Paul, the Controversial Apostle. Often considered to be the founder of the Christian movement. Of the 27 books in the New Testament Bible, 13 are ‘attributed’ to Paul and approximately half of another, Acts of the Apostles, deals with Paul’s life and works. With no intended disrespect to fellow Christians, this article will look into Paul’s background and creditability by comparing both historical and biblical evidence.
Who exactly was the person known as Paul?
Paul was a Greek-speaking Jew but stated clearly in the Bible that he is a Roman citizen by birth. [Acts 22:25 – 29]
“then the commander said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” He said, “Yes.”
The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.”
And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.”” [Acts 22:27-28]
Paul or Paulus first appeared in the Bible as Saul or Saulus. [Acts 7:58]
According to Roman-Jewish historian Josephus; [a] Saulus was a man related to Herodion royal family, decedent of Herod The Great. His wickedness was also well documented:
“Costobarus also, and SAULUS, did themselves get together a multitude of wicked wretches, and this because they were of the ROYAL FAMILY; and so they obtained favor among them, because of their kindred to (HEROD) Agrippa; but still they used VIOLENCE with the people..” [Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20, Chapter 9, Verse 4]
Saul himself mentioned this in the Bible:
“I (Saul) persecuted (followers of) this Way unto (their) death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.” [Acts 22:4]
“Salute Herodion my kinsman.” [Romans 16:11]
“Herod the Great, Roman-appointed king of Judaea from 37 bce until 4 bce. Herod was born in southern Palestine. His father, Antipater, was an Edomite. When Pompey invaded Palestine in 63 bce, Antipater supported his campaign and began a long association with Rome, from which both he and Herod were to benefit. Julius Caesar also favoured the family and conferred on him Roman citizenship, an honour that descended to Herod and his children.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.[b]
Saul’s background explains why the Romans are protecting him. A regular Roman citizen would not have frightened a Roman commender [Acts 22:29] and most definitely not receive 470 body guards (200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, 200 spearmen) as mentioned in [Acts 23:23]. We now know Saul was protected as such because he is connected to the family of Herod Agrippa, the ruling King of that time.
When the Herodians are mentioned in the Bible, they are coupled with the Pharisees. For example, in [Mark 3:6], the Pharisees plot against Jesus regarding his teaching on the Sabbath day by incorporating the Herodians into their conspiracy. In [Mark 8:15], Jesus again described the alliance of Pharisees and Herod against him. We can also find this alliance in [Matthew 22:15-16].
“Herodian, Noted in the New Testament as opponents of Jesus, they probably were not a political party or a religious sect. They probably favoured the policies of Herod Antipas and a strong promoter of Hellenistic (Greco-Roman) culture in Palestine. It seems likely that they rejected the messianic hopes of the people and thus united with the Pharisees in attempts to entrap Jesus into making anti-Roman statements.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.[c]
The 12 Apostles and How They React to Paul.
The teachings of Jesus was passed on to his disciples and they are call Apostles. Twelve Jewish men were listed as Apostles in the Bible [Matthew 10:2–4]. Later on Judas, was replaced by Matthias [Acts 1:20-26]. Paul’s name was not mentioned in the list because he was among the enemies prosecuting the followers of Jesus and most importantly he never met Jesus.
How did Saul a Jewish-Roman prosecutor became Paul ‘the Apostle’?
In Paul’s letters, he claim that during his journey to prosecute the followers of Jesus in Damascus, he was somehow blinded and saw Jesus in his dream (vision) as mentioned in [Acts 9:1-5].
After the allege ‘Jesus Christ’ visited Paul, he rushed out from Syria to Jerusalem to see the 12 Apostles to tell them what happened. However, that ‘Jesus Christ’ told him in a trance at the Temple to leave Jerusalem without meeting them [Acts 22:14-22].
“Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance and saw him (Jesus Christ) saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they (disciples) will not receive your testimony concerning me.’” [Acts 22:17-18]
However later on, Paul did met them, so how did the Apostles reacted to him?
