We are going to continue to present what some of the Jewish publications say about Paul, especially in the Encyclopedia Judaica and the Jewish Encyclopedia. They will say the conception of a new faith, like Paul preached and the susceptibility of its influences would be totally foreign to the nature of Jewish thought. They say Paul shrank from life because it was the domain of Satan and all the evil host. He longed for redemption by deadening all desires for life and strove for another world which he saw in his ecstatic visions (Here they are presenting him as a “nut.” They are building a case that you can’t believe anything he says because he went into epileptic seizures caused by visions). It also says that his preaching on chastity ensnared the souls of young men and maidens by telling them to remain single. Whatever the physiological and psychological analysis of Paul’s temperament may be, his conception of life was not Jewish, nor can his unparalleled animosity and hostility toward Judaism be accounted for, except in the fact, though born a Jew, he was never in sympathy or in touch with the doctrines of the Rabbinical schools (What they are presenting here is absolute nonsense). They go on to say that even his Jewish teachings came through Hellenistic channels indicated by an emphasis on the Day of the Divine Wrath, which was also a part of the Hellenistic work “The Sibylline Oracles” which is a collection of oral utterances written in Greek by Sibyls, a prophetess who spoke in a frenzied state (This day is called the Day of the Lord and it is a very Jewish concept, as seen in the many ways this day is expressed in the Tanak. There are at least 85 different ways this is expressed, and this is a very Jewish theme, not Hellenistic).
These articles go on to say that is would be quite natural for Jews and “Judeo-Christians” to see Paul as an apostate from the Torah (They go on to quote anti-Semitic and Ante-Nicene ‘fathers” like Irenaeus, Origen and Clement of Rome. Origen is considered the father of Replacement Theology). They say Paul had a fiery temper and was impulsive to the extreme, very high at times and then very low (They are making him out to be manic-depressive). They say he went on to mold the beliefs of all Christianity and he had to create a new system of faith so that the Gentiles could be admitted.
We could go on and on from the Encyclopedia Judaica on this. There is a description of Paul taken from “The Acts of Paul and Thecla” from around 150 A.D. that says that he was small in size, bald, bow-legged, well built with eye brows meeting (a “uni-brow”), long nosed, full of grace and seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the countenance of an angel (Christiantimelines.com). According to the Jewish Encyclopedia article called “Saul of Tarsus”, Paul’s beliefs and theology had the goal of uniting all men at the expense of common sense and sound wisdom. They are going to present him as a “genius” in compiling and putting this all together. However, they are going to say it was the opposite of Jewish thought and he borrowed from paganism and other sources.
They say Paul’s “Christ” was only seen while in a trance, while the other apostles saw him in the flesh. All of this makes it look like a “fairy tale” and it only came while in a “vision of ecstasy” and totally non-Jewish (But, seeing visions of God, going to the “third heaven” and so on is very Jewish and can be found throughout the Tanak and Jewish writings, like the Apocrypha, the Pseudo-Pigrapha, the Talmud and Kabbalistic writings. In none of this is the “person” attacked as being some sort of “kook” but they do try to present Paul that way in these articles). They say that Paul based his idea of the Messiah on Jewish mysticism and he saw Messiah as metaphysical and related to Gnosticism. These are just a few examples of what the Jewish Encyclopedia says about him, and you get the idea and we could go on and on with this.
This is not a criticism of Judaism, but in this area Paul is not being treated fairly. Replacement Theology has things just as bad to say about Paul. It’s like gangrene that spreads in both groups and we need to amputate and do some reconstruction. Basically, these articles say that Paul departed from Jewish thought. Replacement Theology Christianity says Paul departed from Jewish thought. This has been the conception of Paul for 2000 years and it is inaccurate. He has been totally misunderstood in Jewish thought and Jewish literature. He has also been misunderstood in Christian thought and Christian literature. He has also been misunderstood in translations.
