Jesus Never Existed

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Jesus Never Existed


The Six “Authentic” Pauline epistles?

With 15 letters demonstrably fake and with the practice of pseudepigraphy clearly at the heart of the entire corpus of the New Testament, caution is advised before accepting the remainder of the epistles as genuine.

But it is possible that half a dozen authentic letters keep company with a collection of fakes. But are they authentic?

The “Asian” letter


“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”
– Galatians 3.1.

Galatians 1.11-2.14 provides the best biography we have of Paul, and in six hundred of “his own words”. The passage positively shouts arrogance and conceit, as Paul parades his finer points: chosen by God from his mother’s womb; a personal revelation from JC; able to not merely harass but “waste” the church; excelling in Judaism beyond his peers; obdurate in the face of criticism; closed to new knowledge; a superior, “mighty” infusion of commitment; defiance before Peter, the chief apostle. What we have here is a religious bully.

As to Paul’s movements, we learn of Arabia, Damascus, a brief trip to Jerusalem, Syria and Cilicia. In Judaea he was “unknown by face” but they “glorified God” in him. The locations scarcely add up to great missionary activity. The epistle does not directly confirm Paul was ever in Galatia but that is implied by certain verses and his peeved response to recent events:

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel!” – 1.6

Clearly, Paul is not particularly good as an evangelist – in a trice, the new converts have been won over by the Judaizers! He does not return to “repair” his work (the obvious course of action) but, we are asked to believe, instead sends a tract of advanced theology. The esoteric content of Galatians (the “Abrahamic covenant“, “sanctification by the holy spirit“, et al) most assuredly would NOT have been sent to novice Galatian tribesmen. It is also of note that Paul does not honour his agreement with the “pillars” in Jerusalem (James, Cephas and John) that he should “go to the heathen but they to the circumcised” (Galatians 2.9). The modus operandi of the “apostle to the gentiles” almost everywhere was to seek out the JEWS and become a disruptive voice in the local synagogue!

The “Greek” letters

1 Corinthians

It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” – 1 Corinthians 7.1.

The first Epistle to the Corinthians purportedly was written while Paul was “tarrying at Ephesus until Pentecost (16.8). The reference probably implies the writer was at Ephesus but it is not unequivocal. At 4.11 Paul also claims to be “hungry … naked … and have no certain dwelling place.

Was he ever in Corinth? Verses 2.1-4 say as much. The writer confesses he “came .. not with enticing words or wisdom” but only the “testimony of God”.

As in Galatia, the new converts are misbehaving and Paul is full of holy indignation at their independent spirit and temerity in forming different sects. The writer vents his fury at a whole number of targets – so much so that the “letter” may be a composite of several missives. Among matters eliciting his ire are Greek wisdom (aka “vanity”) and the perceptions of the “natural man” (2.14); those who say “there is no resurrection of the dead” – 15.12; carnality and incest (“put away that wicked person” (5.13); “The body is not for fornication” – 6.13); women (the notorious “it is a shame for women to speak in the church” – 14.35); attendance of the Lord’s supper in order to eat! – 11.20,22); actions brought in the secular courts (“The saints shall judge the world” – 6.2); and excessive use of “tongues”. The conceited Paul, of course, is better with tongues than anybody else:

I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all … If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?” – 14.18,23.

The enraged apostle even threatens the errant Corinthians with the rod (4.21), though obviously not seriously because he wants to eventually turn up in Corinth to retrieve a “collection for the saints … in Jerusalem ” – (16.1,3).

Who are these needy saints? Does this reference imply that the Jewish temple still functioned and that the epistle is pre-70 AD, as some claim? Paul himself provides the answer:

Ye are God’s building … As a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation … For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble … it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is … Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” – 3.9,17.

Paul, as ever, energetically defends his status as a proper apostle – obviously, it had been called into question! – and at some length justifies “reaping carnal things” in exchange for the “spiritual things” he has preached.

Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? … Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.”
– 1 Corinthians 9.7.9.

Not surprising, then, that Paul tells us charity is greater than hope or faith!

The writer introduces several characters unknown to Acts – Chloe (the whistle-blower from Corinth), Stephanas (“addicted to the saints”), Gaius, Fortunatus (could this be a freedman of Herod Agrippa lifted from Josephus’s Antiquities, 18.7?), Achaicus – and two others, Crispus and Sosthenes, both “chief ruler of the synagogue” in Acts, though Paul says nothing of this.

