Christ gave the future of the Church into the hands of Peter. This is represented symbolically by the image of crossed keys with which Peter is associated. Given that this is so, how is it that Peter is given so little to say in the New Testament? Five pages. Paul on the other hand has more to say than all the others put together and yet he wasn’t even there. How can this be?
The Bible was compiled and edited by men who had other things besides divine inspiration to take into consideration. The early church needed to present a united front, they needed to appear as a movement not to be trifled with. They needed big, bold and beefy.
Peter did not fit this profile, but Paul did.
We are permited to know of the man Peter through a story actually told by Paul. He tells of Peter’s vision on the roof of the house of Simon the Tanner, who lived by the sea. A great vessel descended, ‘’as it were a great sheet let down from Heaven’’, containing all earth’s creatures. God speaks, ’’> PETER, RISE AND EAT>’’. Peter refuses, ‘’for nothing common or unclean hath entered into my mouth’’
God then rebukes him. ‘’'<WHAT GOD HATH CLEANSED, MAKE THOU NOT COMMON>.’’’ This is repeated three times. Suddenly Peter gets it. All things, all beings, are equal in the sight of God. Not a useful insight for any aspiring Dictator.
Then three men appear at the gate, calling him to go to the house of a certain Cornelius, someone unknown to Peter. He leaves straight away, ‘’making no distinction.’’ He realizes from the vision that it doesn’t matter who Cornelius is. A Jew, a gentile, circumsized or not, sinner or saint. He realises that in his pious abstinances, he was disrespecting God’s infinite variety.
When he arrives at Cornelius’ place he says, ‘’God is no respecter of persons’’. He feels chastened. I am not so great he says. Not only are folk with other customs okay in God’s eyes but I myself, God’s servant, ‘’am only a man.’’ If God chooses to give others some different experience then I must respect that. ‘’And if God gave unto them the like gift as He did also unto us, who was I that I could withstand God.?’’
Though he is the author of the story, Paul doesn’t seem to take it in at all. His own ministry was rooted in contempt for the customs, traditions and Gods of other races. He got beaten up a lot. In Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Iraq…
Paul liked a good rant.. Of course the crowd might be interested to know that he himself is a betrayer and a murderer, yet nowhere do we see the confession of Paul that he so exhorts from everyone who dares get within earshot. It turns out that Paul doesn’t really feel responsible for whatever it is that he has done which has rather interesting implications for his followers. ‘’So now it is no more I that do it , but sin which dwelleth in me’’ (Romans7:20). ‘’For not what I would, that do I practice.’’ (7:15) ‘I do not sin’, he says, ‘sin sins’….
Now we can begin to appreciate the popularity of Paul. He gives us leave to focus on the speck in the eyes of others rather than on the beam in our own. This is why he cannot grasp the meaning of Peter’s vision, and why the church fathers gave him so much air time in the New Testament. You only have to be sorry in principle. He allows us the luxury of a duplicitous life, the route of least resistance, ‘’I myself with the mind serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.’’ (Romans7:25) I am not really responsible, sin is responsible. The devil made me do it.
Peter, despite being given the keys, is largely written out of the Bible. He asks too much, that we be humble, that we treat others with respect, that we take responsibility. Paul on the other hand lets us rant and rave at the sins of others whilst being given permission to behave as we please. If you were going to promote a crowd pleaser, who would you write into the main role?
Paul’s greatest contribution to the lowest common denominator in us all was the matter of who gets the Final Say in this world. Its not just about getting off the hook, but about who is the ultimate arbitrater in human affairs. And its not what you think.
In Paul’s vision God appears and promises, ‘’to deliver him from the people.’’ (Acts26:17) When he is eventually arrested after a particularly offensive speech, what does he do? He appeals to Ceasar, to the bastion of worldly authority.
Despite having been given the personal surety of God in a vision that not only blinded him, but rendered him so incapacitated with Divine Intervention that he had to be carried to Damascus and be made to lie down for three days in the dark, when it came to the final crunch, Paul opted for the arbitration of Man over God.
His route across the Mediteranean to Rome looks like he was being beaten the whole way with a stick.
He was plagued by storms and nearly drowned, but still he doesn’t get the message and makes his appeal before Ceasar who promptly beheads him.
Peter says that God is no respecter of persons which is a bit of a blow to the ego of anyone who aspires to be a big nob, whilst Paul fawns to the big nobs and gives us permission to do the same. Paul allows us to be seduced by worldly power which means that going into other people’s land and beating hell out of everyone we don’t like is okay, really. In fact its our godgiven duty.
Not only do you get to be rich, you get to be riteous. The humanity drained from the oppressed can be used to top up your own measure and suddenly we are all Ubermenschen. De-humanization is not a by-product of oppression, it is it’s goal. The problem is not simply the wholesale robbery involved but the finessed hauteur of the West, high on the self esteem of entire nations.
Our political correctness is mostly a pandering to the spoilt brat in all of us. Political parties collude and run around their voters like anxious maiden aunts trying to find out what little johnny wants so that she can make him love her whilst stealing his candy. It is the witch hunt of principled leadership. It is a fawning obsession with image, with what we cannot say or think, with being right, and all this in a society equally obsessed, in some ragged corner, with freedom and the land of the free.
But the most dangerous aspect of Paul, one which cements the power of Dictators, is that in the un-freedom of the populace, they are relieved of the burden of Now wherein their suffering at the hands of the dictator occur.
So the problem is not just the zenophobic greed but that the populace are persuaded to trade in their Ontological Being with this deliberate shift from Peter’s being-in-the-moment, ‘making no distinction’, doing what needs to be done, to the conditional promise of future redemption, ‘faith’ that one day it will all pan out despite your chains.
Pauls books were included to such an extent By the Council of Nicea (325) over and above others like ben Sirach and Peter who advocated charity because they understood the power of mixing spiritual superiority, inflation, with the archetype of the promised land. It would produce generations of riteous folk with their eyes heroically fixed on the horizon whilst treading upon the heads of those all arond them.
Such a split in our Collective Consciousness produces two tier legal systems that are the spawning of master races. It is the carte blanche that confers innate rightness upon us so that we need not reflect upon our dealings with others. This is the one good thing that can come out of Abu Grad and Guantanamo. The whisper of our own wickedness…
and the pandering babyishness of a society that now needs to put serving suggestions on a packet of salt…
just in case you didn’t know what salt is for..
or perhaps because, you too, are now a worthless, stupid piece of shit.