The great Hellenist the Apostle Paul
Hyam Maccoby [The Mythmaker] was mostly right
Hyam Maccoby [The Mythmaker] was mostly right: 1. Paul was not a Pharisee. 2. Christians prior to Paul were not antinomian, anti-Jewish, or anti-God. 3. Paul invented the doctrine of the Cross, along with the story of the Last Supper and associated doctrine of the Body of Christ.
This much of The Mythmaker I had to agree with after examining the evidence, even though I was extremely reluctant to part with the idea he had been a Pharisee. Maccoby was also right about something else, which I shall go into in greater depth later on.
Having determined all this to my satisfaction raised the question "What did Paul think he was doing?" I found myself lost in a sea of contradictions: Paul preached "salvation by faith," that is, by belief; yet, he did not believe in the Christian gospel himself. We know this because the gospel he preached was totally different, bearing no relationship whatsoever to the life and teachings of Jesus.
Now, before Paul invented his gospel, the only gospel which existed was that of the apostles. Why would a man who believed his salvation depended upon believing the gospel not believe in the gospel preached by the apostles of Christ? How could Paul, who makes so much of his own authority as an apostle, so disregard the teaching of every other apostle?
The contradictions are particularly acute with regard to the "law," or Torah: in Romans he portrays himself as a pious observer of the Torah who found himself unable to obey it; meaning, we suppose, that no one else can either.
Yet Paul must certainly have been aware of Deut. 30:11, "[this law] is not too difficult for you," for he quotes most of the passage in the very same epistle, leaving out only "not too difficult" and "so you may obey it." St. Paul would have had to have been a colossal idiot not to understand this passage. Furthermore, in the epistle to the Galatians Paul lists the "effects of obeying the law" as follows:
1. It "nullifies the effect of Christ in you."
2. It makes "Christ die for nothing," i.e., it nullifies "the cross."
3. It renders "all my work for you in vain" (in preaching the gospel, presumably). Now, this contradicts the main argument in Romans, that it would be fine to obey the law if it were possible but since it is not we must not; which makes no sense at all, but so what?
These passages also show that Paul could not have believed the law "abrogated," or nullified, for there can be no effect from obeying a nullified law, and if there is an effect there can be no nullification.
How can we discover Paul's true beliefs from this maze of contradictory statements? By Maccoby's Fourth Proposition: 4. That Paul employed deception, and most especially misrepresentation, to convince people to accept the gospel.
In other words, Paul was a liar, not a pathological liar, but a purposeful one: he lied to advance the gospel; not the gospel of the apostles, but the gospel he himself preached.
He himself declared that among Jews he acted like a Jew, among Greeks like a Greek; is it unlikely then that among apostles he would act like an apostle? Or that he would emulate apostlolic behavior (like extreme humility) in his letters even though he was nothing like it in fact?
Paul was a liar, but he was also a preacher and pastor: he had to tell at least something of the truth to preach, and give the Galatians some kind of idea that their obedience of the Commandments was a bad idea, even if he could not say precisely why.
How can a man both lie and tell the truth at the same time? The way to do that is by clever use of language. Paul used a special type of language which he called "spiritual words," which he distinguished from the ordinary kind of language, which he called "speaking as a human being." Now these "spiritual words" could not be understood by the rules of grammar and syntax.
They can, however, be deciphered. Here are some examples, and their meaning, translated by myself: ...[the law] 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. Now a mediator of one is not, but God is one. Gal. 3:19-20
Notice how the meaning of this passage seems to sail right past you and out of sight, leaving you the impression of having witnessed something profound even though you cannot say just what. Let us turn the passage front to back and see what we have: God is one.
A mediator of one is not. The Law was ordained through a mediator.
What we have here is what the Greeks call a syllogism, a sequence of facts tending towards a conclusion. And the conclusion? Since the law was ordained through a "mediator" (leaving aside the question of whether this was so or not), and there can not be a mediator of "one," such as God is (leaving aside this issue as well), it follows that the law could not have been ordained by God. So the phrase which begins the passage, "the law was ordained by angels," is really the conclusion of the syllogism.
Since "angels" are more than one, "angels" ordained the law. Now, this conclusion is virtually imperceptable to people who worship God, such as Jews (although Maccoby did object to the idea the Torah was ordained by angels): there are too many factual discrepancies to let anyone take it seriously.
