We left off at the last article with Acts 21 and the problems presented to the Jerusalem church concerning Paul and his "gospel" and his "mission" to the Gentile nations where he was misrepresenting Jesus and his "true gospel." The report about Paul's apostasy had reached James and the Jerusalem church through two different avenues. The Asian Jews had reported back to Jerusalem and James at various times what they had both heard and saw on different occasions regarding Paul and there was reason for concern as we find in Acts 21:
Acts 21:21 21 And they are informed of thee (Paul), that thou (Paul) teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. (KJV) A
But let me remind you there is more to these rumors than meets the eye. What precipitated the Acts 21 "test" for Paul given to him by James in order to prove these rumors as false was mandated by Peter's first-hand eyewitness account of Paul's apostasy when he arrived on a surprise visit in Antioch. Once Peter relayed in person to James the events at hand something had to be done about the "Paul problem." Paul had to defend himself and was required to answer such charges for a second time before James. We find this account in Acts 21 where Paul consented to make a public demonstration of his supposed loyalty to the Torah in the Temple. Paul, as you will see, has an "ace" up his sleeve not anticipated by James and the other Apostles. Paul was hoping his charade in Jerusalem would be the end of opposition to him on the part of the Nazarenes of Jerusalem, who, like their leader, James, as had been Jesus, were loyal adherents of the Torah. In the event, however, as the story is told in Acts, he met with serious trouble from another quarter: from "Jews from the province of Asia," who recognized him while he was in the Temple and raised a riot against him, from which he was lucky to escape with his life. The incident is described as follows:
But when the seven days were nearly ended, the Asian Jews caught sight of Paul in the temple, and they stirred up the whole crowd, and laid hands upon him, shouting: "Come and help, Israelites! Here is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the Law, and this place; moreover he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.µ For they had earlier seen Trophimus of Ephesus with him outside in the city, and they thought that Paul had brought him into the temple. So the whole city was roused, and a crowd gathered. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the doors were shut. While they tried to kill him [or: were clamoring for his death] a report was made to the tribune of the cohort: "The whole of Jerusalem is in an uproar." (Acts 21: 27-31)
Answer for yourself: Who were the "Jews from Asia"? Were they orthodox Jews or could they have been Messianic Jews of the Jesus' Movement sent to follow and report on the actions of Paul?
Answer for yourself: Why were they so violently opposed to Paul if all he was teaching was the hope of Israel..the Messiah had come and was to return? Was such a hope cause for whippings and beatings of Paul as Paul reported he sustained?
Whenever I try to teach people that Paul contradicts Jesus' Gospel and himself says two different and conflicting messages in the New Testament many respond with the typical answer: "no he does not." This simply shows me and others who know better the lack of understanding of the New Testament that such ones who respond in such manner actually possess.
Answer for yourself: If what Paul himself says about his preaching to Jews on his missionary journeys is correct, then these Jews had no reason to believe him to be an apostate from Judaism, for Paul's method when approaching Jews is described by himself as: "To Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; as they are subject to the Law of Moses, I put myself under that Law to win them, although l am not myself subject to it" (1 Corinthians 9: 20-22).
Paul tells us that he only taught the Torah to the Jews. But the accusation above as found in Acts 21:27-31 tells a different story and this, remind you, was included in Acts by a pro-Pauline writer no less.
Let me explain really simply what Paul was all about and this explains why his writings contain such contradictions. It was only to Paul's Gentile converts that Paul revealed that he regarded the Torah as obsolete; and he may have revealed this also to Jewish converts to Christianity, when he considered that their progress in understanding had reached such a level that they would be receptive to anti-Torah teaching. It was only in the Jesus Movement where we find conflicting teachings on the validity and authority of the Torah. For James and the Jerusalem Church the Torah was necessary and a Divine guide for love and conduct for the "elect." For the Pauline branch of the Jesus Movement the Torah was obsolete by the coming of the Divine savior and his death and supper; but again this was Paul's "mystery" that was only confided to his "initiates" when he considered it permissible to exchange the Torah for such a "revelation." But be not mistaken; although Paul usually only taught this to non-Jews since they already had their "crucified solar saviors" and "dying/resurrected sun-godmen." Paul was not asking his "converts" to accept anything new only adding to the host of "astral deities" that already believed in; Jesus was for Paul just another in a long line of them. This information is crucial to understanding Paul's "gospel" for what it really was: an outright repudiation of Judaism and a syncretistic mixture of pagan solar concepts with just a little Judaism that gave it some presumed authority since Judaism was recognized as a "world religion" in his day as well (http://freewebsites.com/bennoah1 & http://paganizingfaithofyeshua.netfirms.com).
