Karl Kautsky on the Origins of Christianity and Communism 

- Selections by Peter Myers, July 4, 2001; update February 9, 2018.

Write to me at contact.html.

You are at http://mailstar.net/kautsky.html.

Kautsky was a German Jewish Marxist who wrote a book Terrorism and Communism opposing the totalitarian methods of the Bolsheviks, eliciting in reply Trotsky's book The Defence of Terrorism (also known as Dictatorship Vs. Democracy).

Lorainne Stobbard argues that Thomas More derived his Utopia from reports of the Maya.

(1) Karl Kautsky, Thomas More and His Utopia
Lorainne Stobbard, Utopia fact or faction? The Evidence from the Americas
(3) Karl Kautsky, The Foundations of Christianity

Kautsky makes the following points:

(i) Thomas More was a great exponent of Socialism

(ii) The Medieval Church conquered the Normans by using them to fight the Moslem armies

(iii) Christian Communism had Jewish roots. He blames Paul for the Church's rejection of the Jews, and attributes the move of spiritual centre to Rome, to the failure of the Jewish uprising of 70AD.

A similar "Jewish" view can be found in Frederick Engels' writings on early Christianity:

Bruno Bauer and Early Christianity: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1882baue.htm;

On the History of Early Christianity: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894chri/index.htm,

and more recently in the writings of S.G.F. Brandon (jewish-revolt.html), Hyam Maccoby (maccoby.html), and Robert Eisenman.

(1) Karl Kautsky, Thomas More and His Utopia, Russell & Russell, New York, 1959.

{p. 1} Two great figures loom on the threshhold of Socialism: Thomas More and Thomas Munzer, two men whose fame rang throughout Europe in their lifetimes: one a statesman and scholar who attained to the highest position in his native land and whose works aroused the admiration of his contemporaries; the other an agitator and organiser, before whose quickly assembled multitudes of proletarians and peasants the German princes trembled. Fundamentally different from each other in respect of standpoint, method, and temperament, both were alike as regards their object - communism, alike in daring and conviction, and alike in the end which overtook them - both died on the scaffold.

It is sometimes debated whether the honour of having inaugurated the history of Socialism should fall to More or to Munzer, both of whom follow the long line of Socialists, from Lycurgus and Pythagoras to Plato, the Gracchi, Catilina, Christ, His apostles and disciples, who are sometimes mentioned in proof of the assertion that there have always been Socialists without the goal ever coming nearer {Kautsky returns to Thomas More later in the book: see p. 248 below}.

{p. 44} The most dangerous enemy of the settled Teutonic tribes was, however, the Arabs, or rather the Saracens, as the writers of the Middle Ages called all those Eastern peoples set in motion by the Arabs to seek booty and a habitat in more highly civilised countries. This, of course, did not prevent the Saracens from absorbing this civilisation in the course of time and propagating it.

In the year 638 the Arabs invaded Egypt, and quickly conquered the whole of the Northern Coast of Africa; they appeared at the beginning of the eighth century in Spain, and not quite a hundred years after their invasion of Egypt, they threatened France. Charles Martel's victory saved France from the fate of the empire of the Western Goths; but the Saracens were by no means rendered powerless.

They stayed in Spain, established themselves in Southern Italy and at various points of North Italy and Southern France, occupied the most important Alpine passes, and sallied forth to raid the northern slopes of the Alps.

During the migration of peoples the settled Teutonic tribes had occupied the greater part of Europe and a part of North Africa; now they saw themselves confined to a small space, and they were hardly able to maintain this. Burgundy, which was practically the geographical centre of the Catholic West in the tenth century, was as much exposed to the invasions of the Normans as to that of the Hungarians and Saracens. The end of the peoples of Western Christendom seemed at hand.

And just when the pressure of external foes was most severe, the political power was most impotent, the feudal anarchy was most unchecked, and the only firm, coherent power was the Papal Church.

Like the monarchial powers, the Papal power, in its

{p. 45} contest with the external enemy, became strong enough to defy its foes at home.

The Saracens, who were to some extent superior in culture, could only be grappled with by the sword; in the fight with Islam the Papacy summoned and organised the whole of Christendom. The unstable enemies in the North and East could be temporarily repulsed by force of arms, but not permanently subdued. They were subjugated by the same means as the Roman Church had employed to subjugate the Teutons: they were forced to adopt a higher mode of production - after being won for Christianity, they settled down and were rendered harmless.

