Friday, January 8, 2010
"The Pauline Conspiracy" by A. Victor Garaffa (Part 3 of 4)
The general opinion of theologians and interpreters is that the author of this letter is unknown. The fact that many may assume it was written by James, the Apostle and Jesus' brother, is pure conjecture. Of the three James' who have been considered as authors, the most generally accepted was, as noted, James the Lord's brother.
The author, however, remains anonymous as do the readers to whom the letter was sent. There is no formal dedication, nor is it addressed to anyone other than, "...the twelve tribes in the dispersion." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 3)
James, in the text we have today, is the work of a Christian author, whose training was Hellenistic but whose religious background was Hebrew. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 5)
One thing is certain, that in every respect, this letter denounces that which Paul was teaching about the Law and about faith. It is extraordinary that we know from Paul's letters that circumcision is an argument against which he fought constantly. His stand was that Gentile believers should not be forced to this custom in order to join the 'church.'
Yet in Acts, after the meeting in which Timothy was circumcised, no such demand was made of the Gentiles. Paul goes on about it constantly, and yet Luke advises us that only four requirements were necessary for the Gentiles to enter the church with the Jews.
"But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity." (Acts 21: 25; RSV)
We know from the letters we have already covered that Paul immediately found fault with this reasoning too, and took the elders of Jerusalem, including the Apostles, to task. This also explains his instruction concerning eating meat offered to idols, which was diametrically opposed to the Apostles' edict.
His creation of a Communion meal, in which the blood of Jesus became a principal part, was also in violation of the agreement. Obviously he did these things to oppose the Jerusalem Church and the Apostles.
One must understand that Paul did not want these issues settled. Without them he had nothing to instigate his captive congregations against the mother church or the Apostles. If, as fact shows us, the disciples had already given in to compromise, it was to Paul's advantage to make it appear as though they had not.
Of course, the reports that came back to the Jerusalem Church were so confounding that the disciples would not believe that Paul had wandered so far from proper conduct and instruction.
"You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; they are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. What then is to be done?" (Acts 21:20-22; RSV)
Paul bowed to the decision of the Elders and went through the ritual purification. But they need not have worried, Paul was not about to keep any vow, for it seems that nothing was sacred to this man. When his missionary journeys continued, he immediately pressed the congregations to follow 'his gospel' as we have already seen.
The converted Jews cannot believe the reports that Paul has taught Jewish converts to forsake the Law. To prove that these accusations are lies, he agrees to show publicly that there is nothing to what his enemies have been saying about him. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 7)
Paul lied to the Apostles and the Elders without blinking an eye. We know what he was doing through his own written word. Until the time came that his organization was strong enough, he dared not admit the truth. And after having taken the vows necessary in the, Rite of Cleansing, no small matter to the Jews, and at a distance from the authorities in Jerusalem, he continued his work of undermining the true faith.
The concession of the Apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem Church is hard to believe, but for the Gentiles, they would need only follow the four conditions asked of them. With these items alone, "...Gentiles might be regarded as inheritors of salvation." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 7)
Where is Paul's continuing struggle with the Jerusalem Church? It would seem that the "problems" he is facing are being contrived by Paul himself, for the church had already conceded to his wishes. No commitment to the Law, no circumcision, no observance of tradition for any of the Gentile converts. Is Paul now insisting that this must also be true for the Jews? More struggle, more contention, because he cannot exist without it. And if none is forthcoming, he will invent it if only to continue his attack on the Apostles.
Paul's reasoning and Paul's mentality are understood by no one. And far be it for this student to pass judgment, but his intentions were understood by no one but Paul, including the church to whom he preached. To the simple man, the simple mind, he was taken literally and that brought nothing but confusion to them and to the church today.
The letter of James, however, has drawn praise from the highest authorities, including Luther. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 15)
Other opinions are important to us in ascertaining the authority behind this letter, and its intrinsic qualities.
Although James has a few addendums, it is pretty much as it was when written. Peake's Commentary, believes the letter may have been written to Galileans, possibly some of Jesus original followers... the background is very similar to that of the synoptists... The writer believes that one's faith must show itself by one's conduct. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 1022: 893a)
The style of the letter is animated; the writer is obviously someone who was skilled in the higher Greek, and was well acquainted with the LXX. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 1022: 893b)
We are dealing with an intelligent, well-schooled mind, one that was necessary to deal with the 'gospel of Paul,' toward which this student believes it is aimed.
We must take notice of the Last verse of James, first.
"...let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:20; RSV)
This is a Jewish belief which was fully discussed in the first thesis, 'In Defense Of The Apostles Faith.' And although we have seen how interpreters and theologians try to explain the greeting, The Interpreter's Bible, stretches the rationalization to make it an all-inclusive statement.
They believe it is preferable, "...to explain the twelve tribes as meaning the whole spiritual Israel, i.e., all Christians." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: page 20)
How they arrive at this conclusion is entirely speculative. Throughout, these same critics continue to exclaim how Jewish the epistle is, but never bother to explain how Christianity has become the '...spiritual Israel.' From the beginning to the end, even though these scholars admit all of Paul's crimes, they must defend him, they are forced to defend him. The entire church is based on nothing but Paul's doctrine.
At the outset, James begins a campaign relating to true faith and its substance.
"... for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." (James 1:3; RSV)
Unlike Paul's faith without works, faith's tests must be met, and it can only be met by action. Even to continue in a righteous path of religious exercise one must do so by action. James proceeds to God's answer to prayer, in much the same light as Jesus did. When one approaches God one must be of an absolute belief that it will come to pass.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind." (James 1:5-6; RSV)
Faith alone is not sufficient, prayer is in evidence, and that without doubt or hesitation. When Jesus explained to us the gifts of the Father, he expressed himself in common, easily understood metaphors. Seek, knock, ask... but without doubt, without a faltering heart. That is putting faith into action.
If Paul's way is to be followed, one must ask why we are constantly tested. If Paul's way is to be followed, why are we told that we are never given a cross greater than we can bear? If Paul's way is to be followed, then Job is an example to no one.
"Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12; RSV)
By interpreter's standards, vs. 17, is obscure "The terminology in the remainder of vs. 17 is almost hopelessly obscure and the textual evidence equally so." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 29)
But it is plain enough when read in context with the entire subject of this part of the letter.
"Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (James 1:17; RSV)
God is steadfast, there is no change in God's person or action. There are no hidden motives, nothing in the 'shadow' of darkness to be revealed later, i.e., there is no deception in God. The Lord God has no human failings, no hypocrisy.
The difficulty is, as in other places in the Greek testaments and as opposed to the criticism of the Old Testament, that those involved are prejudiced. They are biased in their handling of the New Testament and do everything possible, legitimate or not, to uphold to an erroneous tradition. But, the truth be known, they have no choice.
This is the major reason that they continue to applaud Paul even when he has been proven wrong, not by this student, but by his own peers. Luke is an excellent example of the distortion he raises in his efforts to prove his superiority and his authority.
Again, the theologians of our time refer to James' writing as 'Christian', but note that, it is more akin to Judaism rather than Christianity. (The use of the term, the righteousness of God, is basically Jewish, and certainly not Pauline!) (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 31)
At this point, the author begins to take Paul to task. This must be repeated in its entirety.
"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves... But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing." (James 1:22-25; RSV)
The author of James also continues a path that seems to place the rich in a very bad light. He speaks of honoring the widow, and the orphan, and the poor man.
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained in the world." (James 1: 27; RSV)
"Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme that honorable name by which you are called?" (James 2:6-7; RSV)
James raises the inevitable question.
"What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?... So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." (James 2:14-17; RSV)
This is a direct answer to Paul's irreconcilable, 'faith alone'. It refutes the Gospel that Paul perpetrated in the first days of the church and brings to us this very day. It is the stand of the Catholic church as it seeks reconciliation in the eyes of Protestant Christianity, bringing this same worthless message in an attempt to bind up a dying religion.
"But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith." (James 2:18; RSV)
It is impossible to prove Paul's stand other than by admitting action, as God states in His Holy Scriptures. To say that you have faith, or that you believe something, without acting on that statement proves nothing. Paul is playing word games. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 43)
James uses the example of Abraham that Paul used, in a valid context.
"Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." (James 2:20-23; RSV)
In these verses, Genesis 15:5-6, is a forerunner of Genesis 22: 1-14, where a more specific blessing is given due to Abraham's faith which proved itself in by his specific actions. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 44)
Peake's Commentary agrees with this conclusion, and carries the proof even further. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 1024: 895d)
Faith, yes, surely not works alone, but works are always active when faith is involved or there is nothing. Abraham's faith was always accompanied by his works, and it was necessary or God would not have tested him to prove his faith. The Interpreter's Bible, puts it perfectly, and in a simple statement.
"This (vs. 23) is how Gen. 15:6 must be understood!" (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 45) What startles this student, is how scholars can side with Paul's faith without works when eulogizing his words, and then show complete agreement with James.
James also brings in Rahab's works, a work that justified her even though she was a harlot. And he ends with the exclamation, "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead." (James 2:26; RSV)
Paul has spoken about the various parts of the body and how one is interconnected with the other. One cannot operate properly without the other, and yet Paul attempts to separate the two parts of the body that are absolutely essential to each other. One does not function at all without the other.
