Were Early Christians Socialists or (gasp!) Marxists?

I was reading one of the conservative blogs and noticed a phrase that the blog owner had given by Marx:

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

I thought that this phrase sounded familiar (I haven’t read Marx directly before).  Sure enough, I found something very similar to this in the New Testament:

Acts 4:32-35: "4:32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.4:33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.4:34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.4:35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need."

 

So does this make Jesus a Socialist or a Marxist?  Well, Marx said pretty-much the same as Jesus and the disciples—each person got what he/she needed.  And Socialism is the spreading of wealth (which these Tea-Partiers really hate!) and here you have people who did not own anything—they sold all and gave it away.  If this isn’t spreading the wealth, I don’t know what is.  So yes, Jesus and the Disciples were both Marxists and Socialists.

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9 Responses to Were Early Christians Socialists or (gasp!) Marxists?

  1. Justin says:

    Kevin"So yes, Jesus and the Disciples were both Marxists and Socialists."???? Oh really now 🙂 I hate to say this bro but you just pulled off what I call one of the oldest cafeteria fundamentalist tricks in the world to base your theory on :(. Picking this scripture or that scripture to try and prove your point is exactly what the Prop 8 people and fundamentalist use in their fight against gay rights.You are right in saying that Acts 4: 32-35 would leave the impression that these were a bunch of happy Marxists and Socialist. However, you failed to mention the darker side of this life in the following chapter Acts 5: 1-10 regarding what happens to anyone who does not give every thing they gained from the sale of their goods to give to the Apostles. The story deals with a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira who sold a piece of land they owned but kept some of the money for themselves. Acts 51Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife\’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles\’ feet. 3Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn\’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn\’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." 5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. 7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price." 9Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also." 10At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.Now, the story ends at verse 11 and what was the whole church left with "Fear". Fear of what? Both verse 5 and 11 state very clearly that the what happened in the deaths of Ananias and his wife Sapphira were the cause of this fear. So, I would have to surmise from this story that if as you say they were "Marxist and Socialist" or more likely "Communist" since their way of life started as a "Communal life" they used fear and tyranny to keep everyone in line. Perhaps that is why this life styles very beginning ended almost as quickly as it started. Did Peter have these two killed and white wash it for the people saying the "Holy Spirit" struck them down? The story is very vauge in this regard.Now, as to Jesus being a Marxist and Socialist??? The answer can be yes and no however more likely than not it would be no. Was Jesus a Racist??? Again the answer can be yes or no. It all depends on what scriptures you are reading at the time and what your interpertation of those scriptures are. Just ripping out scripture and using it to shore up a point or trying to make any set of scriptures prove a point usually back fires on the user. For instance I can prove Jesus was a capitalist misusing the following: Mark: 425For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath. Luke 8:18Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have. Did Jesus love the poor? Well, that is debatable. Remember when the woman came and annointed him with precious oil from an alabaster jar? The desciples went ballistic insisting that the oil should have been sold and the money given to the poor. And Jesus\’s response was?? It was simple " Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you. Ok its simple there is always going to be poverty and yeah we should care but hey this woman is doing this for me so leave her alone and don\’t worry about the poor. Was Jesus a racist? Misuse the scripture and yes he was! Take the "Cannanite woman who came to Jesus and begged him to help her daughter who was gravely ill or as the bible tells it "vexed with the devil." What was Jesus\’s response to this woman? Well its pretty racist when you call some one of another race a dog isn\’t it? Matthew 25Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children\’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. Now remember I have taken all of these scriptures completely out of context to prove a point and sadly there are those who would follow my lead and believe me and go out saying well, Justin says the bible says, so it must be true. So were Jesus and the Disiples Marxist and Socialists? Or were they like a lot of preachers today living off the wealth of others? Was Jesus a Marxist and Socialist with a bit of a Racist thrown in? Always remember, when it comes to the bible you can interpert the scripture in so many ways and you will always be able to find those scriptures that prove your point while others will have just as many if not more that will tear apart your argument. So, as I have always tried to tell people. Be at peace with your G-d what ever you concieve him to be and quit trying to cram him down my throat :). I for one am at peace with my G-d as I see him and I do not expect others to see him in the same light that I do. Of course if they don\’t I have some hand held fans at a cheap price 🙂

