Was Paul responsible for the split between gentile Christians and Jews? Did he have regular visits with Jesus after he converted? Did he consult the Alexandrian philosopher Philo about the issue?
These are some of the controversial issues raised in this this guest post by Platinum Member Manuel Fiadeiro. Check it out. What do you think?
Blog members at the platinum level are allowed to submit posts for other Platinum members only; after several come in, we take a vote and the winner gets posted to the entire blog for all to see. Manuel’s is our current winner. If you’d like the same opportunity, check out the Platinum membership tier and its various perks, and give it a thought!
For now here’s Manuel on Paul:
Circa 35 CE, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, a young man, no more than 20 years old called Saul, with scribes and Pharisees, was stoning a man belonging to a sect of a Galilean called Jesus. Saul was in Jerusalem to study with the Pharisee master Gamaliel. Few students could match Saul in intelligence, brilliance and knowledge. He was a devout Jew who knew the scriptures by heart, fluent in Greek and Hebrew, able to read and write, he could beat anyone in theological discourse.
Saul was also an ambitious fellow. He “knew” God set him apart from his mother’s womb. He wondered what God had in mind for him. Was he destined to liberate Israel from the Roman rule? Would he be a Messiah? He discussed with Gamaliel the situation in Judah. Preachers and prophets were predicting this era was going to end. The God of Israel was going to end soon the suffering of his people, and bring in glory His kingdom to Earth. A great upheaval was going to happen. The dead in Hades will be resuscitated, and the Son of Man will come in Glory to judge mankind, annihilate the sinners and take the saints to His kingdom in eternity. Wouldn’t a Messiah come soon? Gamaliel reminded him that there were many so called Messiahs appearing lately but none had any success. A Theudas, a Judas and a Jesus from Galilee had tried to convince people they were the Messiah but finished by being killed by the Romans.
Saul knew the pernicious disturbances those followers of Jesus of Nazareth were doing in synagogues and in the courts of the Temple. They were swearing that Jesus was crucified by the Romans but that he was resuscitated, was taken by God to heaven and was going to come back as the Son of Man to judge the living and dead; that he was the true Messiah. Was it possible? Gamaliel was sure that was nonsense; Deuteronomy (21:23) says “anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse”. Jesus was killed on a wooden cross! God could not allow that to his Messiah.
Saul was fierce in stopping that blasphemy. He couldn’t understand how a Jew could follow a Messiah that died on a cross. But those followers of Jesus were preaching love to their neighbors, they lived in communities sharing everything with each other, calling themselves brothers and sisters; and that scene of Stephen being stoned to death, his serenity, praying for those who were stoning him, couldn’t leave his mind. He started to have visions. He saw a man asking him “Saul, why do you persecute me?” He couldn’t stop his thinking. One day, suddenly, he had an epiphany, a Eureka moment. Why would God allow his Messiah to suffer and die? It must be a sacrifice! He died to liberate humanity from sin. Adam brought sin to the world; the world was taken by sin. Jesus was brought to life and God’s kingdom had just started. Jesus, by his death and resurrection defeated sin and death, he brought salvation to those who believed and accepted him. Jesus offered himself as sacrifice. Jesus was the Passover Lamb of God! With his extensive knowledge of the Torah and Talmud, he found reasons to vindicate his discovery. It was “according to the Scriptures”!
Saul started having regular visits with that Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus told him that on the night he was betrayed, he took bread, and when giving thanks, broke it and said “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me”. Jesus established a new covenant with God. It made sense! Blood is life. By drinking his blood he WAS in Christ.
Paul did not want to talk to the apostles in Jerusalem. He had his own Gospel given to him by Jesus himself. Jesus died on the cross to atone for the sins of the world. To accept Jesus sacrifice was necessary and enough to bring salvation; no need to follow the Law, be circumcised, be kosher, or pay for sacrifices in the Temple to atone for our sins. Jesus had done that for us.
Jesus ordered him to take his Gospel to the world. He applied all his strength to the News. He was the vehicle God used to bring the News to the world. He became Paul, the “true apostle” of Jesus. Do gentiles need to become Jews? No! The Law is useless for salvation. Forget the circumcision and kosher laws. Follow the Way and live as you are until Jesus comes back very soon to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth. No time to lose!
He went to Egypt to confer with Philo. Philo was in strong conflict with the orders of Caligula to Romanize the Jews of Alexandria and found Paul’s ideas complete nonsense: “You are out of your mind, Paul! Are you drinking something?”. He felt humiliated. That taught Paul the total futility of attempting to convince the Jews; he would preach to the gentiles.
For three years he preached his Gospel in the Roman provinces of Asia. There he saw that Peter and other apostles were already preaching a message of Jesus that contained nothing of what he received directly from Jesus. They were even preaching to “his” churches. He went to Jerusalem to discuss with Peter.
Peter was completely surprised that Jesus, who was already 10 years late in establishing his kingdom, was appearing to an apostate Jew that was saying the followers of Jesus did not need to follow the Law and were told to drink the blood of Christ, which was anathema by Jewish Law. They agreed on some facts: Jesus was going to appear soon to bring the resurrection of the dead and bring the Kingdom of God to Earth. They had to spread the News to the world soon. Despite their differences, better be friends than enemies. Besides, Paul promised to send money to support the congregation of Jerusalem.
He also talked to James, the brother of Jesus. He had to explain to him that, yes the scribes and Pharisees sent Jesus to Pilate to be crucified because he claimed to be the Messiah; but Jesus had to be crucified because that was God’s plan. Jesus gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age. Judas carried out God’s plan and the scribes and Pharisees had to execute it. That WAS NOT the Jesus he knew; but James compromised. Let Paul preach to the gentiles, let them not be circumcised. But, they MUST abstain from blood.
Paul did not comply with the deal. He was also telling Jews they did not have to follow the Law. James was enraged. He commissioned the rules to teach gentiles the proper Way and ritual to pray and obey the Lord, the Didache. That brought confusion and consternation to the new churches of Christians. Paul rebutted them with letters and envoys. The split between Pauline Christians and Jewish Christians was born.
 Matthew 5:19 – Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
 Leviticus 17:10 I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people.
 The Didache has the right procedure for breaking bread and Kiddush wine blessing by Jewish tradition. It does not say that bread is the body of Jesus and wine his blood.