The polemical response to so many “issues” is a tour de force but cuts the epistle free of any certain historicity. Could anyone really expect to heal several major fractional splits with such a rambling, composite letter? If Paul was so soon to visit the Corinthians would not commonsense dictate holding his counsel until he could judge the situation first hand? Is the epistle really addressed to the Corinthians or to “all that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ“? (1.2). Is it Paul’s arrogance that leads him to write to the “whole world” – a Paul who cannot even maintain authority over his “own” churches – or is the hand of a later editor revealed? Could any apostle re-establish waning authority by sending a missive by a sidekick (Timotheus) who he fears will be “despised” because the more experienced man (Apollos) simply refuses to go? (16.11,12).

Something is not quite kosher with 1 Corinthians.

Paul’s poor memory?

Or simply two fables that don’t agree!

In 1 Corinthians 11,16 the apostle claims to have baptised “none but Crispus and Gaius” and Stephanas (and his household). Paul actually declares, “For Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel.” (1.17).

Acts however tells a different story. 18.8 reports that Crispus, all his house, and “many of the Corinthians” were baptised. Nor should we overlook the baptisms at Philippi: Lydia of Thyatira and her household (Acts 16.14,15) and the awestruck jailer and his family (16.33)

Acts 19.1,5 adds that in Ephesus Paul baptised about a dozen followers of John the Baptist “in the name of the Lord Jesus.

2 Corinthians

“I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it! I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing.” – 2 Corinthians 12.11.

Tradition places 2 Corinthians in Philippi, though nothing in the epistle confirms this. Implicitly, the writer has left “troubles in Asia” behind him (1.8) but perhaps is not yet in Macedonia (1.15,16). In any event, he is “sparing” the Corinthians by delaying his visit. He is not a happy man:

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. – 2 Corinthians 4.8,9.

And just what is troubling our super apostle?
 Many of the familiar bad guys: unbelievers (6.14); the self-important (and Paul should know!) (10.12); ministers of Satan (11.14,15); and most alarmingly:

He that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” – 11.4.

Paul’s response to an alternative theology (or is it a competitive charlatan?) is the familiar parade of his own credentials, our “second best biography” – just 330 words proclaiming his Hebrew ancestry (NOT his Roman citizenship!); his labours “more abundant, prison more frequent”; his vision of a “third heaven”; and a miscellany of “stripes, rods, shipwrecks, hunger, nakedness” – in only one instance citing time, place or detail! (11.22-12.12). The one “detailed incident” – the basket escape from Damascus – sits oddly at the end of a chapter and is wholly unconvincing.

The troubled apostle is moved to send a team of trusted lieutenants to sort out the errant Corinthians. Paul credits Silvanus and Timothy with sharing the earlier evangelical work (1.19), though in fact Silvanus (aka Silas) went unmentioned in 1 Corinthians. But now, a more valued new man has entered the scene, Titus, “my partner and fellow worker” (8.23), who is referred to in eight different verses and appears to arrive from Corinth.

“For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest … Nevertheless God … comforted us by the coming of Titus; And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me.” – 7.5,8.

In Corinth, Titus had caused “fear and trembling” (7.15). Despite the brethren’s factionalism, Titus had extracted “the gift … for ministering to the saints” (8.4) – NO mention of the poor of Jerusalem!

Titus is sent back to Corinth by Paul (12.18) although we are also told Titus goes “on his own accord” (8.17)Either way, his mission is to make the Corinthians an offer they can’t refuse:

Show to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf. I boast … that Achaia was ready a year ago. Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we .. should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.

Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before … and make up beforehand your bounty … that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.

But this I say, ‘He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.’ For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”

– 2 Corinthians, 8.24-9.15.

What we have here is perhaps the original “Seed Faith” scam, that evangelical masterpiece of 20th century America!

Curiously, Titus has with him two “heavyweights” – an unnamed “brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches” and an unnamed “brother whom we have oftentimes proved diligent” (8.18.22). Who are these enigmatic characters, one wonders?

The Macedonian Letters

Was Paul not a first generation apostle of the Lord, teaching an original revelation of the Jesus gospel? How likely is it then, that in one of his earliest letters, he would refer to the “traditions” –  a word redolent of Roman Catholicism and a much later period?  But such we read in 2 Thessalonians:

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” – 2 Thessalonians 2.15.

