15.   The passion legends

S. Franzisco, Quito, Ecuador
S. Franzisco, Quito, Ecuador

Right from the start, the passion narrations according to Mark and the other gospels were holy texts,

destined for reading aloud at the services of the early Christians. The Holy Communion was celebrated in the form of the tradition according to the gospels. Scenes such as the Triumphal Entry, Jesus before Pilate, the Crucifixion, and sometimes the whole passion were played.

The details of the passion legends are from the traditions of the individual churches, hence the critical statements about the respective apostle competitors. Only a few details are based on history. The whole literary unit was formed in order to serve as devotional literature for the early Christians.

1.  From the church of Peter came the narratives of the Lord’s Supper and the betrayal by Judas. The story of the betrayal held the rebels, who followed Judas of Galilee, responsible for the execution of Jesus.

2. The Jewish Christians of the church of James did not forgive Peter his own Messianic claims and interpreted it as denial of Jesus. They worshipped the suffering Jesus and pointed out the suffering and Jesus’ despair in Gethsemane.


When the canon of the New Testament was put together, every single apostle church

Volcano Pichincha Crater within the crater (1982 eruption)
Volcano Pichincha Crater within the crater (1982 eruption)

the Hellenistic church of Paul contributed a gospel, letters and sometimes other scriptures. The criteria of incorporation into the canon are that there must be a balanced nature of the origin from each of the four churches and pleas for the unity of the Christian church.

Therefore the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were incorporated into the canon, along with the Acts of the Apostles, the Revelation and the collections of letters of each of the churches.

The Letter of Paul to Philemon and the Third Letter of John belonged, and still belong, to the canon because they plead for the unity of the church as a whole regarding social classes and the creed of faith.


The religious apostle churches brought the full range of ancient folk religiousness and pagan superstition into Christianity.

Volcano Pichincha, crater floor
Volcano Pichincha, crater floor

The Christian Baptists came from the mystery religions; Peter had a partiality for astrology. Calling him a “fisher” means not his profession, but his astrological hope that the kingdom of heaven would come with the era of Pisces (spring sign of the zodiac) in his lifetime.

Early Christians used a fish as a cryptogram or symbol for Christ or Christianity before they used the cross. Christian women, who were often named Mary after Mary the Jewess, a famous alchemist of Hellenistic Egypt, brought mystic alchemist ideas into Christian thought.

During missionary work the apostle churches met and came to appreciate each other, Mark 9, 38-40. But even in the gospels the reservations against single apostle churches or groups of Christians are clear: the Judas Christians were called traitors, the church of Peter was accused of denying the Lord, the churches of James and John were accused of lusting for power, Mark 10, 35-45.

Wanting to compare himself with Jesus, Peter sank into the water like an ordinary human being, Matt 14, 30; in the narration of Stilling the Storm all disciples are helpless without Jesus.


11.   The disciples: the apostle churches and Paul

Jesus did not found the church, he did not appoint disciples.

Volcano Pichincha, crater floor
Volcano Pichincha, crater floor

It was not until after his death that religious communities developed whose leaders referred to Jesus and claimed that they were fulfilling his work as his successors.

These communities, which I call apostle churches, were rivals with one other and with other religious movements in the competitive market of religions and cults in Palestine and the Greek-speaking eastern part of the Roman Empire.

The most important apostle churches were the Baptists of the church of John, which had a special relationship with the disciples of John the Baptist; the Jewish Christian church of James, which had to distance itself from the Rome-hostile Judas of Galilee and his disciples; the spiritual church of Simon Peter, which competed with the Gnostics of Simon Magus (Acts 8).

First Paul tried to achieve church unity and to get away from the schism not only between Jewish and gentile Christians, but also between all different Christian groups. Paul claimed that Jesus and faith in him was important, not in the apostles.


In 70 CE for early Christianity the time of the apostles, inspired by the Holy Spirit and sent directly by God, was over.

Volcano Pichincha, crater floor
Volcano Pichincha, crater floor

 The authority of the church was given to the local churches and their elders. In the gospels, the Acts and the late letters, the time of Jesus and the apostles is considered to be a completed era whose heroes the Christians after 70 CE could not and did not want to compare themselves with.

As in Rome of the same time, the Christians saw the epoch as over and made a fresh start. The gospels and the Acts ask for the significance of Jesus and the apostles, for the meaning of the fall of Jerusalem.

As a model for interpretation they used the epic poetry of the pagan Ancient World. Redefining the Christian identity they accepted – now bindingly for all Christians – the Jewish culture of the Old Testament as the predecessor culture.

The two cultures were linked accordingly to the well-known system of promise and fulfilment, with promise in the Old Testament and fulfilment in the New Testament.