Saul the Apostate — Part I

Medical doctors and neurologists today call it a Simple Focal Seizure or Focal Seizure without loss of consciousness. The World Health Organization states approximately 50-million people worldwide have one of the many forms of epilepsy. It is the most common neurological disease on the planet and has been since it was first recognized in about 4500 BCE by ancient Indian Vedic medicine described as ‘apasmara’ which means ‘loss of consciousness’. Here is what a brief Simple Focal Seizure looks like from the epileptic’s viewpoint:

On exhibit in the British Museum in London are Babylonian tablets that detail accounts of epilepsy (over 40 tablets total) of Babylonian medicine going back as far as 1067 BCE. It records many of the various forms of epilepsy we recognize today. Depending on the ancient culture, these seizures were regarded either as divine visions and revelations from god(s) or from demonic/evil possessions. In the ancient world this condition was widely known as the Sacred Disease or Holy Disease for its bizarre supernatural spectacle of manifestations from its victims. Throughout most of history we have account after account after account, in all cultures and places on Earth, of people, often labeled Mystics, with the exact same symptoms and behaviors of any one of the forms of epilepsy. Benedetta Carlini (1591–1661) a Catholic nun, the Norwegian Wise-Knut (1792–1876), and many modern accounts dating from the 18th and 19th centuries to the present day. NPR’s show All Things Considered did a series on the Sacred Disease reporting that based now on modern neurology asks the question Are Spiritual Encounters All In Your Head?

What is becoming more clear is that epileptic divine hallucinations were simply a commonplace neurological disorder in the Late-Stone, Bronze, and Iron Age and still occurs today around the world. They all stem from various causes (traumas?) in the (diseased? malformed?) temporal lobes of the human brain called TLE.

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

With the above video in mind, we read in Acts 9:3-9:

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

Paul clearly shrank from his Judaic duties in the present Earthly life for defeat to it, to the pleasures and “evils” of which he begged relief. This state of mind and physical disease is preserved in The Acts of Paul and Thecla:

“A man of moderate stature, with crisp [scanty] hair, crooked legs, blue eyes, large knit brows, and long nose, at times looking like a man, at times like an angel, Paul came forward and preached to the men of Iconium: ‘Blessed are they that keep themselves chaste [unmarried]; for they shall be called the temple of God. Blessed are they that mortify their bodies and souls; for unto them speaketh God. Blessed are they that despise the world; for they shall be pleasing to God. Blessed be the souls and bodies of virgins; for they shall receive the reward of their chastity.'”

From his letters to the Galatians and Corinthians we can glean that untreated these “visions” persisted throughout his life. What is generally unknown about Saul of Tarsus and must not be ignored when considering his “new mystical Covenant” are his familial and cultural background and education. Many modern Christians do not fully realize that Saul never met Jesus face-to-face. He never spoke with Jesus in person outside of his own epileptic seizures.

Saul the Hellenist, Not Rabbinical-Israelite Scholar
Hellenism

Fatalism & cynicism – hallmarks of Hellenic philosophy

Saul was born of Jewish parents in the Roman Province of Cilicia in its capital Tarsus. Since 333 BCE with Alexander the Great’s conquest of Anatolia, Cilicia became deeply absorbed in Greek culture. By the early 1st-century CE the province was heavily Hellenistic. In Romans 11:1 and Philippians 3:5, assuming these verses are genuinely Saul’s/Paul’s words, nowhere in Jewish Rabbinical history is there a tribal list or ancestry of Benjamin in existence at that time, not even rumors. Though it is claimed in Acts 22:3 that his rabbinic studies were under Gamaliel in Jerusalem, none of his ascribed writings and arguments in the Christian New Testament are Gamaliel or rabbinic in nature. However, with regard to his education and exposure in the Hillel school, Saul/Paul would have learned classic Hellenistic literature, ethics, and philosophy (Stoicism) and these influences do indeed reveal themselves in all his ascribed letters, especially from the Hellenistic Book of Wisdom and other Apocrypha, as well as Philo of Alexandria who is the father of harmonizing Greek philosophy with the Jewish Torah; both are transparent in Saul’s writings. And Saul’s infatuation with mysteries and the Spirit of God through tongues, supernatural powers, sacraments, and fatalism can be directly traced to the Gnostic lore of Alexandria and the Corpus Hermeticum, specifically the Poimandres.

The shocking point here to be understood in correlation to his ascribed epistles in the New Testament is that Saul (the Apostle Paul) was a Greco-Roman educated epileptic, not a rabbinical Jew from the tribe of Benjamin.

