I would like to share with you why I, personally, have come to the conclusion that Paul's theology differs substantially from the faith of Jesus*, and therefore cannot be considered Christian. What follows is the result of many years of study and inner struggle. I assure you that when I first addressed the issue of the validity of Paul's apostleship, it was very difficult for me to find the courage to disagree with what everyone seemed to accept as the truth. I'm happy to say that the effort proved worthwhile, and that I became more focused and less confused once I made the difficult transition from being a Pauline Christian to a Messianic/Jewish Christian, along the lines of the Jesus's successor, James the Just.
There are two flaws with Paul's approach: the first being that it is not based on the teaching of Jesus, and the second being that it is designed to propagate a mixture of superstitious belief and secular humanistic practice.
Paul's letters display a remarkable degree of ignorance about Jesus the man, and his teaching. The entire corpus of Paul's letters contains two historical facts about Jesus: that he was crucified, and that he had a brother named James. Paul seems content with his ignorance, stating "knowledge puffeth up" (1 Corinthians 8:1).
Jesus spent years living with and teaching a group of twelve Apostles. Paul's attitude towards these Apostles can be found in the following passage from Galatians: "But though we, or an angel of heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. . . . For I neither received [the gospel] from man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. . . . I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it . . . But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb . . . To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles I saw none, save James the Lord's brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia" Galatians 1:8-21.
As this passage makes clear, Paul did not avail himself of the opportunity to learn from those whom Jesus taught face to face. Paul instead claimed that his revelation came directly from God, making instruction from humans unnecessary for him. Given this attitude, it would not be surprising if Paul did more talking than listening during the fifteen days he spent with Peter. It will become clear that he was unable or unwilling to eliminate contradictions between his own doctrine and that of Jesus. It is surprising that someone who had chosen a profession of lifelong ministry should fail to avail himself of the opportunity to learn from those who had been taught by Jesus himself. Paul's approach to the Apostles that the visible Jesus chose can be found in the following passages. Paul sneers the three chief Apostles: James, Cephas (i.e. Simon Peter) and John, saying that they "seemed to be pillars" Galatians 2:9. Paul publicly rebukes Peter (Galatians 2:14), scolds Barnabas (Galatians 2:13), and claims "For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles" 2 Corinthians 11:5. And in 2 Corinthians 12:11, Paul claims, "in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing."
Jesus' attitude towards the twelve Apostles was different. "Then answered Peter, and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" Matthew 19:27-28.
Paul clearly felt that the personal revelation that he experienced was of greater value than the years of instruction that the Apostles received from Jesus himself. To test the validity of this assertion, it is necessary to compare Paul's teaching with that of Jesus. If, in fact, Paul's teaching turns out to be a natural extension of that of Jesus, in the same way that a fully grown tree is the natural extension of a sapling, then there may be validity to his belief. If, however, the voice or spirit that Paul thinks communicated with him is unreliable, then we should expect to see Paul choosing a different path than the one Jesus chose.
The fulfillment of the Law
"For all the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself." Galatians 5:14, also see Romans 13:9, in which the sentiment is repeated. Gamaliel, the Pharisee, Hillel the Pharisee's grandson, taught the same thing. Hillel was one of the founding fathers of Phariseeism, and is favorably mentioned in the Talmud.
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Matthew 22:37-40. Also see Mark 12:29-31.
This is the most glaring contradiction between the teaching of Paul and Jesus. On this issue, Paul sides with the Pharisees, who behaved as though they were more afraid of the Roman conquerors of Israel than of God. Thus, those parts of the Law which demanded holiness were weakened, while new rules were created to convince people to submit to secular authorities. Based on the general direction that Paul took religion, it is most likely that the omission of an explicit command to love God was deliberate.
"Slaves, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ." Ephesians 6:5
This passage is based neither on the Old Testament nor on the teaching of Jesus, as will be seen.
"Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying, At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear. . . . But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom he had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and handmaids. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbor: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth." Jeremiah 34:13-17.
"I [Paul] urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment, who was once useless to you but is now useful to you and me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. . . . Perhaps this is why he went away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord." Philemon 10-16.
"Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the slave which is escaped from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him." Deuteronomy 23:15-16.
"[The covenant of Moses] is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar . . . corresponds with the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. It was for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery" Galatians 4:24-5:1.
