A short summary of Gnosticism is necessary before we can begin examining the reasons for Paul's anti-Law bias in the New Testament.


Religions agree that man and the world are imperfect. Where they differ is in the explanation why they are so, and in what they propose to be done about it. Generally speaking, man is held to blame for the situation. Religions often relate that there was a time of harmony, peace and perfection; with man, God and nature coexisting in blissful symbiosis. It is always man who disrupts and spoils the idyllic state, either from within the system by eating forbidden fruit or otherwise asserting his independent free will, or from the outside by infiltrating it and bring in his wake disorder, disease, death, greed and violence. There is, however, an alternate view, namely that the world was imperfect from the start, that such a world was full of evil and suffering and death, that the blame for such an imperfect creation lies not with man, but with God, the Creator. Thus we find in Gnosticism such an idea that this world of evil and suffering was the work of an incompetent deity who is usually identified as the God of the Jews of the Bible. He is know as YHVH (Jehovah).

Stated thus baldly, the above scenario that the Creator of the Bible is an incompetent deity seems a merely perverse idea, or an attempt to exonerate human iniquity by putting the blame on God. But the gnostic argument is not so awkward. It maintains that the true God is beyond the created universe and quite alien to it. This transcendent God does not, and never did, act, in the sense of willing something and bringing it about. To begin to understand Gnosticism we have to substitute the idea of divine emanation, or "bringing forth," for the idea of divine action. There are many variations of the basic gnostic creation myth, as we shall see in due course, and the following brief summary should be regarded as typical rather than as fundamental and general. But what we must understand is that in the New Testament Paul is not always the typical Gnostic in that he borrows various Gnostic concepts when they suite his theology and at times refrains from using others so the Pauline Gnosticism of the New Testament is itself quite unique. As stated and proven, no only on this website but others, Paul drew heavily not only from Gnosticism but from mystery religions for his religious synthesis which in the final form was overlaid with historical Biblical Judaism. When we see all three together we see Paul's unique religious synthesis of Judaism, Gnosticism, and mystery religious in it's final form as a new religion known today as Christianity.

According to this Gnostic tradition in the beginning there existed only the transcendent God, a male principle that existed for eternities in repose with a female principle, the Ennoia (Thought), until there emanated or was brought forth from their union the two archetypes Mind (male) and Truth (female). In turn these principles emanated others, in male - female pairs to the total of thirty, known as Aeons, who collectively constituted the divine realm, known as the Pleroma, or Fullness. Of all the Aeons only the first, Mind, knew and comprehended the greatness of the Father and could behold him, but the last and youngest Aeon, Sophia (Wisdom), became possessed of a passion to do so, and out of the agony of this passion and without the knowledge or consent of her male counterpart, she projected from her own being a flawed emanation.

This abortion, the "Demiurge," was the creator of the material cosmos and imagined himself to be the absolute God (YHVH). The cosmos that he created consisted of a number of spheres, each of which is ruled over by one of the lower powers, the Archons, who collectively govern man's world,, the earth, which is the lowest of the spheres of the degenerate creation.


Gnostic theology, cosmology and general philosophy espouse a radical dualism, which is aptly expressed by a symbolism of light and darkness. The divine realm is the realm of light, and the Aeons are Beings of light, in contradistinction to the darkness of the cosmic spheres and their rulers, the Archons. Good and evil, spirit and matter, flesh and spirit, knowledge and ignorance, are other antitheses correlated with the fundamental one of light and darkness. The gnostic verdict on the world is that it is the darkest dungeon of creation, the innermost of the cosmic spheres, where matter, evil and ignorance irredeemably prevail.

Man's nature, too, is dual, consisting of a perishable physical component and a spiritual component which is a fragment of the divine substance, or, to extend the light symbolism, a "divine spark." Man is generally ignorant of the spark of divinity that resides in him, and the Archons seek to keep him ignorant by encouraging and gratifying the physical appetites and passions of the "natural" man. Some Gnostics held that man was created for the express purpose of entrapping the divine spark, for if ever the divine substance is totally gathered into itself again the flawed cosmic creation, the domain of the Archons, will come to an end. When the divine spark is released from its corporeal prison by death, it will aspire to be reunited with the divine substance, but to attain reunion it must undertake a hazardous journey, traversing the spheres where the ever-vigilant Archons lie in wait to frustrate its efforts and to hurl it back, reincarnate, into the toils and bondage of the physical world.

Unawareness and ignorance (of the way to salvation) keep man in thrall to the Archons, it is knowledge (gnosis) alone that can liberate him and bring him salvation: knowledge of the transcendent God and of the divinity within, and also knowledge of the way to combat or outwit the Archons and enable the soul to achieve the reunion it yearns for. This saving knowledge cannot be discovered in the world, the realm of darkness. This saving knowledge must come from the realm of light, granted either by revelation (or illumination) or brought by a messenger seen as a divine savior, a transcendent saviour. For Paul this "saving knowledge" comes from a vision of the divine resurrected savior who had earlier descended into the world to share this "secret information" that allows mankind to escape his earthly prison.

