In a previous article we presented historical evidence from the Fourth Century historian Epiphanius detailing the rejection of Paul and his precepts by the Jews of the Jerusalem church (Peter, James, John, etc.). Pauls response was to turn his back on them and seek a more fertile field in which to sow his ideas. Thus Paul begins to take his message to the nations and Pauline-Gentile evangelism was born. So was another religion foreign to Yeshua.
Paul contributed greatly to a synthesis of Judaism and Hellenism and thus the creation of Gentile Christianity. With his infusion of ideas from the mystery religions and mythology, Paul found himself at odds with the leaders of the Jerusalem Council. We showed you in a previous last article several references to literature yet existing which impugn Paul for his actions. Luckily for us the Catholic Church did not destroy all of such documents, for if they had been successful in removing all traces of documentation which reveals Pauls real standing with Yeshuas apostles, then we might have never known the truth about the views of the Jerusalem church toward Paul and his teachings.
Consequently, for the reasons given above, a split grew between Judaism and Christianity. The one demanded observance of ethics and morality according to God's given Law and the other required a faith in Jesus that superseded the Law. The one offered salvation through deeds, the other, the grace of God through faith. "The Law ... is the strongest element of contention between Judaism and Christianity, for its existence spells the negation of Christianity and its abrogation, the negation of Judaism (Trude Weiss-Rosmarlin, Judaism and Christianity: The Differences, p. 97). For Jews, performing good deeds does not exclude their belief in God. It is NOT an "either-or" situation. Observance of the Law for many Jews is rooted in their faith in God. The paradox of Paul's assertion that he was a Jew was his denial of, and attack on, what Judaism holds most precious: the Torah.
This does not mean that keeping all 613 laws in the Torah is incumbent on all people. Paul did not have to found a new religion for Gentiles who sought salvation without accepting the whole Torah. Gentiles who could not or did not want to observe such laws as circumcision, dietary restrictions, ritual cleanliness, Sabbath and festival observances, and other regulations and ceremonies, could still be considered morally upright. In the Jewish tradition non-Jews are subject to the Seven Noachic Laws or Natural Law. They are prohibitions against blasphemy, idolatry, theft, murder, incest, and eating flesh torn from a living animal and the requirement to establish courts of justice. By observing these laws of Noah the righteous of all nations have a share in the world-to-come. This is the Jewish way of saying "Heaven," an expression which most approximates the Christian concept of salvation. Thus Judaism does not restrict salvation to its believers or followers of the Torah. People do not have to embrace Judaism to be deemed virtuous on this earth and worthy of the next world. Christianity, however, as a result of Pauls influence, has led many of it's adherents to the conviction that salvation is limited to those who believe in Yeshua's resurrection, messiahship, and divinity. Of course, this view is not shared by all Christians today, especially, not by those espousing liberal views of their religion.
As for the laws from which Paul had "freed" the people, Christians soon realized how important they are for the functioning of an orderly, ethical society. They also recognized the need or desire in people to observe rituals and ceremonies. From early on, Church leaders introduced laws which were both detailed and voluminous. They dealt with the organization of the Church and clergy, with rites and customs, and with matters of divinity and God's relation to people. Thus, Pauline Christianity fled from the bosom of Torah laws into the arms of ecclesiastical canon.
Paul's roots and upbringing made him familiar with the thinking and mentality of the people among whom he proselytized. This is not surprising since having previously shown he was most likely a Gentile himself. He was intimately acquainted with their prejudices, fears, and hopes and knew how to appeal to them. He seemed to know more about them than he did about his fellow-Pharisees and their faith and feelings. Among the Nazarenes in the Jerusalem Church he was an outsider. Not having been one of Yeshua's original disciples or a member of his family, Paul did not belong to the "old-boy network."
Beyond the borders of Judea the world had many more Gentiles than Jews. It has been estimated that Jews constituted ten per cent of the population of the Roman Empire. Together with Gentiles sympathetic to Judaism, the extent of Jewish influence may have reached twenty per cent. Even with these numbers, the Hellenistic world held many more possibilities for Paul than the Jews did. More significantly, having come from that background, Paul was familiar with the people who lived in the Roman Hellenistic world of Greece and Asia Minor. He could identify with them and their beliefs and they could find in him a kindred spirit. Outside of Judea he was released from the constraints and dominance of a long established religion and its strictly monotheistic adherents. He was free to give vent to his imagination and creativity. He could formulate a new religion blending familiar and dearly-held ideas of the Gentiles with some monotheistic concepts which he could add for freshness and inspiration.
Although Paul claimed in one of his letters (2 COR 10), that some of his rivals criticized his rhetorical skills, he undoubtedly was blessed with great oratorical talent and power of persuasion which made him a formidable opponent in religious disputes. In that same letter and chapter he spoke of demolishing arguments against his beliefs. The Apostle's organizational ability is amply demonstrated by his having developed a new religion complete with infrastructure and followers.
