The Evangelist Missionary Paul,
And His Theology of Christian Apologetics
Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the American Declaration of Independence, wrote that: "Paul was the first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus."
The "Christian Right" of his day accused him of heresy because of it, of course. But in America that is something not generally known. In fact, during the last 20 years, especially since more scholars have been pointing out such facts, right-wing "fundamentalist Christians" have also been condemning Jefferson as a heretic for saying such a thing. In fact, they not only label Jefferson and certain other Founding Fathers such as James Madison and Thomas Paine as heretics. They even condemn George Washington and Benjamin Franklin because they were Freemasons.
So, since this issue is becoming very important, you should know that most of the Founding Fathers, including Jefferson, loved the actual core teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
For example, Jefferson wrote: "Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus."
However, Jefferson also wrote: "But a short time elapsed after the death of [Jesus] the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State."
It is rather amazing that Jefferson and others realized that so long ago, without the benefit of all the modern archaeology, anthropology and scholarly research that has proven Jefferson correct. And that is why the truth should be known by all.
Paul and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles
The book of Acts (of the apostles) was written long after Paul had written his epistles and established his theology (which had become dominant by the time Acts was written). And as we know Acts records Paul’s conversion from a Pharisaic Jew to a Christian three times, apparently to thoroughly document the idea that “the voice of Jesus” told Saul (Paul) from out of the blue that he was called by God and chosen as a “chosen vessel” of Jesus.
Acts 9:1-19 tells how Paul said the conversion happened. Acts 22:3-21 says Paul told a Roman officer in Jerusalem about it, and then Acts 26:1-18 says Paul told the Jewish king, Agrippa II, about his conversion and his theology.
However, the book of Acts regards Paul in a less elevated role than Paul assumes in his epistles. Paul’s epistles, such as his letters to the Corinthians, were written as if he was not only an authorized apostle, but as if he was the chief Christian authority. He was the first to claim in writing that Jesus had been born of a virgin (stating that “God sent His Son, born of a woman"); that he overcome death, and died to free the world of sin. That is why many modern Christian scholars consider Paul as the actual architect of Christianity.
It's true that Pauline Christianity became the official canonized Christianity as we know it, because in Paul's epistles he considered himself the chief apostle (despite the fact that Jesus said James would be the head of the church). But even the book of Acts differs in some very certain ways from Paul's opinion. The book of Acts apparently does accept Paul’s claim that he was a “vessel,” but it does not elevate him above the apostles. In fact, the book of Acts makes it clear that the actual apostles were only the twelve Jesus chose in person (Acts 1:21-22). And that was no doubt to correct what Paul had written in his epistles claiming that he was.
Ironically, the books of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John make no mention of Paul. But many scholars believe that Luke wrote the book of Acts. So this article discusses those issues because the accounts of Paul’s conversion in the book of Acts were written in part to support Paul’s epistles and his theology of Christian Apologetics, which is a defense against Rabbinical and Talmudic Judaism, which refutes that theology (and for good reason, because Paul's theology is flawed, as even the testimony of Jesus reveals).
Even though Paul did get a lot of things right, his basic theology is flawed for a number of reasons, as is explained in the article About Christianity and other supporting articles about Jesus, his birth, life, mission, teachings, and prophecies.
This article, however, raises and discusses the point that even though the three accounts about Paul’s conversion in the book of Acts describes Paul as seeing "a light" and hearing "the voice of Jesus" (Acts 9:3-4; 22:6-7; 36:13-14), none of those three accounts say that Paul saw the face or person of Jesus, or even his ghost.
Yet, in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians Paul claims that he did see Jesus himself, and he insisted that he was at least equal in authority with the apostles who actually heard and saw Jesus as he lived and breathed.
In 1 Corinthians 9:1 Paul argues "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?"
In fact, Paul never saw Jesus, but in all of Paul’s epistles or letters, Paul emphasizes or even leads with that claim. In the very first sentence Paul’s epistles or letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul submits that he was an apostle, or that he was called by God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.
In fact, Paul even claimed that “God’s son is in me,” whereas later gospel writers did not make such a claim, but reported what they thought were the most important things they recalled Jesus said in person. For example, John 14:16-20 reports that Jesus said:
"God will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you will know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will . ... On that day you will realize that I am in God, and you are in me, and I am in you."
In other words, Jesus said even though he would no longer be seen in the world, his disciples would see the Christ within.
However, that was written long after Paul wrote his epistles, and yet Paul wrote in Galatians 1:15-16 of his conversion and stated that God had “called me by his grace to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach ...,” and Paul even claimed he spoke for Jesus.
