Facts and fictions of the Church
An investigation of its origins, doctrines and dogmas
Guest article by John Temple
In his penultimate article on the search for Truth, John Temple examines the facts and fictions surrounding the origins of the Christian Church and some of its doctrines and dogmas.
As my regular readers will know I was a minister in the Christian Church for many years. Three things contributed to my leaving it. Firstly the awkward question that has tested, and continues to test the faith of many Christians: "if God is good why does he allow evil?" I attempted to answer this paradox in my second article for Occult Mysteries. I will not repeat myself except to say I could not and do not believe in a 'God' that punishes his children, nor one that is made in Man's image with all his vices and weaknesses. Secondly, the dogma of 'original sin' which is an affront to both logic and religion, if by 'religion' we mean an honest enquiry into the nature of God and Man, unencumbered by dogma. Thirdly, the more I did enquire into the religion I was a minister of, the more I realised it was the work of men—not God—many of whom concerned themselves more with worldly pomp and power than the teachings of Christ.
My aim, throughout this series of articles, has been to present my readers with an ascending scale of revelation intended to unveil the great spiritual truths that lie concealed in sacred texts of all kinds, with especial reference to the Bible, which is the book I know best. How far I have succeeded in that aim I leave my readers to judge. In this penultimate article in the Search for Truth, I shall examine the facts and fictions surrounding the origins of the Christian Church and some of its doctrines and dogmas. In doing so I can promise you quite a few surprises—both pleasant and unpleasant—though I hope that none of the things I shall say will undermine the faith of any Christians among my readers, for that would be very far from my aim.
I have known, and do know, many within the Church, and many more outside it, who, in their lives and deeds demonstrate the selfless love, compassion and charity which Christ endeavoured to teach his followers. The fact that there are others who call themselves 'Christians' who conspicuously lack these virtues and daily betray the Master they purport to follow, in no way negates the great truths he taught or the Age-old Wisdom upon which they are a founded. A wisdom that does not belong to the Christian Church, any more than it belongs to any other religion, past or present, for it is the inheritance of all men and women and is therefore true for all time. For this reason, as well as others which will be obvious to the discerning reader, this investigation is not intended to provide a 'potted' history of Christianity from it's inception to the present day. Such can easily be found in print and on the Internet. Rather, it is intended to give the serious and sincere seeker after Truth the plain facts about the early Christian Church and the fictions upon which it has founded its doctrines and dogmas. For there are many occult students who, as I mentioned in my previous articles, neglect the Bible in the mistaken belief that nothing of interest lies within it for them. I hope that what I have to say may change their minds.
So without further ado, let us see what we can discover about the early Christian Church in the writings of the oldest historians as well as the later ones—that is to say the most honest and reliable sources, for not all were.
Who was the first Pope
I shall begin at the beginning by asking who was the first Pope, or rather, Bishop of Rome, for many important things depend upon this, and discovering the answer may provide some surprises, as well as profitable information and some amusement! According to the Catholic Church, St. Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and the first Pope. In fact, the whole position of the Popes until the present day, hinges upon this article of faith. The rights of succession and all the powers of all the Bishops or Popes who followed after St. Peter depend upon him being the first Pope of Rome who suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Romans. But here we encounter our first surprise for St. Peter was neither martyred in Rome, nor was he the first Bishop there, and it is doubtful whether he ever visited Rome at all!
St. Paul never mentions him as being present with the Brethren during St. Paul's stay in the Holy City, though he mentions all the others who were with him, and sends greetings from them all to the Apostles and dignitaries of the early congregations as we may read Paul's letters in the New Testament.
Tradition tells us that St. Peter went to Rome in order to confront Simon, the great Magician at the court of the Roman Emperor Nero. At their first meeting, during which Nero was present, Simon flew up in the air in order to show off his great magical powers, but the devil, who had raised him, struck with dread and terror at the name Jesus, whom Peter invoked, let Simon fall to the ground, whereupon he broke both his legs. Should any readers doubt this event actually took place, the helpful tourist guides in the Vatican City will be only too pleased to show them the prints of St. Peter's knees in the very stone upon which he is said to have kneeled that day, and point out another stone that it is still dyed with the blood of the wicked Magician!
