The truth, however, as we have seen if you have kept up with the prior articles in this series and on this website, is that Jesus did not found a new religion at all, but simply sought to play an accepted role in the story of an existing religion, Judaism. As a prophet a would-be Messiah Jesus dies with Israel failing to merit the Kingdom of Heaven. Israel, failing to rise to her calling as a holy nation and a Royal Priesthood to the world, not only postpones the manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven's appearance but her king as well. Jesus, a good Jew, lived and breathed Judaism and gave his life for it's futherment. Never did it ever enter into his mind one time that Biblical Judaism was not the way for mankind; both Jew and non-Jew. For Jesus there was no need for a "second" religion; the problem was not with Judaism but with men's hearts. It was Paul who founded the replacement religion known as Christianity today, and he did so by creating a new story which really was not "new" at all; rather, it was a unique synthesis of "old" stories that had a unique appeal to almost everyone...except the Jews of course. Paul's new synthesis, his new story, was one sufficiently powerful and gripping to launch a new world religion among the non-Jews. In this new story Jesus was given a leading role, but this does not make Jesus the creator of Christianity.
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!
Inherent in such Gnostic beliefs is embedded the idea of predestination. Thus some kind of doctrine of predestination follows: when the divine rescuer and savior descends, he does not look to see who "deserves" to be rescued, because this would be to ascribe some kind of saving efficacy to something that man does by his own effort, whatever he does that comprises deservedness.
Answer for yourself: Since in Gnosticism we find the divine descent of the savior who has of course by necessity no human birth, then did this Gnostic belief coupled with the virgin-born sun-godmen of the mystery religions help explain why Paul, who wrote 2/3 of the New Testament, does not mention at all anything about Jesus' childhood or his birth?
Answer for yourself: Could this descent of the divine savior of Gnosticism (the pattern first applied to Jesus by Paul) help explain why the "infancy narratives" do not appear until almost 200 A.D. among the New Testament writings and also help explain why the first New Testament collected did not have such "infancy narratives" and "genealogies" as we find today in Matt. and Luke (remember Paul's writings were first and had a major influence upon the Gentile writers of the New Testament)? You bet it does! Only later when Christian Gnosticism was waining in popularity with the ascendancy of Western Christianity was there a need to explain away Gnostic Christianity's view of Jesus as a descending Gnostic savior and give him a "birth." This explains why there were no accounts written of the early years of Jesus until almost 200 A.D. and such efforts were directly to counteract Gnostic beliefs concerning Jesus as their divine savior who was not "flesh" but pure spirit. One only has to see passages like the following to understand how early Christianity struggled over whether Jesus had a body of flesh (human) or that he only seemed to have a body of flesh but was really only a spiritual apparition (Gnosticism).
I Jn 4:2 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: (KJV)
Back to our point according to Paul's theology mankind can do nothing to be a co-laborer with God in working out his own salvation as no flesh will be justified in the sight of God by any action on the part of mankind.
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)
Answer for yourself: That being the case one only could wonder as to how anyone could know who will be rescued and saved? The answer is simple. There was no way to know. Those will be rescued whom the saviour has decided to rescue and save.
Answer for yourself: What, then, can we do to be rescued? Nothing, except to have "faith!"
Answer for yourself: What does this mean? It means to rely entirely on the descending saviour, and to abandon every other hope of rescue. But surely even to have an attitude of faith requires some kind of effort, and, if so, not everything is contributed by the saviour. This is perplexing to theologians who struggle with this paradox; but the basic thing is still the story: rescue comes from above.
The descent of the divine savior implies other narrative elements. It means that there are two realms, Above a Below: Above is the region of Light, and below a religion of Darkness, the dark prison from which we need to be rescued and from no one belonging to Below can release us. Thus no Below-type act of liberation can do us any good, no transfer from one area to another. What imprisons us is the human condition, which is one of bondage to the powers of Evil.
