The Book of Mary

 

Paul, James and Peter

So Mary left the church of Cephas in the hands of James and her apostles the chief of whom were Paul and Peter. But contention broke out among the Jerusalem apostles and Paul.  For James was steadily taking the church closer to the Judaism.  He prayed in the temple every day.  He sought out some in the Pharisee party as allies.  If the church of the Jesus began accepting converts who were plainly outside the Jewish law then these tactics of James would be thwarted.  The Jews would reject him and his people completely and they would be cast out and stoned as blasphemers.

But Paul was preaching to the gentiles and preaching freedom from the law. His teaching on this point was that of Maryís, of freedom in the spirit, and could not be reconciled to Judaism.  So conflict erupted between Paul and the other apostles in Jerusalem.

James had been appointed by Cephas as the head of the church and was revered by Christians as their leader. As it says in Thomas:

The disciples said to Jesus: We know that thou wilt go from us. Who is he who shall be great over us? Jesus said to them: Where ever you be you shall go to James the Just [..].

By opposing James, Paul put himself in a position of direct conflict against the leadership of the church.  To justify himself Paul always stressed the primacy of the spirit and direct revelation of Jesus. But he also drew on the fact that his own appointment derived directly from Cephas and so was equivalent to that of his opponents.  He writes about his early meeting with Cephas in Galatians:

Then, after three years I went up to Jerusalem to enquire about Cephas [some ms Peter], and remained with him fifteen days, and other of the apostles I did not see, except James, the brother of the Lord. And the things that I write to you, I swear to you before God that I do not lie.  Then I came to the regions of Syria and of Cilicia, and was unknown by face to the assemblies of Judea, that are in Christ .. {Galatians 1}

In this passage Paul mentions James almost in passing even though it is James who was the figurehead of the church.  Paul met James because Mary was staying at his house as his sister but he does not regard him being particularly important. He is vehement that he has met none others of the Jerusalem party even though, traditionally, James and Cephas are the leaders of this party! If Cephas and the apostle Peter are the same then the evidence Paul gives in this passage of the fifteen day stay with Cephas, to be acquainted with him or to receive instruction form him, contradicts the very point he is so keen to make.  The reason he is so emphatic is that Cephas is not one of the Jerusalem apostles but an authority above them. He is stressing that insofar as he received instruction through any human agency it was through Cephas and not from the Jerusalem apostles lead by James, Peter and John.  Since these Jerusalem apostles also received their instruction from Cephas he is putting himself on a level with them. 

To resolve the dispute Paul travels to Jerusalem to meet with James, Peter and John. He is concerned that his version of the good news will be rejected and he will be forced either to change his teaching or go into open conflict with the church.  However the Jerusalem apostles do not reject Paulís gospel.  The strength of Paulís position is that on the contentious point he is aligned with the teachings of Cephas.  So instead they place a restriction on him Ė he is only to preach to the gentiles and not the circumcised.  In this way they hope to avoid conflict with the Jews.  Paul presents this as a triumph Ė he is to be apostle to the gentiles and Peter to the Jews.  However this is not what the Jerusalem apostles intended!  They also will preach to the gentiles but their converts will be circumcised and brought within Judaism. This is Paulís version of events:

Then, after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, having taken with me also Titus; and I went up because of a revelation, and did submit the good news that I preach among the gentiles, privately to those who are esteemed, lest I might run in vain;  but not even Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. And all this because of the false brethren who were brought in unawares and who did come in to secretly to spy out our liberty that we have in Christ Jesus, that us they might bring us under bondage.  But to them we did not submit to even for an hour so that the truth of the good news might remain to you.  And those who were esteemed to be something, whether they were or not makes no difference to me for God does not accept the appearances of man, those thus esteemed did not add anything.  But, on the contrary, having seen that I have been entrusted with the transmission of the good news to the uncircumcised, as Peter has with the circumcised, for he who did work with Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, did work also in me in regard to the gentiles, and having known the grace that was given to me, James, and Peter [some ms Cephas], and John, who were esteemed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas a right hand of fellowship that we should go to the gentiles, and they to the circumcised.  They added only that we should be mindful of the poor, the very thing that I was diligent to do. (Galatians 2)

In this passage Peter is clearly designated as an apostle. Yet in 1 Corinthians Cephas is twice listed separately from the apostles. This is another proof that Cephas and Peter are different people. 

The conflict does not end there. The Jerusalem party do not recognise that Paul has any exclusive right to preach to the gentiles. They still attempted to persuade Paulís Jewish followers to submit to the law at least in public. They attempted to get his gentile converts to accept circumcision.  Paul in turn was incensed with the Jerusalem apostles for sacrificing the freedom in the spirit for political expediency.

And when Peter [some ms Cephas] came to Antioch, I confronted him to his face because he was blameworthy.  For before certain came from James, he was eating with the gentiles, but when they came he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those of the circumcision.  Other Jews also did dissemble with him so that Barnabas also was carried away by their dissimulation. But when I saw that they did not walk upright to the truth of the good news, I said to Peter before all, `If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of the gentiles and not in the manner of the Jews, why do you compel the gentiles to Judaize?í  (Galatians 2) 

Paul was to win. The churches he founded expanded rapidly among the gentiles and his version of the good news began to predominate. Meanwhile Jamesí rapprochement with the Jews ended in failure and James himself was put to death for blasphemy. After the destruction of the temple the Jews were no longer a force to be reckoned with and the church of Jesus became anti-Jewish. So the memory of Jamesí early leadership of the church began to fade into obscurity. This is why the Catholic church traced its roots from Peter (Cephas) and Paul and not from James.  This is why the brother of Mary, and the brother of the Lord, James, became all but written out of the official history of the church.

 

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