Paul must wither in the face of such an argument, but this author is not done yet. James obviously knows that the tongue is the most dangerous part of the body. And he implies that one who makes no mistakes is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body. (James 3:2; RSV)
Paul has been seen throughout this entire study as one whose word is the only one to be accepted. He is faultless in his philosophy and in his understanding of God's mind. These are his own words, are they not? His followers are to accept no other gospel, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:7-8; RSV)
James is aware of Paul's work, and the power of his words. For this reason, the very first line of this section bears a warning which Jesus himself declared in his ministry. And even more to the point.
"Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness." (James 3:1; RSV)
"Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:19; RSV)
Jesus speaks of 'works', doing. He speaks of teaching men to disregard and ignore God's Law. Between Paul and Jesus? I choose Jesus!
If James is not speaking of Paul and his unbridled tongue, I cannot imagine what he is referring to. His statements bring bitter truth to the fore, and are examples of what this student has attempted to point out as flaws in Paul's character.
"But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice." (James 3:15-16; RSV)
James has an eye for understanding character. No better picture could have been drawn of the man, Paul. His own words have exemplified contradiction, hypocrisy, jealousy, and the desire to see men cursed. We have seen abuse of his power, misuse of his authority for personal gain and the preaching of a gospel that even Jesus' words oppose. And as children who have been beguiled by the words of the serpent, just like Eve, the church has accepted it hook, line, and sinker.
James goes on to preach once again against the rich! Surely not all the rich are evil; surely not all the rich are unsaved, therefore, James must have someone, or some group, in mind. In the midst of this we are made aware of the mind of the author. He is convinced, as was every one else, that Jesus' return was about to take place.
"You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the lord is at hand." (James 5:8; RSV)
James has already spoken of asking God with complete faith. Now he brings it up again in a most pointed manner.
"Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." (James 5:13-15; RSV)
All these things are understood in the condition that it must be God's will, and no one, including Paul, has a knowledge of His mind. But here, the theologians make a most perceptive statement.
It is common knowledge that where profound faith exists, extraordinary cures occur. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 12: Page 71)
James ends with a familiar Jewish belief.
"My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20; RSV)
Paul has had many problems, serious setbacks that have caused him grief. Accusations have been made against him, not unlike those at Jerusalem. There he denied all, but he bent to the will of the Twelve and went through the purification ritual to assert his innocence. Now the same insinuations are being made again, namely that the apostolic authority he claimed for himself was false. It was said that he was arrogant and self-seeking, "...a weighty letter writer but an ineffectual and contemptible speaker." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 966: 844e)
Paul was being charged as being a liar, and that when he refused financial aid from the Corinthian congregation, he was plotting to get their money through his underlings. They said, "...got the better of you by guile." (II Corinthians 12:16.) He was not a true apostle. Paul, who could, "...speak in tongues better than you all." (I Corinthians 14:18), and told of visions which no one else had witnessed or could verify (Acts 9:3; I Cor. 9:1; II Corinthians 12:2 ), and that he was mentally unbalanced. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Pages 271-272)
Here, in II Corinthians Paul gives the fourth version of his, 'Damascus' vision. Was Festus right? This student would prefer to believe that Paul was 'crazy as a fox,' shrewd, an egomaniac, but 'mentally unbalanced'?
Of his excellence with words we have proof, about his skill as a speaker we know nothing, except what he tells us. His self-proclaimed apostleship, only one of many other items, is highly questionable, especially when it is agreed that during Paul's lifetime the commission of 'apostle' was restricted to Jesus' disciples.
As we have seen by his own words, Paul is overly authoritative, brutal and inconsiderate when it came to dealing with people, one easily consigned to 'rewriting' God's Holy Scriptures for his own interests and without regard to their original context, one who was manipulative and always interested in his gospel, his authority, his standing within his congregations, his work, his suffering, his calling, his titles.
He would accept no picture of Jesus other than his own limited image. He espoused a brilliant theology of his own conjectured images, and he would accept no gospel other than his own, not that of the Twelve and Jesus' own brother, not even that of an Angel of God. This goes beyond vanity!
Of evidence, we have seen how he has taken credit for his own sense of mission by abandoning Ananias. He claimed that the founding of certain congregations were his own when Barnabas, Peter, and others had actually started them. He wrote to congregations long established, that he had never even visited, as though he were their master.
He was quick to rid himself of those who dared question his teachings and his 'authority' such as Ananias, John Mark and Barnabas. And he moved with great dexterity to reaffirm his unquestioned authority when Timothy, Titus, Cephas, and Apollos became more popular with certain congregations where they had preached, than he had been.
We have his own words to confirm these charges. He was challenged more than twice by his own congregations, by the Apostles, and by the elders of the Jerusalem Church. The charges that were made against him by the so-called, Judiazers, are confirmed by Paul's own words. He taught others to abandon the Law, and he acted in contrary fashion to them himself, and to his purported calling as , Nazarite.
He manufactured a sacrament based on the blood offering of a human sacrifice, and openly induced others to use it in direct defiance of his agreement with the mother Church concerning Gentile admission into the faith.
And last, we must consider once again that at no time did Paul have witnesses to his 'spiritual' encounters and visions. On the other hand, Jesus had witnesses at every encounter.
At the baptism, John was present along with the two or three witnesses necessary at every baptism. When Jesus went up onto the mount and spoke with the great prophets, he was not alone. He took Peter, James, and John with him that there might be witnesses to the transfiguration. Nothing that he did was done in secret or alone.
So wherein did Paul's trouble lie? The name of the person, or persons, who challenged him this time, is not known. There is much conjecture, but theologians refuse to indict the Apostles because to commit to one or another would mean denying the authority of Jesus' disciples, or turning on their own prodigy, Paul.
The Interpreter's Bible, speaks of those who came to, 'deliberately' undermine Paul's work, but they refuse to comment on who these individuals were. The reference is listed anyway, to provide others with opposing comments. In all probability, they were from the Disciples and the Elders of the Jerusalem Church. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 266)
Realistically, it was discovered by the Twelve and the Jerusalem elders that Paul had lied to them concerning his teachings about the Law, they had to take action. He had profaned the rite of purification! Missionaries or preachers would have been sent out to replace Paul and to rectify the damage he had done in preaching 'his own gospel', and for his heretical acts.
As a result, Timothy was scorned by the congregation, probably because Paul had been indicted as a false teacher, along with other wrongdoing. But this man was not about to give up, and as was the custom with him, instead of going to Corinth himself he sent his 'agents', namely Titus, to handle this dangerous business.
But consider this, for Paul is about to reveal himself point blank. If Timothy had been rejected, it is hard to conceive of Titus going to that rebellious congregation by himself. It is more than likely that others went with him, but no such assemblage has been mentioned yet. It is necessary for us to look ahead for the true story, and Paul betrays himself once more by his own words.
"I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by guile. Did I take advantage of you through any of those I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him..." (II Corinthians 12:16-18; RSV)
So, Titus did not go alone, and who was this, 'brother'? He goes unnamed, a shadowy, mysterious figure. But this is not the end of the matter, for as we shall see, Titus did not go with two, but with several. Not alone, but with a group of Paul's trusted inner circle.
We must be concerned by the intense manner in which Paul was challenged. The congregation was quite vocal in their dissent, and yet, without explanation, without knowing how Titus, and 'the brother', subdued their anger, they suddenly turn and accept Paul and his entire message.
This student must assume that though human nature is fickle and ever vacillating, force of some type, threats of violence, had to have been used. Paul had grown strong, powerful beyond anyone's understanding and he demanded, contrary to his 'Christ-like' teachings, that, "...they punish the open rebel who was leading the opposition." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 266)
There was no forgiveness in Paul, he wanted his revenge, and he wanted those at fault punished.
The Corinthians could not control those from outside the congregation. The Interpreter's Bible, agrees with this. Paul certainly could do nothing from where he was, so in outrageous anger, he demands that the leader of the Corinthian congregation be punished. Paul would have his pound of flesh. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 266)
So malevolent was this man that when he could not punish those directly responsible, he made a scapegoat of the most available personage. In this case, it was the leader of the congregation. With these things noted, and proven, we move into the body of the letter itself.
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God..." (II Corinthians 1:1; RSV)
We have touched this subject before, but the interpreter's have chosen to make an open statement concerning the name, "Jesus Christ." It is necessary to have other comment on this subject.
The word Christ (Christos) is a title, an adjective, meaning, as did "Messiah" in Hebrew, "anointed one." It was a title for Jesus; he was 'the anointed one' of God, promised as the people's redeemer. But Paul changed this and used it as a proper name. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 277)
Once again Paul lays claim to a God given commission, in a manner which no one can argue with, without witness or proof. Theologians tell us the truth of this matter even though they honor Paul. It lies in the fact that the specific title, as we have noted before, has been 'generalized' by Paul himself.
"Paul is careful to say that his apostolic status was conferred by the will of God." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 968: 846a)
But even, The Interpreter's Bible's, scholars would seem to decline the commission, stating, "...and finally in later times was limited to the twelve (Matt. 10:12)..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 276)
Paul instantly shifts into a confounding game of words which ply between suffering and comfort, comfort and suffering. Once bewildered by this barrage Paul goes on in what must appear to be a babble of words that in the end have no apparent meaning to his purpose. And what is Paul's purpose?