The escaped slave Onesimus is probably wondering how to avoid "letting [himself] be burdened by a yoke of slavery" when the person who gave that advice, Paul, re-enslaved him, and returned him to his ex-master. Had Paul been under the covenant of Moses, which he likened to slavery, then Paul could not have returned the escaped slave Onesimus back to his master Philemon. However, because Paul was free, a "child of the free woman," his freedom freed him to return Onesimus to slavery. Onesimus, being a Pauline Christian, was, by Paul's reckoning, also a "child of the freewoman." Therefore, "All things are permissible to [him]" (1 Corinthians 6:12), except disobedience to his master (Ephesians 6:5) or to governing authorities generally (Romans 13:1-4). Under these constraints, Onesimus is not the servant of God, but the slave of man.
Paul has more to say on the subject of slavery. In Galatians 5:1, Paul states that "It was for freedom that Christ has set us free" even though his passage 1 Corinthians 7:20-24 states "he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave." Paul appears unable to decide whether Jesus has enslaved Christians or set them free.
The same lack of consistency that Paul exhibited when addressing slavery can also be seen in his approach to circumcision.
"Mark my words, I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all" Galatians 5:2.
"Paul wanted to take [Timothy] along with him on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek" Acts 16:2.
Paul's Attitude Towards Sin
Romans 6:12-14, "Let not sin . . . reign in your mortal body . . . For sin shall have no dominion over you: for you are not under the Law [of Moses], but under grace."
Romans 8:13, "If you live after the flesh, you shall die, but if you, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live."
Romans 7 :14-25 "I am carnal, sold under sin. . . . I can will what is right, but I cannot perform it. For I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, but the evil deeds that I do not desire to do are what I am [ever] doing. . . . [I am] a prisoner to the law of sin that dwells in my bodily organs. . . . I [with mind and heart] serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."
Paul made a promise in Romans 6:14. In a behavior disturbingly similar to a modern politician, he wastes little time in revealing the empty nature of his own promise. Also, it is not immediately clear whether there is an observable difference between "living after the flesh," which Paul states will lead to death (Romans 8:13), and the "law of sin" that Paul admits to serving with his "flesh" in Romans 7:25.
"One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God." Romans 14:5-6
"Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath" Matthew 24:20
"As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean." Romans 14:14
"But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols . . ." Revelation 2:14.
Justification through love alone, as expressed by faith and works, or through faith alone, unaided by love?
"For if Abraham were justified by works, he had whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and was counted unto him for righteousness. Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." Romans 4:2-5
"[B]ecause thou [Abraham] hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." Genesis 22:16-18.
"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by his works was made perfect?" James 2:19-22.
"Abraham . . . was made a friend of God, because he kept the commandments of God and did not choose the will of his own spirit" The Dead Sea Scrolls: Damascus Document, column 3, line 2.
"For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works" Matthew 16:27.
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" Matthew 5:48.
"[I]f thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" Matthew 19:17.
"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink . . . And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal" Matthew 25:41-46.
The status of woman
"For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of man." 1 Corinthians 11:7.
There is nothing in the book of Genesis to support this contention. Genesis does state that woman was created as a helpmate for man, but if anything, this further weakens Paul's already baseless argument, as "he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." Matthew 23:11.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Genesis 1:27.
Based on this passage, it would appear that woman, like man, was created for the glory of God.
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord." Ephesians 5:22. This commandment closely parallels Ephesians 6:5, in which Paul exhorts "slaves, be obedient to . . . your masters . . . as unto Christ." Disturbingly, these two new commands occur within less than a chapter of each other.
"[Pharisees] love to be called of men Rabbi, Rabbi. But be ye not called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. . . . Neither be called masters, for one is your Master, even Christ." Matthew 23:7-10.
Paul saw many christs: a husband is christ over his wife (Ephesians 5:22), an owner a christ over his slaves (Ephesians 6:5), and a secular government the gatekeeper of heaven (Romans 13:2). Paul saw many christs, Jesus saw only one.
Submission to governing authorities
"[The Polish priests] will preach what we want them to preach. If any priest acts differently, we will make short work of him. The task of the priest is to keep the Poles quiet, stupid, and dull-witted" Adolf Hitler. Did Paul's teachings encourage people to critically examine their government, and to insist upon ethical conduct? Or were they more likely to promote the quietness, stupidity, and dull-wittedness that Adolf Hitler saw as prized attributes for conquered people?
"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God" Romans 13:1.
At the time those words were written, Nero, the Roman Caesar, was demanding that his populace worship him as god.
"Everyone must know for all future time that if he raises his hand to strike the State, then certain death is his lot." Adolf Hitler.
"Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they that resist shall receive to themselves [eternal condemnation]" Romans 13:2.
