Did earliest Christians believe (alleged) crucifixion to be Indispensable?
An account of the earliest biblical Christians who did not believe crucifixion to be imperative!
Introduction, Background and Premise
Paul had made it indispensible for his followers that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion is the corner stone of Christianity. According to Paul’s doctrines, without Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice there is nothing else in Christianity:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (1 Co 15:1-4)
And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.(1 Co 15:14)
The reason why Paul gave utmost importance to the alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) is because, according to Paul (not all Christians as we would soon observe), Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice was the only way for the remission of sins:
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Heb 9:22)
Remember that before Paul preached his branded theology, Old Testament Laws had already provided enough doctrines and teachings on remission of sins and salvation; no wonder Paul pre-empted Laws by stating that they are dead:
“But before the time for faith came, the Law kept us all locked up as prisoners until this coming faith should be revealed. And so the Law was in charge of us until Christ came, in order that we might then be put right with God through faith. Now that the time for faith is here, the Law is no longer in charge of us.” (Galatians 3: 23-25)
“Now, however, we are free from the Law, because we died to that which once held us prisoners. No longer do we serve in the old way of a written law, but in the new way of the Spirit.” (Romans 7:6)
Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version
In fact Paul went as far as to claim that with Laws remission of sins and salvationcannot be achieved:
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Gal 2:16)
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. (Gal 3:11)
Furthermore, Paul even asserted that Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice would be wasted if righteousness/salvation/atonement is achieved by any other means other than alleged cross:
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Gal 2:21)
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Gal 5:4)
On the foregoing, Paul claimed that if Christ (peace be upon him) is not allegedly crucified and raised then the sins of believers would remain – it would not be blotted out:
And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Co 15:17)
Thus, to sum up, Paul’s theology is:
- Without alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) Christianity is vain.
- The only mode of atonement is through the alleged blood of Christ (peace be upon him)
- OT Laws were allegedly rendered defunct with the arrival of Messiah (peace be upon him)…
- …it is because if observation of OT Laws provided salvation then Messiah’s (peace be upon him) precious and “perfect” sacrifice is worthless.
- Thus, conclusively, it is only the perfect (alleged) sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) which brings salvation and remission of sins.
So far so good, however, notice that it is only Paul who is preaching; he was not the only “apostle” preaching about Christianity – there were other stalwarts as well, like James.
In fact when we read James’ preaching (through his epistles) then he over and over again contravened Paul on key and very basic doctrines of Christianity.
James even contradicted Paul on the indispensability of the alleged crucifixion of Jesus (peace be upon him)! Consider the following passage, for instance:
“Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to his word; instead, put in into practice. Whoever listens to the word but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks in a mirror and sees himself as he is. He takes a good look at himself and then goes away and at once forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks closely into PERFECT LAW THAT SETS PEOPLE FREE, who keeps on paying attention to it, but puts it into practice – that person will be blessed by God in what he does. (James 1: 22-25, Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version)
Now please ponder with neutral mind. If indeed Paul’s assertions would have been universal representation of Christian doctrines, in other words, if Paul’s doctrines would have been the only theology in Christianity, then, James would have echoed with Paul that: emancipation comes ONLY by the alleged “blood of Christ”, man can never be justified with the works of the Laws on the contrary, he would “fall from grace”, Christ’s (peace be upon him) “perfect” sacrifice has obviated the observance of the Laws, on the foregoing, if anyone follows the Laws even after Messiah’s (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion then the alleged “perfect” sacrifice would be wasted so on and so forth.
However, contrary to all of the above, James postulates that Christian believershave to follow the Laws of the Old Testament to “set themselves free”, in other words, to emancipate themselves from their sins! He exhorts his disciples to not merely read the Laws but put them into practice for remission of their sins.
However, the issues are:
(I) Did not James know that Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged “perfect” sacrifice has been offered which is more than enough, if not the only mode of remission of sins?
(II) Did not James know that with Christ (peace be upon him) the Laws which “sets people free” have come to an end?
(III) More importantly, did not James know that if Laws would “set people free” then Paul’s “lord and savior’s” precious sacrifice would be rendered “vain”? Refer Gal 2:21, 5:4.
It would be disrespectful to the knowledge of “apostle” James that he did not know all of the above. That being the case, the only logical inference to be made is: James either, did not consider Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion the only way of emancipation or perfect enough to “set people free”! It is because even after Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion, if James who is no less than Paul if not more than him, claims that Christians need to observe Laws which “set people free” – then it means beside Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice, Laws were also potent enough to emancipate people.
