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Paul’s Own (and Only) Gospel

What does Paul mean in his letter to the Galatians when he says that he did not receive his gospel from humans but direct from God through a revelation of Jesus?  Does he mean that he was the one (through direct divine inspiration) who came up with the idea that it was the death and resurrection of Jesus, rather than, say, Jesus’ life and teachings, that brings salvation?  And if so, doesn’t that mean that Paul himself would be the founder and creator of Christianity, since Christianity is not the religion of Jesus himself, but the religion about Jesus, rooted in faith in his death and resurrection?

It may seem like that’s the case, but it’s not.  Not at all.   In my previous post, I showed that the belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection were around before Paul and that Paul inherited this belief from Christians who were before him.   But then what would Paul mean when he explicitly says in Galatians 1:11-12 “For I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me – that it is not a human affair; for I neither received it from a human nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ”?

That sure sounds like he is saying that his gospel message came straight from Jesus, not from humans, right?  Yes, right, it does sound that way.  But it’s important to know – and not just to assume – what Paul means by his “gospel” in this passage.  He doesn’t mean what you might at first think he means.

Paul begins his letter to the Galatians with a…

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Paul, Jesus, and the Messiah
Were Jesus’ Followers Crazy? Was He? Mailbag June 4, 2016

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    magpie  June 5, 2016

    Thank you for this edifying post! I think I finally understand the context of Paul’s version of religion based upon Jesus. Hope your back continues to improve.

  2. Avatar
    godspell  June 5, 2016

    Much as I agree Jesus was a Jew, that he saw his mission as primarily to the Jews, that he did not intend to found a religion separate from Judaism, I think Paul’s revelation was correct (even though I may not necessarily believe it was Jesus’ actual voice he heard on the road to Damascus).

    Here’s an interesting question, I have not seen asked (though some must have asked it). What did Paul know about Jesus and his teachings, by the time he had that revelation? You don’t typically set out to destroy some system of belief (like, for example, Marxism, or Scientology, or believing in UFO’s) without studying it, trying to understand where the people who adhere to it went wrong, why it’s taken hold. So Paul did that. He could not have read the gospels we have now, because they didn’t exist yet.

    But there may have been early texts he could have read that are now lost. He would have talked to Christians, he would have heard the stories. And after he converted, he would have heard more.

    And the story he would have heard was of a man who put a lot less emphasis on the letter of the Jewish law. Who ministered to people traditional Jews tended to view with disdain. Who told a story about a Samaritan who was the only true neighbor to a Jewish man lying half-dead on a roadside. About a Canaanite woman whose faith in Jesus’ ability to heal her child made him somehow feel humbled. If Paul didn’t hear those stories, he heard others like them. Because there would have been so many. Jesus didn’t tend to respect the traditional boundaries between Jew and Gentile, between ‘good’ people and sinners. He had a tendency to keep stepping over the lines his culture had drawn (which is ultimately what got him killed).

    So I don’t always agree with Paul, but I do in this case. I think he saw who Jesus really was here. Somebody whose mission to herald the coming of the Kingdom of God had overpowered the religious beliefs he’d been raised with, lifted them to a different level. I think Jesus would have approved.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2016

      Yes indeed, it is a question that has long puzzled scholars, given the lack of evidence. In fact, scholars have long asked how may of Jesus’ teachings Paul knew much later — 20 years after his conversion when he was writing his letters. I deal with that particular issue in my book The New Testament: A Historical Introduction.

  3. John4
    John4  June 5, 2016

    OK, so Paul didn’t found Christianity. Christianity preceded Paul. But, Paul *did* found *gentile* Christiaity. Is that what you believe, Bart?

    Many thanks! 🙂

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2016

      Not quite. I think gentiles could convert before that. The difference is whether to convert they had to adopt the practices of Judaism.

      • John4
        John4  June 7, 2016

        So, we could say that Paul founded the strand of Cristianity that survived: the strand which doesn’t require gentile converts to adopt the practices of Judaism?

        No small thing, I’d say.

        Many thanks, Bart! 🙂

  4. talmoore
    talmoore  June 5, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, it would seem to me that Paul would only get so riled up over a circumcision requirement if such a requirement had a deleterious effect on Christian conversion efforts, both past and future. That is, if both recent and future converts had no problem adopting the Law in its entirety — including circumcision, kashrut, sabbath observance, etc. — then I can’t imagine that Paul would be in such a tizzy. Chances are, however, that many if not most Gentiles would have serious reservations about having their foreskins cutoff, not to mention abstaining from pork and not doing work on Saturdays. And I think this is what’s setting Paul off in Galatians (cf. Gal. 1:6). He fears that the requirements of the Law will put off many worthy Gentiles, whom Paul needs to bring into the fold to lay the necessary groundwork for the Parousia. Paul feels that these other Judaizing Christians are essentially undoing all of his hard work, and, furthermore, sabotaging his future efforts as well (hence his harsh language in Gal. 1:8-9).