The Papacy celebrated a brilliant triumph over the Normans. It transformed them from the most formidable of the Northern enemies of Christianity into the most pugnacious and energetic antagonists of the Southern enemy. The Papacy made an alliance with the Normans similar to that which it once concluded with the Franks. The alliance recognised the fact that the Normans had not been pacified by their incorporation into the feudal mode of production. They remained a restless, predatory people, but the object of their raids was now changed. By being made into feudal lords, the land hunger peculiar to feudalism was aroused in them, and from plunderers they became conquerors.

The Papacy knew how to make excellent use of this appetite for conquest - by turning it against the Saracens. The Papacy had as much to gain from the victory of the Normans as the Normans from the victory of the Papacy. The Normans became vassals of the Pope, who invested them with their conquests as fiefs. The Pope blessed their arms, and the Papal blessing was of great effect in the eleventh century, as it placed the powerful organisation of the Church at the service of the recipient. With Papal

{p. 46} assistance the Normans were enabled to conquer England and Lower Italy.

By enlisting the Normans in its service, the Papacy attained to the summit of its power. It triumphed not only over its internal enemies, it not only imposed on the German Emperor the humiliation of Canossa; it felt strong enough to take the offensive against the Saracens: the epoch of the Crusades began.

The Popes were the organisers of the Crusades, the Normans their champions. What drew the latter towards the East was land hunger; they established feudal states in Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, Cyprus, and finally in the Greek Empire as well.

Next to the Normans the majority of the Crusaders was composed of people for whom social pressure at home had become intolerable, serfs excessively exploited by their feudal lords, lesser nobles crushed by the preponderance of the great feudal lords.

In the chivalric army of the first Crusade, the Normans were most conspicuous. The peasant army was characteristically commanded by several decayed knights, of whom one bore the name of "Walter the Penniless." In the thriving East they hoped to obtain what their country denied them: well-being and prosperity.

It testifies to the great power of the Papacy that it was able to compel many elements to participate in the Crusades which had nothing to gain thereby. Many German emperors were obliged, much against their will, to recruit for the Papal armies and to carry the Papal flag, the Cross.

3. The Overthrow of the Papal Power.

The Crusades marked the highest point of the Papal power. They were a powerful agent in promoting the rapid development of the element that was destined to

{p. 47} overthrow the feudal world and its monarch, the Pope. We mean Capital.

Through them the East was drawn closer to the West, commodity production and trade were alike promoted. The Church then began to wear an altered countenance. The development of landed property as a result of the growth of rural commodity production rested in various ways upon ecclesiastical landed property. Additional burdens were placed on the peasants, common land was annexed, and farms were broken up.

Growing avarice impelled the Church to practise increasing parsimony in the relief of the poor. What had once been given gladly because it could not be consumed, was not retained because it had become a saleable commodity, because it could be exchanged for money, wherewith articles of luxury could be purchased. The fact that laws were passed with the object of compelling the Church to support the poor proves that she no longer met her obligations in an adequate manner. In the reign of Richard II of England a law was passed (1391) ordering the monasteries to devote a portion of the tithes to the support of the poor and the lower clergy.

While the Church aroused the bitterness of the humble people because she afforded them too little protection against impoverishment, she drew on herself the enmity of the burgher class, because she still formed a certain bulwark against the impoverishment of the masses, as this process was not proceeding fast enough. The propertyless person was not delivered bound hand and foot to Capital so long as he received even scanty alms from the Church. That the monks were allowed to live an idle life instead of being thrown on the streets and placed at the capitalist's disposal as wage slaves, was in the eyes of aspiring burgherdom a sin against the national welfare.

{p. 247} Macchiavelli's Prince and Erasmus' Manual for Christian Princes were composed at the same time as Utopia, and we have not the slightest reason

{p. 248} for doubting that the aim of the latter was the same as the aim of the former: to show princes how they should govern.

And Utopia even pursued the special object of influencing the government and constitution of England. This is not only shown very disitinctly in the first book, but Erasmus, who ought to have known it, relates this fact in his well-known letter to Hutton: "He published his Utopia for the purpose of showing, what are the things that occasion mischief in commonwealths; having the English Constitution especially in view."

