Saul the Apostate – Part IV

 

Continuing from Part III

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“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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Saul the Apostate – Part III

Continuing from Part II

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“Do not give what is holy to dogs,
and do not throw your pearls before swine,
or they will trample them under their feet,
and turn and tear you to pieces.”
— Jesus, Matthew 7:6

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Certainly a strong command to his disciples and words of warning to the crowd listening to Jesus on the Mount. 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?

sermon-on-mountThe 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 Mishnah dogs represent Gentile idolaters that “when driven by hunger, tears and devours young lambs.Pearls represent the rabbinical interpretations and discourse of the Torah, something precious and costly. Rabbis did not teach secrets 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 Torah-secrets 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.

In 2 Corinthians 11:24-32 we see that Saul faced quick persecution by Jews after his “vision-revelation” and upon arriving in Damascus. More persecution from 2 Cor. 9 and Acts 16:22. Then he faced opposition from Jewish-Jesus’ immediate disciples, their disciples, and James the Brother of Jesus (Acts 15 and 21; Gal 2; James 2 vs Eph 2?). Not only is the harsh resistance inferred from the canonical NT, it is also confirmed by Eusebius’ Pamphilius, Iraneus’ Against Heresies, Origen’s Against Celcus, and Clement of Rome’s Recognitions that Saul’s early hardships were in both the Jewish and Jesus camps.

Clearly apparent is that Saul wasn’t following established Jewish proselytizing methods in the Didache adopted from the Synagogue’s Two Ways,” nor was he following Jesus’ disciples’ methods. Saul was just doing and teaching whatever he interpreted from his own seizures, very much like modern psych-patients do during and after their episodes. Consequently, Saul was viewed as attacking, if not at minimum undermining, both Judaism and the nascent Jesus-Movement authorities, the “pillars” (Gal. 2:9). Despite there existing today more details about Saul’s many disputes with both Jews in the Synagogues and the surviving pillars and disciples of Jesus’ closest followers, we are also able to decipher a much better idea of how and why Saul became the Spouter of Lies or if not, certainly treated as an Apostate.

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-Jesus function within Judaism in general, and 2) antinomianism which further fueled Jewish hate, and by default undermined Jesus’ principle of mutual love.

A Necessary Reminder First
It must be remembered when reading the epistles traditionally ascribed to Saul, only seven of the 14 are agreed upon by most Christian and non-Christian scholars as genuinely Saul’s letters. Two letters/epistles are evenly disputed and four are considered pseudographic, or written later by supporters of Saul. The true author of Hebrews is now considered unknown by almost all biblical scholars. There are also some known lost epistles mentioned in other epistles. The very oldest surviving codex of epistles by Saul (Papyrus 46) covers only from Romans 5:17 through Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, and ends in 1 Thess. 5:28. Papyrus 46 is from c. 200 CE, about 35-60 years after Saul’s earliest letters. From this papyrus biblical scholars know the scribe(s) made minor errors and miscalculations. What does this mean for us here?

Saul’s “genuine” letters (in gold below) and those two evenly disputed cannot be considered beyond a shadow of a doubt, 100% authentic words of Saul. Simple later “traditions” do not make a manuscript error-free. The later the copy, the higher the odds it was later tampered with or erroneously copied. Once again, the chronological order of Saul’s letters:

Chronological Order Canon

Notice that the letter to the Galatians could have been written around 60 CE. This is important to remember. As we continue, what will also become glaringly obvious was just how horribly the 2nd- and 3rd-century CE New Testament compilers/scribes and the Hellenist “Patristic Fathers” (and therefore all their descendant “Fathers”) turned their 4th – 5th-century canonical NT into a mishmash of nonsense; a complete cluster (tr)uck! Frankly, it’s bad and poorly constructed by men who knew too little about Sectarian Judaism/Messianism and its precise Second Temple intent. How did the Hellenistic Fathers get it all wrong?