There is an obvious elitism implicit in this. To be awakened to the existence of the divine spark within is in itself to be set apart from the majority of mankind, and actually to possess the gnosis is to attain a rare spiritual distinction (elect). Furthermore, the gnostic contempt for the material and physical world can easily be extended to contempt for human beings who do not see anything intrinsically wrong with the world, and the contempt for the Creator can result in the repudiation of moral principles and prohibitions and the assumption of a status above the law, where anything is permissible. It stands to reason that if the Creation is flawed because the Creator God is a impaired deity Himself, then all things connected to Him are equally flawed such as His Law, His Torah, and His people the Jews. Thus the need to do away with the Laws of YHVH as imperfect or temporary until a new Law can come in the form of the Law of the descending Gnostic savior. All creation is imperfect as is all flesh and salvation lies outside of anything the creation can possibly do to perfect or improve itself (mankind). Adherence to the Laws of God (YHVH) is utterly useless in improving man's condition and any idea of being a co-laborer with God in the salvation process was totally alien to Gnosticism.

The basic theme in the Pauline religious synthesis and religious myth can be summed up in one phrase: the descent of the divine savior. Everything in the so-called theology stems from this: for since salvation or or rescue comes from above, no capability or potential can be ascribed to the action or initiative of man to improve his situation. Man is totally helpless and undone without any actions that can be taken by him to even "work out" his salvation as a co-partner with God. Understand right now that this is not Biblical Judaism, this is not the message of Moses and the Prophets, and this is not the message taught by Jesus as well! In fact such ideas as taught by Paul totally contradicts the Torah. In Judaism man and God work together in salvation. One has to look to Gnosticism and other forms of dualism for such ideas of the utter incapability of man to be co-partners with God in salvation!

So far the story as laid out in these articles concerning Paul so far is the same as that found in the type of religion known as Gnosticism. Recent discoveries have shown contrary to what was previously argued, Gnosticism existed before Christianity, though it later took Christian forms. The essence of the Gnostic myth was that this world is in the grip of evil; an evil that could not be the result of a good God who was responsible for the creation of all things. In order to explain such evil various theories were created to explain the existence of evil. One system of religious thought that gave answers to this perplexing problem is called Gnosticism and we find in the New Testament that Paul adopts many, but not all, of it's major tenants in the synthesis of "his gospel."

So fundament to Paul's unique blend of Gnosticism is the necessity of a savior who imparts to him this long awaited "divine gnosis" that now he alone can give mankind. A visitor (or a series of visitors) is necessary from the world of Light, in order to impart the secret knowledge (gnosis) by which some privileged souls may escape from the enslavement of the world and their flesh.

The basic theme in the Pauline religious synthesis and religious myth can be summed up in one phrase: the descent of the divine savior. Everything in the so-called theology stems from this: for since salvation or or rescue comes from above, no capability or potential can be ascribed to the action or initiative of man to improve his situation. Man is totally helpless and undone without any actions that can be taken by him to even "work out" his salvation as a co-partner with God. Understand right now that this is not Biblical Judaism, this is not the message of Moses and the Prophets, and this is not the message taught by Jesus as well! In fact such ideas as taught by Paul totally contradicts the Torah. In Judaism man and God work together in salvation. One has to look to Gnosticism and other forms of dualism for such ideas of the utter incapability of man to be co-partners with God in salvation!

Rom 7:24-25 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (KJV)

In Gnosticism, this world is regarded as so evil that it cannot have been created by the God (the good God). It was created by a limited or evil power called the Demiurge (creator otherwise known as the God of the Jews [YHVH]). The true High God lives in a region beyond the skies, but he has pity on humanity and sends them an emissary to teach them how to free themselves from the Demiurge. In some Gnostic sects the Demiurge is identified with the God of the Jews, and it was thought that the Jewish Scripture, the Torah, was given by this evil deity. The Jews were therefore regarded by these sects as the special people of the Demiurge and as having the role in history of blocking the saving work of the emissaries of the High God. While anti-Semitism (in the sense of intense dislike of Jews) was not uncommon in the ancient world, it was probably among the Gnostic sects that the most radical form of anti-Semitism originated - the view that the Jews are the representatives of this cosmic evil and this evil God, the people of the Devil.

Therefore we find in Paul's theology the combined notions of the rejection of Law as connected with faith in one's salvation. Instead of faith and resultant obedience to the Torah we find for Paul a "faith" in his special gnosis obtained by special revelation from this divine savior which he later calls "his gospel." Paul substitutes salvation through faith and adherence to Covenant stipulations and Laws from YHVH to salvation obtained only through "faith" in the atoning power of the death, burial and resurrection of the descending gnostic savior (mixture of Gnosticism and mystery religions). Paul identifies this descending and dying savior with the Messiah of the Jews thus we have the tie in with Judaism. The synthesis is complete. Of course in Christianity today we don't refer to Jesus as such (as a Gnostic savior) as great attempts were later made by Rome to remove as many Gnostic references to "Christ" as possible. But if you are equipped with the background of Gnosticism before you read the New Testament you can pick out enough "markers" to see how the Jesus of the New Testament yet remains as a tragic mixture of both Judaism, mystery religions, and Gnosticism.

Answer for yourself: What has happened to the human Davidic Messiah and where did he go?