The island of Utopia is, in fact, England. More designed to show how England would look, and what shape her relations with abroad would assume, if she were communistically organisied.

The analogy may be traced with exactitude: The island is separated from the Continent only by a channel 21 miles wide. The description of the capital, Amaurot, is a true description of London. Stow, in his Survey of London, vol. ii., p. 458, finds a perfect correspondence between the two towns.

Historians and economists who are perplexed by Utopia perceive in this name a subtle hint by More that he himself regarded his communism as an impracticable dream.

In all the discussions about the Utopians there is only one element of a fantastic nature, and that is not the goal that was aimed at, but the ways and means of achieving it. More saw ony one force which could carry communism into effect, and this he mistrusted. He has shown in his Utopia in what manner he conceived that communism would be enforced. A prince named Utopus conquered the country, and impressed on it the stamp of his mind; all institutions in Utopia are to be traced to him. He thought out the general plan of the commonwealth and then put it into execution.

{p. 249} In this way More conceived the realisation of his ideals: he was the father of Utopian Socialism, which was rightly named after his Utopia. The latter is Utopian less on account of the impractability of its aims than than on account of the inadequacy of the means at its disposal for their achievement.

We know that More could not help being an Utopist. As yet there was no party, no class to champion Socialism; the decisive political power, on which the State seemed to depend, were the princes, then a young, and in a sense a revolutionary element, without defined traditions: why should not one of them be converted to Communism? If such a prince desired, he could enforce Communism. If no prince so desired, the property of the people was unalterable. So thought More, and from this standpoint he was impelled to make an attempt to convert a prince. But he was by no means deceived as to the hopelessness of his task. He knew the princes of his time too well.

He concludes Utopia with with following words, after inserting a saving clause that he did not agree with all that Hythloday had related: "However, there are many things in the commonwealth of Utopia that I rather wish, than hope, to see followed in our governments."

In this conclusion lies the whole strategy of More's fate, the whole tragedy of a genius who divines the problems of his age before the material conditions exist for their solution; the whole tragedy of a character who feels obliged to grapple with the solution of the problems which the age has presented, to champion the rights of the oppressed against the arrogance of the ruling classes, even when he stands alone and his efforts have no prospect of success.

More proved the grandeur of his character when he ascended the scaffold because he would not sacrifice his conviction to a princely caprice. {end of selection}

(2) Lorainne Stobbard, Utopia fact or faction? The Evidence from the Americas, Alan Sutton, Stroud, 1992.

{p. 3} The civilization that had evolved a system very similar to the Utopian was the Maya of Mexico.

In the text of Utopia and in several later letters, More claims to have heard of Utopia from an explorer who had spent more than five years living in that country. ...

The facts are as follows. In 1515 More was appointed as one of the ambassadors to represent the English Court in negoiations in Flanders. The main meetings took place in Bruge and during a break in the talks More paid a visit to Antwerp. While there Peter Giles, a young humanist friend of Erasmus, made himself known to More. Conjecture enters the picture with the appearance of the character Hythlodaeus. More, in the text, explains that one day after attending mass Giles approached and asked if he would like to be introduced to a traveller. More, who had observed Giles in conversation with the man, had concluded from his appearance that he was a simple sailor. Giles hastened to point out that Raphael Hythlodaeus was a gifted scholar and philosopher who had given up a position of wealth and importance to dedicate his life to discovery and exploration of the New World. It was for this reason that Giles wished to introduce him to More, Giles claiming that Hythlodaeus knew more of these lands and peoples than any man alive.

{p. 5} As we know that More himself did not visit the new lands then the argument is strengthened that someone very like Hythlodaeus may have existed. If this theory is correct it carries wider implications than discovering the true nature of Utopia; it also means that the sequence of events given in our history books for the discovery of Mexico is wrong and, perhaps more importantly, it would give us an account of a New World civilization before it was drastically disrupted by European intervention.

In the text More describes how he invited Giles and the traveller to his home to learn more about the traveller's experiences. At first the discussions dwelt on prevailing conditions in contemporary Europe, focusing mainly on England which Hythlodaeus claimed to have known. This talk forms part of Book One of Utopia which scholars believe was not written until after More returned to England and is hailed as a source of valuable social commentary, especially on conditions in Renaissance England. More and Giles, while appearing to defend the status quo of society, set up arguments for Raphael to refute in true Platonic style. In doing so, Hythlodaeus resorted frequently to New World examples where he felt that some societies had found better solutions to problems similar to those facing More and his contemporaries.

