Paul the Heretic: The Controversial Truth (Part 2)
Apostle Paul the Heretic of the New Testament : What Sort of a Jew Was Paul? (Part 2)
Paul the heretic, in Romans 11:1 and Philippians 3:5, claims to be from the Tribe of Benjamin. But the Jewish historical fact is that by the time of Jesus, genealogical records other than for the descendants of Aaron, the Levites, and for the lineage of David were no longer being kept as noted in Pesahim 62b,[i] and as noted by Josephus in Contra Apion 2.190-194, (this holds true as well for what is found being stated in Luke 2:36).
Furthermore, Paul the heretic also admits to being a Roman citizen in Acts 22:25-28,[ii] and thus, the allegiance of Paul the Heretic would have been to Roman authorities as well as to the High Priest’s and other Sadducees who were “collaborators” with the Romans.
Now, it is true that there are some scholars who doubt the credibility of this claim in Acts 22 that Paul the heretic was a Roman citizen based on their claim that Paul the heretic never mentions his being a Roman citizen in any of his letters.[iii]
But, if it is true though, that Paul the heretic was in fact from Tarsus, then, since Tarsus was a Roman “free city,” one must understand that under Roman law there were several factors that automatically constituted one becoming a Roman citizen – one of these factors being that anyone who was born in a Roman “free city,” such as Tarsus was, or, as a possible second factor, anyone who had once been a slave who had been granted their freedom from being a slave, then that “freed slave” automatically became a Roman citizen and was given a Roman citizenship name!
It would seem that even Church traditions confirms this to be true, for the Church Father, Jerome, in his Commentary on Philippians 5 records a story of Paul’s parents being former slaves in Tarsus who were freed, and therefore, as just noted above, this story recorded by Jerome regarding Paul’s family, automatically would make Paul the heretic a Roman citizen.
Therefore, the single greatest proof that Paul the heretic was in fact a Roman citizen comes from the very writings of Paul the heretic, and particularly from the letters which are now generally accepted by the majority of scholars as actually having been written by Paul the heretic.
This proof derives from what is stated in Acts 13:9 – “Saul, the one also called Paul.” As just noted above regarding a Roman “free city,” as soon as one became a Roman citizen, they were given a Roman citizenship name, and nowhere in any New Testament writing – regardless of whether or not that writing was from Paul the heretic or any other New Testament author – nowhere is there ever any mention of a name change from “Saul” to “Paul”!
While the name “Saul” most probably was the Jewish heritage name of Paul the heretic, the name most often used in the New Testament is, “Paul” (Greek, Paulos, from the Latin, Paulus),[iv] which was the Roman citizenship name, of Paul the heretic. In all of the legitimate letters of Paul the heretic, Paul the heretic refers to himself by his Roman citizenship name, Paulos – “Paul”![v]
Philippi was another Roman “free city” and in Philippians 3:20 one finds that Paul the heretic makes a clear reference to one’s “citizenship” (politeuma – a Greek word that was used in regards to one being a Roman citizen), and when one remembers that Paul the heretic is writing to gentiles of a Roman “free city,” then it should become quite clear that Paul the heretic is referring to their Roman citizenship, and when one further sees that Paul the heretic in this verse states, “our citizenship” it is obvious that he is including his own Roman citizenship as well or else it would be found being stated, “your citizenship”!
Going further into this matter of Paul the heretic being a Roman citizen, Josephus in Antiquities 13.251-252 states that Jews who were Roman citizens were “dismissed” from observing “the rites of the Jewish religion, on account of their religion,” and as a Roman citizen, Paul the heretic was also protected by the Lex Julia.[vi]
In essence, this is precisely why we find Paul the heretic giving such teachings that have been interpreted to mean that Jesus’ death abrogated the Torah! For Paul the heretic being a “Roman citizen,” was “dismissed” from having to observe “the rites of the Jewish religion.”[vii]
Paul the heretic did though, go through the Nazarite rites at the request of the head of the Jerusalem Church, James, as noted in Acts 21:23-26, and in Acts 24:17-18 Paul then fulfills these Nazarite rites when he brings alms and offers sacrifices at the Temple. Yet Paul the heretic states that he fulfilled the Nazarite rites under false pretense, as stated in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23!