These people all know that the Torah was ordained by God Almighty, Ruler of heaven and earth. But Paul was not such a person. He was not one of those "unbelievers" who are "blinded by the Ruler of the World" in their study of the Torah; oh no. He was something else entirely.
Let us conclude that Paul conceded the law was ordained by someone or something, and did not believe that someone or something was God. Would this be satisfactory? After all the word "God" is not a name but a title, and the fact that Paul does not care to bestow the title does not know what is what. After all, in later generations the term "angels" was applied by Gnostics with the meaning "the God of the Old Testament," or Yahweh. If one person can grant a title, someone else can equally change that title.
So if Paul says "angels ordained the law" with the meaning "Yahweh ordained the law," is this not factual? Blasphemous as hell certainly, but not untrue. In short, if Paul were a Gnostic his passage would have made perfect sense, and his epistle to the Galatians would have made perfect sense as well, for what were the Galatians doing but obeying the law? What was wrong with that?
Another example: Paul tells the Galatians that even though they accepted Christ they are "turning back" to "bondage to the elements of the universe" in their observance of the law. Now the word "turning" needs no explanation: in Bible-Speak it is synonymous with "repent." Now, who would characterize the act of converting from Christ to Judaism "repentance?" Why does Paul think this "repentance" bad? Because it involves serving "elements." What are "elements?"
To people brought up in the study of Scripture, "the Word" is something constant and immovable. To Korzybski, father of General Semantics the word is merely a representation of the truth, not the truth itself: "the map is not the territory." Therefore we can consider the term "elements" as a variable rather than a constant. The way to determine the value of a variable is by analyzing its relationship to other values. What values does Paul give us here?
Galatians observing the law = serving "elements"
Now in any equation you can reverse the order of the terms without effecting the truth of the statement. Therefore we can also say
Serving "element" is what you do when you observe the law.
The burning question is, how did Paul know, with such utter certainty, that the Galatians were serving anything (we cannot say precisely what just yet because we have not determined the value of "elements") by obeying the Commandments?
Let us see if we can zero in on a definition of "elements:" the term appears in an earlier passage, which provides further insight into Paul's understanding of the term: Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world... Gal. 4:3
In algebraic terms this works out to something like:
"elements" = what Paul served in his youth.
So, what did Paul serve in his youth? The answer to this might give us an idea of what "elements" are.
For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: and profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. Gal. 1:13
The upshot of all of which is this: Paul was a Jew in his youth, and served the "elements of the world;" and the Galatians observe the law and serve "elements." So "elements" must be a disparaging sort of term for "Yahweh," just as "angels" is another. It is not that Paul does not believe in Scripture, but that he has a negative opinion (in Greek, heresy) about Scripture's God: He acknowledges that those who obey the Commandments serve the "ruler of this world." He acknowledges that this "ruler" ordained the Law.
He acknowledges that someone "in Christ" who decides to obey the Commandments serves this "ruler."
This is why obeying the law abrogates the gospel of Christ: for the function of Paul's Christ is to "conquer all rule."
It goes without saying that "the function of Paul's Christ" is identical to Paul's purpose in preaching the gospel, since Paul and Paul alone invented that gospel. So then Paul's purpose is to overthrow the Kingdom of God (or Heaven). Thus Paul's distress with the Galatians makes perfect sense: you cannot overthrow God if you obey His Commandments, can you?
The revelation that Paul was trying to overthrow God, and the means he chose to do it, namely disguising himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ, explains a number of seeming contradictions in his epistles, and allows us to hazard a guess as to why he granted Christ God-like, or at least Yahweh-like attributes: Paul's Christ was intended to serve as a kind of substitute for Yahweh during the Interregnum, the transitional period between the Rule of Yahweh and the Rule of the Gnostic deity.
It was a manifestation through myth of the practical situation during Paul's ministry, when the vast majority of his converts did not consciously reject God or imagine Paul would have wanted them to. Paul could not tell such people not to worship God because they would have rejected him immediately.
In Paul's terms, they were not "spiritual" enough to appreciate the true "wisdom" of the gospel. So in the meantime he fed them what he called "milk for infants in Christ," which is to say doctrines and concepts they could agree with. And throughout, he worked to "wean" them away from the worship of God by giving them an almost-identical Christ to worship instead.