Not all the Jews accepted Jesus as the Messiah and for them nothing could outdate or replace the Torah as it was Eternal! The news of his abandonment of the Torah was thus confined to the Jesus movement itself, where it had caused such anxiety that Jewish Christian emissaries had been sent out to combat his teaching, and Paul himself had been summoned twice (Acts 15 and Acts 21) to Jerusalem to answer charges before the supreme tribunal of the Nazarenes.
As far as Jews in general were concerned, the Jesus movement was a political resistance movement against the Romans, pious and extremist. They did not know enough about the internal politics of this movement to distinguish Paul from its other leading figures. Whenever they came across Paul in his missionary travels, he seemed to be preaching pious Judaism, combined with belief in Jesus as a Messiah figure. That was not a problem. The opposition which Paul met from Jews on his travels was two-fold:
This is explicitly stated in relation to the Jews of Thessalonica, who denounced Paul to the local magistrates in these terms: "The men who have made trouble all over the world have now come here; and Jason has harboured them. They all flout the Emperor's laws, and assert that there is a rival king, Jesus" (Acts 17: 6- 7). Here we get a whiff of political reality for once. In other passages, to be sure, the opposition of Diaspora Jews to Paul preaching against the Jewish religion is expressed in doctrinal terms; but this is part of the depoliticizing approach of the author of Acts, which he neglected to apply in the case of the Jews of Thessalonica.
Paul's main interest, in any case, was not in converting Jews, but in converting Gentiles, in accordance with his self-description as the "apostle to the Gentiles." It is in his Epistles to his Gentile converts, which have been preserved in the New Testament, that he pours out his real thoughts and expresses his view that salvation does not come from "faith" with concurrent attempted observance of the Torah. These thoughts became known to the Jewish adherents of Jesus in the natural course of events, but the Jews as a whole would have no means of learning about them.
Armed with this background it is easy to see that the "Asian Jews" who dragged Paul out of the Temple and denounced him to their fellow Jews as an opponent of the Torah, Israel and the Temple were in fact Jewish Christians who had been in conflict with Paul in his Asian (Asia Minor) missionary activities, in Galatia, for example. It was against the possible violence of these Jewish Christians that James had already given Paul a warning:
You see, brother, how many thousands of converts we have among the Jews, all of them staunch upholders of the Law. Now they have been given certain information about you~ it is said that you teach all the Jews of the gentile world to turn their backs on Moses, telling them to give up circumcising their children and following our way of life. What is the position, then" They are sure to hear that you have arrived. (Acts 21: 20-22)
James is warning Paul that there may be mob violence, and the mob of which he is talking is the rank and file of the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem (whom he reckons in "thousands," though, in fact, the Greek word here is myriades, which means "tens of thousands"). It seems that the Nazarenes led by James had made great advances in Jerusalem, and a significant proportion of the population now adhered to them. Notice the great advancement and results that James' "gospel" had achieved as opposed to scholars today which teach us that after James' men had continually followed and "untaught" Pauline doctrines in the wake of Pauline journeys that at end of Paul's life he had most likely no more than 50 or so followers (THINK)! You see it was not the disinterested Jews but the Jews of Jesus' Movement who were the people from whom Paul had to fear violence, for they were in touch with the Jewish Christians of the Diaspora and were thus familiar with Paul's personality and teaching, which they regarded with hostility. Some of these Nazarenes belonged to the extreme wing, which, as argued earlier had previously been led by Stephen and were activists, participating in the resistance against the Roman occupation. Such Messianic zealots of the Jesus' Movement (who indeed had much in common with the Zealot party founded by Judas of Galilee) would be particularly likely to resort to violence against someone like Paul, who was reported to have given up Jewish patriotism as well as reverence for the Torah. Incidentally, when James said to Paul that he is reported to have been telling "all the Jews of the Gentile world" to abandon the Torah, he must be referring to the Jewish Christians only, or is perhaps reporting an exaggerated rumor which has spread among the Nazarenes of Jerusalem. For, as we have seen, Paul was careful, when talking to unconverted Jews, not to say anything against the validity of the Torah: "To Jews, I became like a Jew."
Answer for yourself: Why, then, has the author of Acts disguised this matter by representing the people who attacked Paul, dragged him out of the Temple, beat him and called for his execution, as "Jews," not as Jewish Christians? The obvious answer to this is that the author of Acts wishes to minimize the opposition to Paul in the Jerusalem movement, to which he always attempts to attribute Pauline doctrines. Yet there is an obvious discrepancy between this picture and the speech of James to Paul, in which it is clearly revealed that James fears for Paul's physical safety because of the hostility felt towards him by "tens of thousands" of members of the Nazarene community who were true followers of Jesus and his "true gospel."