Using the argument that a wise and good man such as Hythlodaeus would serve society better if he accepted a position of power in government, subjects such as patronage, sycophancy, misuse of power, corruption and self- enrichment were discussed. As More was to accept a position at the court of Henry VIII in 1518 it is thought that More used this debate to express both the humanist and his own personal view of the advantages and drawbacks of accepting a position at court.

The discussions ranged far and wide to include such subjects as the Church, the greed and ambition of rulers, efficacy of international treaties, land enclosure, unemployment, punishment and the legal system in general. When the traveller

{p. 6} increasingly cited Utopian society More and Giles insisted that he tell them of it in much greater detail.

This Hythlodaeus was pleased to do as he declared his only purpose in returning from the New World was to make the conditions in Utopia known to people in Europe. The virtual monologue that follows forms Book Two of Utopia. This, it is thought, was written by More during the remainder of his stay in Flanders. A year was to pass before More forwarded the finished manuscript to Giles for him to check before forwarding it to the publisher.

According to Hythlodaeus's commentary the Commonwealth of Abraxa, for this was its name before being conquered by King Utopus and his forces, was founded 1,760 years before the visit of Hythlodaeus. Due to internal strife, caused by religious differences, Utopus found it quite easy to subdue the people of Abraxa. The Commonwealth, now named Utopia, occupied an island some two hundred miles broad by hve hundred long. The nuclear nation consisted of fifty-four city-states. Each urban centre occupied an area of approximately two square miles surrounded by a circle of land no less than twenty miles wide. No city was built closer than twenty-four miles from its nearest neighbour.

Every city, where the geography allowed, followed a basic pattern for its layout. This plan, established by Utopus, decreed that every city would have two defence rings around it. The inner defences consisted of a wall with battlements, the outer ring was a deep, dry ditch planted with thick thorn bushes. Each city had thirteen churches, four hospitals, four large market places, and storehouses. These were divided into four equal quarters within the city. Throughout these quarters, the dwellings of the citizens were placed in long rows on either side of broad avenues. Each house contained accommodation for thirty families arranged to the left and right of the resident steward's quarters. A central dining room and kitchen served the residents. The door to the rear led to an area given over ro house gardens, a feature the king took a great personal interest in. In, or near, the houses were rooms or

{p. 7} quarters which served as nurseries for the under-fives during mealtimes, and altars for the private worship of personal or household deities.

Evenly dispersed throughout the area surrounding each city were houses for the rural, agricultural community. Each consisted of at least forty men and women under the super- vision of a resident couple. Every year ten couples were sent to these country houses to spend two years on the land; the ten couples who had completed their two years were free to return to the city and take up their normal trades or occupations. The wealth and well-being of the common- wealth was based on agricultural output and the trading of surplus.

Uniformity is probably the keyword to apply to Utopian society. Apart from the basic uniformity of the city-states in layout, the same language with regional variations was spoken throughout the country. Clothing throughout the island and down through the ages showed no variation in style. Heavy work clothes consisted of skins covered over by a large cloak. Normal clothing, predominantly white linen, varied only between male and female and between the single and married wearers. Urban sprawl was not allowed and the population of each state was limited to 6,000 families.

{p. 116} After the 'official' discovery of the Maya, tales of the well-run and ordered Maya society paled into insignificance alongside the tales of gold beyond belief in a nation that not only practised human sacrifice but cannabilism as well. No one would have accepted that the peoples to be found in this new land of Mexico were not all of the same nature. When these stories started to circulate from 1517 More and his fellow humanists may well have been convinced that Hythlodaeus was playing a joke on them with his tale of a well and wisely-run republic.