Now for another example of Paul's "spiritual words."
Know ye not, bretheren, (for I speak to them that know (Gr. epignosis) the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
So then if, while here husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adultress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adultress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him that is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. Rom. 7:1-4
This passage Maccoby despaired of understanding, calling it "muddled." It is nothing of the sort. Let us start by observing the people it is addressed to "those who know the law." The term Paul uses is "epignosis," implying a particularly excellent kind of "knowing."
But "gnosis" is also the term Gnostics used for their own religion, which takes as a fundamental principle the "knowledge" that the Ruler of the Universe is evil. So Paul is being deliberately ambiguous here: he could mean either a rabbi or a Gnostic. Which is it?
The part that follows is exceedingly "legalistic" in tone, as though it were addressed to a rabbi. Yet, the legal principle itself requires no great knowledge to understand: who does not understand that a married woman may not marry another man? Though this is certainly no great challenge to the rabbi's knowledge, Paul goes on to state the principle once more, to make sure we get it right.
But the final part seems to leave the bounds of reality behind altogether: what does Paul's "legal principle" have to do with the body of Christ, or being dead to the law? Let us take another look at Paul's "legalism:" the "married woman" is analogous (at least the prophet Hosea thought she was) with someone who is "under law." Such a person is through the covenant of Israel a "bride of the Lord." Likewise, employing Hosea once more, the "living husband" to whom she is bound by law is "the living God."
In Hosea's vision, therefore, the act of worshipping idols was considered "adultery." Israel, the person "under law," becomes an "adultress" if she worships other gods. So how can Israel get out of this situation? Paul provides two mechanisms, and we presume both operate simultaneously: first, "the law has authority only so long a a man lives." Thus, the "married woman" who "dies" is no longer "under law," therefore no longer subject to the authority of the law.
Second, her "living husband" can "die:" this allows her to "be married to another," or worship another god. With this the meaning of the final part becomes clear: Paul believed that a person who was "in Christ" was both "dead" (hence 'dead to the law), and the "living husband," or God, was also "dead." Since both God and believer are "dead," it is now permissible to worship Christ instead.
That is what Paul says; and if Maccoby did not understand, it was because there are some enormities the mind cannot encompass. This is one of them. However, the idea of murdering God (or the 'Ruler of this World') would have been quite familiar to later generations of Gnostics, whose doctrines were described by one Christian theologian as "an abyss of madness and blasphemy."
The idea of murdering God sounds crazy to someone who thinks God is "good;" but to someone who has "put the Lord your God to the test," and decided the Ruler of the World was "evil," such a thing would be a logical consequence, a necessary prerequisite for the salvation of the universe. What is so crazy about saving the universe? We must put ourselves in their shoes before we can judge them. Suppose you were a Jewish mystic pondering the meaning of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
That man ate of the fruit of this tree clearly implies that man's "knowledge of good and evil" is beyond God's direct control, for men "become as gods in knowing good and evil." What is the proof this is so? Well, to find a proof it is customary to dream up the most extreme example conceivable, and if that example "works" we know any lesser one will also.
The ultimate proof of God's goodness is found in the Torah; so if a person were of the opinion that God was evil, and then studied the whole Torah completely, and still found himself of the same opinion at the end, it would be proof that God has no authority over that man's opinion.
And of course this is entirely possible: just look at the history of anti-Semitism, and compare the things Jews were accused of with the things they actually did, and you will have to agree that the opinion of humanity can triumph over plain old simple reality every time.
This is what the Gnostics did: they did not reject Scripture so much as reject Scripture's Author. Gnostic myths and traditions, for all their wonderful variety, were the result of interpreting Scripture according to the opinion that God was evil and not good. For what mystic would not strive to advance himself into higher realms of existence, to become as a god?
According to Scripture, "gnosis," the knowledge of good and evil, was the only way this was possible; so that is what they did. The Gnostics' spiritual bent has led many to compare them with the Platonist's and Neo-Platonist's; yet one of the latter criticized them because they had no concept of physical beauty.
How could they? They knew God created the heavens and the earth and everything in it; if God is not beautiful, how could anything He created be beautiful? For a Gnostic to admit that something in this world was beautiful would be the same as saying God had done something right, which would have been from their point of view a monstrous sin. Their own doctrine prohibited them from seeing anything good in the world.
