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 – Intro to Part II

“Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable;
but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—
whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know,
God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.
And I know how such a man—whether in the body
or apart from the body I do not know,
God knows—was caught up into Paradise
and heard inexpressible words,
which a man is not permitted to speak.”

— 2 Corinthians 12:1-4

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To review, in Part I of this series I introduced epilepsy, Simple Focal Seizure and temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) specifically, some accounts of this disease/disorder both in ancient and modern history, and some broader context for Saul’s (Paul the Apostle) drastic 180° turnaround toward Jesus’ The Way sect or disciples/students in and around 1st-century CE Syro-Palestine while on his way to Damascus. The Christian Bible(s) are full of various accounts of epileptic “visions” or revelations in both Old and New Testaments, e.g. 2 Kings 3:11-15 to name one. But the passage most glaring and most telling for Saul’s hopeless, embarrassing ailment of TLE are the above verses in his second letter to the Corinthians. With these verses I wish to further substantiate Saul’s condition as temporal lobe epilepsy, or form(s) of it as the ailment varies case to case, yet still within the taxonomy of epilepsy.

As I briefly mentioned to Infidel753 in my comments of Part I, there were practices by Bronze Age Jewish Mystics (later Kabbalah) using two techniques:  Merkavah (moderate, safe) and Heikhalat (intensive, more dangerous). During Second Temple Judaism, particularly the Pharisaic sects and their sub-sects, Merkavah mysticism was mainstream because of the high-risks of extreme ecstasy or depressive paranoia of Heikhalat followed by being generally labeled a heretic and/or possessed by demons by colleagues and the public. There was a lot less control over Heikhalat types of visions or revelations, naturally too in the cases of “fall down” epileptic seizures. One of the “visions” or non-bodily states Heikhalat mystics would try to achieve and experience by chanting, reciting divine names, and with magical hymns was ‘ascending to a system of heavens or paradise (ecstasy) and antechambers surrounding the divine.’ This is in all likelihood what Saul/Paul refers to in verses 2 and 4 above caught up to the third heaven” and “caught up into Paradise” inside his dramatic and unconventional visions/seizures. It’s perfectly reasonable to say that Saul, having suffered his epilepsy for much of his life, most likely including in Tarsus and Jerusalem during his educational youth, would have felt much more “accepted” in Heikhalat Jewish mysticism and of the school of Bet Shammai, as opposed to Bet Hillel or the moderates and Merkavah mystics.

It deserves noting too that Merkavah mysticism along with Hillelite ideology aligns almost perfectly with Hellenism and Neoplatonism. This gives good reason for later 3rd – 4th-century Hellenistic Patristic authorities supervising the composition of the New Testament canon to retrograde (change) or retrofit Saul’s education to Hillel, Gamaliel, and Pharisaic references in Acts, 2 Timothy and Philippians — more recognizable by Hellenistic Gentiles (perhaps rural, average Jews too) — rather than to his less auspicious, more volatile background, seizures, and short-temper of Shammai-Heikhalat teaching, behaviors and praxis inferred in Galatians and Philippians. With the latter, people in Cilicia, Syro-Palestine, Judah, and Galilee would’ve literally spat upon Saul as a perceived demonic, shameful spectacle; something Saul alludes to often in his letters.

Furthermore, and to conclude the topic of Saul’s epilepsy (TLE), increasing studies and breakthroughs over the last four centuries into the recognition of, causes, education of, and the treatment management of TLE, have led medical neurologists, psychiatrist, and clinical pathologists as well as related researchers to compile a rich neurobiological encyclopedia of epilepsy and the Sacred Disease. Two are of particular importance with regard to Saul and other famous and infamous historical figures:  St. Paul and temporal lobe epilepsy by D. Landsborough, and Epilepsy and Mysticism by Dr. Javier Alvarez-Rodriguez. I recommend at least browsing over these two very informative medical journal articles to see why it is very plausible, if not near certain, that Saul/Paul, the founder of Christianity, was an epileptic pseudo-Jewish mystic with frequent seizures.

