I am no theologian. I don’t even pretend to be one, so if I am wrong here, please forgive me in my ignorance. I am just speaking from my heart.
I want to talk about the human trait of self interest. Let us consider the man Saul of Tarsus http://www.gotquestions.org/Saul-of-Tarsus.html. At the beginning of his narrative, this man is introduced as someone of power. Saul is a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin.
“The Sanhedrin is the name given in the mishna to the council of seventy-one Jewish sages who constituted the supreme court and legislative body in Judea during the Roman period.” care of Google.
Saul. born in 5 AD, at the beginning of his career would have been in his mid to late twenties and looking forward to a rise in power.
Saul was a Roman citizen, a Hebrew of the Tribe of Benjamin, and a Pharisee. The road to power was before him. Saul requested and obtained the right to find and detain the heretics that were following a man executed by the Romans. He was zealous in his righteousness and from all accounts firmly believed he was doing what was right.
Being given a writ to travel to Damascus and bring these troublemakers back to Jerusalem for trial, Saul set out to travel the road and make his career. Instead, he switched sides, joined the very people he had been helping to martyr, like when he watched everyone’s cloaks while they stoned Steven.
Acts 7 57-58 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Now let us try to obtain a reason for this switch. Saul changed his name to to Paul, perhaps to prevent panic amongst his new compatriots from running screaming for the door at the mention of Saul of Tarsus’ approach. We can start by looking at what Paul gained by doing this. After he join the very movement he had spent so much effort destroying,
The Church Persecuted and Scattered
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Paul was arrested, called crazy, insulted, beaten, stoned, and nearly killed, imprisoned, sent to two kings and then sent to Rome to face the Emperor, at his request mind you, and finally beheaded.
During this time he also traveled much of the known world, working where he could, started many Churches, and banged his head on many walls, no doubt.
Paul seems very human to me by things I have read, his writing isn’t art and he wanders at some points but it feels real. Such as when he speaks of having baptised no one except the one family , and of course that other guy and maybe someone else but he doesn’t remember.
1 Corinthians 1
14I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16(Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)
So, I feel Paul, though frustrated at times, was writing off the top of his head as this is not the sign of a well practiced letter. While traveling can be enjoyable, this was no vacation type of trip. Paul went from city to city trying to teach reluctant people to be good to each other. He often had to ply his trade. Paul was a tentmaker and no defaming those who make tents, but how exciting can it be? Paul was often supported by those he visited, but he wrote that this was not his preference. In fact, he often said he did not want to have to rely on it at all.
Shipwrecks and poisonous snakes were what he got to look forward to. Paul knew Peter, whom he called Cephas, as he met many of the first Apostles and talked to them about the man they followed. Now with all that Paul was going through having talked to the people that were present when all this started he may have been lied to about thing after all many people today are willing to die for other people’s truths.
6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Still, I am not sure what Paul gained by switching sides. Sure Israel and Jerusalem were destroyed in AD 70, but Biblical historians believe Paul was beheaded around AD 67 or 68. I have done a short search on the Historical evidence of Paul and both sides are adamant about their position, I just feel that the letters were written by a real person just by their style. Paul talks of his faults more than his greatness and claims to be the worst of sinners. Paul also writes by flow of thought and I guess since the paper was not cheap and they did not have corflu available, ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correction_fluid, I would guess that the form was what was written.
Now we started this to talk of self interest, what was Paul’s reason for going from a position of power, of course they were still under Roman rule but Paul was a Roman citizen, to join a heavily persecuted group. Human nature would seem to tell us he should have stayed where he was. Switching was not in his best interests.
I think that we have covered the fact that it was an odd move for this man to make, so let us briefly speak of the man Peter who was possibly the most impetuous man I have ever read about. Peter often acted before he thought and was, more often than not, wrong to do so. He leapt from boats, sliced the ear from a guard, ran away from the same guards he had just been ready to fight, and told his teacher that he should not talk like that when Jesus told them he was going to be killed. All in all, Peter doesn’t strike me as a planner, his answer to stress is I’m out! Gonna go fishing.
Jesus Appears to Thomas
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas,“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish
1Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.a It happened this way: 2Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymusb ), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Now, for all of Jesus’s ministry Peter was there. He saw all that happened. The Gospels all state that he saw the empty tomb and the risen Christ. Peter wasn’t powerful before this, so he lost nothing in following his teacher, but when he led the Church, Peter gained many trials that led in the end to his death. Though there are people that will die for others lies, most will not die for their own. One could argue that they gained the weight of history, but these men did not think there was much history left. Even so, I wouldn’t want to be executed merely so that future generations would know my name.
I have never seen what the Apostles gained by turning from the generations of tradition that they left. These men were Jews of good standing, though not Matthew/Levi he was a tax collector, they could hold their heads up in the synagogues and walk into the Temple for passover. They were driven from their homes into exile and persecution then slain pretty much to a man.
These men went from hiding in a locked room after Jesus died to spreading his word across the known world. These are not the acts of men living a lie, and they would have known if it was a lie.
So I end with the question I started on, what did these men gain?