A Response to Summary of the Pauline Conspiracy
‘The Pauline Conspiracy’ linked at the bottom of this article: ‘concerns the accusation that Saul of Tarsus did not simply usurp the embryonic Jerusalem Church under Jesus’s brother James, but that he also corrupted the entire original message of Christianity.’
This is a response to the main points of that accusation contained in the summary of that article:
by Wesley Bishop
It is also a given fact that the religion practiced as Christianity is Pauline Christianity and not the faith or religion of Jesus’ disciples. That is the Church that Jesus ordained, not Paul’s.
In essence I agree, contingent upon the conclusion that were it not for Paul carrying the message beyond the Jews of Palestine (a very significant contribution to the organization called Christianity), the fledgling Christianity as practiced by the Apostles in Palestine would have been obliterated by the Roman onslaught when the Temple was destroyed and after. In carrying the message of Jesus beyond the initial Jewish converts, the message was made available to any person in the world who cared to hear. This is crucial to understanding the growth and spread of Christianity, without which the fate of Christianity is tied directly to that of Judaism. As a lesser and recent sect of Judaism, Christianity would most likely have suffered a fate not unlike that of Qumran or Masada.
When Saul is first mentioned we know only that he was a student in the Rabbinical school of Gameleil,
Which Gamaliel? Having asked this question of a Jewish student of the Torah whose knowledge I hold in high esteem, I learned that there are several Rabbis with that given name.
But the names that resound from his inner circle are loud in the history of the Church. John Mark, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Apollos, Silas, and Luke.
These facts are not disputed, for they are the means with which he was able to capture the future of the Christian movement. They were the means through which he managed victory over another list of names which should have been even more prominent in religious history.
Peter, James the Lord’s brother, John the son of Zebedee, and the living Jesus who was called the Christ.
So that I am certain my understanding is in line with this, this is the same Luke who wrote the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of Luke, and this is the same John Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark? As “hired hands” (to be polite) of Paul, surely these works also come into question…and since Matthew was a tax collector, and we all know tax collectors cannot be trusted to tell the truth…
This is the slippery slope I alluded to earlier. Are we to selectively edit the New Testament, and if so, where do we draw the line and by what justification? In condemning one writer by a set of standards, do we ignore those same standards when applied to other writers?
The depth of Paul’s organization made it possible for him to take his gospel into the world and thus, to dominate the very essence of the Church as it exists today.
“Paul’s” domination is twofold. First, the message of Jesus was carried beyond the confines of Judaism. Second, the “firstborn” church of Christianity was laid waste by the Roman military. Ah! Seeing it now in this manner, how often in the Old Testament is the younger son set above the older son? Jacob and Esau leap to mind, and Ephraim and Manasseh come to mind as well. Further, had Paul not carried the message of Jesus beyond the confines of Judaism, then it would still be requisite to be Jewish before one could be Christian!
We stipulate to these things because they are fact, but the other side of the coin is a different story. We could, as others have done, draw assumptions concerning the man and his activities. We might make conjectures about the meaning of his statements just to place Paul in the best light possible. Then we would be as guilty as those who constantly applaud him.
Is this a nice way of silencing critics? Yes, we might “draw assumptions.” We might also base those “assumptions” on known history, rather than selective interpretation of texts that have long drawn criticism from scholars. We might take a bigger picture view of the affair, looking at the political climate of the region as a whole, in drawing our assessment. And we might, considering this is a subject related to the growth and promotion of a monotheistic faith in One Creator G-d, consider that that Creator G-d might have actually had some hand in the growth and promotion of that monotheistic faith. This is appeal to authority, true, but an authority without which this entire discussion is meaningless.
Paul drew from hearsay information, the myriad cult myths that abounded in his world, his Jewish education, his understanding of Hellenistic philosophies, and his consummate creative imagination.
To paraphrase Paul, did he not say something to the effect of: “To the Romans I am a Roman, to the Greeks I am a Greek, to the Jews I am a Jew.” Yes, Paul was a political and cultural chameleon. And I do wonder how much of the misgivings over his works are misunderstandings or misinterpretations cross-culturally. And politically motivated. Personally, I find it impressive that he was able to translate a radically Jewish concept into Greek and Roman terms, that is, present Jesus’ message in a meaningful way to non-Jews. Perhaps this “poetic license” of Paul was later abused, it remains to be seen. Paul’s cultural chameleon methods are certainly the same methods historically used by the Catholic institution in its missionary spread throughout the world.