Having been attacked by the Jewish Christians, Paul was rescued by the Roman police, who had some difficulty in finding out why he had become the centre of a disturbance, but gathered that he had been guilty of some offence which had angered the crowd and so arrested him. Some of the details now added in chapter 22 of Acts are not credible. Thus the Roman commandant is said to have asked Paul whether he was "the Egyptian who started a revolt some time ago." Such a question is hardly likely about a man who was so obviously unpopular with the Jewish masses that they were calling for his execution. A Messianic leader such as "the Egyptian" (about whom details are given in Josephus) would be much more likely to be popular with the Jerusalem crowd, though he would be regarded as a dangerous nuisance by the High Priest and his followers. The same thing can be said about Paul; and let us not forget that Paul had deserted his position under the High Priest earlier on the Damascus road so there is little love lost between the High Priest and Paul. This issue must be understood thoroughly but that will come later.
Answer for yourself: Was it customary for Messianic Jews, like James and Jesus, who advocated the coming of the Kingdom of God to the world where all nations and governments and enemies of Israel are brought under subjection of God's rule to have Roman citizenship (affiliation with the same nation that had been persecuting and killing their people since 63 B.C.E.? The question is almost too ridiculous to even ask yet we think nothing of the fact that Paul's life is saved by his Roman citizenship...something quite awkward I would think for a Jew....if Paul was really a Jew...and possibly we learn something about Paul here that the author of Acts and Paul himself has failed to relate to the reader; namely, as the Ebionite documents tell us, Paul was a Greek proselyte to the faith!
When James' warning became reality and Paul's life was threatened, we find Paul rescued by the Romans and subsequently was brought into the barracks and instruction came down to examine him by flogging, and find out what reason there was for such an outcry against him. But when they tied him up for the lash, Paul said to the centurion who was standing there, "Can you legally flog a man who is a Roman citizen, and moreover has not been found guilty". When the centurion heard this, he went and reported it to the commandant. "What do you mean to do" he said. "This man is a Roman citizen." The commandant came to Paul. "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen"? "Yes," said he. The commandant rejoined, "It cost me a large sum to acquire this citizenship."
Answer for yourself: Did you notice that Roman citizenship was often purchased and could be purchased by non-Romans (other than Roman Gentiles)?
Answer for yourself: The writer of Acts records for us that Paul said, "But it was mine by birth." This is highly debateable today for obvious reasons; if Paul was a Jew, even though born in a Greek city, then why was he a Roman citizen? Then those who were about to examine him withdrew hastily, and the commandant himself was alarmed when he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had put him in irons. (Acts 22: 24-9)
Answer for yourself: If you had been called up on charges before James already once before and had subsequently made your break with the Jerusalem church after the Peter/Antioch incident when it was shown openly before an Apostle that you were teaching Jews and non-Jews that it was permissible to eat food sacrificed to idols (considered idolatry) which both the Covenant of Noah and the Covenant Of Moses forbid, then why in the world would you ever submit to going before a tribunal once again to answer charges when you had no defense and would be shown publicly for what you really were....a renegade and apostate from Judaism who was teaching a new religion to the Gentiles under the disguise of the authority of the Jesus Movement?
We must begin to look beneath the pages of the New Testament in order to determine why Paul, a shrewd man, had done such an apparently foolish thing as to go to Jerusalem at this point in his life. Jerusalem was for him a hornet's nest: he was in danger from enemies on all sides: from the Jewish Christians who were incensed at reports of his strange and idolatrous teachings about Jesus, and also, as we shall see, from his former associates, the High Priest's party, at the other end of the politico-religious spectrum. But Paul had much to gain by going to Jerusalem: he could perhaps do what he had done before, at the time of the Jerusalem Council, and gain a compromise solution by which he could avoid the painful break that he dreaded. If the worst came to the worst and he was beset by enemies, he could play his trump card, of which his enemies were unaware, that he was a Roman citizen. He could invoke the protection of the Roman authorities, and so escape from Jerusalem unharmed.
