Saul the Apostate – Part IV


Continuing from Part III


“Justice demands that that barbaric superstition should be opposed;
and it is to the interest of the state not to regard that Jewish mob
which at times breaks out in open riots… […]
At one time the Jewish people took up arms against the Romans;
but the gods showed how little they cared for this people,
suffering it to be conquered and made tributary.”
— Cicero, “Pro FlaccoCh. 28, 59 BCE


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The deep permeation of Greek culture into Judaism and the Near and Middle East during late Classical Antiquity cannot be overstated. It was profound. It made its way into early Christianity and into Saul’s Stoic-Gnostic theology. But lets backup a bit first.

The centuries following Alexander the Great’s epic conquests, expansion, and planting of Hellenistic culture throughout the Near East and across the Western hemisphere saw the remarkable flourishing of philosophy, science, art, and governing. It was during the Hellenistic period (323 – 31 BCE) that Archimedes of Syracuse wrote the Earth-changing treatise “On Floating Bodies,” known today in physics as the Archimedes’ Principle. Then Aristarchus formulated the first recorded heliocentric theory, which of course asserted that Earth revolved around the sun. During the Hellenist period, several art forms became less mythological and more realistic, more practical. The most important thing in life, said Epicurus, was the pursuit and attainment of the individual’s pleasure and happiness, known as hedonism, while Stoic philosophy became more mainstream and accessible, including to women, unheard of in many empires around the world then and now.

Hellenism carried over well into the European Middle Ages. Hellenic Jews welcomed Greek influences, represented primarily by the Temple Sadducees. However, traditional or conservative Jews represented by the sects of Pharisees and Essenes in synagogues around the empire, saw Hellenism’s infiltration in some respects as an abomination of God’s Law and Temple. A side-by-side comparison of the two juxtaposed cultures, Mosaic Judaism and Hellenism, points out four major differences:

Judaism v Hellenism

Alexander’s Hellenistic culture was very tolerant of native customs and beliefs. In fact, new Greco-Roman kingdoms often assimilated parts of the indigenous practices as it suited the empire’s needs. Hence, further examination of the Judaic and Hellenic cultures (distinguished above) shows when there is intolerance to flexibility, compromise, wisdom, or adaptability, one small ring or just one person flies off the handle in one or both cultures,  the constant tension becomes a ticking time-bomb. Click here for a revealing Jewish rendition of how an ancient Greek and Hebraic Jew might have discussed their religions in the 1st-century CE.

Let’s return to middle-Hellenism. Enter the false rumor in 168 BCE that Seleucid king Antiochus IV was killed in Egypt. Bitter, disgruntled, and deposed High Priest Jason/Jesus rounds up a Jewish army to attack ascending High Priest Menelaus in Jerusalem. Angry that the Jews started a civil war in his kingdom, Antiochus came down harshly on the Jews executing thousands and banning the practice of their religion forcing them to worship Zeus instead. His heavy bloody hand only infuriated more Jews and thus began the Maccabean Revolt.

During these cultural clashes and shifts, brief independence under the Hasmoneans, other military conquests, defeats, exiles, dispersions into slavery, intermarriages, and mixed offspring, Jews were increasingly mixed into Hellenistic ideals that also reached into their religion, particularly Greek Stoic philosophy. For Pharisaic and Essene Jews, including two centuries later Jewish-Essene Jesus (Part II), this became a sharp schism inside Judaism. But for Saul of Tarsus and Rome in the mid-1st century CE and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and last remnants of radical Jewish resistance by the Sicarii at Masada (73 – 74 CE), it was an opportunity for both Hellenism and Saul to rewrite history. The history, not Messianic Jewish history.

Herodian Saul and Hellenism Victorious

Explicit facts about Saul’s/Paul’s family, his Jewish [sic] heritage, and educational backgrounds [sic] (Part I) as well as his involvement in Jewish Merkavah and/or Heikhalat mysticism (Intro to Part II) are masked at best. Most of what is known comes strictly from his 7 – 12(?) canonical epistles and Acts. All of these biblical texts must be read under the overwhelming shadow of the Roman-Hellenist Patristic authorities, editors, and copyists. Why? Between 70 CE and 787 CE (over 700-years!) they had complete and total control of what would become “traditional Christianity.”

Fortunately, for the modern neutral and astute reader of earliest Christianity the canonical NT (the mask) is by no means the only source to gain a more realistic, more accurate picture. It is not a fixed mask. In fact, extra, independent sources that are available (among others) come from a large corpus of Jewish scrolls written between the 4th-century BCE and 5th-century CE found just outside of Jerusalem! They are the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) from Qumran. They offer us an almost stunningly vivid background and context of Second Temple Judaism/Messianism and Sectarianism of late Classical Antiquity in the Levant and around Jerusalem. This 700-year era written about in the DSS from a non-Roman non-Patristic standpoint is an unprecedented broader look into the very soil, seeds, and roots from which earliest Jewish-Christianity sprang. The DSS are an untouched, pure Jewish-Messianic, independent lens on Hellenistic-Herodian Judaism, on Hellenistic Rome and her eventual, Imperial, Pauline Christ-cult.

Publication of Post-1957 Discovered Scrolls Withheld
The first scrolls were discovered in 1946 and ’47. More caves and scrolls were discovered in 1948 – ’49, then more still from 1950 – ’56 totaling over 980 texts from twelve (12) different caves. The first complete photographs (in infrared) of all the texts were made between 1952 – 1967 including the newly discovered scrolls and fragments post-1957. However, due to the political and religious implications of what these texts held, several of the scrolls and fragments were withheld from publication for 30-40 years by a small circle of “established scholars” or what several outsider-scholars have called “The DSS Academic Curia.” The Curia was led by French Dominican priest Roland de Vaux and consisted of just three Hebrew scholars, Józef MilikJohn M. Allegro, and John Strugnell.

By 1956 problems were broiling inside the Curia and outside by historical and biblical scholars wanting access to the DSS. Allegro put the ego-driven controversy quite succinctly in his letter to de Vaux:

It’s a pity that you and your friends cannot conceive of anything written about Christianity without trying to grind some ecclesiastical or non-ecclesiastical axe.

For an outdated, brief introduction about these controversies you can go to this 1993 New York Times article, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Fragile and Remarkable, specifically the 17th paragraph.

Was Saul A Herodian-Jew and Not A Pharisaic-Jew?
If the only testaments you read are the canonical Epistles of Saul/Paul and Acts of the Apostles, of course you’d simply conclude that Saul was “a Hebrew among Hebrews,” descended from the tribe of Benjamin, and educated by Gamaliel in the acclaimed Beit Hillel. But Josephus, the Pseudo-Clementines, and Epiphanius offer a compelling refraction of Saul’s Epistles and his related passages in Acts that with the three aforementioned sources tell a different background and family of Saul-Paul.

In many past blog-posts (e.g. The Incarnation of G-Man) I have made the distinction between Greco-Roman deification or Apotheosis, and Second Temple Jewish Messianism. The two adversaries can never be ignored. This clear distinction can also be appropriately applied geographically in the eastern portions of the Late-Republic to Imperial-Principate Roman Empire (c. 133 BCE – 284 CE).

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From the slides above we see a macrocosm of Hellenism’s expansion and permeation of the entire Mediterranean Basin begun by the Greek Empire and then by the end of the 1st-century BCE, Rome’s version and reinvention of its allure until the eventual decline throughout the 4th and 5th-centuries CE. If you’d like to see the slides independently and enlarged, click here. Rome and her Hellenistic culture gradually swallowed up almost all Sectarian, Torah-loving (Jewish-Essene Jesus) Judaism/Messianism. This extermination of revolutionary Palestinian Messianism was completed after the fall of Masada in 74 CE when the DSS were hidden in the 12 various caves around Qumran. For almost 1,900 years the only Judaism and Christianity the world would ever know was Messiah-killing Hellenistic Judaism or Hellenistic-Roman Christianity… until 1946.