The Romans were understandably outraged at the defeat of their Magician, for the whole population had been present at the contest, and became so threatening that St. Peter thought it best to beat a hasty retreat, and had already reached the gate of the City, when to his great surprise he met the Lord, Jesus Christ himself, entering by that same gate. When St. Peter asked him where he was going, the Lord replied that he was going into Rome to be crucified anew; and Peter understood by this that he had failed once more, for those of you who know your Bible will recall that it was this same Peter who denied his Lord thrice. To make amends the contrite Apostle retraced his steps to the City, but probably did so rather reluctantly, as he was then arrested by the infuriated Romans, and, by order of Nero, crucified, or so Catholic Tradition tells us.
However, when we examine the accounts of the ancient writers of those times we do not find a single hint that St. Peter was ever in Rome, and he himself is silent upon this point, perhaps wisely so! What we are told is that Peter was at Antioch, at Jerusalem, at Corinth, and at Babylon. But none of the old writers so much as mention the great Metropolis of the Roman Empire where he is supposed to have established his See or Papal Chair. Some wily scholars have attempted to circumvent this difficulty by saying that Babylon meant Rome; others that Jerusalem was meant; still others claiming it was not the Babylon which lay in ruins at that time in Chaldea, but another Babylon in Egypt that was meant.
St. Paul wrote from Rome to the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, to Timothy and to Philemon, yet never said a single word about St. Peter, though he mentions Tychius, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Marcus, and Justus, saying: "These alone, my Fellow-workers unto the Kingdom of God, who have been a comfort unto me." So we may safely conclude that St. Peter was neither in Rome, and certainly not in the same prison with St. Paul, before the latter met his end. It would have been very strange indeed if St. Paul should have been so unfriendly to his fellow Apostle as to never mention him at all, whilst giving the names of all the others who were with him.
The first Bishops of Rome
What Peter really did was to appoint the first Bishop of Rome, and Ruffinus, a writer of that time, mentions the Bishops Linus, Cletus and Clemens as succeeding one another whilst Peter was still alive elsewhere. By ordaining those Bishops, Peter founded the Church in Rome; and that is all there is to it, and St. Paul aided St. Peter in this work, and was actually in Rome, so that with equal reason we might say that Paul was the first Pope, or Bishop, which, however, neither he nor anyone else claimed. It is for this reason that Madame Blavatsky referred to the Christian Church as the "Petro-Paulite Church" in The Secret Doctrine and her other writings. In this she was quite correct, for without St. Peter and especially St. Paul, there would be no Christian Church. Further proof that St. Peter was not the first Bishop of Rome is attested by the Church's own rule that an Apostle cannot be tied down to one place only; he must be able to travel wherever he feels the call, whilst a Bishop cannot do so, but must remain in his See.
According to John Chrysostom (349-407 A.D.), the Archbishop of Constantinople, Apostles are supposed to instruct the whole world, Bishops must reside in only one place, in spite of the fact that St. James, an Apostle, was also Bishop of Jerusalem! Yet, it is claimed by some ancient writers that St. James was never an Apostle, but only one of the seventy Disciples. This latter claim has been supported by many learned scholars in later times, so we may discard St. James in this respect. Nor is it at all certain that James was one of the 'Twelve'. You may well be asking at this point: if St. Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, who placed him in that See? Did the Lord appoint him, or the Apostles, the people, or did he appoint himself? Such questions have been asked many times, but no satisfactory reply has ever been given. But one Pope made the suggestion that Peter was Bishop at Rome, but not of Rome!!
Linus, Cletus, Clement and Evaristus
All the reliable sources tell us that the first true Bishop of Rome was Linus, the second Cletus, or Anacletus, and the third Clement (also known as Clemens Romanus or Clement of Rome). It was said that Cletus was buried at the Vatican next to St. Peter, and his supposed body was shown to the worshippers and adored for many centuries, and for all I know is still there. Clement of Rome is of great interest in connection with the beginnings of the Christian Church, for according to Eusebius, and all the ancient writers, he is named by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians, as one of those who worked with St. Paul, who tells us he was one who "laboured with him in the Gospel, and whose name was in the Book of Life." For this reason, John Chrysostom concludes that, together with St. Luke and Timothy, Clement attended the Apostle Paul in all his journeys. Several other writers assert similar things about Clement, and all speak very highly about him.
