Chapter 10-13 & Bibliography
In beginning this new chapter, it is important that we first discuss the legitimacy of another letter ascribed to Paul, Ephesians.
The letters to the Colossians, to the Ephesians, and to Philemon form a special group of their own to modern theologians. Colossians holds the main position within this group. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume11: Page 133)
Philemon and Colossians are considered to be Paul's, but Ephesians is not. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 133)
The letter entitled Ephesians although dependent on Colossians, more definitively outlines the ideas of Christ and of the divine dispensation of salvation which have been introduced in Colossians. Only two generations had passed and subsequent 'scholars' within the church were already expounding on Paul's 'invented' theology, and it was growing more complex and formal as it aged, almost as though it were taking on a life of its own.
Peake's Commentary, is kinder in its wording, but offers the same conclusion, although the question is by no means settled. "In modern times its origin and purpose have been keenly debated, and the question remains open." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 980: 857a)
Peake's commentary makes no final appeal to either side, but believes that the arguments are too equally balanced to make a final decision. On the other hand, The Interpreter's Bible, makes a complete investigation of the subject and report that their conclusion denies that the letter is the work of Paul. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 600)
Therefore, this thesis shall depend upon Colossians to outline Paul's growing theology rather than depending upon a spurious writing that may well extend the ideas of the man beyond his own intent. Surely, for the developing church it was a manifesto of great importance, but this treatise is not interested in the ornate and pompous 'mass' to which it finally grew.
At the time of this epistle, the ancient world was filled with many mystery religions, not the least of which was, Mythranism. Christianity was one of the newer cults, not an established flourishing practice, but one whose doctrine had yet to be formulated into a firm credo. The purpose of Paul's letter was to guard against at least one of these beliefs. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 134)
Little is known concerning the 'philosophy' that threatened the congregation at Colossae and Paul only refers to it in vague terms. It certainly could not have been criticized as a 'heresy', for Christianity had as yet no formal standards of orthodoxy.
The great Gnostic schools of the second century were called heretical, but only by standards of orthodoxy which were established for the single purpose of discrediting them. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 137)
It is interesting to note that the victor of a battle is the one who gets to write the history of the event. And in a case where Paul came victorious, his ideas would be considered valid. They would become the 'standards of orthodoxy.'
Paul despised the seeking of knowledge and intellect in the common man. He also spoke down to wisdom. These had nothing to do with his salvation and were no more than a cause for men 'to boast'. The Gnostic school taught that matter; the physical world, is evil, and that emancipation; redemption, comes from an esoteric knowledge of spiritual truth. Of course Paul and those who followed his lead were opposed to these things.
They required the use of reason and logic, and an innate understanding of God's will. According to Paul, he was the only one who was given the gift of the knowledge of God's mind. He said so.
"For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ." (I Corinthians 2:15-16; RSV)
"...Instructed by the mind of Christ," Paul inherited the ability, so he claimed, to know that some of the things the Law condemned were not sinful, and some of the things it said were right, were not. At least that was his opinion of himself and the Law. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 505)
But he did agree that the world was evil, that is, the world outside the 'body of Christ'. And Jesus urged us not to, "... lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume..." (Matthew 6:19; RSV)
And in fact, that which is in opposition to the accepted religion in one age, often changes with time to become an accepted part of that dogma. The Gospel of John, is an excellent example, for by strict definition, it is a Gnostic writing. It deals with the 'logos', a Greek word from which we get 'logic.'
To go on, further information indicates that Paul had never been to the city of Colossae, and had no personal hand in forming the congregation. It is believed that his associate, Epaphras, first preached in this area, and it is to him that Paul owed the reports that gave him his information about the conflict.
It is also suspected that Paul may well have been under 'house arrest' at the time this letter was written. Although tradition shows two rather extended prison terms, it was actually a single incident in which he was permitted much freedom, such as allowed him to voyage to Rome.
Paul was never released by the Roman authorities once they had taken him into custody at Jerusalem. In fact, Paul was not under arrest but was in protective custody, and could have been released at any time he so desired. (Acts 21:31-36)..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 134)
"And Agrippa said to Festus, "This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar. (Revised Standard Version; Acts 26:32)
Before going into this body of writing, one important fact must be understood. Whatever form the established 'codex' of the church was to take in the future, until Paul, there was only the Judaic-Christian practice of the Apostles. It was known as the, Jerusalem Church, i.e., 'primitive church.' It was established through life experience, their personal knowledge of the teachings and actions of the living Jesus. It was some many years before the first gospel, that of John Mark, was submitted to written form.
Prior to that date, no written episode of the 'church' existed with the exception of Paul's letters. His 'corpus' contains no evidence of Jesus' life, family, or physical activity. What references he makes to Jesus' life, is made up as part of his personal theology and has nothing to do with the historic Jesus. If it contains any of his teachings, they remain well hidden. Other than what he might have gained in two weeks with Jesus' disciples, and from hearsay, Paul had extremely few details concerning the facts of Jesus' existence on this earth.
The great body of teaching that Paul puts forth is, most obviously, derived from his own creative processes rather than from any valid pre-existing doctrine. It is not drawn from actual events or sacramental exercises ordained by Jesus himself, or of any custom initiated by the Apostles. The fact that Paul's letters have influenced the very wording of the Gospels, assures us of this.
Bound together with his studies in the Pharisaic school, and the inspiration of aspects of Greek philosophy which saturated his thinking, Paul created and evangelized his own gospel. Of this he boasted constantly, and with such authority that he was able to sway countless 'congregations' to his doctrine of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Even here, colorings of certain cults that flourished in the middle east, had some influence on his thinking, i.e., Mythranism. This is evident in our own technological age where Christmas is not celebrated at the time of Jesus' actual birth, but is celebrated at the start of the Winter Solstice, a pagan festival.
Easter is celebrated, not according to the 'crucifixion' or the 'resurrection', but according to the phases of the moon and a pagan spring celebration which occurred on, "...the first Sunday after the full moon on or next after March 21 or one week later if the full moon falls on Sunday." (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary; G.C.. Merriam Company: 1977)
If you will then, Paul's Christianity is a formulation of religious credo which he, and he alone, has composed through his own beliefs and personal prejudices. They have no foundation in fact as espoused through the gospels, the customs of the Apostles, or Jesus' living word. From this point, we may go on to study the letter.
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God." (Colossians 1:1; RSV)
Once again, Paul uses his set greeting to impress those at Colossae. The interpreter's agree with us, and add to that point.
The greeting is Paul's, announcing his authoritative office and advising them of their own commitment to Christ, "...which imposes on them the duty of heeding the words of Christ's apostle." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 146-147)
In this case, Christ's apostle is, Paul.
It is not surprising that this same paragraph continues with the statement that Paul is 'magnifying' his office. In doing this he is addressing a congregation which he has never personally seen and attempts to bind them to the strength of his authority, which Paul claims, has been bestowed upon him by God. As well known as Paul must have been at this point in time, especially with Epaphras representing him, it seems unnecessary for Paul to have used such 'muscle'. Unhappily, it was a vital part of his character.
Much of what Paul first articulated in his messages was also gibberish, word-games. Here once again, he must first confuse simple minds before investing the audience with 'his' gospel.
"...giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." (Colossians 1:12; RSV)
'Saints,' was a general title which Paul bestowed on all Christians, members of the various congregations. The embellishment here, is just that, window dressing. It is unfortunate that many exegesis go to extreme lengths to explain Paul's various theological views, having the benefit of our modern practices with which to augment Paul's words. It is unfortunate, since it takes away from the essence of his strategy.
Immediately following this 'unexplained' idiom, Paul strikes the congregation with his simple, basic message.
