What was The “Other” Gospel?

(Edited version of the article originally published in January 2023)

In the classic Mel Brooks movie, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Robin Hood has an important message he wants to convey to the peasants. “Why”, he is asked, should the people of Locksley listen to you?” “Because”, he explains, “unlike other Robin Hoods, I can speak with a British accent.”

The New Testament writer, Paul, complains of others in his path of communication that were promoting “another Jesus” and “another gospel”, quite different than those of his message. 2 Corinthians 11:4.

Most of us who grew up in Christian households always thought we knew what the New Testament means by “gospel”. We were told that the word, gospel is from the Greek word ευαγγέλιον (euangelion) which simply means “good news”.

We were taught to shrug off Paul’s references to “another gospel” as simply some unknown, obviously false teachings that were going around at the time. Those of us with annotated Bibles read in the comments about so-called “false teachers”, such as Marcion (a guy from the middle of the second century who could not possibly be who Paul was talking about), and other equally undocumented guesses about what those “other gospels” may be.

No one seemed to question the idea that if gospel means “good news”, how could other competing “good news” be so bad? Paul doesn’t tell us. He tells his readers not to listen to it. He characterizes the messengers with a different Jesus and another gospel as false apostles. [1]

A more complete explanation is too complex to elaborate on here. For more details, see my recent book, Revelation and the Antichrist. For now, let us just say that the best way to understand why there were two gospels is to take a closer look at the events that were transpiring at the time.

A lot was going on in the Roman province of Judea in the years immediately following Jesus’ crucifixion (probably either 27 or 30 C.E.).

Before the end of the next decade, Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known as Gaius “Caligula” would become the third emperor of the Roman Empire. Barely three years into his reign, he floated the idea of installing a statue of himself in the Temple in Jerusalem. Fortunately for everyone involved, that idea was quashed. And he was assassinated within the following year.

About ten years after that, Josephus tells us there was a great famine. He also mentions two infamous insurrectionists, James and Simon who were crucified. James and Simon were sons of Judah the Galilean whose movement (which began in about the year Jesus was born) was still going strong (contrary to attempts to minimize it by the author of the book of Acts – see Acts 5:37) and fighting against Roman rule in Judea. See Antiquities of the Jews 20:102.

James and Simon may well have been the “two thieves” whom the Gospel writers tell us were crucified with Jesus. See mark 15:27 and Matthew 27:38.

Josephus also describes a Passover riot that occurred during the time of the Roman procurator, Ventidius Cumanus (circa 48 C.E.). Fearing an uprising of the people, Cumanus had ordered Roman soldiers to pour into the Antonia Fortress at the Temple mount during the festivities. When one of the soldiers mooned the Jewish Passover crowd below, all hell broke loose.

The massive revolt resulted in the slaughter of thousands and turned the otherwise, festive, Passover celebration into a time of great mourning. Antiquities of the Jews 20:105-112.

Oh, and another thing. . . while all of this was going on, Jesus’ brother, James, was stirring the pot by broadcasting the message of his crucified brother, Jesus. His brother’s message is referred to in the New Testament as the “Gospel of the Kingdom of God.” Mark 1:14-15.

And he was not just harping on this message in Jerusalem. He was sending it out to the Jewish synagogues across Asia Minor. To the Jews (and Jesus’ message was only intended for the Jews – see Matthew 10:5-6; Matthew 15:24), the message was very good news indeed.

But it was not just a proclamation of news. It was a call to action. With it came the exhortation of John the Baptist to the people of Israel to repent and cleanse themselves for the end of Gentile (Roman) rule. The “Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. Matthew 3:2.

Jesus, like John the Baptist, and like the community who wrote and maintained the Dead Sea Scrolls, believed the time was here for the establishment of the kingdom foretold by the prophet, Ezekiel:

Behold I will take the children of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side, and I will bring them to their land.

And I will make them into one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be to them all as a king; and they shall no longer be two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms anymore.

And they shall no longer defile themselves with their idols, with their detestable things, or with all their transgressions, and I will save them from all their habitations in which they have sinned, and I will purify them, and they shall be to Me as a people, and I will be to them as a God.

And My servant David shall be king over them, and one shepherd shall be for them all, and they shall walk in My ordinances and observe My statutes and perform them.

And they shall dwell on the land that I have given to My servant, to Jacob, wherein your forefathers lived; and they shall dwell upon it, they and their children and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever.

And I will form a covenant of peace for them, an everlasting covenant shall be with them; and I will establish them and I will multiply them, and I will place My Sanctuary in their midst forever.

And My dwelling place shall be over them, and I will be to them for a God, and they shall be to Me as a people.

And the nations shall know that I am the Lord, Who sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary is in their midst forever.” Ezekiel 37:21-28

Needless to say, a communication to “repent” (return to observing the Torah), in order to prepare for the end of Roman rule was not exactly welcomed by the powers that be. Therefore, a different message began to be written and passed around the synagogues in Asia Minor.

The prevalent message implied war. The Romans were not going to just go away. If they were removed, it would be by force. And they had no intention of going anywhere. What they needed was a Jew of their own. Someone that could get the attention of the Jews in the diaspora with a more sensible pro-Roman message.

They found their carrier pigeon in a Jew who identified himself as a Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus. He knew his work was cut out for him. He complained that James and his followers were sending a different message all over the place – specifically to Galatia and Corinth.[2]

Using the Greek name, “Paul”, he whined to the Corinthians:

For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” 2 Corinthians 11:4

He protested to the Galatians that:

Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse.” Galatians 1:7-8

Paul’s message, the one he called “my gospel” (Romans 2:16; 16:25) was clear: Honor and obey Rome (Romans 13:1-7); don’t worry about the commandments of the Torah (literally “instruction” which Paul calls “the law”). A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Romans 3:28.

More importantly, Paul’s message is a “gospel of peace”.[3] Everything concerning the kingdom is spiritual – the message is internal rather than external. The opposite of that message is the one Jesus proclaimed, “think not that I came to bring peace on the earth. I came not to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34.

There are no third options mentioned in the New Testament. There are two Jesuses: Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified because he dared to proclaim himself “king of the Jews” (the Messiah who was to restore the Kingdom of David); and Paul’s internal “Christ” that returned from the grave with a message of “hope” that everyone will eventually be “saved” from their own sins. Romans 8:2-24. That Jesus had gone off to heaven.

The the last (and completely Pauline) “gospel” writer John would finally quote Jesus as proclaiming that his kingdom was “not of this world”. John 18:36. In this way, John would reinforce the message that Paul’s Jesus was no longer a threat to Rome.

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[1] 2 Corinthians 11:13. The problem is that the emissaries from James actually knew the real Jesus, unlike Paul, who never met him. And there is no record or evidence of anyone other than Paul and people that were sent “from James” (Galatians 2:12) talking about Jesus to Jews in Asia Minor in the middle of the first century.

[2] See Galatians 2:12 and 2 Corinthians 3:1-8.

[3] Romans 10:15 quoting from Isaiah 52:7. The King James Version correctly renders the Greek word ειρήνη as “peace”. The existence of this statement must have troubled later English translators. The New American Standard Version switched the word ειρήνη out for “good things”. The New International Version simply ignored it and left it out of its translation. However, both translate the same word correctly (as “peace”) in Revelation 6:4. And all of them translate the word in the quoted passage in Isaiah as “peace”. 


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