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The "12 Apostles" – Fabricated followers of a fabricated Saviour
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 The "12 Apostles" –

Fabricated followers of a fabricated Saviour

The apostles should be twelve of the most famous people in history. We're told they were hand picked by Jesus to witness his wondrous deeds, learn his sublime teachings, and take the good news of his kingdom to the ends of the earth.

Which makes it all the more surprising that we know next to nothing about them. We can't even be sure of their names: the gospels list a collection of more than twenty names for the so-called twelve disciples – with Bartholomew sometimes showing up as Nathanael, Matthew as Levi and Jude as Thaddeus, Lebbaeus, or Daddaeus!

It should be apparent that if the twelve were actual historical figures, with such an important role in the foundation and growth of the Church, it would be impossible to have such wild confusion over the basic question of who they really were.

But what do we know about any of them?

 

"Twelve Good Men and True"?

The fact is that for seven of the twelve, our only early source, the Gospels, say nothing about them at all. They are just names on a list.

Isn't it a tad odd that such worthies, infused with the Holy Spirit and given powers to heal the sick and cast out demons, wrote nothing, or had nothing written for them or about them? Isn't it odd that men chosen to be eye-witnesses to the mighty deeds of Jesus, wrote no eye-witness statements, left no sermons, no memoirs, no letters, no teachings, no pithy words of encouragement?

All that we have about "the twelve" are conflicting legends and fantastic stories from a much later date, tall stories about where they went, what they did and most especially how they died. Their deaths, it seems, have been recorded in loving and lurid detail. And it is the graphic deaths of the disciples that solves the riddle. We've all heard the apologetic claim: "Would they have died for a lie? Therefore the story of Jesus must be true."

But we all know how useful to a cause is a dead martyr, even if he's a fiction. In the case of Jesus, the twelve are a fiction, a necessary entourage for a sun god, passing through the twelve constellations of the zodiac. Just like other saviour gods, Jesus had to have his retinue.

The truth is, the twelve disciples are a grubby and sordid invention.

Where DID they get their ideas from?

Joshua also chose Twelve

"The LORD spoke to Joshua, saying: 'Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from every tribe' ... Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe." – Joshua 4.1-4.


The names 'Jesus' and 'Joshua' both derive from the Hebrew Yehoshua – an heroic name ('Yahweh saves') given to the supposed leader of the Israelites in their conquest of Canaan.

The parallels don't end there. Matthew's Jesus promises his groupies that they will "sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." – Matthew 19.28.

 

 

Martyrs to the Cause: Those "Suffering Disciples"

"Would the disciples have suffered and died for a fabricated saviour?"


One of the reeds of straw holding up the shabby edifice of Christendom is the alleged suffering and cruel fate of his original apostles, the twelve disciples chosen by the Lord himself. By their heroic, cheek-turning sacrifice, these worthies earned their martyr's crown and joined their Lord in Heaven. In so-doing, they inspired generations of noble Christians, who ultimately taught the blood-thirsty Romans the Christian values of compassion and brotherly love.Well, that's the myth.

Though cruelty and human suffering have ever been integral to the history of the Church the fanatics of Christ have rarely been the victimized innocents. Rather it has been the Christians who have bathed their faith in the blood of others.

There is NO corroborating evidence for the existence of the twelve Apostles and absolutely NO evidence for the colourful variety of martyrs' deaths they supposedly experienced. The Bible itself actually mentions the death of only two apostles, a James who was put to death by Herod Agrippa (see James for a discussion of this tricky character) and the nasty Judas Iscariot (see below), who gets several deaths because he's the bad guy.

Legend and tradition alone, dreamed up by the early churches in their bid for legitimacy and authority, provided the uplifting fables of heroics and martyrdom. The plethora of conflicting claims and alternative deaths stand eloquent testimony to wholesale fabrication of the non-existent godman's non-existent companions.

 

The Fabricated Deaths of the Apostles

1. Peter (aka Simon, Cephas).

"Beheaded by Nero?" No, not really. This legend was dreamed up by the mid-2nd century pope Anicetus (156-166) when he became locked in a conflict with the venerable Polycarp of Smyrna. Polycarp had tried to win the argument (over the dating of Easter) by insisting that he spoke with the authority of the apostle John. In response, Anicetus staked a claim to Peter, and Peter, "Prince of the Apostles", trumps John.

2nd century texts known as the "Clementines" had made Peter the "first Bishop of Rome" and 3rd century invention gave him a 25-year pontificate – which made it a tad tricky for him to have died at the hands of Nero but, hey, this is "tradition."

3rd century Church Father Origen dreamed up a colourful flourish: Peter, feeling himself unworthy to be crucified the same way as his Lord, chose option 'B' – crucifixion upside down!

