As described in the previous article the first tenant of Paul's doctrine of salvation is that mankind is hoplessly corrupt morally and has no way to extricate himself from such a horrible condition. Paul's radically pessimistic view of man's unredeemed moral condition is expressed as follows:
I discover this principle, then: that when I want to do the right, only the wrong is within my reach. In my inmost self, I delight in the law of God, but I perceive that there is in my bodily \members a different law, fighting against the law that my reason approves and making me a prisoner under the law that is in my members, the law of sin. Miserable creature that I am, who is there to rescue me out of this body doomed to death? God alone, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Thanks be to God! In a word, then, I myself, subject to God's law as a rational being, am yet, in my unspiritual nature, a slave to the law of sin .(Rom 7:14-8:1).
Boy I can remember that passage being quoted over and over in my church for years and even used it myself during the early years of my Pastorate. But that was before my intense study uncovered for me this passage is Gnostic through and through and has absolutely no affinity and connection to Old Testament faith or Scripture. In other words Yeshua would not have believed it and it goes completely opposite what is recorded in the New Testament as the teachings of Yeshua.
Back to Paul for a minute: the conclusion of the matter is this: there is no condemnation for those who are united with Christ Jesus, because in Christ Jesus the life-giving law of the Spirit has set you free from the law of sin and death. What the law could never do, because our lower nature robbed it of all potency, God has done: by sending his own Son . . . (Rom.7. 14-8.1 )
The psychology expounded here is as follows. We are rational beings, but our reason only allows us to recognize what we ought to do, but we as humans are powerless to do it. Our actions are dictated by our bodily constitution, which impels us to sin. We are prisoners in our bodies, helplessly watching what our bodily nature (the 'law' of our bodies) dictates to our actions. The principle of our identity, which lies imprisoned in our bodies, is our spiritual nature (defined and governed by the 'law' of the Spirit), which can only be freed by outside divine intervention. This liberation has come about through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for those who become 'united' with him through faith in Paul's doctrine of atonement and salvation which he connects with a "cosmic savior". In case you are not aware this is the core beliefs of Gnosticism and not Judaism.
A recent school of thought argues that Paul intended his scheme of salvation through the death of Christ for non-Jews ONLY, and regarded Jews as sufficiently converted by their own scheme of salvation through the Covenant of the Torah. I must point out that Judaism already provided a way of salvation for Gentiles without requiring them to become converted to Judaism, through full conversion to Judaism was regarded as an options, and this was always freely available to all Gentiles. Here it must be added that Paul's own practice shows us that he regarded the Torah as non-obligatory for Jews as well as Gentiles as seen in I Cor. 9:20-21:
1 Cor 9:20-21
In this passage Paul speaks of gaining both "Jew and non-Jew" through his doctrine of salvation and adherence to his creedal beliefs. Paul speaks of the Gentile in v. 21 as "being without law" but this is a complete repudiation of Acts 15 and the Jerusalem Council which put its stamp of approval upon the Gentile's adherence to the Laws of Noah for "salvation" and acceptance within the Messianic Community of Israel. It seems Paul forgot this major doctrine of Old Testament and New Testament faith.
It is likewise clear that Paul, while he did not insist that Jews should abandon the practice of the Torah if they felt more comfortable with in (I Cor. 7:18-20),
1 Cor 7:18-20
and as actually forbidden to non-Jews as in Gal. 5:2
The relegation of the Torah to the status of an optional extra or indulgence for Jews amounts to its complete abrogation and annulment by Paul as a viable scheme of salvation. Even more, the contention of some that Paul did not seek the conversion of Jews to Christ, regarding his mission as to only Gentiles, is contradicted by many passages, including I Cor. 9:20
1 Cor 9:20
and by Paul's continual practice of preaching in synagogues. Thus the traditional view that Paul intended the supersession of Judaism and the substitution of a new way of salvation for all, whether Gentiles or Jews, is correct.