Although Catholic Tradition regards Linus as the second Bishop of Rome, as we have seen, he was actually the first Pope. He was installed in the year 66 A.D., the year of St. Peter's death, and is said to have reigned twelve years. He was followed by Cletus (also known as Anacletus) who reigned between 78-92 A.D., and Clement of Rome discussed earlier, whose pontificate ended in 97 A.D. It is important to note that these dates are conjectural, no one knows the exact dates these early Popes reigned, nor is much known about them. This applies to the fourth Pope too, Evaristus (also known as Aristus) who is said to have occupied the 'seat' of St. Peter from 97-105 A.D. All we have about Evaristus are a number of unreliable statements about the works he is supposed to have written, and we can say the same about Pope number five, whose name was Alexander, but in his case there are so many 'holy' relics of his body in the various churches, that they would be enough to form at least twenty entire human bodies; so we will pass this sainted figure by too! In any case, the worship of the cast-off body of any person is a gross and ignorant superstition, and we might just as well worship his old pair of socks!
The sixth Bishop of Rome was called Sixtus, and he was the first Pope to suffer martyrdom. Two Decretals (letters formulating ecclesiastical law) have been ascribed to him, both of which have been shown to be forgeries. Here again there are so many relics of this Pope in various religious institutions, that one might reconstruct them into a regiment of Popes. My readers will forgive me if I don't attempt to do so, though one does wonder at the abiding superstition which sets such store on the dead remains of the lower selves of these poor unfortunates who, one can only hope are not affected by being cut into a thousand pieces!
The seventh Pope, Telesphorus, is also said to have been the first martyr, but as we have seen so far, the 'authorities' disagree about this as they disagree about much of the early history of the Christian Church. Irenaeus (ca. 202 A.D.) does not mention any of the first six Popes as having suffered death for the Christian Religion, but does mention Telesphorus; so I must leave this question open to doubt, as there is no way of coming to a definite conclusion about it. Pope number eight, A.D. 128-139, was Hyginus, and the only interesting item about him and his times is the fact that in those days two famous heretics appeared in Rome, and they were Valentinus and Cerdo. In spite of all the Pope could do to combat their influence, they gained many adherents and proselytes to their heterodox opinions. Here was a pretty kettle of fish indeed! I discuss the threat these so-called 'heretics' posed to the survival of the early Church in my afterword.
The doctrines and dogmas of the early Church
Many claims are made about what the early Popes did for the Roman Catholic Religion, and each of these claims, again, is based on Tradition or rumour, and often on mere superstition and self-aggrandisement. There is no need to go further into all this. But I must mention here a few of the claims made on behalf of the first Popes. To Evaristus were ascribed two Decretals, the distribution of the Titles of Parishes of Rome, and an Order that Bishops, when they preached, should always be attended by seven Deacons. There is no proof of any of these claims. To Alexander, the Fifth Bishop of Rome, or Pope, is credited the Institution of Holy Water and its use in the Church. But, unfortunately, that lustral water is the holy water of the Pagans, and was known long before Christians were ever thought of as you may read in Occult Mysteries article on the Magic of Water.
Pius, the Ninth Bishop of Rome is said to have issued a decree commanding that the Festival of Easter should be kept on Sunday; but there is no proof of this either. He is also credited with being the first to declare that Rome was to be raised above all other Sees; that the Appeals of the whole Catholic Church were to be brought to it; that no Appeals were to be made from it, and that it was to judge the whole Church but be judged by none. This unashamed display of naked political power and worldly pomp, which had no sanction in the writings of the Apostles, who had never made such claims, marked the beginning of the Church's claim to infallibility in temporal and spiritual matters. This was an ominous sign of things to come when, in future centuries, the Catholic Church would wield almost total power over princes and commoners alike, excommunicating even kings who refused to acknowledge its authority. The dogma of Papal infallibility remains a central tenet of the Catholic Church to this day.
