Did Saul and Jesus teach two fundamentally different religions?
This is the question I pose to anyone who professes belief in the Christian canonical New Testament. When one closely compares Saul’s epistles and “Christ” — six epistles which are probably not authored by Saul — with the Jewish-Jesus and the Gospel-Jesus, the differences will shock many Christians. If one made a list of everything Saul denotes Jesus did, stated, and experienced from birth to death, they would indeed be shocked by just how little Saul mentions; it’s near nothing. Yet, that isn’t really the controversy. The shock is about what Jewish-Jesus and Gospel-Jesus taught about his God and His coming kingdom and whether that aligned with what Saul taught about his God and His kingdom.
Saul’s “Christ” vs. the Jewish-Jesus
As I expounded in the previous post Saul the Apostate – Intro to Part II, a necessary segue into this post, we must read the Gospels with high-def glasses and critical caution. An astute reader of the New Testament will always be cognizant of the demonstrated problems and failures of the reliability in the canonical Hellenic Gospels. This doesn’t necessarily mean we cannot decipher who the Jewish-Jesus was, the quasi-Sectarian from Galilee, or what he was preaching. As Dr. Bart Ehrman describes in a number of his blog-posts, “…there were lots and lots of sources [oral traditions], from the early days of the Christian movement, some of them coming straight out of Aramaic-speaking Palestine…“ of which “many independent [oral traditions] saying similar things about the man Jesus“ made it into (albeit partially) later Jewish and Hellenic Christian writings. Hence, when one inclusively considers without nepotism all possible sources of a Jewish-Jesus, a general, historical caricature does emerge.
In his Sermon on the Mount (Beatitudes) and later speaking to his students/disciples, generally regarded by scholars as probable words from Jewish-Gospel Jesus, he was reportedly known to teach his followers that they must reach higher Halakha righteousness and purity, as well as greater mutual love for each other deeper than the Pharisees practiced (Matthew 5:20; 18:4-5). Jesus, being an exceptional follower of the Torah, the Mosaic Law, was pulling directly from his sectarian teachings in Deut. 6:4-6 and Lev. 19:18, key components of Essene practice. Another Essene practice followed and taught by Jesus was that of the core principle of non-resistance to evil which was found exemplary in his Synagogues and the Talmud Mishnah:
Those who are insulted but do not insult, hear themselves reviled without answering, act through love and rejoice in suffering, of them the Writ saith, But they who love Him are as the sun (Judges 5:31) when he goeth forth in his might. — Shabbat 88b
Those who practiced this two-fold Mosaic concept better than the Pharisees, Jesus taught, would be saved from judgment when evil (Rome) was overthrown and the Son of Man soon returned within one or two generations, tops. In other words, approximately in 80 CE to perhaps 140 CE. That was what Jesus promised (Matt. 18:11-12, 18:8-9; Luke 13:28-29, 14:15-24) followed by such ‘an abundance of over-sized grapes and fruits for the Essenic-Mosaic righteous worthy of the greatest banquet in Paradise’ (Papias, in Irenæus, “Against Heresies,” Book V. Ch. 33—34). This was the Kingdom of God that Jewish-Gospel Jesus taught.
Was this what Saul of Tarsus preached? No.
The core, the marrow of Saul’s teachings in public and his epistles to his various 1st-century new Gentile-Jewish churches and Jewish synagogues was encapsulated in many of his passages, but very concisely in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Saul’s followers must believe through faith in “Christ’s” death for sins and his resurrection to be saved from impending judgment. Keeping the Jewish law (Halakha), he taught, would not make believers right with God. Only those who believe in “Christ’s” death and resurrection, then baptized, will join God in Paradise (1 Thess. 4; Romans 8). Here was Saul’s four essential elements of salvation: faith, Christ’s death, his resurrection, and baptism. However, because it was heavy on mystical “faith” galvanized by his TL-epilepsy visions-revelations, as discussed in the previous posts, unsurprisingly and from a neurological-psychiatric standpoint Saul’s Christ was at the expense of common sense and rational reasoning. Dr. Bart Ehrman says regarding this fundamental difference of true readiness for God’s soon to come kingdom…
Should a person follow the Jewish Law or not? Jesus thought the answer was yes — this was the core of his teaching. Paul thought the answer was no — doing so would not allow one to be saved. So that’s a stark difference, right? Quite possibly. But on the other hand, Jesus did not think that the scrupulous following of the law (as preached by the Pharisees) was what God desired; and Paul certainly did not think that people should go about breaking the law (committing adultery, or murder, or false witness, etc). So are they fundamentally different or not?