It seems likely, indeed, that the Roman police did not arrive on the scene simply because a hubbub arose, as in the account given by Acts, but that Paul had previously arranged that they should be sent for in case of trouble, for Paul was not quite alone in Jerusalem. It appears that he had a Gentile supporter called Trophimus at hand, and we also know that his nephew was in Jerusalem and was active in helping him out of difficulties (Acts 23:16). His emergency plan was thus put into operation, and one of his supporters alerted the police. Support for this probability comes from the letter sent by the commandant, Claudius Lysias, reporting on the affair to the Governor, Felix, in which he says:
"This man was seized by the Jews and was on the point of being murdered when I intervened with the troops and removed him, because I discovered that he was a Roman citizen" (Acts 23: 27). From this report by the commandant, it appears that he was informed of Paul's Roman citizenship before he intervened. Otherwise, he probably would not have intervened at all, since the Romans were not so conscientious in their duties as police as to be much concerned whether some Jew was killed or beaten in a religious squabble. The author of Acts, however, does not wish to give such an impression of conscious planning by Paul, and thus postpones Paul's revelation of his Roman citizenship until he was about to be lashed (but then forgets to alter the commandant's letter accordingly).
According to Acts, Paul had only once before invoked his Roman citizenship when in trouble. This was during his second missionary journey when he was at Philippi, in Greece, when Paul and his companion Silas incurred the wrath of certain Gentile idolaters who denounced them to the magistrates, who ordered them to be beaten (Acts 16:19ff). On that occasion, both Paul and Silas claimed to be Roman citizens, but strangely enough, said nothing until after they had been beaten. There is thus some doubt about the historicity of this episode, especially as it seems incredible that not only Paul, but also Silas, were Roman citizens. It is surprising enough that Paul was a Roman citizen, without his companion Silas being one too. It seems, therefore, that the author of Acts has inserted the claim to Roman citizenship as an afterthought in the story, with the effect that Paul and Silas were not only released from prison but also reduced the magistrates to fear and trembling. The story of Paul's declaration of his Roman citizenship in Jerusalem later was too good not to be used in some earlier context too.
It is also surprising that Paul never invoked his Roman citizenship on other occasions when he was flogged. According to his statement in 2 Corinthians 11:25, he was "beaten with rods" (i.e. by the Roman lictors) three times, and apparently did not protest on these occasions that the punishment was illegal. Nor does Paul mention anywhere in his letters that he was a Roman citizen, though such a mention might have been expected.
These considerations would seem to point to the possibility that Paul acquired his Roman citizenship only shortly before he travelled to Jerusalem. This was a time in his life when he had a large amount of money at his disposal, for he had made a special effort to collect a huge sum to bring with him to Jerusalem (see 1 Corinthians 16:1-4). This was in fulfillment of his promise at the Council of Jerusalem to make a substantial contribution from his new Gentile converts to the expenses of the central organization of the Jesus movement in Jerusalem. James had demanded this not as an act of charity (as Acts depicts it), but as a gesture of submission to his own authority as head of the Nazarenes. Paul, therefore, on the eve of his fateful visit to Jerusalem, when his loyalty to James and to the Torah would be questioned, felt it imperative to fulfil this pledge. But while in possession of such large sums, it would be natural for him to think of some method of insurance by which he could prepare a mode of escape, if things went wrong in Jerusalem. An excellent plan in this regard was to purchase Roman citizenship for himself, by this means he could call upon Roman help in an emergency.
Paul would not consider it dishonest to use funds collected for the "Jerusalem Church" for the purpose of acquiring Roman citizenship for himself, because this was not just a matter of personal advantage, but of high policy, affecting the whole future of Christianity. If negotiations in Jerusalem broke down, his own survival was essential for the continuance of the doctrines which he held dear, and on which, he deludedly believed, the salvation of all humanity depended. Moreover, these funds belonged to Jerusalem only if circumstances made possible the continuance of his own loyalty and submission to the Jerusalem leadership as the official centre of the Jesus movement. If matters came to a schism, then Paul himself, instead of the Jerusalem leadership, would become the central authority of a Gentile Christian Church whose funds it would be his duty to administer. So he was merely putting aside a contingency fund, in case the schism actually took place. It is likely that he held back a considerable sum, in addition to the money he spent on purchasing Roman citizenship, in case it was needed to found his own Church.
Some corroboration of this is to be found in a detail that the author of Acts lets slip. This is that Felix, the Roman Governor, "had hopes of a bribe from Paul; and for this reason he sent for him very often and talked with himµ (Acts 24: 26). This happened while Paul was Felix's prisoner, awaiting settlement of his case. Now a Roman Governor would not expect any paltry sum as a bribe, so he must have thought that Paul had considerable amounts at his disposal. Indeed, Paul had previously gone out of his way to hint as much (verse 17). It seems, then, that Paul had not handed over to James all the money which he had brought from the Gentile churches of Asia Minor and Greece; he still had a financial base which he could use for bargaining purposes.
