After ascent of Jesus Christ, the original followers of Jesus Christ continued to live as Jews and practiced what Jesus had taught them. It did not occur to any of them that they could ever be regarded as followers of a new religion. They were devout and practicing Jews and they were distinguished from their neighbors, only by their faith in the message of Jesus. In the beginning they did not organize themselves as a separate sect and did not have a synagogue of their own. There was nothing in the message of Jesus, as understood by them, to necessitate a break with Judaism.
However, they incurred the enmity of the vested interests among the Jewish higher echelon. The conflict between the Jews and the followers of Jesus was started by the Jews because they felt that the Christians would undermine their “authority”. The gulf progressively began to widen. During the siege of Jerusalem in 70 C.E, they left the city; and refused to take part in the Bar Coachaba rebellion in 132 C.E. These two events brought to the surface the difference between the followers of Jesus Christ and the Jews.
Question of Origin of Jesus & Nature:
The question of the origin of Jesus, his nature and relation to God, which later became so important, was not raised among these early disciples. The belief that Jesus was a man super-naturally endowed by God was accepted without question. Nothing in the words of Jesus or the events in his life led them to modify this view. According to Aristides, one of the earliest apologists, the worship of the early Christians was more purely monotheistic even than of the Jews. [See also: http://goo.gl/r037A]
Impale’ment of New Disciple Paul:
With the conversion of Paul (4–64 C.E) a new period opened in Christian Theology. Paul a Jew and an inhabitant of Tarsus, had spent a long time in Rome, he was a Roman citizen. He realized the strong hold which the Roman religion had on the masses. The intellectuals were under the influence of Plato and Aristotle. Paul seems to have felt that it would not be possible to convert the masses in the Roman Empire without making mutual adjustments. But his practical wisdom was not acceptable to those who had seen and heard Jesus. However, in spite of their difference, they decided to work together for the common cause.
The theory of redemption was the brain child of Paul, a belief entirely unknown to the disciples of Jesus. Paul’s theory involved the deification of Jesus. The Pauline period in the history of the Christian Church saw a change of scene and principles. In place of the disciples, who had sat at the feet of Jesus, a new figure, who had not known Jesus, had come to the forefront. In place of Palestine, the Roman Empire became the scene of Christian activity. Instead of being a mere sect of Judaism, Christianity not only became independent of Judaism but also became independent of Jesus himself.
Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) presented a spiritual message and main ideas concerning human conduct. Christian theology, however, was shaped principally by the work of Paul who added new doctrines and the worship of Jesus Christ to the spiritual message of Jesus. Paul became the foremost proselytizer of the new religion of Christianity. His influence on Christian theology proved to be the most permanent and far-reaching of all Christian writers and thinkers. As a young man, he went to Jerusalem to study under Rabbi Gamaliel, an eminent Jewish teacher. Though Paul was in Jerusalem at the same time as Jesus, it is doubtful whether the two men ever met.
After Jesus, the early Christians were regarded as heretics and suffered persecution. For a while, Paul (Saul) himself participated in this persecution (Acts:7:58). However, during a journey to Damascus (37 C.E) he claimed that Jesus spoke to him in a ‘vision’, so he was converted to the new faith. It was the turning point of his life. The one-time opponent of Christianity became the most vigorous and influential proponent of the new religion.
In 40 A D, he went to Jerusalem, but the disciples were afraid of him. It was Barnabas, one of the earliest disciples of Jesus Christ, who introduced him to them, and convinced them to accept him as a Christian, even though reluctantly. After some time he had again to flee from Jerusalem to Tarsus to save his life. Barnabas was sent by the apostles on a special and important mission to Antioch. Barnabas brought Paul from Tarsus so that he might help him in his mission at Antioch; and both of them worked there for a whole year. All this time Saul (Paul) was subordinate to Barnabas.
During the first missionary journey (45 C.E to 49 C.E) Barnabas was the leader of the mission. It was indeed the missionary journey of Barnabas which is erroneously ascribed to Paul. Paul was planning to bypass all the disciples and even his benefactor, Barnabas, and to gain pre-eminence for himself. He wanted to be second to none.
Council of Jerusalem (50C.E):
It was experienced by the preachers that the gentiles were reluctant to convert, because some ignorant people had advocated that to attain salvation it is obligatory that in addition to believing in Jesus Christ they have to also adhere to all the rites and customs of Law of Moses like circumcision etc, thus Luke wrote: “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, saying, Except you be circumcised after the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”(Acts;15:1). Obviously this was wrong teaching, though the custom of circumcision etc were obligatory part of Law of Moses and Jesus Christ but were neither fundamental to the basis of faith or disbelief nor the only way to salvation. So if the potential convert is asked to believe in the basic doctrines without precondition of circumcision it does not imply that the custom of circumcision is cancelled for all but a minor evil is accepted to save the gentiles from disbelief. This compromise technique was adopted by the disciples to facilitate the conversion of gentiles. A delegation, comprising Paul and Barnabas, was appointed to confer with the elders of the church in Jerusalem on this issue.