Through the Herodian dynasty (37 BCE – 44 CE) to the complete control of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea by the Roman Empire (44 – 136 CE), most traditional Law-oriented Jews in the Levant had very little patience for Hellenistic Overseas Jews and their distorted ideas and teachers of either a corrupted Temple, Torah, and Messiah(s). They were often referred to as “The Enemy” by Palestinian Jews/Messianism. Saul was clearly an “Enemy” and he knew it. Compare:

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? — Galatians 4:16

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the [Hellenic] world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the [Hellenic] world becomes an enemy of God. — James 4:4

It is widely accepted that Saul authored Galatians. The epistle of James has traditionally been attributed to James, the brother of Jesus, or at least pseudonymous to him. James’ audience was clearly the Palestinian Messianic followers or otherwise known as Judaeo-Christians. When comparing the two we can infer the stark differences between Overseas Judaism/Messianism and that of Palestinian Judaism/Messianism. And how badly Saul was treated in Syrian and Palestinian synagogues attests to this schism. There’s more.

Terminology like the Enemy, the Liar or Spouter of Lies, Man of Lying, Comedian of Lying (i.e. epileptic?), and some others, was strongly applied to the adversary of “The Righteous Teacher” within the Palestinian Movement and the DSS at Qumran. Saul/Paul again shows familiarity with these terms. In fact, he references them repeatedly in Gal. 1:20, 2 Corinthians 11:31, and Romans 9:1 (to name just three) that he was not a Liar or he does not lie.” This explicitly implies that his groups/churches there have been told that Saul of Tarsus deceives and maligns.

The Enemy” terminology is also quite strong and prevalent in the Pseudo-Clementines. For example, in Homilies in the apparent Epistle of Peter to James the brother in Jerusalem:

For some from among the Gentiles have rejected my legal preaching, attaching themselves to certain lawless and trifling preaching of the man who is my enemy. […]

[The Gentile Enemies] transform my words by certain various interpretations, in order to the dissolution of the law. […]

…the law of God which was spoken by Moses, and was borne witness to by our Lord… for thus he spoke:  “The heavens and the earth shall pass away, but one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.” (quoting Matt. 5:18) Homilies, Epistle of Peter to James, Ch. 2

Dr. Bart Ehrman describes the significance of this Epistle of Peter to James as a Palestinian counter-balance to the Hellenic canonical NT and Acts of the Apostles:

This book provides the counter-view to that found in the New Testament book of Acts, where Paul and Peter are thought to be completely on the same side and simpatico on every major issue. Not according to this short letter. Here Peter and James are the heroes of the faith, and Paul is the great enemy. 
Bart Ehrman Blog, “Another Forgery in the Name of Peter, April 2013, accessed Oct. 11, 2018

There have been several religious-historical scholars that theorize Simon Magus (of Acts 8) and Saul of Tarsus are one in the same. Accepting this theory is not unreasonable. Consider these side-by-side teachings reported by Irenaeus in his Against Heresies I.23.3 and Saul’s in Galatians:

Iranaeus v Saul

The two comparisons are practically identical. And thus in the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1 Ch. 70, Palestinian Judaism/Messianism did not hold Hellenic Saul/Paul in any high esteem due to what he incited earlier at the Temple against James the brother of Jesus regarding “sacrifices” and how Temple worship was conducted by Herodian Priesthood, the two biggest conflicts of the time between Overseas Hellenic Judaism and Palestinian Judaism/Messianism:

While he was thus speaking, and adding more to the same effect, and while James the bishop was refuting him, he began to excite the people and to raise a tumult, so that the people might not be able to hear what was said. Therefore he began to drive all into confusion with shouting, and to undo what had been arranged with much labour, and at the same time to reproach the priests, and to enrage them with revilings and abuse, and, like a madman… […]

Then others also, seeing him, were carried away with like readiness. Then ensued a tumult on either side, of the beating and the beaten. Much blood is shed; there is a confused flight, in the midst of which that enemy attacked James, and threw him headlong from the top of the steps; and supposing him to be dead, he cared not to inflict further violence upon him. Tumult Raised by Saul, Recognitions Book 1 Ch. 70

Saul is saved from this scene by a troop of Roman soldiers, oddly enough protection Jews rarely received unless of Roman aristocracy. Read what even Episcopalian/Catholic ordained Dr. Taylor R. Marshall points out about Saul-Paul of Tarsus here. It is a remarkable read! Furthermore, in the Epiphanius traditions, e.g. Anabathmoi Jacobou or “The Ascents of Jacob,” Saul has a large entourage of Greek-Romans and Roman troops with him during his trip through Caesarea (the seat of the Herodian family by then) then on to Jerusalem to test the recent ban against Herodians and foreigners inside the Temple Mount by, most assuredly, the “zealot” tradition-minded (Jamesian?) Priesthood. This is telling. A simple Hellenist-Jew was never accorded that level of Roman pomp or protection. I ask, is it really anymore compelling why Saul’s true background was so clouded, so overlooked centuries later?

Is there more to Saul’s repulsive reception by Palestinian Judaism/Messianism? Actually there is enough to at the very least question Saul’s true origins, if not rewrite them.

Aside from the angry mob who attacks Saul while trying to enter the Temple in Acts 21:27-29, how Saul acquired his “Roman citizenship” was a very peculiar, suspicious accession. None of the original “Apostles” were ever given Roman citizenship. None of the previously ruling Maccabees were ever awarded citizenship. However, Herodian Jews did indeed receive Roman citizenry. Ironically, Saul himself supports this method of Roman-Herodian citizenship:

Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my kinsman. — Romans 16:10-11

Dr. Robert Eisenman of Cornell, New York, and Columbia Universities closely examines this possible/probable Saul bloodline saying:

Here, he refers to his “kinsman Herodion,” i.e., “The Littlest Herod” (obviously the son of the Roman Governor Felix mentioned above and the Herodian Princess Drusilla, killed in the eruption of Vesuvius at Pompeii) — whom he introduces with an allusion to another person with a name popular among Herodians, “Aristobulus,” i.e., “the Household of Aristobulus” in Romans 16:10. The “Aristobulus” referred to here may or may not be the “Aristobulus the son of Agrippa I’s brother Herod of Chalcis” mentioned above — the husband of that Salome who plays such a key role, according to Gospel portraiture, in the death of John the Baptist — both of whom advertise themselves on the reverse of their Lesser Armenian Kingdom coinage in “Asia” what “Great Lovers of Caesar” they were! That Paul has powerful relatives of this kind in Jerusalem with a direct entree to the Roman Governor and Soldiery is made crystal clear too by Acts 23:16 which refers — following his rescue by said Troops preceding this — to the role his “nephew” (“his sister’s son”) played in this affair while declining to specifically name him!
— Eisenman, Robert. Breaking the Dead Sea Scrolls Monopoly: A New Interpretation of the Messianic Movement in Palestine

This would explain neatly and nicely why Saul/Paul was so unwelcomed in Palestinian Judaism/Messianism (e.g. Antioch, Damascus) and in Jerusalem by the real students/disciples (pillars) of Jesus who actually knew, lived with, and traveled with him in person. But as my above maps illustrate, in the end for true historicity it did not matter that Palestinian Judaism-Messianism (Jesus’ reforms and teachings) would be lost under Rome’s power and glory. The expansive swallowing effect of Hellenism all throughout the Mediterranean Basin, then adopted by the Roman Empire, and in time absorbed the Overseas (Diaspora) Judaism, Palestinian Law-oriented Judaism/Messianism — the movement begun by Jewish-Essene Jesus that failed — was a doomed minority movement. Plain and simple, becoming an uncomfortable friend to Rome, i.e. Hellenic Apotheosis and Pauline-Christ, had a much better allure than being her nagging, failing enemy.

