The Apostle Paul – a nasty, complex character

“That Saint Paul…He’s the one who makes all the trouble.

(Ernest Hemingway, http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/hemingwa.htm)

saint_paulPaul was the creator of Christian theology.

I feel no warmth for him, nor do I like his messages.

He had an incessant self-righteous manner. His ideas were irritatingly convoluted and his ethics depraved. He deliberately distorted the Nazarenes’ (including the family and disciples of Jesus ) beliefs with his own. He was a man intent on manipulating people and shoring up his own status, and all this is very unattractive.

It’s easy to be critical of historical characters if we don’t understand their world from their perspective, so I tried to do so. I spent many months reading his letters, and books and articles about him, expecting to find some redeeming features, but there are very few to be found.

To put Paul’s Christology in perspective, we should consider his almost complete lack of credentials. His legitimacy rested solely on his claim that God had revealed everything to him, an extremely weak argument. Christian history is littered with charismatic cult leaders who’ve thought or pretended that God talked to them. They’ve usually spent their youth studying scripture, started their own sect, and then tried to control everyone in it, which is precisely what Paul attempted. Joseph Smith and David Koresh are typical examples. It turned out Paul’s writings helped create the biggest cult of them all.

AtheistPaul’s “good news” defines today’s Christianity, yet it was contrived to be attractive and easy to sell.
He claimed Christ was the Son of God crucified by the Jews as a sacrifice to make up for humanity’s sins, and it was imperative to have faith in this scheme to get into heaven.

These rather bizarre and innovative ideas were unknown to John the Baptist and Yeshua (Jesus,) and repugnant to James, Peter, the other disciples, and the entire Jewish nation. Paul met James and Peter, but thought they had

“nothing to add to the good news I preach.” They were messianic Jews who Paul knew opposed Roman rule, so he berated their beliefs and promoted his own.

Paul was cunning, opportunistic, and manipulative, and cleverly tailored all his innovative arguments to suit whichever community he was writing to. He invented long-winded waffling tales about his own credibility, God, heaven, Christ, Jews, and gentiles, and they don’t make sense.

saint paul 6Paul knew nothing of a Jesus born to a virgin, the preacher who could cater for a crowd with a few loaves and fishes, command graves to open, cast out devils, walk on water, or cure leprosy. He never met Jesus, or described him. The “road to Damascus” story was invented by the author of Acts. Paul teaches us more about Jesus by what he doesn’t say than what he does. He indirectly proved that the Gospels are mainly mythical.

My theory is that Paul’s Christ figure was someone else who has since been retrofitted into the gospel stories about Jesus, probably sometime in the second century. I suspect the name “Jesus” has been inserted into Paul’s original writings, as have the few passages that suggest Christ was once a living person. I think this “cut and paste job” is obvious once one has been made aware of it.

There was no such thing as a New Testament in Paul’s time, so he couldn’t possibly have presumed his own writings were scripture.

He was overtly misogynistic, homophobic, and had a neurotic loathing of sexuality. He thought he was an authority on the afterlife, work place relations, the status of women, what to wear, when to eat, when to have sex, whom to keep company with, the role of government…and the list goes on. Today’s preachers promote these pathetic prejudices to justify their own.

snake-oil-scamPaul was a product of the gentile world, and was probably a government propagandist employed to undermine and report on problematic Jews. He took his job very seriously. He became so obsessed with promoting propaganda he probably started to believe his own spiel. His job gave him power, prestige, and a platform to preach his bigoted ethics, and that was attractive to a man who was a social misfit. He was too obsessive about his own opinions. If he’d lived in modern times, he’d be given a gold watch for his time in the public service, put on a pension, ushered out the door, and the whole office would be glad to see his back.

His writings became important when they were promoted by some second century Christians. They had to jettison the archaic Judaic law to be popular with gentiles, and Paul’s ideas justified just that. This was why the author of the book of Acts invented stories about him to bolster his legitimacy.

This imaginative raconteur became the most influential theologian of all. Christianity became Paul’s baby, although dad didn’t know what a monster his progeny would grow in to.

