Another Ding in Paul’s Theology

Just read the following comment, made by Steve Ruis, which was in response to a posting at A Humanist’s Perspective blog entitled “An Atheist Analyzes Acts (1:1-11).” Steve’s thoughts are very similar to mine so I decided to republish them here.

Ah, but you gloss over the setting. The group remaining in Jerusalem, lead ostensibly by James the Just, Jesus’ brother and all of the remaining disciples remain observant Jews. They go to temple. They observe Jewish customs and holidays and respect the Torah by abiding by the myriad rules practicing Jews must. Does this sound like a group who will come to the conclusion that Jesus’ life and death have superseded the Torah, in fact the entire Tanakh? Why would they do all of this when Paul insists that it is no longer necessary (Jesus told him so in a vision). Why would Jesus have not told his followers what to do when his “sacrifice” was made? In fact, if Jesus were god, how could he have been sacrificed? And hadn’t the Jews outlawed human sacrifice centuries before and had wages a campaign to obliterate the practice to the point it was abhorrent to them? How could a self-respecting Jew proposed that a human sacrifice was the keystone to a new covenant with God?

(Actually, Jesus did not tell Paul much of anything during the Damascus Road “vision,” but that’s neither here nor there.)

The main point is that the believing Jews (the ones who saw Yeshua as the long-awaited mashiach) did not change their ways. They continued to follow the Torah, perform circumcisions, keep the Sabbath, honor the Jewish festivals, and observe dietary laws. Plus they visited the temple regularly to pray and await apokatastasis pantõn — the final establishment of all God had promised to Israel. It was Paul, the fake and self-declared apostle, that changed everything by declaring the Torah null and void and transforming Yeshua into a savior-god acceptable to his gentile audience.

If believers could only look beyond their embedded teachings of who Paul was (the “ideal Christian”) and visualize him during biblical times, they might see him for what he truly was … a “bombastic maverick, representing no one but himself and under no one’s direction” (Two Different Pauls).

As to Steve’s comment re: sacrifice — in the biblical tradition, sacrifice was a common practice or ritual — but it was NEVER human sacrifice. The only sacrifice acceptable to God as a sin offering by the early Hebrews was animals. Guess who originated the idea that the death of Yeshua (a human) was an acceptable sacrifice to God for the sins of humanity? Three guesses and the first two don’t count.

Then there’s the mind-boggling question that remains to be answered … if Jesus was God (as many believe), how could he have been sacrificed?

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17 thoughts on “Another Ding in Paul’s Theology

  1. More great questions on another fascinating post. Look into how Islam views Paul if you want another take on him. To say he’s most definitely NOT a saint in their eyes would be a great understatement. I appreciate the post. Thanks for putting it up. 🙂

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  2. Hey Nan-

    Maybe you are hoping to have a lengthly convo with somebody who disagrees? Nope, no eternal ping pong match, but ‘another ding in Paul’s theology?’ as if there was even one. That’s almost funny if it were not so grave in its egregiousness. Proof? Oh yeah, I wrote a post,

    It’s called ‘Paul the apostle’s (ahem) mental problem.’ As in all things, to quote Paul Harvey, ‘there is the rrrest of the story. Maybe the truly fair minded would like to read something outside the narrow confines of atheism. Didn’t think it appropo to link though, for your sake.

    To dissect the errors in this point of view you present here.well, you know, it would serve no real benefit, except to provide some of your friends with useless and stupid comments.

    Coming in 3. 2. 1….

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  3. What’s missing in the Christianity story is that Jesus and his disciples are Jewish and observed the Torah (as mentioned). However, Paul did away with the Torah, and its incredibly strict rules, in order to win converts (gentile converts at that). This brought him the wrath of the Jerusalem Church headed by James, the brother of Jesus, who taught the original message of Jesus. Note: This conflict is somewhat covered in Acts. As for Jesus being God, there are a number of passages in the New Testament which clearly distinguish between Jesus and the father (God), including what Jesus said about himself. Besides, the concept of the Trinity is not even in the Bible.

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  4. With Paul’s re-write of things, you have the beginning of the break away from Christianity as a sect of Judaism and its move into the Roman world. By the middle of the next century, there wasn’t a Jewish Christianity anymore, it had all been Romanized. Just like with the rest of the cast of characters from the NT, Paul may or may not have actually been a real person, but was probably based on at least one post-Jesus teacher. I love the way that the self proclaimed Christians will respond with a quote from Paul when asked about something Jesus is quoted as saying. Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

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  5. A point I was aware of but never truly considered in this light. Excellent points.
    The Jewish Christians were stuck between a rock and a hard place.
    Something had to give.

    A question that always nagged me is this:

    With Jesus gone/dead does it not seem very reasonable that the followers would immediately seek out Jesus’ immediate family: his mother, brothers and sisters. Even his father – assuming Joseph was still alive?
    As head of the Jerusalem Church , James seems the obvious go-to guy. But no – seems Saul of Tarsus, who merely saw a vision of JC carried more weight than his own flesh and blood brother and the actual disciples who walked the length and breadth of the country with him …sorry. Him.

    Where does ordinary common sense sit, I wonder?

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    • Ark … from my book:

      Why did Paul’s form of Christianity flourish and the Jesus Movement disappear? Primarily due to Paul’s relentless zeal to accomplish the mission that he believed a spiritualized Jesus had given to him.

      Paul’s persuasions were enormously compelling. After removing all the barriers of the Jewish Law and creating a savior-god, the gentiles were easily won over. As Barrie Wilson (How Jesus Became Christian) wrote: Paul had a “winning marketing formula.”

      And I agree — why didn’t the followers seek out the family first and foremost when they discovered Jesus had gone missing? Just another one of the bible’s many unanswered questions.

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      • My understanding is that the apostles couldn’t seek out Jesus’ family after he’d bit the cross because they’d moved to Florida when Joseph retired from carpentry years earlier. Plane tickets from Jerusalem to Miami back then cost way more than the apostles could afford, and, thus, they had to just roll with whatever good ‘ole Saul saw in his visions.

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      • The more one asks – and pursues – such basic, common sense questions, the more the likelihood that the entire basis of Christianity is fiction founded on an original lie and the characters are nothing but narrative constructs ,like Adam, Eve and Abraham.
        I have reached the point in my own investigation where I consider the veracity of even the character ”Paul” to be wholly made up, and the ”genuine letters”, while likely ‘real’, were simply penned by a literate, renegade Jew.

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    • It’s a great question and one that people don’t stop and ask. Most everyone knows that Jesus was not accepted as the messiah by the Jews. For example, Paul tried to preach his message to the Jews but they would have none of it. Therefore, most of Paul’s converts were gentiles. In order to get more converts, Paul dropped the requirements of the Torah. For this, Paul incurred the wrath of James and the Jerusalem Church (part of that drama can even be found in Acts). However, it was Paul’s version of Christianity that would survive as the Roman’s torched the Holy Land and killed many of the remaining zealots at Masada. Interestingly enough, the backstory behind Christianity is that it was really less about religion and more about politics. Jews either sympathized with the Romans or tried to rebel against them. Even within Jesus’ immediate family and the disciples, there was internal conflict on that point.

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  6. At the referenced posting above (Two Different Pauls), the writer described Saul/Paul as a “young religious hothead.” (see Galatians 1:14 where he writes he was exceedingy zealous of the traditions).

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