Pius was followed by Anicetus, in whose time Valentinus came to Rome during the reign of Hyginus. As we learnt earlier, he gained many proselytes under Pius, and continued to sow his doctrines among the members of the Church. But later on, many were reclaimed again by the Church by St. Polycarp, formerly the Disciple of St. John the Evangelist, and then Bishop of Smyrna. Polycarp's declaration that the Doctrine taught by the Church was the Doctrine he had learnt of the Apostles, made such an impression on their minds that they abjured the teachings of Valentinus and returned to the company of the faithful. But it is noteworthy that they preferred the testimony of Polycarp to the words of the Popes Hyginus, Pius and Anicetus. This shows that in those days these early Popes had not yet begun to assert the dogma of infallibility referred to earlier, or if they did, nobody took a blind bit of notice of it!
What really brought Polycarp to Rome was the heated controversy about the celebration of Easter between the Eastern and Western Churches. All the Churches of the East, and amongst the rest that of Smyrna, kept Easter on the 14th day of the Moon of the first Month of the year, in conformity to the custom of the Jews, i.e., the first full moon after 25 March in the Julian calendar. On the other hand, Anicetus would neither conform to that custom himself, nor permit anyone under his jurisdiction to conform to it, obliging them to celebrate Easter on the next Sunday after the 14th day of the Moon. But the Pope and the Bishop could not agree, though they parted as good friends in the end. Moreover, as I discussed in a previous article, Easter was a Pagan celebration long before the advent of Christ, which the Church usurped to bolster its doctrine of the Resurrection—itself borrowed from the Wisdom Teachings of Ancient Egypt.
Under the first fifteen Bishops of Jerusalem, who were all Jews, no difference occurred between the dates of the Christian Easter or Jewish Pascha, or Passover. But as the anti-Judean element obtained ascendancy, the connection between the Jewish and Christian Passover was severed, and adherence to the 14th day of Nisan (the Jewish date and month for the Passover), was condemned as 'heresy'. Easter became a solar date, whereas originally it was a lunar one. The Crucifixion day, the Friday before Easter, gradually lost its ancient paschal, or Jewish character, and the day of Resurrection assumed more and more the character of the Teutonic and Slavonic Spring festival with all its Pagan rites and festive symbols, such as our familiar Easter Eggs. Yet Christians, even today, sneer at the 'Pagans' whenever these good people are mentioned!
The historical Jesus and Jewish Messiah
From all that we have learnt so far, you will realise that all was not plain sailing for the early Christians, and that there were many people who had no faith at all in the Church, the Apostles, or even in the personal being of the Saviour, of whom there are absolutely no historical records, in spite of all the researches made by many eminent philosophers and historians. All we have is the word of the Apostles, and the fanatical belief of St. Paul, who, at any rate, never claimed to have met Jesus personally, but only saw a divine being in his vision, as many others have done, millions of times, without claiming that he was Jesus Christ.
We must also bear in mind too that none of the Gospels were written until after 40 to 60 years after the supposed death of Jesus by many different hands as I have discussed in previous articles. The Gospels differ in their accounts of Jesus' life in many important points and no one can say after this long lapse of time which is true and which is not. Moreover, the term 'Christian', according to Acts 11:26, originated in Antioch, the Syrian capital, where, shortly after the failure of the Hellenistic movement in Jerusalem, the doctrine of the risen Christ was propagated among the non-Jewish population, and where the first important Christian Church, or Church of the Christians, was established by Barnabas and Paul about the year 44 A.D. The name does not occur anywhere in early Christian literature except in Acts 11:26, 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16.
The fact that the early Christians met for worship in the name of Christ, and called themselves those "of Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:12) induced the Pagans to regard them as the partisan followers of a leader of that name. Hence they coined the name "Christiani" for them, as a nickname after the example of the Caesarians, or Pompeians. Unfamiliar with the name Christus, they called the Christian appellation of their Saviour by the well known ancient title of Chrestos, and spoke of the Christians themselves as Chrestiani. The name came into general use among the Christians themselves during the second century, when it became endeared to them all the more because it entailed persecution and martyrdom. But among themselves they addressed one another as 'Brethren', as is the custom among Sects and Orders of all kinds.