 

2. James, son of Zebedee (James the Greater?)

Acts 12.1,2 says simply:

"Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword."


Later legend adds the truly extraordinary nonsense that the Roman officer guarding James converted on the spot and elected to be beheaded beside him! Even later fabrication has James traipsing around northern Spain before he dashes back to Judaea for martyrdom.

 

3. John, son of Zebedee.

This guy has to be kept alive long enough to take care of Mary, lead the church in Ephesus, write the Book of Revelation and write his own gospel. He even survives being boiled in oil and is given a natural death!

Actually, John bar Zebedee disappears from the yarn in Acts at the same time his brother James is more dramatically removed from the story. The last reference to John is also verse 12.2. From Acts 12.12 onward we are dealing with another John "whose surname was Mark" – a lightweight character who nonetheless is credited with authorship of the first gospel.

The impending demotion of the thunder brothers is actually prefigured in Mark's gospel (and is embellished in Matthew, where Mrs Zebedee does the talking). The boys ask for front seats in the hereafter. JC is having none of it:

"And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.

"Jesus said unto them ... to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John." – Mark 10:35-41.


Thus while the earthly career of Jesus features prominently brothers James and John, "the sons of thunder" (Mark 3.7), the story of the early church features a new James, "the brother of Jesus", and a new John, a sidekick to Paul and Barnabas (see below). We know little about either, although the death of James bar Damneus (Josephus, Antiquities 20.9) provides a basis for the colourful martyrdom of brother James beloved of Christian apologists.

 

4. Andrew, brother of Peter.

Pious invention gives Andrew a wonderful career covering everywhere from Scythia to Greece, from Asia Minor to Thrace. This guy, it seems, took option 'C' on the crucifixion menu: on an x-shaped cross. Apparently this allowed him to continue preaching for 2 days.

 

5. Philip.

Fable places this guy in Phrygia, Carthage and Asia Minor. The fairy tale has a proconsul crucifying him for converting his wife. Perhaps the love feast got a bit out of hand.

Somewhat confusingly, there are actually two Philips. The original apostle disappears from the tale after witnessing Jesus rise to Heaven from the Mount of Olives. Philip and the rest of the gang return to the upper room in Acts 1.13. But in Acts 6.5 a second Philipis chosen as one of the seven given responsibility for feeding widows

 

6. Bartholomew (Nathanael)

What a traveller – India, Persia, Armenia, Ethiopia and southern Arabia! Miraculously he managed to get himself crucified (flayed alive and beheaded!) in both India and Armenia. Pretty impressive stuff. Even when dead his bits got about: a church in Rome claimed most of his corpse but 11th century Canterbury did a roaring trade with his arm! His emblem is the flaying knife. Cool.

 

7. Matthew (Levi son of Alphaeus)

This guy has to be kept alive long enough to write his gospel – at least 20 years after the supposed death of Christ. Credited with 15 years in Jerusalem, then missions to Persia and Ethiopia and, of course, martyrdom in both places. According to Medieval iconography he worn spectacles, the better to count his tax money.

If Matthew, aka Levi, is a son of Alphaeus (Mark 2.14) then presumably he is also the brother of James son of Alphaeus (Mark 3.18)? And yet we are told the lesser James is a son of Mary, sister of the Blessed Virgin and wife of Cleophas (John 19.25). In which case, the evangelist Matthew is a cousin of Jesus himself! However, Acts 1.13 tells us that the lesser James has a brother called Judas (aka Jude) whereas Mark (15.40) and Matthew's "own gospel" (27.56) both say that James has a brother named Joses. So we now have a regular band of brothers: James, Joses, Judas – plus Matthew/Levi ... which comes mightily close to the supposed four brothers of Jesus himself!

"Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?"

– Matthew 13.55.

 

8. Thomas Didymus (the Twin) aka Judas Thomas or Jude Thomas

Another grand traveller, seen everywhere from Parthia to Kerala in south India. 4th century invention, appropriately enough, gives this 'twin' two martyrdoms, one in Persia and one in India. He even gets a burial in Syria to boot! Yet another resting place, Mylapore, was claimed by the Portuguese in 16th century. Most famous for his "doubt", Thomas inspired a whole raft of pious flimflam: the Acts of Thomas (he built a palace for an Indian king, would you believe), the Apocalypse of Thomas, the Gospel of Thomas, and the Infant Gospel of Thomas.

Now, have you still got any doubts ...?

 

9. James son of Alphaeus (James the Less – or is James the Just?)

The myth-makers really go to town for this guy. Thrown down over 100 feet from the pinnacle of the Temple by "scribes and Pharisees", he actually survived only to be stoned, have his brains dashed out with a fuller’s club and have his body "sawn asunder" – all this at the age of 90!

