Why Jesus Never Had Actual Followers
Described in chapter 15 of Acts of the Apostles, Council of Jerusalem, or Apostolic Council, was allegedly held in Jerusalem around c. 48–50 CE. It was a meeting of early Christian Church authorities that was primarily targeted at solving the problem of the extent to which gentile converts should adhere to Mosaic Law.
The sole fact that apostles had to discuss this issue is a clear testimony that none of them had a clue what Jesus actually preached despite their fervent claims to the contrary. Moreover, their rather startling judgment, fully in vein of the Judaic tradition of authoritative legal rulings, further reinforces the point.
Apostolic council decreed that gentiles don’t have to obey Mosaic Law in full, they must however “abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality [fornication, literally prostitution but also extramarital sex],” which is basically a variation of Noahide Laws.
If you also consider that the dispute was triggered by the dilemma whether gentile converts should be circumcised or not, it’s clear that in the minds of all participants of the council the Mosaic Law entailed the whole Pentateuch as well as “oral” tradition. (Not to mention that the motivation behind the decree was to make the process easier and more convenient, hence increase the chances of getting new converts. Sigh.)
Now, you have to keep in mind that the remaining apostles as well as Saul from Tarsus were Jews deeply steeped in Second Temple Judaism, which would later become the normative rabbinical Judaism as we know it today. And in line with pharisaic and later rabbinical thought, Jews must adhere to “Mosaic” Law, that is, the whole enchilada of five books of Moses (and then some), while gentiles are eligible to Noahide Laws only.
In any case, it’s no wonder that Christianity always resembled a twisted version of Pharisaic Judaism with Jesus plastered on top of it as the Messiah. It’s also no wonder that, roughly one and half century after Jesus’ death, as Irenaeus writes in his Against Heresies, apostolic tradition was already under heavy criticism of the Gnostic scholars who questioned whether apostles even possessed perfect gnosis, i.e. knowledge of God. Sadly, Gnostics of that time were not a bit wiser. Their Saulian rejection of material world clearly attests to the fact.
While you may argue that Jesus was meant to bring the Gospel to Jews only, the story of his encounter with a Samaritan woman and the events that unfolded right afterward leave no doubt that Jesus gave what he had to offer even to those who were not ethnically Jewish well before apostles were allegedly “told” (by his apparition) to share the Gospel with gentiles. Furthermore, as I explained elsewhere, Jesus was well aware that Torah, that is to say the Mosaic Law (or the Covenant), was always only that which was written on the two tablets housed in the Ark. In other words, Mosaic Law simply equals Ten Commandments.
Hence, not even being aware of what Jesus meant by Law completely disqualifies the opinions of apostles, Saul, as well as all of their followers from being taken as valid authoritative sources on Jesus’ message.
Literally none of those people who claimed the right to Jesus’ legacy were ever able to rise above their cultural indoctrination, let alone more deeply ingrained conditioning, forget completely knowledge of Kingdom of God. And no, being an (alleged) martyr out of self-importance proves nothing — look at all those dumb ignorant Buddhist monks who choose to immolate themselves thinking that it’s a demonstration of enlightenment while the masses swallow it hook, line, and sinker, totally ignoring the fact that those acts are acts of violence, which plainly contradicts core Buddhist teachings.
And yet, when you look at what Christians nowadays quote the most, you will find that it’s not Gospels, no matter whether canonical or apocryphal (though out of the apocrypha, only Gospel of Thomas, which is simply a collection of Jesus’ sayings, contains anything meaningful). What common Christian goes by are predominantly apostolic commentaries.
Perhaps it’s because out of the roughly two dozen books of the so-called New Testament, only four (!) directly present bits and pieces of Jesus’ good news, while the rest are simply guesses and subjective interpretations of ignorant people (and one particularly self-exalted fraud) calling themselves apostles. My guess, however, is that it’s largely because those mostly ignorant epistles resonate with an average believer. They proclaim a populist message which the so-called Christian wants to hear, not what Jesus actually taught.
And that, if nothing else, tells a lot.