I think his letters just happened to grab the imagination of the market, a most unfortunate quirk of history. His awful prejudices and bizarre theology, still read in churches, will continue to poison humanitarian ethics if they aren’t recognized for what they are.

                                                       How he did it…Paul the Salesman

I think Paul was a salesman with an ambitious agenda. He hoped to sell his interpretation of Judaism to the Roman world. I think he had a plan to undermine those dangerous messianic Nazarene beliefs that roused rebellion against Roman rule.

He wrote to various groups scattered throughout the Empire, and desperately insisted they believe only his theology. He was so obsessed with snaring converts that little else in his life mattered. In Romans 15:16, he wrote that Gentiles were an offering he would bring to God.

“That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.”

Most of the people he wrote to were Gentiles (pagans) associated with Jewish synagogues, (“God-fearing Gentiles,”) although he wrote to some Jews in the diaspora too. From Paul’s perspective, his patrons were in desperate need of direction and an authoritative, charismatic leader to look up to. He considered himself just the man. He knew how to win the hearts, minds, and souls of people, as he imagined himself as one of the few god fearers (i.e. Jews) who understood Gentile cultures.

paul of TarsusPaul’s theology probably had a long and carefully thought out gestation. He knew that to appeal to his customers he needed a product very different to traditional Judaism, because Judaism required obedience to cumbersome dictates. The Jews believed one had to be circumcised, a painful and embarrassing procedure, not easy to sell to an adult man. They worshipped Yahweh, who is portrayed in Jewish scripture as a thunderous and violent pro-Jewish anti-gentile God. They could only eat kosher food, marry only fellow Jews, and had to stop work on the Sabbath. Jewish heritage and history were regarded as superior, and all Jews were expected to take part in the fasts and feasts celebrating the ancient epic of Israel. Many Jews thought they were one day going to be the masters of the world. Their messianic dreams were an obstacle to the peace Rome imposed on the people of the empire. Paul knew that gentiles found all this inconvenient, irksome and out of touch with reality, so he labeled these Jewish rules and beliefs as a type of “slavery.” He had to jettison the old rules, so he did, by reinventing Judaism so that it was more to the gentile world’s liking.

According to Paul, there was now no need for circumcision or to stop work on the Sabbath. The dietary kosher rules were out; bacon was back on the breakfast menu. He downplayed the importance of the Jewish Temple, and replaced the Jews’ hope for a political messiah of their own with Christ, the spiritual savior of all mankind. The “kingdom of God,” according to Paul, became a place in heaven, not in Israel. He declared Yahweh was such a decent deity he’d sent his own precious son, the Christ, to earth. He alleged gentiles were descendants of Abraham too, and that the centuries-old Jewish Law was a “curse,” and a type of “slavery.” All that was now required was faith in his claims about Christ. Voilà! The Christ myth and Christian theology were born.

ta dahPaul was one of history’s first examples of an ambitious cult leader who, when the rules of the established religion were no longer convenient, simply invented new ones to suit himself. He replaced what he called the “old covenant” of the Jews with his entirely fabricated “new covenant.” He was trying to reinvent Judaism and I think doing his best to dampen down Jewish messianic dreams. He was bending over backwards to infiltrate Judaism with Gentiles and Gentile ideas. He had no idea he was creating an almost entirely new religion, yet that’s precisely what his writings helped do many years later.

To help realize this remodeling of belief, he undermined Yeshua’s family and disciples behind their backs. He was surprised and angry to find himself competing with them for people’s allegiance. They were treading on what he considered his turf. How dare they preach old-fashioned Jewish theology and disrupt his mission to set up communities of believers! Those annoying war-mongering Jews were full of subversive fantasies about a messiah, but God had revealed to him the real Christ, the up-to-date modern Christ! He, not them, was plugging the “good news.” He knew what the newly flexible, expansionist, less violent, less Judaic God expected in these modern, pro-Roman times. He was an educated, savvy, Greek-speaking sophisticate who knew a stack more about selling religion to the subjects of the Empire than the old fashioned anti-Roman bumpkins from the backwater of Galilee! 