That is why it is important to consider the full context of what John wrote later, to report more of what Jesus had said:
"I tell you the truth: I must go away, but I will send the Counselor to you. He will righteously judge the world; because I am going to heaven and you will see me no more. I came not to judge the world, but the rulers of this world must be judged. I have much more to say to you, but it is more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak of himself, because of himself he will do nothing but the will of the one who sent him. He will [write and] speak only what he hears from God, and he will tell you what is to come. He will glorify me by having what is mine and making it known to you." (Paraphrasing and clarifying John 8:28, John 12:47, and John 16:7-15)
That does not speak of Paul, even though some Christians assume it did. And Paul had probably heard the story because John had probably told it by word of mouth many times before he finally wrote it down long after Paul wrote his epistles. That is perhaps why Paul made a point of calling himself an apostle and claiming to speak for Jesus. That would indicate that he himself believed he was the one Jesus had spoken of, whose mission would be to issue judgment of the rulers of the world.
Paul was wrong if that was his assumption, just as he was wrong about his story of the new covenant and many other Hebrew prophecies. He was also wrong in thinking that the “second coming” of Jesus and the “end of the world” were imminent and would happen during his generation. In fact, he was not only wrong about that happening then. He was wrong about it happening at all.
But Paul was a zealous convert, and it was perhaps because of Paul’s assumptions that his initial preaching to people in person wasn't very successful. It was only after a good number of years studying the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), arriving at his own interpretations and theological conclusions, and then finalizing and distributing his letters or epistles that Paul began to be widely accepted by many as a Christian authority, even by Peter and Luke.
By 180 CE Paul's 13 epistles began to be considered official church canon, along with the other gospels. So this is an important issue because, as you will see below, the New Testament in the Christian Bible — as it developed from the last half of the first century CE (AD) thought the fourth century when the official church canon and bible was chosen and officially compiled — essentially makes Paul the chief “architect” of the church. (See A Chronological New Testament, by Marcus Borg, which reveals why the placing the Christian New Testament canon in chronological order makes it clear that the gospels, which were written after most of Paul's epistles, were not the source of early Christianity, but its product.)
That is why Pauline Christianity became dominant over the Christianity of the other groups, such as James' group, which was in conflict with Paul's group.
It would appear that Paul's group included Peter and perhaps Luke (if Luke wrote the book of Acts), even though the gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John and others do not mention Saul or Paul, and it was the apostle James who was the most gifted and enlightened Christian who understood the real intent, mission, and universal teachings of Jesus.
Now, some modern, liberal, progressive Christian scholars agree that the book of Acts does not support the idea that Paul was made chief authority over the Christians. Most progressive Christian scholars would agree that Paul’s calling was inferior to that of the original twelve apostles. And many progressive scholars even see some of the flaws and fabrications in the official Pauline Christian church canon.
However, even the most liberal and progressive Christian scholars still fail to see the complete picture and story. They still see Paul as a legitimate and valid Christian evangelist and missionary.
For example, one prominent progressive Christian scholar, John Dominic Crossan, a member of the Jesus Seminar, submits that the differences between the book of Acts and Paul’s epistles were not because the author of Acts lacked correct information about Paul, but rather interpreted Paul’s viewpoint with hindsight, long after Paul wrote his epistles.
Even though Crossan and other members of the Jesus Seminar (like Karen Armstrong and Marcus Borg) are doing great work, Crossan's viewpoint regarding Paul is problematic, because the acceptance of Paul’s epistles as “gospels” influenced the following gospels, and because Paul was a converted Pharisaic Jew he was antagonistic toward Judaism. For that and other reasons he was a misleading influence on Christians.
Even so, apparently Peter and some other apostles accepted Paul’s take on Hebrew prophecies. And even though Paul was wrong about some things, his writings were successful in establishing the theology of Christian Apologetics which claims that Jesus of Nazareth, among other things, fulfilled prophecies, was literally resurrected, “overcame death” and therefore “freed the world from sin,” and would literally “come again.” Those ideas are based on the writings of Paul and the gospel writers who agreed with him. But they are based on an incorrect interpretation of the Judaic scriptures in the Hebrew Bible – Paul’s interpretation.
Thomas Jefferson realized that back in the late 1700s, even without the benefit of all the modern historical and archaeological evidence we have now. And Jefferson wrote that: "Paul was the first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus."
That is because Paul’s ideas were antagonistic toward Judaism. He saw Christianity as opposed to “the Jews’ religion.” (Galatians 1:13-14).
James and others, on the other hand, understood the real and true foundation of Jesus' teachings. They understood that the golden rule was originally taught by the great Jewish Essene Sage, Hillel the Elder, whose teachings influenced Jesus and his family. They knew that was why Jesus was a martyr and pacifist, who advised us to judge not, lest we be so judged; turn the other cheek; resist not evil but love good; "render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and love even our enemy.