The two Macedonian letters are clearly linked, though the musty odour of “inauthenticity” has long hung over the second letter. For one thing, 1 and 2 Thessalonians share some curiously similar wording. Indeed only verses 2.1-12 of 2 Thessalonians – a clarification of the timing of the coming of the Lord – can be said to be original. Those verses seek to “correct” a misunderstanding (one presumes from 1 Thessalonians) that judgement day was imminent. Evidently Paul’s original doomsday scenario caused some of the brothers to give up work, whilst leaving others disillusioned because loved ones had “fallen asleep” and to all intents seemed to be permanently dead.

The “second edition” Thessalonians – shorter, formal, and void of any personal or concrete references – makes clear that the Lord’s coming will be after “the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2.9).

Thessalonians has its own element of unreality. Paul greets the Thessalonians as exemplars for practically the whole world:

You became followers of us … so that you were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.” – 1.6,8

Yet this ridiculous flattery (how does Paul know that Thessalonian faith has become a byword in every place?) sits awkwardly alongside a major prop of the epistle, doubts about the faith of the Thessalonians. Paul, we learn, has waited in Athens (3.1) for word from Timothy, a helper he has sent to the city in his own stead “to know the faith” of the Thessalonians. Paul, unable to go himself “because of Satan” (2.18) is reassured that all is well and then devotes much of his epistle to defending his own reputation! Clearly Paul has been under attack and finds it necessary to deny “deceit, uncleanness, guile, flattery, and covetousness” (2.3,10) – as if we could imaging an evangelist capable of such things!

There is a suspicious appeal “to love those over you and who admonish you” at verses 5.12,13. The remainder of the letter waxes lyrical on the imminent day of the Lord and return of the dead (“we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” – 4.17), an end-time enthusiasm which prompts the corrective of 2 Thessalonians.

Whatever else we are dealing with here, it is not history. All the elements of the two letters suggest 2nd century creative theology at work.


How likely is it that, in the mid-years of the 1st century, the faith of Christians in Rome was a marvel across the world? And yet such is the preposterous claim in the Epistle to the Romans.

To all that be in Rome … I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” – Romans 1.7,8.

Even in the fantasy land conjectured by Acts, this makes no sense. Paul we are told had the franchise to evangelise the Gentiles, so just who has upstaged him in Rome? (Implicitly, it is Peter, of course – the counterfeit hero of 2nd century Roman Catholicism – but that’s another story). But just how many Christians could there possibly been in the imperial capital, circa 60 AD?

In Romans Paul provides little “biographical” detail, but enough to identify an intolerant bigot, tormented by his “uncontrollable flesh“.

For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing … I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am!” – Romans 7.18,24.

No surprises, then, that a major theme of Romans is “submission to authority”. Uptight and Christian.

In chapter 11, we again have Paul proclaiming his Israelite ancestry, this time claiming descent from the tribe of Benjamin. But it is chapter 15, verses 19 to 32 which provide the “hard facts” of places and events: a mission as far as Illyricum, an intended journey to Spain, mention of “them that do not believe him” in Judaea, and collections raised in Macedonia and Achaia which the apostle intends to deliver to the “poor saints of Jerusalem”.

Proof that the Jerusalem community still exists and the epistle is pre-70 AD?

Not so. The earliest copies of Romans ended at verse 14.23. The “biographic” infill of chapter 15 is a 2nd century fabrication!

There is evidence that in the 2nd century Romans was extant in three forms of varying length. The shortest ended at 14.23 in the middle of an argument which continues in the in the longer texts to 15.13 … In many MSS the closing doxology (16.25-7) is placed after 14.23 and this placing can be traced back to a very early date.”  – T. W. Manson, ‘Romans’ (Peake’s Commentary on the Bible, p940).

Most of Romans 16 (with its long list of greeted individuals) probably circulated as a genuine letter – from someone (and to Corinth!). Interestingly, an address delivered by Josephus to the besieged rebels in Jerusalem in the year 70 AD finds an echo in “Paul’s” sermon in Romans.*

Witnesses to Paul?

The letters, to which the apostle is indebted for the largest part of his fame, seem to have been forgotten for almost an entire century, until we encounter them in the middle of the second century in the hands of the heretic Marcion, who was excommunicated by the Catholic church in 144 CE.