He speaks of his plans to visit them, plans gone astray, and then describes the unfinished visitation as his own resolve. He explains that he decided not to visit them. As Paul says, "...it was to spare you that I refrained from coming to Corinth...For I made up my mind not to pay you another painful visit." (II Corinthians 1:23-2:1; RSV)
"But had he proved fickle in altering his plans? Not 'fickle' in a worldly sense, which means answering 'Yes' and 'No' in the same breath." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 968: 846c)
Paul finally gets to the meat of his 'purpose,' for having demanded the punishment of the congregation's leader because of the rebellion, he finds that the congregation has followed his orders and he says that, "...this punishment by the majority is enough." (II Corinthians 2:6; RSV)
Why has Paul sought his 'pound of flesh', and then recanted only after the punishment has been inflicted, possibly gone too far? His reason is hideous, ridden with a sense of his own personal power.
"For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything." (II Corinthians 2:9; RSV)
The King James is even more explicit in its wording, and may well ring with a louder bell than the RSV.
"For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye are obedient in all things."
Obedient to whom, to God? No, obedient to Paul!
Something out of the ordinary had to have happened for these people to be turned in their moment of rebellion against a tyrant, to turn on a prominent member of their own congregation. Why should he have been punished? Had he failed Paul in allowing the dissension to take place? Unfortunately, we will never know, for these things Paul kept secret in his own heart.
Paul demands punishment, Paul tests the congregation. Paul demands their obedience, in fact, he insists on it. Obedience to God, to Christ? No, in this case, to himself, to know 'whether they are obedient in all things!'
Interpreter's believe that Paul had to make an example of the cause of the rebellion. Was the leader of the rebellion the leader of the congregation? We are not told that he was. (The Interpreters Bible; Volume 10: Page 296)
The entire matters reeks of a malicious spirit. The next statement Paul makes is heavy with ego, as though a Christ-like figure were speaking. It leaves a bad taste in ones mouth, for he sounds almost as though he had nothing to forgive, even though, for a moment, he was afraid that he might have gone too far.
"Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake..." (II Corinthians 2:10; RSV)
Paul really doesn't believe he has done anything wrong, and he even speaks as if he had anything to forgive. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 296)
And then Paul makes a declaration for the ages, one I am afraid that we have all come to regret.
"...to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs." (II Corinthians 2:11; RSV)
If Paul and the church are so aware of the Evil Ones 'designs,' how is it that we find our world plunged into darkness following a tangle of traditions, doctrine, and erroneous information? If Paul was so aware of Satan's 'designs,' how is it that the 'church' has become a faltering institution, with a two thousand year past as dark and unscrupulous as any we find in history?
Paul had an opportunity to evangelize openly in Tro'as, but he was so concerned with the situation in Corinth, and anxious to get some news from Titus concerning his 'position' with that congregation, that he left. Paul himself states that, "...a door was opened for me in the Lord." (II Corinthians 2:12; RSV) (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 298)
But Paul decides that his own personal business is more important. Perhaps God was testing Paul to see if he was 'obedient in all things.' And once again, claiming a 'commission' from God, Paul derides the Law once more, proving that the claims made against him in Jerusalem were true.
"... our sufficiency is from God, who has qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life." (II Corinthians 3:5-6; RSV)
The written code is the Law of Moses. Paul states that it kills.
The New Covenant, is another invention of Paul's Hellenistic philosophy. He places Jesus at its head and claims that in it, Jesus rebuked God's written law. It is doctrine in the Christian religion.
But what did Jesus say? "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself it cannot stand." (Mark 3:4) And I tell you in like manner, How can Jesus cast out God? If a kingdom is divided against itself, it cannot stand.
This student has made a claim that Paul misused, misquoted, God's Holy Scriptures, to suit his own purposes. Some proof text has been brought into evidence, but now we must conclude with a stronger argument and the opinion of theologians.
"Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters of stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses' face because of its brightness, fading as this was.... Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all... Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor." (II Corinthians 3:7-13; RSV)
The least of all students knows that Paul has misused God's Holy Scripture here. This is not what the story in Exodus relates to us, nor is the meaning that Paul gives to it the truth. Moses' face was lit with a light that came from speaking with God! The 'dispensation of death' Paul speaks of is the, Ten Commandments, and he dares to say that it is fading, that God's work is temporary and incomplete? Those are his words, it must be his intent.
By, The Law, Paul means not only the ceremonial functions, but the entire legal canon established by the Pentateuch and embodied in Judaism. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 307)
Whether we agree with Paul, or not, the fact is that he put down the Law of God, and that premise is also understood by Christian scholars.
"When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been speaking with God. And when Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him...And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out..." (Exodus 34: 29-35; RSV)
Exodus 34:29-35, tells us that the face of Moses shone when he came down from Mount Sinai. In order not to frighten the people, he put a veil on his face. This brightness soon faded. Paul sees this as a sign that although the old covenant was God's, it has now been, "...superseded by the greater and permanent order of the new covenant..."
Paul purposely vilified God's Word, it is in black and white. And in the 'New Covenant,' an invention of Paul's mind, he implies that God's work is transient and insubstantial. Then he has the audacity to write, "We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word..." (II Corinthians 4:2; RSV) which he has just done!
No one is so innocent, no one is so blind that they cannot see this deception, yet Paul is ready for that argument too. If his gospel seems wrong, an aberration of his own mind, then it is because "...it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers..." (II Corinthians 4:4; RSV)
Paul's opinion, stated in an argument that cannot be reasoned or disproved.
Of course, that is the answer. If we do not believe Paul, then we have been blinded by the god of this world. If we dare to contend with him, to discourse with him about his message, then we are to be thrown to the evil one for the destruction of our bodies.
In God's name, was there no one to object to this chicanery? Was there no one to object to his lies, to challenge the evil of such a man? These devices are maniacal.
Even more depressing is Paul's obsession with death, it underlies everything he preaches, and for his gospel Jesus must be dead, that human sacrifice must be made so that we may receive our justification through a ritual of sacramental blood. (II Corinthians 4:10-12; 5:14-15; RSV..."always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.")
And if it has not been mentioned before, this is the hope and desire of the pagan religions that surrounded Paul and his world. To realize and share in the death of their god, will bring them their share of his immortality when that god has risen.
Now it is Paul who has written on "faith without works" being sufficient to justify us. Our faith is sufficient for us to be redeemed, so if good works do not serve for our salvation, by the same argument, bad works can not serve to condemn us! You cannot have one without the other in a dualistic plane of existence, yet Paul contradicts himself.
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body." (II Corinthians 5:10; RSV)
In explanation, the theologians have no choice but to be explicit.
"At that time each one will receive a judgment based on and in accordance with what he has done in the body." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 332)
It is no wonder that the entire Corinthian congregation rebelled. This student is amazed that the others did not stand shaking their heads in confusion at the morbid hypocrisy and discrepancies that came from Paul. Earlier, Paul said that Jesus was born like any other man, therefore he came into the world in sin, subject to the Law.
One thing is certain, Paul had no concept of the virgin birth nor would he have accepted the tradition. The Immaculate Conception would have been heresy to one steeped in his own religious theories, especially where a woman was concerned.
Paul had no knowledge of the historical birth and life of Jesus, but is forced to postulate concerning his appearance in the world. It is no wonder that the disciples, who knew the living Christ and his family, his brothers and sisters, and his mother, Mary, were intent on stopping Paul's outrageous teachings.
"God 'sent forth his Son', a man born like other men, and, being a Jew, subject to the law (cf. Phil. 2:6,7)." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 977: 853h; Ref: Galatians 4:4)
But now, Paul says, "For our sake he made him to sin who knew no sin..." (II Corinthians 5:21; RSV)
Paul's theology is so complex that even he is constantly tripped up by it, yet the church today has accepted it right down to the last exclamation mark. Of all that is practiced as sacrament in the church today, of the dogma that dictates to our religious practices, all of it comes from the mind of Saul of Tarsus. On these vacillating theories we dare to set the foundation of our faith and to justify the horrors that it has caused to be committed through the centuries.
Paul goes on to convince the Corinthians to refrain from existing with unbelievers, to be separate from them, not to associate with them. There is obviously to be no outreach from within the congregation to those outside. Is this Paul's task alone, and that of his 'select' organization? This is not stated, but how could they possibly witness to unbelievers if they are restrained from having anything to do with them?
It would have been a different story if Paul had acted on Jesus' instructions to, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel..." (Matthew 10:5-6; RSV)
Jesus never relaxed his command concerning the Gentiles. But once this had been accomplished by Paul, he tells the congregation not to deal with unbelievers (do what I say, not what I do). His 'apostleship' has grown so powerful that he completely disregards Jesus' instructions, and in the same breath denies Jesus' command to, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations." which the church today constantly mouths as its prime duty. (Matthew 28:19)
In trying to persuade these people to do his bidding, Paul uses the Old Testament again, but this time he combines six separate sets of verses, which are unrelated, as though they were one. And they were delivered to the Jews originally and not to any Christian group, nor did they ever have any such sect in mind. Once again, Paul uses God's Word to his own purpose.