Paul thought such advice was secondary to his theology and doctrines claiming that Christianity superseded Judaism and was destined to be the supreme and superior religion that must become dominant in the world in order to "save the souls" of Jews and Gentiles (everyone else who is not Jewish).
However, Paul and others who adopted the idea that the blood of Jesus was shed to provide salvation and establish the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah did not understand Jeremiah or Jesus.
Jesus knew that he ushered in a age of conflict and division that would be caused by wicked men (many of whom claimed and still claim to be Christians, and many of whom claimed and still claim to be Jews or Muslims). And Jesus knew the New Covenant would not be established until the end of the age.
Paul and others of like mind did not understand what Jesus understood. They did not understand why Moses wrote that God is not a man, nor a son of man. They did not understand why Isaiah wrote that we should not liken God to any man. And they also did not understand that the martyrdom of Jesus was not about “salvation.”
They did not understand why King David had written that salvation comes only from the Lord God and not from a son of man, which was why the martyrdom of Jesus was “an offering for sin” or guilt offering (which is what the prophet Isaiah actually wrote). And it was really about his being a perfect example of a loving, forgiving, peaceful pacifist.
Paul’s doctrines, which became completely dominant by the fourth century, were in certain ways contrary to that, in the sense that they caused Christians to believe that they had an "evangelical mandate" to essentially rule the world to “spread the word of God,” even if it meant living by the sword and killing to do it.
Of course, even Paul would have thought that was wrong. For even Paul wrote that “the weapons of the Lord are not carnal [or lethal], but are mighty through God from pulling down strongholds [of military power].” And he also wrote of the “sword of the Spirit” being the written word of God.
That’s one of many things Paul got right, but, because of his theology and doctrine of Christian preeminence and superiority over Judaism and all other religions, many Christian heads of state focused on that to justify their military industrial empires.
Ironically, Paul gave them even more specific reason to justify themselves. In Romans 13:4 Paul states that “evil doers should be afraid, for the minister of God bears the sword as a revenger to execute wrath upon him that does evil.”
Beginning in the fourth century that justified Christian Monarchs to carry on the Roman military imperial tradition, and it was the same even after the Protestant Reformation because Paul’s theology and doctrines justified them in building, maintaining and spreading their “Christian” military industrial empires, ostensibly to “save souls” and “spread the Word of God.”
That tradition began with the first “Christian” Monarch, the Roman Emperor Constantine, and his successor, Roman Emperor Theodosius, who was far more zealous in his war against “pagans” to solidify Christian rule, setting a firm and cruel precedent.
That justified the Christian Crusades, which began in 1099 when European Christians conquered and took control of Jerusalem. By 1126 they ruled completely, and during the next several decades they conquered and controlled lands, huge estates and fortresses from England to Egypt. They grew very rich, and owed allegiance to no one but the Pope, and all kings owed them and bowed to them.
By 1187 the "Christian" Kingdom of Jerusalem was so weakened by its own greed, corruption, internal conflicts and disputes over wealth and power, that the Muslim leader Saladin was able to take control, and he took most of the Christian nobility of the kingdom as prisoners. However, Saladin was merciful and treated the Christians well. And when Saladin took control of Acre, Nablus, Jaffa, Toron, Sidon, Beirut and Ascalon, he behaved so mercifully that he was regarded even by Europeans as a noble and merciful warrior.
The same cannot be said of Richard “The Lion Heart,” King of England, who in 1191 led the third Christian Crusade against Saladin in an attempt to retake Jerusalem. Richard in fact slaughtered thousands of Muslim prisoners he had taken. And even though Richard scored one victory over Saladin’s forces in Jaffa, his crusade failed to take Jerusalem, just as the second and the next two crusades failed.
A sixth Crusade was waged by German Emperor Frederick II, who in 1223 was commissioned by the Roman Catholic Pope. But, when Frederick arrived in Palestine neither he nor the Muslim leader, Al-Kamil, had much power, so there were no “grand battles” over Jerusalem. They simply signed a treaty which returned Jerusalem to the Christians and enabled the Muslims to retain possession of the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, and were to be allowed free access to and within the city.
Even so, the “Christian Crusader” and “Christian Soldier” mentality persisted and justified many Christian Emperors and Kings. It persists even today, because right-wing Christians justify themselves with the idea that “Jesus Christ Our Lord” “came not to bring peace, but a sword.”
However, they do not realize that Jesus said that not because he sanctioned or approved of living by the sword. He said it because he knew he ushered in an age of division and conflict during which spiritually blind men would live by the sword.