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                                                                      Paul and Judaism

Devout Jews despised Paul and rejected his messages. The idea that their mysterious, perfect, one and only God could be incarnated in the form of Christ enraged them. They refused to believe that their God could die, or that a Christ’s death somehow addressed a primordial, sinful nature of humankind. Their messiah was never expected to be the savior of an individual’s soul, but of their entire people. The kingdom of God promised in scripture wasn’t in heaven, but was to be on earth in the here and now. Their prophets had foretold that the messiah was to herald in a glorious age in which Israel ruled and brought the pagan empires of the world to the realization of the glory of their god, Yahweh. The messiah was to build the Third Temple (Ezek. 37:26–28), gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isa. 43:5–6), and bring an end to the rule of the Romans. He was supposed to stop all exploitation, corruption, famine, disease, and war. Paul’s fictional Christ had done none of this!

Paul claimed:

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal. 2;16, KJV,) and

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3:13, KJV,) and

“Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith. Now that that time has come we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptized in Christ, you have all clothed yourself in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:23–28, NJB.)

But Jews would have none of this. They believed – and still do – that the way to find favor with God was to obey “the Law”—that is, the Torah, as allegedly taught by Moses. They knew that there was no mention in the scriptures of there ever being an end to the covenant God made with their ancestors on Mount Sinai. Jews regarded the Law as a gift from their God. They didn’t consider it a curse or an imposition.

Why would they give up centuries of tradition to believe someone they regarded as a deluded, opinionated, self-righteous, pro-Roman renegade? They knew there was no such thing as a “new covenant,” other than in Paul’s fertile imagination.

Imagine a scientologist grabbing the microphone during mass at the Vatican and proclaiming that Ron Hubbard was the messiah. Paul was a first century scientologist.

Jesus, who had died over a decade before Paul appeared on the scene, would have totally rejected the idea that his own death somehow gave believing Gentiles a ticket to heaven. He would have cursed Gentiles (who did, after all, nail him to a cross) with his dying breaths, never imagining that his God – whom he never thought of as his temporal sire – would grant them a place in heaven!

Jesus said,

“Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them but complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved” (Matt. 5:17–18 JB.) Paul and Jesus contradicted each other! So much for Biblical infallibility!

Many Christians today still insist that Jesus came to do away with the Jewish Law. They aren’t listening to Jesus, but Paul (or his strong proponents such as Luther or Calvin.)

All Jews believed God dwelt in the temple. Paul made a cavalier dismissal of the importance of the Jewish land (Israel) by suggesting that the Temple was not the only place god resided. He said all believers become a temple for God:

“And that is what we are—the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:15, NJB) and

Didn’t you realize that you were God’s Temple” (1 Cor. 3:16 JB.) Paul was attempting to expand God’s influence out of Israel and into the whole Roman world. Yet for any first century Jew this diminished the importance of the temple and denied the geographical pivot of Judaism.

Jews had always thought they alone were Abraham’s descendants and, therefore, a nation of God’s special people. Yet Paul claimed:

“Those therefore who rely on faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, the man of faith.” (Gal. 3:9, NJB,) and

“Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised” (Gal. 3:29, NJB.) He was asserting that believing gentiles should consider themselves God’s chosen. He was trying to weaken the patriotic fervor of Jews by downplaying their exclusivity.

Throughout Paul’s travels, he was initially welcome in the synagogues because he masqueraded as a traditional Jew, but after Jews heard what he had to say, he was rejected, sometimes even beaten and pelted with rocks. As Paul was probably a Jew, they imagined he was upsetting their relationship with God and that the whole Jewish community would suffer as a consequence. Is it any wonder they physically attacked him?