And that which he drew upon from God’s Holy Scriptures, he manipulated and misquoted.
Personally, I think Paul brought a rather deep understanding to some OT teachings, if one can get past the fluff usually taught in a typical church today.
If Jesus’ word contradicted Paul’s gospel and his Hellenistic theology he would have disregarded Jesus’ words at once.
We do not know this.
Luke is discredited by professional Christian theologians. They tell us that where Paul contradicts writing, such as Luke, Paul is to be taken as correct. This is to say that the Bible is something less than inspired by God. (The Interpreter’s Bible; Volume 9: Page 126)
Poor Luke can’t catch a break, he’s damned if he does and damned if he don’t…”the Bible is something less than inspired by God” either way…regardless of how Luke is discounted, it further erodes the value of the Gospels and the Acts, and the New Testament by extension. Do we keep the Gospel and trash the Acts, when they are effectively the first and second halves of the same narrative?
Besides, depending which professional Christian theologian you are speaking of, any part of the entire Bible can be brought into serious question.
We have shown Paul’s theology, repeating it time and again. His basic concept of redemption hinges on one act. And upon the blood offering of a human sacrifice, depends salvation for the entire human race.
Considering, if Paul was a Jew of the Pharisaic tradition having learned at the feet of Gamaliel, living during the time when animal sacrifice was practiced on a factory scale by the Jews at the Temple, and blood sacrifice was practiced by virtually every surrounding culture, I fail to see why one should be shocked at this. The Jewish Temple is usually thought of by Christians today as if it were some kind of Church or Cathedral. It was not. The inner sanctuaries were reserved solely for devout Jews born into the faith, and the inner most sanctuary was reserved solely for the High Priest on one specific day of the year. The outer court, where everybody did their religious business, going about seeking absolution of sin, was a marvel of engineering for the sole purpose of slaughter and butchering and burning the sacrifices. That is why the sellers of doves and money changers were in the outermost courtyard, offering their wares in what, IMHO, had become a mindless ritual devoid of any meaning any more. The people no longer offered sacrifice out of a sense of duty, it was something you just did because it was expected of you. Hence, a portion of the motivations that lay behind the rage behind Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple courtyard.
The nature of Paul’s theology is speculative. It is based on conjecture.
Is not your theology, mine, everybody’s, if we really get truthful with ourselves?
Paul seems to be rationalizing his prejudices.
Don’t we all?
and claims that his eyes are practically useless, which makes the first two visions highly suspicious.
Why? 14 years ago my eyes were much better than they are now, it troubles me greatly to watch as my vision deteriorates.
and he denied God’s Commandments (i.e., the Law).
I missed this part. Are you saying a student the likes of Paul, duly trained in the Pharisaic tradition, denied the Ten Commandments? Now, I can see a lot of wiggle room pertaining to the 600 other Levitical laws, which IMHO would seem necessary in order to translate what is effectively a Jewish cultural thing into a more Greek / Roman / Pagan cultural thing. But he still remained, as far as I can see, within the confines of the Ten Commandments and The Noahide Laws, particularly once his ministry started.
Now, I can understand and sympathize with the conclusion that Paul places an inordinate emphasis on faith over works. In this I am more inclined towards the teaching of James, and the words of Jesus. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Since Christianity today insists that even the Holy Scriptures as revealed to Judaism speak of Jesus, let us openly pursue that reference in denial of Paul’s Hellenistic theology.
“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled. ‘” (The New Testament: Revised Standard Version: Luke 24:44)
“Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Not only does the evangelist of John contradict his own opening statement as to Jesus’ sonship, here indicating the he is the, “…son of Joseph…”, but he insists that it is the law through which Jesus comes to us. Jesus himself indicates that the law and the prophets give us a knowledge of him.
Therefore I remark that if the law gives us a knowledge and understanding of the Christ, then how can the law be denied? To deny the law is to deny Jesus. And if the Living Christ comes to us through the law, who is to be our salvation, then how can the law be corrupt? For if the law is corrupt, so is Messiah, and there is no redemption.
