Paul is not only presented inaccurately by Jewish scholars, but non-Jewish scholars as well. Was he a Jewish “fake”? Did he start a new religion called Christianity? Was he against his own people? We have already shown that Paul was a not against the Torah in previous teachings, and these are just a few of the inaccurate descriptions about him that have developed over the years. Paul’s actions in taking the Basar (gospel/good news/good tidings) to the world have been misunderstood by Jews, as well as non-Jews.
We are going to look at Paul and get down to the heart of the matter, using the Scriptures and seeing him in light of the first century “Judaisms” of the time. We are going to take the accusations you will find in the main Jewish encyclopedia’s against Paul. What we are going to find is an inconsistency in what these encyclopedia’s say about Paul. One part may say what Paul said “was not Jewish thought” then in another place they will say “this is Jewish thought.” This is only half the story. How he is presented in Judaism is one thing, but how he is presented in Christianity is another side of the story. Many accusations made against him are true within Christianity. In other words, much of Christianity will perceive him as having said exactly what they said he was saying, but this will be based on the development of the “church” through the Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance and finally German scholarship even up to the modern age today. What we are gong to present will be shocking in some cases. But, all of this put together will allow you to see just how they perverted Paul from who he really was. Paul is going to get a “bum rap” (an unfair and false charge) as a result.
About 30 A.D. Yeshua is slain. By the time we get to 40 A.D. we have non-Jews becoming believers, and everything has changed. We have Paul becoming a believer around this time. In 66 A.D., we have the war with Rome beginning. This war lasts till 73 A.D. Jerusalem and the Temple will be destroyed in 70 A.D. Not too much was decided for these seven years because everyone was preoccupied with the war. Following the war, everything will change again. From 40 A.D. to 70 A.D. the faith was understood as being Jewish and we have the non-Jewish Godfearers. It had some rough spots, but not too much changed. But after 70 A.D. it radically changes. We have the development of the non-Jewish congregations drifting away from its Jewish base.
At the same time, the Jewish believers are being affected by the non-Jews, and they are beginning to be ostracized in the Jewish community. Now, during the ministry of Yeshua, and during the first few years of the messianic spread into Asia Minor, the Sanhedrin was controlled by the Sadducee’s, not the Pharisee’s. But when we get up to the time of about 55 A.D. the Sanhedrin was controlled by the Pharisee’s, and they began to have a bigger platform about Halakah and what went on in the Temple. Now, if you read the Talmud you won’t get that impression. You will get the impression that the Pharisee’s always controlled things, and that the Sadducee’s were the “bad guys” (which in some cases they were, but not all cases).
But, we must remember, the Talmud was written by the Pharisee’s and the Sadducee’s had not part in it. The Sadducee’s had a power base with the High Priesthood and the Temple. Once that was gone, their influence went with them because they controlled the Temple and they controlled the laws and the politics surrounding it. Their stage was gone. When we look at the surviving record, there was no recorded writings of the Sadducee’s because they didn’t write any books. The only perspective that survived is from the Pharisees. Other writings, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, talk about what the Sadducees believed and what they controlled. That is how we know it was this way.
All of this will be a factor in understanding the believers during this time period. In 90 A.D. we have Rabban (the title for the Nasi of the Sanhedrin) Shimon Ben Gamaliel, the son of Paul’s teacher Gamaliel. He is the great-great grandson of Hillel the Elder. He was the Nasi (president) of the Sanhedrin. Yochanon Ben Zakkai was the Av Beit Din (vice-president). Ben Zakkai negotiated with the Romans (Vespasian) during the siege of Jerusalem and got Shimon Ben Gamaliel, who was very old by this time, and other rabbi’s out of the city. Ben Zakkai had to fake his own death in order to be let out of the city. They were granted permission by the Romans to go to a city named Yavneh, where a prophet named Zadok got medical attention. He had been fasting 40 years about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and many think this was in response to the words of Yeshua about it in 30 A.D.