– H. Detering (The Falsified Paul, p60)

The most famous of the epistles masquerade as something they are not. They are NOT 1st century letters from a hard working apostle to his acolytes in a swath of churches across Asia Minor, Greece and Rome. But they are something very important in the early history of the church.

It is clear that the words of the epistles were framed by a personality who was pompous, cantankerous and “authoritative”. The writer emerges as someone who is anxious to maintain his hold over an organization that he has had a hand in building. His position, it seems, is beset by rivals. His influence is threatened by numerous competitors and the ethos of a more ancient culture that does not readily succumb to his New Order. His response is to combine anger with self-pity, didactic instruction with unctuous flattery.

Yet is this ecclesiastic bully “Paul” or another who speaks in his name? It cannot be the biblical Paul. His “biography“, whether drawn from Acts or the epistles, is a fabric of fraud and fantasy. The attributed journeys, whether to Cyprus and Lycaonia, to Greece, or to Rome, are palpably false. Nor does the “authenticity” of Paul himself gain support from elsewhere.

A potential “early witness” to the apostle, the Revelation of St John, is silent. The apocalypse is Jewish agitprop given an early Christian gloss, which addresses itself precisely to Paul’s stomping ground – Roman Asia. The Revelation does mention apostles – false apostles and liars, that is – but of Paul it says nothing. The apocalypse even mentions a “faithful martyr” but this is not Paul but “Antipas” (2.13) – a saint otherwise unknown outside of Orthodox fiction. Though the Revelation has precious few words that pertain to the known universe, it does twice mention an obscure sect, the Nicolaitanes (probably Gnostics), who it seems, were hated by the divine “Alpha and Omega”. But Paul, the founder of churches and apostle who bestrides the whole New Testament, does not merit a mention.

There is another supposed “early witness” to the existence of Paul, Clement of Rome, whose own letter to the Corinthians mentions a single “epistle of Paul” (1 Clement 47.1). 1 Clement also provides the novel information that Paul had been “driven into exile …(and) reached the farthest bounds of the West” (5.5,6) – adventures unconfirmed either by Acts or Paul himself! Yet “Clement” himself is something of a phantom, despite claims that he was an early “pope”. His epistle is usually dated to 95 AD but the earliest extant copy (in the Codex Alexandrinus) dates from the 5th century and the earliest reference to 1 Clement is made in the 4th century history of Eusebius, a notorious fabricator (Hist. Eccl. 3,16,38; 4,22).

Rather more pertinent than the ethereal Clement is the testimony of Justin Martyr, who, in the mid-2nd century, discussed the apostolic mission to the Gentiles at length. Yet Justin not once mentioned Paul or his epistles, not even when arguing the point so crucial to Paul’s heart, that “circumcision was unnecessary”! Nor is there any reference to Paul in the fragments that we have of the work of Hegesippus (?110-180), a contemporary of Justin and himself a Jew.

The earliest extant canon list containing all of Paul’s accredited letters dates from the late 2nd century. Its author is unknown and the list takes its name from its 18th century Italian discoverer Muratori. Interestingly, the Muratorian Canon includes the comment,

Moreover there is in circulation an epistle to the Laodiceans, and another to the Alexandrians, forged under the name of Paul … “.

Here we have an early witness not to the famed apostle but rather to the industry of fraud!

But WHY?

Why on earth would the true writer (or writers) want to falsely attribute authorship? And if “pseudepigraphical” like the rest of the epistles, who was the phantom-like figure “Paul”? And why was his name reverentially attached to a body of theological writings so crucial to the canon and to making sense of the mythical life and death of Jesus Christ?

Without the “field correspondence”, the Jesus saga might be an entertaining tale but it would have floated free of the priesthood, a class of deceivers and deluded fools who necessarily made special claim to the legacy of the dying/resurrected godman. Their self-chosen mission was to officiate the awesome power of the Lord in this world and to stand as gatekeepers on the next, dispensing promises of life eternal or curses of everlasting torment.

In the fierce competition of 2nd century Christ-cults, historicizing of the godman precipitated a scramble for Christ bestowed succession. If Jesus of Nazareth had lived, to whom indeed had his mantle of earthly authority fallen? The Jewish-Christians, or Ebionites, of Jerusalem made claim to kinship: they were nothing less than the descendents of the Lord (and had not Jesus indeed had brothers and sisters?).