Another reason for the true nature of the work never being revealed may lie in the motivation of the author. A great deal has been written on the idealistic motivation of More in seeking to present his image of the ideal state, but very little has been said about possible commercial benefits that could have arisen. The former opinions are perfectly in keeping with our recent view of Saint Thomas More, but the man was not a saint when he wrote the work and there is nothing dishonourable in being motivated by profit. Biographies of More show that although he was reputed to be above taking bribes in his official capacity, he was just as interested as the next man of his generation in seeking rewards and profit. His involvement with the world of commerce is well documented and one of his avowed aims in producing the book was reputedly to show it to Cardinal Wolsey. Perhaps this was because he saw the potential for national and personal profit in trade with these new lands. It is surely a strange coincidence that the only record we have of a planned expedition from England to these new lands in this period was made by Thomas More's brother-in-law, John Rastell. Rastell would appear to have been cast in the mould of the great entrepreneurs, always on the lookout for ways to consolidare his fortune. He wrote a

{p. 117} play based on the new lands called The Four Seasons. This deals almost exclusively with the profits to be made trading in the New World.

Rastell set out in 1517 to make his fortune in the new lands. From the outset his expedition was beset by problems and finally had to be abandoned on the coast of Ireland. Rastell claimed that the failure was due to sabotage and insrigated a costly and lengthly court battle to sue the rich and powerful men he claimed were responsible for his failure. Is it possible that these rich and powerful men could have been the ones mentioned earlier who were said to trade in the New World? The failure of Rastell's mission could well have spelled the end of More's interest in the New World. We do know that after the 1518 Basle edition of the work More showed no further interest in promoting it.

General interest in the work does not appear to have wained as between 1518 and 1520 four more editions were published. Erasmus of Rotterdam continued his interest in the book and it has been said that his interest was always greater than More's. By these dates Erasmus had even more compelling reasons for not disclosing a factual basis for the work. In the prevailing climate of religious and political strife Erasmus was finding it very difficult to avoid either supporting or denying Martin Luther who had precipitated it. This neutral position earned him the emnity of many powerful Church figures and accusations of promoting Arianism. To announce at this stage that the peoples described in Utopia were an actual society would have been foolhardy in the extreme. Two features of Utopian society would have created a furore that would have made that caused by Luther insignificant by comparison. First we are told that they had evolved a communal way of life that offered a more equitable society than any to be found in Europe. Augustine writing in the early fourth century had stated that such communal life, though the ideal sought by Christ, could never be attained by mankind, and the succeeding Church fathers reiterated the same opinions. ...

{p. 118} L. K. Born has drawn attention to the fact that in Erasmus's work Insitutio principis Christiani he incorporated thirty points that were to appear in the later published Utopia; some have even christened this work The Political Utopia. Perhaps the time has come to reassess all Erasmus's work to see if his life, not More's, should be researched for possible New World connections. Utopia was never intended for wide readership, in fact the thought of it being translated into English was enough to arouse Thomas More to declare to Erasmus that he would rather see the book burned than expose it to the readership and misinterpretations of a less educated public. More's fears were not without foundation. The writings of Bartolome de Las Casas telling of the atrocities and cruelties in the Americas were circulated widely and used as anti-Spanish and anti-Rome propaganda. Utopia might well have taken this a step further into anti-Christian propaganda.

{p. 119} My admiration for the Maya was first kindled during a two-year stay in Mexico and has been enhanced by the reading done for this book. {end quotes}

(3) Karl Kautsky, The Foundations of Christianity, Russell & Russell, New York, 1955.

{p. 326} THERE IS NO REASON whatever to doubt the statement in the Acts of the Apostles that the first communistic Messiah community was formed in Jerusalem. However, communities soon came into existence in other cities with a Jewish proletariat. There was heavy travel between Jerusalem and the other parts of the Empire, especially its eastern half, if only because of the many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of pilgrims that came there year after year. And many penniless vagabonds roamed from place to place, staying in any one locality as long as charity lasted. ...

{p. 327} But as soon as the Evangel left the soil of Palestine, it entered an entirely different social milieu and acquired a different character.

There the apostles found along with the members of the Jewish community and in closest relationship with them the "God-fearing" Gentiles (sebomenoi {http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God-fearer}), who worshipped the Jewish God and went to the synagogue, but could not make up their minds to conform to all the Jewish practices. At most they might undergo baptism; but they would not have anything to do with circumcision nor dietary laws, the Sabbath and other externalities, which would have detached them completely from their "pagan" surroundings.

The social content of the Gospel must have found a willing reception in the proletarian groups of such "God-fearing Gentiles." They in turn carried it on to other non-Jewish proletarian circles, which were fertile soil for the doctrine of the crucified

{p. 328} Messiah in so far as that doctrine looked forward to a social overturn and immediate organization of mutual aid institutions. But as for anything specifically Jewish, these groups had an attitude of complete lack of sympathy, even aversion or mockery.