Accordingly Saul’s Christ-cult was Embraced By Hellenic Pagans/Gentiles
Well before Saul was born and came on the scene, for about two centuries Jewish Synagogues had opened up their worship and teaching to the Gentile/Pagan world with the incorporation of Hellenistic literature and philosophy. This is attested in the Gospels (Matt. 23:15). Uncircumcised, God-fearing Gentile-Jews were already part of many synagogues and communities. This is confirmed in the Talmud. What was typically the confusion about this controversial topic was the naïvety of protecting the Torah and its study, versus the study of the seven Noachian commandments available to all people. The very fact that Saul was unaware of these distinctions — especially claiming Benjamite-Hebrew heritage! — smacks of his highly suspect (fraudulent?) origins or at least implies he is a Herodian-Jew, an outsider, mentally lost and ignorant of these established Jewish practices!

Furthermore, what would the best alternative approach for the centuries-later Hellenic Patristic Fathers to a failed Messiah, who never returns, and the related Messianic prophecies also fail? Dr. James Tabor answers this superbly with his 1997 presentation to the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting here. This is another excellent read!

In a nutshell, Torah-loving, Law-abiding Jewish-Essene Jesus in Palestine was not teaching a diluted, distorted Judaism like was practiced by Hellenic, Herodian pseudo-Jews. When constantly rejected and persecuted by those Torah-abiding Jews in synagogues across the Empire, particularly Palestinian Messianic Jews in the Levant, Saul was forced to reinvent his TL-epileptic “divine revelations” into his own Roman-Christ, his own Roman-church, and his own Roman-Hellenic theology. With his background in mysticism and elements/themes of Gnostic Philo-philosophical strands, the Gentile-pagans (non-Jews) — who couldn’t understand the complicated, law-ridden Jewish practices and customs in the first place — were very open to his “new” religious cult. It appealed more to their Hellenic lifestyle and thinking: God’s blessings and salvation were available to everyone if the death of Christ was embraced, death to this world was embraced, and steadfast blind “faith” in these two precepts (since they were unsupportable anyway) granted one’s spiritual entrance into God’s Kingdom of Earth and Heaven.

Thereafter, pagan Pauline Christology was born and still exists today as a never-ending complexity of diverse, dis-unified theology and practices called Christianity.

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Feel free to share your thoughts and/or questions below over this 5-part series. Kind thanks for your patience and time during this series and its demands to research, authoring, and publishing. It is appreciated.  🙂

Post script — For more details about how and why Christianity is comprehensively problematic, unravels, and collapses on numerous counts beyond its founder Saul of Tarsus, go to my page:  Why Christianity Will Always Fail.


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100 thoughts on “Saul the Apostate – Part IV

  1. As usual, a lot to digest, but an interesting read nonetheless. However, as you and I have discussed before, your approach to this series is on the basis of an extant historical figure, whereas I consider Saul/Paul to be a fabrication. Certainly the figure in Acts is as unrealistic as the exploits attributed to him are farcical. This then brings under the spotlight the motivation of the writer of Luke, who is credited with penning Acts.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, several/many names in the entire Bible are not actual historical people, they are caricatures for cultural storytelling generation to generation. And aside from the various confusing Yeshua/Jesus Messianic caricatures, Saul/Paul has much less independent support for his existence! In fact, outside of the NT (Acts and his Epistles) and the descendant writings of Patristic Fathers, there is nothing except allusions to a possible “outsider,” a (Herodian) Jew spewing lies and deceptions about “The Way” Movement in Syro-Palestine. Dr. Richard Carrier of Columbia University, however, says this in his blog-post “The Historicity of Paul the Apostle”:

      Paul thus falls into the class of ordinary persons who wrote letters and had effects on history. […]

      Paul is very much not analogous to Jesus. […]

      James Tabor has provided a very brief summary of the evidence for Paul (in The Quest for the Historical Paul). And perhaps the best monograph for the purpose is Gerd Lüdemann’s Paul, The Founder of Christianity (2002). But neither deals with this question thoroughly.

      I will concur that, as I have found, the book of Acts is near useless fiction (On the Historicity of Jesus, Chapter 9). And all extra-biblical evidence for Paul, which is not based on the letters attributed to him, derives from Acts and no other source (either by using Acts as a source, or embellishing it’s tales with more mythology about Paul). So on those counts, Jesus and Paul are in the same evidential boat: there is nothing attesting them that counts as independent of Acts, and Acts is wholly unreliable as a source of historical facts in this matter.

      Except in Paul’s case.

      What I wanted to show any moderate or fanatical Christian with this series was that even within their own “faith-system” built strictly from Scripture is that there are a litany of serious problems with Saul/Paul to the probable and truer Second Temple Judaism/Messianism to which they and Christianity claim relation. That connection is just simply untrue, unfounded. In fact, what they/we have today reflects very, very little of what a (possible?) Yeshua/Jesus quasi-Sectarian/Essene Jew would have taught in that time-period. Today’s Pauline Christology is 85% – 90% Jewish Mysticism mixed with Gnostic Philo-philosophy from a TL-epileptic calling his seizures “divine revelations.” In clinical psychology and neurology that condition is not only identifiable, but treatable. Further still, those “divine revelations” can indeed be created thru electric pulses to specific parts of ANY human brain.

      Thank you Ark for sticking with me thru this series. Your feedback is invaluable Sir. 🙂

      Here’s the link to that Carrier post:

      Liked by 2 people

      • Although no historian, I still maintain an unwarranted historicity has been attributed to the character known as Saul/Paul.
        However , as I have no scholarly background or qualifications I shall have to accept that my view is, in all likelihood, going to be treated with a degree of contempt.

        Liked by 2 people

          • I am fortunate , in that I was never enmeshed in the whole religious nonsense that so many decons struggle to let go of/divest themselves.
            I consider it a work of historical fiction in its entirety and I salute those with the frontline experience who are prepared to expose as much of the fraud as is possible.

            Liked by 4 people

            • *Shrug* ‘Tis what it is.
              I have neither the in-depth knowledge or patience to write such a piece as this, and it broadens my own knowledge base
              It is just a pity that people such as Mel Wild would likely refuse to read it.

              Liked by 2 people

            • True. The Pastor M. would certainly be one of those millions just too lazy to check, recheck, verify, etc, what he is spending and investing too much energy and life into… for absolutely no ROI…

              Return on Investment. Sad. :/

              Liked by 2 people

            • The need to believe something, even after it has been shown to be a lie, merely to justify one’s sole (soul?) raison d’être, suggests the individual has some deep-seated psychological issues.

              Liked by 2 people

            • Agreed. Based on my years in the field of Psych/A&D rehab, I’ve always recognized degrees of fear-based cognitive and behavioral postures by patients. In this case here when you are incessantly taught (and you willingly believe it to be so) that you are incapable, depraved, and hopeless without a Proxy and only one Proxy to enter a (fictional) heaven of bliss, it only exacerbates the disorder.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Btw Ark, my apologies for not getting to Marcion. I very much wanted to, but in order to include him in the series I felt it would’ve added another Part V and possibly VI — at least the way I go into detail. 😵😄

              Liked by 1 person

  2. I like reading about the more Hellenized Jews of the period. It’s fascinating to get into the down and dirty of actual history, vs. theology! I made this point before on The Spartan Atheist, but it was I think that people of faith fight back so hard and irrationally, using the appearance of facts as merely facade in apologetics. They don’t genuinely want to seek out the facts, it’s an emotional security blanket. If one is raised to believe that religion and glorifying God is their sole purpose in life and identity, then what do they have left if that’s taken away? Annoying to anyone who values rationality and truth over blissful ignorance, but that revelation to me helped me understand why they get so rabid about it. The ego must protect itself through cognitive distortions….