This is what distinguishes them from the Platonist's: the latter rejected the "worldly" horse for the "unworldly" ideal of "horseness," because they thought the idea somehow superior to the reality; while the Gnostic rejected the horse because he had read the Bible and knew where horses had come from. Gnosticism is radically different from Judaism.
But it is not so difficult to invent as say Christianity: all a Jew had to do to become a Gnostic was to turn his own religion upside-down and invent a few myths, such as worshipping a new god, and presto, he is a Gnostic.
A Christian would have had to perform considerably more ideological manipulation; he would have had to decide which god Jesus was the son of, for example: if the son of Yahweh, that would make Jesus an enemy, if the son of the Gnostic deity an ally.
As it happens during the Christian Era Gnostics swung both ways on this issue: Jesus introduced an ambiguity into the world-picture that did not exist in Judaism. But back to Paul. In Paul we find that the world has an enemy, and that this enemy is called "sin."
As Paul states, "Scripture has locked up all under sin." What does that mean? First let us observe Paul is expressing an opinion in "locked up under:" he clearly does not approve of this situation. But what sort of condition does "locked up under" signify? Well, "locked-up" signifies inability to escape, and "under" signifies subservience, subjection, bondage, etc. Hmm, looks kinda like the world is in the same shape as someone "under law," doesn't it?
Okay, what does "under" mean, stripped of its opinionated connotations? It means sin is the ruler of the world. I remember getting angry when I read this: how could Paul have believed sin to be the ruler of the world when Scripture states quite emphatically that God is?
Who told Paul he was naked? And then it came to me: he got it from Scripture. Back to algebra. Let us examine the statement "Scripture has locked-up all under sin" again: we find that it can also be expressed thus: "Sin is what Scripture has locked-up all under." Notice we have neither added no deducted any information from Paul.
So there is no excuse. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that Scripture certainly doesn't "lock up all under sin." So, either Paul is wrong (again) about Scripture, or else he is right. How could he be right? We just said Scripture does not "lock up all under sin." But it does "lock up all" under something. Suppose this "something" were what Paul meant by "sin?" After all, what is sin? It is commonly defined as the disobedience of God.
Well, Paul was antinomian, he does not want us to obey the commandments of God, and considers it "trespass" if we do (for 'the law entered so the trespass might increase'); how does a person who thinks obeying God a bad idea define sin? Sin can be given a broader definition than simple disobedience of God: it can also mean impiety or irreligious behavior of any sort.
Now Paul certainly considered obeying the law irreligious and impious; but he doesn't use the word "sin" to characterize such behavior, only "trespass." "Sin," for Paul, was far worse than the law: "Is the law sin? Certainly not!"
As we find in the seventh chapter of Romans, sin enjoys a particularly intimate relationship with those "under law:" it is something "dead apart from law" which "revives" under the influence of the law, and "lives" right there inside a person as long as that person does not disobey the Commandments.
Wow, this sin is really something, isn't it? Pauline sin is something both within and without a person, something with its own "desires and lusts" and commandments and decrees. It is something all of humanity is subject to because we are all "in Adam," in the likeness of Adam.
And yet someone "under law" is especially "under" sin, for "you are a slave to whoever you agree to serve, whether sin or righteousness." For people "under law" actually serve sin voluntarily, as if they knew what sin was.
Can you see where this is heading? Go study! Just find out what Scripture "locks all up under" and you will know what Paul means by the word "sin." And once you know that, you will be able to read the epistle to the Romans with a whole new understanding. Sin was just another name for God.
Okay, what does this have to do with Christ? Paul stresses the importance of believing in Christ, and particularly the crucified Christ, going so far as to make this act synonymous with salvation, although as we have seen in his epistle to the Galatians it was not.
What was so important about the crucified Christ? And what does this have to do with the other ideas Paul seems to have invented along with it, such as the idea that believers were "in Christ" (only Paul uses this term), and the "body of Christ?" Well, "in" is short for "in the likeness of" whatever. Thus, those who are "in Adam" are "in the likeness of Adam, and presumably, by extension "in the likeness" of whatever Adam was "in the likeness" of. Go look it up.
Now, what does it mean to be "in the likeness" of Christ? It means being "in the likeness" of Christ's death: Paul says he is "dead to the law, crucified with Christ;" and the reason he is dead is that he has been crucified.