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

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The Gospel-Jesus vs. the Jewish-Jesus

Before any viable discussion can be made about Saul/Paul in correlation to Jesus, or as I sometimes refer to him the quasi-Sectarian Jesus/Yeshua, the discussion has to begin under a cloud of complex, convoluted, and sometimes suspicious literary sources from a very tumultuous, violent, and politically militarily volatile period in late-Republic and Principate-Imperial Rome. This goes equally for the Christian — including the Christian clergy and apologists — and the non-Christian or Secularist. This is not to say that plausible even highly certain conclusions cannot be made, but it is to say that an equitable playing field with equitable rules and protocols should and must exist for all parties and positions. Who wants to start a game where opponents or an opponent begins with multiple points, scores, or goals before one even gets onto the field, right?

One of the immediate problems modern New Testament readers face is that the books or the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation are not in chronological order. To make matters worse, the time-gaps in between the books, events and person(s) they narrate are as long as a decade, half, a full-century, or more than a century in elapsed time. This speaks volumes, or to some degree, as to why the Hellenistic Church Fathers would choose to order them (27 manuscripts/traditions out of some 45-50+ available) instead of a simple linear timeline reflecting a more objectively honest cause-and-effect, start, middle, and end.  An astute and attentive NT reader/researcher would soon learn that one reason the Gospels are in the front/beginning (of many reasons) is because they originate exclusively by oral-sayings passed around in Sectarian homes and Jewish Synagogues with few actual c. 35-65 CE papyri manuscripts similar to Q-source. Below is a side-by-side comparison of the Greek-Patristic (Hellenic) canonical NT order and the best chronological order of it by general consensus…

Canon-Chronologoical Comparison

Here’s the bigger question or concern, it is estimated that Jesus was executed about 30-33 CE. The very first Gospel of Mark was composed c. 70 CE, about 40-years after Jesus’ execution. There are somewhere between 10-40 years between Mark’s Gospel and Luke’s, around 5 for Matthew’s and Luke’s, and 5-15 between John’s and Matthew’s. All of Saul’s Epistles come well before any of the Gospels and Saul doesn’t concern himself in the least with anything about Jesus’ incarnate birth, teachings, supernatural healings, or trial and execution except the “resurrection” of Christ, strictly his Christ in his epileptic visions. Apparently to Saul/Paul nothing matters in c. 36-48 CE about God’s Sacrificial Lamb for the entire world except the meaning of the/his “resurrection.” Why 40-60 years later are Jesus’ Gospels, teachings suddenly critical to record? Most historical-biblical scholars reason that it was because of many questions and challenges over the decades to the validity of a Messianic anointing and the actual nature and purpose of Jesus the Galilean. What was it and what were they exactly that should make this Galilean stand out? There was no unanimous agreement. In fact, very little for at least 300-years. I repeat:  THREE HUNDRED YEARS.

Yet, there is still another monumental concern/question. The oldest copy of the Gospel of Mark, or the earliest narrative of Jesus’ execution and burial has nothing about a later “resurrection” and appearances. The Codex Vaticanus, Mark’s Gospel, stops at 16:8, Jesus’ burial and empty tomb. Was it the correct tomb? Verses 9—20 were later additions to later copies of Mark’s Gospels, some short, some long.

These two strange, troublesome failures anomalies regarding the shuffling of books and the reliability of the Gospel narratives must be kept in mind when reading their “traditional” words and teachings of Jesus the Galilean. These NT and Gospel conundrums make finding what Jesus actually said and taught, and their intentions, difficult at best. Therefore, it is quite judicious that one clearly distinguish a Gospel-Jesus versus a Jewish-Jesus. Dr. Lawrence Schiffman explains the necessity of the distinction with my own inserts [ ] and emphasis for clarification:

Early Christianity seems to have combined the apocalyptic view of the sects with a heavy emphasis on the Davidic [Hellenic] Messiah, apparently the hallmark of the Pharisaic [Jewish] approach. From this combination emerged a concept that the Messianic era was in fact at hand as Jesus was [re]identified as the Davidic [Hellenic] Messiah. When his mission failed to bring about the expected results foretold in the Hebrew prophets, nascent [Hellenic] Christianity revised those prophecies through the medium of exegesis and so was able to preserve the concept of the [Jewish] Messiahship of Jesus despite the disappointment.