While Paul was preaching, the Nazarenes, the original disciples of Jesus, were expanding into a significant force under the leadership of James (Jesus’ brother) in Jerusalem. They also enjoyed a significant membership among Jews throughout the empire. They definitely didn’t preach the divinity of Christ, nor intend to start a new religion. Paul considered them competitors. He got very upset when he encountered rival missionaries, who were probably Nazarenes, and complained bitterly about them hijacking “his” converts. He cursed them, using the undeniable truth of his own gospel as justification:

“I am astonished at the promptness with which you have turned away from the one who called you and have decided to follow a different version of the Good News. Not that there can be more than one Good News; it is merely that some trouble makers among you want to change the Good News of Christ; and let me warn you that if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one that we have already preached to you, whether it be ourselves or an angel from heaven, he is condemned” (Gal. 1:6–9, NJB.) He sounds like an upset child whose best friend has gone off to play with someone else. It’s ironic that the pathetic Paul was accusing his adversaries of the very thing he was guilty of -preaching a fabrication!

The two faced Paul tried to ingratiate himself with the Nazarenes when in their company, but they became implacably opposed to him, as verified by the verbal slanging match in Paul’s letter and the adamantly anti-Pauline assertions in James’ letter. James summoned Paul to Jerusalem when it became apparent Paul was preaching against the Torah, and sent him to the temple to purify himself and prove he was still a true Jew (see Acts 21,) which led to Paul’s so called arrest and eventual transportation to Rome. James, the brother of Yeshua, effectively terminated Paul’s missionary career!

When Paul was forced to reveal the fact he was a Roman citizen, his cover was well and truly blown. A Roman citizen couldn’t be a Nazarene. According to the book of Acts, the Romans had to dedicate considerable resources (500 soldiers) to protect him from angry Jews. They would have only done that when looking after one of their own.

Paul wasn’t deterred by this interruption. He kept writing letters from Rome, and to the best of our knowledge, never gave up.

Paul’s modern-day reputation as a teacher of truth, along with the implication he taught Jesus’ message, has no truthful foundation, yet it has become part of Christian tradition, largely because of what the author(s) wrote in Acts. By then, sometime around the middle to late second century, Paul’s reputation needed more credibility, so the author had Jesus’ ghost appear to Paul on the road to Damascus, which was pure fiction. The story of Paul becoming good friends with Yeshua’s disciples was also a fiction. The author even took it upon himself to shore up Paul’s credibility by having him perform a number of miracles. Yet Paul failed to mention these miracles, an impossible omission if they were factual. Paul revealed many facets of his personality in his letters, but genuine modesty definitely wasn’t one of them.

                                         Sin

the very concept

Why would anyone agree with Paul’s delusions about sin? Most people today consider sin a deliberate act that results in harm, usually to another person. Yet Paul claimed sin can be something one’s born with, like a birth defect. (http://atheism.about.com/od/thebible/a/originalsin.htm). This is a dim-witted idea, as a newborn can’t deliberately cause harm, so can’t sin.

Paul is the only New Testament author to discuss this concept of “original sin,” as further articulated by Tertullian of Carthage (AD 150-225) and Augustine of Hippo (354–430 CE.) It’s a nasty notion. People are told they’re basically bad – because they were born. It makes them dislike themselves, which churches know is good for business.

Christianity;becauseIf, for the sake of argument, we (modern, rational people) accept the assumption that our behavior can offend God, surely this God didn’t need Jesus’ death to forgive. He could be benevolent and simply say

“you’re genuinely sorry, so I forgive you.” Paul, however, didn’t believe in a benevolent God, but thought of him as a rigid character who demanded a sacrifice.

I think Paul misunderstood the real problem with sin. The true sting of sin is that it harms our fellow humans, or sometimes the perpetrator himself. It should be the victim who does the forgiving, because he’s vindicated, maybe compensated, and the guilty party usually promises not to repeat the offense. Wrong-doers learn from their mistakes, and society benefits. Paul bypassed this reparative process by professing that sin was forgiven by having faith in Christ, an unrelated third party. In Paul’s scheme the perpetrator may not be genuinely repentant,  so a repeat offense is very likely. What’s more, the victim is uncompensated.

lemme get this

To pass on the responsibility of dealing with sin by having faith in Jesus is, in fact, a badly deficient way of sorting out social problems. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HA55jGyq2C8).

In turning Christ’s death into a sacrifice that saves souls, Paul sacrificed common sense. He promoted a belief that degrades interpersonal relationships and compromises social harmony.

