The birth and early history of Christianity 305

Our contention is that the whole vast, towering, ornate, gorgeous, powerful, many-winged edifice of Christianity was built on the flimsiest of foundations: the fantasies of an obscure, wandering, sex-obsessed liar and genius, who named himself Saul, and then Paul, and whose real name nobody knows … 


The gospel stories of the life of “Jesus” – almost everything they tell about the man whom St. Paul deified, except the manner of his death – are fictions of laughable transparency. …


But does the Holy Ghost proceed from the Father only, or also from the Son? Can two beings emanate a third being simultaneously? It was considered an immensely important question: Is the Holy Ghost an emanation of the Father only, or of the Father and the Son? The Latin for “and from the son” is “filioque”, so this rancorous disagreement is known as the filioque question. It was one of the disputes over which Christians mercilessly persecuted other Christians.

Another conflict of even greater importance in Christian history was – and is – over the question of just how divine Jesus Christ was when he lived as a man among men on earth. When he was a mewling puking baby, a toddler, a boy, an adolescent, a young man, a mature man, one who ate and digested and sweated, hiccupped and sneezed, got headache and toothache, clipped his nails and combed his hair, was he God? Were those nail clippings and hairs and feces and drops of sweat dropped by Jesus on the soil of the Galilee bits of God? When he was crucified, and cried out to ask his God why he had deserted him, was he himself then not God?

There was no escaping the questions. Once declare a man to be the ineffable unknowable invisible God incarnate, and you’re inevitably stirring up a hornet’s nest of logical difficulties. They groped for answers.

Perhaps his human nature was illusory, his real nature always and only divine? Or did he become divine at a certain moment, when he was baptized, or when he “died”, or when he “rose again”? Or could he have been simultaneously wholly human and wholly divine?

The answers to these conjectures depended, the theologians said, on whether his “substance”, or nature, was the same as the Father’s or only similar to the Father’s. In Greek terms: were God the Father and God the Son homoousios or homoiousios?

That “i” in the middle of homoiousios – the iota from which we derive our word “jot” meaning a very little – made the most enormous difference to Christian theologians. Great councils were held to ponder that iota. Should it be there? Same or similar? It was one of the biggest bones of contention in Christian history. Wars were fought over it. Countless men and women and little children died because of it. But over what, in sober judgment? Two versions of a fiction, a figment, a rumor, a superstition.


These are extracts from three essays in a series of seven, now posted in our Pages section as a single post under the title: The Birth and Early History of Christianity.

To find it, click on the title under Pages near the top of our margin.

Author’s P.S. Do not overlook the Notes that expand the texts; many of them carry cargoes of inflammatory information and incendiary comment.


The individual essays were first posted separately with these titles:  A man named Jesus or something like that, September 23, 2011; The invention of Christianity, October 28, 2011; Tread on me: the making of Christian morality, December 22, 2011; St.Paul: portrait of a sick genius, January 7, 2012; Pauline Christianity: a mystical salad, February 26, 2012; The fictitious life of Jesus Christ, April 7, 2012;  Christian theology: “the Word made flesh”, December 24, 2012.

Posted under Christianity by Jillian Becker on Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tagged with

This post has 305 comments.