2 Sam 7:12-13 12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. (KJV)

2 Sam 7:16 16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. (KJV)

In complete denial of the Torah Paul teaches that humans are basically sinful and cannot be saved through their own merit. Only their "faith" in the passion of the crucifixion and the "Christ" event can achieve them. For Paul personally the Law is external to himself and to mankind. For Paul the Law tells them what to do, but does not transform them internally. This the Law was imperfect and only temporary until a new Law was to come as delivered and taught by the divine Gnostic spirit man whom only Paul saw and heard. We have in Paul not only the elitism of the Gnostics but the "secret" revelation that only the initiates who would later be "in Christ" would possess for Eternal Life where they were saved from this worldly existence and death. By combining the Messiah of Israel with the pagan forms of dying and resurrected sun-godmen of the mystery religions which was packaged in "special gospel revelation" to which only Paul was privy we have the perfect example of Paul's "gnosis." The initiates or "converts" partook of this "gospel" by not only coming to possession of this special knowledge about Jesus and his work in the world as interpreted by Paul but by identifying with him though immersion and taking the supper of the savior called the Eucharist where you were "in him and he in you." By faith you were "identified" with him by being crucified with him in his death and raised with him through your faith in a newness of life." The metamorphosis was complete; but only if you had faith in and obtained such special "gnosis;" without such "knowledge" you were lost.

Sound familiar?


Deut 7:12 12 Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers: (KJV)

Psalms 51:19 The sacrifices [acceptable to] God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

I Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said: "Does the L-rd delight as much in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the voice of the L-rd? Behold, obedience is better than any sacrifice, and to comply [is better] than the fat of rams."

Jeremiah 36:3 Perhaps the House of Judah will hear all the evil I [God] intend to do to them, so that everyone may turn from his evil way and I may forgive their iniquity and sin.

Jonah 3:10 God saw their works that they turned from their evil way....

Isaiah 43 verses 21-26 Verse 23: Thou hast not brought Me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured Me with thy sacrifices... Verse 24: ...thou hast wearied Me with thine iniquities. Verse 25: I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.

From this (above) we see that God, the Merciful One, wipes away sins from us with no apparent activity on our part (THINK).

Isaiah 45:25 In the L-rd shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory. We can be justified, despite our sins, by being "in the L-rd."

Granted, this verse is open to interpretation, but to say that "in the L-rd" means that we must sacrifice sounds very forced. Not realistic.

Ezekiel 18:3-32 Verse 9: Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the L-rd God.

When reading this verse, remember

Ecc 7:20: For there is not a just man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

Obviously, the verse in Ezekiel is referring to a basically good person who really tries to follow God's commands and slips up every now and then. The verse says that he will live. He will NOT see eternal damnation or other such nonsense. Read it again just to be sure.

Verse 21: But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Verse 22: All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.

Verse 30: ...Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

Verse 31: Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Verse 32: For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the L-rd God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

Also read Ezekiel 33 10-20 which again goes through how God wants evil people to repent and makes no mention of sacrifices.

Answer for yourself: Reading all this, doesn't it strike you that the idea that God died on the cross so that we are forever forgiven for any sin is a rather absurd idea, especially when you do some homework and see that such a scenario is replete in pagan mystery religions since the beginning of time as seen in various forms of sun worship by primitive mankind as they came to believe that the “sun” (later to be the “son” of the “sun” was on the cross (made by intersections from the division of the zodiac into 4 seasons of the year)?

Answer for yourself: Does it make sense when reading the Bible Yeshua used, the Jewish Old Testament, that we can believe a message so contrary to the whole of the Old Testament; that man can be forgiven without any changes in his deeds? Even James says in the Christian Bible:

(James 2:20) But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

We made the point in the prior article that for mainline Gnostics any type of Law, like the Law of Moses, was not to be esteemed because not only was it the product of the evil Creator God of the Jews (YHVH) but it's focus was upon the "flesh" of man and it's goal was the control of and discipline of the "flesh." This is understandable since all creation and all matter (flesh) was evil according to the Gnostics. Of course Paul modifies this somewhat as he does not maintain the Torah was given by a "bad-God" but yet still maintains the Torah's imperfectness and its temporary nature. Let us not forget that according to mainline Gnosticism we have two different Gods; a good God which transcends the bad-God who is the Creator of all matter and who has as His people the Jews. This bad-God Creator not only made this world which is full of evil and suffering but gave His Law to His people who we know as the Jews. For the Gnostics any and all things connected with this evil Creator-God (Demiurge) was evil (the Torah and the Jews). Any and all things from this God of the Jews was considered "evil" and the Torah was just as evil. We also pointed out that Paul was not your typical Gnostic in that he deviated from some of the basic Gnostic religious tenants such as his acknowledgment that the creation was not from this evil-God and the torah was not "evil" but only temporary. For Paul the Torah serves a temporary purpose as it revealed the "evil" in men's hearts and was to be abolished by the coming of the "descending Savior" whom upon his arrival would give a new law.

