At the beginning of Christianity stand two figures: Yeshua and Paul. Yeshua is erroneously assumed and regarded by most Christians as the founder of their religion, in that the events of his life comprise the foundation story of Christianity; but Paul is regarded as the great interpreter of Yeshua's' mission, who explained, in a way that Yeshua himself never did, how Yeshua's life and death fitted into a cosmic scheme of salvation, stretching from the creation of Adam to the end of time. In reality this assumption is wrong on both accounts:
Answer for yourself: What is the truth regarding the relationship between Yeshua and Paul?
In the search for truth regarding this issue we have two options. We can approach the above question based upon "faith alone"or "facts that prove our faith". Since I believe without a doubt that faith and fact are not mutually exclusive of each other I will approach the above question not from the standpoint of "faith alone" but from "a factual analysis of the evidence that can be discerned from intensive study." We will reveal to the reader what he has not see as we examine historians who regard the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament as an important source of evidence requiring careful sifting and criticism, since their authors were propagating religious beliefs rather than conveying dispassionate historical information. In so doing it is of paramount importance that we take into account all relevant evidence and factual data from other sources, such as Josephus, the Talmud, the Church historians and the Gnostic writings.
Answer for yourself: What would Yeshua himself have thought of Paul? Before you answer you better wait until you learn the truth which has been withheld from you. Read on please.
We must remember that Yeshua never knew Paul; the two men never once met. The disciples who knew Yeshua best, such as Peter, James and John, have left no writings behind them explaining how Yeshua seemed to them or what they considered his mission to have been. If you have not learned yet be advised that the Gospels that bear the names of the apostles and many of the letters of Paul were written anonymously and later the names of important people connected with Yeshua were added to give them "authority" among the people. This was a long standing characteristic of the Jewish people as well as the Greeks themselves (http://geocities.com/faithofyeshua).
Answer for yourself: Did the closest followers of Yeshua in the Jerusalem Church agree with the interpretations disseminated by Paul in his fluent, articulate writings?
Answer for yourself: Or did they perhaps think that this newcomer to the scene, spinning complicated theories about the place of Yeshua in the scheme of things, was getting everything wrong?
Impossible you say? Please read on. Paul claimed that his interpretations were not just his own invention, but had come to him by personal inspiration; he claimed that he had personal acquaintance with the resurrected Yeshua, even though he had never met him during his lifetime. Such a visionary acquaintance with Jesus, Paul claimed, gained through visions and transports, was actually superior to the Apostle's acquaintance with Yeshua during his lifetime, when Yeshua was much more reticent about his purposes.
Answer for yourself: Is it? Let's see.
We know about Paul not only from his own letters but also from the book of Acts, which gives a full account of his life. Paul, in fact, is the hero of Acts, which was written by an admirer and follower of his, namely, Luke, who was also the author of the Gospel of that name. This point cannot be underemphasized because we will see shortly not only the slanting of truth by the author of Acts in the effort to promote Paul, but outright lies told in Paul's defense.
Now I must address something that I was taught in Seminary that was one of the major problems that I never could get away from. This is just one of many problems. You should know that this Paul-Jerusalem Church conflict was mentioned for only about 3 minutes in class one day. That was it. Three minutes for something that has a major role to play in the search for truth. The traditional spin of the story, as taken from Acts, as well as Galatians, it would appear that there was some friction between Paul and the leaders of the 'Jerusalem Church', the surviving companions of Yeshua; but this friction was supposedly resolved, and they all became the best of friends, with common aims and purposes. This slanted view of the Paul-Jerusalem Church conflict is far from historically accurate. From certain of Paul's letters, particularly Galatians, as well as extra-Biblical materials that exist today, it seems that the friction was more serious than in the picture given in Acts, which thus appears to be partly a propaganda exercise, intended to portray unity in the early Church. There was no unity among the Jerusalem Church and Paul because of Paul's "unique Gospel" he taught to non-Jews and Jews as well.
Answer for yourself: Understanding the nature and the seriousness of the Paul-Jerusalem Church conflict, the question recurs: what would Yeshua have thought of Paul, and what did the Apostles think of him?
We should remember that the New Testament, as we have it, is much more dominated by Paul than appears at first sight. As we read it, we come across the Four Gospels, of which Yeshua is the hero, and do not encounter Paul as a character until we embark on the post-Yeshua narrative of Acts. Then we finally come into contact with Paul himself, in his letters. But this impression is misleading, for the earliest writings in the New Testament are actually Paul's letters, which were written about AD 50-60, while the Gospels were not written, according to Christian sources, until the period AD 70-110. Unbiased non-Christian sources can show us that basically these "gospels" were oral traditions and did not become concrete until much later and even then they remained in a state of flux and change. The first Gospel quote from one of the big FOUR Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) cannot be found in ANY early Christian literature until 200 A.D. This argument from silence shows us that these four Gospels did not get the names of the Apostles attached to them until rather late. Back to our point. Unbiased scholars today will show us, by external and internal evidence, that the Gospels are not the work of Jewish authors but non-Jews. Coupled with this the understanding that the Pauline corpus of literature was written first then this means that the theories of Paul were already before the writers of the Gospels and colored their interpretations of Yeshua's activities. Paul is, in a sense, present from the very first word of the New Testament. This is, of course, not the whole story, for the Gospels are based on traditions and even written sources which go back to a time before the impact of Paul, and these early traditions and sources are not entirely obliterated of truth in the final version and give valuable indications of what the story was like before Paulinist editors pulled it into final shape. However, the dominant outlook and shaping perspective of the Gospels is that of Paul, for the simple reason that it was the Paulinist view of what Yeshua's sojourn on Earth had been about that was triumphant in the Church as it developed in history. Rival interpretations, which at one time had been orthodox and accepted by the original followers of Jesus, opposed to Paul's very individual views, now became heretical and were crowded out of the final version of the writings adopted by the Pauline Church as the inspired canon of the New Testament.
This explains the puzzling and ambiguous role given in the Gospels to the companions of Yeshua, the twelve disciples. They are shadowy figures, who are allowed little personality, except of a schematic kind. They are also portrayed as stupid; they never quite understand what Yeshua is up to. Their importance in the origins of Christianity is played down in a remarkable way. For example, we find immediately after Yeshua's death that the leader of the Jerusalem Church is Yeshua's brother James. Yet in the Gospels, this James does not appear at all as having anything to do with Yeshua's mission and story. Instead, he is given a brief mention as one of the brothers of Yeshua who allegedly opposed Yeshua during his lifetime and regarded him as mad. How it came about that a brother who had been hostile to Yeshua in his lifetime suddenly became the revered leader of the Church immediately after Yeshua's death is not explained, though one would have thought that some explanation was called for. Later Church legends, of course, filled the gap with stories of the miraculous conversion of James after the death of Yeshua and his development into a saint. But the most likely explanation is, as my research attests, that the erasure of Yeshua's brother James (and his other brothers) from any significant role in the Gospel story is part of the denigration of the early leaders who had been in close contact with Yeshua and regarded with great suspicion and dismay the neo-pagan Christological theories of the upstart Paul, flaunting his brand new visions in interpretation of the Yeshua whom he had never met in the flesh.
We must concern ourselves with just "who" this Paul really is. We have the presentation of Paul in the New Testament but few have ever read or studied close and deep enought to see the inconsistencies and just outright untruths that are recorded concerning him.
Answer for yourself: Just who is this Paul of the New Testament?