The further the new doctrine spread in the Jewish communities outside of Palestine, the clearer it must have been that it would gain tremendously in propaganda power if it abandoned its Jewish peculiarities, ceased to be national and became exclusively social.

The name of Saul is given as that of the man who first recognized this and took vigorous measures in that direction. He was a Jew who was not of Palestinian origin, according to tradition, but from the Jewish community of a Greek city, Tarsus in Cilicia. An ardent spirit, he flung himself first wholeheartedly into Phariseeism, and as a Pharisee fought the Christian community, which was so close to Zealotism, until finally, the story runs, a vision undeceived him in a flash and sent him to the opposite extreme. He joined the Christian community, but in it he was a subverter of the traditional conception, by insisting on propagandizing the new doctrine among non-Jews and abandoning their conversion to Judaism.

It is characteristic for his tendency that he changed his Hebraic name Saul to the Latin Paul. Such changes of name were frequent among Jews who wanted to advance in non-Jewish circles. If a Manasseh could call himself Menalaus, why not Saul Paul?

We can hardly say what there is in the tale of Paul that has any historical foundation. Here as in every other case that deals with personal occurrences, the New Testament is an unreliable source, full of contradictions and impossible miracle stories. But the personal actions of Paul are a secondary matter. What is decisive is the active opposition to the previous conception of Christianity that he personifies. This contradiction arose from the very nature of the situation; it was unavoidable, and no matter how unreliable the Acts of the Apostles may be as to any single happening, the fact of the struggle between the two tendencies can be seen

{p. 329} plainly in it. In fact, it is a book written with a definite purpose in mind, that of making propaganda for the Pauline tendency while still seeking to cover up and palliate the contradiction between the two camps.

At first, no doubt, the new tendency must have been modest, demanding nothing but tolerance in some points, which the mother community might indulgently overlook. So at least it would seem from the account in Acts, which it is true painted in bright colors and under the banner of peace something that actually took place in the course of a bitter struggle.' [12]

Thus it relates, of the period of Paul's agitation in Syria:

"And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." (Acts 15, verses 1 to 5).

Now the apostles and elders come together, the party leaders as it were. Peter and James make conciliatory speeches, and finally it is decided to send Judas Barsabas and Silas, likewise "chief men among the brethren," to Syria to tell the brethren there: "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication." The leaders gave up the circumcision of

12. Cf. Bruno Bauer, Die Apostelgeschichte, eine Ausgleichung des Paulinismus und des Judentums innerhalb der christlicher Kirche, 1850.

{p. 330} Gentile proselytes. Charitable work however must not be neglected: "Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do," is how Paul tells it in his Epistle to the Galatians (2, verse 10).

Charity and mutual aid appealed equally to Jewish and Gentile Christians; that was not a moot point. For that reason it is little mentioned in their literature, which is almost exclusively polemical. It is incorrect to conclude from the rarity of these references that it played no part in primitive Christianity; it simply played no part in Christianity's internal divisions. These continued despite all attempts at conciliation.

Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, previously cited, accuses the defenders of circumcision of being opportunists:

"As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ" (6, verse 12).

After the congress of Jerusalem which we have just mentioned, the Acts have Paul make a propaganda trip through Greece, still preaching to the Gentiles. On his return to Jerusalem, he reports to his comrades on the success of his agitation.

"And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs" (Acts 21, verses 20 f.).

He is now asked to clear himself of the charge and show that he was still a pious Jew. He is willing to do this, but is prevented by an uprising of the Jews against him; they want to kill him as a traitor to their nation. The Roman government takes him into a sort of protective custody and finally sends him to Rome; there he can carry on his agitation unmolested, not as in Jerusalem: "Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him" (Acts 28, verse 31).


It was inevitable that the Gentile Christians upheld their view more strongly as the number increased, and that thus the opposition should increase in intensity.