Again I want to be honest and fair to the presentation of the evidence. There are some Christian scholars who say they have claimed to have found this whole conception (the powerless of mankind to alter his moral condition) in rabbinic Judaism. Paul's 'dilemma', it was claimed, was that of the typical Pharisee, desperately trying to fulfill the whole Law, and always aware of his failure, since the omission of even one precept will plunge him into damnation. Recent scholarship, however, has become increasingly aware that this is a caricature of Pharisaism, or at least of the rabbinic Judaism which was used by the earlier scholarship as providing information about Pharisaism too.
The truth of the matter is that Rabbinic Judaism has an entirely different psychology, not a hint of which is to be found in Paul's writings. In this, the human psyche contains both a 'good inclination' (yelper ha-tob) and an 'evil inclination' (yetzer ha-ra'), and man has the power not only to choose between them, but to transform the energies of the 'evil inclination' into good, with the guidance of the Torah. If a sin is committed, the remedy lies in repentance (a concept never mentioned by Paul, though it figures largely in Jesus' teaching in the Synoptic Gospels). The idea of the impossibility of doing good is directly opposed to the entire spirit of rabbinic Judaism, which, basing itself on Deut. 30.11-14
As you can see Rabbinic Judaism regards virtue as within the capacity of ordinary people - and accordingly does not pitch its definition of virtue so impossibly high that it becomes beyond the reach of normal humanity (while still allowing for supererogatory aims for a minority). Nor does rabbinic Judaism equate the evil impulse with the body or the 'flesh', or regard the aim of religion as liberation from the body. It regards the body as an inseparable part of the personality, not as its prison, and bodily acts are regarded as the locus of righteousness and liberation from sin.
Since the effort to ground Paul's moral pessimism in rabbinic Judaism failed, new efforts were directed to ground it in pre-rabbinic Judaism. It has been argued by some that Pharisaism and rabbinic Judaism are by no means the same thing, and that it was a mistake to look for corroboration of Paul's attitudes in the post-Destruction rabbinic movement rather than in pre-Destruction literature such as the Pseudepigrapha and the Qumran literature. Here, it is argued, a moral pessimism and reliance on supernatural help similar to Paul's may be found.
Answer for yourself: But is this premise true can we find Paul's doctrine of the moral hopelessness of mankind in pre-Destruction literature such as the Pseudepigrapha and the Qumran literature? Is it to be found anywhere in Biblical Judaism the religion of Yeshua?
The chief evidence adduced has been that of IV Ezra, particularly as there are grounds for belief that the author of this work, written in the first century, was a Pharisee. Passages such as the following, from IV Ezra, have been held to show a strong similarity to the moral pessimism of Paul in Romans:
For the first Adam, clothing himself with the evil heart, transgressed and was overcome; and likewise also all who were born of him. Thus the infirmity became inveterate; the Law indeed was in the heart of the people, but with the evil germ; so what was good departed and the evil remained. (IV Ezra 3.2122)
For the grain of evil seed was sown in the heart of Adam from the beginning, and how much fruit of unGodliness has it produced unto this time, and shall yet produce until the threshing-floor come! (IV Ezra 4.30-32)
And I answered and said: This is my first and last word; better had it been that the earth had not produced Adam, or else having produced him, (for thee) to have restrained him from sinning. For how does it profit us all that in the present we must live in grief and after death look for punishment? O thou Adam, what hast thou done? For though it was thou that sinned, the fall was not shine alone, but ours also who are thy descendants!
For how does it profit us that the eternal age is promised to us, whereas we have done the works that bring death? (IV Ezra 7.1 16-18)
Such passages, it is argued by Christian scholars no less, show the same sense of deep-seated and ingrainedness of sin within mankind, of the impossibility of moral regeneration by human effort, and of the irreversible consequences of Adam's sin, that are found in Paul. It is concluded, therefore, that these were characteristic of first-century Pharisaism (though not of second century rabbinism). The only difference is that Paul saw some escape from his dilemma, while the author of IV Ezra did not.