A. N. Sherwin-White writes concerning this,[viii] “The provincial who became a Roman ceased to be a member of his native community, and to exercise any rights or to be required to perform any duties there.”
A. N. Sherwin-White goes further to point out that,[ix] “Officially the Roman citizen may not practice any alien cult that has not received the public sanction of the State, but customarily he might do so as long as his cult did not otherwise offend against the laws and usages of Roman life, i.e., so long as it did not involve political and social crimes.” Sherwin-White then points out that in each instance of Paul’s arrests at Philippi, Ephesus, and Thessalonica (for example), those who “arrested,” “persecuted,” and/or “punished” Paul were non-Jews, (i.e., gentile Roman citizens).
Yet, despite all of the indications that Paul the heretic was a Roman citizen aligned with the Sadducees, there is one major overlying problem even with this claim, and this being that the Sadducees did not believe in the “resurrection of the dead,” which Paul the heretic seems to clearly teach in his Epistles.
So, we have clear evidence that Paul the heretic was not a Pharisee, and the matter of his teachings about the resurrection of the dead puts him at odds with his possibly being a Sadducee, and thus, we have an unresolved matter that begs the question to be asked – what sort of a Jew was Paul?
Now, W. D. Davies makes a very telling statement concerning Philo and Paul the heretic that must be noted here, for Davies states that,[x] “For example, how different Paul must have been from a Jew like Philo can be measured by the fact that Philo never discovered that the Kupios (kyrios) of the LXX represented the Hebrew Yahweh.”
Davies statement though, is quite in error in claiming that the Greek word Kupios was always being used in the LXX, (the Greek “Septuagint”), for the Hebrew YHWH (Yahweh),[xi] a matter which Philo, (as Davies even notes), clearly knows.
Furthermore, Davies is also in error regarding Paul’s usage of Kupios, for Paul the heretic only uses Kupios in regards to Jesus, but Paul the heretic uses the word Theos in regards to God.[xii] But despite this fact, the question still needs to be asked – what sort of a Jew was Paul?
Paul the heretic also admits to being related to the Herodians[xiii] as he clearly writes in Romans 16:10-11, and the Herodians likewise had their own “henchmen,” or “ruffians,”[xiv] or one might even refer to these “ruffians” as being sort of “body guards,” or “secret police,” who kept control over “malefactors,” as is noted, or hinted at in Matthew 22:16; Mark 3:6; 12:13 for example, (but see also the fact that these “ruffians” are mentioned in the Talmud Babli, Pesahim 57a).[xv]
Paul the heretic even admits in 1 Corinthians 7:12; 7:25; 7:40; Galatians 1:1-24 to not teaching according to Jesus’ teachings! Paul the heretic instead uses his own opinions and teachings![xvi]
In addition to Paul the heretic teaching his own opinions, Paul the heretic quite often contradicts his own opinions and teachings, and these contradictions are found between what Paul the heretic states in one Epistle and what he then states in a different Epistle.
But at other times, one can find such contradictions within the same Epistle.[xvii] In 2 Peter 1:20-21, (a writing which most scholars believe was not actually written by the disciple named Simon Peter), even though it clearly states, “that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,” this writing then goes on to reference the teachings of Paul the heretic, which as just noted, came from opinions and interpretations of Paul the heretic and not from the teachings of Jesus!
Thus, given the fact of the disputes known from the New Testament to have occurred between Peter and Paul the heretic, (Acts 15, Galatians 2 for example), this writing of 2 Peter cannot be an Epistle actually written by the apostle Peter.[xviii]
As Walter Bauer points out,[xix] the Church at Rome, established by Peter, was the very center of activity attempting to control “heresies,” and “heretics” who “contradicted” the “orthodox” teachings of Jesus.