 

sinner

                                                                    Paul the Misogynist

Paul was blatantly sexist. He, or someone writing in his name, wrote:

“For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” (1 Corinthians 11:8–9 KJV.)

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:18 KJV.)

“Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, since as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church submits to Christ, so should wives to their husbands, in everything” (Eph. 5:22–25, NJB.)

If anyone is feeling their blood boil, be warned: it gets worse.

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34-5, KJV.)

1-Timothy-211-Let-a-woman-learn-in-silence-with-full-sibmission.-I-permit-no-woman-to-teach-or-to-have-authority-over-a-man-she-is-to-keep-silent.“Similarly, I direct that women are to wear suitable clothes and to be dressed quietly and modestly, without braided hair or gold and jewelry or expensive clothes; their adornment is to do the sort of good works that are proper for women who profess to be religious. During instruction, a woman should be quiet and respectful. I am not giving permission for a woman to teach or to tell a man what to do. A woman ought not to speak, because Adam was formed first and Eve afterwards, and it was not Adam who was led astray but the woman who was led astray and fell into sin. Nevertheless, she will be saved by childbearing, provided she lives a modest life and is constant in faith and love and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:9–15, NJB.)

This is what the founder of Christianity (and those who wrote in his name) thought of women. They were made to be playthings for men, submit to them, and remain silent unless spoken to, because their opinions weren’t important. They were inherently evil and had led men into sin. They weren’t to make themselves look attractive. The best way they could save their wicked selves from going to hell was to shut up, accept their second-class status and bear their husband’s children!

bible sandwhichSome commentators go to great lengths to make excuses for Paul, yet it’s irrelevant what he wrote elsewhere, or what other Pharisees thought of women, or that he had female friends. He clearly disliked assertive women and feminine sensuality, thought women were intellectually inferior to men, and that they were their husband’s property. His writings are read out in churches today. Young boys and girls hear them, and that’s unacceptable.

Most people today quite rightly ignore the misogynistic Paul, yet still think God inspired his theology. That makes no sense.

One of the reasons churches have been so successful over the centuries is that they degrade and hold back women; half their congregation! Churches have traditionally refused women leadership, encouraged pregnancy and discouraged them from entering the workforce or getting an education. There’s more to this than Paul’s prattle.

When women become educated, or bread winners, the whole family is empowered. Statistically speaking, the more educated and affluent people become, the less likely they are to go to church (at least outside the United States.) The empowerment of women throughout much of Europe over the last fifty years has meant a marked rise in standards of living and a sharp fall in church attendance. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oYkMrVrE8Q). That’s not good for their business, and church bean counters know it, which is why I think feminism is usually frowned upon in church.

the bible teaches

That's right

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11 Responses to The Apostle Paul – a nasty, complex character

  1. Scott Morgan says:

    Moderation is apparently a slow process here. Perhaps you’re busy.

  2. Scott Morgan says:

    While my comment awaits moderation, I’ll also mention that Yeshua and Paul (as well as the other New Testament letter writers) emphasized a similar theme: love = obedience.

    I mention this to you because the idea that one can be saved by “belief” but still go on offending others and living destructively IS dangerous–this is something, I think, you and I can agree on.

  3. Scott Morgan says:

    Paul’s theology in Romans matches up well with that of the Book of John (thought to be the last of the gospels).

    The personality and behavior of Jesus in the synoptic gospels is essentially no different than the Jesus of the Book of John. (That John would later focus on lesser known stories and pay less attention to parables shouldn’t surprise us.)

    Jesus (Yeshua) emphasized the love of one’s neighbor and so do Paul’s teachings. Their ideas were consistent.

    That Paul doesn’t rehash Yeshua’s miracles doesn’t indirectly discredit them as myths. Paul’s letters were written to Churches (and single believers like Timothy) who were likely already aware of many of Yeshua’s “performances” and sayings.

    • Mark Fulton says:

      You write “The personality and behavior of Jesus in the synoptic gospels is essentially no different than the Jesus of the Book of John.”