“And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.” [Acts 9:26]
Also seen in [Acts 21:21] where the Apostle James tells Paul that he heard Paul was an “apostate” by teaching others to disregard the Law; but then Paul deflects James’ concern by performing a Mosaic law vow [Acts 21:22-23]. James and the Apostles would have in a reasonable time found out about Paul’s teaching in [Romans 7:1-7]. This passage beyond all doubt clearly makes Paul an apostate under [Deuteronomy 13:1-5].
“It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer (by vision) must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God” [Deuteronomy 13:4-5].
Paul was saved by a Roman commander and escaped prosecution.
“This man (Paul) was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them. Coming with the troops I rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman. And when I wanted to know the reason they accused him, I brought him before their council. I found out that he was accused concerning questions of their law” [Acts 23:27-29]
Paul The Hellenistic Jew.
Hellenistic Judaism was a form of Judaism that combined Jewish religious tradition with elements of Greek culture.
“Judaism entered a new phase in 330 bce, when Alexander the Great completed his conquest of the Middle East. The dominant features of the Hellenistic Age, which began with Alexander’s death in 323 bce, were an increasing cosmopolitanism and a fusion of ancient Middle Eastern and Greek cultures.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.[d]
Paul was born in Tarsus [Acts 22:3], a Hellenistic city. This is what Strabo, a Greek geographer and historian[e] wrote about Tarsus:
“The people at Tarsus have devoted themselves so eagerly, not only to philosophy, but also to the whole round of education in general, that they have surpassed Athens, Alexandria, or any other place that can be named where there have been schools and lectures of philosophers.” [Geography of Strabo, Vol 6, 14.5.13]
Paul studied Judaism from Gamaliel, a Pharisees Rabbi [22:3] but his work is heavily influenced by Hellenistic philosophy. His letters demonstrate his fluency in an educated style of Greek with his citation of Hellenistic poets mentioned in [1 Corinthians 15:33, Acts 17:28, Titus 1:12] and his interaction with Greek philosophers in Athens [Acts 17:16-34].
The Epistles of Paul or Letters of Paul are the 13 books of the New Testament Bible allegedly written by Paul in his native language Koine Greek. One would expect the New Testament would have been written by Jesus and his Apostles in their native Aramaic language.
“Aramaic had replaced Hebrew as the language of the Jews as early as the 6th century bce. Among the Jews, Aramaic was used by the common people, while Hebrew remained the language of religion and government and of the upper class. Jesus and the Apostles are believed to have spoken Aramaic.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.[f]
In contrast, Paul not only wrote in Koine Greek but also quotes from the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament).
“Koine, the fairly uniform Hellenistic Greek spoken and written from the 4th to the 6th century bc. Koine is the language of the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) and the language of the New Testament.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.[g]
In his native tongue, Paul was preaching his own gospel.
“in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by ‘Jesus Christ’, according to my gospel.” [Romans 2:16]
Two Faced: When ‘Jewish’ Saul became ‘Roman’ Paul.
“Antioch was also one of the earliest centres of Christianity; it was there that the followers of Christ were first called Christians, and the city was the headquarters of the missionary St. Paul.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.[h]
“Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” [Acts 11:25-26]
Here is where he enters Antioch as Saul and departs the city to preach his new religion using his Roman name, Paul as mentioned in [Acts 13:4-9]. He continues using this name throughout his mission.
Paul admits he deceived people [2 Corinthians 12:16] for the sake of his gospel. [1 Corinthians 9:20-23]
“and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, (I became)as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake.” [1 Corinthians 9:20-23]
“But be that as it may, I did not burden you myself; nevertheless, crafty fellow that I am, I took you in by deceit.” [2 Corinthians 12:16]
Paul: An Apostle To A False Prophet.
According to Paul, the first to be called Christians were later in Antioch [Acts 11:26]. Meaning the early followers of Jesus that Paul prosecuted [Acts 22:4] before Antioch could not have been called Christians. The term Christian derive from the word Christ or Khristós (Χριστός) in Greek meaning ‘the anointed’.
