Paul has always been something of an enigma in New Testament
studies, not least because of his "advanced" theology
from such an apparently early date. Though contemporaneous,
supposedly, with the godman Paul never meets a human Jesus and yet
he becomes the most important apostle of the new religion.
Then again, the man and his seminal epistles, by convention
placed in the mid-years of the 1st century, are actually
unheard of until late in the 2nd century. Could our hero
from Tarsus be a pious fabrication – just like Jesus
and the rest of the gang?
letters have no allusion to the parents of Jesus, let alone
to the virgin birth.
never refer to a place of birth (for example, by calling him
give no indication of the time or place of his earthly existence.
do not refer to his trial before a Roman official, nor to Jerusalem
as the place of execution.
mention neither John the Baptist, nor Judas, nor Peter's denial
of his master
letters also fail to mention any miracles Jesus is supposed
to have worked, a particularly striking omission, since, according
to the gospels, he worked so many ...
striking feature of Paul's letters is that one could never
gather from them that Jesus had been an ethical teacher ...
on only one occasion does he appeal to the authority of Jesus
to support an ethical teaching which the gospels also represent
Jesus as having delivered. "
A. Wells, The Historical Evidence for Jesus, 22-23.
Taking a closer look
at those famous "missions to the Gentiles".
Jew called Saul? An apostle called Paul? Or just plain
religious policeman to grandee
of the church,
from beast fighter in Ephesus to beheading in Rome,
Paul's story has more holes than a swiss cheese.
trail-blazing Christian missionary and apostle appears nowhere in the secular histories of his
age. Ironically, though supposedly in Jerusalem at
the right time, he can give no witness to a historical
Jesus. But was
Paul himself a
genuine historical figure?The
Pauline journeys, including the supposed transportation
of the apostle to Rome, are characterized by incongruities, contradiction,
and the absurd.
A closer look at the great missionary that some
with an Apostle
to murder. Christian saint gets off to a cracking start.
The popular image of St Paul is
selectively crafted from two sources: the Acts of the Apostles and
the Epistles which bear his name. Yet the two
sources actually present two radically different individuals
and two wildly divergent stories. Each relies on the other
for coherence yet simultaneously requires an arbitrary
selection of "fact" from the wealth of patent nonsense.
the historicity of the apostle realistically be maintained?
Viewed without the rose-tinted spectacles
of Christian faith, the first voyage of Paul is as fanciful
as the first voyage of Sinbad. Improbable, unlikely
incidents are juxtaposed with the miraculous and
the ridiculous. Faith can offer special
pleas for every incongruity but logical thinking cannot.
Galatians, the "most authentic" of the Pauline epistles, raises more questions than it answers. If its pugnacious author was, in reality, an early Christian missionary, then the letter is perhaps the first record of his clash with competitors over a territory he had claimed for himself.
But what territory? Something about Paul's dealings with the Galatians in not quite kosher.
St Paul's supposed journeys have more symbolism than realism. Taking a closer look at the military colony where the apostle is said to have converted a seller of purple and his gaoler and founded the first church in Europe.Paul's presence in Philippi is decidedly dubious.
In the New Testament yarn Paul visited Corinth on his second missionary journey, stayed eighteen months and founded the Corinthian church. Two letters ostensibly written to the Christians of Corinth form the core of "authentic" Pauline epistles. But was it friction or fiction in Roman Greece?
burn a few books .. the Lord's work.
Acts records the apostle's
presence at major cities like Athens, Thessalonika and Ephesus
and minor towns like Derbe and Mitylene, yet Paul's
epistles confirm very little of this grand tour. Whilst
a missionary journey, in the manner of a wandering sage or peripatetic
philosopher, is intrinsically plausible, the Pauline
journeys, characterized by incongruities, contradiction, and
the absurd, are not.
The reports of Paul's "evangelisation" of vast areas of the eastern Roman Empire are a triumph of brevity. This is especially true of Paul's third missionary journey, spent mainly in Ephesus. But did a Jewish evangelist called Paul really turn this sophisticated city upside down?
Church "tradition" of Paul's voyage to
Rome, followed by a martyr's death, cannot survive
rational scrutiny. The fable may well owe its origin
to the works of Josephus, the cornucopia of the
At least three countries lay claim to the site of Paul's shipwreck, all backed up by local "traditions," venerable artefacts and the insistence of local clergy and entrepreneurs. But the tale of maritime adventure is a pious fantasy and all three claims are bogus.
Pauline and other apostolic letters certainly exist but the epistles,
far from being genuine letters, originated in the
acrimonious doctrinal battles of the 2nd century – a
time when "pseudepigraphy" and forged
apostolic writings were weapons in the war of "Christianities".
is the very heart of the New
Pauline corpus is not an exception – it is a compendium of fraud. Many scholars attempt "chronologies" of
the life of Paul, yet Actsof the Apostles is
a naive fantasy and the Pauline letters of themselves
provide few clues in time or place.
Did Paul really invent Christianity? Purportedly, Paul, tireless founder of churches and evangelist extraordinaire, is also the first – and most influential – theologian of the Church. Whoever wrote in the name of Paul combined elements from Judaism, Gnosticism, and the Mystery religions to produce the winning formula.
The historicity of the super-apostle, vexed by troubles on all sides, warily asserting (re-asserting?) authority over "his" churches by stern letters, is not compelling. The "authentic voice" within the epistles is that of an authoritarian churchman. His call to "follow traditions" and "obey written rules" is clearly anachronistic and moves the epistles into a later age than purported for a 1st century apostle.
Christianity was NOT propagated by the "bold evangelism" of a handful of fearless apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit and energized by their personal experiences of a resurrected godman.In fact, no evidence links Paul to the major Christian churches – the story in the Acts of the Apostles is a pious invention.
Phantom saints were created by 2nd century Catholic Orthodoxy, seeding its own beliefs into an earlier era as "evidence" for Paul and as a rebuttal to Gnosticism. A phantom saint heads the list of "witnesses to witnesses".
Paul's letters are not what they appear to be – and more to the point, not when they appear to be. NOT ONE of the early Christian churches in the major cities of the Roman world owed anything to a pioneering apostle called Paul. Almost everything we think we know about Paul comes not from his own writings but from Acts of the Apostles, the great work of Catholic harmonization. As the Catholics successfully assimilated their Marcionite and Gnostic opponents, the legendary Paul was reworked in Acts. What we have in Paul is not a super-apostle but a superlative fraud.
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