Gal 6:2 2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (KJV)


Paul's attitude to the Torah must now be examined in order to show his affinity to Gnostic antinomianism [anti-Law]. It is the essence of Paul's religious stance that law cannot save; for if so, as he says, what need would there be for the sacrifice of Jesus? We find in Paul's teaching of the death and sacrifice of the descending Savior the combination of religious tenants of the mystery religions in combination with religious tenants of Gnosticism; both of which are lacking in Biblical Judaism. In Judaism, these alternatives are not even intelligible, since in Judaism the issue is not salvation at all, for one is saved merely by being in the covenant, and the issue is then to work together with God by implementing the Torah as the fruit of one's faith. For the Jews, only outrageously wilful behavior can jeopardize his condition of being "saved," and thus the expression "saved" is not even part of the Jewish religious vocabulary.

For Paul, however, the human condition is desperate, and the only issue in life is salvation. Therefore Law for Paul is secondary and irrelevant and behavior and obedience to the Torah has little importance when compared to "spiritual salvation" available only through acceptance of the special knowledge of the savior. Now you can see why Paul only refers to two of Yeshua's teachings ( in 2/3 of the New Testament). Conduct, attitude, and behavior as modeled on the pattern of the Torah is not of primary importance for Paul since man is lost; he needs to be saved from this world by the "special gnosis" that is connected with the descending savior (such special knowledge that is in Paul's gospel). The purpose of the law or Torah, says Paul in Galatians and elsewhere, is not to teach us how to behave as much as it is to convince us of the desperate nature of our moral condition and situation.

Rom 3:20 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (KJV)

By giving us a model of what good and acceptable behavior would be, it shows us how incapable we are of such behavior in the evil state of human nature, and therefore impels us to seek a way of acquiring a new nature. The human condition much be changed, for as it is, it is not practicable.

This attitude to law as taught by Paul in the New Testament corresponds to that of Gnosticism and not Biblical Judaism as evidence by the representative passages from the Torah and the Tanakh listed above


For in Gnosticism, too, the issue is not about how to behave, but salvation. On the other hand, there are some differences between an antinomianism of Paul and that of Gnosticism. The Gnostics did not merely despair of law, as Paul did; they actually despised law, as something essentially inferior to "gnosis." For law was indissolubly connected with the activities of the body, as opposed to the spirit (pneuma). The spiritual being, the "pneumatic," was above the operation of the moral law or, in the phrase of a modern thinker with some affinity to the Gnostics, Nietzsche, "beyond good and evil." Like Nietzsche, the Gnostics were led by this attitude to develop a human typology, by which only a minority of humanity was capable of true spirituality; most human beings were irretrievably bound to the body and materialism. Paul too uses the expression "spirit" (pneuma) in ways analogous to the usage of the Gnostics; thus at times he suggests that only those already predisposed to the "spirit" can benefit by the sacrifice of Jesus, and here the tendency towards predestination inherent in Pauline doctrines is reinforced by a destiny of personality and character. Yet Paul's attitude towards law itself is not straightforwardly Gnostic and is often contradictory! At times, at any rate, he sees law, as supremely embodied in the Torah, as the ultimate goal, but one that cannot be realized except through "salvation" and rebirth. Only by being "born again" can this new nature achieve the goal of observing the Torah. And of course one, according to Paul, cannot be a "new creature" or "be born-again" unless they are recipients of the special knowledge that only Paul can impart from "his gospel." The Law for Paul only reinforced the utter helplessness of mankind to obtain salvation (Rom. 7) and the utter necessity for "his special gospel" about Jesus in order for mankind to be saved. If you were not in Paul's camp and possessed this special "gnosis" which only Paul had then you were lost!

It has been argued that here Paul is merely echoing the thought of Rabbinical Judaism, which envisaged that in the World to Come, God would obliterate the "evil inclination," and mankind would be able to observe the Torah without psychological impediment or struggle. This is the concept formulated by the Prophet Ezekiel:

"I will give them a different heart and put a new spirit into them; I will take the heart of stone out of their bodies and give them a heart of flesh." (Ezek. 11:19).

The only difference between Paul and the rabbis is that Paul believed that the world to come had already arrived, with the advent of Jesus. By having "faith" in Jesus and sharing in his crucifixion, Paul believed, the "heart of stone" would be removed, and the Torah could be observed at last. This, however, is to misunderstand the subtlety of the rabbinical attitude in this matter. The rabbis did believe that the "evil inclination" would be obliterated finally, but this would be as a reward to humanity for its long struggle against evil. It was not the solution to the problem of sin, which was the task of this world and of humanity; it was the removal of the problem in order to reward mankind with a state of blessedness. Thus, the rabbis say in the Mishnah: "Better is one hour of repentance and good works in this world than the whole life of the world to come; ;and better is one hour of bliss in the world to come than the whole life of this world" (Mish. Avot. 4:17). This is an attitude that Paul could not understand. It shows a subtlety and maturity that contrasts strongly with Paul's adolescent despair and impatience for perfection (Rom. 7). For rabbis, the point of life is in the struggle, rather than in the reward. For Paul, the reward has become the indispensable substitute for the struggle, which he regards as hopeless and, therefore pointless. Again we have another example of a "Pharisee of Pharisees" gone wrong!