Whether secular rulers deliberately harm good people
"Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod." Mark 8:15
"For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." Romans 13:3-4.
"[Pilate] had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified" Matthew 27:26.
"[Herod] sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in on a platter, and given to [Herodias' daughter] who carried it to her mother" Matthew 14:10-11.
"Wherefore, behold, I send unto you [scribes and Pharisees] prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some ye shall scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth." Matthew 23:34-35.
"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God. . . . At this they . . . began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. . . . And Saul was there, giving approval to his death" Acts 7:55-8:1.
"Unto you [disciples] it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive, and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins forgiven them" Mark 4:11-12.
"And they sent unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch [Jesus] in his words. And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? Shall we, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? Bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is the image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" Mark 12:13-17.
"The earth is the LORD's, and the fullness thereof" Psalms 24:1.
Thus, when someone has finished giving to God what is God's, there is nothing left to render unto Caesar.
"And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? Of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. [Note that this concept of freedom is radically different than Paul's.] Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, [pay the tax anyway, with money miraculously obtained]" Matthew 17:24-27.
"For this cause [i.e., the divine appointment of secular rulers] ye pay 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; honor to whom honor. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law" Romans 13:6-8.
"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in [the place of condemnation]" Matthew 10:28.
Peace or a sword
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I am not come to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:34-37.
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. . . . For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:17-20.
"For [Jesus] is our peace . . . having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace. . . . And [Jesus] came and preached peace to them which were afar off, and to them which were nigh." Ephesians 2:14-17
"[They have said] Peace, peace, when there is no peace. . . . Hear O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people . . . because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor unto my law, but rejected it. . . . your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me." Jeremiah 6:14-20
"And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people . . . because they have seduced my people, saying Peace, and there was no peace . . . Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life" Ezekiel 13:8-23.
"[T]o the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness" Romans 4:5.
"[I]f thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" Matthew 19:17.
"And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife." 1 Corinthians 7:10-11
"The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And [Jesus] answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They said unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committed adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery." Matthew 19:3-9.
The effect of studying the Law
"What can we say? That the law is sin? Of course not! Yet I did not know sin except through the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, 'you shall not covet.' But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of lust. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. . . . But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceedingly sinful." Romans 7:7-13.
A close reading of this passage is necessary to a careful evaluation of the claims Paul is making. The reader is asked to carefully consider Paul's contention that he would not have known to lust after women had he not been commanded against doing so.
"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." James 1:13-14.
"Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. . . . Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. . . . In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen . . . in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. . . . If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. . . . In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city . . . with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. . . . For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man think of me above what he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. . . . in nothing am I behind the very chiefest of the apostles, though I be nothing. . . . For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong" 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:19.
For James, such boasting is proud, potentially hypocritical, hurtful to others, and, ultimately, unneeded.
"But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil" James 4:16.
It is interesting that the word "I" does not once appear in the book of James. Contemporaries had described James as a man of exceptional holiness, a man who prayed so often that the skin on his knees began to resemble a camel's hide. When Paul, in Galatians 1:8, wrote "But though we, or an angel of heaven, preach any other gospel unto you . . ." it is most likely that James was the "angel of heaven" that Paul had in mind. James did not mention the work he had done for God, choosing instead to follow the teaching of Jesus, to "not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing."
Paul the Man
To find information about Paul the man, one can turn to the book of Acts, the Clementines, Paul's letters, and the histories of Josephus. Of the four historians, Josephus appears to have the most knowledge, writes with the most detail, and is the author about whom the most is known. Like most writers of the time, he often chooses to whitewash Roman misdeeds. When "The Jewish War" was written, Josephus had reason to fear execution at the hands of the Romans. Consequently, the book must be dismissed as a piece of pro-Roman propaganda. His later works were written after his adoption into the royal family, and in "Antiquities" he displays a moderate level of willingness to examine Roman and Herodian misconduct.
Interestingly, none of these four sources state that Paul was martyred. There is support for the idea in apocryphal Gentile Christian literature of the time. It is perhaps advisable to read such literature fully before giving wholesale credence to its assertions. In one case, the same work that declares Paul to have been martyred also claims that he baptized a lion, and that the animal spoke to him, going so far as to have a short conversation about how the lion had been captured.
The book of Acts was written by Luke. Luke was a follower of Paul, could write in Greek, and was perhaps from Cyrene. Beyond this, nothing is known about him.