One way to answer the question: what did a person need to do to be saved? For Jesus, it was repenting and keeping the law as God instructed (with the love commandments). But Paul does not say much about repentance and thought that keeping the law would decidedly not bring salvation. What mattered was [Christ’s] death and resurrection, something that the historical Jesus almost certainly did not talk about. — The Bart Ehrman Blog, March 2016, “Do Paul and Jesus Represent Fundamentally Different Religions,” accessed September 16, 2018
Another stark difference between the two men’s teachings was who was the Son of Man, who was the Messiah—that is the Messiah of Second Temple Judaism/Sectarianism. The Jewish-Gospel Jesus was either cryptic about who it was — due to Rome’s well-known policies against rebel kings — or denied it and spoke as if it was not himself. Saul, on the other hand, unequivocally teaches Christ was the Son of Man and Messiah. For me, in light of my two previous posts and these further comparisons, the two men are clearly in fundamental opposition. Saul’s Christ was not what Jesus the Galilean taught.
Saul’s Two-Pronged Hellenic Attack on Jesus’ Judaism
Whether Saul/Paul realized it or not, he fueled and fanned the fiery, growing anti-Semitism between his Hellenic Rome and Judaism. He accomplished this in at least two different ways: 1) his conflicts with the Torah, part of Jesus’ core teaching, and its expanded Essene function within Judaism in general, and 2) antinomianism which further fueled Jewish hate, and by default undermined Jesus’ principle of mutual love. The details and support for these two combined Saul attacks will come in Part III of Saul the Apostate.
From a few different passages in Saul’s epistles we are able to find an intrinsic animosity toward the Torah and mainstream Judaism of which Jesus was not advocating. These I will address in the next post. But the one specific passage that drives the wedge deep between the two opposed religions was found here with my inserts [ ] and emphasis to help clarify:
If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to [Torah] decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) — in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, [to be without any doubt!] the appearance of wisdom in a self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. — Colossians 2:20-23
This is further evidence of a different Kingdom of God than what Jewish-Gospel Jesus was teaching. Jewish-Jesus would not have preached this and Saul’s animosity for fellow Jews does not align with Jesus’ great commandment of two Golden Rules: the unbounded love for God and each other. ‘The Law [the Torah] and the Prophets’ Jesus taught ‘hinge on these two principles.‘ No wonder the Jewish-Jesus disciples/apostles had serious belligerent problems with Saul (e.g. Acts 15:39a and Galatians 2:11-21). The conflict and confusion between the two fundamentally different Kingdoms of God and their principal doctrines of impending judgment-readiness, exacerbated by the failure or mis-identification of Jewish-Jesus as the Messiah was the dual spark to a 400-year and counting, unstoppable schism. What? Yes.
After Saul’s death and all of the disciples’/apostles’ deaths, and more so the deaths of the first generation “Patristic Fathers,” or earliest Church Fathers such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Marcion of Sinope, what Jewish-Jesus promised had not happened. What followed was the 3rd and 4th generation Hellenist Roman Fathers retro-fitted, revamped, rewritten, and reinterpreted Jewish-Gospel Jesus’
failed kingdom into Saul’s anti-Semitic Christ-kingdom, a spiritual awakening or rebirth not of this Earth, but of TL-epileptic mysticism and visions.
In the next post I will examine four particular passages in Saul’s epistles that were tampered with or reframed by the later Church Fathers to spiritualize Jesus’ death and Saul’s Christ. Also how Saul enamored the Hellenist Gentiles to his new-fangled “die in order to live” spiritualized mysticism perceived during his epileptic seizures.
Until Part III, please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, or questions below.
This work by Professor Taboo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.professortaboo.com/contact-me/.