Saul’s Conflicts & Confusion with the Torah and Judaism
While in Lycaonia of Asia Minor (Turkey), following the laws of the Torah, Saul circumcised his new disciple Timothy:

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. (Acts 16:1-3)

Not only did 1st-century Greeks/Hellenists despise the Jewish custom of circumcision, but based on Saul’s other vehement teachings against the Law/Torah (Colossians 2), was this a blatant contradiction of himself? Now suddenly this Saul-behavior seems to align with Jewish-Essene Jesus’ teaching (Matt. 5 and Luke 16)! Why now are there exceptions to what Jewish-Jesus taught and Saul taught? The Hellenistic canonical NT is completely silent.

Leave it to an 18th-century Rabbi to possibly sort out this one (of many) problematic, contradiction in the NT and with Saul. Rabbi Jacob Emden was considered one of the most acclaimed Rabbis for over three centuries. Many Rabbis considered him a Maimonides reincarnated. Here is Rabbi Emden’s clarification; my inserts [ ] and emphasis:

Christian scholars have assumed from certain passages in the Gospels that [Jesus] wished to give a new Torah to take the place of the Torah of Moses. How could [Jesus] then have said explicitly that he comes only to fulfill it? But it is as I have said earlier — that the writers of the Gospels never meant to say that the Nazarene came to abolish Judaism, but only that he came to establish a religion for the Gentiles from that time onward. Nor was it new, but actually ancient; they being the Seven Commandments of the Sons of Noah, or children of Noah, which were forgotten. The Apostles of the Nazarene then established them anew. However, those born as Jews, or circumcised as converts to Judaism (Ex. 12:49; one law shall be to him that is home-born, and unto the stranger) are obligated to observe all commandments of the Torah without exception. Rabbi Yaakov Emden, “Seder Olam Rabbah Vezuta” Hamburg, 1757

However, does this 18th-century Jewish Rabbinical extrapolation solve the many other problems in Saul’s epistles? After 200, 400, 2000 years why hasn’t this confusion and/or contradiction been fixed? Christians and Christianity has always blamed the Jews for killing Jesus. Why do so many Christians over the many centuries think that to be true? The answer? It began with Saul of Tarsus:

“You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus (1 Thess. 2:14b-15a)

And then antisemitic hostility continued more forcefully with the Patristic Fathers:

“Accordingly, these things have happened to you in fairness and justice, for you [Jews] have slain the Just One…” Justin Martyr, “Dialogue with Trypho” chapter 16

Blaming the Jews for Jesus’ execution was perpetuated all throughout the Crusades, the Medieval Era and into the modern era even to the Holocaust. But it started with Saul. However, it is most clear in the much later written four Gospels (Matthew 26:57-68, 27:25Mark 15:8-15Luke 23:3-23John 8:31-4718:29-40, 19:6-15) representing the fuller Hellenistic retrograde takeover of a failed(?) Jewish Messiah (Gospel-Jesus was never clear about this title) and rewriting the legend into a successful Roman Messiah with some Greek-Gnostic mysticism (Saul) interwoven. Examples of Gnostic and Sectarian mysticism?

Saul completely revamped, reinterpreted the ritual meaning of baptism. Immersing one’s self into baths or rivers was to him no longer a rite of cleansing and regeneration as Jews and Jewish sects such as the Essenes symbolized (Jewish-Jesus as well), for Saul it was a pseudo-death to the world and transformation into a spiritual resurrection with Christ (Romans 6:1-10). For Saul, the Lord’s Supper/Last Supper was a mystical magical union in Christ’s blood and body. This mimics exactly the Mithraic ceremony in the blood and body of Mithra. Justin Martyr even wrote the ritual was identical to early Christianity’s Last Supper ritual. Of course, Martyr was very biased to his own personal beliefs. The point is that the Mithraic ritual was also magical-mystical and hinted of Hellenic Gnosticism and Jewish Mysticism.