Thus, even when Paul is in the mood to occasionally take the Torah to be the true standard of moral behavior, he destroys its' efficacy: in a fallen state humanity cannot implement it, while in a "saved" state humanity does not need it, since its provisions then become second nature and are automatically obeyed. But Paul does not adopt his comparatively respectful attitude to the Torah consistently in the New Testament. Sometimes, especially when combating the influence of the Jerusalem Jesus Movement, he takes up an attitude of hostility to the Torah, berating it as materialistic and unspiritual, quite in the Gnostic vein. Thus he declares that those who wish to keep the sabbaths and festivals of the Torah are subservient to mean and beggarly spirits of the elements (Gal. 4:9), a Gnostic expression for the lower forces of nature. At times he seems to be saying that there is now a new law, called "the law of Christ," which has superseded the old law of the Torah, which has been abrogated and was always imperfect. But this is not just a matter of reform, for the new "law of Christ" operates in a different way, being based on grace and faith, not on works. Nor is it a matter of simply dropping ceremonial provisions of the old law, while retaining its moral provisions, for Paul introduces new ceremonies such as the Eucharist and Pauline Christianity has been, if anything, more fully equipped with ritual than Judaism ever was.


The fact is that Paul, like all the Gnostics, is unable to fit law into his scheme of things intelligibly, and yet he has to try to do so, because law simply will not go away. All Gnostics wish to abolish law and to substitute for it some kind of instinctive, saved behavior that will fulfil all the demands of law without the necessity of having a law. But in practice things never work out in this way. People who are supposed to be "saved" behave, unaccountably, just as badly as before they were saved, so that law has to be reintroduced to restrain them. Also, there are always logically minded people to say that if they are "saved," all their behavior must be correct, so they can indulge in any kind of behavior that happens to appeal to them (such as sexual orgies or murder) in the confidence that nothing they do can be wrong. In other words, by being "saved," people may behave worse instead of better. Paul had to cope with this "saved" libertinism, and could only use the methods of moral exhortation that were supposed to have been made obsolete by faith and the transition from "works" to "grace." The epistle to Romans is full of such exhortation's against such sin and conduct. This is the paradox of Paul's stance on the Law...cannot live with it..cannot live without it! The same problem was felt throughout Gnosticism, as is shown by the Gnostic libertine sects such as the Carpocratians.

Thus Paul's attitude of partly admitting the validity of law, under pressure, does not exclude him from the category of Gnosticism, as some have argued, for this compulsion to do something, however unwillingly, about fitting law into the scheme is common to all the Gnostic sects, each of which dealt with the matter in its own way. It is interesting to compare Valentinian Gnosticism, for example, with Pauline Christianity. Each, on the level of basic theory, is antinomian; but each provides a place for law out of practical necessity. This led to the ironic result, in Christianity, of the building up, eventually, of a huge body of canon law in a religion which began as a revolt against law. The new law was supposed to be fundamentally different from the old law of the Torah, being a law of grace, but in fact it was administered in exactly the same way, except that it lacked the humanity and sophistication which centuries of rabbinical development had given to the Torah.


Paul, by adopting the Gnostic myth of the descending savior, produced doctrines typical of Gnosticism in his dualism, his anti-Jewish use of the Jewish scripture and his antinomianism, though in each case, the more extreme forms of Gnosticism are excluded by Paul's acceptance of the Hebrew Bible as the word of God. He emerges from this this examination as a moderate Gnostic, but a Gnostic none the less. He does not represent the world as the creation of an evil God, nor does he say that the Torah emanated from an evil God, nor does he say that law is to be utterly condemned as a mere prescription for the body, but he has doctrines which are analogues of all these, adding up to a Gnostic system of salvation by a heavenly visitor...along the lines of the Essene angel-Messiah.

Answer for yourself: Why, then, did the Pauline Christian Church treat those Gnostic groups that attached themselves to Christianity as heretical?

This fact alone has led many scholars to argue that Pauline Christianity cannot be regarded as owing anything to Gnosticism. This conclusion, however, does not follow. For Pauline Christianity did not Consist of Gnosticism alone, but contained other important ingredients which the Gnostic Christians were not prepared to accept such as the blending in of pagan mystery religious concepts. It is the fusion of these other elements with Gnosticism and Judaism that constitutes the uniqueness of Paul's mythology. Paul did not invent any of the elements that went to make his mythology; what he did invent was the way in which all the elements were combined to make a new and powerful myth.

The chief non-Gnostic element was derived from the mystery religions. It was from the latter that Paul derived the idea of Jesus as a dying and resurrected god, who confers salvation and immortality through a mystic sharing in his death and resurrection. In the Gnostic myth, a bearer of "gnosis" may encounter hostility from the unspiritual followers of the Demiurge, and he may even be killed by them, but this is not the main purpose of his coming. His chief purpose is to bring the gnosis, which is the secret knowledge of a mystic or magical nature, by which the initiate can undertake the spiritual journey that takes him away from the domination of the lower powers. There is thus no "sacrificial" motif in Gnosticism. The saviour does not come to Earth to act as a sacrifice for mankind, but to bring them knowledge, if they are fit to receive it.