“And Jesus answered and said to them (disciples): “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” [Matthew 24:4-5]
Did Paul and his vision of ‘Jesus Christ’ prophecies in the Bible?
“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams (visions), appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder (miracle), and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods”, “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer.” [Deuteronomy 13:1-3]
Did Paul perform acts of miracle?
“God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.” [Acts 19:11-12]
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing (Hellenistic Jew), but inwardly they are ravenous wolves (Roman prosecutor).” [Matthew 7:15]
Paul and his vision of ‘Jesus Christ’ clearly fits [Deuteronomy 13:1-3], [Matthew 7:15] and [Matthew 24:4-5].
Paul’s Evil Lawlessness.
Paul says “I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee.” [Acts 26:5]
Jesus clearly disagree. He taught the Pharisees were lax in teaching and obeying the Law.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” [Matthew 23:23]
Jesus emphasized the validity of the Law until heaven and earth pass away.
“Think not that I came to destroy the Law [of Moses] or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the Law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5-17-19]
Paul says the complete opposite. Paul in [Romans 10:4] say “For ‘Christ’ is the ’end’ of the Law for righteousness for everyone who believes.”
Paul is blunt when saying the Law has ceased for anyone who believe in ‘Christ’. If Jesus is saying in [Matt 5:17] he ‘fulfilled’ the Law meant he is the ‘end of the Law’ as Paul taught, then why does he say in the next verse that the Law will never disappear until heaven and earth pass away?
“That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.” [Deuteronomy 13:5]
“If you love me (Jesus), keep my commandments.“ [John 14:15] ; “You know the commandments.” [Mark 10:19], [Luke 18:20].
“Many will say to me (Jesus) on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’” [Matthew 7:22-23]
Followers Of Jesus Who Reject Paul’s Teaching.
One of the earliest ‘Jewish-Christian’ groups that rejected Paul’s teaching at that time was known as the Ebionites. The only reason they are known today is because their enemies gave them the name Ebionim (אביונים) which meant the ‘poor ones’.
“Ebionites, observed all the Jewish rites, such as circumcision and the seventh-day Sabbath; and used a gospel according to Matthew written in Hebrew or Aramaic, while rejecting the writings of Paul as those of an apostate.” Jewish Encyclopedia.[i]
“Ebionite, member of an early sect of Jewish Christians that originated in and around Palestine in the first centuries ad. Most of the features of Ebionite doctrine were anticipated in the teachings of the earlier Qumrān sect, as revealed in the Dead Sea Scrolls. They believed in one God and taught that Jesus was the Messiah.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.[j]
Today, a growing number of Christian groups (who call themselves Christians) have rejected the teachings of Paul or Pauline Christianity[k] and are tracing back ancient manuscripts trying to revive the teaching of Jesus. Interestingly, the only religion in this world that believe Jesus as the Messiah other then the Christians are the Muslims. The closeness between these two religions are mentioned in the Qur’an.
“. . . and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ because amongst these are men devoted to learning (priests) and men who have renounced the world (monks), and they are not arrogant” [Qur’an 5:82]
No Muslim is a Muslim if they don’t believe that Jesus, Yesuah (pronounce Isho in Aramaic), Isa (in Arabic) is the Messiah.
“O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion or utter anything concerning Allah but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah.” [Qur’an 4:171]
Allah is an Arabic word meaning God in the utmost singular form. Allah is Eloah in Hebrew and mentioned more than 50 times in The Old Testament Bible.[l]
In the New Testament Bible, remanence of the original word for God still exist in badly preserved Aramaic; “Eloi” in [Mark 15:34] and “Eli” in [Matthew 27:46].
Paul Used The ‘False Pen Of The Scribe’.
