There are not over a 100 people in the U.S. that hate the Catholic Church, there are millions however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is, of course, quite a different thing.- Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Monday, February 28, 2011

From Palestine With Love

Have you ever heard of "The Naked Archaeologist?" It's a TV show on the History Channel that tries to "expose" the truth of scripture through (guess what!) archaeology. It's not from a Catholic perspective (by a long shot) but I think if done well and honestly, no Catholic could oppose what archaeology says.

However, in the episode I saw latest (it was at our campus's Protestant Campus Ministry Bible study: my attempt at ecumenism... if all the episodes are like this one, the effort will fail), "Spies and Apostles," the show made the claims that
  1. James the Just was appointed by Jesus to be the leader of the early Christians, and that Paul and Peter were plotting to try to wrest control of the early Church from him. 
  2. Paul was a spy for the Roman Empire and only joined the Christians to try to subvert whatever "anti-Roman" tendencies there were
  3. Peter was a spy for...the Jewish Rabbis! Yep, the denials of Jesus on Good Friday are now not out of fear of the Jewish leaders, but a proof that he was chummy with them.
Their response to there being not much in Acts about James is that "it was inter-Christian politics. Paul won and so his version of history is what was recorded."
Their only Bible verses cited were that Jesus declared Peter the rock on which He will build His church (Mt. 16:18) and that Paul was obsessed with "winning" and would give up all morals to win when he said "Run so as to win" (1 Cor 9:19-27).  I don't know what this does to prove the "spies" thing, though.

My response to all of this was a very big "This is ridiculous. What the heck are you thinking? Where in the world would you think you could get this from? How does any of this make sense to you?" For people who believe Sola Scriptura, they've definitely walked off the plantation of what the Bible says.

To discuss them in order:
  1. Who was James? Is he the literal brother of Jesus? Outside of the few mentions of him in Scripture (Acts 12:17, ch 15 and 21 as well) (Gal 1:19, 2:9), most of what we know about him comes from Eusebius.In tradition, James, called the Just due to his righteousness, is the first Bishop of Jerusalem. I guess the TV show takes that to mean he was the leader of the whole early Church. But Acts gives James no leading role until chapter 12! Before that, everything clearly centered on Peter, with the help of John. When Herod kills James (brother of John, son of Zebedee), he doesn't go after James (the brother of the Lord, son of Alphaeus, son of Mary wife of Clephas) next, he arrests Peter. When Peter is released by the angel, he specifically mentions telling James specifically before Peter leaves. It is only after this that James is mentioned a lot, so this is Peter giving the authority of Jerusalem over to James. There was no competition. 
  2. Their entire body of evidence for Paul's spy-ness is a) Paul was a Roman citizen, b) Paul acts differently before and after his conversion and c) Paul mostly hangs out with Gentiles. Does this seem shaky to you? It seems shaky to me. Do I really need to go through all of these? a) Yes Paul was a Roman citizen, but he was a citizen due to where he was born, not through any work of allegiance to the Roman Empire. He was a trained Pharisee!b) well, duh, he acts differently after his conversion! That's what a conversion is! Paul was a very passionate person, Jesus just hit him between the eyes with the knowledge that he was just going 100 miles an hour in the wrong direction. Paul changes course and we should be grateful because otherwise we wouldn't have half of the (non-Gospel) New Testament!  Besides, it wouldn't be worth having in the New Testament if Paul had ulterior motives for being a Christian. There are a lot of worthy books from that time that didn't make it into the Bible, because the Bible is centered around Christ's words, not Paul's or anyone else's. c) (oops I forgot and posted before I got to c... must edit!) Paul mostly hangs out with Gentiles after he is sent to go preach to them. Say this slowly with me. Paul. Got Sent. By God. To The Gentiles. If he isn't the Apostle to the Gentiles, he is nothing! That is his calling. God told Peter to send him (Gal 2:9)! Interestingly, while reading a little bit above this verse, Paul does mention "false brothers" who "slipped in to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus" in order to influence the early Church's teaching on observing the Mosaic Law. Could Paul justly accuse others of being "false brothers" if he was one himself? Why would you accept a hypocrite as a saint? And why would you accept what he wrote as the Word of God?
  3. Do I really have to say anything to refute Peter being a spy for the Jewish leaders? Even if you don't believe all of the countless passages where Peter was mentioned first or given primacy in speaking mean that he was the first Pope, you should be able to figure out that saying one of the 12 Apostles (other than Judas who is roundly condemned every time his name is mentioned) is in league with the Jewish leaders is ridiculous. Acts 4:5-22, Peter very clearly says he will do what God tells him, not what the Sanhedrin tells him. Acts 12 (again):2-4 "(King Herod) had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also. If Peter had ulterior motives, would he really be able to do all of the miracles in the name of Jesus? Acts 5:15, there were so many miracles happening around him, that people hoped that even his shadow might be a cause for God to see their faith and heal them. In fact, in 5:27-32, Peter and the Apostles get chewed out by the Sanhedrin, and they have to repeat again that they will serve God first. And the Apostles "left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.(Acts 5:41)"

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