    And it seems that Paul was actually on his own in this, because by his own admission (Gal. 2:1-10), the leaders of the Jerusalem church gave up on trying to persuade him otherwise. My impression is that Paul was probably an insufferable man, and that the leaders of the Jerusalem church merely acquiesced through attrition to his “gospel” of salvation for the Gentiles via faith alone (although it wasn’t technically solus fides, because Paul’s Gentile converts were still required to the follow the so-called Noahide Laws: no sexual impropriety, no idolatry, no murder, no eating an animal that is still alive or that was sacrificed to another god, etc.). The Jerusalem leaders simply gave up trying to force Gentiles to become Jews (cf. Gal. 2:3), probably because they didn’t much care about the Gentiles one way or the other anyhow and this whole issue wasn’t worth their time (as a Jew myself I know that Jews, for the most part, couldn’t care less what Gentiles do, say or think as long as it doesn’t involve us). So they let Paul have his little crusade. The irony, of course, is that Paul’s brand of Christianity won out in the end, and the Christianity of the Jerusalem Church is a footnote in history.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2016

      I’m not sure myself if his views were formed because of practical considerations (who will likely convert if they have to take to the knife?) or rather because of a real insight he had into the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I tend toward the latter. But I’m a text guy and you’re a social science guy. 🙂

      • talmoore
        talmoore  June 7, 2016

        Well, what we may see as a distinction between the practical and the insightful may not have been a true distinction to Paul. We should consider that Paul may have been operating subconsciously — that is, he was unaware of his self-motivation because he really, truly believed that he was saving souls.

        For example, let’s say you were flagging down motorists to prevent them from driving into a tornado. Unless you’re a Vulcan I can’t imagine you would take the time to do a cost-benefit analysis of whether it was worth it for you to take time out of your busy day to stop those cars. You would simply do it out a very human, very biological drive to save those peoples’ lives. In other words, you don’t over think it. Your human nature takes over.

        This is probably how Paul is thinking. Paul genuinely believes he’s saving souls. Moreover, he believes the more he saves, and the faster he saves them, the sooner the Messiah will return to bring about Judgment Day and the Kingdom of Heaven. So simply out of trial and error (or what I like to call working a theory out of practice) Paul probably had more success with his “insightful” realization that Gentiles would “come to Christ” without becoming Jews (i.e. adopt the Law). And Paul sees that he’s having a tremendous amount of success with this new insight, so he then assumes that if he’s being that successful, then he must be doing something right, and, more importantly, Paul’s revelation (via the Holy Spirit) must be true! This is called a feedback loop. You attempt something on a whim presuming that it’s effective, and when it turns out to be effective you take its effectiveness as evidence that it wasn’t a whim but a genuine insight or personal gift (e.g. a supernatural revelation or endowment). Paul’s conceit-ridden epistles are testament to how blessed Paul thought he was. (Incidentally, according to the DSM IV, Paul’s delusions of grandeur may be a symptom of a bipolar disorder. http://psychcentral.com/encyclopedia/delusion-of-grandeur/)

        Anyway, then imagine, all of a sudden, judaizing Christians come along and start undoing everything that Paul has done. It’s like as if you (miraculously?) hit on the best way of stopping as many motorists as you can from driving into the tornado, and as you’re in the middle of your successful plan, suddenly, someone else comes along and starts their own, less successful, flagging down operations across the street from you. How frustrated would you feel? I’m sure that would piss you off real good. That’s probably how Paul felt.

      • Avatar
        dragonfly  June 8, 2016

        I’m with Bart on this one. I think for Paul, the resurrection was everything. To suggest circumcision was also required meant the ressurection was only part of the requirements for salvation, which reduces it’s importance, and that is what Paul got so upset about. I think Paul had worked everything out according to his own logic (whatever that was) and if the ressurection was only a partial requirement the whole thing falls apart.