Seen in the context of the entire work, however, the similarity vanishes. The book of IV Ezra is modelled, to some extent, on the plan of the book of Job: here, it is Ezra who addresses a long complaint to God about his handling of the world. Unlike Job, however, Ezra's main complaint is not about God's injustice in awarding rewards and punishments, but in his deeper injustice in giving man a moral task without giving him the moral equipment to fulfill the task successfully. The final part of the book, spoken by an angel, gives the answer to Ezra's complaint. This answer contains three aspects: God's inscrutability, the coming eschaton which will put things right, and (most important for the comparison with Paul) a rebuttal of the charge of man's moral helplessness. In this section, the angel asserts unequivocally man's power of free will and his responsibility for his own actions (7.19-29, 70-74, 127-31). Thus the passages alledged to show similarity with Paul are actually there in the book to be refuted, and the book would be better described as anti-Pauline. Written in the wake of the Destruction, the writer had more cause than Paul for despair of human effort, yet he asserts its validity. The book does attest the existence of despairing views in the period, but the author, from a traditional Jewish standpoint, firmly quashes them. The same remarks apply to the attempted recruitment of II Baruch on the side of Pauline moral pessimism. Thus the alleged gulf between Pharisaism and rabbinic Judaism on this issue does not exist.
On a different tack, some writers have tried to show that Paul too does not, after all, rule out the possibility of human moral effort, but has the same blend of consciousness of human evil and acknowledgment of ultimate human responsibility as the author of IV Ezra. This line, if established, would also place Paul in first century Pharisaism. Thus, W.D. Davies (after describing the rabbinic doctrine of the yetzer ha-tob and the yetzer ha-ra`): 'When we compare such speculations with what Paul describes in Romans 7 the similarity is obvious. It is difficult not to believe that the Apostle is there describing his experience as a Jew suffering under the yetzer ha-ra'. There is, it is true, no exact equivalent in Romans 7 to the rabbinical idea of the yetzer ha-tob . . . ' Later, writing about the fall of Adam and Paul's doctrine of original sin, he writes, 'Nevertheless, every man fell because of his own sin as is clearly implied in Romans 7.' Davies' reasoning seems to be: Paul's references to 'the sin of the flesh' are equivalent to the rabbinical yetzer ha-ra'. Therefore the whole rabbinical doctrine of the struggle between the yetzerha-ra' and the yetzer ha-tob is implied, with its assertion of human freedom and responsibility, and denial of original sin. This is eisegesis with a vengeance. A passage which, on any dispassionate reading, is all about human helplessness in the face of sin has been turned into a declaration of human freedom, and is to count as such in further discussion. This kind of sleight of hand is all too prevalent in Pauline studies, in the writings of those unwilling to face the evidence of Paul's complete moral pessimism and its radical difference from the basic attitudes of Judaism, whether pre-Destruction or post-Destruction.
One last though if I might.
Mal 3:6 6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
If you like I believe the above verse and trust its validity then our God does not change. Well if you read these articles you can see that Paul's teachings are often a complete contradiction and in opposition to what was given through Holy men of Old as recorded in the Old Testament. Something sure changed. Coupled with that is the evidence I presented as to the origin for Paul's "changes" as taken from Gnosticism and Pagan Mystery Religions the conclusion is inescapable. If you consider yourself a thinking believer then you easily see that what is recorded in the New Testament and in the Pauline corpus of writings are "changes" from God Word as collected in the Jewish Scriptures. This God which changes not gave us these truths through the Jewish nation and are the backbone for which the church is to founded upon. This God says He changes not. That means His Word does not change as well. Well something did. You now have the facts and can make an intelligent decision on this matter. It is time to return to the faith once given to the saints...Biblical Judaism where the non-Jew is grafted into Israel and not as its "replacement".
Now on to the next study in this series.