  2. Kevin says:

    Hi Justin–whoops–the sarcasm of the last sentence did not come though at all. I should have written "So yes, Jesus and the Disciples were both Marxists and Socialists (says sarcastically)." That is what I meant. But I\’ll go along with you. I know that right after this passage there is the story of that man and his wife who tried to cheat. But to me, the point of that passage is that to cheat, especially cheat God, will end in death. But that little addition to the story (the death of Annias and his wife for cheating) doesn\’t take away from the fact that Jesus and the disciples are calling on their followers to give away everything they have and share the wealth (to put it in modern language). This is what socialists do and this is what communists do and this is what Marxists do (and these terms didn\’t show up until the late 1700s, early 1800s to describe newer political movements so they aren\’t really applicable to the ancient world). About picking and choosing scripture–how can anyone not do that (as you point out)? The only way it to not do it is for me to mention that quote in Acts and then give the entire Bible–Old and New. Now that wouldn\’t sit very well with readers. That is truly the only way to make sure that Scripture isn\’t cut and pasted. Now I understand that context is important. But I was replying to someone who was writing about the communist creed–and I responded by saying that type of phrasing probably comes from the Bible. For me that is placing it back in its context. When a Tea Partier complains about spreading the wealth, I think of Acts. So they can ultimately blame Jesus for starting the process! 🙂

  3. Justin says:

    Hey Kevin, I got your sarcasm in your statement that was the reason for my little smiley face at the end of my Oh really now comment. I just wiped out everything I wrote because it would just be to long and take up to much of your space so I will try and keep this as concise and short as possible :). I will leave out my discussion about Acts 4 and 5. Perhaps at a later time we can discuss those two chapters in their true context as to what they really dealt with. I want to adress where I think there is a misconception is between "Communism, Socialism, and Marxism" and the statement "Spreading or Sharing the wealth" and relating it to Yeshua and the Disciples.Correct me if I am wrong but in the case of Yeshua I, assume you are talking about the biblical discussion between Yeshua and the rich young ruler and what this young man needed to do to obtain "eternal life" and Yeshua told him he must sell everything he owned give it to the poor take up his cross and follow him. On the face of this story we can see where Yeshua was advocating spreading or sharing the wealth. However, we have to look at the true meaning of the story. Here was a young man who came rushing to Yeshua knelt at his feet and asked what he must do to have eternal life. The young man called him good master and Yeshua rebuked him telling him there was none good but G-d. Then Yeshua told him you know the commandments and listed off six of them. The young man replied these I know and I have kept. Yeshua in essence said ok so we are half way there but, (always that one little word "but") are you willing to sell everything you own give it to the poor take up the cross and follow me? This question was not posed as an advocacy of spreading the wealth or sharing it. It was a very to the point statment of this young man giving up everything he owned and trusted in and taking on a life of sacrifice. In selling all he owned and giving it to the poor he would have treasure (not earthly) in heaven. But, (again but) he would also be required to take up the cross and follow Yeshusa even to his death. We all know the end to this story. Ultimately the young man could not give up all the wealth he had and trusted in to take on a life of sacrifice and uncertainty. There are many parables by Yeshua that can be taken to advocate spreading the wealth which in no way advocate communisim, socialism, or marxism and, there are many parables where he speaks to obtaining and increasing ones wealth that do not speak to greed . The sum of the sayings attributed to Yeshua put simply deal with mans spiritual relationship with G-d and his physical relationship with those around him. Biblicaly we are all commanded to take care of the widows and orphans and to help those who are less fortunate than we may be. Your Tea Partier like many liberals I fear have a misperception of what the meaning of spreading and sharing the wealth means. Speading ones wealth around by the individual is paramount in Biblical belief. It is not about giving up ones wealth rather it is sharing a part of that wealth with those less fortunate than you. Biblically this is the duty of each individual not the state. Communism, Socialism, and Marxism are failed political systems where there is no private ownership property or business and all wealth is belonged by and distributed by the state for the supposed common good of all. The problem with these systems is that the people controlling the state begin to become corrupt and for the most part they live lavishly off the labor of others.So in the end no, Yeshua and the Disciples were neither Marxists or Socialists. 🙂