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  June 8, 2016

      “I know that Jews, for the most part, couldn’t care less what Gentiles do, say or think as long as it doesn’t involve us”?? In what society are you living such an alienated life? As a Jew in the U.S., I feel I have to care about what gentiles, especially bigoted gentiles, do. I care deeply that certain evangelicals and fundamentalists want to weaken or tear down the wall of separation between church and state and work to make it happen. I care that some Catholic priests have abused children. I care what the President’s policies are. So could you please clarify a bit what you mean?

      • talmoore
        talmoore  June 8, 2016

        I should have been more clear. I mean us Jews have a live and let live attitude when it comes to what other people believe. We’re not big on proselytizing. Nor are we big on getting all up in the business of other faiths.

  5. Avatar
    JR  June 5, 2016

    Surely though when paul says peter was not acting in line with the truth of the gospel he assumes that Peter also knows that you don’t need to be a jew to be justified? Isnt his point that the other apostles all know ‘this gospel’ but are acting contrary to it?

    I don’t see that paul’s statement that he received the gospel straight from jesus means either a) he invented it or b)it was a nuanced message from the other apostles.

    Surely he is simply saying … I got the gospel same as they did … from the horses mouth. I am not peter or James’ disciple. I am on their level – so do as I say!

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2016

      Paul indicates that Peter and the others agreed with him earlier about his law-free gospel, so he saw Peter’s actioans as hypocritical. And yes, he’s certainly saying that he didn’t get these ideas from the others!

  6. Avatar
    Todd  June 5, 2016

    Paul maintains that there were those who came to the Galatians churches after Paul, teaching a different gospel, that one must be a Jew first before receiving salvation.

    These people who were teaching a different gospel than Paul’s were, in fact, those from the Jerusalem church led by James and Peter and the others who were personally associated with Jesus directly. Paul never knew or even saw Jesus.

    We read in Acts that Paul met with them twice and there was a compromise and that new converts who were gentiles did not need to practice Torah, did not need to be circumcized, and needed only to practice the watered down Noahic Law…yet, converts needed to be Jews of some sort. (Is that not a contradiction between the account in Acts and what Paul is preaching?)

    I do not see where this was ever resolved. Then, after Paul’s death, and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70ce , the Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem was dispursed and Christianity, along the lines of Paul’s theology, developed and became dominant.

    Does this not then indicate that the essential theology that the Church developed came from Paul and that, in effect, Paul “invented” Christianity as we have it today…a non Jewish religion? (This has nothing to do with the theology of the atonement, but is centered totally on whether one must become a Jew before becoming a Christian).

    My second question has to do with the Revelation of this **directly** by Jesus..that is, visions.

    Even though visions were considered common and accepted in Paul’s time, today we still have those who claim to have visions, and these visions are considered a mental dysfunction (psychotic?) based on contemporary psychology. Question: why then can we not consider Paul’s vision(s) to be caused by a state of mental dysfunction, perhaps from extreme guilt due to his viscous persecution of the early Christians?

    I do think that Paul somehow developed an anti-Jewish bias and either intentionally or subconsciously tells the Galations that his gospel (not requiring conversion to Judaism) was given to him directly in a vision be the Risen Christ.

    I am not convinced by his claim regarding visions but view his actions as an attempt to circumvent the core beliefs of the Jewish Christians and make Paul’s Christianity more palatable to the pagan Greco-Roman world.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2016

      I would say that Paul did come up with a different view of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, but I would not say that he came up with Chrsitianity as we know it today. Christianity as we know it today is WAY different from Christianity in Paul’s day.

      • Avatar
        Todd  June 7, 2016

        I do agree with that. Nowdays much of Christianity is crazy!

      • SBrudney091941
        SBrudney091941  June 8, 2016

        I’d be interested to read a post from you laying out what, tin your view, these differences are. I think they are, to one extent or another, muddled together in some of our minds and interfering with having a clearer picture of what Jesus’ followers believed before his death and after his death, and what Paul was really saying.

    • Avatar
      woodsy  June 7, 2016

      So after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70C.E. there would be nowhere to offer the necessary sacrifice for circumcision, maybe that’s why Paul’s way beat out the James Gang and maybe it was the sacrifices themselves that accompanied the Jewish Rituals that where at the heart of Paul’s motivation to reject them. This also makes me wonder, did Paul offer a sacrifice when he circumcised Timothy?

  7. Avatar
    plparker  June 5, 2016

    Here’s a question for some future reader’s bag:

    When you became an atheist (or agnostic?) what did you do with your Sunday mornings? Did you miss attending church? Did you try to replace it with some other type of spiritual or contemplative activity?