The above considerations throw a impressive light on the conversation already quoted between Paul and the commandant, Claudius Lysias:
But when they tied him up for the lash, Paul said to the centurion who was standing there, "Can you legally flog a man who is a Roman citizen, and moreover has not been found guilty?" When the centurion heard this, he went and reported it to the commandant. "What do you mean to do?" he said. "This man is a Roman citizen." The commandant came to Paul. "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?" he asked. "Yes," said he. The commandant rejoined, "It cost me a large sum to acquire this citizenship." Paul said, "But it was mine by birth." Then those who were about to examine him withdrew hastily, and the commandant himself was alarmed when he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had put him in irons. (Acts 22: 25-29)
This whole conversation is spurious, as argued before, since Paul had really been known to be a Roman citizen before he was rescued by the Roman commandant, and otherwise would not have been rescued at all. So what is the purpose of the insertion of this conversation" It is as if the author of Acts is going out of his way to tell us that Paul did not purchase his Roman citizenship, a possibility which might not otherwise have occurred to us. There is an element of "protesting too much" in this fictional insertion. It should be remembered that this alleged assertion of Paul's, "But it was mine by birth," is the only evidence in existence that Paul was born a Roman citizen, which is prima facie unlikely.
When Paul declared himself a Roman citizen, this was the end of his uneasy association with the "Jerusalem Church." The announcement would have come to James and the other Jerusalem leaders as a great shock. The Jesus movement was essentially an anti-Roman movement. Its aim was the freeing of the Jewish people from bondage to Rome. None of its members, therefore, would have sought Roman citizenship...this should tell you all you need to know about the "real" Paul! But Paul's new interpretation of the life and death of Jesus had severed Paul from adherence to Jewish patriotism or to politics in general. He no longer thought of Jesus as the Messiah, in the Jewish sense, who would restore the House of David and Jewish independence, but as a cosmic figure who had more in common with Gnosticism than Judaism who had come to provide a way of salvation for all mankind by his death on the cross. This "salvation" was not a matter of political liberation as the Torah taught since salvation had always been taught and offered in the Torah and no explicit need was ever expressed for some vicarious suffering; it was a personal, individual matter that transcended all politics, and indeed made politics irrelevant. To Paul, it did not matter whether a person was physically enslaved, since this did not affect his spiritual and cosmic salvation. Thus Paul urged his disciples to obey Rome, whose power was "ordained of God," and he also urged slaves to be contented with their lot and not to strive for freedom. This contempt for politics was in fact a political attitude - an acquiescence in the political status quo. Consequently, the Pauline Christian doctrine was fitted from the start to become the official religion of the Roman Empire. Nothing is more welcome to a military empire than a religious doctrine that counsels obedience and acquiescence. That Paul, the creator of the doctrine that eventually became the official Roman religion, made himself into a Roman citizen is symptomatic.
At the same time, the leaders of the Nazarene community in Jerusalem, knowing that Paul's Roman citizenship must have been purchased for a large sum of money, would immediately know how Paul had come into the possession of such a substantial amount - by his collection of contributions for the "Jerusalem Church" due to the famine in Jerusalem. Literally Paul stole the tithe and alms collected for the Jerusalem followers of Jesus and robbed God to buy his Roman citizenship! This again would have put him beyond the pale as far as they were concerned; to them, the matter would appear as plain dishonesty and embezzlement, though to Paul himself, as we have seen, the use of these funds for the preservation of what he regarded as the true Christianity would have seemed quite justified.
We have seen that Paul through deception, trickery, lying, and finally robbing of the tithe and the alms offerings was able to save his life and come out relatively unscathed from being called upon the carpet for the second time by James. But now the Jerusalem Church knew the truth about Paul and many of the extra-biblical writings concerning Paul and these events would now be written exposing this man for what he really was...a man who was secretly working in opposition to Jesus and his gospel and doing everything underhanded as possible to keep us the sham that his ministry was endorsed by the Jerusalem Church. That no longer was the case. Because of the failure of Christians to day to study sufficiently to see these "cracks" in the New Testament which reveal glimmers of truth concerning what the New Testament Gentile writers have tried to conceal they have fallen prey to this Pauline deception and paradoxically are more of the followers of Paul the apostate from the religion of Jesus than Jesus.
But Paul is not of the woods yet...his old nemesis the High Priest wants him since he deserted them on the Damascus road earlier and went over the the High Priest's enemies...the Pharisees. Paul is yet in a lot of trouble and his life in not worth a plug nickel! But no longer are the Messianic Jews of Jesus' Movement after him; the High Priest and his hoodlums want him dead.