Answer for yourself: Since the realm of "below," where mankind is born, lives, and dies, is Evil there had to be a reason for the existence of this "Evil." Do you what was developed to explain the existence of this "Evil" we find below? The doctrine of Original Sin.
Answer for yourself: Can we find the doctrine of Original Sin in Moses, the Prophets, Biblical Judaism, or the teachings of Jesus? No! That is not to say we cannot find "sin" in the Old Testament but along with it comes "free will" where man is called to choose "Godliness."
As stated, from this aspect of the story comes naturally the doctrine of Original Sin, a re-reading of Paul of the Hebrew story about the ejection of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, which in the story itself, and its traditional Jewish exegesis, did not have this radical connotation.
Answer for yourself: Does it not strike you rather funny that Paul, a Pharisee of Pharisees and a supposed student of the great Gamaliel, is teaching a doctrine that is totally foreign to Biblical Judaism and it's exegesis of it's own faith?
So far the story as laid out in this article 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. Thee essence of the Gnostic myth was that this world is in the grip of evil, and therefore 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. 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.
Paul's Epistles show a form of Gnosticism which is overlooked by 95% of Christiendom if not more simply for the reason that we are 2000 years removed from Gnosticism and we fail, when reading Paul, to recognize it's main doctrines in the Pauline writings. What makes it even more complicated again is the Christian's almost total lack of understanding of what both Biblical Judaism of the first century as well as the mystery religions actually taught. When you add these three "deficiencies" together the normative Christian is incapable of reading the New Testament and being able to separate out what Jesus the Jew would have believed from the Gnosticism and the Mystery religious doctrines in the New Testament. Lacking such information that only comes from a dedicated time of serious study the Christian is relegated to reading all that is in the New Testament and the Pauline writings and "accepting by faith" that what he is reading is a faithful representation of the Jesus of history. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!
As stated above in summary fashion the problem is that when encountering Paul we find a rather complicated and unique synthesis of all three of these world views from the first century. The Pauline corpus of literature in the New Testament is an amalgamation of all three world views: Judaism, Gnosticism, and Mystery Religions. Understand that this had never been done before Paul; he was the originator of this "new" world religion and his efforts has blurred almost beyond recognition the true Jesus of history. Therefore, the Pauline "religious beliefs system" and his "Christian myth and synthesis" is worth isolating, though it is combined with other, non-Gnostic mythological elements (Judaism and mystery religions). The basic perception of Gnosticism is certainly present in Paul: that this world is so sunk in evil that rescue from above is a necessity (Rom. 7).
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)
But Paul's Gnosticism is not without some quirks. The mythological details of Gnosticism are modified in Paul's unique synthesis of these three world views. Paul does not think that this world was actually created by an evil power; he accepts the account of Genesis that the world was created by God (YHVH). In this he maintains Judaism's account of creation. But, unlike Judaism and the religion of Jesus, Paul believes, as does Gnosticism, that the world has come under the control of an evil power; the Earth is captured territory. This is why there can be no hope of salvation except from outside or "above."
The importance of the concept of an evil power or the Devil in Paul's thought, or rather mythology, cannot be overestimated and here again we find Paul departing from Biblical Judaism and what the Jewish Scriptures teach about Satan. When referring to this power, he generally uses expressions derived from Gnosticism rather than from Judaism. Thus Paul gives the picture of the assault of cosmic evil powers on Jesus in these words:
1 Cor 2:8 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (KJV)
The expression "princes of this world" does not refer to earthly rulers such as the Romans or the High Priest, but to supernatural powers who rule over "this world" in the sense of "this cosmic era." Likewise, Paul uses the expression "principalities and powers" and other such expressions with Gnostic connections to
Rom 8:38 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (KJV) refer to the supernatural forces that oppose Jesus and himself (e.g. Romans 8: 38).
On one occasion, Paul even calls the supreme evil force a "god" (2 Corinthians 4:4).