Luke paints a picture of a Paul who is born poor, martyrs Christians before becoming one himself, and who proceeds to live the rest of his life for Christ. Acts attributes several miracles to Paul. The Clementines follow the same basic story line as the first part of Acts, but with some key differences. James is elected the head of the Christian Church following the departure of Jesus. After his conversion, Paul remained on good terms with the Herodian family. He initiated a physical attack on James, in which James was cast down from the Temple stairs, and left for dead. There was, of course, no understanding between Paul and the main Church, and no one gave him permission to preach to the Gentiles.
The first part of the Book of Acts appears to be a rewritten version of an early version of the Clementines. The Clementines presents the Jewish Christian side of the Early Church's history, and Acts presents the Pauline view. Josephus tells the story from the perspective of one who has taken neither side. Josephus's Saulus is a descendent of Herod's brother, and hence is a free-born Roman citizen. Saulus's house arrests were relatively mild affairs, done primarily to protect him from those who had sworn to kill him. Saulus was on bad terms with king Aretas, because Saulus had supported the killer of John the Baptist (Herod Antipas) in his war against King Aretas. As a result of this disagreement, Saulus was not safe in King Aretas's domains, and, at one point, had to escape the city of Damascus by being let down in a basket. For more information about the Herodian family in general, or Paul in particular, see Robert Eisenman's "James the Brother of Jesus."
Josephus's account provides a more comprehensive and consistent explanation of Paul's background than does Luke's. Hillel was one of the most famous Pharisees of all time. His grandson, Gamaliel, was Paul's boyhood teacher. Luke says nothing about how a poor tentmaker's son from somewhere in Turkey could possibly have acquired such a famous teacher. Likewise, there is no mention of why or how Paul was "freeborn" into full Roman citizenship, at a time when the distinction was rare. There is also no explanation of how Paul acquired authority-which he clearly had-to kill Christians (Acts 7:58, 22:20). That a young man should have such power is surprising, that a young man born into a poor and obscure family should have such power is absurd. A more logical and consistent explanation of the facts is the one Josephus provides: Paul was born into a rich and powerful family, was given instruction from the most prestigious Pharisee available, and was later, because of his family connections, given power to persecute Christians in whatever manner he pleased.
"Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth [i.e., the Lord of Hosts, or even the Lord of War]" James 5:4.
This statement echoes back to the riots of the 60s. In these riots, slaves of the Rich High Priests robbed the Poor Lower Priests of tithes that were rightfully theirs. The riots were violent affairs, and some of the Poor Lower Priests were killed. According to Josephus, Saulus actively participated in, and indeed lead, these riots-on behalf of the Rich High Priests. These riots, incidentally, took place well after Saulus's/Paul's Damascus road experience.
"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation." Matthew 12:43-45.
Even a casual perusal of the works of Pauline Christians reveals a disturbing willingness to bend or stretch the truth to gain converts. Because they felt belief to be the necessary and sufficient condition for salvation, they exhibited a strong willingness to fabricate tall tales about miracles that strain credulity. In the Acts of Paul and Thecla (which are a subset of the Acts of Paul), a lovely virgin heroine is cast nearly naked into a stadium, and requires several consecutive very public miracles to rescue her, including help from a mysteriously benevolent lion (perhaps the same one Paul baptized). In several of the infancy gospels, Jesus miraculously killed a boy who had accidentally banged into him. He turned clay pigeons into real birds, for no apparent reason other than that it was the Sabbath. Jesus exhibited a strong willingness to miraculously kill or maim those who disagreed with him, healing people only when doing so would solidify his own social position. Few, if any, of the miracles discussed in these books have moral meaning, the apparent purpose instead being to demonstrate raw power. The efficacy of these works in gaining converts was surprisingly high: there were many who had converted simply on the strength of what they had read in an infancy gospel. Many of these works can be found in "The Other Bible," a compilation of various apocryphal writings.
Apart from the testimony of those actively engaged in marketing Paul's religion, there is no historical evidence to support the contention that Paul's life was marked by any unusual degree of holiness or personal rectitude. On the contrary, aside from the writings of Paul and a few sectarians (who predominately wrote long after Paul's death), early historians paint a disturbing picture of a man whose driving energy was a strong desire for personal aggrandizement and power.