"...his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14; RSV)
"He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation, for in him all things were created... all things were created through him and for him." (Colossians 1:15-16; RSV)
Pre-existence, God incarnate, the power of creation, the 'Godhead' which Jesus himself warned us to avoid at all cost. For by it even the elect would be taken in, and they were. There is nothing in the gospels, or the belief of the Apostles, not one word from the mouth of Jesus to attest that any of this is true, except for Jesus very direct statement that this was not true. (Mark 13:6)
This is perfect as an example of Paul's Hellenistic mind. It reeks with Greek philosophic thought as it was prevalent in the writing of Philo, which would have been available in Paul's lifetime, and probably debated. If all this is reminiscent of John's 'logos,' it first appeared in form in the writings of Plato. It should also be understood that Philo, a Hellenist-Rabbi and historian, used the 'logos' over five hundred times in his collected works. These writings arrive almost two hundred years before the fourth gospel.
But has it not been remarked that, 'man's wisdom is God's foolishness'?
Paul goes on to establish the method of salvation through Jesus by, "...the blood of his cross... in his body of flesh by his death..." (Colossians 1:20; 22; RSV)
Paul then admonishes the congregation to adhere to the gospel that they have heard from Epaphras, Paul's gospel, and he makes no bones about making certain they understand that it is 'his' gospel.
"...provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister." (Colossians 1:23; RSV)
Paul states that the gospel which they have heard from Epaphras is the one and only gospel. Paul himself proclaims it." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 176)
How Paul can begin to state that the gospel has been preached, "...to every creature under heaven..." is beyond the understanding of this student. The world was no small place even in Paul's day, so we must ask if this is more of Paul's ego being exhibited. Most assuredly, what we have next can be described as pure, unadulterated braggadocio.
"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you..." (Colossians 1:24-25; RSV)
Not only has Christ become imperfect in Paul's mind, "I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions," but now he is no longer just an apostle, now he possesses a 'divine office.' And that which has been, "...the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints..." (Colossians 1:26; RSV), has now been revealed by no one less than Paul himself. And its revelation is directed toward the 'saints', which is an invention of his new covenant vocabulary.
One might conjecture that at this point in time, Paul's mind may well have passed from reality into another 'realm.' It is hard to conceive of any person, even Paul, taking on a role of 'divine' intercessor and a proprietor of Jesus' incomplete mission.
The interpreter's cannot explain Christ's 'deficiency', nor do they make the attempt, as well as toying about with Paul's self-proclaimed 'divine office.' What ever play of words is used by mere mortals, it is argued, not on the basis of Paul's day and its understandings of cult mysteries, but on the fully developed dogma of today's Christian religion. That is unfortunate, and a major error in scholarship.
Mystery, "a secret" in the most general sense; "...but in the vocabulary of religion it stands for the whole complex of initiation, cult, and secret doctrine on which the numerous private religious brotherhoods of the time were based." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 180)
To think that Paul was not influenced, even in part, by the theological turmoil going on around him, is foolishness. Proof in part is the fact that he would express himself to the congregation in terms that they would find familiar. He openly associates his preaching with the genre of the day.
Once again, caution about being led astray by, "...beguiling speech", (Colossians 2:4; RSV), "...philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ." (Colossians 2:8; RSV)
The incarnate issue is stated plainly in Paul's statement, "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily..." Jesus has become God. (Colossians 2:9; RSV), In addition to this Paul insists that, "...you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands... and you were buried with him in baptism... you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead... having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross." (Colossians 2:11-14; RSV)
We, of course, have the advantage of hindsight. The congregations who had never seen Paul, or heard Paul in the flesh, could never have imagined the nature of the individual they were dealing with. The next statement then would seem innocent enough to the Colossians, but to suspicious minds, in accord with Paul's, it is an exclamation of hypocrisy.
"Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind..." (Colossians 2:18; RSV)
Paul has already made his view clear on angels 'bearing gospels,' but the balance of this statement paints an unmistakable picture of the man himself. Paul's continued wailing about his 'thorn in the flesh' and his long term suffering, the beginning of his entire vocation based on an ever-changing vision, the arrogant view of his authority, and an expansive 'divine' commission. It is difficult to imagine that Paul wrote this himself.
Again Paul uses God's word, Isaiah 29:13 (LXX), though the original is, "...applied in a quite different sense." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 207)
Paul's attack on God's Law also reaches new heights when he exclaims, "Why do you submit to regulations, "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch"... according to human precepts and doctrines?" (Colossians 2:20-22; RSV)
Now God's ordinances are no longer 'holy' i.e., 'divine,' but they have become human precepts and doctrines. Are not the Scriptures the inspired word of God? But today's church has agreed that man's tradition shall be considered as holy as God's word, the scriptures. Paul has hold and he will not let go even in death.
The Interpreter's Bible, must remain without an opinion here, but they are willing to refer that it is Paul's line of thought that the law is, "...of human framing, entirely lacking divine sanction." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 207)
Paul has been very clever. Instead of quoting God's Word verbatim, he places it into a context that makes God's doctrines appear to be the regulations of a cult religion, therefore, edicts easily disobeyed. Even good Jews might find this a deception to which they could easily fall prey.
Paul goes on to instruct the congregation in the manner in which they must now live, divulging themselves of all worldly things. In the list he projects there can be no fault found, save the fact that we are all, each one of us, a human endeavor. To throw off the very nature of our existence in its totality would be an impossible and very painful task.
Within the church, the prime example is the self-flagellation and sexless endeavors among the priesthood of the Church. Paul's ordinances, as did his precepts, produced wide spread variants of normal behavior which became a seed of evil and corruption within that body.
"Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all." (Colossians 3:10-11; RSV)
To his credit, this time Paul did not repeat his previous mistake and include, women. It is very possible that in a previous congregation it had caused some controversy, just as much as his preaching a message of freedom had appealed to a large number of personal servants; i.e., slaves. This indeed had caused problems as is evidenced by his letter to Philemon.
Paul states that at this time he is in prison, but the picture of his being in a cell, bounded by bars and guards, is a false image. He was free to write, move about, even travel, to have visitors who brought gifts, including money, and delivered messages to and from various congregations. In evidence is the fact that Tychicus and Onesimus are being sent to advise them of his affairs and to, "...encourage your hearts." (Colossians 4:7-9; RSV)
He also has with him, Aristarchus, Mark, Justus, Luke, Demas, and Epaphras. (Colossians 4:10-14; RSV), Paul was by no means alone or unoccupied, for while under protective custody, he remained in control of the ever expanding Church.
One can easily see the direction in which Paul was taking his new organization. The basis for a universal religion had been established through Paul's ministry, but one cannot believe that he could have imagined the lengths to which it would finally extend. Though we have no knowledge of the ceremonial practices of the primitive church, within a very short period of time a series of dogmatic rites had been instituted within the congregations.
The church, as expressed in Paul's time, was not an institution which you joined and then came or went at your discretion, to attend or not, as you pleased. It had become an establishment ruled with an iron fist, which was to become a veritable prison in the middle ages which one fled from at the risk of life itself.
With a ritual worship being established within the Pauline Church, and an ever more rigorous doctrine being enforced, his dogma was soon to overcome the efforts of the Apostles. More vital to our understanding, Jesus' teachings were slowly being subverted to Paul's gospel, and God's Word to tradition.
The letter was composed sometime between 59 AD and 61 AD, and though the place of writing is never going to be known for certain, Ephesus is the prime consideration. The messenger is generally accepted as, Epaphroditus, a member of the congregation at, Philippi.
Christian historians tell us that this 'church' was being torn apart by persecutions and they were without leadership. Paul's letter was significant for this purpose. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 985: 860a)
(This picture of the Philippians, however, is to be contested by other authorities as being inaccurate.)
Since Peake's tells us that the leaders of the church had been done away with, it seems odd that Paul would address himself as he does, "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons..." (Philippians 1:1; RSV) (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 985: 860a)
However, the Greek means only "overseers and assistants." Thankfully, theologians find it necessary to point out that we must use the meaning for these 'titles' as they were understood in Paul's time, and not today. This is amazing since the common practice today is to take the ancient Greek and substitute the modern 21st century idiom for their meanings, a practice which can only end in disaster.
