Editor’s Note: It is one of the conundrums of religious history: How did Christianity, a religion based on the teachings of a pacifist who said love your enemy and who defended the poor and vulnerable, become so twisted into nearly its opposite?
Why did dominant Christian institutions, like the Vatican, amass obscene wealth and immense power? How could individuals – the likes of George W. Bush – who claim to be devout followers of Jesus unleash the fearsome might of modern military technologies to slaughter peoples in faraway lands?
In this guest essay, Rev. Howard Bess traces this Christian mystery to the chronology of when the books of the New Testament were committed to writing and to whether the apostle Paul was even aware of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount:
We call Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of the Matthew Gospel the Sermon on the Mount. It is without question our finest summary of the teachings of Jesus…