There are genuine, real, and, to some extent, quantifiable consequences to the acceptance of Paul's teaching. In Germany, for example, the Lutherans tended to regard the Old Testament as obsolete. During the early- to mid-twentieth century, there was an effort under way to eliminate it from the Bible. This view, which appears to have been shared throughout Germany, had two important consequences, the first being anti-Semitism. Paul wrote "[the Jews] killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are the enemies of the whole human race" (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). According to James, a different group is responsible for the death of Jesus: "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for the miseries that shall come upon you. . . . Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you." It is clear that the "Rich"--that is, the Herodian family and its Pharisaic allies--were responsible for the death of Jesus. Paul's view had, in Germany, been popular from at least the time of Martin Luther all the way through Hitler's day. The second consequence of relying so strongly on Paul's writings was that the Germans uncritically accepted Hitler's dictatorship. William Shirer, in his 1400 page tome The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich, states (pp 326-327),
It is difficult to understand the behavior most German Protestants in the first Nazi years unless one is aware of two things: their history and the influence of Martin Luther. [At this point, Shirer writes, in a footnote "To avoid any misunderstanding, it might be well to point out here that the author is a Protestant."] The great founder of Protestantism was both a passionate anti-Semite and a ferocious believer in absolute obedience to political authority. He wanted Germany rid of the Jews and when they were sent away he advised that they be deprived of "All their cash and jewels and silver and gold" and furthermore, "that their synagogues or schools be set on fire, that their houses be broken up and destroyed . . . and that they be put under a roof or stable, like the gypsies . . . in misery and captivity as they incessantly lament and complain to God about us" -advice that was literally followed four centuries later by Hitler, Goering, and Himmler. In what was perhaps the only popular revolt in German history, the peasant uprising of 1525, Luther advised the princes to adopt the most ruthless measures against the "mad dogs," as he called the desperate, downtrodden peasants. Here, as in his utterances about the Jews, Luther employed a coarseness and brutality of language unequalled in German history until the Nazi time.
Luther wanted the Book of James and the Book of Revelation eliminated from the New Testament. Not coincidentally, these books display the least Pauline influence of any books in the New Testament. That Luther envisioned a world in which the secular authorities are free to brutally exploit the populace, and in which Jews are driven away or killed, is clear. That these attitudes have their root in Paul's writings is equally clear.
Most of Paul's new commands are reciprocal, if not conditional. His command to wives that they obey their husbands like Christ is somewhat balanced by his command to husbands that they love their wives. While Paul, unlike the Law of Moses, does not command slave owners to release their slaves, he asks them to exercise moderation when threatening slaves. While these commands are reciprocal, they are not conditional: slaves must still obey their masters even if the masters are wholly unreasonable, wives must still obey their husbands "as Christ" no matter how the husband chooses to act.
Romans 13:1-4 is neither reciprocal nor conditional: it simply commands obedience to whatever secular authorities command, and such commands are labeled "ordinances of God." Anyone who resists secular authority, for any reason whatsoever, will receive eternal condemnation. Like Paul's other new commands, this is not conditional: people must obey secular authorities, even when secular authorities are clearly giving evil commands. The principle difference is the lack of reciprocity: there is nothing that commands secular authorities to exercise moderation, justice, or any other moral principle. It is not surprising that nearly every society that has taken Paul as its primary spiritual authority has adopted political tyranny and governmental brutality. Such societies include Germany from Luther to Hitler, Czarist Russia, the and slaveholding tidewater South.
Total governmental brutality did not end in any of these societies until Paul's teaching was moderated by some other influence. In the Cavalier South, the Enlightenment produced new ideas, eventually culminating in the Declaration of Independence. In Germany, political pressure from Marxist industrial workers forced Bismark to institute needed reforms. In Czarist Russia, Marxist pressure went even further, producing a new government which became the worst mass murderer in the world's history.
In the coastal portions of the American South, during the 1600s and 1700s, the Anglican Church (which is the only church that had been allowed to exist) based its teaching primarily around Paul's writings. Slavery was a natural extension of the social structure that had, for hundreds of years, employed a high degree of social stratification. Indentured servants were, practically speaking, white slaves. Even while still in England, the Cavaliers preserved a greater degree of stratification, in both wealth and social status, than was common among the Puritans, Quakers, or even the Borderers.
The Puritans, on the other hand, tended to use all the parts of the Bible about equally, and did not come under excessive Pauline influence. They did not keep slaves. In the migrations from England to America, the Puritans deliberately discouraged those who were very rich or very poor from moving to the Puritan settlements. Thus, they created a society in which economic and social class distinctions were more muted, and therefore less important. The fact that the pressure to "keep up with the Joneses" had been reduced freed people to more fully focus on loving God, and doing His will. Also, it is easier to love one's neighbor when there is less competition.