Apostles, prophets and teachers, were charismatic offices. The terms used here are technical titles. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 985: 860d)
In this, we have more evidence that Paul was apportioning 'commissions' like they were candy, rewards for 'services rendered', 'loyalty to him', or for 'talents' exhibited within the church. In continuing this practice, Paul diminished the distinction and authority of Jesus' chosen Apostles. The more there were of these offices, the less importance could be placed on the original commission.
If his 'gospel' had not sufficiently diminished the light of the true 'church,' if his 'theology' had not controverted Jesus' mission and intent enough, then this custom was washing away the influence of the Jerusalem Church and its leaders. After offering his diligent prayers in greeting this congregation, he turns to elaborating on his own plight. But here, Paul leaves himself open to some very damaging criticism.
"...I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel..." (Philippians 1:7 King James Version)
The Revised Standard Version, reads, "I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel."
Paul uses this self-imposed predicament to indicate that he has been confined, and is being tried, for the gospel he preaches. Nothing could have been further from the truth!
In this, The Interpreter's Bible, agrees with this student. Paul was not arrested for preaching the Gospel, and his words can in no way lead to this conclusion. He was placed in protective custody after starting a riot in Jerusalem which had nothing to do with his missionary practices. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 24-25)
Paul asserted that he was warned to leave Jerusalem in a vision, but in truth he was forced to leave because the Jews, in a mob scene, were attempting to kill him. It was a matter of having his life threatened, not by the divine intercession of another of his many 'visions.'
Once again we see Paul's word set against that of Luke. In Chapter 9 of Acts, the impression is given that Paul returned to Jerusalem immediately after his conversion. He contradicts this statement in Galatians. Here Paul says he left because of a vision. The truth is that he was sent away by "the brethren" because the Jews were trying to kill him. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 292)
In his defense, as the account is told by Luke, Paul retells the vision in its original form, but this is a version that Paul has already denied. So once again Luke and Paul are at odds, but the good physician repeats that which he believes is the truth. It would be easy to find ways to defend Paul's activities if we could count on Luke, but Paul has contradicted his 'friend' at every turn. By his own words, Paul denies everything Luke has recounted.
Another matter that needs be brought up during this episode, is Paul's intentional insult of the High Priest. By his own admission, Paul lived in Jerusalem and studied under one of the most famous Rabbi's of all time, Gameleil. In this, he most certainly would know who the High Priest was, yet Paul's excuse for insulting that figure was that he did not know who he was. (Acts 23:1-5)
This overall picture is a perfect example of how Paul used events to his own purposes, such as changing his story about the vision despite Luke's version. It is possible that Paul did this because no healing took place as it was supposed to in the original story. Here, he was finally seized by the Jews after speaking of his persecution of the Hellenists and his part in the death of Stephen. Nothing was discussed concerning his preaching the Gospel.
In the tribunal that was held, Paul reveals that he is a Roman citizen, thereby escaping a scourging which was to be administered by the Romans.
"Paul said, "But I was born a citizen." So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him instantly..." (Acts 22:28-29; RSV)
Paul was no fool, and he takes the logical way of slipping away from the 'noose'.
"But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead I am on trial... Then a great clamor arose... And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn in pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them and bring him into the barracks." (Acts 23:6-10; RSV)
The truth of it is that Paul was not put into prison for preaching the gospel, he was not put into prison for preaching Christ, and he would never have been put into prison for preaching the 'resurrection of the dead' since all Pharisees argued that point. But it is interesting to note, as a by-product of this examination that Paul's basic theology about the resurrection came from Judaism and not some great revelation.
Therefore, preaching the resurrection of Jesus was no effort for Paul, who was steeped in Jewish theology. The rest of his dogma could be easily assimilated into his New Covenant doctrine.
Whatever plight Paul finds himself in, it fits a pattern, and that pattern always serves to advance the cause to which he has become devoted. No human being could ever plot such a course of endeavor without an unseen power guiding the entire production. The endeavor of criticism is to discover from whence that power emanates.
Within his confines Paul now has access to the Roman guard, a situation that might have taken years via another route. As Mythranism, was the religion of the soldier, now Paul's version of Christianity was going to take hold within the guard.
"I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole praetorian guard..." (Philippians 1:12-13; RSV)
Please note, Paul does not decry his situation but exclaims it almost as a godsend. After all, it came about by his own wishes.
Whether or not Paul ever conceived of himself as being used by a dark, unseen power, we will never know, but it is doubtful. If he could deceive others concerning his calling, and his visions, he would never have admitted to being the pawn in a game whose scope was beyond his ability to comprehend.
At any rate, we have it on good authority that Paul was not, "...put here for the defense of the gospel..." (Philippians 1:16; RSV)
Comparing Paul's situation to that of the Philippians has been taken too literally. Though it has been said that they were going through a persecution like his own, there is no evidence of this. What Paul says about their hardships could apply to Christians in general at many times during their history. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 41)
It is at this point, seemingly in deepest sympathy with the Philippians' situation, whatever that might have been, that Paul makes his most profound theological statement.
"...who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:6-7; RSV)
Now Paul expands his gospel to include, Incarnation. Jesus who was called the Christ, God incarnate, come to earth in human form. This doctrine finds itself firmly entrenched in the church today. It is evident every time a, 'Hail Mary', is spoken. "Holy Mary, mother of God..." But scholars in a less 'catholic' role suggest that Paul's ideology presents great problems.
"The whole passage turns upon this clause, which is exceedingly difficult, and has been interpreted in many different ways..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 48) Paul preaches that Christ existed in the form of God, i.e; Christ was of the same nature as God, therefore he was essentially divine.
Paul also taught that Jesus created all things, "...in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities" (Col. 1:16). (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 376)
It is impossible to distinguish at which point Paul wandered into a deified existence for Jesus, but the fruit of that seed takes place in this letter, without reservation.
In Paul's mind, Jesus is, "...Oti Ego Eimi....", 'I Am that I am', in other words, The Godhead, from which all things spring. He is equal with God the Father, he is in every facet, God Himself. Far be it for Jesus to have denied this, far be it for Jesus to have warned us that this heresy was coming, (The New Testament: Mark 13:6: The interlinear Greek-English New Testament). This is further proof that Paul knew nothing of Jesus' mind or his teachings. Regardless, he would have it his own way.
His philosophical meanderings have had their way with the world, and it is established tradition among the vast majority of Christians that the nature of Jesus was nothing less than divine. How one kills God has never been fully explained except to offer us the dogma of a god who took on the form of a man, and in doing so, also took on his vulnerable human condition by giving up his immortality.
The unsophisticated mind of the church finds this acceptable enough to satisfy their needs. The Christian scholar seeks something more definitive than the Hellenistic theorizing of an expatriate, pharisaic Jew who has taken Greek mythological characteristics and applied them to God's most high prophet and, "... a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedeck." (Hebrews 7:17; RSV)
Paul goes on with his closing salutations, which include his instructions for a Christian life together, and then to his plans for sending Timothy to visit them. Here, once again, Paul takes the opportunity to remind the congregation that he is a Jew who was circumcised as the Law considered proper, that he was born a Pharisee, a persecutor of the 'church', and, "...as to righteousness under the law blameless." (Philippians 3:6; RSV)
In regard to this statement, I would refer the reader to Proverbs 6:16, which I will recount here, in deference to those who do not wish to hear it.
"There are six things which the Lord hates, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers."
Anyone who reads this thesis and verifies God's scriptures, should have no trouble in listing examples of all seven, of which Paul was guilty, including two murders.
Paul looks forward to attaining the resurrection from the dead, but as a Pharisee, he has already accepted that doctrine. Now, however, it becomes a joint endeavor with Christ. Why this becomes necessary is hard to determine. Perhaps it was to set up the conditions for his theology in the minds of others. Since he has discarded the body of the Law, and Judaism in general, he appears to have no other choice than to incorporate pagan ideals into his theology. His bridges are burned behind him.