II Corinthians 6:16-18, are made up of, Leviticus 26:11-12; Ezekial 37:27; Isaiah 52:11 and Ezekekial 20:34. Verse 18; is a combination of, II Samuel 7:8, 14; and Isaiah43:6. See: (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 354)
At this point, Paul again denies that he has done anything dishonest. To illustrate this we must inject remarks between scripture references and they will be in italics to avoid confusion.
"We have wronged no one..." The Congregational leader though he had not been one of the dissenters? The abasement of Peter in public? John Mark? Ananias? Barnabas in taking credit for his work? And women in general, to note just a few examples. Those he left behind on several occasions when he had started trouble, and then left them to face the music for outrages he had committed. (II Corinthians 7:2; RSV)
"We have corrupted no one..." Those who were taught by Paul to ignore the Law of God on the basis of his teachings and his actions! Those he led into worshiping on the basis of a theology, conceived in his own mind, that made the Lord God secondary and the offering of a human sacrifice, primary.
"We have taken advantage of no one." He constantly threatened in his letters to send his emissaries to see that 'they were obedient,' and on many occasions did send his select staff to check on their conduct, and to oversee their activities. He sent Titus, and later admits that a mysterious 'brother' went with him, to silence the Corinthians. It reeks of the use of intimidation and fear. (II Corinthians 2:11; RSV)
As if it were not enough for us to make these few points, Paul opens the door wide enough to prove that our suspicions are correct.
"...so our boasting before Titus has proved true. And his heart goes out all the more to you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, and the fear and trembling with which you received him." (II Corinthians 7:14-15; RSV)
Do the hammer blows fall on deaf ears? "the obedience of you all", "the fear and trembling..." And Paul's modern day supporters reckon this reaction as, "they received him with a fear that was due to a guilty conscience." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 362-363)
From what has already been disclosed, with the evidence we have in hand so far, this student would not infer that their consciences were guilty, but that they were bullied by Titus and his associates into submitting before the strength of Paul's threats.
Now the fact that Paul has been victorious over this congregation, enables him to bring us the offering of the Macedonian church as an example as to what is expected of the Corinthians. No ifs-ands-or-buts.
"Now as you excel in everything-in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in your love for us-see that you exceed in this gracious work also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine." (II Corinthians 8:7-8; RSV)
Paul has control, Paul is obviously mistrusting and vengeful. Having threatened the Corinthians, Paul uses another congregation as a slap in the face, and then says it is not a command? Yet they are to prove their loyalty and love? If they are Christ's, they need prove nothing to Paul. The more Paul writes, the more his church appears to be a series of cults in captivity. But you must decide for yourselves.
Paul uses the Church in Macedonia at Thessalonica, Philippi and Beroea, as an example.. These congregations were in abject poverty, yet they gave generously from what they did not have. It was Titus' job to make sure that the congregation at Corinth contributed in the same manner. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 971: 847k)
Giving to the plenty out of nothing, joyfully? If one were to read between the lines, it might sound as though Paul bankrupted the church at Macedonia of what little it had. And if he sent Titus, with 'a friend' or friends as it turns out, we are given a bit more light into the truth of this also.
And then, at last, Paul writes the truth for all to see. Titus is to go, and that with him, "...we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel, and not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us... As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker in your service; and as for our brethren, they are messengers (apostles) of the churches, the glory of Christ. So give proof, before the churches, of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.." (II Corinthians 8:16-23; RSV)
Titus is tactfully mentioned. But he is not alone, "...two others are going with him, both unnamed in the present text (but were their names erased at some early stage?)." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 972: 847m)
Not one, not two, but several assistants are to accompany him on this journey. Brethren, plus the brother, plus, Titus means 'several'. The plot thickens, for the names remain unknown to this day, but why the secrecy? Would they have been indicted at a later date due to their activities within the body of the church?
For now, this student cannot but take these words as a threat, and it is impossible to know what fear and trepidation the Corinthian people must have felt. Paul's strong arm had also grown very long. What may seem as innocent bantering concerning this enormous collection of money from the several congregations, also bears close scrutiny. Paul's continuing suspicion and 'threats' concerning this congregation goes on. He speaks of their earlier enthusiasm having been announced to other congregations, and then the hammer falls.
"...and your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brethren so that our boasting about you may not prove vain in this case, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be; lest if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we be humiliated.... 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)
What Paul sent, was a gang. This student does not need an interpreter, a theologian, or an attorney, to point out extortion when it is thrown up in his face!
To extort: to wrench out; to twist; to obtain from a person by force or undue or illegal power or ingenuity.
Extortion: The act or practice of extorting esp. money or other property; the offense committed by an official engaging in such practice. (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary; G. & C. Merriam Company: Page 406 )
God may love a cheerful giver, as Paul ministers the word, but somehow the meaning is lost on this unhappy congregation. They have been 'strong-armed', 'muscled', into obedience, humiliated, and threatened, but now they are to be cheerful givers? This student believes that the biblical account of Paul's rise to power leaves much to be desired, especially since all we have is his own word. Fortunately, he talked (wrote) too much.
"Under the test of this service, you will glorify God by your obedience in acknowledging the gospel of Christ..." (II Corinthians 9:13; RSV)
This line attests to the fact that Paul would not be overruled or disobeyed. Unwittingly, he also sets up the means of the medieval church to commit every atrocity of which it has been found guilty.
As the remainder of his writing shows us, Paul uses his mastery of words to conciliate the Corinthians, and ends by using open threats.
"...I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold to you when I am away! I beg you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of acting in worldly fashion... We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience..." (II Corinthians 10:1-6; RSV)
This student, a layman at law, would dearly love to prosecute this case. Even though Paul attempts to use 'wordy' confusion to cover his actual intent, his ego is such that he must boast of his use of authority and power. He thereby exposes the guilt of his actions..
A church, even in Paul's day was joined at one's own will, it was not compulsive, nor need it be permanent. But Paul, once again, must protect his authority and to hold sway over this congregation as he has others.
"For if some one comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough. I think that I am not in the least inferior to these superlative apostles." (II Corinthians 11:4-5; RSV)
There is no question that Paul is talking about the, Disciples! He is still fighting to maintain his self-appointed 'commission' of apostle, and we can in no way deter from the position that those he is comparing himself to are, The Twelve. He speaks against a gospel they might preach, he speaks against the Spirit that they might give, and they teach a Jesus that they beheld in life, worked with, cried with, slaved with, and knew joy with. Paul would deny all that.
But then Paul admits that one of the accusations made against him is true!
"Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not in knowledge..." (II Corinthians 11:6; RSV)
One by one, every charge made against him is proven by his own words!
Since the next lines of his letter have to do with 'false apostles', and we have no idea who he might be referring to, little comment is better than much. We would hope that he is not speaking of the Twelve, as he contends that they are, "...false prophets, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ." (II Corinthians 11:13; RSV) (Well, of course he is speaking of the Disciples.)
However, we may inquire as to where Paul got the knowledge for his next statement! Where in the Bible is this statement verified? It would appear that as he does quite often, Paul makes use of scripture that is not there.
"And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." (II Corinthians 11:14; RSV)
Was Paul also ignorant of Lucifer's creation? Was he ignorant of that one's authority and power? And he studied at the feet of Gameleil? (Ezekial 28:1-8; Isaiah 14:12-15)
And if Paul is not self-centered, an egomaniac, then what he writes in the next of his letter is a lie! Even though he uses the guise of writing as a fool, for the congregations benefit, what he says he is deadly serious about.
"Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one... with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death." (II Corinthians 11:22-23; RSV)
All this is said in 'foolishness', 'talking like a mad man,' yet he means every word of it, and his other letters prove it, for he has made the same claims before. He is absolute in his own sacrifice and how much greater it is than those of Jesus' Disciples. And no matter what he speaks of, or how he speaks about his trials and tribulations, it is always in the first person. Even when his speech is as Allegory, "...I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago... whether in the body or out of... this man was caught up into Paradise..." (II Corinthians 12:2-3; RSV)
And he considers his 'thorn in the flesh' a, "...messenger of Satan." (II Corinthians 12;7; RSV)
Where is the vision at Damascus? Where is the healing of Ananias? Where is this work of God in him? Now it is Satan. Paul says too much about his eyes for us to assume anything else was his problem, but why from Satan? He claims that his sight was taken because of the vision, and was healed after the 'vision.' It is obvious that he was not! So it would not have been of Satan, unless the vision was of Satan. Having made no explanation for this failing before, Paul now gives us an excuse as to why he was not healed, when he said he had been.
"Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (II Corinthians 12:8-9; RSV)
Then how is it of Satan? It will have to do because that is all he will give us. It is as good as anything else he might have said, except years ago when he should have admitted that he had not been healed. But immediately, he is back attacking the Disciples again.
"For I am not at all inferior to these superlative apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you in all patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works." (II Corinthians 12:11-12; RSV)
This is the first time that we have heard anything about exorcisms, healings, miraculous feedings, or the raising of the dead, in Paul's ministry. It is the first indication that a power over the natural world, i.e., storms, water, had been exhibited in Paul's ministry. Where are they exclaimed in his letters? Certainly these were the powers that the Twelve exhibited after being given the Spirit by the living Christ, and at Pentecost.