Relaxation of Law to Facilitate Gentiles Conversion-Not Permanent Abrogation:
In the conference of the Christian Apostles held in Jerusalem around 50 C.E, the ensuing apostolic conference (Acts;15:2-35), led by the apostle Peter and James, were persuaded to relax the adherence of Law for the Gentile Christians. After debate, it was decreed that Gentile Christians did not have to observe the Mosaic Law of the Jews. The general intention of disciples is evident from the speech delivered by Peter: “Now therefore why test God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”(Acts;15:10-11). [If Peter’s aim was to totally cancel the Law for the gentiles, then it would also been cancelled for the Jewish Christians, because Peter considers the Law as burden for the gentiles as well as the for themselves (Jews)]
It may be kept in view that the purpose of the Council of Jerusalem was not to determine whether the Law of Torah is obligatory for the gentiles or not? The in-depth analysis indicates that as far as the viability of the Law of Torah is concerned the disciples had no doubt in their mind, they all agreed to the obligation to adhere to these laws: The issue was only to relax them for the gentiles to facilitate their conversion. For this reason while describing those who wanted the gentiles to adhere to the Law, Luke wrote: “But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees who believed, saying, It is needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”(Acts;15:5). In response James decreed: “Therefore my judgment is, that we trouble not them, who from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from defilements of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time has in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.”(Acts;15:19-21). Hence the general letter written by this Council to the gentiles states: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That you abstain from anything offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if you keep yourselves, you shall do well. Farewell.”(Acts;15:28-29)
It is amply clear from above that the disciples of Jesus Christ didnot intend to cancel or abrogate the Law of Torah altogether but compromised on its application for gentiles (Not Jewish Christians) temporarily to facilitate easy conversion of gentiles from paganism to the new faith. However when Barnabas and Paul reached Antioch, Paul took undue advantage of the Decree of the Jerusalem Council and started preaching that the Law of Torah has been abrogated completely: “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.”(Galatians;2:19) and later: “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”(Romans;7:6).
Barnabas & Paul-Split on Doctrinal Differences:
Obviously acceptance of self made doctrines by Paul, implied total deviation from the teachings of Jesus Christ, who had said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”(Matthew;5:17). Hence Peter and Barnabas opposed Paul, which has been mentioned by Paul: “But when Peter came to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed. For before certain men came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision. And the other Jews joined likewise with him; so that Barnabas also was carried away with their hypocrisy.”(Galatians;2:11-13).
After this incidence Barnabas separated himself fro Paul: “Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. And some days later Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought it not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being commended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”(Acts;15:35-41).
There was strong opposition by the disciples (Peter and Barnabas,) to the new doctrines being preached by Paul contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ. This resulted in to rebellion by the Galatians against Paul. Then Paul wrote 2nd letter to Galatians, in which he instead of claiming support of Disciples, opposed them and tried to prove that he did not need to learn from Disciples as he was getting direct revelations (Glatinas:1:11-12).
After this rift, there was a parting of the ways. In the Acts, Barnabas disappears after the rift, because the recording of the Acts of the Apostles was done by the followers of Paul. Pauline Christians grew in number and strength because Paul had compromised with Roman beliefs and legends. A stage was later reached when kings were used as pawns to further the ends of the Church. However Barnabas was able to record the original teachings of Jesus Christ which remains available to the truth seekers even now despite all the malicious efforts to obliterate them. Commandment of Jesus about Barnabas is: “If he (Barnabas) comes un to you, receive him”(Clossians;4:10)
In the ‘Opening’ of “The Gospel of Jesus” Barnabas clarifies the doctrinal differences as reason of his split with Paul:
“True Gospel of Jesus, called Christ, a new prophet sent by God to the world: according to the description of Barnabas his apostle: Barnabas, apostle of Jesus the Nazarene, called Christ, to all them that dwell upon the earth desireth peace and consolation. Dearly beloved the great and wonderful God hath during these past days visited us by his prophet Jesus Christ in great mercy of teaching and miracles, by reason whereof many, being deceived of Satan, under presence of piety, are preaching most impious doctrine, calling Jesus son of God, repudiating the circumcision ordained of God for ever, and permitting every unclean meat: among whom also Paul hath been deceived, whereof I speak not without grief; for which cause I am writing that truth which I have seen and heard, in the intercourse that I have had with Jesus, in order that ye may be saved, and not be deceived of Satan and perish in the judgment of God. Therefore beware of every one that preacheth unto you new doctrine contrary to that which I write, that ye may be saved eternally. The great God be with you and guard you from Satan and from every evil. Amen.”
Video of lecture by Dr. Jerald Dirks:
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