The Puritans built a society in which tyranny was greatly discouraged. Not only was a husband not allowed to strike his wife, he was not even allowed to insult her. One man had told his wife "you are nothing but a servant." Some thirty of his neighbors took this man to court, and, despite his wife's refusal to press charges, he received a hefty fine. Rape was punishable by death.
In contrast, the coastal South (i.e., the coastal portions of Maryland and Virginia) tended to turn a blind eye to rape. If a woman indentured servant became pregnant, her servitude was extended. Therefore, it was fairly common for the masters of women indentured servants to rape them, for the purpose of extending their servitude. The courts tended to be hesitant about pressing charges against such rapes.
On the few occasions that they did so, the fines were moderate. In one instance (not involving indentured servants), the same court meted out the following rulings. One person was convicted of stealing pigs, and was killed by hanging. Another was convicted of scolding, and received a five shilling fine. A third was convicted of raping an eleven year old girl, and was fined one shilling.
Paul, in Romans 7:19-20, wrote, "For I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, but the evil deeds I do not desire to do are what I am [ever] doing. Now if I do what I do not desire to do, it is no longer I doing it, but the sin which dwells within me." The diaries of the Cavalier men reveal a similar pattern of evil deeds followed by feeling sorry. The median aristocratic married man tended to engage in a pattern of rape, or at least adultery, followed by a brief period of regret. This regret seemed to vanish whenever the next sexual opportunity appeared: a different woman every week or two was considered fairly normal. For more information, read "Albion's Seed, Four British Folkways in America." The book was written by a southerner, and presents an intelligent, well written account of the weaknesses and strengths of America's four main regional cultures.
Despite its flaws, the tidewater South had strengths unique to itself. In some ways, it encouraged a more balanced and more whole way of life than the Puritans. At their best, the Cavaliers produced such towering giants as George Washington, one of history's truly great men. Washington could have engaged in brutal sexual or economic exploitation--with few if any economic or social penalties--but he chose not to. Instead, he achieved sophistication, intellectual achievement, cultural awareness, courage, decorum, and honor. He was the embodiment of the tidewater South at its best: in his person, the region's weaknesses were muted, its strengths magnified.
Most people cannot rise to the level of greatness achieved by Washington. The tidewater South encouraged marital fidelity among females, but not males. This sexual "double standard" existed among Cavaliers, but not Puritans. The results of eliminating sexual norms for males proved horrifying. Rape was so common in colonial tidewater Maryland and Virginia that one common folk saying defined a virgin as a girl that could run faster than her uncle.
C.S. Lewis once wrote that the teachings of Jesus tend to be harsh, and that Paul's writings soften their impact. This is true. But is it good? Do you want those in power to be held accountable to a high moral standard with harsh penalties, or a low moral standard with slap-on-the-wrist penalties? If a man is deciding whether to rape his niece, is it more beneficial for him to read "All things are permissible" (1 Corinthians 6:12) or "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." (Matthew 7:19)?
James the Just, in James 1:12, stated that salvation belongs to those who love God, who are patient under trial, and who stand up under temptation. Jesus stated that the most important command contained in the Law is the duty to love God with all your heart. Yes, the duty to love God--a duty which Paul omitted from his teaching--is more difficult than merely believing. Real Christianity is a hard road to follow, certainly harder than the salvation through belief that Paul preached.
Jesus and James asked for more than just belief. They asked for more than just a love for neighbor. They asked people to love God, to love Him passionately, to love Him so deeply that patience under trial and the resistance of temptation would inevitably follow. Yes, good works could be expected to follow too. But, in their eyes, the key, the cornerstone, the seed, the necessary and the sufficient condition for salvation is a passionate, whole-hearted love for God.
While the choice is not easy, the right answer is clear. A society that bases its actions upon justice, upon love of God, and upon a genuine respect and love of neighbor will be a more peaceful, more equitable, more fair place to live than a society that believes works to be irrelevant, exploitation normal, and holiness a quaint fancy.
Paul rejected the authority of the Apostles that Jesus appointed, and the Apostles that Jesus appointed rejected Paul. Paul lacked authority to preach, and his own letters make it clear that he did not possess a letter of recommendation from the authorities that Jesus instituted. Jesus did not institute the Twelve Apostles as a means of personal amusement or to fill his idle time; he did so to protect the Church from idle, heretical, or blasphemous doctrines. He did so with the intention of creating an institution that would preserve correct teaching. Paul chose to go outside of this institution, without a letter of recommendation, and without benefiting himself from its teaching or instruction. Not only do Paul's writings lack consistency or reliability, they cannot be considered Christian.