As described in the previous articles the second tenant of Paul's doctrine of salvation as recorded in the New Testament is that of the descent of the divine savior into a human body.
Paul states clearly in the New Testament his doctrine of the pre-existence of Yeshua as a supernatural being. The question of whether Paul went so far as to regard Yeshua as co-partner with God in the creation of the universe depends on whether Colossians is regarded as an authentic epistle of Paul, a question still being debated. Paul provides us with this doctrine in Col. I.16-17:
As you can see there is little doubt that for Paul that Yeshua was pre-existent and equated with a supernatural status. If Colossians is in all actuality an authentic letter then again there is little doubt that Paul considered this "supernatural" Yeshua as having a pivotal role in the creation of the universe.
Also, the question of whether Paul regarded Yeshua as God depends on the problem of the punctuation of Romans 9.5.
5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
It is ambiguous whether Paul is connecting Yeshua as God or blessing God for the appearance of Yeshua in this verse. One's theology will determine how he reads the verse. Most scholars agree, however, on stylistic grounds, that Paul is here calling Yeshua 'God', not inserting a sudden blessing of God the Father.
But certainly Paul ascribes divine status and pre-existence to Yeshua in I Cor. 8.6:
1 Cor 8:6
6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
Paul took a "subordinationist" view of Yeshua which would later be overruled by Catholic Church Councils and which would later be regarded as heretical, by which Yeshua was divine and preexistent (i.e. existed from all time before his descent into human form), but was an inferior deity to God the Father, though sharing with Him the work of creation, revelation and redemption.
For a fairly clear statement of this subordinationist view, one only need to read I Cor. 15.28:
1 Cor 15:28
28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
It seems that Paul was too little of a systematic theologian to hold such a view in a consistent form, or to be worried about the problems his "doctrine' raised for the central belief of Biblical Judaism; namely for monotheism.
The best explanation, however, of Paul's ability to believe in both a High God and a subordinate divine "Lord", without abandoning his belief in monotheism, is to be found in the influence of Gnosticism. For it is in Gnosticism that we find a monotheistic belief in a High God combined with a vast mythology of lower deities. If one reads only a little about Gnosticism he is quickly confronted with doctrines of emanation and pleroma, by which the lower deities all "proceed" or "emanate" (in the later Christian phrase) from the unknowable High God.
Answer for yourself: Does such a concept containing a High God and a divine subordinate "Lord" to be found in Biblical Judaism and the faith of Yeshua? No!
Answer for yourself: But what of the Jewish Kabballah?
The pleroma theory of the Kabbalah is here, of course, irrelevant, since it did not enter into Jewish mysticism until the Middle Ages and thus would not have be available for Paul to draw from his ideas of his doctrine of salvation.
Answer for yourself: But doesn't the Hebrew Bible speak of supernatural beings like angels who visit earth in "human form"?
Again we must make a distinction. Certainly, there are many instances in the Hebrew Bible of the descent of supernatural beings, i.e. angels, to earth, in human form (e.g. Judg. 13.16, where Manoah thinks the angels a human being, or the angels who came to deliver Lot, Gen. 19), in order to give some message or perform some task. But such angels play no continuing part in the story, but perform their commission and disappear. They have minor roles and parts to play. Paul's conception of Yeshua thus departs completely from the Jewish conception of heavenly visitors as recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. Paul's Yeshua is the main actor in the story, to whom all the human characters are subordinate. Instead of a human story with occasional appearances of heavenly visitors in walk-on parts, we are concerned with a heavenly visitor whose story dwarfs in importance the human events of the time.
I found, as so will you if your study in these areas, that such a story has affinities with pagan myths and sun-worship, not with the Hebrew Bible.
I have encountered arguments by some, however, that Jewish conceptions of the End-time did contain the scenario of a central heavenly visitor, and that there is evidence of this in the Jewish apocalyptic literature.
Answer for yourself: How true is this assertion made by some Christian writers?
Again, we must make some distinctions. There were Jewish conceptions of the End-time in which the glorious appearance of a liberating angel played a part, though (contrary to the assertions of some scholars) this redeeming angel was never identified with the Messiah, who was always regarded as a human leader and never a Divine figure or a God or a "submissive lesser God". For example, in I Enoch, the figure of the Elect One has sometimes been identified as a Messiah-figure. This is an error, for the Messiah is mentioned elsewhere in the same work as a human personage quite distinct from the Elect One. The Elect One is an angel, whose status is carefully subordinated to God. Besides that there is no suggestion that he is destined to undergo death as an atoning figure. But nowhere in the Jewish writings do we find the idea of a heavenly power who descends into matter in order to perform a salvific act of humiliation and suffering. I said "nowhere"! This kind of figure, however, is characteristic of Gentile Gnosticism and not Biblical Judaism or Rabbinic Judaism. In other words Yeshua, being a Jew, would not have ascribed to such a doctrine. In some Gnostic writings, Seth himself is regarded in this light: he is not a mere human bearer of gnosis, but a high heavenly power who has self-sacrificingly adopted human shape in order to bring enslaved humans the means of spiritual liberation. Relevant too is the Gnostic figure of Eve, Norea or Sophia, the female heavenly power whose descent into matter, evil and humiliation causes her to combine the roles of "salvator and salvanda". I challenge you to seek out and read Ap. of John 24. 34-25.7. You only need to read accounts of Eve and Norea see Stroumsa (1984), pp. 42-61. For more information on the Sophia, see Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 30.
