Dissecting ‘The Christian Myth’
Series : The Heresies of Dispensationalist Dom Samdhal
One of the most popular but misleading sites out there is one simply called www.doctrine.org;it is the work of Dom Samdhal, and is one of the most deceitful out there – not that I doubt the guys sincerity, but he distorts scripture so badly and is a classic example of how off-base dispensationalism can really drive people.
In this article ‘The Christian Myth‘ Dom Samdahl claims to disprove a Christian myth that says Christianity started with John the Baptist, and lots of other things, and he claims a very strong ‘dispensationalist’ scheme is the only true way to interpret scripture. I won’t deal with everything, but there are some classic examples of dispensationalist mania here that imagines things that aren’t in the text at all. We start with him commenting on Peter being the head of the church.
This part of the myth is mostly true. Jesus designated Peter as head of the disciples and church (Matthew 16.18-19) following Peter’s great declaration in which he identified Jesus as the Messiah (Matthew 16.16-17). But what did Jesus mean by “church?” Jesus designated Peter as the leader of the Jewish church or congregation (ἐκκλησία). This church was not the church of the body of Christ (Ephesians 1.22-23; Colossians 1.24). The church, the body of Christ, began with Paul (1 Corinthians 3.10-11; 1 Timothy 1.16-16) after the ascended Lord revealed to Paul, not Peter, the “body of Christ.” Only after the Lord had ascended did He reveal Jew and Gentile were equal in Him. Only Paul taught that the Church was the body of Christ. Peter had no idea of equality of Jew and Gentile and never mentioned the body of Christ. Peter addressed Jews only (Acts 2-3) and preached what he had learned during his three years with the Lord in His earthly ministry. Peter’s ministry was consistent with what he had learned from the Lord about not going to Gentiles and that the Jew had first priority (cf. Acts 1.8; Romans 1.16-17).
Let’s start with what Jesus meant by ‘church’. Nowhere in Matthew is there anything to say that Peter was designated head of specifically the Jewish church, it just says ‘church’. Dom Samdhal gives not a shred of evidence for his assertion here. He then claims that this ‘church’ was not the body of Christ. Says who? The bible verses are from Paul in Ephesians and Colossians, and sure, Paul is the only New Testament writer who uses the term ‘body of Christ’ to mean the church (although sometimes he also uses it of the physical body of Jesus), but so what? Just because it was a unique phrase peculiar to Paul doesn’t mean that suddenly Paul’s churches are different, or that he wouldn’t have applied the term to Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. In fact, given that he was writing in Ephesians to a mixed group of Jewish and Gentile Christians (as evidenced by his careful distinctions between ‘we’ and ‘you’ in chapter 1), we can see that the concept that Paul saw the ‘body of Christ’ as something separate from the Jewish church is ridiculous.
Samdahl then goes from the ridiculous to the blasphemous. He claims the church / body of Christ began with Paul! The bible verses he quotes never say that. 1 Corinthians 3.10-11 says that Paul laid a foundation, not that he was the foundation, and that the foundation of his churches was Jesus, not himself, and the 1 Timothy 1 passage says nothing at all about the founding of the church by Paul, or anyone else. Also, the claims that Peter did not know anything of the equality of Jew and Gentile were false – as Acts 10 shows, where Peter says:
I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
Peter did not address Jews only, as chapter 10 makes clear. The final line about Peter following Jesus’ instructions and not going to the Gentiles is a spectacular fail, because Acts 1.8 is about the mission to the entire world, and doesn’t restrict the apostles to the Jews, and the other passage is from Paul, so what has that to do with Peter? And more to the point, doesn’t it then simply mean they are following the same agenda, and didn’t have radically different missions as Samdahl is falsely claiming?