More than one expert, speaking from an experienced study of Paul's theology will maintain that he was influenced by the mystery religions of his time. The idea that an initiate who took part in the secret rites, actually experienced the act of a divine being who had been slain and miraculously restored to life. They also agree that it is very possible that Paul's ideas and phrases were taken from the religious thinking of his day. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 86)
The cult of Cybele, is indicative of these activities. During a "passion week", in celebration of Attis' death, a pine tree, representing his corpse, was carried through the streets, "...and three days later his devotees joyfully celebrated his "resurrection" as the guarantee of their own immortality." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 496) (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 7: page 92)
Mythranism was the strongest rival of Christianity during Paul's lifetime. The winter solstice was the time of the rebirth of Mithra. They observed the birthday of Mithra on December 25. "...As Christianity gained the ascendancy over its rival, it became a custom to use the old festival day for the celebration of the birth of Christ." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 7: Page 93) (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 7: Page 89)
There are striking similarities in both of these "mystery cults". One of the rituals of the cult of Cybele is compared to the carrying of the crucifix through the streets during various Catholic festivals, the reference to the resurrection three days after the god's death, and the celebration of the 'resurrection' during the spring, and Jesus birthday on December 25th.
The resemblance of certain ritual observances between Mythranism and Christianity are obvious and do not need to be pointed out. And so, the "seasons" of the death and resurrection of Paul's, Christ, come to be the same as several pagan religions, and are based on similar principles.
If it were necessary to draw additional parallels, the choices are myriad. Isis, and immortality as a major theme, found its way into man's major religions long before Paul began his search for "life immortal."
Those who were initiated into the secret rites of these pagan religions, like Osiris, believed they could triumph over the death. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 7: Page 93)
None of this was new to the thoughts of man, Paul merely had to adapt it to suit his own purpose and another doctrine was set into place. An escape from death became the major theme, and it was accomplished through the blood offering of a human sacrifice and thence, the resurrection of the 'dead' god. There is no difference here between the beliefs that were very much alive in Paul's time, and that which he preached. Aware or not, he was framing the establishment that would rule men's lives for almost two thousand years.
And it is proper for this student to note that none of these beliefs were in evidence in the practices of the Disciples, or in, The Jerusalem Church, or in the minds of those who knew The Christ, until Paul unleashed his theological tirades.
Now, as compassionate as this letter was meant to be, Paul follows his method of operation to the last letter. How many times does this man end his salutations to a congregation with an open threat? In the midst of his platitudes, Paul takes time to remark on the fate of 'other' Christians who do not completely follow his gospel.
"For many of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction... " (Philippians 3:18-19; RSV)
If Peake's Commentary, is attempting to be sarcastic, or is simply reflecting Paul's own opinion, we do not know, but the reference to his example of perfect Christian living is listed here as information. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 988: 862e)
In the final section of his letter, Paul makes reference once again to two women, "...Euodia and Syntyche... help these women, for they labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers..." (Philippians 4:3; RSV)
Both Peake's, and The Interpreter's Bible, believe that one of these women may have been the, Lydia, referred to in Acts. Obviously, they had been a vital part of Paul's ministry early in Philippi, possibly allowing him to use their homes as meeting places, or places of worship, within the congregational network.
But Paul still must be sure that his work and authority are recognized.
"What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:9; RSV)
And if you didn't...
Paul ends with a thank you 'note', for the money gift that the Philippians have sent to him. Some theologians have considered Paul's statement as being 'trite' and a 'thanks' that may have been more in a sarcastic mode than any other. We do not know how large an amount was given.
Lohmeyer considers this as the 'thankless thanks'. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 988: 863b)
He may also have been insulted by the amount they sent him, considering it beneath his 'worth'. However, Paul's staunch defenders do not weaken, even in the sight of contradiction.
A final word in conclusion of this letter, referring to Paul's use of the phrase, "...the book of life." (Philippians 4:3; RSV and KJV)
This is another invention 'of speech' originated by Paul for his 'congregations, which was taken from the practice of listing the inhabitants of towns and cities in a book for an approximate census.
This phrase is also used in Apocalyptic thought. It appears several times in the book of Revelation." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 108)
That which Paul evolves through his letters finds expression in Philippians. Its final exposition is contained in Ephesians.
The case for this final letter has been stated earlier in its barest form. Arguments concerning its authenticity have gone on for ages, and this student does not believe that an answer will be found in our generation. Surely, however, it is known to God.
This a treatise in the form of a letter. Its author has been given the name of Paul, but as the Interpreter's Bible, states, "...by an unknown Christian of the second generation..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 602)
Despite this 'controversy' it is necessary to investigate the writing due to its enormous importance to the present theological view accepted within the body of the Church. If it is not the work of Paul, then it most certainly bears his indelible mark, for the strength of that 'power' which guided him has made any other history of the church impossible. We shall never know the loss that has been suffered.
No dialogue could be more appropriate to open this study than the one which is contained in, The Interpreter's Bible. And so, despite the possible criticism that it has been used to lengthen this unworthy work, this student must reference it here.
Ephesians is of supreme importance in the history of Christian theology. The conception of the church as the body of Christ, its mission to unite all peoples in a single society of worship, has been shaped by the dissertation of this letter. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 605)
The writings of Paul are expounded upon in this letter. It is certain that the basic ideas are certainly his. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 599)
Without question, the entire basis for the theology of Christianity has come down to us as a result of Paul's philosophical and theological imagery. There is nothing in the synoptic gospels, in the teachings of Jesus, or the practice of the Apostles, that would have led the world into a religious practice the nature of which we find today. The result of that worship is evidenced by the unjustifiable history of the Church, and the moral and spiritual decay of our world society.
It is unfortunate that the words of men must always be subject to the whims of those who come after them, but thus it is with Ephesians. In the origin of this letter, there was no congregation or city named as is common with the other letters in the Pauline corpus.
'To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 1:1; RSV)
The King James version, however, follows the dictates of fourth century clerics who inserted, "...to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus..."
Professional translators and interpreter's agree that the words, "in Ephesus" were not found in any Greek manuscript before the fourth century. They are certainly a scribal insertion. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 601)
"In 1:1 the evidence of our earliest authorities shows unmistakably that the words rendered "at Ephesus" (KJV) are not original..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 608)
The author of this treatise uses II Corinthians for the opening of the blessing and then goes directly into his theory of predestination. Paul dealt with this subject when referring to those who had been 'chosen', 'called' into the church, indicating that they had been known beforehand. This author now expounds on that subject.
"...even as he chose us in him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world... He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ..." (Ephesians 1:4-5; RSV)
Not only is Jesus' pre-existence pronounced but also the ability of, the chosen, to become the 'sons of God.' This is part of a 'creed' which the high church still administers during every service in which they are engaged. Unfortunately, it can never be achieved during our lifetime, but only after death.
That which Paul had already established concerning the sacrifice of Jesus is repeated here and leaves us in no doubt of its meaning.
"...we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins..." (Ephesians 1:7; KJV)
It is absolutely essential that the Christian, upon being initiated into the 'mystery' of Jesus' death and resurrection, avow their firm belief in this doctrine. The 'blood' of Jesus is the essential part of the ritual of sacrifice, as in any cult or religious sect, including Judaism, which uses blood as the cleansing agent for sin.
The resurrection may be considered the result of that rite which is significant in a promise of eternal life. Herein lies the aspiration for the act, to escape death and obtain immortality with the living god. No more, no less, all hinges on the firm belief of the worshiper, and his participation in the act itself through the taking of communion. Which 'mystery' rite is, again, an invention of Paul.
Predestination is broached once again, a boon to those who might believe that God chose them before the world was formed, before the beginning of all things. But it is a woe to those who have not been 'chosen', even though they follow all the tenants of the faith. Somehow, in some deep, mysterious council, they have been found wanting before they came into existence.