In truth, the way of our salvation is through the law, and in the words of scripture which men consider ‘holy’, those things on which we will be judged are of the law. Does not James, Jesus’ brother, agree with this logic?
Ummm, no. This is circular logic. You allude to laws speaking of Jesus, yet provide no support, at least not here. And I know from previous experience, in asking Jewish scholars about prophecy pertaining to Messiah, even the prophecies typically raised by Christians from the OT, (Isaiah comes to mind). The Jewish interpretation is quite different. In their view, Jesus did not fulfil prophecy, let alone law.
It is not denial of law if the law cannot be produced. This challenge has been laid before Christians here in times past, with nothing definitive ever coming from it. In short, this is a circular supposition. How can a law that doesn’t exist be denied? How can one point to a law that doesn’t exist as proof, and then accuse those who don’t accept a blind supposition without evidence?
Jesus is very distinct when it comes to validating the Law, and pronouncing the punishment for those who teach others to ignore God’s commandments.
“For verily I say unto you, Til heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…” (The Authorized Version of King James: Matthew 5:18-19)
OK, which law? Paul did not teach against Noahide Law. Paul did not teach against the Ten Commandments. That leaves the Levitical Law. So, if no part of the 617 (*correction, 613, -jt3) or so Levitical Laws (not a jot or tittle!) passes, then how come Christians often eat pork? How come Christians are often uncircumcised? My suggestion would be because they never were bound by Levitical Law to begin with, coming from the pagan backgrounds that they did.
Of course, others are welcome to guide their Christian faith-walk by a different set of parameters if they wish, but if one carries this line of reasoning to its natural conclusions, circumcision is a must, no unclean meats may be eaten, linsey/woolsey must be observed, the Jewish Holy Days must be observed in propriety…in effect, one must be a Jew in all aspects who also happens to believe Jesus is Messiah. Monumental undertaking, especially since one is not likely to gain much sympathy or assistance from the Jewish community, who view Jesus at worst as a traitor to the faith, and at best as a misguided rabbi.
And then Paul had the audacity, the impudence, to teach that, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord… For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.”
This student has come to believe that it was all done out of Paul’s contempt, his hatred, for the Apostles, the Twelve.
Just want to be certain I am on the same page…this is after having rebuked Paul for disregarding the Law? What is contemptible about saying that something as sacrosanct as Communion to a Christian should be done in the reverent and contrite (read that: correct) attitude it was intended? Indeed, considering the direct connotation between Jesus’ sacrifice (of which Communion is the symbol) and the blood sacrifice of the Jewish Temple, and what was brought to light earlier about how the sacrifice had become a mindless habit, Paul was (in my view) forewarning against the same mindless disrespect following onto the Christian symbol of remembrance. Bearing in mind this same mindlessness was a contributing factor to the only time written that Jesus actually showed righteous indignation.
Our problem lies in the fact that it is too late to erase the false path upon which the Church has been led. To do so now would mean the total collapse of Christianity as we have known it for two thousand years, for every doctrine the religion holds to is from Paul.
I don’t know that I would use the term “false.” That one sees an alternate path does not inherently presume that G-d has chosen only one path back to Him. (Let alone, that one is specifically on that singular correct path)
The sacrament of Communion is from Paul.
Paul would have us believe that he received the custom from the Lord. It is agreed that he had not been present at the Last Supper. Professional theologians insist that if we take Paul’s words literally, we would have to believe with that Paul received his instructions in a vision from the risen Lord. For a more pointed statement one must read the following notations from professional theologians.
“…and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (I Corinthians 11:25; RSV)
Mark’s Gospel has no way to verbalize this is my body, but he does have the invitation to eat. That is lacking in Paul, and in its place there stands an order to repeat the act in remembrance of Christ. Professional interpreter’s and theologians tell us that no Gospel contains this; the text of Luke (22:19b-20) is believed to be a later insertion based on I Corinthians. (The Interpreter’s Bible; Volume 10: Page 137)
The body of Christ, the body of believers, God incarnate, the pre-existence of Jesus, that Jesus is human yet divine, that his spilled blood is the means of our salvation, all of this is from Paul. To admit to this fraud at such a late date would be disastrous. So in order to defend its indefensible position, the ministry, the priesthood, does not teach those portions of Paul’s letters that we have critiqued. Their inept response is that if Paul wrote a letter addressed as an apostle, then he was an apostle.