"And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity." (Matthew 10:1; RSV) (Acts 2:5-13; 38)
In ending his letter, Paul could have healed many wounds by kind words and soothing promises, but this was not the nature of the man. Instead, he begins, not by denying the allegations against him, but by laughing at this congregation. In effect he is saying, 'Hey, you may know it, but you can't prove it. And if you can prove it, there is nothing you can do about it.''
"This is the third time I am coming to you. Any charge must be sustained by the evidence of two or three witnesses. I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them- since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me." (II Corinthians 13;1-3; RSV)
Actually he says that Christ is speaking, 'through him,' which is what this student understands from this statement. More important, it is part of a threat, a threat that comes very close to suggesting an act of violent when face to face with them.
"I write this while I am away from you, in order that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority which the Lord has given me..." (II Corinthians 13:10; RSV)
As for the conclusion of this letter, we allow Jesus to speak for himself.
"He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23:11-12; RSV)
"If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all." (Mark 9:35; RSV)
"... for he who is least among you all is the one who is great." (Luke 9: 48; RSV)
Romans, is the longest letter that Paul had written, and we would hope, of a different tenor than his others. He was writing to a congregation that had never met him, one that if they knew anything about him, had received that information from rumor and hearsay. We do not know whether they had heard the worst or the best, but at this point we are searching for anything that would speak in Paul's favor.
The study of this letter, through its introduction on the part of professional theologians, also gives us greater insight into the claims Paul had made concerning his creation of the majority of existing churches during that time. Depending on which authority you read, the letter dates somewhere between 54 A.D. and 59 A.D.
There is no evidence in Acts, or Romans, that Paul founded the congregation in Rome. In fact, until the last, he had never been to that city. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 941: 315f)
As at the church of Antioch, an influx of Hellenists from Jerusalem originally populated this area. Those who fled the great persecution, appear to have established the first Gentile churches there.. Concerning Acts 11:20, The Interpreter's Bible, enlightens us to the possible truth of the matter.
Those scholars tend to believe there is sufficient proof for us to understand that Paul had nothing to do with preaching the gospel to gentiles in this area of the world. In fact, it was done in many places simply because of the movement of the early Christians. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 145)
We are also told by historians and theologians that Paul was not the corner stone of Greek Christianity. The Hellenistic churches, i.e.; Antioch, Damascus, and Tarsus were the basis upon which Paul did his work. As we have noted before, Paul took credit for the work of other missionaries, namely the Palestinian Church, and also the natural development of various congregations due to the simple movement of a people already based in the religion. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 146)
Indeed, here we have another opinion that validates this student's belief that Paul did, in fact, take credit for the work of others.
As far as Antioch is concerned, our major example, it is closely associated with Peter, even referring to him as its first bishop. Likewise, Barnabas is a far more important figure than Paul in the development of the early church in this city.
Barnabas, already pointed out, was a much more important figure in the early church than he is given credit for. He led the movement which resulted in changing the base of operations for the church from Jerusalem to Antioch. Another point in fact which excludes Paul from the creation of this congregation. Paul occupied a secondary position to Barnabas. In fact, it is possible that Paul's ministry may have owed more than is acknowledged to the motivation of Barnabas. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 147)
Paul's letter to the Romans indicates that the church at Rome was a strong and well-established community before his intended visit there. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 361)
The fact that Paul built his theological concepts on the broad foundation of a Hellenized philosophy, is not surprising. What does draw our criticism of Paul are his statements that he did not build on the work of other men, and that he received nothing either from the Apostles or from others who were involved with him at his earliest known moments. This would appear to be an outright fabrication.
By the time this letter was written, Paul's theology had been fairly well set in his mind. It was to become the very foundation of the Church, upon which virtually all of its doctrine is based. Therefore, when one rebelled against the establishment, they were not only dissenting against that body, but against Paul..
Paul saw Jesus as the means of salvation, not by adherence to his teachings or by following his example, not by his light, his life, or his way, but through his death. As a human sacrifice whose blood atoned for the sins of all mankind.
"It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses..." (Romans 4:25; RSV)
"Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood..." (Romans 5:9; RSV)
He conceived of Jesus as being pre-existent with God at the creation, and that he came to earth in human form as God incarnate, but born as other men through the flesh and into sin. This would seem to negate the purpose of the Virgin Birth, of which he apparently had no concept.
Paul's complex philosophy sees Jesus as being without sin, yet condemns him to sin by being born through a mortal woman, "...into sin." Contradictions abound in his play on words, but only because he is building his 'theology' on the basis of Greek mythological philosophies, existing pagan rituals, and Pharisaic concepts such as 'predestination'.
But not only does Paul create this 'phantom' world from his own flights of imagery, but he imposes on us the 'communion' meal as a sacrament, he creates the 'body of Christ', or, 'the body of believers,' along with innuendoes that are taken from his letters (pre-gospel) and added to the gospels, i.e., "...this do in remembrance of me."
None of this pragmatic thought ever came from the Gospels themselves, or from the Apostles, or the Jerusalem Church. That which we know as the doctrine upon which the Church operates comes to us from Paul, a person whose character is now under dire suspicion, who neither knew the Lord Jesus, his life activities, or his teachings, and who rebelled against the decisions of the Apostles and the Elders of the Jerusalem Church.
Paul, wanted to go to Spain, visiting the church at Rome on the way. But he must first make a visit to Jerusalem. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 358)
Since the need was a pressing one, it amazes this student that it took Paul well over a year to collect the money, let alone deliver it. The crowning fact concerning this great collection is that no where do we have any text, biblical or historical, including third party, indicating that this final trip to Jerusalem was ever made, or that the money was ever delivered.
Keep in mind that Paul has been accused of taking money from the various churches by guile, and after using false pretenses to obtain the money, he kept it. It is as if those in Jerusalem were saying, 'If the collection was for us, where is it?'
A note concerning Paul's economic situation proves quite interesting here. In contemplating Paul's letter, the interpreter's notate the following.
"It is also doubtful that Paul would have been as dependent upon the assistance of the Roman church as this view assumes. We learn from other letters that Paul could have been independent of economic assistance, if necessary." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 359)
Aside from this, an intensive look at Paul's letter has raised other questions in the minds of professional theologians. Why did Paul write to the Roman church at all, and why did he write in the manner that he did. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 358)
After offering their own thoughts concerning these questions, and thinking them quite satisfactory, another question is immediately raised.
It is even more difficult to understand why this is the longest and most technical of all his letters. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 359)
After lengthy study, this student believes the following to be a true answer to these several questions. Paul's own words may well attest to the validity of this opinion.
Paul was a stranger to those in Rome. The Gospel they had received, therefore, was not Paul's but the Gospel as rendered by the Jerusalem Church and the disciples. This would have been in direct contradiction to Pauline dictates. It made necessary a statement of Paul's gospel before his appearance, not only to explain why Paul was going to contest the true Gospel, but to get some idea of the Roman congregation's reaction to it.
From Paul's words we most certainly come to the conclusion that Paul intended to visit them, not as a guest, but as the newly, 'self-appointed' head of that large congregation.
But it is time to look at the letter itself and determine more of the nature of the man, Paul. Obviously, he would put his best foot forward to those he had not yet had time to incline to his way of thinking.
As always, Paul introduces himself as an apostle, thereby making it known that he has a 'commission' that permits him to approach the established church at Rome. He states that he has been set apart, "...for the gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures." (Romans 1:1-2; RSV)
But Paul again uses his own theology, for to him, Jesus is descended from David, "...according to the flesh." This would have been true of any Jew, but it reflects nothing of Jesus' birth or his true ancestry. Born, as he has stated before, in sin, in the flesh, like any other man. But then Paul displays his lack of knowledge, introducing his own Hellenistic understanding where it stands out like a sore thumb.
"...and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead." (Romans 1:4; RSV)
As ordained by God's Holy Spirit, Jesus was designated, 'Son', at his baptism. But once more, Paul deviates from religious history and either deletes the dictates of the gospels, or is ignorant of them.
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17; RSV)
"Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased" (Mark 1:11; RSV)
"Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased." (Luke 3:22; RSV)
"Other ancient authorities read today I Have Begotten thee." (Holy Bible; Revised Standard Version; Collins' Clear-Type Press; 1972; Luke 3:22:Footnote k Page 57 (The most ancient text read, "This day have I begotten thee.")
"Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee," or again, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son." (Hebrews 1:5; RSV)
However, this has been dropped from most modern readings since it is in direct contradiction to established dogma. Most accept the fact that Jesus was born God's son, chosen before his birth as Nazarite, the Christ.
Every gospel agrees, but in any case, Paul is oblivious to God's determination for Jesus. And no matter what explanation our twentieth century theologians wish to use for Paul's words, when referencing Holy Scripture, he is wrong.
Another note is relevant here concerning Jesus' 'sonship' in Paul's mind. Did Paul consider pre-existence, and a 'begotten sonship' in his theology? This student would deny the last since Paul considered Jesus as having existed with God from the beginning. His statements concerning Jesus' natural birth also preclude such an idea. Paul's own words say he was, "...designated son of God... by his resurrection." However, pre-existence is another story.