The conclusion is that God creates even those who are unworthy, leaving them to suffer an existence of struggling to no avail. No matter what they do, no matter what sacrifice they suffer, they will not be acceptable to God because they were not among the 'chosen', 'the elect', from the beginning.
To accept this doctrine, to hold to this Pauline precept, is to do away with any concept of a 'free will', or the existence of a compassionate God.
The Interpreter's Bible, makes no bones about what this letter is saying. "The participle is to be taken closely with the main verb, so that the meaning is, "We were made God's portion by predestination". Verses 3-4, lead us to the inevitable conclusion that all this was planned before the beginning of eternity. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 622)
The writer of this epistle goes further, and in doing so, proves this student's position on attaining the status of, 'the sons of God.'
"... were sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it..." (Ephesians 1:14; RSV)
Not in this life, not on this earth, but after our deaths. Paul himself makes reference to this in his letter to the Romans.
"We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:23; RSV)
God forbid that any one should reach this inspired status in the present life, how would Paul and his church ever cope with such a one? And if Jesus were to return without fanfare, without our being prepared, like a thief in the night, how would he receive that 'divine' status of sonship?
In a lesser dogma, the writer of Ephesians pronounces that God, "...accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places..." (Ephesians 1:20; RSV)
"...he ascended into heaven, and is seated on the right hand of God..." (The Apostles Creed; The Book Of Concord; Fortress Press: Page 18)
"...ascended into heaven, and is seated on the right hand of the Father..." (The Nicene Creed; The Book Of Concord; Fortress Press: Page 18)
"...ascended into heaven, is seated on the right hand of the Father..." (The Athanasian Creed; The Book Of Concord; Fortress Press: Page 20)
And in each, Jesus, it is proclaimed, "...shall judge the living and the dead."
All that the ancient writer proclaimed almost two thousand years ago is repeated, word for word, in our present theology. Even down to a reflection on the church being the body of Christ, nothing has changed but has been amplified into a complex and unyielding framework that is as sinister as the law Paul sought to evade.
The writer of Ephesians now begins a dissertation that opens a window on the major reason that Paul was able to dominate and further his theology despite the opposition of the Twelve and the true gospel. Believe this, the Evil One did not consider Jesus' reported death on the cross a defeat. For Satan, it would seem this was a victory that became his greatest triumph over man, an achievement that led mankind on an ill conceived path that has lasted for twenty centuries.
"And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience." (Ephesians 2:1-2)
To Paul and his followers, Satan was a real, living entity. Like God's Word, the Evil One's presence is announced from the very beginning, even in the garden and in the story of Job. We are made aware of that One in the prophets who cried out as to the manner of his creation. (Ezekiel 28:11-15; RSV)
And even to the day of his being cast out from paradise.
"How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground..." (Isaiah 14:12-15; RSV)
Again, the professionals amplify Paul's belief that in our sins we are subject to a demonic power of evil. He conceived of it in terms of a, "...personal spirit who rules over a kingdom of evil in the atmosphere which surrounds us." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 639)
But man's downfall is the beginning of folly.
In opposition to Paul's convictions, modern theologians seem to think that the idea of a real, existing entity of Evil is, "...all but unimaginable to the mind of our own times..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 639)
This is how we could fall subject to an invalid theology that emanates from the mind of a single human being. Ignoring the word of God, mankind assumes that he is superior to God's mind and loses sight of the greatest enemy he has to face. It is one of Satan's major victories.
"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28; RSV)
Why is it that we do not believe Jesus anymore? Was Jesus talking for his health? Do you think he was ignorant of the danger we face on this 'veil of tears'? Did God send him with a meaningless message?
The writer of Ephesians now starts a dissertation that begins to unravel the entire framework of Paul's argument. Once an elaborate recitation has been started, especially dealing with a system of philosophy or theology that has no material proofs, the way becomes treacherous and may well cause its creator to stumble.
"...even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)..." For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God, not because of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:5-9; RSV)
Paul's 'faith without works' comes to the fore once again, the 'free gift' of the church, salvation through faith alone. But that 'free gift' is hardly 'free' when one reads the small print. To obtain it one must first go through a ritual initiation which involves the swearing of an oath of allegiance. Yet, what does the head of the church, Christ, say about this?
"Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, "You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn, But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black." (Matthew 5:33-36; RSV)
Then the ritual cleansing, baptism must be entered into. And from that we must go on to absolute faith, a faith without works that will justify and redeem us. Where one is to find that strength within the structure of humanity is impossible to say. That is why Jesus taught us as he did.
"Be not hearers of the word, but doers also."
"Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21; RSV)
"Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man..." (Matthew 7:24; RSV)
And will faith without works bring us those things we desire from God? Jesus says it will not, for he speaks of acts.
"Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you..." (Matthew 7:7; RSV)
One of the greatest evils that we see exhibited by Paul's work is that we no longer believe the words of Jesus, who is the Christ. Since the church has built its foundation on the metaphysical works of Paul, it dare not insight one word that might disrupt his imaginative and highly unstable theology.
The 'free gift' of salvation is a myth, for at the very least, beyond the proofs we have shown and could show, there must be belief, absolute, and that is a work, an action of the mind, ego, and body, just as surely as any other. It is totally reflected in the rites we must accomplish, the payment to receive this free gift. And it is not available to those who remain outside this closed association, or those who have not been 'chosen' before the beginning of all things.
For even if one were to cry out in the streets, 'Lord, Lord, I believe...', they are not saved. Even if they were to accept Paul's entire message of salvation, until and unless, they go through the rites of the church, the Oath, Baptism, and Communion, until he becomes a member of the Church by adoption, he will not be acceptable.
As we will see momentarily, there is also a higher price to be paid for salvation, one that seems to go beyond reason and moral decency.
Salvation comes through the Jews according to the writer of Ephesians.
"Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh... remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:11-13; RSV)
Why are the doors of some churches painted red? Because one enters into the Church through the 'blood of Christ.' Without the blood offering of a human sacrifice, there is nothing. And without absolute faith in that pagan rite, without acceptance of that heathen price, salvation is not available.
In all of this, Jew and Gentile are supposed to be reconciled.
"For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility..." (Ephesians 2:14; RSV)
If we are known as Jesus said, by our fruits, then the basis of Paul's gospel, and the Hellenistic theological reasoning of Ephesians' author, are a total failure. This, of course, is taking into consideration the plight of the Jew in a Gentile world for the last five thousand years.
But the means of this 'reconciliation' is what should concern us the most.
"...by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances..." (Ephesians 2:15; RSV)
This student has already gone to great lengths to point out Jesus' view on the Law. They are etched in stone, cut into granite tablets if you would. Paul and the writer of this epistle must have been ignorant of his teachings, for if they did have that knowledge, then they counted Jesus as nothing (See Matthew 5:17-18).
"And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near..." (Ephesians 2:17), is a prime example of this reasoning. What did Jesus teach us?
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set man against his father..." (Matthew 10:34-36; RSV)
"...and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross..." (Ephesians 2:16; RSV)
Again we are confronted with that which we must accept in the form of payment for our salvation. An act which, to this student, is so selfish as to be loathsome. The author of Ephesians approves, even underlines the 'small print' which accompanies his contract.
"...but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone..." (Ephesians 2:19-20; RSV)
Jesus' birth is not the cornerstone, not his life, his ministry, or his teachings, but the one feature that is essential to the entire body of Paul's theology, original and expanded. Jesus as that human sacrifice, the blood offering to atone for mankind's sins, the paschal lamb.
And the 'apostles' and 'prophets' that are spoken of here have nothing to do with the Twelve or God's chosen prophets. Paul's standard for these offices are now very general in nature, bereft of their original meaning and purpose.