Earliest Animosity for Jews

Perhaps it is not coincidental that some of the earliest recorded accounts of anti-Semitism began in Alexandria, Egypt in 270 BCE by the Ptolemaic Egyptian priest Manetho. Another was an edict issued by Antiochus Epiphanes that was so harsh it began the uprisings in Judea (170–167 BCE) then led to the Maccabean Revolt of 167–160 BCE. Philo of Alexandria recorded in his Against Flaccus that in 38 CE in Alexandria thousands of Jews were massacred probably and partly because they were seen as misanthropes. When Rome conquered and occupied Syro-Palestine, Jewish dissent and rebellions were practically a weekly/monthly problem for all the Roman Emperors and Provincial Governors. This irritation and news traveled fast throughout the eastern empire and back to Rome through all ports and trade routes including southern Cilicia.

Today all Rabbinical and Jewish scholars agree that Saul’s/Paul’s conception of life was not the least bit Jewish. It was much more Hellenistic with theosophical (Gnostic) undertones. And by all extant accounts of Saul’s writings he never aligned with doctrines of any 1st-century CE rabbinical schools. Saul was what we might call today a religious entrepreneur and product of his Hellenistic culture and education.

Jesus and His Sectarian Judaism

If you want a full and accurate understanding of the wider historical context of 1st-century Judaism/Messianism — in which Jesus was born into and for several eschatological reasons became a significant historical figure — you are not going to obtain it from the four Gospels. To gain that broader more precise picture of Jesus’ world (and Saul’s/Paul’s later) we must go outside the canonical New Testament. A number of historical developments contribute to just how divided, how polarized the various Hebrew sects had become and why, while subjugated under the rule and law of the Ptolemies (Egypt), Seleucids (Syrian), and finally Imperial Rome. Many military analyst/historians say Sectarianism was the biggest reason why the Jews lost the wars (66-70 CE to Rome) against these enemies; they were too divided about how to achieve God’s Israelite Kingdom on Earth and what their many ambiguous Messianic claimants should be and not be. Much worse for the Hebrews, it was never a black-or-white argument. Jesus (then Saul/Paul) only further complicated the turmoil. Dr. Lawrence H. Schiffman, Professor of Jewish Studies at New York University and an expert in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Judaism in Late Antiquity, History of Jewish Law, and Talmudic literature, summarizes:

The issue was never whether or not to reject outside influence. The question was rather whether to assimilate some elements not considered harmful or to allow the wholesale entry of foreign elements into the way of life of the Jews. Those seeking exclusive worship of God in both the biblical and Hellenistic periods felt that adoption of foreign elements without restriction was nothing more than apostasy and the abandonment of Judaism. Others, against whom our sources so often polemicize, disagreed.

Philo_Alexandria

Philo of Alexandria

After four major defeats and exiles, it was a constant struggle and identity crisis for Israel against change (how to avoid it) and for survival; a nagging fear of increasing dilution (Diaspora) into complete obscurity and non-existence. In a nutshell, this was Second Temple Judaism, Messianism, and Sectarianism.

Most are familiar with the Sadducees and the Pharisees. They were quite embroiled in Hasmonean provincial politics. But by comparison there was another major Jewish sect called the Essenes, sometimes considered a branch of the Pharisees, who were much more ascetic, holy, and followed Levitical purity to the letter. Their rigid intensity to this simple piety often put them at odds with Greco-Roman culture, but more so the Pharisees who the Essenes saw as too lax and had allowed Hellenistic behaviors and philosophy to corrupt long-held Mosaic Laws. Among the Essenes many virtues that Pliny, Josephus, and Philo, among others, mention is their love for all of humanity, including enemies. Other minor Jewish sects were the Samaritans, Ebionites, Falashas, Dosetai, and others. It is Philo of Alexandria that demarcates a variation of Essenes called the Therapeutaeor ‘contemplative Essenes’ in his De Vita Contemplativa. This is what makes late Second Temple Judaism/Messianism so unique, an anomaly, and consequentially ignored by Western civilization and especially modern Christianity.

