Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Where Did Peter's Clout Come From?

In the mythicist reconstruction of Christian origins, the risen Christ is analagous to the Angel Moroni in Mormonism and Peter is analogous to Joseph Smith as the first person to experience a revelation of the heavenly being.  Smith figured out at a fairly early point, however, that being first in line wasn't sufficient to maintain control of the movement when everyone claimed to be receiving divine revelations.  Smith found it necessary to proclaim himself the supreme revelator in order to make everyone else's revelations subordinate to his.  He was able to do this by virtue of being the recipient of the Golden Plates and the seer stones from Moroni.  Although there were periodic challenges to Smith's authority and occasional splinter groups, his status gave him the clout to weather them.

In my last post, I noted how Paul claims in Galatians that he received his revelation independently of Peter, and yet, he still acknowledges Peter as his predecessor in the faith.  In both Romans and 1 Corinthians, Paul instructs the recipients of his letters to raise money for the church in Jerusalem. Under the mythicist reconstruction, the only way any of the apostles encountered Christ was through appearances, revelations, and scripture.  Nevertheless, the group in Jerusalem headed by Peter seems to have some special claim to superiority that--to me at least--is not fully explained by the mere fact that Peter was the first one to receive a revelation.

I asked Dr. Richard Carrier about this in an email and he suggested that "Peter started the cult and began the evangelization abroad that created a useful network of dues paying churches and garnered support for his cult-center long before Paul joined it."  While I think that this would explain Paul's deference, I don't think that Paul gives us enough information to determine how and when the practice of submitting offerings to Jerusalem developed or what role Paul himself may have played in that development.

I have a feeling that there is something that Paul isn't telling us that might better explain the basis for Peter's clout.  I'm guessing that it is not as impressive as Smith's Golden Plates because Peter doesn't seem to have been able to maintain as much control as Smith did, but I suspect that it is something more than mere chronological priority.


  1. If Peter is the mastermind behind the Jesus hoax and the powerful leader of the early church why does he allow the Gospel writers to make him look like a buffoon and a coward? In Luke 22:54-61 Peter is portrayed as a coward who disowns his supposedly mythological character. In Matthew 8:22-27 Peter and the rest of the disciples of Peter’s supposedly mythological character look like fools as they underestimate the powers of Jesus. In Mark 8:31-33 Peter looks like an idiot for rebuking his supposed mythological character because he doesn’t understand the character’s mission. Peter then gets rebuked himself by his supposed mythological character who tells him that his thinking is Satanic. If all accounts of Jesus, the supposed mythological character, stem from Peter’s made up visions then why does Peter make up embarrassing events that make him look bad? If the Gospel writers insert their own made up accounts of Peter behaving like a buffoon then this undercut the notion that Peter is the powerful mastermind behind the Jesus hoax because he’s not even able censor members of the early church. In any case the criterion of embarrassment, a tool that Dr. Richard Carrier has said, "I've relied on it [the criterion of embarrassment] myself," and has used to confirm Julius Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon, would undercut the notion that Peter is the mastermind behind the Jesus hoax.

    Clement of Rome, in his Letter to the Corinthians (chap 5) wrote, ""Let us take the noble examples of our own generation. Through jealousy and envy the greatest and most just pillars of the Church were persecuted, and came even unto death… Peter, through unjust envy, endured not one or two but many labours, and at last, having delivered his testimony, departed unto the place of glory due to him." If Peter was perpetuating a hoax why would he not recant his story to save his life? Your comparison between Joseph Smith and Peter falls apart in regards to their death. Even though both Smith and Peter died violent deaths, Smith was killed by an angry mob who was enraged after he had a printing press, which published a story critical of the Mormon’s practice of polygamy, destroyed while Peter was executed for proclaiming the Gospel. Smith was never faced with the option of recanting or being executed, but Peter was. The notion that Peter would die for his Jesus hoax strains credulity and undercuts the claim that he was the mastermind behind the Jesus story.

    1. No one that I know of thinks that Peter was the mastermind behind a hoax. Nor do I know of anyone who thinks that Peter invented the gospel stories about himself or that he was in any position to control them..

      There is no credible evidence that Peter was ever faced with the option of recanting or being executed. If church tradition is correct that Peter died in Nero's persecution, the notion that he would have been given the option of recanting is ludicrous. Nero was scapegoating Christians for the fire that he himself started. The charge against the Christians was arson, not improper belief. There would be no reason for Nero to let anyone off the hook just because they recanted.

      Smith, on the other hand, clearly understood that he risked being lynched if he surrendered to the sheriff in Carthage, Illinois. He had in fact already crossed the Mississippi into Iowa with the intent to flee westward. The evidence that Smith voluntarily risked death for the sake of his followers is unquestionably stronger than the evidence that Peter did.

    2. VINNY
      There is no credible evidence that Peter was ever faced with the option of recanting or being executed.

      Gosh, all Peter had to do was say that he had hoaxed, cheated and defrauded people for 30 years and he would have walked free.

      If a fraudster is killed for being a fraudster, that proves he was innocent. Just ask any Christian!

  2. 'If Peter is the mastermind behind the Jesus hoax and the powerful leader of the early church why does he allow the Gospel writers to make him look like a buffoon and a coward?'

    Wasn't he supposed to be dead when the Gospels were written?

    If Trotsky was one of the masterminds behind the Russian Revolution, why was he killed by revolutionists?

    I guess Trotsky wasn't behind the Russian Revolution after all, as he could not prevent himself being driven into exile.

    As for Clement's letter, let me put that into context.

    'Note that he never uses the word "martyred". He never says how Peter and Paul died. He never says that Peter and Paul died in Rome. All he says about Peter's trials is that he suffered "many labours".

    That is hardly detailed knowledge.. The closest Clement ever gets to saying that Peter and Paul were martyred is that they were "contended, even unto death".

    This may mean that Peter and Paul were killed or it may mean only that Peter and Paul were Christians till they died.

    Just a few lines before, Clement wrote that Joseph had been persecuted "even unto death".

    As Clement can hardly mean that Joseph died a martyr's death, the phrase "even unto death" does not mean that Peter and Paul died a martyr's death.

    In fact, Peter and Paul are mentioned in the context of such figures as Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David, none of whom were martyred.

    Not one martyr in Clement's list....

    All Clement is saying is that Peter and Paul were Christians to the end of their life despite setbacks and opposition.