Later on he says:
After his resurrection, Jesus commanded his disciples to spread the gospel of the kingdom to all nations (Matthew 28.18-20; Mark 16.15-18; Luke 24.45-49; John 20.21-23).3 It was the same gospel, “the gospel of the kingdom,” John the Baptizer, Jesus, and the Twelve had preached during Jesus’ earthly ministry. This gospel was distinct from Paul’s “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20.24). Paul preached the cross–Christ crucified. Paul’s gospel was that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). For Paul, the preaching of the cross was good news. The cross was not good news as Peter proclaimed in his messages. For Peter, the cross represented a shameful deed from which Israel needed to repent (Acts 2.23, 36-38, 3.13-26). Hardly good news!
So, let’s consider this ‘gospel of the kingdom’. Matthew 28.18-20 contains no such phrase. It doesn’t even mention the word ‘gospel’ at all in any form! Mark 16.15-18 has no ‘gospel of the kingdom’, just ‘the gospel’. Luke 24.45-9 similarly has no mention of the word ‘gospel’, let alone ‘gospel of the kingdom’. These admittedly talk about preaching to all nations, but John 20.21-3 doesn’t even have that, let alone mention of ‘gospel’. Instead Jesus sends out in general, and breathes his Spirit on the disciples. So, we have an imaginary separate ‘gospel of the kingdom’ whose alleged supporting passages don’t mention such a concept – that is a strong delusion, he is literally imagining it, making it up. Then this imaginary gospel is declared to be distinct from Paul’s personal ‘gospel of the grace of God’. We have this ridiculous notion that somehow the cross of Christ and its preaching was bad news for the 12, and good news for Paul. What absurd blasphemy! The cross is good news, period! Sure, in Acts 2 and 3 there is an element of rebuke and the need for repentance, but it was good news, because God raised Jesus from the dead as promised. And anyway, Paul’s gospel about the cross had the same need for repentance along with the cross being good news (see for instance Acts 19.21: ‘I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.’). There is no difference. As for 1 Corinthains 15, the attempt to make Paul’s gospel distinct is absurd, because Paul in that passage makes it quite clear that it is not his personal gospel, unique to him, but that he –as a good disciple – passed on what he had received from the Jewish body of believers – in other words he taught the same gospel as they did.
Since the Scriptures teach that the Twelve never had a ministry to Gentiles, they did not preach the gospel to the whole world. Why not? Had not the Lord commanded them to do so? In God’s revealed prophetic program, for the gospel to go to the nations, Israel had to repent and accept their Messiah. Jesus had commanded the Twelve to communicate the gospel in a specific geographical order: Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1.8). The twelve apostles understood this command. They understood it so well that even under intense persecution they refused to leave Jerusalem (Acts 8.1). Peter had declared that the entire nation (“all the house of Israel” and “every one of you”) had to repent (Acts 2.36, 38). Until this happened they had determined to remain in Jerusalem. Even after Peter’s encounter with the Gentile Cornelius in Acts 10 where did he go? To more Gentiles? No, he returned to Jerusalem to minister to Jews.
This is absurdity. Firstly, the Scriptures don’t teach that the 12 never had a ministry to Gentiles. It might not have recorded much, or any, of that ministry, but that is not the same as teaching they positively never had such a ministry. And in fact, we know from church history that later on in their lives, they went and preached to the nations, in India, Persia, Armenia, Russia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Syria, North Africa, Rome, Babylon, Greece, and more. So even if Acts does indeed record them only in and around Jerusalem early on in their ministry, so what? It certainly doesn’t mean that they understood Jesus’ command to mean they had to stay in Jerusalem until all Israel repented. All Israel did not, and has not repented, yet later the 12 apostles did scatter across the known world in obedience to Acts 1.8. Samdahl is talking rubbish here.
Lastly, we learn from the Scriptures that the Twelve had no idea about the grace that Paul taught. The Twelve continued to operate under the Mosaic Law long after Pentecost. Peter, after he received the vision to go to the house of Cornelius (8-10 years after Pentecost), was still operating under the Law (Acts 10.28). At the Jerusalem Council (c. 51 AD), the Twelve still followed the Law. As such, they believed that Gentile believers had to keep the Law. Unless they did, they taught they were not saved (Acts 15.1, 5). Paul vehemently argued otherwise. The Council officially resolved the issue of Law-keeping with Peter’s remarkable statement in defense of Paul (Acts 15.7-11). But keep in mind how many years had passed. If Paul was saved in about 34 A.D. and the Council was in 51 A.D., 17 years had gone by. Paul may have been saved in 37 A.D. But the point is that anywhere from 14-17 years had passed. That’s a long time. During all this time Paul had been ministering to Gentiles and never taught that they were subject to the Mosaic Law (Romans 6.14). Even after the Council, James and those in the Jerusalem Church continued to maintain that the Mosaic Law was valid (Acts 21.19-20).
