the faux-crucifixion account was in the Gospel of Basilides, where it was supposed that Simon of Cyrene was really the one crucified on Cavalry (after he deliberated posed as JoN in order to die in his place).  Basilides of Alexandria lived in the 2nd century.  His account became popular amongst Docetists.}

{F  In Islamic lore, there is confusion about the Abrahamic concept of Messiah.  The Koran adamantly repudiates the Christology of Pauline Christianity (that is: of the Nicene creed), wherein JoN is esteemed as the son of god (and thus the savior of mankind).  It rejects the treatment as “Kristos” (the Christ); yet it fashions JoN [“Isa” in CA] as the “Masih” [the CA rendering of Messiah].  This does not make sense, as “Kristos” is merely the Koine Greek rendering of the older (Semitic) form of Messiah: “Mashia[c]h”, which simply means “anointed one” (that is: one anointed by god).  In Islamic eschatology, the idea is that JoN WILL EVENTUALLY serve as a Messianic figure…come the End Times, when he will battle the Dajjal (anti-Christ).*61  JoN’s return is foretold in 4:159.  The catch, though, is that “Christ” and “Messiah” are synonyms: the former the Hellenic version of the latter (Aramaic) term.  (The moniker, “Messia[c]h” / “Kristos” was even applied to the Persian king, Cyrus the Great in the opening verse of Isaiah 45!)  The Mohammedans mistakenly thought of the “Christ” label as way of asserting JoN’s divinity; whereas they accurately thought of the older Hebrew moniker as pre-Christological.  The misconception persists to the present day: Most Christians assume “Christ” signifies divine being (i.e. the incarnation of god) per the prevailing Pauline Christology.  In reality, he is simply designated as “the anointed one”.  The irony is that both Christians and Muslims erroneously assume that referring to JoN in this manner necessarily entails treating him as a savior-god.}

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