Saul’s new teachings, sacraments and “mysteries” (1 Cor. 10:20-21; Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Thess. 4:5; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; Rom. 8:28-30, 9) which brought so many hardships upon himself from both Jews and new Judaeo-Christians (Essenes too), was teaching one thing:  Christ’s death. It was teaching atonement through his death and failure that put all believers perfectly right for God’s coming Kingdom of Paradise. It wasn’t righteous behavior and it wasn’t even faith in an all-forgiving, all-loving Father/God that achieved salvation. It was only Christ’s mystical judicial death. Experiencing that “death” and rebirth through a mystical and/or neurological state of mind (TL-epilepsy?) was how a Gentile became saved. The problem and confusion for Saul — a Hellenistic “mystic” — was that his path to salvation was NOT the path Jewish-Jesus taught in his real life, according to all extant sources:  Gospels, non-canonical testaments, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Essenes) combined.

Saul’s Antinomianism and More Jewish Hatred
Aside from the obvious fact few people rarely want or desire to be on the losing end of an event or organization, or repeatedly associated with a defeated and crumbling existence no matter what time-period it occurs, Saul’s letters progressively over time taught (see above image) further and further demarcation, even defamatory alienation, from all things Jewish by c. 55 – 57 CE when he wrote his letter to the Romans. Several biblical scholars like S.G.F. Brandon, F.C. Baur, and Barrie A. Wilson, chronologically follow Saul’s journeys, compared and contrasted to what was reported about him in Acts decades later, and quite clearly notice (as I do) his rising, antagonizing frustration with the losing people, or team if you will. Take 1 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians (with regard to Jews) and compare them to Romans and Ephesians(?) — and if Galatians was actually found to be written c. 60 CE — and Galatians 3, one cannot escape Saul’s antinomianism and anger toward authoritative Jews, Rabbis, and the Torah.

Saul's Epilepsy

Focal-fractal seizures of TLE

Let’s not lose sight, however, of the forest because of those few trees Saul insisted on playing with — with lighter-fluid, gas cans, and matches — dramatically (mystically) coming from his “divine revelations” via TL-epilepsy.  They were given only to him, and yet not first to Jesus’ closest disciples/students, or let alone any of God’s first chosen people of tiny nomadic Israel. Why the trickery? Or rather why the perpetual antinomianism necessary for the endless kinetic cycle of life, death, and evolution to which all things submit? Consider this…

Because Saul somehow deemed himself the procurator-divine-mediator for all Gentile humanity without pre-approval or preliminary discussion with any other authorities (i.e. Jerusalem Council) or proof, why and/or what made his antinomianism become popular and successful in the end? Why has any antinomian or monistic movement any better or worse than any others in the past? Was it because at that time in history (68 – 180 CE) it was the pinnacle, the most glorious days of the Hellenistic Roman Empire? Was it because of some ancient and contemporary tradition that the Latin God(s) favored the bold, victorious, and popular culture/lifestyle as Virgil poetically wrote in his Aeneid? And more apparent, the Latin God(s) did not favor losers or the constantly losing Jews. Pagan Rome held all the winning cards.

In Part IV, I will spell out how Saul — by going to the Hellenistic Roman Gentiles — in light of his challenges, antagonism, and disrespect to long-established Second Temple Judaism/Messianism and Sectarianism, was simply seeking larger psychological approval, acceptance, from his known tiny world. He wanted/needed validation for his ailment, his TL-epilepsy (revelations?), and his unconventional background in Merkavah/Heikhalat mysticism which almost all of his conventional (sane?) Jews rejected. So can one single man with TL-epilepsy dictate what sort of life was right, was best, and would be the most fulfilling presently or in the afterlife… for the entire world and all of humanity for all of time?

Until the next part, please feel free to again share your thoughts, ideas, or questions below.

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Saul the Apostate – Part II

Did Saul and Jesus teach two fundamentally different religions?
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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. 3334). This was the Kingdom of God that Jewish-Gospel Jesus taught.

greatest essene commandment(s)

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 

silhouette of essene

Son of Man

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.

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