  8. Avatar
    john76  June 5, 2016

    Paul says that part of his “gospel” is that everyone will be “judged” through Christ. Paul writes that “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus (Romans 2:15).”

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  June 8, 2016

      “Funny” thing is that, generally, Jews did not believe that a person had to be Jewish in order to be safe from God’s judgment. Gentiles were not necessarily lost to the darkness or to flames. Now Christians claim that the fair faith is universal and that anyone can be saved. But of course what they mean is anyone who changes what they believe and begins believing like Christians believe. For today’s fundamentalists–and in about 20 places in the New Testament, one has to believe Jesus Christ is the Savior or else. So, with all the to-do about there being more forgiveness in the New Covenant, it actually teaches a God who condemns those who might not be bad people at all but whose only “sin” is not believing something.

  9. Avatar
    sinetheo  June 5, 2016

    Hmm interesting and thanks for your take Dr. Ehrman. I had a teen study Bible back in my more conservative youth with lots of commentary. In it the book of Galatians had excerpts stating Paul was talking about Gnosticism and the threat it posed in the set of passages.

    I have a question on this? The Gospel of Thomas and the Didache both show Jesus as a prophet showing the way and no evidence of following the person rather than message in terms of belief in the resurrection. I was left under the impression that 1st century Christians as a result might have been more proto gnostic like as Christianity evolved. It would not make sense for different Christianities to only come later (no Dr. Ehrman I have not read your early Christianities book yet ?). My question is how universal was this more orthodox view in these early decades about faith regardless of Jewish law?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2016

      Gnosticism? Really? Seems odd to think that is what Galatians is about! (Apart from the fact that Gnosticism didn’t exist yet!!) Yes, Thomas is different – I’ll address that issue in a mailbag question soon. But I don’t think it is particualrly representative of the first century. And I don’t think the Didache has the same view of things as Thomas.

  10. Avatar
    Todd  June 5, 2016

    Another question….why do you think the Paul does not speak about the ethical teachings of Jesus or events o Jesus’ live, other than his death and resurrection? Is he avoiding the compassion centeredness of Jesus teaching in favor of a more other worldly theology or was he just not aware of any of that information?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2016

      I debate over whether he didn’t know more, didn’t think it was at all relevant, or didn’t see it as relevant to the particular situations he was addressing in his letters.

      • SBrudney091941
        SBrudney091941  June 8, 2016

        It has seemed to me that some of Jesus’ behavior and teachings (at least as was later in the written stories about him–i.e. the Gospels) would have perfectly suited some of Paul’s condemnations of certain behaviors in the churches he’d started.

  11. ronaldus67
    ronaldus67  June 5, 2016

    So clarifying! Thank you!

  12. Avatar
    Adam0685  June 5, 2016

    Great post! Did Paul think that non-Gentile/Jewish Christians (like himself) should follow Jewish law, circumcision, Sabbath observance, kosher food, etc. Does what he say on this particular matter match with what James and Peter probably thought? Or did the gospel he received directly from god and not humans also include Jews not having to follow Jewish law.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2016

      We don’t know for sure, but I think the answer is yes — he for the most part remained a Jew. But not when doing so compromised his ability to spend time with gentiles.

      • Avatar
        jhague  June 7, 2016

        Would most Jews of the day think that Paul was at best a wishy-washy Jew and at worst no longer a Jew due to him behaving as a gentile when he was with gentiles?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 8, 2016

          Maybe scandalously sinful, but still a Jew.

          • talmoore
            talmoore  June 8, 2016

            Judaism is one of those odd religions where even if you’re “excommunicated” you’re still a Jew. (cf. Spinoza)

  13. Avatar
    brubel  June 5, 2016

    Is this also related to 2 Corinthians 11: 4-5 where he mentions another Jesus/spirit/gospel and the super apostles? Is this an indication that others like Peter, James and so on are preaching against Paul?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2016

      The “Superapostles” are others, I think, not members of the Jerusalem church. They ahve a very different theology (based on the glories that are theirs already as those who have been raised with Christ)

      • Avatar
        turbopro  June 7, 2016

        If I may prof, and by no means do I mean to gainsay your understanding: in “Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity,” by James D. Tabor, the author maintains that the “Superapostles” appear to refer to the Jerusalem Church: James, Peter, and John.

        I just finished reading the book, and, in my very lay and neophyte (mis)understanding of early Christianity, Dr Tabor does make a case for Paul transforming Christianity. The author also shows that a significant part of the New Testament is about Paul.

        Methinks I have to read more about Paul to gather other perspectives.