In Pauline Christianity, on the other hand, the gnosis which the saviour brings is nothing but the knowledge of the saving power of his own death. He functions as a sacrifice, but only if the initiate is aware of his sacrificial power and shares in it by "faith," in the saviour's sacrificial experience (crucified with Christ). This idea is derived wholly from the mystery cults, in which precisely the same mystery of sharing in the death and resurrection of the deity was central.

This explains why the Gnostic Christians were condemned as heretics, for they could never accept this sacrificial aspect of Pauline salvation doctrine (doctrines from mystery religions and sun-worship), the aspect derived from the various mystery cults. For these Christian Gnostics, Christ was a bringer of secret knowledge on how to obtain salvation from the evil world, not a sacrificial figure. They therefore denied that he ever died on the cross, saying that this was a mere appearance; consequently, their heresy was known as "Docetism," from a Greek word meaning "to appear" or "to seem." The Gnostics, with their radical opposition between spirit and matter, could not accept that Christ was material enough to undergo a sacrificial experience; that would argue that he had truly become flesh, for only the flesh could undergo such real suffering. But for Paul, it was essential that Christ should be a real sacrifice, not just a seeming one. Otherwise, the burden of sin, for which all mankind deserved death, could not be rolled away. Consequently, Christ had to be made sufficiently material to undergo such a death. The descent of the gnostic savior into matter was part of both myths; but for the Gnostics, this descent was sacrifice enough and was undertaken only because the imparting of gnosis would be impossible without it. But for Paul, with his mind full of sacrificial imagery, with his conviction of the saving power of the shedding of blood and the undergoing of torture (derived from his youthful experience of the horrific Attis cult), such bloodless imparting of secrets was unsatisfying. There had to be a cosmic agony to answer to the agony of his own soul. He therefore turned from the sophistication and intellectuality of the Gnostics to the primitive imagery of the mystery cults, derived from prehistoric rites of human sacrifice. The synthesis was begun for Paul and later applied to historical Judaism to give it a picture of respectability.

There was thus a real amalgamation in Paul's mind between Gnosticism and mystery religion, and this was unprecedented. From Gnosticism came the the picture of a world in hellish darkness, yearning for salvation, into which a figure descends from the world of light. This figure walks through the world dispensing cryptic saving wisdom, attracting a few, but surrounded by the forces of evil. From mystery religion comes the story of the death of the saviour: overwhelmed by the forces of evil, he suffers a cruel death, but this very death is the source of salvation, far more than anything he has taught (and what he has taught turns out to be only the saving efficacy of his coming death).

From mystery religion, too, comes the paradox of sacrificial salvation: that it is the result of the success of evil. Only because the forces of evil succeed in overwhelming the savior does salvation come to the world; because death must precede resurrection, and without death there can be no atonement for mankind, which can provide from it own number no person worthy of such a sacrificial function. So, in mystery religion, the dying and resurrected god has an evil opponent-the pattern originating from Set against Osiris-who is essential to the story, because without him there would be no salvation, through his lot is to be accursed and damned, his is the Evil Christ, who bears the sin of killing the Good Christ.

It must be emphasized that neither Gnosticism alone, nor mystery religion alone, could have produced this powerful myth. For Gnosticism is without the concept of the divine sacrifice. Mystery religion, on the other hand, is without several ingredients of the Pauline theology and myth. Mystery religion does not conceive the world as a dark hell into which the god descends nor does it conceive the salvation it offers as a rescue from hellish damnation. Typically, mystery religion offers immortality as a kind of bonus for initiates; those who are not initiates are not regarded as damned, but simply as having missed an extra benefit. It is the admixture of Gnosticism with its desperate situation of mankind and the world that adds urgency to the mystery religion initiation, giving the sense of escape from a terrible doom. Thus the element of incarnation is unimportant in mystery religion, though not entirely absent. Sometimes the god undergoes death (like Balder) without incarnation or descent to Earth. This is not because Pauline Christianity values the flesh more than mystery religion (as some Christian apologists have argued) but because the Gnostic descent into vile matter is essential to Paul in order that the sacrifice should be complete. It is because the world is a hell which has to be afflicted that Christ descends into it, not because the flesh has to be beatified. Similarly, the insistence of Paul that Christ has to be really crucified, not apparently crucified as the Gnostics would have it, does not argue a higher valuation of the flesh by Paul, but rather a concern that the flesh should be thoroughly tortured and thus exorcised on behalf of mankind, whose own sufferings are not sufficient and who cannot be saved by mere enlightenment.