Aside from the amalgamate legends surrounding Jesus’ birth and his erroneous ancestry, one of the two most paramount characteristics overlooked or missed by Christian scholars, seminaries, and apologists was Jesus’ quasi-sectarianism and his Haggadah practices. Underneath the intentional obscuring or naïvety of Jesus’ Judaism in the canonical Gospels — in particular his Essenism (“The Way”), pseudo-Pharisaic, Ebionite, Nazarean/Nasorean, and Haggadah teachings and practices — emerges an outspoken Galilean man of the people, but oddly not of the Hasmoneans, Samaritans, or any Roman aristocracy. Jesus did not care for all humanity, particularly Samaritans (Matthew 10:5-6), if we are to believe the Gospels as reliable and not tampered with. This was in no way Saul’s Christ. And Saul cannot possibly comprehend any of these complex characteristics of Jesus simply from epileptic seizures nor from his background.

In Intro to Part II of Saul the Apostate I will set the table for how Saul’s/Paul’s mysticism thoroughly distorts Jesus’ teachings and intentions for Israel’s Kingdom of God that comes later in Part II, how he further widens the growing gulf between Judaism and Hellenism and ultimately with Rome, how his gnosis revives Persian dualism in his Christology, or Neo-Zoroastrianism if you like, and also later in Part II or Part III finally how he enamored the Hellenist Gentiles to his new-fangled “die in order to live” spiritual mysticism perceived during his epileptic seizures.

Meanwhile, please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, or questions below about the epileptic Apostate named Saul.

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37 thoughts on “Saul the Apostate — Part I

  1. Really cool! How interesting to see what REALLY happened historically, not the biased watered down holy narrative! The history of the Greco-Roman world and the Ancient near East is really rich and colorful in its history and cultures! One is deeply limited by believing only one interpretation from the Bible! I love that in being secular, I can study the topic unbridled by the uncomfortable questions the Believer will come across in studying the history and evolution of Christianity!
    https://aladyofreason.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 3 people

    • LoR,

      Thank you for the feedback. Be sure to share your thoughts/questions in the next part too. I appreciate it. I couldn’t agree more about being Secular and (a lot?) less biased on a variety of viewpoints, cultures, and sources. When one is very emotionally attached to an ideology, say from a traumatic experience and into relief (similar to Saul’s here), many/most are willing to give their life to it… whether that ideal is real and verifiable or not at all. 😬

      Thanks again.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Agreed ! Your article is super fascinating!!! Can’t wait for part 2! Please do more topics like this! The history and evolution of Christianity and the Greco-Roman world is quite fascinating once you let go or reject the dogma of it for yourself!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for putting this together and the NPR link is a great, real life living example. I’ve seen these seizures and they vary from a blank stare and nystagmus on up the seizure ladder. Of many I have seen, the people are not aware anything had happened. One I remember on awaking, he thought he could walk through walls. His entire physical reality was altered. After smashing headlong into the wall, he gathered himself (with our help), and then he was so convinced of his new power he tried to run through a closed door. Imagine the power of this had it been with a God figure or “spiritual” in nature? That is how convincing these experience are…

    Liked by 3 people

    • They are totally that convincing Jim if they’re coming from your own head — the central nervous-system HQ for all sensory interpretations — and there’s no immediate method of counter-interpreting, contrasting, comparing, etc! Of COURSE one is going to come up with some of the wildest conclusions when alone. The reality of that event is this… put any one of 500,000 epileptic persons from around the world in a lab and every single one of them will have 499,999 DIFFERENT experiences and self-interpretations of the event/experience. I guess that means there are 500,000 different Gods? 😉

      Having your EMT background and experience Jim, I was hoping you’d mention the similarities and the details of the seizures. Thank you Sir!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. “Meanwhile, please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, or questions below about the epileptic Apostate named Saul.”

    PT,

    Surely, you’re not diagnosing a patient without seeing or hearing from him?

    One note, NT Wright’s new biography of Paul, in a way, would be a sort refutation of your thesis here. As his thesis is basically that Saul did not have a “conversion” to Christianity, as Christianity naturally fulfills Saul’s understanding of messianic Judaism. I’m not going to go into detail on how Wright presents this thesis, I’m not even trying to persuade you but you may be interested in taking an examination of the text even to develop your thesis here.

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    • Hello again Philip. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. You are always welcomed here.

      Surely, you’re not diagnosing a patient without seeing or hearing from him?

      Of course I am! Just as millions of Believers have “diagnosed” that Jesus Christ is NOT dead in his ossuary, I will “diagnose” Saul of Tarsus as an epileptic based on comprehensive evidence and sources. 😉 However, with all due respect, that’s a silly and leading question. And thank you for the NT Wright suggestion.

      …Christianity naturally fulfills Saul’s understanding of messianic Judaism.

