“The true problem of the TTP is that of the meaning of Christianity. It is obvious that Christianity did not “moralise” history, that is to say, that it did not at all alter the nature of the forces present in history. Rather, it introduced an additional force—itself—into the scheme of social antagonisms. […]
What is enigmatic—but not “mysterious”—about the person of Christ himself, is his extraordinary ability to “commune [communicare] with God, soul to soul”. He is able to perceive the commandment to love one’s neighbour as a universal truth and to express it not in the language of a single nation or single individual “complexion”, but in a language made up of “beliefs and doctrines held in common by all mankind” (TTP, 54). Yet Christ’s knowledge is not, for all that, limitless. Faced with the ignorance and resistance of the people, he too confused the language of necessity with the language of the law (TTP, 54). To understand all these aspects of his teaching, we must remember that, like certain prophets whose teaching prefigured his (such as Jeremiah), he lived during a period in which the State was falling apart (TTP, 92). There was a total lack of public solidarity.
He therefore had to draw on the biblical tradition (which was intimately bound up with the history of the Hebrew nation and their State) and extract from it those moral teachings that can be shared by all human beings. These he presented as a divine universal law which is addressed to each of us individually, “privately”. However profoundly true this idea of Christ’s was, it carried with it an abstract, fictional element: that religion concerned “men as men”, not only in their likeness to each other, but abstracted from any political relationship and living as if “in the state of nature”.
It is this fictional element that allows the truth to be perverted. The commandment of universal charity (every man is my neighbour) is transformed into a commandment of humility (love your enemy, “turn the other cheek”). This perversion can even take the form of a straightforward inversion, as it did with the first disciples of Christ, Paul in particular. They lived in a period of political crisis of an even greater scale that that which their master had known—the crisis of the Roman Empire, which for them represented the whole of the civilized world. Their response was to codify this idea of a “law” that is independent of the existence of any civil society and thus superior to any existing law. They gave this law a spiritualist content (the condemnation of the “flesh”), which they legitimated by deifying the person of Christ.
This led directly to the third stage, in which it became possible to use the teaching of Christ against historical States by constructing a “universal Church”, with its own apparatus of ceremony, dogma and ministers, and its own internal divisions. Just as the original error of Moses in granting the Levites as hereditary monopoly of the priesthood has weighed heavily on the history of the Hebrew State, so Christ’s error would be paid for in the long term by a history on insoluble conflicts.”
Balibar, 'Spinoza & Politics'