The term 'son' is an existing, messianic title. Paul thought of Christ as pre-existent with God. Galatians 4:4, seems to be a reference to this belief. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 382)
At this point, having already determined that Paul in no way held to a view of the 'virgin' birth, it must be pointed out that at this period in time, Jesus' 'sonship' was not only adoptionist, but occurred after his birth. Adoptionist, means that Jesus became the Son of God at some point after the beginning of his earthly life. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 382)
Again, in contradiction to Jesus' teachings, despite the fact that he is addressing himself to a people that he does not know, Paul finds it necessary to impress them with his authority.
"...Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about obedience to the faith for the sake of his name..." (Romans 1:5; RSV)
"We", of course, means Paul. 'To bring about obedience', we have come to learn, means by force of arms or intimidation. And he brings this to bear on the Roman church, "...including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ." (Romans 1:5-6; RSV)
In all honesty the word used here for 'obedience' is, 'upakoen'. (Bullinger; A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English & Greek New Testament)
This means to attain obedience as a result of attentive hearing. We drew our own conclusion, not from this definition, but from Paul's activities in other congregations, including the one at Corinth.
The insinuation seems rather obvious! Paul continues, desiring to share with that congregation, but his intent slips into the open for those who have come to know his method of operation.
"For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine." (Romans 1:11-12; RSV)
The Interpreters comment is concerned with this most revealing statement.
At this point we know nothing about the Roman church or the manner in which it was managed. Most assuredly, it had not been subjected to the dictatorial administration that the Pauline churches suffered. Paul seems to think that they have suffered some deficiency. In truth, he intimates that he must see to their instruction himself. The interpreter's seem to feel that Paul may have been justified in his attitude, though they do not see fit to share any knowledge they may have of the church at Rome's history. It seems they are simply accepting Paul's word as 'gospel', and are making an uncalled for assumption. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 388)
It begins to reek of the spider and the fly; Paul corrects himself lest he appear too forward, even pretentious. He suddenly leaves the subject of the gospel he has been ordained to preach, and goes into a dissertation concerning God and the worship of idols. He then subjects his readers to homosexuality and the unnumbered sins of man that Paul the righteous has catalogued.
To break this letter down into its many subjects is useless to our study, and rather than be confused by Paul's efforts to do just that, we will reserve our efforts to the major points that he intends to make. Be aware that he is operating as he always did, to create confusion with word games and then, without warning, hit home with a statement of what the gospel of God commands through Paul. Acceptance of a simple statement comes with a sigh of relief from the beleaguered.
Paul who preaches 'faith without works' contradicts himself again.
"For he will render to every man according to his works." (Romans 2:6; RSV)
Paul said that no one can be justified under the law, yet to the Romans, Jew first, Gentile next, he makes the following statement.
"All who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified." (Romans 2:12-13; RSV)
Has Paul come 'round to sanity? He is speaking of faith with acts; works. He is finally speaking of instruction that comes from Jesus. Fear not, for Paul discloses the fact that God's punishment will come when, "...according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus." (Romans 2:16; RSV)
Here, when he had the opportunity to reference his gospel directly to Jesus' teachings, Paul raises Jesus to empirical heights by contending that he will be the Judge of all things on the Day of Judgment. The gospels say that too? Paul's theology and writings came before the written gospels!
Paul cannot help but trip himself up. His play of words, based on his own inventions, continues to go out of control. He jumps from judgment to a glorious poly-philosophical statement of circumcision-uncircumcision, to the equality of Jew and Gentile. Then in Chapter 3, vss. 10-18, Paul uses a string of quotations from the Old Testament which invoke a strong reaction from theologians and interpreter's alike, all scholars of the word.
"This conclusion, is based on a string of quotations from Psalms 14:1-2; 53:102; 5:9; 140:3; 10:7; Isaiah 59:7-8; Ps. 36:1. These scriptures are a free translation of the LXX, ands are used, "...without reference to their various contexts." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 425)
How much does it take to understand what this person is about? He obviously had no fear of God for he introduces himself and 'his' gospel with a corrupt use of God's word. And repudiating what he said not moments ago, Paul advises us that, "...no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law since through the law comes knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20; RSV)
This is an absolute contradiction to what he has just said. If we are to be judged by the things we have done, and we have done them properly, we should be judged accordingly, with reward. Paul says this is impossible because God's Law leads us to sin!
The knowledge of sin came from Adam and Eve when they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. ("You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it lest you die.' But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:4-5; RSV)
The Law came from God, through Moses, to protect man from sin. It was a contract between God and man that came as a gift for those who wished to become God's children. It was upheld by Jesus in its sum total, and he practiced it accordingly. No where does Jesus abrogate The Law.
It is amazing that not one person with a knowledge of God's Holy Scriptures contended with Paul about 'his' gospel. One good Jew, one righteous mind, could have preserved the true faith of the Apostles and the Jerusalem church. One keen intellect within any of these congregations could have avoided centuries of terror and bloodshed, but no one spoke up, there was none, not one.
Paul now moves to another familiar theme in his theology. Having debauched the Law, he begins an epic, oft repeated, concerning justification by faith without works. With the effort, he repudiates the statements he has just made concerning the Law, for Paul continues in his efforts to be all things to all men. When one attempts this impossible task it is necessary to compromise one's ethics and values, which Paul seems to do without effort or conscience.
"For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised because of their faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law." (Romans 3:28-31; RSV)
Whether the letter of James was written for the purpose of disputing II Corinthians or Romans, is not important. The fact is, James makes small work of Paul's theology and the reason is plain. God does not have a double standard. He does not attempt to please everyone by basing His judgments on what they believe. And that is exactly what Paul has just stated.
He has set one criterion for all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike. It is for us to follow God's desires, not for God to follow ours.
Jesus did not come preaching two messages, but one. Jesus did not uphold two laws, but one. According to Paul, God will treat with each of us according to what we believe, God will comply. With two sets of rules, it would be interesting to see how Paul intends to uphold the Law. In this manner, however, Paul pleases everyone, everyone can be included, accommodated. All each must do is swear allegiance to Paul and state that they have faith in Jesus.
The agreement he made with the disciples is ignored, it is violated without a thought.
Paul insists on using Abraham as his example which is a poor choice at best, as James and Holy Scripture have already proven. While attempting to qualify Paul's use of Genesis, the interpreter's make a definitive point.
The argument that Abraham was justified by his faith hinges on Genesis 15:6. "Believed", in the original passage, "...is far from including all that Paul meant by "faith". (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume9: Page 439)
Of course, Paul is using the LXX and not the original text, the Masoretic Text. He is using a Greek translation of the Hebrew which could not possibly render a proper meaning for this passage. However, The Interpreter's Bible, insists that Paul does not distort the Greek, which is menial and far more limited than the Hebrew. And just a few verses ago, the same scholars insist that Paul misused the Greek to his own advantage without any regard for its original context. However, it is pointed out that Paul normally used the LXX.
"While Philo and his Alexandrian coreligionists looked upon the translation of the Seventy as a work of inspired men, the Palestinian Rabbis subsequently considered the day on which the Septuagint was completed as one of the most unfortunate in Israel's history, seeing that the Torah could never be adequately translated." (The Holy Scriptures; Masoretic Text; Jewish Publication Society: Preface: Page V)
(Keep in mind that Jesus was a Palestinian Jew!)
Paul further asserts that Abraham was reckoned as righteous before he was circumcised, and therefore, "He received circumcision as a sign or seal of the righteousness which he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believed without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them..." (Romans 4:11: RSV)
Aside from being absolutely incorrect, it pays no mind to Jewish tradition and doctrine. Paul has been caught in a 'rut' of his own making by stating that Abraham is the one 'righteous' soul, who by his act of circumcision, serves that all in him are 'righteous' without circumcision. This was not why God commanded Abraham to be circumcised. The Holy Scriptures tell us this very plainly.
It is unfortunate for both Paul and his supporters, then and today, that they failed to heed God's Word. Righteousness did not satisfy Abraham's salvation, but merely made him acceptable to receive God's perpetual covenant. As, The Interpreter's Bible, was so kind to point out, "Needless to say, "believed" in the original passage is far from including all that Paul meant by "faith"..."
"And God said unto Abraham; 'And as for thee, thou shalt keep my covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt Me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any foreigner, that is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised; and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken My covenant." (Genesis 17:9-14; Masoretic Text)
Jesus was circumcised. And if we talk of those bought with money, let us talk as does Paul, about the price with which all men were bought through Jesus who was called the Christ. God has one covenant, not two. Yet with all this, Paul would invite everyone and anyone into the 'house' without proper credentials. Does this sound Jewish? So was Paul, until it suited his purposes to betray that heritage.
Paul says, "...the promise to Abraham and his descendants, that they should inherit the world, did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith." (Romans 4:13; RSV)
I would like to know just how righteous God would have considered Abraham had he said, 'I believe, but you're not cutting on me!' Or if Abraham had said, ' I believe, but I'll be damned if I'm going to kill my own son!' Faith without works is a daydream. In every case, Abraham had to begin the action, the work had to be started.