      I think I MIGHT agree with that without your further elaboration. Why? Primarily because “Christianity” is indeed (mostly) a Pauline invention from Persian and Greek Stoic myths/philosophies. Not having adequate education in Rabbinical-Pharisaic Judaism or Messianism, particularly from the mild moderate Hillel (vs the Shammai) school, Saul is left mainly with his Hellenistic (anti-Semitic) education mixed with Mysticism. It’s no wonder that the Jerusalem Church/Council (James the Brother’s sect Nazarenes?) rejected Saul, at least in the beginning. Saul’s “Christology” does not align with all of Jesus’ teachings (if we study outside of the canonical Gospels) nor does it align with true historical Second Temple Judaism OR Messianism, as I will show with this series of posts.

      Again, thank you Philip for your feedback. Feel free to return with your thoughts.

      Liked by 5 people

      • “ I will “diagnose” Saul of Tarsus as an epileptic based on comprehensive evidence and sources. 😉 However, with all due respect, that’s a silly and leading question. And thank you for the NT Wright suggestion.”

        It was meant in a silly jovial manner knowing your opinion on the matter. However, with the silly question, I would assert that of course Christians would assert things based on testimony and faith. Although, many non-theist that I’ve encountered would suggest that history is merely circumstantial at best; the best evidence is in the ground. Furthermore, I’ve mused the question because every doctor, which I’d suggest are scientist, wouldn’t make a diagnosis unless they could either see the patient or perform test on them—although they might just being trying to get that office visit money from me… At any rate, it’s a bit odd when those who demand empirical evidence with positive claims then assent to claims that are positive with something that would need a “leap” a “gap” to conclude .

        Wright does go over Paul’s education in his book and makes the argument that Saul’s education and his family structure would have made him quite efficient in understanding. I’d have to go back and see the details, but I do think he’d disagree with you on some particular points on how Paul was educated.

        I’ll have to wait for your next post to see how you illustrate Paul’s teachings to be different from Christ. I wonder if you take up Protestant anachronisms of Paul’s claims made that I would even agree are not Christ’s because they are misrepresenting Paul’s words.

        We’ll see.

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        • At any rate, it’s a bit odd when those who demand empirical evidence with positive claims then assent to claims that are positive with something that would need a “leap” a “gap” to conclude.

          Very interesting statement Philip. If someone from beyond our own correspondence and from beyond religion and the scope of this topic (indifferent) were to read your (above) statement, they wouldn’t be sure whether you were addressing (indicting?) me or “faith-following” Christians.

          Also, I think when there are many tools and skills available to examine an issue, person, or event(s), it is wise not only to incorporate the current empirical evidence, but also ALL available modalities of reasoning and interpretive resources, i.e. a panel of peers, experts, to hedge against human errors and biases. This liberty didn’t exist in the Bronze or Iron Ages except with the threat of death. It is always possible too that new empirical evidence surfaces that must be added to the overall picture. So I don’t think it is any stretch of my knowledge and experience with Christianity — particularly Evangy-Fundy Xianity — when I say that despite Christianity’s actual 2nd – 5th-century CE ecumenical history, many Christians past or present do not like their traditional sacred figures or their “Holy Bible” scrutinized for veracity (Revelations 22:19). The other side of that coin, that level of PR control/management is a tried-n-true mechanism for authoritarian regimes and monarchies, also known as orthodoxy. Or in this historical case, the Roman authorities and Hellenistic culture which became the very imperial powerful Roman Catholic Church.

          Nevertheless, and to my point, what I am (poorly?) trying to show is that when the cumulative sources (past & present) are equitably incorporated into this examination of Saul, there is a very compelling case not just for his epilepsy, but also sufficient sources, textual analysis, and evidence to show that from a Judaic-Messianic, Rabbinical, and Sectarian-Jesus viewpoint, Saul was an Apostate… perhaps even the Spouter of Lies written about in the Damascus Document of the Dead Sea Scrolls, if the dating of the manuscript is Herodian and not Hasmonean. It also bears mentioning here that the eventual release of the DSS was mysteriously and intentionally stopped/guarded for 30-40 years. There are still new discoveries in them being released as late as 2017. Why?

          Regarding Wright (an Anglican Christian with obvious biases) and his findings/opinion of Saul/Paul, it really depends on how many various and non-Christian sources he utilizes (or doesn’t) compared to how many Jewish and Secular experts utilize from the cumulative resources and evidence, yes?

          I wonder if you take up Protestant anachronisms of Paul’s claims made that I would even agree are not Christ’s because they are misrepresenting Paul’s words.

