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The Pauline problem

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Paul has always been a controversial figure in the Christian faith. Some scholars like Dr. Tabor and Prof. Eisenman have identified Paul as the HaKohen Harasa, the “Wicked Priest” as is recorded in the Dead Sea scrolls. Proto-Orthodox Christians believed he was an Apostle of God, and thus a central and authoritative figure of the Christian faith. Islam’s view of Paul is largely negative, most viewing him as a corrupter of the faith of Jesus the Son of Mary, a similar belief to that of the views attributed to the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the people of Qumran.

The Disciples of Jesus

The problem of Paul though, begins with the problems of the disciples. We must understand that the disciples were the ones chosen by God to accompany the Christ in his mission throughout the lands of Palestine. Richard Newton writes in his  book, “The Life of Jesus for the Young“, he states the following, “It was necessary for these men to be chosen.” These men were chosen to accompany the Christ, so that they could have learned from him, seen his ways, studied from his teachings and from then on, to continue the work that the Christ had started. It is recorded in Matthew 10:5-6, the following commands of Jesus the Christ:

“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.”

This command is very important, Jesus the Christ is delimiting the disciples on the scope of their missionary work. He directs them to absolutely convey the message he preaches, to the sheep of Israel. To further confirm this message of being sent to only the twelve tribes of Israel, we read from Matthew 15:21-28:

“21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” 25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” 27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.”

There are many things to be learnt from here, but the most important are:

         Jesus reiterates the scope of his preaching, that is, to the sheep of Israel.

         The curing of the Canaanite woman’s daughter is an exception to the rule and not the rule in itself.

         The disciples witnessed this incident and learnt from it

This passage is unfortunately misrepresented by many Christians to demonstrate that Christ’s message was for all peoples, as in the example above he cures a Canaanite girl. The problem for those who interpret this passage in such a way, is that Jesus did not state that this was his new philosophy, he reiterates, emphasizes only a few verses before that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. His curing of this woman’s daughter, is an exception to the rule and not a rule in itself. This is often difficult for Christians to digest. Jesus explicitly states who he was sent for, and him doing an act contrary to his own teachings would label him a liar. Surely, the Christ is not a liar, he still retained the belief that he was only sent for the lost sheep of Israel, after curing this Canaanite girl. There is no passage in which he goes off after this incident and preaches to the gentiles, therefore this incident was an exception to the rule and not the rule in itself. It is important to note that the disciples witnessed this, we need to hold this point in mind for now, as it will correlate with what we read further on.

These disciples were chosen by the Christ, to teach God’s message as instructed by the Christ. They were to carry on after him, or carry the message in whichever city or town he directed them to.

The Dilemma

If the disciples were specifically chosen by the Christ to spread the message given to him by God, then the Christian faith would have us believe that either Christ or God, whoever chose these men, made a gross and negligent error. The image painted of the disciples in the Gospels and the Pauline Epistles is one of great ineptitude, hypocrisy, lying, forgetfulness and ignorance. Here are a few examples of the incapability of these men to understand the Christ. How could they teach his message, yet alone preserve it, if they were unable to even understand it?

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” – Matthew 16:23

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” – Mark 8:33

This incident is of great concern. Peter is the one upon whom the Church was to be built (Matthew 16:18), the Christ says to Peter a few verses before referring to him as Satan, “the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” How absurd is such an incident! Within the space of 5 verses, Satanic influences will never overcome Peter, but a few verses down and the Christ is directly referring to Peter as Satanic. What message are we to take from this? We continue to read:

“23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” – Matthew 8:23-26

The disciples are of weak and of little faith. Somehow having a God-man in front of them was not enough to convince them of his power, at this point in time they clearly were concerned about their well being, if they had the belief that Jesus was a deity, then they would not have been concerned in the least. To the contrary, they awoke him when they found their lives and his life to be endangered, Jesus then rebukes them for their little faith. A question needs to be asked here, in what regard was their faith, little? If they believed he was a God, then either awake or asleep, he would be all knowing and would protect them. If they believed in him as a messenger of God, a human, then waking him to invoke the mercy of God would save them from the perilous waters. Therefore since they woke him to make him aware of the dangerous weather, then it clearly implies they did not view him as a deity. He rebukes them in this case because they should have been aware that God would protect him and his disciples, for God is always in control of the earth. If we do take this verse in the Christian sense though, it becomes problematic as it renders the disciples as people of little faith despite the deity among them. Continuing, we read in Luke 9:46-50:

46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” 49 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” 50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

This paints the disciples as people seeking fame, greatness, without regard for serving God and being humble in their servitude. The Christ though, says something towards the end of the passage that reflects awfully on Paul, “for whoever is not against you is for you“. Either way, this passage demonstrates great moral faults with the disciples and their behaviour. We read in another passage from the Gospel attributed to John, in John 21:20-22:

 “20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?””

In this incident, the disciples are not only jealous of each other, they completely misunderstand what Jesus is trying to teach them. It would also seem that a scribe has commented on this by trying to explain why the disciples were mistaken and what they should have understood from Christ’s words, versus what they understood. Another negative picture of the disciples is shown here, in Matthew 26:40-46:

“Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!””