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5:28, refers to “heresy hunters” seeking “heretics” altering the Gospels, and Epistles to provide a desired doctrinal interpretation of Jesus’ life and teachings. Eusebius makes a list of a few of these “heresy hunters.”[xx]
Georg Strecker points out[xxi] that the Jewish followers of Jesus, (often referred to as Ebionites, which means “poor,” as is found in Romans 15:26; Galatians 2:10),[xxii] later came to be referred to as “heretics” themselves even though they were the original followers of the teachings of Jesus!
Now, Bart Ehrman believes that Galatians 2:6-9 is referring to two different individuals when Paul the heretic refers to “Peter” and “Cephas” separately, even though both names mean “rock.”[xxiii]
One will also find that in 1 Corinthians 9:1-2 Paul the heretic even states that there were individuals who did not recognize him as being a legitimate “Apostle,”[xxiv] and in 1 Corinthians 15:8 Paul the heretic even admits that he is, “unfit to be an Apostle.”
D. C. Thielmann, (excerpts from my book, You Say So: The Trial of Jesus of Nazareth)
[i] See the comments on this from Kaufmann Kohler, “Saul of Tarsus (known as Paul, the Apostle of the Heathen),” Jewish Encyclopedia.
[ii] But see also Acts 16:37-40; 25:10-12 and see the comments in Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation, Helen K. Bond, p. 141; Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, A. N. Sherwin-White, pp. 144-162.
[iii] See for example the comments in Paul Was Not a Christian, Pamela Eisenbaum, p. 141.
[iv] See the BDAG Greek-English Lexicon, p. 789; T. J. Leary, “Paul’s Improper Name,” New Testament Studies Volume 38, No. 3 (1992), pp. 467-469.
[v] See the comments on this of Greg Lanier, “No, ‘Saul the Persecutor’ Did Not Become ‘Paul the Apostle’,” The Gospel Coalition, May 3, 2017.
[vi] See the comments in Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, A. N. Sherwin-White, pp. 58-70.
[vii] See the comments on this in The New Testament and Jewish Law, James G. Crossley, pp. 42-44.
[ix] Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, A. N. Sherwin-White, p. 79.
[xii] See the comments on this in Paul Was Not a Christian, Pamela Eisenbaum, pp. 177-189.
[xiii] See the comments of Robert Eisenman, “Paul as Herodian,” JHC 3/1 (Spring 1996), pp. 110-122.
[xiv] See the comments on this in Jesus and the Spiral of Violence, Richard A. Horsley, pp. 44 and 46.
[xv] See the comments on this in Jesus and Israel, Jules Isaac, pp. 275-276; Hillel, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, p. 186.
[xvi] See the comments on this in Jesus, C. Leslie Mitton, p. 49 who seemingly points out this fact unknowingly in regards to its full ramifications; How Jesus Became Christian, Barrie Wilson, pp. 1-6, 103, 131-149, 168-181, 237-253.
[xviii] See the comments on this in The New Testament, Bart D. Ehrman, pp. 457-458.
[xx] See the comments for example in, The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot, Bart D. Ehrman, p 148; Jesus Interrupted, Bart D. Ehrman, pp. 212-223; How Jesus Became God, Bart D. Ehrman, p. 294; The New Testament, Bart D. Ehrman, pp. 445-460; Jesus and Israel, Jules Isaac, pp. 290-296; Jews, Greeks and Christians, (Edited by Robert Hammerton-Kelly and Robin Scroggs), C. K. Barrett commenting, pp. 220-244; Gnosis, Kurt Rudolph, pp. 9-25; and see the entire book Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, Walter Bauer.
[xxi] See Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, Walter Bauer, with Georg Strecker commenting in Appendix 1.
[xxii] See the comments on Ebionite in Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, pp. 437-447.
[xxiii] See the comments on this in The New Testament, Bart D. Ehrman, Box 20.6, p. 335; but see also the comments on this in Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, Walter Bauer, p. 115; A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament, Samuel Sandmel, pp. 159-160.
[xxiv] See the comments in A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament, Samuel Sandmel, pp. 84-85.