Of course, if we don't conflate James the Less with James the brother of Jesus (an identification made by Jerome and later Catholics) all this mayhem belongs with the righteous James and the fate of the lesser James is unknown.

Perhaps it's the being sawn in half which causes the confusion?

 

10. Jude/Thaddeus /Lebbaeus /Daddaeus

Either a serious clubbing or crucifixion for this mixed up guy in the city of Edessa or Persia. Apparently his fan-club suffered because his name sounded too much like Judas.

Jude the apostle is often conflated with Jude the brother of Jesus and also with Jude the writer of the epistle of Jude (pay attention, there will be a test). Yet Jude (the letter writer) identifies himself as the brother of James and as a servant of Jesus, not his brother (Jude 1.1). He also speaks of the apostles in the past tense, not as if he was one of them (verse 17), so he cannot be identified as one of "the twelve" either.

 

11. Simon the Canaanite/ the Zealot.

Invention came late for this guy. When it did, it was a beauty – crucifixion in Persia and also crucifixion thousands of miles away in Britain. He also managed to preach in Africa. Quite an act to follow.

 

12. Matthias.

Fantasy sends this guy to Syria, Cappadocia, the shores of the Caspian and the "City of Cannibals" (Acts of Andrew and Matthias). Death by burning. Also death in Jerusalem by stoning – and beheading. Really just makes up the numbers, sometimes merging with Matthew and sometimes swapped out to let Paul into "the twelve."

 

13. Judas, son (or is that brother?) of James.

Nothing yet. Feeling inspired?

 

14. Levi, son of Alphæus.

Refer to his alter ego Matthew.

 

Mark (John Mark).

Though neither Clement of Alexandria (?153-215), nor Origen of Alexandria (182-251) seem to have noticed, Eusebius of Caesarea(c.263-339) relays the news that the apostle Mark had been "first bishop" of Alexandria and had suffered martyrdom in the "eighth year of Nero." This would have been 61 AD – rendering the apostle dead before the death of Peter whose memoirs Mark supposedly wrote up as the Gospel of Mark. "Dragged to death", or maybe not. His bones – well, someone's bones – turned up in 9th century Venice.

 

Luke.

"Hanged on an olive tree." Or, "lived to the age of 84 and died unmarried." Body parts claimed by both Padua and Constantinople.

 

Paul.

"Beheaded by Nero." No, not really, but legend tells us he shared the same fate as Peter, even dying on the same day. Pious romances scribbled between the 2nd and 4th centuries – Acts of Paul, the Apocalypse of Paul, the Martyrdom of Paul and the Acts of Paul and Thecla – provide all the fabulous nonsense you could ever wish for.

 

Multiple deaths – a biblical motif for making sure the bad guys get it REALLY bad

The 4 very different deaths for King Saul.
Samuel (31:4) says that Saul "Took a sword, and fell upon it".
Samuel (1:2-10) says Saul, at his own request, was slain by an Amalekite.
Later in 2 Samuel (21:12) we read that Saul was killed by the Philistines on Gilboa.
But then in 1 Chronicles (10:13-14) we learn that Saul was slain by God!

Judas Iscariot.

Ah, this nasty looking character looks like a Judas

 

 

The multiple deaths of Judas Iscariot –

If the Jewish authorities, with their own agents, really had wanted to arrest a Jesus, supposedly a guru drawing vast crowds, they certainly would not have needed to hire an inside informer to identify the charismatic leader. Nor is it creditable that 'big money' would have been paid for (of all things) a kiss of the doomed messiah (Mark 14.44). The theological symbolism is as apparent as the history is bogus.

The mythic "Judas" was a Gentile/Hellenistic creation of the early 2nd century, an eponymous focus for the anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism of the early Church. "Iscariot" appears to have been taken from the name of a rebel group called Sicarii, Jewish assassins who used sicae (small daggers), who were largely exterminated shortly before the first Jewish war.

Ignatius, writing his epistles about 115, made no mention of a Judas Iscariot, but then, nor did he mention any 'disciples' (Paul and Peter are called 'apostles', that is, missionaries – like himself).

But with a theologically necessary betrayal by 'a Jew/the Jews' the divine saviour passes, body and soul, into the possession of the Gentiles.

In their disposal of Judas, the hapless traitor of the Lord – how could he help it, he had been entered by Satan?! (Luke 22.3) – the Christian scribblers get quite carried away. Papias in the 130s got the ball rolling.

 

 

Judas – the Fall Guy
judas-fate.gif

Early 2nd century:

"Judas walked about in this world a sad example of impiety; for his body having swollen to such an extent that he could not pass where a chariot could pass easily, he was crushed by the chariot, so that his bowels gushed out."

Papias, "Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord"  Book II.