This is not the place to get into the wider debate of grace vs law, which is not actually a biblical teaching, at least, not the way dispensationalists such as Sandahl take it. Instead, let’s look at the simple facts that Samdahl gets blatantly wrong. For a start, the apostles never taught that the Gentiles had to obey the law, or at least, we have no record anywhere in Scripture that they taught this. Acts 15 says that certain Christians who were from the Pharisee party argued this, NOT the apostles. Secondly, given that Samdahl is trying to claim that Paul’s preaching of ‘grace’ was totally different to the apostles ‘law-keeping’, it is particularly ironic that he cites Acts 15.7-11 in support, because Peter climaxes that passage by saying that
‘No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are’
‘They’ being Gentiles. Notice, there is no sense that Peter is saying ‘Ah, only now is it clear to me’, but he is appealing to an already existing established belief that held that Jewish believers were (and are) saved by the grace of Jesus, just like Gentiles. Once again, Samdahl is talking completely unbiblical tosh. The very fact that the apostles and Jerusalem church continued to obey the law whilst believing in salvation by grace indicates the normal dispensationlist / evangelical take on the alleged ‘law vs grace’ distinction is seriously out of kilter with the teaching of the New Testament. What is more, Paul himself continued to follow even voluntary aspects of the law of Moses, as displayed by the vow and hair cutting in Acts 18.18.
Before dealing with the issue of Paul’s separation from the Twelve, let us examine Paul’s baptizing and performing miracles. Early in Paul’s ministry he baptized as had the Twelve. But as he received additional revelation from the ascended Lord he ceased that practice. Even in his early ministry Paul attached little importance to water baptism (1 Corinthians 1.14-17). For Paul, the preaching of the cross was everything (1 Corinthians 1.23). Instead of water baptism, Paul taught baptism by the Holy Spirit. By this baptism, all who believe Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4) are baptized (identified) with Christ into His body (1 Corinthians 12.13; Titus 3.5-7). By the time Paul wrote the Ephesians (about 5 years after he wrote the Corinthians), he declared there was only one baptism (Ephesians 4.5). If but one baptism exists, is it baptism by the Holy Spirit or baptism by water? Clearly, baptism by the Holy Spirit is the “one baptism” Paul taught.
Once again, Samdahl is making absurdly unbiblical distinctions, and statements without any biblical support whatsoever. For instance, what evidence is there that Paul baptized like the 12 early on, but then ceased from that practice specifically as he received additional revelation from the ascended Lord? And why would the ascended Lord change his mind just for Paul, anyway? Sure, in writing to the clique-ridden Corinthian church, Paul says he is glad he didn’t baptize many of them, but not because he thought it unimportant – rather he was glad because he didn’t want to feed into the schisms scarring the church about apostles and leadership, etc. That is hardly the basis for claiming that Paul didn’t really believe in water baptism. Finally, claiming that Paul’s comments about ‘one baptism’ in Ephesians means that he had changed to believing only in baptism by the Spirit and not water is absurd, and the implication that there was a distinction between Paul’s baptizing and that of the rest of the church is actually a direct contradiction of the true meaning of this passage, which emphasizes the unity across the church – there was one water baptism into Christ, with no distinction between apostles or churches on the matter, just as there was one Spirit for the whole church, not many Spirits for the different apostles or churches, and so on.