He says the believer has "been buried with him in the likeness of his death" so he might be "resurrected with him in the likeness of his resurrection." A person who is thus dead is free from sin, for "he that is dead is justified of sin." Now all this is just analogy: what happens, or is supposed to happen, to the believer is similar to what happened to Jesus, but it is not the same.
Likewise, Paul could not have derived his doctrine of the cross simply by meditating on the crucifixion of Jesus: Jesus may have died for our sins, but he certainly did not die so we might die also. Yet this is what "in Christ" means: the believer has "died" to his previous existence "in Adam" just as Paul has "died" to his previous existence "under law."
This is not a welcome analogy to modern Christians, who prefer to concentrate on the life-affirming aspects of their faith; yet for Paul the meaning of the cross was inseparable from the fate of the believer: his "death" to Adam and to the likeness of Adam, was the prerequisite for salvation, because it was how justifiection was effected. So what was wrong with being "in Adam?"
Adam was "in sin," in the likeness of sin (see above); Paul must have found this out in the Bible somewhere. In fact, his whole concept of "in Christ" is a direct steal from the concept of "in Adam": for just as Adam was "in the likeness" of something, even so Paul's Christ was "in the likeness" of something else; so that believers, by undergoing this mystical process of death and resurrection, might cease to be "in the likeness" of Adam's likeness and be conformed to the likeness of Christ's likeness.
Needless to say, none of this makes any sense as long as one believes both Adam and Christ the creation of the same entity. If Adam was "in the likeness" of God, and Christ was also "in the likeness of God," (for Paul says this and he should know), then the only thing the believer is accomplishing by the exercise is an exchange of middle-men.
If this was the only thing going for Paul's gospel it is difficult to understand why he would have endured the hardships and persecutions he suffered trying to preach it. On the other hand, if the "father" of Adam and the "father" of Christ are different entities, then the story is quite different: instead of merely changing god-names, the believer is changing god-identities, becoming the son of another god.
It then becomes understandable why Paul endured the hardships and persecutions and told all those lies. He wants us to stop being human beings subject to the Ruler of the Universe, in the only way, legally, this can be brought about: through death.
He does not want us to be in any way subject to "that which Scripture has locked all up under," he wants us to be subject to "righteousness" instead. Isn't that wonderful? PAUL AND THE APOSTLES We have been beating around in Paul's doctrines quite awhile it is time to step back and look at the situation around him. Maccoby's book made it pretty clear that Paul and the apostles had serious differences: the issue of the law for instance.
If Paul's rejection of the law angered ordinary Jews enough to chase Paul down the street throwing rocks at him, how much worse would it have angered the church he claimed to be a member of? After all, Paul was not merely misrepresenting himself as "an apostle of Jesus Christ," he was misrepresenting the Church as agreeing with his doctrines, which it almost certainly did not. As I considered the matter, I realized they must have been tremendously pissed off at him.
Well, if they were, there ought to be evidence of it. Now Paul does not quote the sayings of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels; this suggests he did not know them, and the likeliest reason for this is that the apostolic gospel postdates Paul's ministry. Unfortunately, all true apostolic texts have been "gone over" and edited by latter-day followers of Paul; so direct evidence is not likely to be found.
However, there is an abundance of indirect evidence, or maybe cryptic evidence. The anti-Pauline material starts early. Luke and Matthew include lengthy birth-narratives, each of which is quite different and therefore unlikely to have originated from a single source, like the sayings of Jesus.
The first point at which the Synoptic Gospels coincide is the Baptism of John, commonly considered the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Immediately following his baptism, Jesus goes off into the desert to fast, and, according to Mark, "to be tempted of the devil." Did Mark think being tempted of the devil was a standard practice in those days? More likely Mark, whose Gospel is the shortest of the Synoptics, simply omitted the story of the Temptation of Jesus.
The Temptation of Jesus is a peculiar sort of "teaching of Jesus:" he teaches nobody (he doesn't have any apostles as yet) and issues no "sayings" beyond simply quotations from the Torah (from Deuteronomy, in fact). Since the only witnesses known are Jesus and the devil, scholars have been puzzled how such an account might have been transmitted.