"And it came to pass after these things, that God did prove Abraham..." (Genesis 22:1; Masoretic Text)
The word "prove" means "to be tested." God, who knows the innermost workings of man's mind and heart, tested Abraham to see if he was worthy. This is after, long after, he is found 'righteous' in God's eyes. If he is redeemed, then he was redeemed once for all. If he was saved, then he was saved once for all. But that is not what the passages Paul uses, means.
Once more, when was Abraham approved, saved, redeemed? He cut the wood for the burnt-offering, he readied everything, and went to the place God had commanded. He set his son on the altar and put the wood for the fire on him, and raised the knife to kill him. Then, and only then, did God say, "Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know..." (Genesis 22:12; Masoretic Text)
And though Paul will exclaim that Abraham is the father of us all, this student recalls what John the Baptizer said when the Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized.
"Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham." (Matthew 3:8-9; Luke 3:8; RSV)
"They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do what Abraham did..." (John 8:39; RSV)
But Paul denies the works through which Abraham was found acceptable, he makes his own covenant, but with which god? He preaches two laws, two covenants, and a second gospel, 'his' gospel, which can only spell disaster for anyone who follows it. Jesus did not say, 'you would believe as Abraham believed,' he did not say, 'if you had faith as Abraham had faith,' he said, "...you would do as Abraham did."
If we need to nit-pick, as Paul does in this next play-on-words, Paul is also incorrect when he says, "...sin indeed was in the world before the law was given..." (Romans 5:13; RSV)
Now Paul may consider the 'law' as it was given to Moses, and thereafter codified. But there was 'law' before sin since God's command, regardless of its nature, is Law. And by Paul's own definition, stated earlier in this thesis, without law there can be no sin!
"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying: 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.'" (Genesis 2;16-17; Masoretic Text)
Not only is a command given, but a punishment is also prescribed. This is Law! Paul chooses to ignore the finer points. Was this Law given to punish, or to protect? Paul goes along his own path, but not to no advantage, for within the use of Adam as the man of 'death', and Jesus, the man of 'life', we are presented with another Christian precept, that of the 'free gift.'
Paul has manipulated God's word concerning Abraham, Adam, and Jesus until he can say, "If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17; RSV)
Paul speaks of 'original sin', so this damnation of mankind also comes from Paul. It is the basic rope with which the church binds its adherents. Paul then speaks of those who have received the baptism of Jesus, having died with him and been raised with his resurrection, to a new life. The echoes of paganism continue in Paul's thoughts.
The resurrection is another basis for Paul's growing theology, one also embraced by the modern Church, yet he was totally ignorant of what actually occurred during the three and a half hours involved in the crucifixion. If the possibilities of the end discussed in, In Defense Of The Apostles Faith, turn out to be correct, Paul's entire doctrine would be without basis. Not a fact, not even a probability, but a point that should be considered seriously.
Another idea needs to be brought out here since Paul is dealing almost exclusively with sin. Paul did not conceive of sin as being a part of natural man, but an 'alien' power that had infested our human anatomy and which governs our will. It was not an inanimate 'thing' to Paul, but a 'living' entity.
The Interpreter's Bible, also states that Paul considered sin as, "...an outside demonic power." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9, Page 369: First paragraph introduction)
With Paul's concept concerning the Evil One, this student concurs whole heartedly. In this arena we are of a single mind, and those who ignore this reality are in grave danger.
However, what is most distressing is Paul's continuing attack against the law as being the cause of, "...our sinful passions." (Romans 7:5; RSV)
He uses this argument to induce others to break away from God's Law and to follow a human ordinance. And in the very next sentence Paul exposes himself for the artist that he is in using confusion to escape a contradiction.
"What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." (Romans 7:7; RSV)
If this is true, then we must acknowledge that man cannot be guilty of coveting, since he doesn't know what 'coveting' consists of; he cannot murder even if he unjustly, and by forethought, kills another since he has never heard the word, murder, and he does not know what it means. This is the most heinous of concepts man can begin to consider as a defense.
Simply put, any thing or any person which leads another to commit a crime (sin) is an accomplice to that act. If any thing, or any person, leads another to do evil, then that thing or person is also evil. Righteousness cannot lead one to unrighteousness, therefore, the law which was conceived and administered by the Lord God, and not Satan, cannot be evil or cause one to sin. Nor can evil work through it.
A thought is suggested for a second time. Without the Law, if Paul had snuck up behind another and killed him, committed murder, would it not still be murder? Without any concept of God, there is within the human animal a sense of fair and unfair. Even if we are a blank concerning the existence of God, we are not restricted from having a sensibility of right and wrong.
Paul's argument is extremely juvenile because he assumes that before the Law there was no sin! "Apart from the law, sin lies dead." (Romans 7:8; RSV)
If there is no law, sin cannot exist. That is what he is saying, but just moments ago he said that before the law there was sin, the sin of Adam and Eve. He is wrong on both accounts.
The web becomes so complex that Paul weaves in an attempt to deceive, that even he cannot keep up with it. All his 'wisdom' becomes foolishness. Unfortunately, the deception has worked, and continued for two thousand years. The giving of the Spirit becomes a 'wholesale' item, the free gift received, those in the church are no longer saints but the children of God, and if the children of God, then heirs. (Romans 8:16-17; RSV)
And now Paul strikes upon the ultimate theory, and the ultimate confusion.
"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son..." (Romans 8:28-29; RSV)
You see, Paul speaks with a forked tongue. God works for the good of those who love him... AND are called! Predestined!
Paul's concept of God's plan is complex, and with the terms he uses, there is no way one can avoid drawing the conclusion that Paul is speaking of predestination. Even our Christian scholars agree that there is no way to, "...avoid such a conclusion." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 525)
Can all of this be understood in a simple way? If we are 'chosen' beforehand, 'predestined' to be a part of something, then in effect there is no, free will. It has been set out beforehand, etched in stone, so to speak. With such a 'calling,' the individual has no free choice, they will be what God has 'chosen' them to be.
The horror, therefore, is not of being thus singled out for God's purpose, but for those who never will be, cannot possibly be, for God has made His choice beforehand. If there is a pre-set group who have been 'chosen', then man has no ability to choose to follow God, he is condemned, for those who will follow, those who will serve, have already been 'glorified' by God's 'calling.'
"And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified." (Romans 8:30; RSV)
Logically then, those whom he did not choose are condemned!
The 'chosen' are also known by Paul as the 'elect.' The problem with Paul's theory is that if it were true, his preaching any gospel would be useless. Regardless of what any one tried to do, the 'elect' have already been 'chosen' to carry out God's will. All else is in vain!
And if one chooses to say that there is always the chance that one soul might be 'saved' by ministry, then we question the "perfection" of God's works.
Now it is imperative that the theologians and interpreters make a statement about Paul's character, namely, his use of scripture. And it is proper that having made remarks concerning his 'misuse' of God's word that an additional opinion be called upon. We do so now through those who seek to elevate his authority and position.
Paul regularly used the LXX, rather than the Hebrew text, and he quotes the Hebrew very freely. He also, often, quotes text without any regard for the original context. In Romans 10:18 Paul attempts to prove that the gospel had been preached to the Jews through his ministry, but he does so by using Psalm 19:4, "...with complete and flagrant disregard for its manifest meanings. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 553)
To win at any cost? He lied, he cheated, he deceived those to whom he brought 'his' gospel and he seems to have had no conscience about doing it. If this thesis was done simply to prosecute the man, it would have served human interests to 'fix' dialogue and to erroneously quote Scripture. Though error may exist, such has not been done with intent, for if this student is in the wrong, correction serves the better interest. Paul did not see things that way. Does this make this student better than Paul? No, just obedient to another cause.
The unfortunate fact is that this practice is common place in Christianity. It is exhibited in the very first verses of Mark's gospel as well as being used by 'churched' ministers and radio and television evangelists everywhere. We must admit, however, that they had a good role-model to follow.
To go on, Paul suggests that, "...if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9; RSV)
That's it! All of Paul's meandering through endless philosophy and imagined theology boils down to this. Despite the point being made, Paul goes on quoting irrelevant scripture that in no way was meant to serve the purposes he has in mind. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 561 (On Rom. 10:16))
This time Paul uses (misuses) Psalm 19:4. A scripture that refers to the sun and the other heavenly bodies, "...are made to refer to the Christian evangelists of Paul's own day." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 562 (on Rom. 10:18))
Confusion and hesitant translations follow Paul's words as he speaks of the Jews, his fellow Israelites. Paul must bring up his apostleship again, and in speaking to the Gentiles, states that he is an apostle to the Gentiles. And so as not to seem prideful, Paul explains himself in this manner.
"Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them." (Romans 11;13-14; RSV)
Paul never made any Jew's jealous, but raised an outcry of rage from them. And how does Paul explain his meaning, how is jealousy going to 'save' anyone? He doesn't, it is for the Romans and for us to figure out. Even the professionals are confused, for time and time again we find statements like the following in their interpretations.