2 Cor 4:4 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (KJV)
Paul thus thinks of the forces of evil as organized in a hierarch (typical of Gnosticism again) and as having power independent of God, at least for a period in cosmic history. For Paul, it was primarily to break the power of these forces that Jesus came to the world; though the earthly power that opposed him, that of the Jews, who seemed to be his main enemies, was only on the surface, for he was engaged, in reality, in a vast cosmic struggle in which his earthly antagonists were the pawns of evil supernatural forces. This is the core of Gnostic thought and let me again stress that this is not Biblical Judaism. The Persian and Gnostic religious beliefs are the origin for Paul's statements. Again this is a perfect example of Paul's synthesis of various world views in his presentation of his unique Gospel.
Rom 16:25 25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, (KJV)
One thing is for certain that Paul gets correct; it surely is a mystery all right because he was the first to conceive "this mystery" and relate it to others. I cannot stress enough the uniqueness of Paul's invention. It never seems to amaze me how as Christians we can think that the Jesus of the New Testament was believed to have come with a Divine and Unique revelation from God when what Paul teaches about him was previously known and applied to various other godmen throughout recorded history. If anything the Pauline Jesus is a clone...in reality a tri-clops (three world views rolled into one man).
Even Iranian religion, from which the dualism of the Gnostics was ultimately derived, the evil supernatural power was regarded as inferior to the good power in that good would ultimately prevail. So Paul's dualism is hardly less extreme than that of Iranian or Gnostic religion. It has been argued recently that Paul derived this dualism from Jewish, not Hellenistic, sources since the Jewish Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphical books do give an important role to Satan; and the Qumran writings of the Dead Sea also ascribe much of the evil in the world to the activities of an evil angel called Balial. These writings, of course, were excluded from the canon of scripture by the Pharisees, who strongly opposed dualism and regarded Satan as merely one of God's angels, who did not rebel against Him, but obeys his orders, whether the Angel of Death or as prosecutor of human beings in the divine court. Even in purely Jewish terms, Paul's dualism would exclude him from the Pharisee mode of thought. But in any case, there is a great difference between Paul's dualism and that of the Jewish writings mentioned, which, though affected by despair, never descend to the depths out of which Paul's writings spring. Though the Jewish Psedepigrapha and Qumran writings have a sense of cosmic evil, they still believe in the efficacy of the Torah and of the election of Israel; they do not require a savior from the upper world in order to make human life workable.
If as a Christian you have thoroughly read and understand Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings correctly, then you know that God has said the same thing throughout the Jewish Scriptures and that is this: That it is through the practice of the Torah (faith in God and intense desire and effort to respond in love to Him through obedience to the Commandments and Laws of God) that the power of evil is eventually broken in men's flesh and the world (training in obedience); and this means that the exercise of human will to good is still the most important factor in history.
Answer for yourself: Is this what Paul teaches in his epistles? NO!
Paul takes a completely different approach as seen in the utter helplessness of mankind to remedy evil in this world (Rom. 7).
Rom 7:15-24 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (KJV)
The scene of the battle between good and evil is still within the human psyche, not removed to the skies with humans as helpless and passive reflections of the conflict. On the contrary, the battle that goes on between supernatural powers is a reflection of the battle on Earth; and the outcome of this battle will be a transformation of the Earth, not an organized escape from it (rapture).
No plausible Jewish model can be found for Paul's type of dualism; the only contemporary parallel is in Gnosticism. There are some differences, of course, but even in the differences we note a basic similarity; and here we must bear in mind that there were many varieties of Gnosticism, and that the central doctrine of the evil of this world and the need for extraterrestrial salvation could receive an almost infinitely varied mythological elaboration. Paul's variety does not include the notions that the evil power created the world and the Torah; but it contains notions that perform the same kind of function.