They need not have bothered: the apostles were not writing a historical account of Jesus' life so much as explaining who Jesus was and what he was about; or in the case of the Temptation-story, what Jesus was not about. Jesus was tempted to turn stones to bread; in other words, to declare himself the source of life instead of God.
This he rejects, citing the Torah that God alone is the source of life. Jesus was transported to the highest pinnacle of the Temple and invited to jump off, with the assurance that since he had such great faith he could not possibly come to harm.
Why did Jesus reject this? Because the Temple is the House of God, and the act of "taking a flying leap" from that house is another name for apostasy. Thus in rejecting it Jesus cites the Commandment forbidding apostasy, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."
Finally the devil offers to make Jesus the Ruler of the World. Jesus rejects this because to do so would also make him a servant of the devil and it is written "serve him [the Lord] only."
In short, this little story tells us 1. God, not Jesus, gives life; 2. faith is no excuse for apostasy; 3. making Jesus a replacement for God is to make him the servant of the devil.
We don't have to imagine this story really happened. In fact, trying to do so misses the point, which is that someone during the process of transmission of the story of Jesus wanted us to think it had. Why is that?
The conclusions the story draws reflect characteristically Jewish attitudes. The fact that Jesus says nothing but merely quotes the Torah supports the idea that the author was Jewish. And the fact the author quoted from the Book of Deuteronomy shows that the issue was extremely serious, Deuteronomy is an extremely serious book.
Why was it included in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke? Probably because it portrayed Jesus in a favorable light, as refuting the devil. This is the only place in the New Testament where the devil puts in an appearance after all.
Kinda sounds like someone did not want Christians to believe things Christians today consider central to their faith, doesn't it?
All these things have something to do with the gospel Paul preached, even the idea of salvation by faith. None of them were part of the apostles' notions about Jesus or Jesus' place in the scheme of things; so it really wasn't Jesus who was being tempted, but Christendom; and Christendom mostly flunked.
The next example is everything there is: the "kingdom of God" is a major theme in the Synoptics, perhaps the major theme; Jesus' life and work is centered upon promoting this "kingdom of God" by word and by deed. Compare this with Paul's "kingdom of Christ." They are so different from one another the only way Christians could reconcile them was to imagine that Jesus and God were one and the same. As we have seen, Paul was of another opinion.
What was their opinion of radical new doctrines disguised as old doctrines? It was like the man who sold new wine in old bottles: if a person purchased it and took it home, he would find the bottles would burst in a week or so because he hadn't removed the stopper to release the pressure; why should he, since he thought he had old wine? Likewise, patching an old garment with new fabric damages the garment still more.
Then there is the warning against false prophets. What are the characteristics of such? 1. He claims to be a prophet. 2. He is deceptive, calling himself something he is not. 3. He is destructive, "ravaging" the flock. 4. He is "lawless," or antinomian. All these things are descriptive of Paul: 1.
He got his gospel by "revelation of God the father and Jesus Christ" instead of learning it from an apostle; 2. He called himself an "apostle," literally an ordained missionary of the Church, when in fact he was nothing of the sort, since his "ordination," along with his gospel, was also "by revelation." 3. Antinomianism was an inseparable part of Paul's teaching. 4. Once he went through a place the poor people he had gulled into following him did not know who to believe, Paul or the apostles, and many followed neither, but sought a middle course that turned into New Testament Christianity.
To the apostles this amounted to a loss, since their authority was either ignored or diluted. The Last Supper and the "body of Christ" are dismissed thus: "Wherever there is a body, there vultures gather." Thus Pauline Christians, the only ones who have a "body" they eat during their services, are portrayed as carrion foul. Jesus puts himself on record as being opposed to antinomianism "while heaven and earth exist."
Thus, the way to discover if Jesus "did away with the law" is to go outdoors and look up and determine if the sky is still there; then look down and see if the ground is still there; and if either of them is still there Jesus still has not "done away with the law."
Again, it is unlikely Jesus ever said these words to a group of Jews on a mount in Israel, for Jews do not need to be told such things; more likely some later author decided these things needed to be said, and had Jesus do so, in the most incontrovertible way he could imagine.
None of which prevented Christians from believing the exact opposite. There is the parable of the Tares in the Wheat: an enemy steals in by night and plants a toxic weed which, once it grows up, is indistinguishable from the wheat itself, so it is impossible to root out without damaging the crop you are trying to preserve.