The longer the opposition lasted and the more points of friction there were, the more hostile the two trends must have been toward each other. This was made still worse by the intensification of the contrast between Judaism and the peoples it lived among during the last decades before the destruction of Jerusalem. The proletarian elements in Judaism, especially those of Jerusalem, had a more and more fanatical hatred for the non-Jewish peoples, above all the Romans. The Roman was the worst enemy, the most cruel oppressor and exploiter. The Hellene was his ally. Everything that distinguished the Jew from them was stressed now more than ever before. Those who laid the main emphasis on propaganda within Judaism would be impelled merely by the needs of their agitation to accent the characteristically Jewish and retain all the Jewish precepts, a course to which they already inclined under the influence of their surroundings.

The growth of the Jews' fanatical hatred for the nations of their oppressors was matched by the growth of aversion and contempt for the Jews among the masses of those nations. This in turn led the Gentile Christians and those who were carrying on agitation among them not merely to demand freedom from the Jewish law for themselves, but to criticize these precepts more and more sharply. The opposition between Jewish and Gentile Christians became, among the latter, more and more an opposition to Judaism itself. However the belief in the Messiah, including the belief in the crucified Messiah, was too organically linked to Judaism for the Gentile Christians simply to reject it out of hand. They took over from the Jews all the Messianic predictions and other supports of the hope for the Messiah, and at the same time became more and more hostile to that very Judaism, adding one more contradiction to the many we have already seen in Christianity.

{p. 332} We have seen the value that the Gospels set on Jesus' descent from David and what fantastic assumptions they introduced in order to have the Galilean born in Bethlehem. They keep citing passages from the holy books of the Jews to attest the Messianic mission of Jesus. On the other hand they have Jesus protest that he has no intention of doing away with the Jewish law:

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matthew 5, verses 17 f. Cf. Luke 16, verse 16).

Jesus bids his disciples: "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10, verses 5 f.).

Here is a direct prohibition against propaganda outside of Judaism. ...

{p. 333} Although the Gospels preserved such strong remnants of the Jewish Messiah cult, they simultaneously show outcroppings of the aversion to Judaism that inspired their authors and revisers. Jesus is continually warring against all the things that are dear to the pious Jew: the fasts, the dietary laws, the Sabbath. He exalts the Gentiles above the Jews:

"Therefore say I unto you, The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matthew 21, verse 42).

Jesus even goes so far as to curse the Jews:

"Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shall be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee" (Matthew 15, verses 20 f.).

These words show direct hatred of the Jews {accusations of "hatred" are now made by the feminist, gay, black, green movements; but see p. 336 below, for Judaism's own hatred}. It is no longer a sect within Judaism speaking against other sects of the same nation. Here the Jewish nation as such is branded as morally inferior, as particularly perverse and obdurate.

This appears too in the prophecies as to the destruction of Jerusalem which are put into the mouth of Jesus, but which of course were fabricated after the event.

The Jewish War showed the enemies of Judaism how strong and dangerous it was. This outbreak of fierce desperation brought the opposition between Judaism and the Gentiles to its height; it

{p. 334} had something of the effect of the June massacres of 1848 and the Paris Commune on the class hatred between proletariat and bourgeoisie in the nineteenth century. It also deepened the rift between Jewish Christianity and Gentile Christianity, but always tended to cut the ground away from under the feet of the former. The destruction of Jerusalem meant that there was no longer any basis for an independent class movement of the Jewish proletariat. Any such movement presupposes the independence of the nation. After the destruction of Jerusalem Jews existed only in foreign countries, among enemies who hated and persecuted them all, rich and poor alike, and against whom all the Jews had to stand fast together. The charity of the wealthy toward his poor countrymen therefore reached a high point in Judaism; the feeling of national solidarity far outweighed class opposition. Thus Jewish Christianity gradually lost its propaganda power. Afterwards, Christianity became more and more exclusively Gentile Christianity, changing from a party in Judaism to a party outside of Judaism, indeed in opposition to Judaism. More and more, Christian feeling and anti-Jewish feeling tended to become identical concepts.

With the fall of the Jewish commonwealth, the Jewish-national hopes for the Messiah lost their basis. They could still persist a few decades, still produce some death-twitches, but as an effective factor in the political and social development, the annihilation of the Jewish capital had been their death-blow.

This was not the case for the Messianic hopes of the Gentile Christians. The idea of the Messiah kept its vitality only in the form of the crucified Messiah, only in the form of the extra-Jewish Messiah, the Messiah translated into Greek, the Christ.