The Catholics in Rome staked their claim on Peter, designated “rock” upon which the saviour would build his church.

But another Gentile church contended with the Catholics: the Marcionites, a sect of Jesus enthusiasts far less accommodating of “Jewish ways” than their rivals. Marcion’s authority, as he himself claimed, rested on an apostle even greater than Rome’s St. Peter, on an apostle who had received his remit directly from the risen Christ. Miraculously, it was Marcion himself who had first “found” the epistles of Paul, letters that it seems had remained curiously forgotten for a century. Marcion, the heretic, assembled a canon even earlier than the Muratori, with ten epistles attributed to Paul and a simple Jesus tale that had a kinship to Luke’s gospel. It was the first “New Testament”. The Catholics responded and in the second half of the 2nd century, “epistles” – some under the name of Paul, others under the names “Ignatius”, “Peter” etc. – proliferated.

We know, of course, that the Catholics prevailed over their opponents. In the formulation of a single, universal, Catholic dogma, Paul, the erstwhile hero of the heretics, was written into the yarn called Acts of the Apostles, shorn of much of his self-proclaimed superiority and now with the Holy Spirit guiding his hand. When an approved canon was finally determined, the Pauline letters, assembled for lack of any known chronology by length, were tucked in behind Acts, implying an historical sequence utterly unsupported by any reality.

In short, the claims for a 1st century superstar of missionary tours and Christological discourse, are fraudulent – or are, as they say, “inauthentic”. Paul, like his divine guide and mentor Jesus, never existed.

Where did they get their ideas from?

In the closing stages of the Jewish war with Rome, most of Jerusalem had already fallen to the legions of Titus. Josephus, now part of the Roman commander’s entourage, approached the last redoubt of the rebels and appealed for their surrender. His plea, as he records in his history of the war, finds a curious echo in the “Epistle to the Romans”.

Josephus – Wars 5.9

Attacked messenger

“O hard-hearted wretches as you are! … Jeremiah cried out aloud … but you abuse me, and throw darts at me, who only exhort you to save yourselves, as being provoked when you are put in mind of your sins.”

Condemnation of sin:

“You have not avoided so much as those sins that are usually done in secret; I mean thefts, and treacherous plots against men, and adulteries. You are quarrelling about rapines and murders, and invent strange ways of wickedness.

Futile to resist Rome and opposes God:

Roman power is invincible … you fight not only against the Romans, but against God himself … And, after all this, do you expect Him whom you have so impiously abused to be your supporter? “

Rome is God’s instrument:

God, when he had gone round the nations with this dominion, is now settled in Italy …

And it is plain madness to expect that God should appear as well disposed towards the wicked as towards the righteous, since he knows when it is proper to punish men for their sins immediately;

Tributes to Rome are righteous:

“Romans demand no more than that accustomed tribute which our fathers paid to their fathers.”

Readiness for self-sacrifice:

“Nay, take my own blood as a reward, if it may but procure your preservation; for I am ready to die, in case you will but return to a sound mind after my death.”

Resumé of Jewish history:

“He betook himself to the histories belonging to their own nation, and cried out aloud … In old times there was one Necao, king of Egypt, who was also called Pharaoh; he came with a prodigious army of soldiers, and seized queen Sarah, the mother of our nation. What did Abraham our progenitor then do?

Appeal for change of heart:

Will not you turn again, and look back, and consider whence it is that you fight with such violence, and how great a Supporter you have profanely abused?

Paul” – Romans

“Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.” – 11.3

“Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. – 13.13

The powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” – 13.2

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil … For he is the minister of God to thee for good.

But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” – 13.3,4

“Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” – 13.7

“I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” – 9.2,3

“Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law … they are the seed of Abraham …and Sarah shall have a son … For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee … – 9.4,17

” I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” – 12.1


  • Hermann Detering, The Falsified Paul, Early Christianity in the Twilight (Journal of Higher Criticism, 2003)
  • A. N. Wilson, Paul, The Mind of the Apostle (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1997)
  • John Ziesler, Pauline Christianity (Oxford, 1990)
  • Edward Stourton, In the Footsteps of Saint Paul (Hodder & Stoughton, 2004)
  • J. Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, A Critical Life (Clarendon, 1996)
  • J. Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, His Story (Oxford, 2005)
  • Daniel T. Unterbrink, Judas the Galilean (iUniverse, 2004)
  • Daniel T. Unterbrink, New Testament Lies (iUniverse, 2006)
  • Jay Raskin, The Evolution of Christs and Christianities (Xlibris, 2006)
St Paul – Real or Imagined?