That is a good general description capturing the context of the Hellenic Gospel-Jesus. Schiffman goes on:

[Hellenic] Christianity went even further and saw the Messiah as a divine or semi-divine being [Greek apotheosis]. Soon [Hellenic] Christianity abrogated Jewish law and so took the steps which would separate it decidedly from Judaism. When this breach became fully apparent, the [Hellenic] Christians realized the deep gulf separating them from Judaism and began to shift their mission toward the gentiles. The Christian view that Jewish law had been abrogated served to make [Hellenic] gentile Christianity a realistic possibility.

Dr. Schiffman guides us into a deeper contextual understanding of the motives or intentions behind the Patristic shuffling of the canonical Hellenic New Testament despite the fact that Saul/Paul was spreading an implicitly and sometimes explicitly interpolation, or spin if you will, independent of Jewish-Jesus’ life and death. One further note deserves mentioning. It is my personal opinion and conclusion that the primary cause of the earliest divisions, ambiguity, fallacies, and confusion of the Christian Church and its Apostolic Fathers at 7-21 different Ecumenical Councils over some 400-years can be linked directly to Saul the Apostate. For further consideration of this problematic ambiguity first, below are popular manuscripts not included in today’s NT:

Non-Canonical Writings (Incomplete)

From this muddied, murky, dubious situation of 1st and 2nd-century CE Christianity, what the earliest Fathers debated with approximate dates:

Table Canonical Debate

With these table-images it is clearly deduced that the what, who, and why of Jesus the Galilean, after just 30-40 years of his execution, became a symbol of clashing cultures, amalgamated stories and myths, resulting in heated often violent splintering. Saul widens the growing gulf between Judaism and his mystical Hellenism and ultimately with Rome—more anti-Semitism. The sharp contempt was frankly accelerated, not resolved, by Saul of Tarsus, his TL-epilepsy, and personal Shammaite(?) misanthropy.

Saul’s “Christ”

New Testament scholar Dr. Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in his June 2016 blog-post Was Paul the Founder of Christianity? writes:

But [Jesus’] public ministry was not the core of [later] Christian belief. Instead, the core of Christianity is the belief in his death and resurrection. And this is what Paul preached, not what Jesus preached. So that even if Jesus’ life and teachings are important to Jews or Gentiles, they are not really what Christianity hinges upon.

Because of Saul’s background influenced by and under Jewish Merkavah and/or Heikhalat mysticism, catalyzed by his TL-epilepsy, Saul’s Christ was part Meṭaṭron and part Akteriel of Sophian Gnosticism. Quite intriguingly in Jewish mysticism the natures and purposes of Meṭaṭron (Mithra) and Christ (Saul’s vision) are interchangeable, synonymous as defined here. Note in the Britannica Encyclopedia link the part about “…[Meṭaṭron is] as Enoch after his bodily ascent into heaven. He is commonly described as a celestial scribe recording the sins and merits of men, as a guardian of heavenly secrets, as God’s mediator with men, as the “lesser Yahweh,” as the archetype of man, and as one “whose name is like that of his master.

Now, compare Jewish Merkavah-Heikhalat mysticism above to Saul’s interpolations of Christ in his epistles…

Woven throughout these mystical concepts is Israel’s ancient Zoroastrian divine spirit, Philo of Alexandria’s divine spirit in his work “That the Worst is Wont to Attack the Better” (IX.30), or here Saul’s Holy Spirit.

Coming up in Part II of Saul the Apostate I will begin to further compare and contrast Saul’s Christ to the obscured Jewish-Jesus and popular Hellenic Gospel-Jesus. Meanwhile, please feel free to again share your thoughts, ideas, or questions below.

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This work by Professor Taboo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.professortaboo.com/contact-me/.