    On an unrelated note, do you make your own diagrams? The first one is really cool, did you make it for your blog? How did you manage to find the exact one you wanted with all the ideas on it? I hope you do more posts on these historical topics! Great read!!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you LoR. ❤

      Yes I did make my own diagrams. The information I have gathered sometimes just doesn't quite convey the history, facts, evidence, etc, the way I would like it to be presented. Hence, I brainstorm ideas on how to present it then often spend hours (days?) making it exactly what I want. Hahaha. 😄 And I can guarantee you there will be more historical topics in the future! The area/discipline is one of my passions. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

        • Not sure if you went through the possible/probable Greek-Hebrew Conversation about their different beliefs — in the link? I found their banter QUITE enlightening about just how far apart they really were/are in perceiving reality! It’s telling for sure. 😮

          Liked by 1 person

          • Did you make that banter? I loved reading it!!! Just saw it today! I highly recommend Keith Hopkins’ book A World Full of Gods! It has a very detailed, sophisticated banter in one of the chapters between a Jew of the time, modern people. and a Christian… 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • I believe you’re referring to the discussion (banter) between the Hellenic Jew and Hellenic Greek(?), so yes, I did. I simply used MS PowerPoint and graphics I found online. For you and any readers/viewers here, a question:

              On Slide #9 (of 21) did you notice what the Hebrew stated — “No, He doesn’t just form them, He creates them. Out of nothing.” — was in fact wrong and that the Hebrew’s following response was glaringly wrong!? See, even though back in the Iron Age and Antiquity the Hebrews knew nothing about the atomic and Quantum worlds, there actually WAS/IS “something” that other “somethings” can indeed utilize or mix with to create or form MANY things… despite what Theists tell themselves or the world. 😉

              I will definitely checkout Hopkin’s book. Thank you LoR! 😍

              Liked by 1 person

            • Perhaps. But for me (and millions of other scientific thinkers) a Prime Mover is NOT required to “explain” everything that ever was! LOL As I’ve often argued here and other blogs in the past, Monism or a Monistic ideology/paradigm is a near ludicrous position when one fairly observes everything outside of themselves, outside the human species, beyond animal species, and all of Nature/Earth and into the Universe and Cosmos EXTENSIVELY, including scientifically (which religious zealots often refuse to do)! Things we humans can observe at any particular moment in time that are in existence do not require contingency. As Wikipedia aptly explains from their Ex nihilo page…

              …if non-contingency is possible, then there is no basis for arguing that contingency is required for existence, nor can it be logically concluded that the number of non-contingent beings or non-contingent things is limited to one single substance or one single Being [i.e. Monism].

              There it is! Furthermore, I am always amazed and utterly baffled by HOW religious zealots/believers can manage the audacity and arrogance to presume they have all the answers or the ONE answer to everything over ALL of time! 😲 Think on that a minute. Wrap your head around just how much THEY are pretending to be a god or demi-god! 🤔

              Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, I knew you were non-religious and atheist. The “father” of the Hebrew and Abrahamic religions is and always has been EXTREMELY arrogant, jealous, temperamental, and honestly childish with no foresight or forethought of Earthly problems and a Satanic nemesis… in the least. Seriously!? Really!? Riddle me that one. 😉 😛

              Liked by 1 person

            • Religious zealots/believers are very much like Capt. Edward J. Smith of the RMS Titanic — they refuse to believe their “unsinkable” ship is really sinking (has sunk?).

              There are so many holes in the religious hull(s) that there is only ONE Monistic place they are choosing to go: the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. 😉 😛

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Saul the Apostate – Part III | The Professor's Convatorium

  4. Interesting. So in a nutshell (if that’s at all possible) lol, the government version won the day, James is still rolling over in his grave, and as the saying goes—might =right. It’s too bad this is the way it goes, across continents and through all time, from the north and even to the east to seek the word of the lord and not find it. If I actually believed in god, this is the one that got away.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I have to admit that some of this has been hard to follow, due to having only part of the necessary background knowledge. Hellenistic civilization I know about — Judaism and the Bible, not so much. But it seems obvious that early Christianity was simplified and modified relative to Judaism, to appeal to people of the dominant surrounding culture (Hellenistic and Roman) in order to spread beyond the tiny Jewish subculture.

    I’m not sure we’ll ever know whether Saul was a mythical figure or a real person or, if the latter, how accurately he’s depicted in the sources we have available. I’ve always assumed that Jesus was mythical and that Saul was the real founder of Christianity who created the figure of Jesus as a sort of prop of authority, the way Muhammad used the archangel Gabriel. But you obviously know far more about those questions than I do.

    You make a strong case that Saul was more Roman than Jewish in identity and culture, whatever his origins. That would explain why he was able to create a form of Abrahamic religion that could spread widely within the mainstream culture of the time — to its own, and our own, vast misfortune.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Guilty as charged Infidel. I know it could’ve possibly been written much better than I’ve done. My issues with this topic is the fact that it LITERALLY covers a minimum of 600-years in Classical Antiquity — a tough time-frame and place to tackle historically! — and cramming the critical factors, variables, evidence, literature, etc, into bullet-points-of-convenience for most modern audiences is no easy task. So please accept my apologies for your difficulty.

      Well, you make a great point about Saul composing an unhistorical Jesus Christ-figure to continue the long-standing Hellenist tradition of Apotheosis. Islam followed suit with Mohammed. Regarding Saul’s heavy Roman-ness, what most modern Christians do not grasp (or they intentionally deny/ignore it) was just how Rome completely hijacked Jewish Messianism — butchered Palestinian Messianism into something unrecognizable! — and rewrote Judaism’s actual Messianic meanings and truth to fit their own socio-political agenda. In other words, Christianity today has no right or basis whatsoever to claim Christ’s prophetical manifestation in or from Jewish Messianism. The two are utterly incompatible.

      Thank you Sir for your feedback. It is always appreciated. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t worry, I was referring to my own lack of background knowledge on the Bible, not to any flaws in your writing. I do pay attention to Christianity, but mainly to the practical present-day and recent problems it poses, rather than to its roots.

        Rome completely hijacked Jewish Messianism — butchered Palestinian Messianism into something unrecognizable! — and rewrote Judaism’s actual Messianic meanings and truth to fit their own socio-political agenda.

        It is rather striking that the main Christian sect is based in Rome and has a complex bureaucratic hierarchy headed by a powerful authority figure — rather like the government of an empire. (I know cults in general tend to have powerful leaders, but that’s generally based on personal charisma rather than institutional tradition, and most cults aren’t big enough to have a bureaucracy.) The Protestant sects have tried to ditch the accretion of non-Christian influences in Catholicism and get back to “the real thing”, but their ignorance (or denial) of the real history left them floundering in the dark.

        If Christianity absorbed Hellenistic influences, it’s too bad it failed to absorb the most valuable aspect of Hellenistic civilization — its science. After the murder of Hypatia, the spirit of Aristarchus did not return to the Christian-dominated world until Copernicus and Galileo, and we know how the Church reacted.

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    • I would to John. He is one of about 8-10 theists/Christian apologists (enthusiasts?) I have invited here to my religious posts and my page Why Christianity Will Always Fail. But as you can see only two (Philip and then a long time ago Lander7) have accepted and engaged. Therefore, it would seem (with exception to the two mentioned) this is a typical response from enthusiastic Xian apologists:

      Look the other way, plug the ears to any opposition and critique of their belief-system. Is that the ostrich head in the sand move? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you Nan. 🙂 And I would HOPE that it would at least cause them to double-check, triple-check as to why their entire faith-system is built strictly on biased, dependent (vs fully INdependent) sources that their “Messiah” even existed at all, let alone why there were many Messiah-claimants before and immediately after Yeshua’s lifetime!!! I suspect there’s a lot of fear involved too that keeps those rose-colored goggles & sound-proof earplugs permanently fixed over their eyes and ears.


    • Thank you Ken. It turned out to be quite the lengthy, in-depth project and I still didn’t quite cover a few other areas I really wanted to. Maybe for later in another series, huh? 😬😄

      Trying to expand the contextual lens around the relevant portions of the Roman Empire and those subcultures within AND those historical subcontexts is not a particularly easy task. This is made more true (more difficult?) for an average writer like myself. I apologize for that. I am trying to improve my writing style and composition. All thru school and university it was not my passion or forte, obviously. 😄 Thank you for sticking it out Ken! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. When you wrote, “If the only testaments you read are the canonical Epistles of Saul/Paul and Acts of the Apostles … ” I couldn’t help wondering why you made it a qualifying statement … 🙄

    As for your publication … very complex, very long … but very thorough. I admit I only perfunctorily read over some of the historical stuff … mainly because I never was much of a student of history. 🙁

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    • Your initial question Nan is a good one. I qualified it (using gross overstatement) because surely, obviously most Xians read all sorts of commentary, pastor/bishop sermons, watch modern Xian movies, tons of Xian social-media, etc, etc, ad nauseam… and yet too often (if not always) do not consider going straight to the original source(s) to grasp on their own an even moderate competence of all required historical context! Have they never heard of superb sales & marketing propaganda? 😕 So I wanted to grab their attention there.