That’s why Jesus said: “I came not to bring peace, but division.” (Luke 12:51) He also said “those who live by the sword perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52, And, when Peter picked up a sword to protect Jesus from the Roman soldiers who came to arrest him, Jesus said to put it down, because he was a peaceful, forgiving pacifist.
Granted, most reasonable people in the world believe that civilized societies need armed police forces and military forces, and the modern son of man agrees. But he, like most conscientious, civilized, humanitarian people, believes that lethal deadly force should used only as a last resort, to protect people’s lives from those who are killing or threatening to kill them, and to stop armed foreign aggressors from conquering and occupying lands and territories that belong to others.
That, unfortunately, is not what many Christian emperors, kings and heads of state have done during the last sixteen centuries as they built and expanded their empires, largely because they justified themselves with the Christian doctrine of preeminence and superiority.
That is clearly contradictory to the actual teachings and intent of Jesus, and the truth must be told because the false doctrines that became part of the official church canon and summed up in the Nicene Creed in the fourth century have been used to claim that unless you profess that Jesus was the Lord God and Savior "Himself," you will suffer in hell for eternity.
That is simply not true, because as Isaiah wrote, only God is the Savior. Jesus himself knew that, which is why he said things like "God is greater than I" (John 14:28) and “You have not heard God’s voice or seen God’s shape at any time.” (John 5:37) And even though Jesus realized his oneness with God, as we all can, he knew and said he was not God, but God’s servant.
Unfortunately, the doctrine of preeminence and superiority and its threat of hell and damnation has suited emperors and kings and military industrial imperialists since the fourth century. And in modern times it has enabled false shepherds and false prophets on the “religious right” to establish a huge cult in the name of "Jesus Christ," unwittingly becoming as the blind leading the blind, totally unaware that the title of "Christ" is not a last name but a title meaning "anointed one" who serves God.
How Paul’s Theology Became Dominant
Paul wrote thirteen epistles (possibly fourteen) that were included in the official church canon or bible, and they were all written before the rest of the books or gospels that were included. That is why even though Paul was not very effective in person, his writings were.
In 180 AD (CE) an influential Christian leader, Bishop Irenaeus, wrote a book favoring the epistles of Paul and the later gospels of Mark, Luke, John and Matthew as the only legitimate gospels, and the book of James was included as a diplomatic gesture because James and his group had been major players in establishing Christianity before the Christian movement became dominated by Paul and his group.
In other words, Bishop Irenaeus decided who the “real Christians” were, and he condemned all the rest of the Christian writings and gospels as "heresies.” That is why so many of the early Christian writer’s works were hidden, like the “Gnostic Gospels,” and the 52 gospels that were discovered in 1945 and are now known as The Nag Hammadi Library.
Since 1945 and particularly during the last ten years, modern scholars have been examining the known Christian writings that were rejected by church patriarchs between the second and fourth centuries. It turns out that some of those 52 gospels of The Nag Hammadi Library were prophetic, understanding why Jesus of Nazareth had said that the true Christians would be persecuted.
One of the texts of those Christians states: "Some who do not understand mystery speak of things which they do not understand, but they will boast that the mystery of truth is theirs alone."
That Christian writer was speaking of imposters who established "empty" churches across the Roman Empire, led by influential and powerful leaders such as Bishop Irenaeus, who accused the Gnostic Christians of being heretics, as did Roman Emperor Theodocius (the second Christian Roman Emperor) and Christian Archbishop Cyril in the fourth century.
One of the Gnostic Christians wrote: "We were hated and persecuted, not only by those who are ignorant, but also by those who think they are advancing the name of Christ, but were unknowingly empty [of the Holy Spirit], not knowing who they are."
In other words, we now know that the historic record shows Paul’s theology became the most influential thirty years after the death of Jesus. It was made even more influential by Bishop Irenaeus one hundred and twenty years later. And by the fourth century, when the Romans under Emperor Constantine accepted Paul's version of Christianity, it made Christianity the most dominant religion throughout the Roman Empire.
The problem with that is that Paul was wrong about many things, as is discussed in several other relevant article. But, even worse that misinterpreting the Old Testament (the Hebrew Torah and Tanakh), Paul was antagonistic to Rabbinic and Talmudic Judaism. And the influence of James, the Jewish Essene Christians and the "Gnostic" Christians had been overshadowed by those who were influenced by and promoted Paul’s theology.
That’s one of the reasons why Christians have been divided and Christianity and Judaism have been at odds ever since. It is what caused the first book burnings in Alexandria. It was a contributing factor in the cause of the bloody Christian Crusades, the cruel Inquisition, and all the “Christian” military industrial imperialism and colonialism that occurred during the last fourteen centuries.
In spite of that, Paul’s theology justifies right-wing “Christian” Theocrats today, who push the idea that they should rule in the name of Christianity. That's why the truth is so very important.