The Pauline myth is however, composed merely of Gnosticism and mystery religion; a third ingredient was necessary to make it the most compelling myth known to mankind and that is the ingredient of Judaism. It was from Judaism that Paul added to his concoction the the dimension of history. Judaism contains a vast panorama of history from the creation of the world until the last days, and part of the impressiveness of Judaism to observers in the ancient world was its purposive scheme of history, quite different from the annalistic approach of Greek historians. Mystery religion was completely ahistorical; its offer of salvation was for the individual alone. Gnosticism, on the other hand, did have a historical scheme of a kind, parasitic on the Jewish scheme; the succession of outsiders, beginning with Seth, which provided a tradition of gnosis. But this was again individualistic, and provided little sense of the development of a community; indeed only the well-formulated community in the Gnostic scheme was that of the Demiurge, the Jews. Gnostic history was a kind of anti-history. Paul, however, bodily took over the whole Jewish scheme of history from Adam to the last days, as a framework for his story of salvation, which he conceived as working itself out through various epochs. The actual content of this historical framework, however, was not derived from Judaism. The Jewish myth of a liberated nation leaving Egypt and crossing the desert to the Promised Land - a paradigm of the political and social Utopianism of Judaism -did not touch Paul at all; instead, he converted it into a parable of his own scheme of salvation for the individual through the sacrifice of Christ. Yet his early admiration for Judaism prevented him from sinking into the quest for mere individual salvation; he conceived of the Church as a community moving through history, and to this end he incorporated the Jewish "promises" to Abraham as the rationale of a new "Israel" taking over the function of a chosen people. The incorporation of the Old Testament into the Christian canon ensured the future of Pauline Christianity as a solidly based human institution, as opposed to the evanescent Gnostic sects and the mystery cult secret societies.

The threefold synthesis of Judaism, Gnosticism, and mystery religion was not constructed consciously by Paul, but, sprang ready made into Paul's psyche on the road to Damascus, as the solution of tremendous poetic power, and its progress in the Greco-Roman world is not to be wondered at. Its chief ingredient are indeed Greco-Roman rather than Jewish, and its appeal was to the world-weary Hellenist, yearning for escape from disorientation and despair, not to the Jews, energetically working out the implication of their own very different belief and world view. Pauline Christianity, despite it's effort to anchor itself in Judaism by usurping the Jewish religio-historical scheme, is far from Judaism in tone. Its basic world attitude is that of Gnosticism, reinforced by powerful sado-masochistic elements derived from mystery religion evoking echoes of primitive sacrifice.


Let us not forget what we have already learned. The Torah was temporary and the by-product of a God that many Gnostics felt was an "evil" God who created an imperfect world with so much suffering and evil. Since for Paul he did not accept that initial thought he nevertheless accepted the complete inability of the Torah of the Jews' to be any type of effective remedy for the sin and evil in the world. The Torah was only for Paul a barometer of sin and the people (the Jews) who stauntly refused to give it up for his special "gnosis" and "unique salvation messages" that for Paul replaced this Torah was definitely a stumbling stone in Paul's agenda. The Jews were his biggest obstacle; especially the Jerusalem Church who never accepted him or his message regardless of Paul's first-hand accounts and defenses of his position written by him or his closest adherents.

An important aspect of Paul's mythology is the strong potential for anti-Semitism which it shares with Gnosticism. If Paul was the creator of the Christian myth, he was also the creator of the anti-Semitism which has been inseparable from that myth, and which eventually produced the medieval diabolization of the Jews, evinced in the stories of the "blood libel" and the alleged desecration of the Host.

1Thes 2:15-16 15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: 16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. (KJV)

Even if the most explicit outburst against the Jews in Paul's Epistles (1 Thessalonians 2:15-16) is regarded as a later interpolation, there is quite sufficient in his more moderate expressions about the Jews and in the general configuration of his myth to give rise to anti-Semitism. It is he who first assigns to the Jews the role of the "sacred executioner", the figure fated to bring about the death of the Saviour.

Rom 11:28 28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: ...(KJV)

He says that the Jews "are treated as God's enemies for your sake (Romans 11:28), a phrase that sums up the role of the Jews in the Christian myth.

The responsibility of Paul for Christian anti-Semitism has been overlooked because of the settled prejudice that Paul came from a highly Jewish background. But not let us forget what we learned about Paul's Gentile background and his conversion to Judaism in the earlier articles in this series where we examined the Ebionite literature concerning the true origins of Paul. It seemed impossible that a "Hebrew of the Hebrews," a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin, and a Pharisee of standing could be the originator of anti-Semitic attitudes. In the ancient world, there was no such pressure of universal contempt and there were no self-hating Jews. It was non-Jews who did that...and Paul was a Jewish convert from Gentile it stands to reason! Judaism was a faith and a religion; not a race!


But the picture of Paul that has emerged from the present study makes it understandable that he was the originator of Christian anti- Semitism. He belonged to the fringes surrounding Judaism, of people who were impressed and attracted by Judaism, but had to fight against their upbringing and emotional make-up when they attempted a closer approach. Often such people would succeed in overcoming all difficulties and would become fully attached to Judaism either as "God-fearers" or as proselytes; such people, as the Talmud says, became the best Jews of all. But occasionally the influence of childhood culture was too strong; they might fall back into paganism or, alternatively, they might concoct weird religious fantasies, partly derived from Judaism and partly from Hellenism, in which the Jews tended to figure as the villains, rather than as the heroes. A certain ,feeling of failure or rejection lies behind these fantasies.

Paul was the greatest dreamer of all. He created the Christian myth by deifying Jesus, a Jewish Messiah figure whose real aims were on the plane of Jewish political Utopianism. Paul transformed Jesus' death into a cosmic sacrifice in which the powers of evil sought to overwhelm the power of good, but, against their will, only succeeded in bringing about a salvific event. This also transforms the Jews, as Paul's writings indicate, into the unwitting agents of salvation, whose malice in bringing about the death of Jesus is ironically turned to good because this death is the very thing needed for the salvation of sinful mankind. The combination of malice and blindness described here is the exact analogue of several of the myths from pagan mystery religions from which Paul borrows his ideas.