In fact the Christians were able to transform the gruesome event that signified the utter destruction of the Jewish expectation of the Messiah into a triumph of their Christ. Jerusalem now appeared as the enemy of Christ, and Jerusalem's destruction as Christ's vengeance on Judaism, as a fearful proof of his victorious might.

{what, then, of the rebuilding of the Third Temple: how will this affect Jewish-Christian relations? tmf.html}

Luke says of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem:

{p. 335} "And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, if thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation" (Luke 19, 41 f.).

Thereafter Jesus declares that the days of the crushing of Jerusalem, that will bring destruction even to "them that are with child, and to them that give suck," are "days of vengeance" (Luke 21, 22).

The September slaughters of the French Revolution, which were not revenge on suckling babies, but protection against a cruel enemy, are pleasant things compared to this verdict of the good shepherd.

The destruction of Jerusalem had still other consequences for Christian thought. We have already pointed out how Christianity, which had hitherto been violent, now took on a peaceful character. The only place where there had been a strong democracy at the beginning of the Empire had been among the Jews. The other nations of the Empire no longer had any fight left in them, and even their proletarians were cowardly. The destruction of Jerusalem stifled the last popular force in the Empire; any rebellion was hopeless from that point on. Christianity became more and more exclusively Gentile Christianity, becoming subservient and even servile in the process.

The Romans ruled in the Empire, and the primary task was to show oneself obsequious to them. The first Christians had been Jewish patriots and enemies of all alien rule and exploitation; the Gentile Christians added to their anti-Semitism devotion to Rome and the imperial throne. This can be seen in the Gospels as well. There is the well-known story of the agents provocateurs sent to Christ by the "chief priests and the scribes," to trick him into a treasonable utterance:

{p. 336} "And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men [that is, comrades of Jesus], that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's. And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's" (Luke 20, verses 20 f.).

Jesus here elaborates a splendid theory of money and taxes. The coin belongs to the man whose image and superscription it bears. Paying taxes is only giving the emperor his own money back.

The same spirit pervades the writings of the champions of the Gentile Christian propaganda, as in Paul's Epistle to the Romans (13. verse 1 f.):

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation ... for he [the ruler] beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour."

How far this is already from that Jesus who bids his disciples buy swords, and preached the hatred of the rich and powerful {here Kautsky implies that Judaism itself advocates such hatred; see p. 333 above for his condemnation of hatred}; how far from that Christianity that in the Revelation of John bitterly curses Rome and the kings bound up with it: "Babylon the great is fallen ... {implying that the Book of Revelation is Jewish}

{p. 337} The basic theme of Acts is emphasis on the hostility of Judaism to the doctrine of the crucified Messiah, and on an alleged receptiveness to this doctrine on the part of the Romans. Something that Christianity either desired or imagined after the fall of Jerusalem is represented as a fact in Acts. According to this book, Christian propaganda in Jerusalem was more and more suppressed by the Jews; the Jews persecute and stone the Christians wherever they can, while the Roman authorities protect them. We have seen Paul telling that he was gravely menaced in Jerusalem, but could speak freely in Rome without hindrance. Freedom in Rome, forcible suppression in Jerusalem!

Anti-Semitism and flattery of the Romans are most apparent in the story of the Passion, the story of the suffering and death of Christ. In it we can clearly trace how the original content of the tale was changed into its contrary under the influence of the new tendencies.

Since the story of the Passion is the most important part of the Gospel story, the only part with respect to which we can pretend to speak in historical terms, and since it is such a clear embodiment of the way in which the first Christians wrote history, we shall now go into it intensively. {end of selection}

To read more of this book, see http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/works/1900s/christ/.

Also see Trotsky's reply to Kautsky's criticisms of the Red Terror: worst.html.

A "Jewish" view of Christian origins, similar to Kautsky's, can be found in Frederick Engels' writings on early Christianity:

Bruno Bauer and Early Christianity: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1882baue.htm;

On the History of Early Christianity: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894chri/index.htm,

and more recently in the writings of S.G.F. Brandon, Hyam Maccoby, and Robert Eisenman.

S. G. F. Brandon showsthat what we know as Christianity emerged from the Roman defeat of the Jewish revolt of 66-70: jewish-revolt.html.

Hyam Maccoby on the role of the Jews in early Christianity: maccoby.html.

Back to the Zionism/Communism Index: zioncom.html.

Write to me at contact.html.