          That’s a fair statement. All of this scrutiny of Saul — whether from a Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or Secular tilt — is framed and dependent on just how many various sources, evidence, and techniques are utilized by the examiner. I personally try my best to use all available. Is that possible? My problems here with WordPress, blogging, readers/visitors, and paramount subjects are that most often the average visitor won’t read or be interested in engaging about any blog-post that is longer than 800 – 1,500 words, especially if it is heavily ladened with complex academia and verbage. Hahahaha! I hate truncating subjects merely for the sake of attention-spans and social-media trends. 😉

          Yes, until the next post Philip. Thanks again for your feedback sir.

          Liked by 4 people

        • “Very interesting statement Philip. If someone from beyond our own correspondence and from beyond religion and the scope of this topic (indifferent) were to read your (above) statement, they wouldn’t be sure whether you were addressing (indicting?) me or “faith-following” Christians.”

          And that’s exactly my point, there is an irony in your premise because it’s one made on an assent of knowledge that’s based on not empirical evidence from the position that empiricism is the only way to know truth.

          For example, your position is also based on the account of Acts; however, in regards to other accounts, such as the Gospels, their witness testimony is often discredited because there are miracles in the Gospels. Again, there is irony to using Acts as evidence because there are miraculous healings etc.

          “Regarding Wright (an Anglican Christian with obvious biases) and his findings/opinion of Saul/Paul, it really depends on how many various and non-Christian sources he utilizes (or doesn’t) compared to how many Jewish and Secular experts utilize from the cumulative resources and evidence, yes?”

          A genetic fallacy, it doesn’t matter if he’s Anglican. Should I would discredit your entire body of work here being a non-theist? Or should I discredit Jewish scholars because their bias would naturally look to discredit Christian claims.

          Nonsense, Bias should be noted but it doesn’t follow that it a reason to dismiss entire bodies of work.

          Your treatment of Paul here is interesting and I think it does need examination no matter what we’ve already concluded. But let me get to where I can get ahold of the Wright’s book and we can fairly assess his sources or at least is actual arguments. You may be right with his source material, I’m away from any resources at this time to investigate.

          Like

        • Sorry Philip, I think you are misunderstanding what I’m conveying and/or reading too much into what I’ve stated (so to project your personal viewpoint/opinion perhaps?) without first giving thoughtful, expanded consideration of what else can also be inferred by what I’ve stated.

          I’ll try to explain with more conciseness, however, that ideal length and depth (which is near impossible sometimes to squeeze & smash into social-media & its comment-sections) are exactly components that often get sacrificed on subjects like this for the sake of attention-spans and internet trends. It’s also the reason that this will be at least a two-part series (I hope?) when it actually SHOULD BE a 6-12 part series! In that light, readers absolutely MUST deduce, infer, compare, contrast, and do their own homework on massive blog-subjects like this… unless each post is 10,000 – 20,000 words minimum. I certainly encourage them to do so! And so that will be my first reminder here — as you appropriately stated to me, “I’m not even trying to persuade you…” ultimately I too am not looking to persuade anyone, only to offer them other lenses to peer through, to examine, which should lead to a wider variety of scholarship, viewpoints, truths, probabilities, and other compelling theories rather than one lens and one theological school of teaching.

          When I stated this:

          Very interesting statement Philip. If someone from beyond our own correspondence and from beyond religion and the scope of this topic (indifferent) were to read your (above) statement, they wouldn’t be sure whether you were addressing (indicting?) me or “faith-following” Christians.

          I was also alluding to the futility of humans (Christian or otherwise!) attempting to make their a priori posture, belief-system, lifestyle, experiences above/superior and immune to scrutiny while contending it’s open season on all opposing belief-systems, postures, lifestyles, etc. Of course my quoted statement of a speculative neutral observer would have to have some sort of knowledge and experience with BOTH Christian and non-Christian pathologies and behaviors in order to be truly unsure of who you were addressing/indicting. How often would that happen?

          Now, with regard to what you state next I can absolutely correct you:

          And that’s exactly my point, there is an irony in your premise because it’s one made on an assent of knowledge that’s based on not empirical evidence from the position that empiricism is the only way to know truth.

          For example, your position is also based on the account of Acts; however, in regards to other accounts, such as the Gospels, their witness testimony is often discredited because there are miracles in the Gospels. Again, there is irony to using Acts as evidence because there are miraculous healings, etc.