      Oh, I realize this is not everyone’s cup-o-tea. I’m sure at times it would be painful for you Nan if you read every single word, and clicked on every hyper-link. 😄 I understand. Thank you so much for participating and giving feedback! That’s more than enough. Your particular experience, intellect, and talents only enhance our discussions here. Thank you 100x for that! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, see, I took it from another perspective, like … the “if” was being rather sarcastic since, IMO, few “dedicated” believers ever read anything but their 100% totally true and accurate bible. IOW, what you have presented here is completely foreign to them. In fact, I feel quite certain there are those who would scream blasphemy! simply because you mentioned other/outside resources.

        Anyway, thanks for the compliment. I know I occasionally (often?) tend to look at things from a less-than-serious perspective … but sometimes I’m simply trying to keep things “real.” There’s so much “heavy” stuff going on in our lives as it is …

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting material, Professor. As Ark notes, “it’s a lot to digest.” My takeaway from your series of well-researched articles is that the Christian faith is built upon myths and belief systems of different cultures. The main characters, such as Saul/Paul, cannot be taken at face value.

    The Austrian philosopher and polemic Roman Catholic priest, Ivan Illich (1926-2002), made this observation: “If you want to change a society, then you have to tell an alternative story.” It has to be “a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story.”

    I fear that we-humans have so long been entrenched in the old myths that we seem incapable of taking the leap forward into our ever-changing present and future reality.

    Liked by 3 people

    • First, thank YOU Rosaliene for sticking it out through this series. I really appreciate it. 😍

      Your takeaway is very accurate. However, one that is completely consumed inside one single environ or one optical narrow lens only, it can be near impossible to see or experience the FULL picture or variables that spawned the earliest Christian roots. I cannot tell you the hundreds of times (its probably in the thousands now) I’ve spoken (courteously) to moderate or very enthusiastic Christians who have no idea whatsoever about the Roman Empire, Second Temple Judaism/Messianism and Sectarianism and the Dead Sea Scrolls, all of which are inescapably intertwined with the very seed and roots of their own “faith” their own belief-system dictating their lifestyle!!! It’s astonishing really. 😲

      If we examined human history and civilization from a 1,000 or 5,000-year lens instead of tiny 1-year or 10-year lenses, we’d see just how much we RESIST change. And that addiction to habitual routine and Monism — ironically on an ever-changing planet inside a Universe in perpetual change — makes it a Comedy of Comedies show! LOL

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      • I agree with the observations made in your second paragraph, Professor. I attended all-girls Roman Catholic primary and secondary schools run by the nuns. During my novitiate year, as a young religious-in-training, our classes (given by the Jesuits) in biblical studies, history of the Church, and theology opened my mind to a greater truth and understanding of the Church’s religious teachings and practices. I became a rebel. I questioned everything. Looking back on those days, I’m surprised the religious community tolerated me for seven years.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Thanks for the Saul series, Professor. I am thoroughly fascinated by them and plan to read each, I’m also a long-read fan. Hyam Maccoby’s *The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity (1986)* gives another good refutation of the discrepancies that exist between a “traditional” understanding of Paul’s foundational schemes and mounting historical evidence, such as pesky discoveries of preserved scrolls in modern times.
    Jesusism, the actual teachings of that one Nazarene, had a pretty short halflife. Under Paul/Saul it became fubar. Team Peter & Paul got woven out of stuff-of-Turin cloth, IMO. The historical record does not find Peter anywhere near the capital of the Roman Empire, though it does find him in the Baghdad of Babylon fame and repute. The one wholly not-so-holy church needed a base in Rome and needed it to be as “apostolic” as possible. The church that Jesus presumably founded, with a little help from Matthew, allows no evidence withstanding to wear their rock into sand. Apologists for Petrine Supremacy will do whatever is necessary to glue all the sand into a coherent rock-myth that is self-evident, scientifically demonstrable and scripturally correct.

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    • … though it does find him in the Baghdad of Babylon fame and repute.

      Oooo, thank you so much for the Maccoby mention! I will check that one out. And welcome to my blog. Appreciate the follow. 🙂

      You hint of what I’ve always wondered and thought about Jesus’ Arabian-Persian background, e.g. the Nasara sect and those of Middle Eastern origins which also had the Therapeutae, Theravāda, and Mahayana Bodhisattva Buddhism traits. Again, Alexander’s Empire and Hellenism permeated all the known Classical world.

      Apologists for Petrine Supremacy will do whatever is necessary to glue all the sand into a coherent rock-myth that is self-evident, scientifically demonstrable and scripturally correct.

      If they use only their own “selected” canon, then of course. 😉 The inescapable problem with that porous cup with too many holes is that just like the mighty Roman Empire, they can’t keep hidden and silent ALL the truth and evidence forever away from their Greco-Roman Apotheotic mythology… i.e. Christology/Christianity. That Pauline “Christ” is/was mortal and flawed just like their empire.

      Thank you very much Bill for your feedback. Please feel welcomed to return anytime.

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  9. Thank you for the thoroughly engaging and helpful commentary — and all the marvelous replies on Saul the Apostate (the one you’d better see in the real, if only for self-defense) 🙂
    I endured 1953 to 1961 under the tut-tut-elage of The Sisters of Charity, most particularly a Sister Richard (The Lion-Clawed). The school was named after Dominic: the fellow credited with inventing the rosary. My experience there was not entirely wasted, I had to memorize the Roman Missal in Latin as an Altar boy and gained an early understanding of inflected languages that way. I devoted my time looking for patterns in the Latin of the Missal (disMissal?) during the six days of the week spent at Mass. The high school I attended was then, is now and forever will be a beacon for football, golf, stag gatherings, beer and more beer (see Kavanaugh of SCOTUS for details). The principal of the school spent much time in the boy’s locker room (See Lawrence Strittmatter for victim list). Larry was my Latin teacher for the two mandatory years in that tongue.

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    • My goodness Bill, well you are certainly well-versed not only in those languages — the ones I also noticed on your blog’s About page — of the Roman Catholic Church, but you’ll also have a very good basis for recognizing the Greco-Roman “traditions” of the Church as opposed to Second Temple Sectarian Judaism/Messianism, the former of which represents very, very little of what Jesus the Nasorean/Galilean (of DSS and non-canonical texts) likely was and taught… as best we are able to deduce today with much more Independent sources.

      I do hope you’ll continue to visit and share your valuable experience and feedback Bill. 🙂

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      • The Convatorium is quite literally unique — the very word “Convatorium” may only be found on professortaboo dot com. A single mouse-click takes us to your blog, and:

        About 7,950 results (0.27 seconds)

        While wandering through the Convatorium today — among “Saul the Apostate” episodes — I discovered this gem that spoke to my own ambition:

        “…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.”

        I’d like to borrow that!

        kindest thanks for this unique gathering spot 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Borrow away Sir. I merely ride in here on the shoulders of great mentors and great teachers; on this blog and my other blog. The majority of my wisdom and learnedness is due to others, I simply put my own twist to it while remaining an active part of this planet and human family. 😉

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  10. Professor, I’ve been contemplating a more thorough response to your Paul thesis, usually, I’m just pondering it at work. I still feel it’s more or less dominated as a response to the traditional view of Paul within Protestantism. I’ve been creating a hypothesis in my head in regards to 2nd Temple Judaism being a blend of Paul’s zealotry as explained by NT Wright; 2nd Temple Judaism being a combination of both covenant and works via alms giving found in the Ben Sira/Tobit, charity within 2nd temple being an expression of faith in God, the concept of loan to God found in Prov. 19:17. Naturally, this can be infused with 1 Cor. 13 understanding on love. All of which can then be fused into a combination of being born into the covenant, sustained by works (also sacrementality of Catholicism) which is based and expanded on from the thesis of EP Saunders.