Be afraid

For the weapons of our warfare are casting down imaginations … and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

– St Paul, 2 Corinthians 10.4,5.

Paul? Paul who?


The writer of the Revelation of St John – one of the earliest books of the New Testament and in origins probably the only one to date from the 1st century – addresses his end of the world gore-fest to the very region central to Paul’s mission, Roman Asia.

The “seven churches” of the preface were Ephesus (where “Paul caused a riot” and lived for 3 years), Thyatira (home town of Lydia, Paul’s first convert in Philippi), Laodicea (sent a copy of Colossians, we are told), Sardis, Philadelphia, Pergamum and Smyrna.

Yet the writer of the apocalypse betrays no knowledge of the activities of the apostle Paul or of his letters. Though “John” relishes the martyrdom of the saints, Paul’s “execution in Rome” does not get a mention.

Similarly, the earliest reliable Christian source, Justin Martyr, in the mid-2nd century, has nothing to say of Paul or his epistles.



“It was unfortunate that Marcion had made himself the champion of Paul. Paul’s letters composed more than half of his new Scripture.

This is the explanation of the curious reticence about Paul that characterizes Justin in the two works of his that have come down to us: the Apology and the Dialogue. He uses Paul freely in them, it is true, but never once mentions his name.”

– Edgar J. Goodspeed, An Introduction to the New Testament, 1937, xxi.


Three Fables

Acts mentions Paul’s whereabouts at a string of Aegean ports (). Paul himself mentions only 3 of them () and only two of the “seven churches of Asia” named in Revelation ().

Paul “writes” to three churches of the Lycos valley which are unknown to Acts. But although Paul supposedly lived for years at Ephesus, the great missionary never made the 100 mile trip to visit them.

All very curious – and clearly indicative of three separate stories.

Quoted by others?

Codex Alexandrinus. Earliest 1 Clement – a 5th century copy.

The shadowy Clement of Rome, at best, refers to a single epistle of Paul.

Prior to 2nd century heretic Marcion we enter a void in which Paul’s epistles are unquoted and Christian writers show no knowledge of the apostle.

Today’s Christian apologists quote “early attestations” of St Paul but they are pressed into using sources which are themselves suspect.

Even more epistles: the Ignatians

The Ignatian epistles vouch for the existence of Paul and his letters. Unfortunately, the Ignatians are themselves late 2nd century forgeries.

The supposed celebrity tour of the early 2nd century bishop of Antioch as he journeyed towards his martyrdom in Rome is almost Pythonesque in its surreal character.

Dating Paul

(École Francaise d’Archéologie, Athens).

The “Gallio Inscription” – a letter set in stone from Emperor Claudius (41-54) to the citizens of Delphi.

The inscription is the bedrock for dating a historical Paul, and indeed the entire New Testament. Yet Paul himself, in his epistles, makes no mention of Gallio.

Temple goes up in flame

So Titus retired into the tower of Antonia, and resolved to storm the temple the next day, early in the morning, with his whole army, and to encamp round about the holy house. But as for that house, God had, for certain, long ago doomed it to the fire; and now that fatal day was come ...”

– Josephus, Wars 6.4.5.

“Paul was here”

Remarkable as it may seem, the Greek Orthodox Church at Veria (ancient Beroea, Macedonia) can vouch that these are the very steps from which St Paul preached the word. Hmm.

When the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was proclaimed of Paul at Beroea also, they came thither likewise, stirring up and troubling the multitudes.

– Acts 17.13.

Alternative sourcing?

Apollonius of Tyana

By far the longest biography that survives from antiquity is actually the Life of Apollonius of Tyana.

The work of Flavius Philostratus, a 2nd/3rd century Greek Sophist, the biography has long fuelled the debate on the origins of the Jesus story. Apollonius was a 1st century “holy man” famed for wisdom and healing.

But the life of the wandering Pythagorean parallels much that is claimed for the apostle Paul, in particular his legendary travels across the known world. Moreover, Apollonius wrote numerous letters – some of which still survive – expressing his ethical guidelines.

Not only did Apollonius spend time in “Paul’s” cities of Antioch, Ephesus and Athens, he also faced charges in Rome before the emperor Domitian.

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