Paul belongs to the kind of Gnosticism that was fascinated by the Jews and Judaism, and sought to weave them both into its pattern, usually with anti-Semitic effect (the Jews are the people of the bad God-creator of matter...and the recipients of the Torah which also finds it's origin with this bad God-creator). The Torah, in this kind of scheme, is acknowledged to be of supernatural origin, but it comes from the wrong supernatural source. Yet the Torah, for this kind of Gnostic, contains a secret message: despite itself, it gives information about the tradition of the "true gnosis." Over and against the official tradition contained in the Hebrew Bible there are hints of an alternative tradition, by-passing the authority of the Jews and Judaism. Thus we find the Gnostics concentrating on figures in the Torah who are not Jews, but who nevertheless seem to have authority: such as Seth, the son of Adam born after the murder of Abel by Cain; or Enoch, reputed to have been taken alive into heaven; or Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High who was not of the Jewish Levitical priesthood. Paul does the same thing in choosing "Abraham" as his paradigm of faith and will use him in selling his theology to the Gentile world. On figures such as these it was possible to construct the fantasy of an alternative tradition, stemming not from the Jewish God, but from the High God above whose message far transcended Judaism. In order to present this "alternative tradition" it was necessary to discredit the origin of the Torah and Paul is up for the task.
Now this is important that we understand what comes next. Paul, as previously noted, was not your normal gnostic. He did not adopt the Gnostic myth of the creation of the world by the Demiurge; but he adopted the almost equivalent myth of the "rule of this age," the evil power who had taken over the world, though he did not create it. Likewise, Paul did not adopt the Gnostic myth that the Torah was given by an evil power and was thus an evil work; instead, he introduced the view that the Torah was a work of limited authority. Giving mythical expression to this view, Paul asserted that the Torah was given not by God, but by angels and not God (again Gnosticism is heavily "angel" centered). This demotion of the status of the Torah is seen in Paul's epistle to the Galatians:
Gal 3:19-20 19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator (Moses). 20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. (KJV)
Various scholars have tried to argue that the Jewish sources contain the notion that the Torah was given by angels, not by God, and that therefore Paul was not saying anything startling or new in this passage. If the Torah was "ordained" by angels that means that they originated it, while if they only "promulgated" it, it may have or originated from God. Despite the convoluted arguments of scholars, there is no parallel to Paul's idea that the Torah was given by angels in Jewish sources, which all insist that God was the sole author of the Torah and that was God Himself, not angels, whose voice was heard on Mount Sinai "giving" the Torah. Again we find religious ideas of Paul that lie completely outside of Biblical Judaism.
Answer for yourself: Where did Paul get his conflicting ideas that the Torah was given by angels and not God?
The only parallel to Paul's statement is to be found in the Gnostic literature which states that the Torah was given by an inferior power, the Demiurge. Paul is thus adapting the Gnostic doctrine of the inferiority of the Torah: instead of being ordained by an inferior and also evil power, it is ordained by inferior but beneficent powers. This is in accordance with Paul's view of the Torah as merely temporary and as foreshadowing something greater than would supersede it, the advent of the descending gnostic savior. The other two references to the angels as authors of the Torah in the New Testament (Acts 7:53 and Hebrews 2:2) are simply based on Paul's statement here. Paul was the sole creator of this myth about the angels fathering the Torah. Here again we encounter the pressure that exists in the Christian tradition and scholarship to deprive Paul of his originality as the inventor of Christianity.
The "intermediary" to whom Paul refers is Moses, but his remark that "an intermediary is not needed for one party acting alone, and God is one" is somewhat cryptic. The best explanation seems to be that Paul is pointing out that the Torah constitutes a covenant or contract between two parties, God and Israel. God's pronouncement of blessings to Abraham, on the other hand, was one-sided, with Abraham as passive recipient, required only to have "faith": consequently no "intermediary" was needed. This one-sided conferring of blessing is, for Paul, a far superior and more immediate form of communication between man and God, reflecting again the Gnostic belief in the helpless state of man, utterly dependent on salvation from above. Paul thus rejects as inferior the Jewish concept of the human nature, by which the Torah constitutes a covenant and agreement between two partners, God and Israel. If you have ever studied Covenants for yourself you find that God's Covenants are successive and greater as time goes on. Basically they are cumulative and each in succession has greater responsibilities and greater blessings. To say that the rudimentary Covenant with Abraham was superior to later Covenants which God made with His people destroys the whole idea of progressive revelation and again is a totally false idea as presented by Paul.