    Naturally, of course, from a Catholic perspective, it becomes a bit more problematic; however, as the Gospel of John illustrates in Chapter Three that those who reborn into the covenant by baptism in Jesus’ explanation to Nicodemus. Naturally, this is something that all calminates in St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians 4:5 “So that we may receive adoption as sons.”

    At any rate, it would take time to lay out all the various passages in Ben Sira, Tobit, Proverbs to make the case for sacramental charity and 1 Corinthians, covenantal nomism of 2nd temple Judaism being an application of John 3 and Galatians.

    However, at any rate, if I can’t find the sufficient time, these are all points for you to look at in regards to your own thesis. It’s roughly a formation of Wright’s Zealotry thesis, Gary A. Anderson’s 2nd temple Judaism sacramental charity thesis, and EP Saunders Covenantal nomism with a bit of a development within the perspective of the Gospels and St. Paul.


    • I still feel it’s more or less dominated as a response to the traditional view of Paul within Protestantism.

      Hmmm, I don’t think I can agree with that assessment, but to be sure I’d have to understand better what you mean by “traditional view of [Saul] Paul within Protestantism.” And I’m still in the process — with very limited time to do so — of understanding better many of your used terms here.

      …creating a hypothesis in my head in regards to 2nd Temple Judaism being a blend of Paul’s zealotry as explained by NT Wright…

      I am quite convinced based on my years of study of Second Temple Judaism/Messianism (the last part you cannot ever separate; they go hand-in-hand) that Saul of Tarsus and most likely a Herodian Jew, and his mystical Christology, and within that more likely accurate history I’ve presented here… cannot be significantly connected, even remotely, to Palestinian Second Temple Judaism/Messianism, the type that Jewish-Sectarian Jesus was deeply rooted in. But perhaps I am not reading your comment correctly.

      Also, as I’m sure you are aware, NT Wright has MANY Christian critics about his exegesis and theology — this is WITHIN the realm of Believers, let alone non-believers or secularists like myself.

      Nevertheless, it deserves noting that Ben Sira was a Hellenistic Jew (versus a Messianic Palestinian Jew like Jesus) and the Book of Tobit is a canonical book of the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches, AGAIN both Hellenistic brands of Pauline-Hellenist Christology versus Messianic Palestinian Judaism that I (tried) distinguished in my series here. There is indeed a noticeable if not major difference of beliefs, practices, and theology, let alone the nature and purpose of the Messiah. As a respectful reminder, Second Temple Palestinian Judaism/Messianism is much MUCH better understood via the Dead Sea Scrolls, not just strictly through the Hellenistic Roman sources, bishops, popes, church hierarchy, and its orthodoxy we have in abundance (overkill?) today… AND was in direct opposition of the Palestinian Messianic Jews, Jesus’ sect. 🙂

      If I may Philip, I strongly suggest you begin an extensive study of Second Temple Palestinian Judaism/Messianism — the cloaked Jerusalem Council version exterminated in 66 – 73 CE and thereafter. Thank all goodness and increased objectivity the Dead Sea Scrolls and non-canonical texts of this era are today widely known.

      That said, I do invite your continued participation in these discussions. Your politeness and civility are GREATLY appreciated! Thank you sir.


      • It’s certainly true that Wright is controversial among theist scholars, but again, that’s not a reason to dismiss his argument. Furthermore, I would rely less on Wright and more on Anderson, who argues that Jesus in the Gospels quotes these supposed Hellenistic text in his understanding of 2nd century Judaism, and Saunders, in the conclusion of his treatise on 2nd Temple Judaism dismisses the idea of Sandmel’s comparison of Philo and Paul as comparative Hellenistic. As Saunders illustrates that Language such as Flesh from Paul is not in the same context as Body from Philo. Saunders asserts, “ Paul does not have simply a ‘Jewish’ or a ‘Hellenistic’or a ‘Hellenistic ‘Jewish’ conception of man’s plight. It appears that Paul’s thought was not simply taken over from any one scheme pre-existing in the ancient world.” (Paul and Palestinian Judaism, p.555)


        • No worries. I too LOATHE auto-correcting! LOL

          No, no. I am not advocating to completely dismiss or ignore Wright. I mentioned that because I do have Followers and silent Visitors that are nowhere NEAR as informed on these topics, their vast contextual backgrounds, and the millenia old unknowns and intentional cloaking and rewriting of those cultural contexts by the Hellenistic Roman Empire. In other words, there are now Independent contemporaneous sources to Second Temple (Palestinian) Judaism/Messianism — e.g. the Dead Sea Scrolls and others that escaped Rome’s post-4th century heretical censoring campaign — that cannot be dismissed and must be incorporated into a more accurate/actual, more factual 1st thru 3rd century Levant. Those novices, if you will, that read and stop by here are the ones I had more in mind than making an over-reactive (overkill?) rejection of everything Wright. 😉 Hope that makes sense Philip.

          I will need to read, examine Gary Anderson’s premises and position about 2nd Temple Palestinian Judaism/Messianism to comment with relevance. Is Gary Anderson a lifetime Jew and Jewish scholar of First and Second Temple Judaism/Messianism? Does he have anything published about the significant differences between “Overseas” or Hellenistic Judaism versus Palestinian Judaism during those critical eras?


          • Anderson is Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology at the University of Notre Dame.

            The work that relies heavily on 2nd Temple that I’m most familiar with his book “Charity” published by Yale University Press. I’m sure he has other sources and articles, but it examines much of the continued salvation by works also exhibited in Sanders work, now he has a thorough treatment of Palestinian Judaism.

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  11. Pingback: Saul the Apostate — Part I | The Professor's Convatorium

  12. I know you must have answered this a while back but I can’t find it so I’ll ask again: How did you learn of all this extensive knowledge of history and the Greco-Roman world? Did you have any formal education in it like classical studies?

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    • It was part of my Bachelor’s degree in Humanities LoR: philosophy, history, and Bible/Theology at my particular Xian college. Then I spent 2.5 years at seminary: Reformed Theological Seminary in Clinton, MS. Here’s their website…

      But by 1990 I did not finish my Master’s there because of two major life events: 1) my father’s suicide, and 2) none of the professor’s there at seminary or the one’s I wrote personally with my simple question… wouldn’t or couldn’t answer my one simple question to them. Their lack of answers (or the avoidance of the truth) caused my departure out of Christianity. Since then, my research has been all of my own. Why?

      Because in a country so buried in and blinded by 2,000 years of mythological indoctrination, NO ONE here has the balls to ask these questions, find the answers in authentic history of the Antiquity and Classical Greco-Roman world, and then make it widely known scholarship! It is “taboo” here in Puritan, Conservative America to ask questions that pull back the Wizard of Oz’s green curtain! This widely unknown Agnotology is slowly changing and becoming public knowledge since… say 2008 – 2009, but it is still very difficult to break thru over 2-millenia of blinding indoctrination.

      My menu item “My Library” does have some of my Bibliographies for my research, but it is by no means exhaustive. I am very happy to answer any of your questions though! 🙂 ❤️


  13. My Dear Prof, I have read a lot about Paul and here I read quite a few things I hadn’t before. So, good work! It seems that Saul/Paul was the Donald Trump of his time. Circumstances put him is a position his personal merits did not merit, then his ability to lie facilely kept him in the game. The Jerusalem Jesus cult had no chance of forming a new religion because they were a small cult, one of many, of a small religion (there have never been all that many Jews, today they barely count in the millions). By targeting a Gentile audience Saul/Paul had the chance of acquiring a great many followers and a much better chance of surviving as an organization. The War of 70CE wiped out much of the core of the Jerusalem sect leaving the field to Saul/Paul and his followers.