Paul took the cosmic drama of good and evil from Gnosticism, and so took over also the dramatization of the Jews as the representatives of cosmic evil. But, by combining the myth of Gnosticism with the myth of the mystery cults (which were not themselves anti-Semitic), Paul sharpened and intensified the anti-Semitism already present in Gnosticism. The Jews became not just the opponents of the figure descended from the world of light, but the performers of the cosmic sacrifice by which the heavenly visitant brings salvation. The Jews thus become identified as the, dark figure which in myths of the deaths of gods brings about the saving death - Set, Mot, Loki; and the stage is prepared for the long career of the Jews in the Christian imagination as the people of the Devil. The elements which Paul took over from Judaism to embellish his myth - the religio-historical element which set the death of Jesus in a panorama of world history - only intensified the resultant anti-Semitism, because there was now an aspect of usurpation in the Pauline myth, an incentive to blacken the Jewish record in order to justify the Christian take-over of the Abrahamic "promises." The career of the Jews in history began to be seen as a prefiguring of their central role, the murder of the divine sacrifice; they were separated from their prophets, now regarded as proto-Christs, hounded, like Jesus, by the Jews.

Paul's religious ideology did not end with him as you well know but it served as the background for the later writing of the Gospels which we today also know came from non-Jewish hands. The religious synthesis or myth foreshadowed by Paul was then brought into full imaginative life in the Gospels, which were written under the influence of Paul's ideas and for the use of the Pauline Christian Church. A fully well-developed account of mythological dimensions is now elaborated on the basis of historical materials, which are adapted to provide a melodrama of good and evil. The powerful image of Judas Iscariot is created: a person fated and even designated by his victim, Jesus, to perform the evil deed, possessed by Satan and carrying out his evil role by compulsion, yet suffering the fate of the accursed - a perfect embodiment of the role of the sacred executioner, deputed to perform the deed of blood, yet execrated for performing it. While Judas performs the role on the personal level, the Jewish people, in the Gospel myth, perform it on the communal level: actuated by blindness and malice in alternation, calling for Jesus' crucifixion in the climactic Barabbas scene and accepting responsibility for the sacrifice by saying, "His blood be on us and on our children" (Matthew 27: 25).

What in Paul's letters was only the outline of a myth has become definite and replete with narrative quality, an instrument for cultural indoctrination and the conveyor of indelible impressions to children who are told the tale.

The myth created by Paul was thus launched on its career in the world: a story that has brought mankind comfort in its despair, but has also produced plentiful evil.

Out of his own despair, rejection by the Sadducee Priest and later coupled with his agony and rejection by the Pharisees whom he had prior persecuted to death, Paul created his myth and his new religion. He was not intent on being "an also ran." He would have "his gospel" and a name for himself at all costs. His rejection was to be a thing of the past. He reasoned that there was no rejection in giving men what they already had so he modeled his "revelation" in the form of 3 then existing world religions and out of this unique synthesis he would have something that all men everywhere could relate to in some degree. He would not to ask anyone to give up anything only accept another "in the image" of what they already had. Paul only needed a heavenly "revelation" to give his synthesis divine authority and he got one; a rather good one that provides for the first time syncretism of Judaism, Mystery religions, and Gnosticism. He might not win the Jews who refused to give up their Torah but the Gentiles would provide no such obstacles for him and his success was guaranteed.

Answer for yourself: To a people who already were permeated with "mental ascent" to various cosmic-divine godmen what would another one hurt?

His belief that he received this "gnosis" or religious myth from the heavenly Jesus himself has obscured Paul's own role in creating it. The misunderstandings and false statements which he fostered about his own background have prevented readers of the New Testament from disentangling Paul's myth from the historical facts about Jesus, the so-called Jerusalem Church, and Paul's own adventures and clashes with his contemporaries. Later Gentiles related Paul's message to the world in print and can be found in our New Testaments. Sadly our failure to know Gnosticism, Mystery Religions, and Judaism before embarking upon a study of the New Testament robs us of the ability to spot Paul's rather clever synthesis of three world religions of his time. Our failure to know this and make necessary distinctions ultimately robs of the true picture of Jesus that can be obtained from the New Testament if such information is possessed by the reader. But out of the religious influences that jostled in his mind, he created an imaginative synthesis that, for good or ill, became the basis of Western culture.

In closing let it be said that Paul was not a true follower of the historical Jesus but one who betrayed not only the man but his message. Today 2.5 billion Christians who believe themselves to be true followers of Jesus read the New Testament and read about a Jewish Frankenstein; a part here, a part there; here another part. In the final analysis the picture of the New Testament Jesus is horrifying when compared to the true historical Jesus which can be recovered today by unbiased and diligent study. The historical Jesus was never a tri-clops theologically like Paul. The only thing necessary on your part in order to study out and see these things for yourself is not only the desire to know the truth before you die but an undying love in your heart for the true Jesus and the God he served in order that your worship be in Spirit and in Truth...something in short supply today. Shalom.