From a Christian perspective, some of these misunderstandings can be seen in Bible Review, Dec/98 in an article called “Paul’s Contradictions.” What they say is Paul taught the supremacy of Christianity over Judaism and it has been that way since the Church Fathers to just recently. That is because some “maverick” scholars began to question this premise. It says the Jews are no longer the “bearers of salvation” and their only hope for salvation is to become a Christian. What we have is a giant, horrific myth and no wonder we have the problems we have. So, what exactly is Replacement Theology? Some say the church has replaced Israel in the blessings, but Israel has retained the curses. They say grace has replaced the Torah (law); Sunday has replaced the Sabbath; pagan holidays have been “christianized” and made “clean” over the biblical festivals and the “New Testament” has replaced the “Old Testament.” We will have more on this later. The “conversion” of Paul to “Christianity” is a false concept. He never converted “out of Judaism into Christianity.” He did come to the realization that Yeshua was the promised Messiah because Yeshua actually appeared to him, but it was within a Jewish framework.
From the time of Martin Luther, Germany was a hotbed of Christian theological scholarship. It was also very anti-Semitic. The Holocaust did not just “happen” because the flames were fanned by this “scholarship” for many years preceding it. We have already talked about Gerhard Kittel, the author of Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. He was Hitler’s theologian (the Lansing State Journal, Jan/98). This means we have a backround of anti-Semitism that is being worked into the modern translations. Kittel added to the problem started by Origen.
Origen’s “fifth” column needs to be explained. This was a compilation of the best manuscripts of the New Testament into six columns (1,2,3,4,5,6). His “fifth” column was his translation of the others. This was translated into Greek and the basis for the Latin Vulgate. Then it went from Latin into other languages. Kittel was just an example of how modern “scholarship” looked to German “scholarship” in studies of the New Testament and Paul. The Christian authors look to these statements and say, “See, they agree with what we are saying.” These sources believe that the “church” in Jerusalem was “in Paul’s way” and Paul had the greatest success among Gentile populations where there was very little Jewish influence.
It is implied by certain statements that Paul was impressed by Rome and its administration and he was “plotting” on how to build “his church” using Rome as a model. He was planning to have his church center in Rome rather than Jerusalem, and this concept is taught within the Catholic Church. In reality, Paul was establishing the “Kehilat” according to the Jewish model and within a Jewish framework, which included a place for common worship; a place where children and adults are taught the Torah and a place for charity, food kitchens and helping the sick and needy. You would find all of this in any congregation Paul established and he never departed from that model.
To have a congregation, you would need at least ten people, based on Gen 18.32 and Ruth 4.1-2. This is called a “minyan” today and a minyan of ten is what is required to have prayer. Today, this is only ten men, but in the first century a minyan included both men and women. You also would have “Batlanim” (men of leisure) who are people who do not need to work anymore. In “Fiddler on the Roof” there is a song called “If I Were a Rich Man” and in one of the verses it says that if he was rich he could study the Torah eight hours a day. The basis for Jewish education is to get an education so that you can study the Scriptures. The second aspect to a Jewish education is to be educated in a trade. Why? So you can be wealthy someday in order to have enough time to study the Scriptures!
In every community where there was a synagogue (or more than one) it was comprised of at least ten “Batlanim” who were scholars. The purpose was to have every congregation established upon sound, biblical doctrine and understanding. Then you will have “overseer’s” or “Zekenim” (elders). You will have a minimum of three in every congregation. These are not necessarily “sages” but they will be well versed in the Scriptures. In the writings of Paul, he is laying out qualifications for leadership among the Godfearer’s in several passages (Titus 1.5-9; 1 Tim 3-5). These things you would find in any Jewish synagogue, except with Paul he is establishing congregations according to this Jewish model among the non-Jews, so these leaders will be among the non-Jewish Godfearers. This is what Paul was doing, not establishing “churches” within a new religion or based on the model of the Essene community as believed by some scholars. Even if that were true, the meals consecrated to God (Lord’s Supper) was a huge meal, not what Christianity does. Also, the Essene’s were Jewish and Paul did set up congregations according to a Jewish framework, but what was done in Christianity was not. But, they will say Paul was setting up “churches” outside of a Jewish framework, and yet say he patterned them after the Essene’s, who were Jewish! They want it both ways. Just because they had communal meals and “tevilah” (baptism) doesn’t mean that these were churches connected to any particular sects of Judaism because how they practiced these things were foreign to the Jewish practice and Paul would never have done these things that way. Similarities between what Paul was setting up and what he wrote about in his epistles and the Essenes are there because they are Jewish in their framework.
We will pick up here in Part 5.