So later Christians, Paul among others, really institutionalized Christianity. What about the historical Jesus? What do we know about him?
It’s popular to say he said the good stuff and not the less good stuff. I think it’s the opposite.
He’s typically seen as the great prophet of peace and love.
Yeah. But the fact is, the Sermon on the Mount, which is a beautiful thing, does not appear in Mark, which was the first written gospel. And these views are not attributed to Jesus in the letters of Paul, which are the earliest post-crucifixion documents we have. You see Paul develop a doctrine of universal love, but he’s not, by and large, attributing this stuff to Jesus. So, too, with “love your enemies.” Paul says something like love your enemies, but he doesn’t say Jesus said it. It’s only in later gospels that this stuff gets attributed to Jesus. This will seem dispiriting to some people to hear that Jesus wasn’t the great guy we thought he was. But to me, it’s actually more inspiring to think that the doctrines of transnational, transethnic love were products of a multinational, imperial platform. Throughout human history, as social organization grows beyond ethnic bounds, it comes to encompass diverse ethnicities and nations. And if it develops doctrines that bring us closer to moral truth, like universal love, that is encouraging. I think you see it in all three religions.