Acknowledging the obvious problems and contradiction with James’ doctrines, Christians Scholars have come out with weird and desperate, if not disrespectful and belittling, commentaries imputing that James did not had apostolic authority and that his preaching were not meant for Christians (!!??).
The Epistle of James is not addressed to the assembly, and does not take the ground of apostolic authority over the persons to whom it is sent. It is a practical exhortation which still recognises the twelve tribes and the connection of the christian Jews with them, as John addressed the Gentiles, although the Jewish people had their place before God. Thus the Spirit of God still acknowledges here the relationship with Israel, as in the other case the relationship with Gentiles, and the rights of God which are unchangeable, whatever may be the special privileges granted to the assembly or to Israel respectively. We know that historically the christian Jews remained Jews to the end of the New Testament history, and were even zealous for the law — to us a strange thing, but which God endured for a time.(John Darby’s Synopsis, James 1:1-27)
Observe very assiduously the important last sentence in the commentary. Notice that Darby makes two assertions:
(A) Earliest Christians remained Jews, in other words, they remained loyal to OT Laws and subsequently doctrines promulgated by James.
(B) To all those who follow Paul’s preached Christianity, James’ preaching comes as a “strange thing”.
Both the above observations have very strong implications:
First observation, namely (A), imply that majority, if not all, earliest Christians (including James and other “apostles”) believed that even after the so called “perfect”, precious, and Law-ending sacrifice (alleged) of Messiah (peace be upon him), Old Testament Laws were viable and potent enough as an alternative mode besides the alleged sacrifice to “set people free”. Thus, majority, if not all, earliestChristians did not believe that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice was the only way of emancipation and that without it there could not be any remission of sins.
Secondly, that is observation (B) implies and further corroborates that indeed James’ doctrines were not in line with popular Christian doctrines, if not contradictory to Paul’s doctrines, otherwise it would not have engendered a “strange” reaction in John Darby – a follower of Paul’s doctrines.
Rather than exclaiming on James’ doctrines, Christians need to reconsider each position (that of James and Paul) because who knows James and all of earliestChristians would have had a similar “strange” reaction had they seen Christians of Paul’s thoughts.
More biblical proofs that alleged cross was not indispensible
James was not merely preaching but his actions proved that he and the earliestChristians did not believed the alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) to be imperative and the only mode of salvation.
James and his colleagues in the Church of Jerusalem continued to practice Old Testament Laws and rituals including SIN – OFFERING! In fact what is more ironical is that they made Paul the leader of the OT rituals – the very same person who was championing that OT Laws had been rendered dead with Jesus (peace be upon him), Christ’s (peace be upon him) “perfect” sacrifice (alleged) sacrifice has obviated any need of observance of OT Laws, so on and so forth:
“When we arrived in Jerusalem, the believers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to see James; and all the church elders were present. Paul greeted them and gave a complete report of everything that God had done among the Gentiles through his work.After hearing him, they all praised God. Then they said, Brother Paul, you can see how many thousands of Jews have become believers, and how devoted they all are to the Law.They have been told that you have been teaching all the Jews who live in Gentile countries to abandon the Law of Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or follow the Jewish customs.They are sure to hear that you have arrived. What should be done, then?This is what we want you to do. There are four men here who have taken a vow. Go along with them and join them in the ceremony of purification and pay their expenses; then they will be able to shave their heads. In this way everyone will know that there is no truth in any of the things that they have been told about you, but that you yourself life in accordance with the Law of Moses.But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent them a letter telling them we decided that they must not eat any food that has been offered to idols, or any blood, or any animal that has been strangled, and that they must keep themselves from sexual immorality. So Paul took the men and the next day performed the ceremony of purification with them. Then he went into the Temple and gave notice of how many days it would be until the end of the period of purification,when a sacrifice would be offered for each one of them. (Acts 21: 17-26. Today’s English Version)
The above ritual is core Old Testament system found in the Book of Numbers which symbolized forgiveness and remission of sins:
“When a Nazirite completes his vow, he shall perform the ritual. He shall go to the entrance of the Tent and present to the LORD three animals without any defects: a one-year-old male lamb for a burnt-offering, a one-year-old ewe lamb for a sin-offering, and a ram for a fellowship-offering.” (Numbers 6: 13-14, Today’s English Version)
Christians Scholars also agree that OT ritual as mentioned in Book of Numbers was used to purify and help remitting sins as they included SIN – OFFERINGS:
“And be at charges with them – Share with them the expense of the offerings required when the vow is completed. Those offerings were a ram of a year old for a burnt-offering, a sheep of the same age for sin-offering, a ram for a thank-offering, a basket of unleavened cakes, and a libation of wine.” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Acts 21:24)
Here are multiple problems with the above account of Book of Acts:
(I) If James and his colleagues in the Jerusalem Church indeed believed like Paul that Christ (peace be upon him) has allegedly paid the most precious remission for their sins then why did they offered “sin-offering”?