These passages illustrate for us, even more weakness in faith from the disciples. They willingly disobey the Christ, they refuse to follow his instructions and they chose to sleep rather than pray for the Christ. This is at the end of Christ’s ministry, if they expected Jesus to die soon or to be crucified, then one would expect them to be up all night in prayer, seeking protection for their teacher. However, they clearly are not willing to do so and the Christ being tortured to death is of little concern, as opposed to a comfortable sleep.

The Arrival of Paul

Paul’s epistles were authored somewhere between 47 CE and 65 CE. This is some 14 years after the time of Christ. Between 33 CE and 47 CE, we would expect many of the Jews to be told of their works and their teachings, etc. In fact, the Jews of Jerusalem and in many towns and cities were beginning to accept Jesus as the Messiah, they sat with and learned from the disciples:

“11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? 15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[d] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” – Galatians 2:11-16.

We will return to this passage shortly. There is something important to be pointed out, 14 years since Jesus’ ascension, the disciples continued to preach solely to the lost sheep of Israel and made their base of operations, Jerusalem. Paul disagrees with them on many issues, and insults them, referring to them as hypocrites who are condemned by the law. There are a few facts that need to be stated:

         Paul’s works preceded the Gospels.

         Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles far outnumbered the congregation of the Jews following the teachings of the Christ.

This is important, because it then allows us to understand that in order for Paul to have gained authority in the Church, he would have to denigrate the disciples and create the impression that they were not true to Christ. Surely, Paul’s animosity and hate for the disciples, manifested itself into the Gospel accounts which later corroborated/ confirmed the views of Paul in their descriptions of the disciples as inept, ignorant and weak in faith. Paul’s rise to authority in the Church is based upon the inaction and misguidance of the disciples of Christ. This would undoubtedly have to mean that either God or Christ made the wrong decision on choosing 12 disciples to convey God’s message as for 14 years they failed to do so and were hypocrites, and of little faith. In order for Christians to believe that Paul rebuked them for not conveying God’s true message, Christians must believe that the disciples were disobedient and failed to properly teach the Christ’s message, and that they were hiding the true message of preaching to all peoples and not just to the people of Israel.

Earlier, I had quoted Luke 9:50, which said,  “for whoever is not against you is for you“. Since Paul was against the disciples and their teachings, then it would mean that he was not commissioned by God. The litmus test is clear. If God instructed a person to continue teaching the message of the Christ, then their teachings would be in accordance with the disciples. However, if this person was not instructed by God, then it would mean they would find faults and issues with the teachings of the disciples. In fact, in Galatians 1:-9 we read:

“6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!”

According to this passage, the disciples and students of the disciples are preaching a fundamentally variant Gospel, in contradiction to Paul’s Gospel. He even claims that the disciples whom he would later confront as hypocrites and claim them to be condemned, were trying to pervert the Gospel of the Christ! Therefore the negative images portrayed of the disciples by the unknown Gospel authors stems from the negative connotations of them as taught by Paul in his bid to win authority over them and over the Gospel of Christ. Paul clearly states that he was a deluded individual, under the command of a Messenger of Satan, we read from 2 Corinthians 12:6 the following:

“6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”

Paul believes boasting about himself was not sinful, and would not make him a fool because the authority given to him allegedly by Christ was truthful! Then he admits he was given a Messenger of Satan to torment him, he clearly sounds like a deluded individual, something he later confirms by saying:

“11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie” – 2 Thessalonians 2:11

Putting these two statements of Paul together, we can thereby understand that God did send him a delusion/ Messenger of Satan and Paul believed that he was an apostle and given authority! Despite the fact that he failed the litmus test above, in his opposition to the disciples and his own confessions, Christians still continue to believe him, over the words of Christ and the disciples.

The Destruction of the Message of the Christ

After discrediting the disciples and spreading his version of the Gospel to the gentiles, Paul went on to revel in his leadership of them. In Acts 9:15-16 we read the following:

““Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.””

How odd is this proclamation? God already chose 12 worthy persons to convey his message to the children of Israel, people He believed were competent and reliable to spread the message of Christ, the Gospel. However, as we read here, God made a mistake and entrusted the message of Christ with people who were corrupting it, hiding it and not spreading it to the rest of the world, that being the gentiles. So 14 years later, God decides to choose a man known for opposing the beliefs of the Christians (something he didn’t change as he went on to denigrate the teachings of the disciples), to then share his own interpretation of Christ’s message with the gentiles.

The Unfortunate Conclusion

In his entire lifetime, Jesus the Christ focused on spreading and teaching his message to the sheep of Israel. He commanded his disciples to do the same. Christians would have us believe that God made a mistake in choosing the disciples, that they corrupted Jesus Gospel and preached something contrary to it, and that despite Jesus restricting his teachings to the sheep of Israel, he was actually supposed to preach to everyone.

I choose to believe that Christ did not lie in his teachings and that he fulfilled God’s commands, and that the disciples chosen were competent, honest, faithful and sincere men, I do not believe that Christ made a mistake and forgot who his message was for, and I certainly do not believe that the disciples were idiots, uneducated, misunderstanding, lazy and ignorant men who hid and corrupted the message of Christ.

It is with this having been said, that I declare Paul to be a problem to the Gospel of Christ, as he degrades the Christ and his specifically chosen disciples.

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