But, Rabban Shimon Ben Gamaliel passes a decree in 90 A.D. that amended the 18 Benedictions, also called the Shemoneh Esrai or Amidah. These are prayers that were prayed daily in the Temple, and what Zechariah was praying (#15) when Gabriel appeared to him in Luke 1. This amendment was a benediction that had been written many years earlier. He re-instituted into the Amidah the benediction that was against “heretics.” Historically, this was written before the Pharisees even existed, back in the time when the Sadducees had just begun and the “Pharisees” were known as the Chasidim, during the time of the Maccabees. This benediction against the “heretics” (Hebrew “minim”) was aimed at the Jewish believers in Yeshua when it was reintroduced into the Amidah in 90 A.D. It is still there to this day.
Now, there are several things going on at this time concerning the Jewish believers. There was a separation between them and the non-Jewish congregations. The Gentile congregations considered them heretics also, and the Jewish believers are also considered heretics by the non-believing Jewish congregations. This indicates that these Jewish believers were still attending the synagogues at least 60 years after Yeshua. This is strange behavior for people who were supposed to be “free from the law” as false teachers say today, isn’t it? This “benediction” that was added was an attempt to stop the Jewish believer in Yeshua from attending their synagogues. They would not pronounce a curse against themselves, they would just stop going. That means Jewish believers were still active in the synagogues 20 years after the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple. But, they were affected by the non-Jewish congregations, and these non-Jewish congregations began to question the validity of the Torah in their lives. Much of this is based on the fact that many were already biased and anti-Semitic when they came in, and they brought these attitudes with them. After a great war with Rome, these Romans were not very sympathetic towards the Jews. After all, many of them had family, friends and acquaintances die in this war against the “rebellious Jew.” They weren’t about to embrace their ways. By the second century, a term was directed towards the Jewish believers, and they were called the “Rashim” which means “wicked ones.” This is where, in the Passover Haggadah section “Maggid”, there is a story about four sons. The “wise son” is of course the Pharisee’s. The “wicked” son is the Jewish believer (“rasha) in Yeshua who have been “excluded themselves from the community and the foundation of faith.” So, we have Jewish believers in Yeshua being ostracized more and more as we come into the second century (100-199).
We begin to have what is called the “Ante-Nicene Fathers” at this time (before the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.). By the time we get to the Council of Nicea, there have been 15 Jewish bishops of Jerusalem. Not one of the Bishops invited to the Council of Nicea will be Jewish, from anywhere in the world. Constantine totally keeps the Jewish believers out of the council. This council will be from a non-Jewish perspective, and this will be the beginning of what is called the Byzantine Era. In order to be a “church father” you had to agree with the theology of Constantine. In other words, you had to be anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic. By 325 A.D. the Council of Nicea will be very anti-Semitic. These “church fathers” were at odds with the Jewish believers.
Now, not all of the early ante-Nicene fathers were against the Jewish believer, but there was a trend moving in that direction. By 355 A.D., the “church” was anti-Jewish and believed that anyone who kept the Torah were “heretics.” There were no “Baptists” or “Protestants” but just the Byzantine Church. So, the “church” split over the issue of “Easter.” In the east, they insisted on following the date set by Passover, whereas, the west wanted to follow the Spring Equinox. It was also said that the reason the west would not follow a date set by Passover was that it was “following the Jewish tradition” and so it was “heresy.” That was the basis for challenging the date. Anything Jewish was seen as heresy. The Jewish believers have basically “disappeared” during this time. They were hunted down by Byzantine Christians and destroyed, so all that you have is a “gentile church” that is non-Jewish and anti-Torah.
In Part 26 we will pick up here and begin to discuss what happened after Rome fell, and the Medieval Period called “The Dark Ages.” What we will see is “scholarship” will only be located in two places in Europe. Then we will move to the Renaissance and then Germany. All of this will have a bearing on our development of the the real Paul, and we need to see what people have said about him in order to get an accurate picture of who he really was. This in turn will help us understand him in the Gospels and Epistles.