This is precisely the same dilemma Paul's ministry presented to the apostles. In The Rich Man and Lazarus, the underlying assumption is that sinners are "saved" through repentance, and repentance occurs when a person is convinced to repent.
Thus when the Rich Man in Sheol, to prevent his brothers from following him there, petitions to have "someone raised from the dead" to convince them to repent, he is refused: the man's brothers have "Moses and the prophets" to convince them to repent; if God cannot convince them how could "someone raised from the dead" do better?
This is a blanket denial that Jesus came to save sinners, whether through the cross or any other way. Repentance was a private matter between the sinner and God, and none of Jesus' business. The forgiveness of sins is in God's domain; but God does not forgive injuries inflicted upon another human being, therefore the commandment "Settle with your neighbor before you come before the judge" because "you shall pay every penny of your fine."
The efforts of the landlord in The Parable of the Rebellious Tenants to protect his property remind me of "build a fence round the Torah": he built a regular fort of the time, with wall, ditch, and tower; he left nothing undone, in other words, to protect his property.
Yet the Rebellious Tenants imagined that by killing the landlord's son they would inherit the property, which is a most curious idea: who do we know in the first century who claimed the death of "the son" gave them title to the kingdom of God?
This is only what comes to me from the top of my head; there is so much "anti-Pauline" material in the Synoptic Gospels, one wonders why nobody detected it before.
Part of the reason is no one ever thought to look for it; another is that it was re-interpreted, the Rebellious Tenants became Jewish Christ-killers, etc. No one suspected, or wanted to suspect, that Paul was the enemy who sowed false teachings among the good, the "wolf in sheep's clothing" as we say today, who took the guise of an apostle in order to proselytize Gentiles in Jewish synagogues, making capital on their leader's reputation as a pious man in order to "lead the people astray." The teacher is judged by his pupil: if the pupil acts like Beelzebub, surely his teacher must be the very devil.
So Paul's activities, once they became known, must have lowered and apostles' credibility among Jews, and by extension Jesus' credibility. Their position was so delicate that even speaking of Paul's heresy would have acted as a provocation, as well as creating a permanent division within the ranks of Christians.
So, at least as late as the generation after Paul, they continued to try to re-convert the congregations Paul had founded, hoping most likely that if they would all agree to be circumcised the whole thing would blow over.
Thus the denunciations of "circumcisers" in Colossians, whose Sabbath-observance was linked with "worship of angels". This sounds as if the author of the epistle were one of the "perfect" disciples of Paul, acquainted with the "mystery" of the Secret Gospel of Paul.
After all, who has ever heard of a group of Sabbath-observing angel-worshippers? We are only familiar with Sabbath-observing God-worshippers; which means "angels" must have meant "God" to this author.
Not all the Pseudo-Pauline epistles were written by Gnostics: the author of Ephesians prefers to believe Christ "did away with the law," which is the classic abrogation scenario, even though he doesn't say when this happened, or why, or quote any authority in support of this contention: for Paul himself did not believe the law "abrogated" one little bit: that is why he doesn't want us to obey it, for heaven's sake. Had circumcision been inconsequential it would never have become the focus of controversy.
Note: I do not know who wrote this and have been unable to trace it. But I checked the information and it is correct.
- Taking a Closer Look at Gnosticism and Christianity
- Alexander, the Jews, and Hellenism
- More on Alexander the Great, the Jews, and Hellenism
- Hellenistic Period After Alexander
- Alexandrian Philosophy and Judaism
- Religious Syncretism
- Platonism and Christianity
- Demiurge Creator of the World
- Allegorical Interpretation
- Gnosticism Mainpage
- Who are the Cathers?
- The Gospel of Mary Magdalene
- Jewish Origins of Gnosticism
- Gnostic Terms
- The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
- The Genesis Factor
- Christian Fundamentalists view of Gnosticism
- Impact of Gnosticism on Christianity
- Gnostic Apocalypse of Adam
- Gnostic Apocryphon of John
- Gnostic Hypostasis of the Archons
- Gnostic Gospel of Thomas
- Gnostic Thought of Norea
- Gnosticism - Ancient and Modern
- The Gospel of Philip
- The Gospel of Truth
- Hyam Maccoby (The Mythmaker)was mostly right
- Marcion's Church Not Really Gnostic?
- Saint Augustine