Comments on the Apostle Paul

by Lewis Loflin

The following was asked by a guest:

I am an open-minded person, and can accept many of the points you present on this website. However, I was researching the apostle Paul for a religion term paper and came across some misrepresentation of Paul.

If you were to carefully read all of the book in the New Testament attributed to Paul, you would find that there are glaring contradictions.

The only books that anyone is positive Paul even wrote were I Corinthians, Romans, II Corinthians, I Thessalonians, Galatians, Philemon, and Philippians.

All the others are often the opposite of Paul's earlier writings. And why, you ask? Well, it was common in those times to credit your own writing to a more influential person, so as to have your opinions read.

This is probably the case for Paul, as letters such as I and II Timothy, Titus, Ephesians, Colossians, and II Thessalonians hold opinions different from him.

The language and wording used is even different from the norm. That in mind, it's wrong to attribute many of the sexist comments to Paul, because it is unlikely that he wrote them. If you read his earlier books, it is obvious that Paul believed the opposite.

He often included women in his churches (which was almost unheard of in his day) and he held women in an equal position. I am still finding my faith... whether I choose to find it in Christianity or elsewhere, it's my decision.

But as I read in an earlier post on this guestbook, blind faith is NOT a bad thing. Even as I sit and wonder about my own beliefs, I realize faith is a beautiful thing. What is wrong with compassion and love? What is wrong with helping your fellow man?

If for some people it takes blind faith to reach this point, so be it. But please do not mark someone wrong because of their beliefs...especially when you don't know for certain if your way is the right way.

Because no one knows for sure. Let them have their faith, and you can have what you choose to have. Just please do not judge, and do not leave writings on here that are incorrect. All it would take is a little research... you should look into that. Regards, J.

My View

Thank you J. As far as the Apostle Paul goes here is my opinion on the subject:

It's beyond dispute Paul never met Jesus in the flesh and reveals little of Jesus' life. Other than his own personal "visions" with God, Jesus, both, etc. it all boils down to, "Do I believe or have "faith" that Paul received revelations?" There is no way to prove it one way or the other, and it's certain his writing may have been altered later on. That is a matter of "faith." For me the answer is no.

As pointed out by his friend and companion Luke he was employed by the Temple Priest to hunt down Jesus' followers. What Christians never bring up is the Temple authorities were appointed by and served the Romans, not the general Jewish population who disposed them.

Paul probably wasn't a Pharisee in my opinion because he worked for the Sadducees that ran the Temple, their enemy. Also as pointed in Luke and elsewhere, Jesus' sect wasn't rejected by the Pharisees and his teachings reflected theirs.

Paul was an educated man. He was a child of the Diaspora or those Jews that lived outside of Israel. Tarsus (his home) was pagan and Greek culture abounded there. Paul was literate in Greek as all writings attributed to him are in Greek. As literate he couldn't help but know Greek culture and philosophy and be influenced by it.

This is very important because many of his ideas such as risen savior-god, treatment of women, etc. may have been Greek Gnostic in origin. Gnosticism (a very broad modern term) in its many forms was widespread in Greek culture and somewhat in Judaism perhaps via the Essenes. (Dead Sea Scrolls fame.) Paul was a cultural Greek just as American Jews are cultural Americans. There is nothing negative about this either way but one's culture plays a big part in their outlook at the world.

Perhaps Paul was trying to convey complex ideas in a way the Greek-Gentile mind could comprehend? I don't know, I have to go by what I read and draw conclusions based on that.

Paul was a Roman citizen as pointed out in Luke. There were only two ways to be a Roman citizen and that was to be born one or buy it. Only the very wealthy could buy citizenship and if Paul was just a "tent maker" that is unlikely. As one friend pointed out he may have gotten money from later followers and done just that, bought it.

I don't buy that and nowhere is this said in the Bible. The most likely scenario as brought out by MacCoby (and Paul's detractors the Ebionites) is his parents/family were converts or "God-fearers" which under Judaism are Gentiles, but don't have to convert fully to Judaism. He was likely circumsized as a child.

As pointed out in Luke, Paul had a severe conflict with Jesus' brother James and in other places Peter, etc. Jesus' followers were Torah observant Jews while Paul's ideas of Jesus as a pagan-style savior-god is idolatry to Jews.

In the Diaspora or Greek speaking world Paul would have found a more receptive audience among Gentiles because they knew nothing of Judaism. Christianity is a fusion of both. Note that when I say "pagan" I don't intend anything negative, just non-Jewish.

Many have pointed out many later writings weren't likely Paul and reflects an increasingly anti-Semetic and anti-women agenda of the Church Fathers. Paul considered himself a Jew and I don't think he ever hated his fellow Jews and as several other Christian sects (declared heretics and murdered) along with some of Paul's early writings point out, women were equals.

The later writings were selected I think to reflect the Church leadership of the 3rd-4th centuries, not the actual ideas of Paul or Jesus. Paul was just too educated to make the glaring contradictions and mistakes in the Bible.

Let's not judge the whole Christian faith, Jesus, or even Paul by the evil committed in the guise of religion by others. I still hold to the opinion that the Trinity, Nicene Creed, and Original Sin of St Augustine are unbiblical and are not supported by the Old Testament and are based on Paul whether from mistaken interpretation or not.

An excellent book on this subject by Hyam MacCoby is titled The Mythmaker, Paul and the Invention of Christianity (ISBN 0-06-015582--5)