          No, that would be a wrong assessment of my blog-post and comments. There are more than just empirical needs to a fair and truthful posture. I think maybe where you are misguided in that ‘fondness’ for empiricism-only comes from something in your own experience that may or may not be relevant to me? Like atheist or agnostic bloggers I engage with(?) and/or that maybe I am a Freethinking Humanist — where just about ALL Christians online or on WordPress never bother to clarify because typically they are obsessed with or hyper-reactive to non-Christians and while in that stupor they stereotype ALL non-Christians as atheist. LOL But that just isn’t the case. I actually prefer to use all methods of scrutiny and analysis available to humanity, including ontological methods which I personally incorporate with Quantum Physics and Mechanics when possible.

          Furthermore, what might be missing here in our discussion & clarification is the understood reality (at least in science) that “available sources” (literature, archaeology, etc.) from the Bronze Age up to the Medieval Age, in fairness is limited to degrees. That is NOT to say that there are insufficient INDEPENDENT (i.e. non-Christian or non-Patristic) sources to scrutinize Christianity, especially the origins of it, and its canonical New Testament. There absolutely is enough independent sources and in a general (bipartisan?) style I am blogging on that platform, and with Saul here, to an American and Western hemisphere audience traditionally Christian, by birth or culture, and usually unquestioned or challenged.

          A genetic fallacy, it doesn’t matter if he’s Anglican. Should I would discredit your entire body of work here being a non-theist? Or should I discredit Jewish scholars because their bias would naturally look to discredit Christian claims.

          Nonsense, Bias should be noted but it doesn’t follow that it a reason to dismiss entire bodies of work.

          What’s funny here is that it seems we are stating the same thing. “Bias should be noted” and in fair proportion to the ideology, or rhetoric, misinformation, or propaganda postulated… absolutely! My point is I use sources, even highly controversial sources like the Acts of the Apostles or the Gospel According to the Nazarenes or the Epistle of James, or the Gospel According to Mary, etc, etc, each with their degrees of veracity. What I am also implying while doing so is that the same standard is frequently not applied by Evangy-Fundy apologists — they regard their 4th-century Canonical New Testament (and subsequent Patristic theology) to be above all reproach. And in my own American and Western hemisphere experiences, even common Christians (not seminary grads) I’ve engaged with in some depth on these subjects, when they return to our dialogue from asking their church staff/ministers about my challenges, 9 times out of 10 they return with a mindset and predictable counter of the “God-inspired” Patristic theology and their canonical New Testament as the two authorities above all reproach. Therefore Philip, I think we are both saying(?) ‘No, there is no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater.‘ The question I’m proposing to you and Wright is what’s the actual BREATH/CATALOG of related sources utilized by all parties?

          Sorry for such a long, lengthy explanation here, but it was necessary to clarify some of your presuppositions and/or misinformation about me and my historical/blogging methods. Thanks Philip.

          Liked by 3 people

        • Fair enough, I’d certainly concede I made some particular assumptions on what is considered evidence in your opinion.

          You assert, “Saul was born of Jewish parents in the Roman Province of Cilicia in its capital Tarsus. Since 333 BCE with Alexander the Great’s conquest of Anatolia, Cilicia became deeply absorbed in Greek culture. By the early 1st-century CE the province was heavily Hellenistic”

          Wright responds that “When Paul the Apostle describes himself in his earlier life as being consumed with zeal for his ancestral traditions, he was looking back on the Phinehas-shaped motivation of his youth.”

          You say,

          “Though it is claimed in Acts 22:3 that his rabbinic studies were under Gamaliel in Jerusalem, none of his ascribed writings and arguments in the Christian New Testament are Gamaliel or rabbinic in nature. However, with regard to his education and exposure in the Hillel school, “

          Wright acknowledges this and writes, “ Gamaliel, at least as portrayed in Acts, advocated the policy of “live and let live.” If people wanted to follow this man Jesus, they could do so. If this new movement was from God, it would prosper; if not, it would fall by its own weight. If the Romans wanted to run the world, so be it. Jews would study and practice the Torah by themselves. This, broadly speaking, had been the teaching of Hillel, a leading rabbi of the previous generation. But all the signs are that Gamaliel’s bright young pupil from Tarsus wasn’t satisfied with this approach. His “zeal” would have placed him in the opposing school, following Hillel’s rival Shammai, who maintained that if God was going to establish his reign on earth as in heaven, then those who were zealous for God and Torah would have to say their prayers, sharpen their swords, and get ready for action.”