Paul performed miracles also, as did the Twelve. These miracles authenticated his ministry and served as a sign to the Jews (1 Corinthians 1.22). These miracles were necessary because Paul was always having to defend his apostleship. By the time of Paul’s later ministry (after the period of time covered by Acts) God had removed Paul’s ability to heal (Philippians 2.25-27; 1 Timothy 5.23; 2 Timothy 4.20) as He had earlier with the Twelve (James 5.13-15). Paul had written the Corinthians that such gifts were temporary (1 Corinthians 13.8-13). They had ceased entirely by the time Paul wrote his last letters (62-67 AD).
Let’s look at the completely false leaps in logic here. 1 Corinthians 1.22 doesn’t say anything about healing, just that Jews demand signs. Yet somehow this is the basis for a statement of why miracles were necessary for Paul and his apostleship. Next we are told definitively that God later removed Paul’s ability to heal (although it is Jesus who heals). The basis for this sweeping claim? A couple of passages that mentioned colleagues who were sick. So what? In actual fact, we have records of healing miracles happening for centuries afterward at the hands of the successors of the apostles. As for the claim that James 5.13-15 is evidence that God had withdrawn the ability to heal from the Twelve, that is just absurd. The passage exhorts church elders to pray for the sick that they might be healed. How on earth that is evidence that the apostles no longer could is beyond me!
Why did God keep Paul separated from the Twelve? Even more to the point, why did God choose Paul at all? Was he an afterthought? This is THE central question of Christian theology and New Testament studies. Luke made it clear in his account in Acts that Peter was the leader of the Jewish church who proclaimed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. Peter and members of the Jewish church are prominent in the first 12 chapters of Acts. After that, they disappear for the next 16 chapters.5 Why? Why did God need another apostle? He had twelve whom He had commissioned and who would reign with Him to rule Israel (Matthew 19.27-28).
This paragraph opens with rhetorical questions that set the stage for one of the most blasphemous and revealing statements on the site. The dispensationalist hobby-horse of why God allegedly kept Paul separate from the twelve or why God chose Paul is said to be ‘THE central question of Christian theology and New Testament studies’. Let us be quite clear. IT IS NOT. The central issue is CHRIST INCARNATE CRUCIFIED AND RESURRECTED, and claims like Samdahl’s that distract from the core teaching of the New Testament are evidence of the pernicious nature of the dispensationalist heresy.
Did Paul preach the same gospel as Peter and the Eleven? Not according to the Scriptures. Peter preached the gospel of the kingdom while Paul preached the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20.24). Paul called the gospel he preached, my gospel (Romans 2.16, 16.25; 2 Timothy 2.8 cf. 1 Corinthians 1.18). Paul assumed ownership of his gospel (Galatians 1.11-12; 2.11), which was unknown to the Twelve, until they learned of it from Paul.
Once again, the secret ‘fantasy life’ of the dispensationalist is revealed. Samdahl feels he can assert that Paul did not preach the same gospel as Peter and the others. What scriptural support does he give? None. He just says Peter preached the ‘gospel of the kingdom’. That phrase appears nowhere on Peter’s lips, or from his pen, anywhere in the bible. In fact it appears but once in the whole of Scripture, in Matthew 24.14 where the gospel of the kingdom is preached to all the world in the last days when apostasy sets into the church. Sure, there is one mention of Paul preaching about the gospel of grace, but as we have seen, the church taught salvation by grace long before Paul spoke out at the Jerusalem council. Sure, Paul did talk about ‘my gospel’, but that does not mean that he was teaching a different gospel from the others – far from it. He was emphasizing his message as a gifted scholar with great God-given understanding, and more importantly an apostolic call from God, and yes, it was to the Gentiles, but that doesn’t mean he was saying it was new, different to the gospel preached by others. In fact, in Galatians 1.11-12 we find the true meaning – Paul is not saying it is ‘his’ gospel, he is saying he preaches something that he got from Jesus Christ, just as the 12 apostles also got the gospel from Jesus Christ. There is one gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ, not two separate gospels. To paraphrase another passage from Paul, there is one faith, one baptism, one gospel. Any doctrine such as dispensationalism that teaches otherwise is a heresy, an anathema, to be shunned and exposed for the false teaching that it is, as we have amply demonstrated in Dom Samdahl.