Paul's use of Abraham his discussion in Galatians and elsewhere is interesting in context of our consideration of his affinity to Gnosticism. We have seen that the Gnostics used non-Jewish biblical characters such as Seth, Enoch and Melchizedek as alleged representatives of alternative traditions of "gnosis." Paul uses Abraham in just the same way. Abraham, though the ancestor of the Israelites, was also the ancestor of other nations and was a pre-Mosaic figure not involved with the Torah. For Paul the use of Abraham as his "pattern" for his gospel of "faith" was necessary because Paul used Abraham in shadowing the obsolescence of the Torah even before it was given. This trend is developed in the Epistle to the Hebrews (written by a later disciple of Paul, though wrongly attributed to Paul himself by Church tradition), where the figure of Melchizedek is used in the same way, to show that there is an alternative priesthood, superior to that of the Jewish Aaronites. These "characters" are used by Paul because for him they lived in an era before the "Torah." Their example was used to promote the idea of "faith" without the Torah as being acceptable to God which is what Paul is teaching in the New Testament as again the Torah was not necessary any longer because since a product of the "bad-creator-god." However Paul again gets his theology wrong as attested by the following verse:
Gen 26:5 5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. (KJV)
Notice with me the word "law" in the above verse [Strong's number 8451 towrah or torah- law, direction, instruction
As you can see Paul again is wrong because every Covenant that God has ever made with man contains God's admonitions for mankind in the form of commandments and laws which are literally Covenant stipulations that is required of man. Mankind's honoring of them through obedience always brings the blessings of the Covenant and his disobedience always brings chastisement. This means dear reader that Paul's use of Abraham is totally discredited in trying to present a case of "faith only" as the way to please God!
This use of non-Jewish figures from the Bible (Abraham) by Paul, so reminiscent of Gnosticism, is not, however, the main strategy of Paul and of the Pauline Church with regard to the Hebrew Bible. The Gnostics regarded themselves as outsiders and outside mainline Judaism to say the least. Therefore it was necessary to construct an "outsider" tradition from biblical materials so they choose for their examples of their plain non-Jewish people before the giving of the Torah in Scripture. Thus the use of Abraham by Paul repeatedly throughout the epistles. In so doing they were rejecting the main line of the biblical story as concerned with the people of the Demiurge (YHVH). Basically they sought to change the Biblical revelation and the Biblical story. Paul, however, and the Christian tradition that followed him, adopted a much bolder line. He asserted that all the main prophets of the Hebrew Bible were proto-Christians. For Paul none of them (not even Moses) had regarded the Torah as permanently binding; all of them, according to Paul, had looked forward to the advent of the saviour who would abolish the Torah and show the true way of faith and salvation through "faith" in this special "knowledge" that this descending savior would bring (faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of this dying descending savior for salvation).
This Pauline "gospel" amounted to a wholesale repudiation of the Jewish religiohistorical scheme since time began let alone the messages of Moses, the Prophets, the writings, and the teachings of Jesus! Everything up to now according to Paul was wrong and had to be replaced with his "gospel."
Alterations of this kind were not unique to Paul, who accepted the Old Testament in full as the word of God, but instead he imported his own meanings into it, and turned it into a coded message of the Pauline mythology. In this way, the succession of Hebrew prophets was put into the place of the succession of "outsiders' bearing "gnosis," envisaged by the Gnostic exegetes of the Bible. Moses and the prophets were now the outsiders, because they knew the Christian meaning of their message, which was rejected by the Jews, who insisted on the permanence of the Torah and treated the prophets as they later treated Jesus. The division between Jews and outsiders is retained, as in Gnosticism, but the lines are differently drawn, with the result that Pauline Christianity, instead of opposing prophetic Judaism, appropriated it for its own purposes.