  4. Kevin says:

    Hey Justin!You say: "So in the end no, Yeshua and the Disciples were neither Marxists or Socialists." I totally agree! About spreading the wealth-I was referring to that passage in Acts (I wasn\’t thinking of the other passages you gave). In other news, I had a good class today–I got to teach about the early Christians and made it all the way up to the Carolingian Dynasty. My throat is a bit sore, but I made it! 🙂

  5. Rob says:

    I thought early Xians were cannibals. :p

  6. Justin says:

    Dang, to bad I couldn\’t be in one of your classes 🙂 I would have probably loved your teachings. Few people really know just how turbulent and violent the Christian movement was in its earliest times. In fact very few people know that origianlly the movement was strictly a Jewish movement that left gentiles on the sidelines unless they converted to Judaism and adhered to the strict Jewish laws. I guess one could say they were the "Tea Partiers" of their time. 🙂 Their belief in Yeshua as the messiah did\’t set to well with the established Temple crowd and so they got kicked out of the Temple. Hmmmm? Maybe we better pay closer attention to the "Tea Partiers" today after all look what a hand full of Messianic Jews started :P. As to spreading the wealth you are correct about Acts 4. After being kicked out of the Temple the Messianic Jews did form a communalistic click. However, my point was that Yeshua had already left for the coast at that point 🙂 so, this was something that Peter and the other 12 established. I would like to hear more about your class as I know in just our brief discussions on your space you would be my kind of teacher LOL.

  7. Kevin says:

    Hi Rob! Ah, that old cannibal accusation! 🙂 I guess it is understandable. Drinking the blood of Christ and eating his body certainly didn\’t help the early Christians with that charge…

  8. Robert says:

    In short, I\’m one of those radicals who believe that the early Christians were socialist. Acts gives a good story about a couple that tried getting rich and supposedly God struck them dead.

  9. justinc says:

    Actually, there is no taking out of context for socialist in acts. This is a statement or narrative of event of what they did not the words spoken to prove socialism. Words can be easily skewed if taken out of context. This passage described the regular actions by the early church. Anyone who reads the statements of Jesus in context will see that he is not a racist nor a capitalist. However you cannot take the regular actions of the disciples out of context in that question. Ananias and Saphira did not get struck down because they did not give all. They were not compelled to. What they did was lie and said they gave all, trying to make themselves look good.

    I see that a lot of people are against socialism and think it is a bad thing because of brainwashed capitalist societies. Yet how many churches especially Evangelicals in the US have thousands of members and their capitalistic pastors have large houses, expensive rides, own planes and luxury living while members of their concregations are on their last dime hoping for that miracle blessing?
    The Church especially Evangelicals and Catholics are a stong lobby in government. They lobby for Israel and send millions yearly to government of Israel to meet its agenda and ignore the rights of the poor Palestinians. What about the poor at home? What about government corruption and greed in the meltdown? What about the struggling mothers and people who are oppressed by currupt organisations? What about sexual abuse and perversion of the innocent?

    Seems to me that there is no similarity between the early church and this “christian society”. Am I saying you must give all and sell everything? No am not saying that. However with the amount of money people give to televangelist and local churches, more should be done to help those truly in need. And we have the means to do it. How do I know? Mansions, luxury living don’t cost 2 cents.

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