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    • That pretty much sums up my very plausible theory/history of how & why Pauline Christianity, i.e. Greco-Roman or the Hellenized Christ-cult of Paul’s and his converts—all of which had a significant degree of disdain and/or anti-Semitism toward Yeshua bar Yosef’s (Jesus’) Torah-adherent (reformed) Rabbinical Judaism—took over, overhauled, and totally revamped & invented a new nice-fitting Gentile religion along traditional Roman (Greek) Apotheosis, something the Empire would recognize. In honesty, the two sects (Jesus’ Tannaitic reformed Judaism vs. Paul the Apostate’s Roman version) are nothing alike. That’s what makes modern Catholicism then Protestant faiths utterly divided, more sectarian, further misguided, and grossly amputated or bogus.


  14. Hi there Professor. Update: I just watched a 2009 YouTube lecture given by Geza Vermas at LSU. Is helpful to hear his voice he’s a likeable character. And I’m making good progress in his “Complete DSS in English.”

    I’ve also watched Qumran lectures and interviews (Crawford and Magness) and a U of Groningen sponsored panel discussion. I absorb mixed media stuff fairly well, as opposed to poring over a single work.

    PS You’re patient with my unschooling- to me that’s friendship. I look forward to reading your works. Thanks Prof.

    Liked by 1 person

      • It’s telling that in section, ‘III. The History of the Community,’ Vermas says that in Jewish history, “Chroniclers are concerned not with factual information about bygone events, but with their religious significance.” That makes sense regarding biblical history.

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        • I am SO VERY THRILLD that you are accurately and justifiably UNDERMINING the veracity of your own canonical Greek New Testament Arnold—the supposed “words” of Yeshua/Jesus wrongly translated from the public speaking of Sectarian Tannaitic rabbinical reforms & teaching that Yeshua was MOST CERTAINLY involved with… but sadly never made it into your Greek New Testament!!! Well done sir, very well done! 👏🏻


            • I don’t have proof of anything, I’m going on hearsay. I believe God is a God of hearsay so we’re in opposing worlds Prof.


            • Then my Sasquatchianity is JUST AS VALID as your solo personal belief in YOUR version of God. In other words, you have simply a very personal, solo-unique, pathology of what YOU think is “God”. 🙂


            • Yes, you are just as valid as I am. On my part, rather than solo-unique, God wants his sons and daughters to be a community enveloped in Christ. Yet unlike the Qumram Essenes, very much involved in the secular world.


            • Yet unlike the Qumram Essenes, very much involved in the secular world.

              Ooooo! I want you to explore that differentiation much much deeper Arnold!!! You will certainly find it extremely revealing, enlightening in contrast to your “world-of-mouth” Greek canonical Gospels you get all of your information from! 😁


            • Yet throughout the Tanakh, the OT, God promised, ‘after those days I will put my laws within you.’ And so I began- to keep his laws from the inside out. The life of God in me- what better way to understand and know him?!


            • Arnold, in your present study/studies of only ONE 1st-century CE Jewish Sect—that Yeshua/Jesus was most certainly associated with—the Essenes, try try TRY to sometimes put down your modern, Protestant (Catholic?) rose-colored glasses—skewing your interpretations and extrapolations thru Greek lenses—and view what you are studying as independent of the 4-5 decades later (to Yeshua’s execution) Greek-Roman canonical Gospels. If you never put down your (biased?) Protestant-glazed glasses, you WILL misinterpret and not grasp true, pure Late Second Temple Sectarian Judaism/Messianism that Yeshua/Jesus was a part of.

              But make no mistake Arnold, Yeshua/Jesus was in no uncertain terms—in Tannaitic manuscripts—the “Messiah” that later Greek Church Fathers turned him into (Apotheosis).

              Liked by 1 person

            • Dear me, Prof. I’m smitten with the lover of my soul and you’re trying to talk me away?! I surely do appreciate your zeal.


            • No, no… now you are pulling the typical (non-existent) third or fourth Joker-card—in a standard deck of cards—that Christian Apologists always always love to do. IOW, you are changing or moving the proverbial football goal-posts to suit your game. ((☝️)) 😉

              I am doing no such thing, nothing YOU didn’t first take-on by your own volition; and I certainly did not twist your arm to do a more expansive contextual history of your Faith and its real origins. YOU chose to do this sir.

              You are of course allowed to be head-over-heels infatuated with whomever or whatever you choose. But just because YOU are “smittenly blind” 😉 doesn’t make your emotions/convictions about a Greek Christ or a Jewish Yahweh factual for the rest of the world…

              Unless of course you have some type of Final Authority, which we’ve discussed before, from General Revelation or Special Revelation… or as you’ve claimed: a 1-in-7.95 billion on Earth unique, solo but unconfirmed Revelation (via a Holy Spirit?) that is/was tweaked ONLY for Arnold from your God. 🙂


  15. Arnold,

    Why is it so important to fully understand Tannaim, the DSS & other non-canonical Literature? I’ll let the following experts help answer that.

    Once you finish your Geza Vermes – DSS’s reading/study, IF you are further interested in learning more about Yeshua bar Yosef (Jesus) and his deeply seeded Second Temple Judaism inside high Messianic fervor of the 1st-century CE Judea/Galilee, then I recommend five more Jewish sources/experts with three contextual relevant points. First the three historical points to frame the sources:

    • The failure to exploit the wealth of rabbinic sources [e.g. the Tannaim] has resulted in casting Jewish and early-Christian reality in an increasingly Hellenistic [or Greco-Roman] mold. — Dr./Professor Shmuel Safrai

    • In order to understand adequately the background of the Gospels and the Epistles it is desirable and helpful to have an acquaintance with those writings that exhibit the character of Judaism, namely, the Mishnah, the Midrashim, the Tosefta, and the Baraithoth. The origin and character of these writings will briefly be discussed in this essay, because these writings will help show the different direction Judaism took as compared with Christianity in the two centuries after the close of the New Testament canon. Solomon Zeitlin wrote about the importance of the Talmud as follows:

    The Talmud is a storehouse of law, religion, history, ethics, metaphysical speculations, medical science, astronomy and folklore. It is an encyclopedia covering every phase of human activity, a mine of information for the study of religion, history and civilization not only of the Jews but of the peoples of the entire middle east. It is important for a proper understanding of the origin of Christianity, since this literature came from men who taught at the time that Jesus did. It is essential for a true comprehension of the controversies over the law between the Pharisees as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. — Dr. Raymond F. Surburg

    And finally the third, my emphasis/caps intentional and much needed…

    WITH ALL THE VAST AMOUNT OF TANNAITIC & EARLIEST AMORAIM LITERATURE AVAILABLE, NOWHERE IN ANY OF THIS LARGE JEWISH REPOSITORY—like a Jesus/Yeshua from a geographic Galilee or Nazoreth, or from a bar Yosef/Joseph—ARE THESE CRITICAL DATA-POINTS SPECIFICALLY MENTIONED BY NAME!! NOWHERE!!! And moreover, Rabbinic Judaism is exceedingly obsessed with tracing and recording the lineage of ALL Zugot, Tannaim, Amoraim, etc, prominent Rabbis! Why? For Davidic or Levitical credentials, authority. This Jewish rabbinic VOID of Christ-history is very well known by Christian scholars and certainly all Jewish rabbinical scholars! The fact that Yeshua/Jesus isn’t mentioned by name even once when considering the veracity of Greco-Roman (Greek) Synoptic Gospels and the “divine height” attributed to such a person/Savior—albeit 70-100 years AFTER his execution/crucifixion—speaks volumes of Christology’s Greek-Christ (Hellenistic) as merely mythological in nature.