  14. Avatar
    jrhislb  June 5, 2016

    How surprising do you think it is for a Jew of Paul’s time to come to the conclusion he did, about the salvation of gentiles? Was there any other Jew during this era who thought gentiles could be full members of God’s people without following the Jewish law?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2016

      There certainly was the possibility of worshiping the God of Israel without being circumcised. That is attested among a group of people that scholars call “God-fearers”

    • Avatar
      teresa  June 8, 2016

      Hi jrhislb
      I think he went a step further than this, it wasn’t now a question of being a Jew i.e one of Gods people or Gentile but there was a whole new creation of believers. There was no benefit in adopting the practices of Judaism and in fact if you did you had missed the point and could not therefore fully experience salvation.
      Teresa X

      • SBrudney091941
        SBrudney091941  June 8, 2016

        Not sure what you are responding to, Teresa. Are you just saying what you think Paul meant or stating what you believe? Same thing applies as I wrote in an earlier response to you: 1. that we need salvation is a belief, not a fact, and based not on what Genesis 2-3 says but on how it’s (wildly) interpreted and 2. Surely, a loving, forgiving God couldn’t care less what religious beliefs a person would consider who they are. It is absurd to me that a god or a human would condemn a person because he or she does not believe something. Leave that to ISIL.

        • Avatar
          teresa  June 9, 2016

          Hi SBrudney,

          I’m stating what Paul said.

          Teresa x

  15. Avatar
    jhague  June 5, 2016

    If Paul was the first to say that salvation was available to Gentiles without becoming a Jew, then he made it up himself. Whether he had a vision/dream or whatever, the idea came from Paul’s head. Why do you think that a Jew such as Paul would become so adamant that Gentiles needed to be saved without being Jews? One reason is that the Gentiles weren’t going to become Jews. But why did Paul care? Did he have friends & family that were Gentiles that he wanted to make sure were saved?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2016

      My sense is that the revolutionary truth that he recognized would have been compromised if gentiles had to adopt Jewish ways,and he wasn’t willing to sacrifice his insight.

      • Avatar
        jhague  June 7, 2016

        I know it is somewhat impossible for us to know how Paul’s thinking developed but what is your opinion on how a Jew such as Paul could develop an insight that was so lenient toward gentiles? My thought is he must have had friends and family that he was concerned about.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 8, 2016

          I’ll be getting to that soon!

          • Avatar
            jhague  June 9, 2016

            And you also getting to how Paul persecuted the first Christians! 😉

      • SBrudney091941
        SBrudney091941  June 8, 2016

        What we got was a religion (in its most conservative manifestations) in which all non-Christians have to adopt the Christian belief to be saved.

  16. Avatar
    gabilaranjeira  June 5, 2016

    Hi,

    Why do you think Paul seems to be humbler in regards to his apostleship to the Gentiles in his letter to the Romans (Romans 1)? Obrigada!

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2016

      I’d guess it’s because his own converts aren’t being threatened and he’s writing to a church he didn’t found and hasn’t visited.

  17. Avatar
    prairieian  June 5, 2016

    This is helping me to understand a little better as to Paul’s role in the creation of Christianity – he put into motion the animus between the Christians and their religious antecedents, the Jews. Christians had the covenant of God right, the Jews did not. It is a rather remarkable divorce in that Christians make much of how Christ’s appearance and mission was built into the Jewish scriptures. The emphasis on the foreshadowing of Christ within the scriptural tradition of a religion that is not right with God is interesting to put it mildly.

    Of course, no war is more bitter than a civil war as we witness today between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Other faith traditions can only shake their heads in horror and disbelief.

  18. Avatar
    jachandler@gmail.com  June 5, 2016

    Just catching up. When people say Paul was the founder of the church, does it really matter much that there were, say, a few hundred people believing that the resurrection happened and that it was the key,to salvation?. Isn’t he really the super salesman who spread Christianity and, without whom, those hundreds might well have died off?

  19. Avatar
    teresa  June 6, 2016

    Hi Prof Ehrman

    “When Paul indicates that a salvation came completely “apart from the works of the Law,” he is not saying that salvation comes apart from doing any good deeds — the way Martin Luther and most Protestants since his day have read Paul (until the last 50 years). ”

    I think that Paul absolutely said that salvation comes without the need for any good works. The word need is the crucial part. Salvation is purely by grace which is why he was so opposed to the “other gospel” that had been preached to the Galatians. I think this is what Luther understood as well.

    “As in Adam all die so in Christ shall all be made alive” It all rests upon a finished work. We just get the benefit of it.

