Just read the following comment, made by Steve Ruis, which was in response to a posting at A Humanist’s Perspective blog entitled “An Atheist Analyzes Acts (1:1-11).” Steve’s thoughts are very similar to mine so I decided to republish them here.
Ah, but you gloss over the setting. The group remaining in Jerusalem, lead ostensibly by James the Just, Jesus’ brother and all of the remaining disciples remain observant Jews. They go to temple. They observe Jewish customs and holidays and respect the Torah by abiding by the myriad rules practicing Jews must. Does this sound like a group who will come to the conclusion that Jesus’ life and death have superseded the Torah, in fact the entire Tanakh? Why would they do all of this when Paul insists that it is no longer necessary (Jesus told him so in a vision). Why would Jesus have not told his followers what to do when his “sacrifice” was made? In fact, if Jesus were god, how could he have been sacrificed? And hadn’t the Jews outlawed human sacrifice centuries before and had wages a campaign to obliterate the practice to the point it was abhorrent to them? How could a self-respecting Jew proposed that a human sacrifice was the keystone to a new covenant with God?
(Actually, Jesus did not tell Paul much of anything during the Damascus Road “vision,” but that’s neither here nor there.)
The main point is that the believing Jews (the ones who saw Yeshua as the long-awaited mashiach) did not change their ways. They continued to follow the Torah, perform circumcisions, keep the Sabbath, honor the Jewish festivals, and observe dietary laws. Plus they visited the temple regularly to pray and await apokatastasis pantõn — the final establishment of all God had promised to Israel. It was Paul, the fake and self-declared apostle, that changed everything by declaring the Torah null and void and transforming Yeshua into a savior-god acceptable to his gentile audience.
If believers could only look beyond their embedded teachings of who Paul was (the “ideal Christian”) and visualize him during biblical times, they might see him for what he truly was … a “bombastic maverick, representing no one but himself and under no one’s direction” (Two Different Pauls).
As to Steve’s comment re: sacrifice — in the biblical tradition, sacrifice was a common practice or ritual — but it was NEVER human sacrifice. The only sacrifice acceptable to God as a sin offering by the early Hebrews was animals. Guess who originated the idea that the death of Yeshua (a human) was an acceptable sacrifice to God for the sins of humanity? Three guesses and the first two don’t count.
Then there’s the mind-boggling question that remains to be answered … if Jesus was God (as many believe), how could he have been sacrificed?