Moses predicted the evil that they would do:
“Assemble before me (Moses) all the elders of your tribes and all your officials, so that I can speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to testify against them. For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall on you because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord and arouse his anger by what your hands have made.” [Deuteronomy 31:28-29]
“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood.” [Jeremiah 8:8]
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” [Matthew 23:23; Matthew 23:25; Matthew 23:27; Matthew 23:29]
The Qur’an also mentioned this corruption of the scribes:
“So woe to those who distort the Scripture with their own hands then say, “This is from Allah” seeking a fleeting gain! So woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for what they have earned.” [Qur’an 2:79]
This verse from the Quran also mentioned that ‘they’ have earned from the ‘distorted’ teachings. Interestingly, Paul did stated that ‘those who labor in the word and doctrine’ are paid in ‘wages’.
“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”” [1 Timothy 5:17-18]
Reader’s Due Diligence Of Scriptures.
This is truly a pressing matter of salvation.
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” [Proverbs 30:5-6]
“We have certainly revealed to you verses (which are) clear proofs, and no one would deny them except the defiantly disobedient.” [Quran 2:99]
“And declare, “The truth has come and falsehood has vanished. Indeed, falsehood is bound to vanish.”” [Quran 17:81]
“Allah, there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of existence. He has sent down upon you, the Book in truth, confirming what was before it. And He revealed the Torah and the Gospel.” [Qur’an 3:2 – 3]
The Qur’an is the Final Testament from God for all mankind, therefore it was specifically persevered as it was revealed (revelations) by God (Allah) through His final messenger (Muhammad PBUH) in the original language (Arabic) word for word and remains unchanged.
“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.” [Quran 15:9]
Read the Qur’an with an open heart if you are truthful and judge it for yourself. You can get a copy of the Qur’an at your nearest mosque or Islamic centre. You can also read the Qur’an online at www.quran.com
May Peace Be Upon You.
References:[a] “The works of Josephus were rescued by the Christian Church, for whom, the author occupies the rank of a Church father. The “Antiquities” was of importance because it illuminates the history of the New Testament and on account of the few notes which it contains dealing with Christendom.” Jewish Encyclopedia. http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8905-josephus-flavius#anchor8
“Importance of Josephus. He is the principal source for Jewish history between 100 b.c. and a.d. 100, and is invaluable for a knowledge of the geography of Bible lands. Recent archeological discoveries at Qumran and Masada have indicated that the account of Josephus is remarkably accurate and ranks him high as a topographer.” Encyclopedia of The Bible, Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/encyclopedia-of-the-bible/Flavius-Josephus[b] Herod The Great. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Herod-king-of-Judaea[c] Herodian. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Herodian-Jewish-history[d] Hellenistic Judaism. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Judaism/Myth-and-legend-in-the-Hellenistic-period#ref299744[e] “Strabo, Greek geographer and historian whose Geography is the only extant work covering the whole range of peoples and countries known to both Greeks and Romans during the reign of Augustus (27 bce to 14 ce).” Encyclopaedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Strabo[f] Aramaic language of Jesus and the Apostles. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Aramaic-language[g] Koine Greek language of the Hellenistic Jews. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Koine-Greek-language[h] First Christians in Antioch. https://www.britannica.com/place/Antioch-modern-and-ancient-city-south-central-Turkey[i] Ebionites reject Paul’s teachings. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5411-ebionites[j] The Ebionite and the Dead Sea Scrolls. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ebionites[k] Pauline Christians: a group of mainline congregations. Some had been created by Paul and his co-workers. They evolved to become the established church. http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_deno.htm[l] Eloah mentioned in the Old Testament. [Deuteronomy 32:15, 32:17]; [2 Chronicles 32:15]; [Nehemiah 9:17]; [Job 3:4, 3:23; 4:9, 4:17; 5:17; 6:4, 6:8, 6:9; 9:13; 10:2; 11:5, 11:6, 11:7; 12:4, 12:6; 15:8; 16:20, 16:21; 19:6, 19:21, 19:26; 21:9, 21:19; 22:12, 22:26; 24:12; 27:3, 27:8, 27:10; 29:2, 29:4; 31:2, 31:6; 33:12, 33:26; 35:10; 36:2; 37:15, 37:22; 39:17; 40:2]; [Psalm 18:32; 50:22; 114:7; 139:19]; [Proverbs 30:5]; [Isaiah 44:8]; [Habakkuk 3:3].