I do not speak for the church, any church, but as a humble student finding his way along the path back home to my Father. On this issue we will simply have to agree to disagree. I do not take my value of Communion from Paul, but from Jesus in the role of Christ. Perhaps one must see and understand the value of the Jewish Holy Days, specifically the High Holy Day of Passover, and the timing of Jesus’ sacrifice (when He “gave up the ghost”) in order to fully appreciate the symbolic meaning and the reverence with which it should be rendered, if it is to be rendered properly in my view. Better not to partake of Communion or the Passover meal at all, than to do so improperly.
Has any Christian ever heard a sermon preached on any of the subjects we have mentioned herein? Has any Christian ever heard a position taken by the clergy which would openly force a decision between, Jesus and Paul? Paul and the Apostles? Paul or God?
Ah, but this presumes people think for themselves! How few really do? The rest, as the famous atheist Nietzsche reminds us, are “cattle.” Wherein lies the fault, on the cattle, or the cattle herders?
(Just put your indulgence money in the coffers, and all will be forgiven……can’t blame that on Paul)
The results of Paul’s activities on this earth have caused the disappearance of the Jerusalem Church and the religion practiced by Jesus’ chosen Apostles.
Paul’s activities are *not* the singular cause of the disappearance of the Jerusalem church. If we must seek one singular cause, then it is the Roman army and the Roman government. From the sack of Jerusalem, the Diaspora brought on by the Bar Kochba revolt, at least 4 “great” persecutions of the Christians in the interim leading up to Emperor Constantine, and under Constantine the consolidation by the first great Council (Nicea?).
It would be interesting to learn more of the British Christians of the time of Constantius (Constantine’s daddy), what their views towards Paul were, considering it was a favor to them specifically that Christianity was removed from the roles of outlawed religions in the Roman Empire. This is not relying on circular reasoning, or questionable interpretation; this is historically known and accepted by any reputable scholar of history of the time.
It seemed strange to this student that even the gospels could be corrupted by Paul’s touch, as indeed they have. But to see two thousand years of the generations of mankind who have suffered due to the results of his work, is devastating.
If this is so, then we are back to denuding the New Testament. In effect, the end result is that none of the material is reliable, ergo, trash it all. Why be a Christian? Just be a Jew and be done with it. Or a Deist, if one still prefers to eat ham and pork chops.
His desire for power, authoritative dominion, and his decisions under the pretence of that absolute control, have led the Church to practice excommunication, genocide, imprisonment, and death for unbelievers.
Seems a lot to lay at the feet of Paul. He alone is responsible for all of these things? Hmmm, maybe he is responsible for my ingrown toenails too.
I can understand “blaming” Paul for things He did directly, and how one may not agree with his methods and style. But it hardly seems fair, or accurate, to lay blame upon him for things that transpire hundreds of years after the man has been laid to rest!
“…each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done…. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through the fire.” (I Corinthians 2:13-15; RSV)
The ‘fire’ that he lit burned innocents at the stake; they were hanged, strangled, impaled, beheaded, and stoned to death… so easily misled, so many died, all for the desires of one man.
Caesar, of course, had absolutely nothing to do with any of this…?
And of the power that led him? It must be considered Satan’s greatest victory since Adam and Eve were banished from the garden.
“Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought, But if it be of G-d, ye cannot overthrow it: lest haply ye be found even to fight against G-d.” -Acts 5:38-39
Of course, I suppose one could claim that since Luke was a dupe of Paul, that Paul had Luke write that just to cover his hiney…
The test is in the doing of the work, and in the doing of the work a decision has been made. For this student, he chooses the faith of the Twelve and Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Living Christ!
I have no argument with this assessment. It does not require undermining Paul to achieve it. Just remember, Jesus was a Jew. To properly follow this specific path will require becoming observant of the Levitical Laws, while simultaneously being ostracized by Judaism proper. Tough task. A noble aspiration. Best of wishes.
Visit ‘The Pauline Conspiracy’ here:
For a fuller discussion please visit the threads below in the forums:
A Refutation Of Pauline Controversy
Did anybody refute A. Victor Garaffa article on Paul?