The prophets Paul speaks of are the Christian prophets (4:11; I Corinthians 14:1-5, 24; Acts 11:27). The joining of prophets with apostles has no parallel in the genuine epistles. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 661)
Well, we have all seen where Paul did use both titles for Christian offices, and his abasement of those high commissions could do nothing but lead others astray. And this unknown writer goes on in the first person, stating for Paul that, "...the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly." (Ephesians 3:2-3; RSV)
Paul wrote more than briefly on the subject of his 'visions', but more importantly the epistle goes on in an ever expanding symposium on Paul's 'commission'.
"When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit... "
From previous readings one might have thought that Paul was the singular 'apostle' to the Gentiles, but now there are a score.
Paul alone is mentioned as the recipient of the revelation (vs 3); here he implies that a larger group of the inspired leaders have received the same insight. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 667)
It seems that corruption of the true faith weighs light on the conscience of those who would have their way rather than God's. Here they have done their best to wipe out any concrete evidence of the Lord God's most high commissions, those attained through His Holy Spirit. The price to be paid was beyond their comprehension.
Ephesians goes on to admonish all believers to live a life worthy of their faith, but using the example of Paul's manner in stating scripture he writes, "Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." (Ephesians 4:8; RSV)
The writer here refers to Psalm 68:18. It was applied to on his ascension of Mount Sinai to receive the Law. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 688)
The scripture is really not scripture at all for it neither conforms to the Masoretic Text nor the LXX. In any case, the misuse of Old Testament verses, which was a regular practice for Paul, is inexcusable for any reason. It has become a common habit in our time for ministers and evangelists to mix 'apples and oranges' whenever it suits their purpose. It is even more unacceptable since they have Jesus' teachings to count on, and refuse to use them over Paul's.
It is interesting to note how quickly the author of this epistle turns on the Gentiles. We must assume that he is speaking to those who have not yet been 'saved' by the knowledge of Paul's Christ.
"Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds... You did not so learn Christ!-assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him..." (Ephesians 4:17-21; RSV)
Indeed, for the whole world had not heard the message.
The balance of the letter instructs the body of believers to act according to their example in the Christ they have been taught. There is certainly nothing to chastise, for the message is one that asks for the congregations to act in a superlative, if not perfect, manner. To cast off humanity for total spirituality, is a common goal in valid religious movements.
However, one must question what, "...example in the Christ..." they had been taught. At best it could only have been fourth or fifth hand.
What is objectionable, aside from the Pauline desire for chastity in all things, is the subjugation of women.
"Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife... As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands." (Ephesians 5:22-24; RSV)
But then the author suggests that God's word in Genesis is, "...and the two shall become one." It is a misquote of, Genesis 2:24.
"...and they become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24; RSV)
"...and they shall be one flesh." (Genesis 2:24; Masoretic Text)
The verse here does not refer to marriage, but to the redemption of the fallen angels, when they gave up their human forms. The distinction between male and female, as pointed out by the Hebrew 'tsela' will be erased and they will become one flesh again in the spirit.
"But Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven." (Matthew 22:29-30; RSV)
It was the firm belief of the orthodoxy in Jesus' time that angels were neither male or female, but neuter, both male and female. If Paul and this writer were unaware of the rabbinical interpretation of this passage, and Jesus' teaching, they were indeed in darkness.
In the final instance, this unknown author renders a warning that is worthy of our greatest attention. Unfortunately, we have all but pushed it aside preferring to be in the presence of half-truths and philosophical ramblings. It is therefore fitting that we conclude the findings of this thesis, and the study of Ephesians, with that writer's own words. It was never more meaningful than in today's world and in this present age.
"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:10-12; RSV)
Why one gets the feeling that we are in the midst of a trial is obvious. This student has ventured to accuse Paul, to the best of his knowledge, as no other scholar has done before. He has many defenders, thus it is that his lone prosecutor begins the final summation. In this case, 'I have not come to praise Caesar, but to bury him.'
Certain New Testament letters have not been covered in this thesis due to the question of authorship. The Catholic epistles are not included since it is generally agreed that they are pseudonymous. Philemon, is not a letter addressed to any congregation, but to a friend on the subject of his runaway slave. It is, however, among the Pauline codex.
We must note that it takes no long winded dissertation to discuss the issues Paul has brought up in his theology, unless one wishes to entangle themselves in endless debate over unresolved, philosophical trivia. It is sufficient to note that Paul's terminology is quoted almost verbatim in the modern Church, and the augmentation of his dogma is what governs the Christian faith today. That fact is not contested.
It is also a given fact that the religion practiced as Christianity is Pauline Christianity and not the faith or religion of Jesus' disciples. That is the Church that Jesus ordained, not Paul's.
When Saul is first mentioned we know only that he was a student in the Rabbinical school of Gameleil, a Jew of the Pharisaic persuasion, possibly a member of the Cilician synagogue, and a Roman citizen. He was a young man sitting at the edge of a riotous crowd, and that is all! Paul was a nobody... a bystander.
That Saul of Tarsus became more widely traveled than anyone of his day does not come into question either. Not to make small of Paul's journeys, it must also be remembered that the associates who traveled with him compiled the same record. These things are agreed. Again, they are not what we have been attempting to ascertain through this study, as has been previously stated. Certainly a complete work based on Paul's letters would take volumes, but that has not been our goal. Countless books have been written on the epistles by those far more worthy than this student. The message of love, compassion, and salvation portrayed by his genius have been autobiographed, quoted, copied, and sermonized throughout the ages.
This student would underline that which has already been said. In his writing, his poetic movement, and literary abilities, Paul was a genius. His command of words was overwhelming, complex yet moving.
His philosophical reasoning was exemplary, mentally he was agile and able to formulate his religious suppositions with courage. And yet, in the end, the complexity and the nature of his theological meandering was too much even for him.
But there is one thing in which he excelled beyond this that few have taken into consideration.
In 50 AD, there was no postal service as we know it today, no overnight mail, no telegraph, no telephone, no radio or television, no railway system, no airplanes, and no automobiles. Yet Paul and his entourage managed to travel with letters to and from congregations in enormous volume for that period in history. They were able to transport money offerings, send delegates to minister spiritual needs, and to mend broken promises and congregations that had become factional.
He was able to send members of his 'inner circle' to take care of problems almost at once, and to return with responses and reports from any place in the middle east to which he dispatched them. He could fire some and hire others without difficulty, and if he was forced to travel to a distant city to 'take the heat' from Jesus' disciples, he managed it without ever having to take his eye off 'his' children.
What Paul did was to establish one of the most efficient and well regulated organizations known to man. And every member of his 'personal' staff was loyal to a fault. They were not few in number even though most are never named. And if certain pressure was necessary to bring a congregation into line, he had the organization to accomplish it.
Some were so diligent, so expert in their ways, that they captivated congregations to such a degree that Paul was forced, more than once, to re-establish his own popularity in those churches. But the names that resound from his inner circle are loud in the history of the Church.
John Mark, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Apollos, Silas, and Luke.
These facts are not disputed, for they are the means with which he was able to capture the future of the Christian movement. They were the means through which he managed victory over another list of names which should have been even more prominent in religious history.
Peter, James the Lord's brother, John the son of Zebedee, and the living Jesus who was called the Christ.
The depth of Paul's organization made it possible for him to take his gospel into the world and thus, to dominate the very essence of the Church as it exists today.
We stipulate to these things because they are fact, but the other side of the coin is a different story. We could, as others have done, draw assumptions concerning the man and his activities. We might make conjectures about the meaning of his statements just to place Paul in the best light possible. Then we would be as guilty as those who constantly applaud him.
But we have Paul's words, his own testimony, to answer most of our questions. It is not necessary to speculate about his 'meaning' or his intentions, with the exception of a very few instances.
What have been covered in this thesis are points which few, if any, have dared to editorialize. They are certainly not the object of sermons within the Christian community. How did Paul arrive at his theological conclusions, were they based on life experiences, or on pure conjecture. The assistance of noted theologians and interpreter's has come from their writings, and on most points, they agree with this paper.