To the Jews, to whom the reported appearance of the Messiah was a matter of frequent occurrence in those times, when the good tidings of redemption from the domination of Rome were constantly expected, the word 'Christian' had no specific meaning; and when the followers of Jesus of Nazareth began to teach a 'way' different from that of the 'mother-synagogue', the Christians received the name of "Nazarenes," as we may read in the New Testament.
There is no indication in Jewish literature that Jesus, if there ever was a teacher of that name, either as a prophet or a social or political leader, made at that time a deep or lasting impression on the Jewish people in general. Outside of Galilee there are hardly any records of such a person having existed, and then only because his name was broadcast by the so-called Apostles. True, there are records of several 'messiahs' being put on trial, such as Ben Stada, who was tried in Libya, probably the same as Theudas, the 'magician', the pseudo-messiah who appeared in the year 44 A.D., or the Egyptian 'false prophet', who created a Messianic revolt a few years later. There was too a certain Jesus ben Pandera with whom Ben Stada or Stara has been identified by some scholars. Mention is also made of one Jesus the pupil of Rabbi Joshua ben Perachiah, of which the Jewish legends speak. The only reference to Jesus in contemporary Jewish literature is an interpolated passage in Josephus, a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, made by later Christian copyists.
This is not to say that a Teacher such as Jesus is represented to us in the Gospels never existed. My personal view, which I shared with you in my article on the sayings of the Saviour, is that there probably was a great Teacher named Jesus—a very common name in those days—around whom the Gospel narratives were later woven. He was probably an Essene—a strict Jesus sect—and he may have shared the fate of other martyrs who spread the Word of Light; or tried to do so.
However, the Gospels agree on one essential point, confirmed by Josephus, namely that John the Baptist was the man who gave the main impulse to the Christian movement. He was an Essene saint, who stood forth as the preacher of repentance and 'good tidings', causing the people to flock to the river Jordan to wash themselves clean in anticipation of the Messianic kingdom. Most of you will be familiar with how the Gospels developed this theme, so there is no point in saying more about this.
The separation of Christianity from Judaism
The Christian religion is based upon the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was the expected Messiah of the Jews, and that in him all the ancient hopes of Israel have been fulfilled. Though Christianity comprises sects and creeds that differ widely from one another in doctrine and practise, the religion rests mainly upon a belief in the God of the Israelites, or Jews, and in the Hebrew Scriptures being the true word of God. At the same time it claims that it is only by means of the New Testament interpretations that these ancient Scriptures receive their true meaning, and that these interpretations are the work and written testimonies of the Apostles, to whom Jesus is said to have appeared as the end and fulfilment of all Hebrew prophecy. Christianity further claims that Jesus was and is THE Son of God in a higher sense than any other human being, sharing with his Father His divine nature, which is a cosmic principle destined to counteract the principle of evil embodied in Satan; and that the death on the cross was designed by God as a means of atonement for the 'sin' inherited by the human race by the fall of Adam, and, consequently, that without the belief in Jesus, in whom the Old Testament sacrifice is typified, there is no salvation.
Many Jewish thinkers regard their own religion as the mother-religion of Christianity; and to a large extent this is true. But this merely begs the question of what is the mother-religion of the Jewish beliefs? I have discussed some of this before in my previous articles, showing how the Christian teachings are a hotchpotch of all sorts of Pagan philosophies and superstitions. But it is true that all religions are but developments of previous thoughts, even the ancient Egyptian, or the ancient Hindu religions or systems. All goes back in the end to Atlantis as the authors of this website have pointed out in many of their articles. No one today can say on what system the Atlantean teachings were based, because no one knows for certain, though we are all at liberty to speculate that they must have been drawn from even earlier times and sources.
