A Few Words About the “Apostle” Paul

Most Christians are aware that sometime after the crucifixion of Jesus, Peter and John under the leadership of Jesus’ brother, James, controlled and maintained the Jerusalem congregation. They sent out emissaries (known as “apostles”) to speak in their behalf to other Jewish congregations across Asia Minor.

Some years later, Paul announced that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him and gave him special knowledge about the meaning of Jesus. He said he was endorsed by Jesus’ own brother, James and by Peter and John. He recounted how they told him to spread the message of Jesus to the rest of the Gentile world. He believed his understanding of Jesus was superior to the message the world had received so far. He insisted that his message was transmitted directly from God and was therefore, beyond question.

He further asserted that he was appointed as an “apostle” by none other than James, Peter, and John.

He wrote of his visions and interpretations of the sacred texts that eventually took their place alongside of the existing scriptures the followers of Jesus already believed.

What? . . . Wait a minute. . . . I am sorry. . . did I say “Paul”?

. . . I meant “Joseph Smith”.

These were claims he made beginning in 1820 that became the foundation of the Mormon church.1 He was and is almost universally rejected as a false prophet by main-stream fundamentalist Christians.

They see no reason to believe his unsubstantiated claims, made years after the time of Jesus. After all, by his own admission, he never met Jesus before his execution. And yet, for two thousand years, fundamentalist Christians have bought into the same story – hook, line and sinker. Just switch out Joseph Smith and replace him with (Paul) Saul of Tarsus.

Paul proclaimed himself to be an apostle (ἀπόστολος), one “sent” to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. Romans 11:13. But aside from the writings attributed to him, there is no evidence in support of this proposition. The only alleged contemporary “witness” to his claims was his traveling companion, Luke, who also never met Jesus.

Why then, you may ask, do Christians unanimously accept his claims, the earliest of which were written at least twenty years after the crucifixion?

Back in my Christian years, I struggled with hopeless attempts to reconcile Paul’s teachings with those that other New Testament writers attributed to Jesus and to his own brother, Jacob (universally mistranslated as “James”).

Jesus was reported to have said “think not that I am come to destroy the law [Torah}, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” But he didn’t stop there. He went on to say “till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matthew 5:17-18 Emphasis mine.

Jesus’ brother, James, clearly believed nothing in the Torah had changed. No one was to pick and choose what they wanted and reject what they did not. He said “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10.2

According to the writer of Matthew, Jesus proclaimed that everyone is to be judged by what they did in life. When it comes to rewards or punishments in the afterlife, Jesus displayed literally no interest in what people did or did not believe. In his account of the final judgment, what people believe is not even mentioned as a criteria for reward or punishment. Matthew 25:31-46.

It is impossible to reconcile these claims with Paul’s assertion that “sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14 And “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes.” Romans 10:4.3 This was Paul’s position, even though heaven and earth had clearly not yet passed away.

James said “faith without works is dead, being alone.” James 2:17-24. Compare his approach with that of Paul, who emphasized the belief, rather than the actions of Abraham as the thing that was “counted to him as righteousness”, James said it was the actions of Abraham that made the difference. According to Paul’s “other Gospel”4, it was not what Abraham did, but what he thought in his head that made all the difference. Romans 4:1-3. For Paul, one’s acts of compassion and kindness are of no value at all. See Romans 3:28.

Modern Christians may not clearly understand that what Paul was saying amounted to teaching others to disregard the law. But according to Luke, James and the other leaders in Jerusalem certainly did.

They told Paul there were “many thousands of Jews . . . which believe; and they are all zealous of the law”. But they had heard rumors that Paul was teaching “all of the Jews that are among the Gentiles [overseas congregations in places such as Alexandria, Corinth and Galatia]” to “forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs”. Acts 21:20-22.

Apparently, this “other Gospel” of Paul did not play well among those who had actually known Jesus back in Jerusalem. But it was precisely what he was communicating to the congregation in Galatia.5 In an attempt to save himself from the mob (you know, Jesus’ own family and those Paul refers to as those who “seemed to be pillars” of the Church)6, he jumped through hoops to demonstrate to them that he was still 100 percent on the obey-the-law train. See Acts 21:23-26.

He desperately needed the illusion of their endorsement. If he was not an “apostle” or authorized messenger sent from James, Peter and John, the Jewish congregations overseas would never listen to his radical theories about the expiration of the law (Torah).

No wonder he thought it was necessary to write to the congregation in Galatia that he was definitely not lying to them. Galatians 1:207

But the people in Jerusalem were not buying it. He was arrested and almost killed by the leadership in Jerusalem. This would have been the end of his “ministry” had he not been rescued by Roman guards.

Indeed, Paul’s message was as different from the message of Jesus and his people back in Jerusalem as his language of choice (Greek) was from the language of everything they considered to be scripture.

For a deeper dive into this important difference, see my previous article about the “other gospel“. For more details about how the books of the New Testament, including the writings of Paul, were published in the first place, see my last post Presenting Myth as an Historical Record and check out my most recent books that thoroughly document this subject.

The only way to really understand what an author was trying to accomplish is to learn as much as we can about who his intended audience was and what were his motives.

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  1. At the time, he had three supporting witnesses (Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris) who claimed in a document written by Harris that Smith’s claims were true. ↩︎
  2. For meticulously documented discussions of the disparity between the position of James and the Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) community and that of Paul, see my books The Second Crucifixion of Jesus and Revelation and the AntiChrist. ↩︎
  3. Paul was all in on supporting, eating with, and obeying the rules of Rome. He even went so far as to say “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers [the Roman Empire]. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Romans 13:1. He further argues that the Roman authorities “. . . are God’s ministers” and instructed his readers to pay Roman taxes and to follow all of their rules (verses 6 -7). ↩︎
  4. Romans 2:16. ↩︎
  5. See Galatians 6:15. “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” ↩︎
  6. Galatians 2:9. ↩︎
  7. Note the glaring difference between the account of how Paul submissively complied with the demands of the Jerusalem leaders when there (Acts 21:21-26), and his story of how he really showed Peter a thing or two in Antioch. Galatians 2:11-14. ↩︎


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