Paul drew from hearsay information, the myriad cult myths that abounded in his world, his Jewish education, his understanding of Hellenistic philosophies, and his consummate creative imagination.
What support did he have on which to base his hypothesis? Certainly, by his own exhortation, none from the Apostles or the Jerusalem Church. Assuredly not from a life experience with Jesus or his disciples. And that which he drew upon from God's Holy Scriptures, he manipulated and misquoted.
How did he persuade people to accept his Hellenistic philosophies, and once the network of congregations had been formed, how did he enforce his doctrine and his regulations. Through the excellence of his personal staff and their willingness to carry out his orders even when they required an 'indelicate' touch, so to speak.
Beyond this, by works and by his own word, what is the nature of Paul's personality and integrity? That we left to Paul, and he was not silent on these points. There is an axiom indicating that, 'actions speak louder than words.' From Saul of Tarsus, we have both.
What Paul actually knew about Jesus' life, no one can say. He never refers to the living Jesus. He never refers to Jesus' teachings. The only aspect that is mentioned out of Jesus' entire life is the crucifixion and his assumed death on the cross. On this one detail alone, Paul draws his theological conclusions.
What he learned in fifteen days with the Apostles, no one knows. Had he learned anything of Jesus' works and teachings, especially since Paul called him Lord, they would seem to have been important enough to recall at least once in his writings. The one assumption this student will draw is that there was one single determining reason he did not, had he held that knowledge.
If Jesus' word contradicted Paul's gospel and his Hellenistic theology he would have disregarded Jesus' words at once. If that spirit jeopardized Paul's standing and authority with his congregations he would have ignored it. But to act in direct conflict with those teachings would have taken an individual with such conceit, with such rigidity of mind and heart that it is almost impossible to imagine.
In behalf of our subject, this student would prefer to believe that Paul's knowledge of Jesus was minimal. That the Apostles withheld much of their information out of a justifiable mistrust of Paul. So we report Paul's actions again. In Galatians Paul swears that he only saw Peter and James the Lord's brother, and that he was only in Jerusalem for fifteen days... (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 125)
Here, he contradicts Luke's account of the meeting. Luke is discredited by professional Christian theologians. They tell us that where Paul contradicts writing, such as Luke, Paul is to be taken as correct. This is to say that the Bible is something less than inspired by God. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 126)
For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And in the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus..." (Acts 9:19-20; RSV)
"...I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were (A)postles before me, but I went into Arabia..." (Galatians 1:16-17; RSV)
We have shown Paul's theology, repeating it time and again. His basic concept of redemption hinges on one act. And upon the blood offering of a human sacrifice, depends salvation for the entire human race.
The balance of Paul's doctrine concerning 'calling,' 'chosen,' 'predestined,' 'pre-existence,' and 'election' are concepts that have kept the world's philosophers and scholars debating for thousands of years. When compared to the one act of 'salvation' which Paul dwelt on, they are senseless children's arguments that only serve to break down Paul's basic doctrine.
If we are 'predestined,' 'chosen before hand,' then it would not matter what Jesus suffered, those who are 'saved,' have already been 'selected.' If this is true, then there is no free will. If it is not true, though we are 'chosen before all things,' and we can fall from that 'selection,' then God is imperfect. Which would you have?
The nature of Paul's theology is speculative. It is based on conjecture. Dogma such as 'faith without works,' becomes a game of words. One cannot exhibit faith, no matter what is sworn to, without the works to prove it. Works becomes the product of faith. But if faith is unmentioned and the works of an individual cause their faith to be obvious to others, then faith becomes a product of works.
Jesus speaks of this very subject, and in direct contradiction to Paul's philosophy.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (The Authorized Version of King James: Matthew 5:16)
Honestly, we cannot have one without the other, and we cannot have one come before the other. God demands proof of what we say, think, and feel. In spiritual realms, these things that manifest may well be both! Paul's doctrines are argumentative theories, not positive truths.
Paul's organization became the tool with which he molded his congregations. The manipulators were his 'staff,' and if force or persuasion was necessary, it was asserted. Paul's words have shown us that his use of the members in his organization could range from preaching, to overseeing, to enforcing his regulations and edicts. The word used at one point was, 'extortion.'
"...So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren to go on to you before me, and arrange in advance for this gift you have promised, so that it may be ready not as an exaction but as a willing gift." (II Corinthians 9:2-5; RSV)
In bringing disputing congregations back into line the word used was 'malevolent.' He demanded, contradictory to his 'Christ-like' teachings, that they punish the dissenter who was leading those opposed to him. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 266)
If you recall, when the 'rebel' could not be punished, he demanded that the leader of the congregation be punished as an example. One might use a modern idiom, noting that if Paul found it necessary, he could use 'muscle' to get what he wanted.
He was an extremely vindictive individual.
Examples have been provided throughout the study of the letters we covered, not in the explanations of translators or theologians, but in Paul's own words. When you have it in black and white there is no need for other witnesses. What other than a sadistic nature would pray thus.
"I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves." (Galatians 5:12; RSV)
He was covetous and jealous.
He attempted to take control of congregations that he did not personally found (i.e., Rome and Antioch, for example), and tighten his grip on those that he did create. He was constantly boasting of his authority, the giver of the only 'true gospel.' And any who would dare to challenge his authority or to preach another gospel had better take great care, the 'eyes' and 'ears' of the organization were everywhere, ready to report any breach of loyalty to Paul.
He was domineering.
He made rules for men and women, even down to their hair styles and clothing. He set standards of conduct within the church that were dictatorial and stifling for those who were forced to endure them. He even reached into the private lives of husbands and wives within the congregation, though he knew absolutely nothing of the proper conduct for married men and women.
Paul thought that the effort to please one's wife or husband would interfere with being holy in body and spirit. If this were, theologians tell us, shouldn't Paul have stated that marriage was a sin?... It seems odd that anyone would claim that marriage interferes with servicing God. Paul seems to be rationalizing his prejudices. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 86)
These he based on his own constricted opinions. And if one did not appreciate his 'standards' they were reminded quickly that, "If any one is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God." (I Corinthians 11: 16; RSV )
They were free to leave, subject to death outside the protection of the Church.
He practiced deceit.
The vision that Paul speaks of, and certainly narrated to Luke, has four different versions. No witnesses are named, but far more important, it had no consistent witnesses. They hear the voice but do not see the light; they see the light but do not hear the voice, in the third they see and hear nothing, and in the fourth, there is no one else save Paul.
Ananias is referred to, then he is not.. Paul is blinded and healed, but never experiences the healing, and then is neither blinded nor healed. Yet he has an affliction which he constantly complains about, considers himself unsightly, and claims that his eyes are practically useless, which makes the first two visions highly suspicious.
As for the fourth, one must not forget, "...I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven-whether in the body or out of the body I do not know... And I do know that this man was caught up into Paradise..." (II Corinthians 12:2-3; RSV)
On the basis of this 'vision' Paul takes for himself the commission of 'apostle,' and when he is challenged he pouts, "...If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you..." (I Corinthians 9:2; RSV)
His claims escalate; he has seen the living Jesus, which even theologians hear with great trepidation and doubt. He becomes, Nazarite, yet openly breaks the vow of one who has attained that commission. And then is proud owner of a 'divine title.' And if there were outspoken critics, they could be dealt with swiftly. But who would dare to contend with Paul? Jesus' disciples.
He defied the Jerusalem Church no matter which way it turned, no matter what compromise they stooped to in order to placate Paul and his demands. He preached a gospel that was totally opposed to the Apostles, he brought a message that was irrevocably inconsistent with Jesus' teachings, and he denied God's Commandments (i.e., the Law).
Let us consider this charge in a complete manner. Paul insinuated that man was saved by grace alone. Yet Jesus taught that every man, in that last day, would be judged for their actions. What we do under the Law is specifically tied to our salvation, but not with Paul.
