Paul's concern to undermine the Law was close to an obsession and of course this was necessary to accommodate his Gnostic ideas. For, in order to replace the Law with his teachings and "his gospel" which we previously saw came not as he stated in Romans 1:2-3 "through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures," he devoted his life to construct a case against it as the way to righteousness. But he was in a bind. As the builder, developer, and inventor of' Christianity, he found himself' in the peculiar position of both depending on and having to denigrate the Jewish Scriptures. Paul was in a difficult position since having to use the Jewish Scriptures to legitimize his claims and his gospel, yet at the same time often twisting the words and their meaning in the process to bring meanings totally foreign from what the original writers of the Jewish Scriptures intended.
Paul was very cleaver. He strategy was to both call on the Tanakh to validate his statements, while at the same time to misrepresent them to this audiences who were for the most part totally ignorant concerning them. This was like taking candy from a baby. The confusion for the typical Christian lies in the recognition that Paul some of the time acknowledged the Jewish Scriptures, their prestige and value. He even admitted, with a grudging ambivalence, some of the qualities of' the "law" in Rom. 7:7, 12, 14, 16.
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. (KJV)
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (KJV)
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. (KJV)
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. (KJV)
However, at times opposite views of the Law suited Paul better and he found himself required to denounce the Torah and the Jewish Scriptures, which being an essential part of his own Bible, was fundamental to both Yeshua and Judaism. So, Paul not only supported his brand of Christianity on Judaism, but would at various times try to destroy it in the process of establishing a new faith on the remains and the ashes of its predecessor.
One of the first obstacles that Paul had to overcome in his opposition to the Torah, especially for his Gentile converts, is that the Jewish Scriptures were included in his letters which would later, following his death, be incorporated into the New Testament in the Christian Bible. The entire Hebrew Bible was canonized by the Church. This oscillation of Paul concerning his views on the Law along with his inconsistency in his writings where we see him one moment accepting and then later rejecting the Law is a reflection of Paul's unstable religious belief system. If one will read the New Testament closely and slowly, while looking for such discrepancies, one will be overcome with Paul's contradictory statements about the Law and the Torah. Paul's mutually opposing ideas are vividly exemplified in various verses in his letter to the Romans. As E.P. Sanders expressed it,
"How can Paul say both that Christians die to the law (7:4) and that the law is to be upheld (3:21) and fulfilled (8:4, 13:8-10) or that God gave the law and it brings sin and death, (8:2)." (E.P. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People, p. 85).
Sadly, these contradictions are a mirror image of the Church's attitude toward the Hebrew Bible and Jews. This is Christianity's heritage from the pen of Paul. The self-made apostle denounced the Law with charges that ran the gamut from claims that observance would not bring righteousness to charges that the Law brought God's wrath and curse, and eventually, death. Years ago when I did not know the New Testament very well, or the Jewish Scriptures in the Old Testament, I would continually go to church and hear such derogatory statements made by my preacher concerning the Law. He had been brainwashed by Paul as I had. He like me must have had a deficient understanding of the Old Testament in order to miss such conflicting statements concerning Paul's view on the Law. The answer for me came over several years where I undertook a serious study of the Old Testament whereby I came to understand what it actually taught. Then when this knowledge and understanding was compared to what Paul said in the New Testament then it was easy to see that the views of Moses, the Prophets, and even Jesus concerning the Law were completely contradictory to Paul's view of the Law. As I continued my studies over the years I learned for myself that the very same Pauline letters which expressed Paul's opposition to the Law and his condemnation of it ironically contained statements from Paul that were the complete opposite in that they also contained passages supporting the Law. I quickly began to see for myself that one moment Paul was condemning the Law and the next moment he was saying that the Law is holy, righteous, spiritual, and good! This is the fruit of a schizophrenic mind.
As we continue our articles I wish to address a topic or topics from the pen of Paul concerning the Law which are presented within the New Testament from the pen of Paul which are considered as "truth" by Christianity, but which can, upon intense examination, be shown to be flawed and misrepresented.
Let us conclude this first article with one of Paul's criticisms , since there are many more of them than accolades. Paul states;
Paul's claim that the Torah could not bring righteousness is a contradiction of the message of the entire Hebrew Bible, which, it will be recalled is considered sacred in Christianity. Throughout the Tanakh (the Jewish Bible consisting of the Law, Prophets, and Writings) the Israelites were assured repeatedly that righteousness would result from observing the Laws and Commandments of God (the Torah). Deuteronomy 6:25 attests to this guarantee:
And it shall be righteousness unto us, if we observe all this commandment before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.
Similar thoughts are found in other Biblical books such as in I Kings 2:3 in which David imparted his last advice and charge to his son, Solomon, before he died:
Keep the charge of the Lord your God to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, commandments, ordinances, and testimonies, as written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.
Answer for yourself: Does Paul's writings contradict these two verses as taken from the Jewish Old Testament? They sure do.
From Paul's premise that righteousness did not come from the Torah regardless of what Moses or David said, but from faith. Not only did the Law have no positive value for Paul, but it actually brought on sin and transgression. A sample of his remarks on the cause of sin follows in our next article:
through the law comes the knowledge of sin (Rom.3:20)
for apart from the law sin is dead (Rom. 7:8)
The above citations give the impression that the world knew nothing of sin until the Hebrews defined it in Torah. That is not true! Genesis is full of stories about the sins of its protagonists. Most of the events in it, according to Scripture, occurred before the laws were bestowed on Israel. Beginning with the first family of the Bible, we read about the misdeeds of Adam, Eve, and Cain for which the parents were expelled from the Garden of Eden and the son was condemned to be a wanderer on the earth. The wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah is vividly described as well as their destruction -- as punishment for the sins of the inhabitants. From the beginning of Genesis to the end there are accounts of sinful behavior. Wickedness was known, recognized, and punished long before the advent of the Law at Sinai.
The Torah confirmed many of the basic values about human behavior which had evolved in the course of human existence on earth. It clarified and spelled out what was expected of people and set standards to strive for. The Law described and forbade sin, but did not invent or introduce it.
The next stage in Paul's case against the Law is seen in his statement, "Where there is no law, there is no transgression" (Rom 4:14). So, unless an act is specifically defined as a breach of the law, the transgressor is not responsible. If we follow this reasoning to its logical conclusion, we are left with an absurdity compounded by an outrage. In Hitler's Germany there was no law against murdering lows. Hence, in accordance with Paul's thinking, the annihilation of six million Jews was not a transgression. The people didn't know it was a sin because there was no law against it. Aside from Paul's perverted thinking -- if there is no law or you don't know it, it isn't wrong -- this line of reasoning is a strong argument for laws. It becomes a moral imperative to have legislation to counteract such ideas. However, despite Paul's philosophy, there are laws of morality whether or not they have been committed to paper. A moral and just society will inevitably legislate ethical laws and provide for their enforcement as well as deterrence by appropriate punishment for violations. Assuring salvation and forgiveness of sins to wrongdoers on the basis of their profession of faith is not a deterrent. It could have the opposite effect and encourage further breaches of the law. Additionally, guarantees of grace in exchange for faith do not render compensation or justice to the injured.