          So, Wright’s thesis with origins of Saul is built on the idea that Paul’s own acknowledgement of zeal must be founded in commonly known Judaic stories of those who expressed a zeal like Phinehas. Whereas, you substitute what Paul’s curriculum may have shaped his theology after Damascu; whereas, Wright looks at competing schools of thought during the period of Saul’s formative years and based on Paul’s words of his “zeal for traditon” to build his thesis.

          Again, you’ll have to examine his thesis because he goes into more detail within the breadth of the entire body of work, and it’s not necessarily chronological at times, to articulate his argument. Nonetheless, the two foundations of the both arguments differ, which is what triggered my memory after reading your post.

          Liked by 2 people

        • Thank you Philip for the acknowledgment of mistaken notions; that’s appreciated. You shared:

          Wright responds that “When Paul the Apostle describes himself in his earlier life as being consumed with zeal for his ancestral traditions, he was looking back on the Phinehas-shaped motivation of his youth.

          There is another well substantiated argument about where Saul’s “zeal” originates, was nurtured (educated), and continued through his life aside from his epilepsy. Based on what we and Jewish scholars know without doubts or caution are the stark differences between Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai (teachings) in the last century BCE to 2nd-century CE (Gamaliel’s grandfather was Hillel) the two most famous antagonistic schools prior to, during, and after Jesus’ and Saul’s lives and that according only to Saul’s/Paul’s ascribed letters was a self-described ‘prolific’ student and that Acts commentates about. Remember to keep margins of error/veracity on these sources. Nonetheless, since Saul claims an education by Hillel and Gamaliel we can certainly compare the two competing schools/masters with the extant sources of Saul’s/Paul’s writings.

          From the Talmud we know Bet Hillel (and its founder) were acclaimed for their patience, composure, peace-loving kindness, and accommodating to circumstances and cultures of the time. This also meant friendly to Hellenism. Gamaliel is known to have been quite lenient and tolerant of new Messianic Movements (such as Jesus’ “The Way”; there were several) essentially teaching ‘if the movement is from God then it cannot be stopped, if it is not then it will not succeed.‘ Gamaliel was reflecting the Hillel tradition of non-violence, allowing God to deal with parties that were against the Jews.

          Bet Shammai, on the other hand was well known for the opposite, stern, unbending, ill-tempered, and extremely patriotic to Israel not bowing to any foreign powers. Shammaites advocated the opposition of any and all intercourse with those who either were Romans or in any way contributed toward and allied with the perpetuating of Rome, including Hellenist Jews.

          [Talmud references can be supplied if need be]

          Now, prior to Saul’s seizure/vision on the Road to Damascus, and based upon what he himself admits how horribly he treated Jesus’ Jewish followers, Saul actually sounds a lot more like a Shammaite “zealot” than a peaceful Hillelite. And remember too his claim to be of the tribe of Benjamin cannot be proven and is highly suspect if not bogus.

          Would you happen to have the sources of this NT Wright position/argument, where it exists online or in print? Thanks Philip.

          Liked by 2 people

        • It appears that “Paul: A Biography” is a less technical variation, which I listened to the audiobook when it was first released. The notes only note specific passages of the Bible where N.T. Wright constructs his argument for Paul’s zeal. However, this particular title I’ve read from a review is a condensed version of the scholarly title “Paul and the Faithfulness of God.” ISBN 978-0800626839, brand new $75 and on thiftbooks about $50 used. It looks like that I could get at my Alma Mater’s library but it take me probably a couple of weeks to make it over to my ole’ campus. However, if you have access to a more academic library that’s the book it looks like where you’ll find it in more detail in print.

          Liked by 1 person

        • WOW! That’s expensive! 😲 I’ll try to find alternative access(es). What I am MOST interested in is his bibliography, specifically its “BREATH” and diversity, especially with regard to extant sources of Second Temple Judaism and Sectarianism. Thanks Philip.

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  4. It’s inevitable that Hellenism would have had some impact on the development of late Judaism and early Christianity, given that Hellenism by that time was the dominant culture among the educated classes throughout the Middle East and the eastern Roman Empire, while Judaism and its offshoots were a minor local peculiarity. Thinking in terms of a confrontation between the two would be like thinking in terms of a “confrontation” between present-day mainstream American culture and, say, the Cajuns. One can’t separate Christianity from the context in which it developed originally.