    Five exceptional Jewish scholars on these matters:

    • Dr./Professor Shmuel Safrai

    • Dr. Raymond F. Surburg

    • Dr. David Flusser

    • Dr. Robert Lindsey

    • Dr. Robert Eisenman and/or Dr. Jeffrey P. Garcia (under-study of Dr. Lawrence Schiffman)

    If you decide to do this intermediate study of your Jesus Christ’s Jewishness and historical background AND you do it with a NEUTRAL brain, then you’ll be well on your first few steps in better understanding the (great?) divide between your Greek Christ and the factual, verified, historical Jewish not-mentioned Yeshua bar Yosef by his own sectarian Jews. And they were extremely obsessive in their meticulous rabbinical details in their literature. Yet, NOTHING about any “Greco-Roman Christ” and all the fantastical hoopla Romans gave him so many decades later.

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    • It seems the Essenes devoted themselves to keeping the letter of the law, without the Spirit. Yet in Genesis 17 God told Abram to ‘walk entirely with me and I’ll give you my covenant.’ I interpret that as giving himself. God wants personal relationship based on his promise. Devotion to him in life’s details, not detailed laws.

      For example, Mount Sinai. In Exodus 20 God gave the Law to Moses because the Israelites didn’t want him too close (v19), didn’t want personal relationship. I’ve broken every law yet he still wants ME, in Christ, to walk side by side with him- chatting as we go.


        • Exactly! Life is unpredictable, “like a box o chocolates,” and I interpret that God’s in charge. Others think he’s partly in charge, or not at all. Who knows.


            • I am smiling, appreciating your humor and time and patience with this here newbie religious history student (now on page 132/800+). And by the way, isn’t anything we read and write shaded with favoritism?


            • So are you agreeing then that we now DO KNOW about Jesus’/Yeshua’s teachings according to his 29-yrs of Jewish education, training in the Oral-Torah and Written-Torah, and why he never once claimed to be the Messiah or Aaronic or Davidic Messiahs?

              You seem to be all over the map Arnold with your biblical quotes & exegesis. May I STRONGLY suggest you learn much, much, MUCH more about your actual partner Yeshua… or as you wrongly label him: your Christos with heavy (Herodian) Pauline theology. I think you’ll fair much better in your explanations about Why and how I believe. Just a wise suggestion for ya. 🙂


      • It seems the Essenes devoted themselves to keeping the letter of the law, without the Spirit.

        Arnold, I’m afraid you’ve made a GROSS anachronistic mistake and misrepresentation of the Qumran Essenes. I’m not sure even Geza Vermes would completely agree with your statement there. The Essenes represented only one form of Sectarian Judaism of the Second Temple Period, along with numerous other Jewish sects.

        First, most all acclaimed Jewish scholars of 1st-century CE Tannaitic Judaism explain ONE controversy or debate between the various sects in Palestine & Judea: it was the ancient (Assyrian & Babylonian) Diaspora practices of worship and meanings of the Oral-Law (Rabbinic-Torah verbalized but NOT found explicitly in the Five Books of Moses; i.e. exegesis) versus or in harmony with the Written-Law (Torah, or explictly in Moses’ Five Books).

        It will probably come as a big surprise to you Arnold, BUT Yeshua bar Yosef never waivered from either the Oral-Laws or the Written-Laws. It wasn’t until Herodian Saul of Tarsus (Paul) came along with an entirely DIFFERENT version of what Yeshua actually (and most likely) taught to his followers—to essentially abandon half of what Jesus/Yeshua taught: which was follow the Written-Laws—is, well blasphemy really, should you still hold your Christos so highly. But this is what I was distinguishing in my Part III Saul the Apostate blog-series:

        To a modern reader a very ambiguous verse/sermon typical of cryptic non-Messianic Jesus, but it aligns with quasi-Sectarian Essene-Jesus. How so?

        The first generation Tannaitic traditions in the Jewish Mishnah (20 BCE – 80 CE) can give some context to the language of this sermon. Three key identifiers can be correctly deciphered out of the loose Greek Matthew translation. They are dogs, pearls, and pigs or swine. In the Tannaitic [Oral] Mishnah dogs represent Gentile idolaters that “when driven by hunger, tears and devours young lambs.Pearls represent the rabbinical interpretations and discourse of the [Oral] Torah, something precious and costly. Rabbis did not teach secrets [exegesis] of the Torah to Gentiles. And pigs/swine were always implied as the Romans as verified in Cicero’s “Divinatio in Caecilium.” Therefore, with this more unambiguous vocabulary, here is the proper Tannaitic version of Matthew 7:6:

        Do not give what is holy to Gentile idolaters, and do not throw your [Oral] Torah-secrets [exegesis] before the Romans, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

        Jewish-Essene Jesus further supports this new redone, unambiguous verse in Matthew 10:5-6 and 15:26. At the least, Jewish-Essene Jesus is teaching the crowd and his disciples a passive walk and love in the Torah and to never force the coming Kingdom of God (on Earth) onto Gentiles or Romans if they are not interested. This was not what Saul began teaching and it got Saul into lots of harsh trouble.

        Yeshua never explicitly condemned his fellow Jewish Essenes for their “lack of spiritual faith,” or rather their stronger focus on the Written-Torah. In fact, he did indeed borrow their good parts according to both the Oral- and Written-Law which he held to dearly. What the Essenes really disliked (despised?) was the Temple practices in Jerusalem, how the Sadducees and Temple Priests treated the Written-Laws. That made them severe Separatists. And to borrow from YOUR highly abbreviated Scripture quote above, Dr. David Flusser stated in his 1988 article, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity:

        The Essenes believed that God had divided mankind into two camps: members of their sect were the true “sons of light,” [or unite in peace]… while everyone else belonged to the condemned, wicked and sinful “sons of darkness.” [or divide]

        Second, when you state “without the Spirit”, you are anachronistically and wrongly applying, or interpolating a DIFFERENT version of later theology by Saul of Tarsus, the Hellenistic Herodian Jew. Yeshua most certainly would’ve taken exception to your projection onto the Essenes, let alone the Essenes themselves.

        Because the Essenes believed so vehemently in God’s dividing humanity into clean and unclean, as you alluded to in another recent comment you made here… Yeshua probably would’ve explained your wrong interpretation of the Essenes this way, as Dr. David Flusser explains about Spiritual Wealth, ala Luke 16:10-12:

        Jesus was referring not only to [economic] wealth, but also to a higher value. […]

        The term “that which is true” is unclear and very difficult to retranslate into Hebrew, and the phrase “what is your own” (16:12), is also somewhat enigmatic and usually interpreted to mean heavenly wealth. Consequently, the typical interpretation is:

        The principle is then applied to worldly and heavenly wealth which are equated with small and great responsibilities…. Disciples will not be entrusted with heavenly wealth and responsibilities if they have not already shown themselves faithful over against worldly wealth.
        I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), p.622

        Such an interpretation presupposes that the person “who will give you what is your own” is God himself. However, this interpretation of the parable’s application does not correspond to the parable. […]

        Jesus’ adherents are required to be open-minded to outsiders and trustworthy when having commercial contact with them. […]

        Jesus was speaking about a community of wealth, but one very different from that of the Essenes.

        However, this was NOT to say that Yeshua was condemning the Essenes’ choice to stay away from the unclean world. Dr. Flusser would say Yeshua was still aligned in many ways with their ascetic practices as opposed to those in the Temple. Here’s a fascinating revelation for you Arnold… Dr. Flusser has very strong corroboration and scriptural/rabbinic source evidence to convince many in Judeo-Christian scholarly circles that Yeshua/Jesus was very, VERY closely aligned with the Hasidim, or Pharisees. Who are the Hasidim or a Hasidean? Go here:

        The remainder of your own PERSONAL exegesis on the Jewish books of the Torah (by Moses) are overly suspect. Unfortunately, given the novice-level you are currently at in your studies of ancient Judaism then Second Temple Judaism makes the time necessary to correct and/or challenge YOUR non-Jewish exegesis of the Torah… untenable right now for me. Perhaps at a much later time when you are much, MUCH further along in your new-found Jewish studies of Yeshua bar Yosef, not your Greek-Hellenistic Christos, we can pick this back up. 😉


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