    Teresa x

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  June 8, 2016

      Well, Teresa, part of the problem is that there is no fall or introduction of death in the story of Adam and Eve. In what it literally says, either in Hebrew or English, the claims that that’s what it says simply find no support there. The ideas that there was a fall there and that came entered the human story there are read into the story. The other part is that, generally speaking, in Judaism there was no belief that a person had to become Jewish in order to have a relationship with God pleasing to Him. But now we get Christianity which requires that a person must believe certain things in order to be okay with God. I understand that being good would please a god; I cannot understand why believing something would. Conservative Christianity, at least, is much more of a restricted club than Judaism. Jews don’t go around saying, “You have to believe what we believe or you will be condemned.”

      • Avatar
        teresa  June 9, 2016

        Hi SBrudney,
        . . .but Paul believed that sin could be directly linked back to Adam and every person who has ever lived is a sinner by birth.
        I think the point that Paul was making was that the law is incapable of making anybody perfect and that we can be in fellowship with God because he has done all the work for us . . .we are incapable of saving ourselves.
        Teresa x

        • SBrudney091941
          SBrudney091941  June 9, 2016

          Thanks for responding. Yes, true: the Jew Paul believed that. The belief was not unknown in Judaism. It just never became normative or mainstream. There is no reference to it anywhere else in Hebrew Scriptures in which any connection is made with the origin of sin or death or evil. Jewishencyclopedia.com says, “The fall of man, as a theological concept, begins to appear only in the late Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, probably under Essenic (if not Judæo-Christian) influences. In II Esd. iii. 7 it is stated that when Adam was punished with death, his posterity also was included in the decree (the variants in the versions, Ethiopic, Armenian, Syriac, and Latin, all point to a Hebrew ) II Esd. iii. 21 has: “For on account of his evil will the first Adam fell into sin and guilt, and, like him, all that were born of him.” This view is again stated in ch. vii. 48: “O Adam, what hast thou done! When thou sinnest, thy fall did not come over thee alone, but upon us, as well, thy descendants” (comp. Ecclus. [Sirach] xxv. 24, “from woman was the beginning of sin; on her account must we all die”). Similarly, in the Apocalypse of Baruch (xvii. 3), Adam is blamed for the shortening of the years of his progeny. Yet it would be hasty to hold that in these books the doctrine is advanced with the rigidity of an established dogma. Even in II Esd. iii. 9 the thesis is suggested that the consequence of the Fall came to an end with the Flood, when a generation of pious men sprang from Noah, and that it was only their descendants who wantonly brought corruption again into the world.” I think you’re right about what he believed but, unless and until I learn otherwise, Paul’s views are only his opinions. The point of living according to the Torah and purifying oneself in mikvahs and making sacrificing was not to achieve perfection. It was doing what God said to do (so they believed). God himself said living by the commandments was do-able. He and Paul are clearly on different pages. Why on earth, I wonder, have people taken Paul’s word for it that non-Christian Jews–before and after Jesus–were not capable of attaining salvation? Seems like such a dismal view of humanity and of God. God was wrong: his children were not able to carry out the Torah? Is there any proof of that? And man was irretrievably spiritually impoverished and Jews were unable to do what God said to do? Proof? Paul makes claims.

  20. Avatar
    marcrm68  June 6, 2016

    So if Galatians 1:11-12 is Paul referring only to gentiles being able to be Christians without having to obey the Jewish law, then doesn’t it still signal a very new type of Christianity from Peter’s? It seems to be taking on characteristics of mystery cults, namely cosmopolitanism… Paul is not only opening the doors for gentiles, but also women! Another characteristic is levels of spiritual knowledge (mysteries), and Paul clearly states in 1 Corinthians ( which I have just reread because of this thread ) that the Corinthians are as babies, and are not ready for solid food, or the next level of knowledge… But yet he hits them with the creed in 15:3-4-5, which may then be seen as a basic entry level creed geared toward those not ready for the higher teachings, and probably allegorical as to hide the true message from those not worthy.

    On an unrelated note, I was struck by the attention that Paul gives to sending money to Jerusalem! It seems that even at this early stage, money was of paramount importance… Was Paul working for the church in Jerusalem? Or was he freelancing? In any case, it’s funny how this hasn’t changed a bit in 2000 years!

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2016

      I think women were prominent in the faith before Paul. But yes, Paul’s version of the Gospel is indeed much more cosmopolitan. The Jersuaelm collection: I’ll add that one to the mailbag, as it’s an important issue for Paul.

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