(II) On the foregoing, if James and others believed that Jesus (peace be upon him) brought the Laws to an end then why did they at all care for the rituals of Book of Numbers – an OT Law.
(III) Why did Paul contradict his own teachings by not merely partaking but leading and even paying for the OT Laws and its rituals
a) Did he forget that his “lord and savior’s” has brought to end what he was executing?
b) Did not he had any scruple that by the mere “useless” and “outward rule” he would gain nothing but on the contrary, Christ’s (peace be upon him) precious (alleged) sacrifice would be rendered “vain”?
c) On what basis did “apostle” Paul partake in the “purification ceremony”? Was not Paul inspired enough to know that sins of believers were purged with the alleged blood of Christ (peace be upon him)?
d) In fact by partaking in the ceremony, Paul jeopardized his salvation since he previously claimed (c.f. 1 Co 15:17) that if Christ (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice did not provide salvation then the faith is in vain andsins remain!
The very reason that James and the majority of earliest Christians still believed in the viability of OT laws and its rituals, especially, when it included SIN – OFFERINGin it, sends more than a message that although they might have respected the alleged sacrifice but they did not considered it to be the only mode of salvation or perfect enough!
In fact there are numerous Jamesian verses which lends support to the notion that James and his colleagues did not believed faith in alleged crucifixion complete enough for salvation because James strongly exhorted (to the point of contravening Paul) his followers to complement faith with the works of the Laws (as contrary to Paul’s faith-only doctrine):
“My brother, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it? Can that faith save him? Suppose there are brothers and sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” – if you don’t give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead.” (James 2: 14-17)
“But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” Do :You believe that there is only one God? Good!The demons also believe – and tremble with fear. You fool! Do you want to be shown that faith without actions is useless?” (James 2: 18-20)
On one hand we have Paul and his doctrines which enjoins Christian believers that after Christ (peace be upon him) OT Laws were rendered ineffective and the only mode of remission of sins and salvation is through the alleged cross of Christ (peace be upon him). Nevertheless, this notion was not entirely accepted by theearliest Christians as a whole including contemporary apostles.
Even after Christ’s alleged perfect and precious sacrifice, James emphatically preached that Christians need to observe the OT Laws because it “sets people free” – once again James was preaching this after Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion.
In fact, James wrote multiple passages just to defend the notion that mere faith in Christ and the alleged cross would not suffice, it has to be complemented with the works of the Laws!
James and earliest Christians, even after the alleged crucifixion of Christ (peace be upon him), not merely observed the first ten moral commandments but even observed the OT rituals punctiliously – the same rituals which Paul imputed to be “useless” and merely “outward rules”. What is even interesting is that, these rituals even included SIN-OFFERING in the form of sacrifice of animals which specifically meant to remit sins!
It does not end here, Paul who was hitherto championing inefficacy of OT Laws and their “uselessness” and plasticity (“outward rules”) was found not merely observing OT rituals but even leading and bearing the expenses of it! Thus, either contradicting himself and his “divinely inspired inspirations” or establishing that Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged crucifixion is not imperative enough!
Even after all of James’ otherwise preaching, if more popular Christianity wants to do away with Jamesian epistles then they need to justify why they trump James to Paul. Remember, James was the one who met Jesus (peace be upon him) in person – not Paul. Therefore, if James is not greater than Paul then he is, at least, no less either and in this scenario there need to be strong enough grounds to reject James to Paul.
- How Paul’s personal problem became corner stone of Christianity!
- What was Paul up to in Jerusalem?
- High Octane Faceoff in Jerusalem!
- Addendum to “High Octane Faceoff in Jerusalem”!
- The Super Pious “Apostle”
- Emphasize wherever not matching with the original, is ours.
- Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical text is taken from King James Version, e-Sword Version.
Further Related Articles:
(5) – “Was Jesus Hanged or Crucified?”
(6) – “Jesus did not die on cross, says scholar” (Telegraph.co.uk)