Paul's constant travels and references to cities he had been to and planned to visit testify to his enormous energy. He was undaunted by the hazards of transportation in his time, and seems to have had no more hesitation or apprehension about undertaking an intercontinental journey than a jet traveler of today.
Paul's political acuity kept him safe from the even greater dangers of running afoul of the Roman authorities as he traversed the empire. Eventually, he did get into trouble with the Roman civil authorities who seized, questioned, and killed him because his success with Gentiles became a threat to them. But this did not happen before he had spread his message for a quarter of a century and laid down a firm foundation for the dissemination of his faith. Prior to his imprisonment, Paul managed to direct the religion he adopted so that it and he stayed on the right side of power. To accomplish his purpose, Paul used every artifice of diplomacy, not excluding expediency and duplicity. He told us this about himself in his first Epistle to the Corinthians:
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I become like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I become like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I become like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I become weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men...(1 COR 9:19-22).
In these verses Pauls aptitude for political maneuvering is without question. However, his double-mindedness came to the fore in his dealings with the Jerusalem Council, the central authority for the followers of Jesus. In his letter to the Galatians Paul related that he delayed three years before going to Jerusalem to meet Peter and James, the leaders of the Council and Nazarene Church. On the surface it might seem strange that an apostle in the new faith would remain aloof from his co-religionists. Ostensibly, they were working toward the same objectives and were facing similar problems. It could be expected that Paul, as the new man on the job, would seek out the older members for support and advice. Instead he chose to work alone or with one or two apostles of his choosing whom he could influence and dominate. Paul was veering off on his own and setting up a new cult. Paul knew that his doctrines of faith and repudiation of the Torah for his converts were opposed by the men in Jerusalem. Paul did not want any interference or hindrance in building a base for his ideology. Nor did he wish to be subservient to the authorities in Judea or anywhere else. He wanted to be at the helm and in command.
Only when Paul had established his own missions in Asia Minor did he appear in Jerusalem; and then he came for a brief two weeks. He was less than forthright about the religious beliefs he was imparting to his converts. After that visit, Paul avoided Jerusalem and the Nazarene leadership for the next fourteen years. Only after he had a large following did he confront the leaders of the Jerusalem Council again. He came with two apostles, one of whom was a Gentile, Titus who, he said, was not compelled to be circumcised. Paul had returned to Jerusalem in triumph. He had proven himself a powerful adversary. He had established many churches according to his doctrines and had numerous converts. He was received by the pillars of the Jerusalem Church as an equal. He said that they gave him "the right hand of fellowship," which meant that they realized his power, accomplishments, and authority; they could not impose their religious ideas on him. Although instructed by James to take letters with him containing the Jerusalem Councils ruling that the Gentiles coming to faith in God through the ministry of Jesus' disciples should observe and keep the Laws of Noah as well as strengthen the non-Jewish assemblies, Paul would do different when he again returned to Asia Minor. James instructed as Moses is taught in every city on the Sabbath. He was full aware that the non-Jews would get the necessary instruction necessary to build a Godly life by the study of the books of Moses. Contrary to James decree Paul will abrogate during his journeys much of Moses in his teachings to Gentiles after leaving James and the Jerusalem church as seen in Paul's defence in his Galatians letter where the Torah is called bondage and something that kills instead of brining life! Paul's imprisonment and execution by the Romans left the field wide open to the Jerusalem Church to spread its Jewish Christian doctrines. This continued until the outbreak of war in 66 C.E. which annihilated the ranks of the Nazarenes, as it did the Essenes. The Nazarenes fled to Perea in Trans- Jordan. The movement, understood as true Jewish Christianity where non-Jews were coming to God as Godfearers through faith in the God of Israel and observance of the Covenant and Laws of Noah, survived in weakened form until the fifth century. Under Roman Catholic pressure such a ministry and world wide effort was considered heretical by both Jews and Christians. Sadly, most of its members eventually joined Pauline Christianity after the Council of Nicea where the power of the Roman state propelled it's religious agenda as well.
The Nazarene leaders in Jerusalem sent evangelists to Egypt and Rome. They were either less active or less effective in the Gentile world than Paul for his brand of Christianity became dominant.
Perhaps Paul's most outstanding characteristic was Paul's driving ambition which fueled his other attributes. This overwhelming urge for achievement and success, combined with his skills, talents, and stamina made him invincible. Paul gave us an insight into his ambition and competitiveness in one of his letters. Explaining his background prior to his acceptance of Jesus in his Epistle to the Galatians, Paul wrote, "I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age..." What a strange way to speak of a sacred calling like religion, especially by a man who has been considered a model of devoutness. Paul sounds more like a modern-day "Yuppie" discussing his profession or business. He put everything he had into it: his strength, his time, and his considerable talents. Like most successful people, Paul neither spared himself nor hesitated to use any means to achieve his goals. Even though his opponents in the Nazarene movement had the advantage of a direct link with Jesus and a clear monotheistic message,
Paul prevailed. His successors built a religious empire on his philosophy. His legacy lives on as Gentile Christianity today. Too bad the Jewish Christianity of Yeshua doesn't!