"...[...or better perhaps...], [...must he not have meant...], 'The little word then (oun) in vs. 13, which cannot be got rid of, though some MSS lack it, makes this passage more difficult. [...or perhaps...], Does full number mean...; If Paul means... presumably he is thinking..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 570; 575)
Speculation, every one is reduced to speculation, the amateur and the professional, the proud and the profane. Why? Because Paul was a master at words, but if you will pay strict attention to his meandering, you will see just how he misleads his readers, how he confounds them with a myriad of similes that end up meaning nothing! And he was probably a poor speaker, which he has unwittingly admitted in II Corinthians, because in front of a living audience he did not have the time, or the assistance, to look up or create the images that he did when he wrote it all down.
Here is a perfect example of a statement that is meant to sound as though it were full of wisdom and sobriety, yet it does nothing but confound its hearers. Without great difficulty one could make it mean just about anything they desired.
"As regards the gospel they (the Jews) are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all." (Romans 11:28-32; RSV)
Does Paul mean that God made all men disobedient just so that He could have mercy on them? Or could he have meant...
Now one may complain that we have not taken these verses in context with the rest of Paul's statement. The reason we have not is because there is no context. The preceding lines concern themselves with a hardening of Israel, "...until the full number of the Gentiles come in..." (Romans 11:25; RSV), and it is followed by, "...the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Romans 11: 33; RSV)
Was Paul, as some believe, demented and unable to carry a single line of thought, or was he a crafty genius at work bedeviling those who would listen to his rhetoric? This student must concede that he is a believer of the later.
It is amazing that Paul can beseech his readers not to be, "...conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2; RSV), and none of the Roman congregation question his suppositions.
It would appear that he is asking them to renew their minds that they might prove what God's will is.. It would seem that he was telling them to use their minds to discover what is right and acceptable, not just to sit and listen, and calmly accept what they are told.
"Prove here means "know surely," "have trustworthy knowledge of." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 582)
However, if one uses a simple Greek Lexicon we find that the proper definition is, "to assay, to make trial of, put to the proof, examine; hence, to examine and judge of; prove by test, approve on trial." (A Critical Lexicon and Concordance To The English And Greek New Testament; Page 609)
Then are we to have the mind of God? To know His thoughts? To eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
Earlier, Paul had decried wisdom and the gathering of knowledge. He announced himself alone as knowing God's intent and purpose, for did he not say that he had the mind of Christ?
Why did no one challenge Paul? Obviously, there were exceptionally few minds that were able to decipher Paul's immediate meaning. For the most part, the citizenry were of a simple mind, uneducated and unskilled in the most basic forms of literacy. Not one percent of them could read and most were intimidated by the mysterious world of cults and legend that abounded in their society.
Paul exhibits the highest form of hypocrisy by appealing to this congregation, one he does not even know, about adopting some form of modesty in their self-evaluation.
"For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think..." (Romans 12:3; RSV)
This comes from one they obviously did not know, who constantly boasts about his 'divine' authority, about his apostolic 'commission', and how much better he is than Jesus' chosen Twelve. We have been shown evidence of this, yet his adherents refuse to accept the evidence set before them.
Here, for whatever has gone before, scholars, Christian men and women, speak out at last, though two thousand years too late.
"Paul appeals to the authority of his apostleship, the highest office and function in the church, but one for which he deserves no credit.." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 584)
Paul should have taken his own advice. Instead, he goes on to ask virtues from the Roman congregation that he himself does not possess.. "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them; ...do not be haughty, ...never be conceited, ...pay no one evil for evil, ...never avenge yourselves." (Romans 12:14-20; RSV)
This student can only recall the despicable manner in which he treated Peter, the enmity and disdain in which he held the Apostles, how he dealt with the slave who had the gift of prophecy and the sinner in I Corinthians, and how he punished the leader of the Corinthian congregation.
How he held his 'commission' over the heads of his congregations, and used his organization to hold sway over them, how he continually boasted of his authority, his apostleship, and how he wished that those who persecuted him would 'mutilate' themselves.
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." (Romans 13:1-2; RSV)
In saying this to keep others from daring to question his authority, Paul ingeniously extends his statement as though to cover all administrations and influences. Since Paul has shown a loathing for government and authority per se, this student would take issue with Paul's advice.
It would seem to be the reasoning of one who was demanding obedience so that he himself could obtain obedience. Why this attitude? Many of the Jews in Rome were there at the disfavor of the Empire, was he afraid that his teachings would spawn a silent revolt against the State? We are well aware that all governments are not appointed by God, nor do they have His favor.
More often than not, those who 'govern' are corrupt. Would Paul do honor to them? More often than not, evil has chosen those who govern so that the present order in the world may oppose God. Would Paul honor them? In Paul's time those who governed were dictators. We may include the very existence of Palestine under the Roman heel, ruled by the Idumean Herods. Pharaoh ruled Egypt with an iron fist, using his people as well as slaves for his own purposes. Dictatorships flourish, few of which are benevolent. Would Paul do honor to them?
And of the world, we deal with Kings, Emperors, War Lords, and Tyrants, few if any who are interested in the welfare of the people. At what price? That price usually involved spending the lives of their subjects. Would Paul do honor to them?
And in our present age, inherited from bad seed we got bad seed. Dictators, in almost every country in the world save the United States and Canada. And in our own country we were dealing with unscrupulous men who deceive, lie, and cheat the people in any manner they can. Are they seated in power by the will of God? Would Paul do honor to them?
Who was Paul talking about? This student believes that as a citizen of Rome, 'by inheritance and through no work of his own,' Paul used this example as a round- about method of asserting his own position of rulership. It seems obvious that such a pretense was meant to eventually point to Paul and his authority, appointed by God.
"Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." (Romans 13:2; RSV)
Are we not to resist Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin? If we are indicting the man, we seem to have good reason. Paul goes on to discuss, once again, the subject of food and the Law.
"I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean of itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean. If your brother is injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died." (Romans 14:14-15; RSV)
Paul attacks the Law again, but this time his thinking has advanced far enough for him to include the suggestion that we offend Jesus when we offend another by what we eat, or abstain from. The basic thought, however, is the same. Act to please men rather than God.
"Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make others fall by what he eats..." (Romans 14:20; RSV)
The vast majority of the religious world knows that this is not true. Jew and Moslem alike, and some sects of Christianity, are still willing to obey God's Law concerning clean and unclean foods. They have good reason to do so.
In closing his letter, Paul again misuses another of God's Old Testament scriptures; Psalm 69:9. Interpreter's believe that this is another of Paul's theological references to the pre-existence of Jesus. And they have basically the same negative reaction to it. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 633)
If this student seems repetitive, it is due to the nature of the study. For that which Paul indicates here sounds very familiar when placed in the context of Greek mythology. The gods giving up their immortality to come to earth, and in doing so, becoming mortal for the sake of mankind.
But now Paul draws on his own sense of purpose, we must assume, to impress the Roman congregation. And in doing so suddenly becomes the means of the Gentile's salvation!
"But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:15-16; RSV)
No comment is necessary concerning Paul's 'newly' expanded commission.
Oddly enough, despite his feelings about women and their place in the church, in this letter Paul names several women who are in active service in the church. Indeed, Phoebe is named as a deaconess of the church at Cen'chreae. Is this section of the letter Paul's? Has he relented?
Professional interpreter's believe that the word, 'deaconess,' may fit a theory of this part of the letter being written by another, using Paul's name.
Pliny refers to such a title of authority about 112 AD, but there is no letter to Trajan concerning the trials of the Christians, (ca A.D. 112) in reference to a deaconess in the N.T. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 655)
He also mentions Prisca (Priscilla KJV), in whose home the church at Ephesus met, and Mary. We know nothing, of this very common name, from any other source. In this amazing section Paul also speaks of Andronicus and Junias, whom he also names as "...men of note among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me." (Romans 16:7; RSV)
Because Paul has named many apostles since he generalized the title, we cannot be sure if the Twelve knew these two men, or if they themselves had risen to that auspicious height. More important, he admits that they were believers before he was converted. But in the end, warning must come again from Paul's lips.
"I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them." (Romans 16:18; RSV)
We assume that the doctrine they have been taught is the letter, an excellent reason for its being so lengthy. Also, by his speech it is obvious that Paul believes himself to be a leader, if not the leader, of the Roman congregation. He has taken over, even though he has never been among them.
In concluding this letter, we make note that Paul did not physically write the epistle.
"I Ter'tius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord."
"Tertius, the scribe or amanuensis, is nowhere else referred to..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 9: Page 665)
In our critique of the, Letter to the Romans, we have not so much attempted to decipher Paul's entire meaning, but rather to delve into his attitudes, opinions, and what he stated were his beliefs. Foremost was the fact that this congregation was not one that he was familiar with, yet he took 'command' of them without hesitation.
Of prime consideration to him was his 'authority'; that the Roman congregation be subject to it, and accept a gospel of his personal conception. Despite the humanity of the man, his desire for 'material' recognition, the theology that he was framing, for his time, was exceptional. In the forming of any 'spiritual' credo it normally takes years to form a rigid structure of dogma. Although we know that Paul may have had almost twenty years to formulate the seed of his doctrine, the complexity of his religious philosophy is commendable.
Certainly we do not take odds with him on this basis, but rather the method in which it was delivered, and the purpose for which it was intended. These are slowly become less of a mystery as we move on to the next letter.
Part 4 of 4