Here we must consider two figures in the Hebrew Bible who have often been identified as precursors of the Pauline conception of Yeshua: the figure of Wisdom, and the figure of the Suffering Servant. Again I want to be fair with the evidence I have seen. Some Christian commentators have made attempts to argue that the personified Wisdom of Proverbs and the inter-testamental writings were identified in Jewish thought with the Messiah, thus giving the Messiah divine status as at least an aspect of God. If this were true then this would be very important. This would make the claim of Yeshua's divine status intelligible in Jewish terms: as the Messiah, he was the embodiment and incarnation of the Wisdom of God. Granted, certain passages in Jewish literature seem to imply a descent of Wisdom to earth: e.g. "She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors" (Prov. 8.3). All this, however, as W.D. Davies has shown, is very vague and unconvincingly. In truth there is nothing to show that Wisdom was anything other than a poetic personification for the wisdom of God which is found in the Torah. "She", wisdom in the Torah, was never given concrete mythical status such as to make her either an object of worship or identifiable as that political, historical figure (in Jewish terms), the Messiah. But to use the word "incarnation" as some Christians do is dangerous and forces a concept upon the Torah again which is more pagan than Jewish. The Messiah in Judaism has always been understood in human terms. He is a man who lives and embodies Torah but was never to be understood as the descent of God into the flesh of a man through an incarnation. Such again is more closely connected with the pagan ideas of Gods who become men through the sexual union with women. Pagan religions are replete with "virgin births". This is completely opposite to the Hebrew accounts in Scripture of God opening the womb of barren women miraculously and bringing fertility to dead wombs. Again we are forced to acknowledge such ideas strictly as the offshoots of Gentile paganism with no antecedents in Biblical Judaism or the faith of Yeshua.
The Suffering Servant of Isaiah, on the other hand, is certainly an earthly figure, but there is no hint that he has descended from on high. Christian exegesis has always made much of him as a prophecy of the crucified Christ, but, as Jewish exegesis has pointed out, the actual passage refers to his sufferings and threatened death, but not to his actual death. On the contrary, the natural meaning of the passage is that he is rescued without undergoing death. There is no evidence that the passage has ever been understood in Jewish circles as referring to a heavenly visitor! Interpretations in the Targum and later Jewish literature understand the figure of the Suffering Servant either as a human Messiah, or as the Jewish people personified in a corporate nature, or as both simultaneously.
Again in the spirit of honesty some Christian writers have attempted to find a link between Judaism and Paulinism by pointing to the translation of certain humans into angels or near-angels in some Jewish traditions (e.g. Elijah, Enoch, Moses, Melchizedek). But this does not work either because in all these instances, however, are beside the point, since none of them is pre-existent. It is not a matter of the descent of a divine figure, but of the promotion of a deserving human to supernatural status after death, or in some cases before death. This is, after all, merely a natural development of the idea that all righteous people achieve immortality: these especially righteous people achieve immortality plus. Out of all the literature searched for the idea of a pre-existent being, the only passage with any claim to consideration is in the Prayer of Joseph, which is extant only as a fragment quoted by Origen in his commentary on John. This appears to convey the idea that Jacob was the incarnation of an archangel called Israel. It is much more likely, however, that the idea is the Platonic one that influenced later Jewish mysticism: that everything on earth is a reflection of something in heaven. Again this is a non-Jewish idea with no background in Biblical Judaism or the faith of Yeshua. Thus Jacob is not the archangel Israel descended to earth; he is the earthly counterpart of the archangel Israel. This idea is more clearly expressed in Joseph and Asenath, 14, in the resemblance between Joseph and the angel who appears to Asenath. If this interpretation is correct, Jacob was no more an incarnation than everyone and everything else on earth. Indeed, the idea that all humanity is the incarnation of God is certainly a Jewish one, since it stems from the biblical statement that God breathed life into Adam (Gen. 2.7). This means that human life is of the substance of God, or divine. But to say that all humans are incarnate God by the mere fact of their normal bodily birth is to exclude the hypothesis that this applies only to certain individuals, who have descended especially from heaven to don human bodies.
If you have followed the reasoning and the information presented, we are forced to conclude that the Pauline concept of Yeshua as a previous existent heavenly visitor to earth performing a salvific role in human form through humiliation is entirely alien to Judaism. It arises from the basic Pauline notion that rescue must come from above, since this earth and the moral nature of man are too corrupted to be saved by human effort. This is Gentile Gnosticism through and through and not Biblical Judaism. The descent into evil matter of a divine being is characteristically Hellenistic, being prominent in Gnosticism. It derives, in a mythical way, from Plato himself, and his conception of the Guardian who refrain from the pursuit of perfection and escape from matter in order to help lower mortals; and in the background of Plato we may discern Orphic and Indian (Hindu) ideas of the same kind .Judaism never developed such notions because it never regarded matter as evil. Again such ideas stem from Gnosticism and not Biblical Judaism!
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. to the saints...Biblical Judaism where the non-Jew is grafted into Israel and not as its "replacement". 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 article in this series.