2 fairytales which made the biblical final edition:

judas2.gif

Matthew 27:5

"And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself."

judas3.gif

Acts 1:18

"Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out."

4th century embellishment:

 

judas4.gif

"Judas was a terrible, walking example of ungodliness in this world ... For his eyelids, they say, were so swollen that he could not see the light at all, and his eyes could not be seen ... when he relieved himself there passed through it pus and worms from every part of his body, much to his shame.

After much agony and punishment, they say, he finally died in his own place, and because of the stench the area is deserted and uninhabitable even now; in fact, to this day no one can pass that place unless they hold their nose, so great was the discharge from his body and so far did it spread over the ground."


Papias,"Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord" as quoted in Apollinaris of Laodicea, Christian priest and storytell
er.

 

The 12 become the 7 – sort of

In Acts of the Apostles the eleven disciples, ordered by the risen Jesus to wait in Jerusalem for power from the Holy Spirit, drew lots to replace the hapless Judas Iscariot. They chose Matthias over Barsabas Justus and thus restored the magic circle. The wording used by Acts is curious: " one must be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection." At this stage "twelve" still has a divine or mystical importance.

But after a Peter-led interlude (sermonizing at Pentecost, first miracles, arrest and re-arrest, etc.) "the Twelve" have outlived their usefulness. The cover story is that the apostles do not wish to "serve tables" (no kidding, Acts 6.2) or minister to "Grecian widows" – they want to get on with prayer and ministry. They direct that seven men, full of the Holy Ghost, be appointed to the more mundane business of welfare.

What undermines the "authenticity" of this story is that from this point on the original (Jewish) disciples, now free to minister, almost disappear from the story. Instead, it is the "Hellenist" new guys, supposedly appointed for welfare work, who steal the limelight.

Primacy goes to Stephen, who gives one big speech and becomes the first martyr, followed by Philip (not to be confused with the disciple of the same name) who works wonders in Samaria in competition with Simon Magus. Philip also converts the treasurer of Ethiopia and even "vanishes" from Gaza to reappear twenty five miles away in Azotus (Ashdod), courtesy of the Holy Spirit (Acts8.39)! He obviously did not spend much time waiting on tables. Twenty-odd years later Philip is in Caesarea, where, as the father of four virgin soothsayers, he hosts the apostle Paul.

The other Hellenists – Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas – are never mentioned again. Like most of the named apostles, they merely make up the number. By this stage Acts has become wholly preoccupied with a yarn about the adventures of Paul. As for the original witnesses chosen by Jesus – "fishers of men" divinely ordained to take the good news "to the uttermost ends of the earth" – they have faded into oblivion.

 

Church of the Shadows

After the "deaths" of the Apostles, even Church historians offer no great missionary figures (they make a weak attempt with Ignatius). The gap of more than two centuries is filled with an anonymous church of the shadows.

Retrospectively, the void was filled with "suffering Christians" – a fallacy, invented by a triumphant Church for its own greater glory, elaborated at length by the feverish minds of medieval churchmen and perpetuated in our own time by the studios of Hollywood.

benhurvid.jpglast_temptation.jpggreatest_story.jpg  

 

Propagandists would concoct a fanciful story in which the ‘blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church’; they would tell of a continuous progress, first in secret then openly, by which brave, pious, humble, and noble followers of Christ, faced up both raging lions and sadistic emperors. By their submission to suffering with a divinely inspired countenance, these pioneers of Christianity – apparently – won first the respect and then the heart of a dark and cruel pagan world.

 

Who Persecuted Whom?

Across three centuries, a handful of Christian "martyrs" can be cited from a few locations. Their number, far from substantiating any general or sustained persecution of the early Christians, is no more than we would expect of a fraternity that, by the time of Constantine's coup, amounted to some tens of thousands and was drawn disproportionately from criminal and marginal classes. The general persecution of Christians occurred only when the Christian Empire turned its ferocity upon the heretics.

The Roman Empire had lasted more than a thousand years and persecuted Christians for fewer than twelve of them. The 'Christian Empire' also lasted more than a thousand years and persecuted non-Christians through all of them.

 

Persecution – Holy Mother Church Invents Heroic Origins

 

Sources:
The Good Bible – in all its Goodly Versions 
Thomas Sheehan, The First Coming (Crucible, 1986)
David Farmer, Oxford Dictionary of Saints (OUP,1997)
Bruce Metzger, Michael Coogan (Eds) The Oxford Companion to the Bible (OUP, 1993)
Edward Gibbon, The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire (1799)
Michael Walsh, Roots of Christianity (Grafton, 1986)
Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version (Penguin, 1991)
Helen Ellerbe, The Dark Side of Christian History (Morningstar & Lark, 1995)



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