The Christian Church makes three principal claims, namely, the Christship of Jesus; the truth of its dogmas, whether Trinitarian or Unitarian; and the old claim that Christianity is a greater power of civilisation than any of the so-called 'Pagan' religions which preceded it. Now, Talmudic literature, based on tradition at least a century older than Christianity, has no specific name for the Christian belief or doctrine, but mentions it only occasionally under the general category of 'Minim', which literally means 'a specific species of belief', or heresies, or Gnosticism in its various forms. In the second century when Christianity was in danger of being absorbed by Gnosticism, or at another period by Mithraism, it could only be regarded as one among many different religious systems. At first it was viewed by the Jews as simply one of those Messianic movements which, in opposition to the rule of the Roman Empire, ended tragically for its instigators. It differed from them only in one singular fact; namely that the death of the leader, far from crushing the movement, gave, on the contrary, rise to a new faith which gradually, both in principle and in attitude, antagonised the parent faith as no other had done before, and in time came to manifest a great hostility to it. This, so the oldest records and writings tell us, was what the Jews of those times thought of Christianity.
For a long time Christianity regarded itself as part of Judaism. As I mentioned earlier it had its centre in Jerusalem; its first fifteen Bishops were circumcised Jews, and they observed the Jewish Laws and were rather unfriendly to heathenism, while at the same time they held friendly intercourse with the leaders of the Synagogue. Many a religious discussion is recorded in the Talmud as having taken place between the Christians and the Rabbis.
It is quite probable that the Christian congregation, or Church of the Saints, did not distinguish itself in outward form from the 'Kehala Kadisha' or 'holy congregation' at Jerusalem, under which name the Essene community survived the downfall of the Temple. The destruction of the Temple and of the Judean state and the cessation of sacrifice could not but promote the cause of Christianity; and under the impression of these important events, the Gospels were written and coloured accordingly. Still, Jew and Christian looked in common for the erection of the kingdom of heaven by the Messiah, either soon to appear, or to reappear.
But it was during the final struggle with Rome, during the last years of the Emperor Trajan that, amidst denunciations on the part of the Christians, and execrations on the part of the Jewish leaders, those hostilities began which separated Church and Synagogue for ever, and made the former an ally of the common enemy—Rome. The Emperor Constantine completed what Paul had begun—a world hostile to the faith in which Jesus was supposed to have lived and died. The Council of Nicea, in 325, determined that Church and Synagogue should have nothing in common, and that whatever smacked of the Jewish aspect of worship, must be eliminated from Catholic Christendom. So it has continued to the present day, notwithstanding the attempts of some within the Catholic and Protestant churches to bring about a rapprochement, which, on the whole, has proved fruitless.
About the author
John Temple is the pen-name of a writer who has studied and practised the occult sciences for more than 60 years. He graduated from Cambridge University with a first in Theology and Religious Studies and has lectured to students around the world on a wide variety of occult, religious and mystical subjects.
He is now retired and lives quietly in London with his wife, two Yorkshire terriers and a talkative African Grey Parrot called 'John' (no relation).
Previous articles by this author on the Search for Truth
The power of Prayer. An investigation of the nature, purpose and power of prayer.
The metaphysics of Talent. An occult investigation of Talent; whence it comes, its right and wrong use, and where it leads.
The sayings of the Saviour analysed. An occult investigation and analysis of some parables from the NT gospels.
Hidden meaning in the Book of Proverbs. An investigation of the origins of the Biblical Book of Proverbs and the hidden meaning in it.
Esoteric meaning of Easter. An investigation of the true significance and esoteric meaning of Easter.
Hidden Wisdom in the Bible. An investigation of the hidden wisdom in the Bible, why and how it was concealed, and the tools the sincere seeker needs to dig it out.
If God is good why does he allow evil? A metaphysical investigation of the problem of Good and Evil.
Esotericism in the Nativity. An occult investigation of the Bible story of the birth of Jesus, revealing the many layers of hidden meaning it contains.
Who are the REAL illuminati? An evil conspiracy or something quite different? His answers may surprise you!
Searching for Truth.
The true story of one seeker's personal journey of spiritual discovery.
© Copyright John Temple & occult-mysteries.org. Article added 14 October 2018.