    If Saul’s rantings were the product of an epileptic seizure, he’s lucky that he lived during a relatively enlightened period and not the time, a thousand years later, dominated by the religion he founded. If he had had such a seizure in medieval Europe and then started spouting weird religious gobbledygook, he would very likely have been declared demon-possessed and then tortured and killed in some horrific manner.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Good and interesting points Infidel and I agree. How is it ever possible to remove context and those dynamics of sociopolitical events affecting a person or people? Like it or not Hellenism is all throughout early then Imperial Christianity. And more importantly, if Hellenistic Christianity/Christology wants to claim its “Christ” from Second Temple Judaism/Messianism, then it must also take ownership of all contexts shaping Sectarian Judaism, in particular Jewish Mysticism or more specifically Merkavah Mysticism. In Merkavah Mysticism there are two variants: moderate or “safe” rabbinic Merkavah traditions versus the more extreme, non-traditional forms that illicit ecstasy — and this is where forms of epilepsy come into the picture. Here’s one source to what I’m referring to:

      https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/jewish-mysticisms-origins/

      What is more intriguing about these Second Temple Jewish Kabbalah practices of ‘reaching the Divine’ via visions, or apokalypsis as it was called then, a “revelation,” was that these physical/mental states could be solicited through praxis or unsolicited. Here is where our modern understanding of epilepsy enters the picture. The key point to be inferred is that these “religious” practices were done all over the world, not just in ancient Syro-Palestine. Therefore, who’s to judge which apokalypsis is valid/true and which are not? 🤔 That question is valid even today with modern “prophets,” or Messiah/Christ Syndromes! 😉

      Anyway, great feedback Infidel. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ah, yes. The great Saul of Tarsus. The Numero Uno Christian Hunter, sent out by his Masters to Seek and Destroy all those nasty Christians lurking all over the province.
    But of course, Jesus had other plans, and lo …. he appeared and said to Saul:

    ”Hey, Dickhead. What the Gehenna is your beef with Christians? And just what are Christians in any case? And if you were after persecuting those dimwits who followed me why the Hades aren’t you looking in Jerusalem? Sheesh! Now, have a spot of blindness for a while and piss off back home and do something useful, like … I dunno carry on making tents. What a Nob ”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha… well, THANK YOU Arkesatan for that Monty-Pythonish script of the Damascus Road “vision” and seizure. 😄 In a parody sort of way, and a good one at that, there is a lot of truthiness in it!

      My intention with this 3-4 part series is to shed more bright-light on how an epileptic Jewish Mystic founded and with the help of Imperial Rome’s influence perpetuated Christianity, leaving in the dust and haze all of Jesus’ actual Second Temple Judaism and clear Sectarianism. If you come along with this, let me know if I accomplish that Sir.

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  6. Well, PT, I made it through your post … not so much your “conversation” with Phil. However, I did want to reference a portion of a remark that Phil made I’ll have to wait for your next post to see how you illustrate Paul’s teachings to be different from Christ.

    IMO, Paul’s teachings cannot be considered different OR the same as Christ’s teachings since he never saw or met him. All Paul knew is what he “discerned” and how he personally interpreted what he had heard from others. Essentially, he made up his own stories.

    Further, the recording of Christ’s teachings (the gospels) were made AFTER Paul wrote his various and sundry letters and “shared” his perspective of what Jesus was teaching, so how can one make a comparison?

    And lastly … a what-if question. Since you and I agree that “Christianity” is, in essence, Paulinity … what if Paul had never come along and the true teachings of Yeshua had been shared and written down? What would (so-called) Christianity look like today?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well fiddle-sticks Nan! You’ve stolen a portion of my “thunder” and enhanced(?) my main stage (to the crowd’s pleasure) before the 2nd Act has started. 😄🤨

      I know that for many of us in our secular WordPress circles that this series isn’t going to further what most of you already know and have deduced. However, what I THINK or hope my Saul-series will do is further magnify and amplify just how perpendicular Saul’s theology was to what (most likely) Jesus’ theology was before the Patristic Fathers got a hold of everything and canonized their own history. We’ll see. Ugh, I’m already at 1,900+ words for the next part. LOL 😬

      Liked by 2 people

        • Yep, that’s exactly what I’ve had to do if I’m going to abide by trendy popular social-media attention spans without sacrificing important content and context on Saul. The latter is often a prerequisite for the hard-line apologists and sometimes for the poorly informed Faith-follower. It’s the two insatiable BEASTS when tackling these topics, huh? There will be times when you can’t satisfy either… ever. 🙄😄

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  7. Pingback: Saul the Apostate – Intro to Part II | The Professor's Convatorium

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