"...yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ..." (The New Testament: Revised Standard Version: Galatians 2:16)
"For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse... Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law..." (The New Testament: Revised Standard Version: Galatians 3: 10 & 13)
"Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law." (The New Testament: Revised Standard Version: Romans 3:27-28)
It is apparent that Paul was absolute on this theology, a dogma that completely denied Jewish thought and teaching. It would have denied the instruction of Gamaliel and contradicted the teachings and practice of Jesus.
"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, til heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished." (The New Testament: Revised Standard Version: Matthew 4:17-18)
"...and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith." (The New Testament: Revised Standard Version: Matthew 23:23)
"But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void." (The New Testament: Revised Standard Version: Luke 16:17)
In the end of it all, I give you a theology of law that saves. If it does not, then all things are worthy of condemnation. Since Christianity today insists that even the Holy Scriptures as revealed to Judaism speak of Jesus, let us openly pursue that reference in denial of Paul's Hellenistic theology.
"Then he said to them, 'These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled. '" (The New Testament: Revised Standard Version: Luke 24:44)
"Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, 'We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
Not only does the evangelist of John contradict his own opening statement as to Jesus' sonship, here indicating the he is the, "...son of Joseph...", but he insists that it is the law through which Jesus comes to us. Jesus himself indicates that the law and the prophets give us a knowledge of him.
Therefore I remark that if the law gives us a knowledge and understanding of the Christ, then how can the law be denied? To deny the law is to deny Jesus. And if the Living Christ comes to us through the law, who is to be our salvation, then how can the law be corrupt? For if the law is corrupt, so is Messiah, and there is no redemption.
In truth, the way of our salvation is through the law, and in the words of scripture which men consider 'holy', those things on which we will be judged are of the law. Does not James, Jesus' brother, agree with this logic?
"Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith... Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren?... You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone... For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead."
"Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; and from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, and by what they had done... Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done." (The New Testament: Revised Standard Version: Revelation 20:11-14)
"Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to pay every one for what he has done." (The New Testament: Revised Standard Version: Revelations 22:12)
Yet, Saul of Tarsus, had grown so powerful that even Jesus' disciples were not enough to overcome him. Today, no one in the Church dares to challenge the awesome, willful, spirit of Paul.
He was deceitful.
He purposely lied to the Elders of the Church and the Apostles about what he was preaching concerning the Law. On top of this, he went through a sacred religious ritual of purification, on false pretenses. He had purposely lied, and when at a distance from Jerusalem, he openly scorned the Twelve and went on preaching 'his' message.
Jesus is very distinct when it comes to validating the Law, and pronouncing the punishment for those who teach others to ignore God's commandments.
"For verily I say unto you, Til heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven..." (The Authorized Version of King James: Matthew 5:18-19)
And then Paul had the audacity, the impudence, to teach that, "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord... For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself."
This student has come to believe that it was all done out of Paul's contempt, his hatred, for the Apostles, the Twelve.
Perhaps the title he was searching for was not 'apostle,' but 'apostate.'
Why go on with the torment. This student has not supplied the charges of himself, but of Paul's written word, they are in black and white. Our problem lies in the fact that it is too late to erase the false path upon which the Church has been led. To do so now would mean the total collapse of Christianity as we have known it for two thousand years, for every doctrine the religion holds to is from Paul.
The sacrament of Communion is from Paul.
Paul would have us believe that he received the custom from the Lord. It is agreed that he had not been present at the Last Supper. Professional theologians insist that if we take Paul's words literally, we would have to believe with that Paul received his instructions in a vision from the risen Lord. For a more pointed statement one must read the following notations from professional theologians.
"...and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." (I Corinthians 11:25; RSV)
Mark's Gospel has no way to verbalize this is my body, but he does have the invitation to eat. That is lacking in Paul, and in its place there stands an order to repeat the act in remembrance of Christ. Professional interpreter's and theologians tell us that no Gospel contains this; the text of Luke (22:19b-20) is believed to be a later insertion based on I Corinthians. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 137)
The body of Christ, the body of believers, God incarnate, the pre-existence of Jesus, that Jesus is human yet divine, that his spilled blood is the means of our salvation, all of this is from Paul. To admit to this fraud at such a late date would be disastrous. So in order to defend its indefensible position, the ministry, the priesthood, does not teach those portions of Paul's letters that we have critiqued. Their inept response is that if Paul wrote a letter addressed as an apostle, then he was an apostle.
Has any Christian ever heard a sermon preached on any of the subjects we have mentioned herein? Has any Christian ever heard a position taken by the clergy which would openly force a decision between, Jesus and Paul? Paul and the Apostles? Paul or God?
The results of Paul's activities on this earth have caused the disappearance of the Jerusalem Church and the religion practiced by Jesus' chosen Apostles. It has led to a religion based on false precepts and a faulty doctrine. It is a house built on sand.
It seemed strange to this student that even the gospels could be corrupted by Paul's touch, as indeed they have. But to see two thousand years of the generations of mankind who have suffered due to the results of his work, is devastating.
His desire for power, authoritative dominion, and his decisions under the pretense of that absolute control, have led the Church to practice excommunication, genocide, imprisonment, and death for unbelievers.
"...each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.... If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through the fire." (I Corinthians 2:13-15; RSV)
The 'fire' that he lit burned innocents at the stake; they were hanged, strangled, impaled, beheaded, and stoned to death... so easily misled, so many died, all for the desires of one man.
And of the power that led him? It must be considered Satan's greatest victory since Adam and Eve were banished from the garden.
The test is in the doing of the work, and in the doing of the work a decision has been made. For this student, he chooses the faith of the Twelve and Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Living Christ!
A Critical Lexicon And Concordance To The English And Greek New Testament:
Ethelbert W. Bullinger, D.D.; Zondervan Publishing House: Grand Rapids, Mi. 1976
A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament: Bruce W. Metzger:
United Bible Societies: 1971
Beginnings Of Christianity: ed F.J. Fookes, Jackson & Kersopp
Bloodline Of The Holy Grail: Laurence Gardner: Barnes and Noble Books
Cruden's Complete Concordance: Zondervan Publishing House:
Grand Rapids, Mi. 1968
Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire: Edward Gibbons: The Modern Library:
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From Jesus To Christ: Paula Fredriksen: Yale University Press:
New Haven and London: 1988
Josephus' Complete Works: Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids, MI. 1976
Peake's Commentary On The Bible: Thomas Nelson & Sons LTD: May 1962
The Book of Concord; Fortress Press; Philadelphia: 1959
The Gospel According To Thomas: Harper and Rowe: New York & Evanston: 1959
The Gospel of Philip: The Nag Hammadi Library: The Dead Sea Scrolls:
James M. Robinson, General Editor: Wesley M. Isenberg
The Holy Bible: King James and Revised Standard Versions
The Holy Qur'an: Mohammed Zafrulla Khan: Olive Branch Press
The Holy Scriptures According To The Masoretic Text: Jewish Publication Society Of America: Philadelphia, Pa.: 1955
The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament: Rev. Alfred D. Little:
Zondervan Publishing House: Grand Rapids, Mi.: 1976
The Interpreter's Bible: Abingdon Press: New York and Nashville, Tenn. 1951
The New American Bible: Saint Jospeh Edition: Catholic Book Publishing Co.
New York: 1970
The New English Bible with Apocrypha: Oxford university Press:
Cambridge University Press: 1970
The New International Commentary On The New Testament: The Gospel
According to Mark: William B. Eerdman Publishing Co.
The Original Jerusalem Gospel: A conjectural restoration of, Q:
Reprinted from the Hibbert Journal: Publisher and date unknown
The Outline Of History: H.G. Wells: Camden City Books
The Qur'an: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, Inc. Elmhurst, N.Y. 1988
The Second Treatise of the Great Seth: Nag Hammadi Library:
The Dead Sea Scrolls: James M. Robinson, General Editor
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary: G & C Merriam Co. 1977
Young's Analytical Concordance To The Bible: Robert Young, LL.D.
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids, Mi. 1975