      I disagree. John’s Jesus was portrayed as far less human, more exalted, and very much the son of God, all rather “Gentile” ideas.

      You write “Jesus (Yeshua) emphasized the love of one’s neighbour” Um…yeah…I guess he did say “love one another” That doesn’t make up for the following…

      “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter in law against her mother in law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household. Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:34–39, NJB.)

      “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, KJV.)

      “No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only son” (John 3:18, NJB.)

      “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34, NJB,) and
      “If you have no sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36, NJB.)

      “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:3–5 NKJV,) and

      “Happy you who weep now; you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21, NJB,)

      “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! …woe to you, blind guides…You blind fools!… You blind men!… You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matt. 23:13–34, NJB.)

      “Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth” (Matt. 13:40–43, NJB.)

      “Next he will say to those on his left hand ‘Go away from me with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’’’ (Matt. 25:41, NJB.)“Anyone who does not remain in me is like a branch that has been thrown away—he withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire and they are burnt” (John 15:6, NJB.) (A similar quote is repeated in Mark 6:11.)

      “Then he began to approach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent. Alas for you Chorazin! Alas for you Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you were done in Tyre or Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sack cloth and ashes, and still I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgment day on Tyre or Sidon as with you. And as for you Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven? You shall be thrown down in hell for if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet. And still, I tell you that I will not go as hard with the land of Sodom on Judgment day as with you” (Matt. 11:20–24, NJB.)

      “But as for my enemies who did not want me for their king, bring them here and execute them in my presence” (Luke 19:27, NJB.)

      There’s no interpretation that can tone down these atrocious tirades. Jesus had an arrogant, fanatical belief in himself, and an aggressive ambition to be in charge. He denounced anyone who didn’t worship him, and threatened violence. That’s not attractive. These aren’t the words of someone spreading peace and goodwill.

      This is one of the reasons I suggest that Christians should get out their bible and actually read the damn thing.

      You think Paul taught people to love one another? Please explain the following quotes…

      “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Col. 3:22–23 NIV.)

      “All slaves ‘under the yoke’ must have unqualified respect for their masters, so that the name of God and our teaching are not brought into disrepute. Slaves whose masters are believers are not to think any the less of them because they are brothers; on the contrary, they should serve them all the better, since those who have the benefit of their services are believers and dear to God.” (1 Tim. 6:1–3, NJB.)

      “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:6–13, KJV.)

      “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders… will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–10, NIV.)

      “He wants you to keep away from fornication and each one of you to know how to use the body that belongs to him in a way that is holy and honorable, not giving away to selfish lust like the pagans who do not know God, He wants nobody at all to ever sin by taking advantage of a brother in these matters; the Lord always punishes sins of that sort, as we told you before and assured you. We have been called by God to be holy, not to be immoral” (1 Thess. 4:3–7, NJB.)

      “Yes, it is a good thing for a man not to touch a woman. But since sex is always a danger, let each man have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband must give his wife what she has the right to expect, and so too the wife to the husband. The wife has no rights over her own body; it is the husband who has them. In the same way, the husband has no rights over his body; the wife has them. Do not refuse each other except by mutual consent, and then only for an agreed time, to leave yourselves free for prayer; then come together again in case Satan should take advantage of your weakness to tempt you” (1 Cor. 7:1–6, NJB.)

      “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34-5, KJV.)

      “Similarly, I direct that women are to wear suitable clothes and to be dressed quietly and modestly, without braided hair or gold and jewelry or expensive clothes; their adornment is to do the sort of good works that are proper for women who profess to be religious. During instruction, a woman should be quiet and respectful. I am not giving permission for a woman to teach or to tell a man what to do. A woman ought not to speak, because Adam was formed first and Eve afterwards, and it was not Adam who was led astray but the woman who was led astray and fell into sin. Nevertheless, she will be saved by childbearing, provided she lives a modest life and is constant in faith and love and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:9–15, NJB.)

      “For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” (1 Corinthians 11:8–9 KJV.)

      “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:18 KJV.)

      “Wives should regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, since as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church submits to Christ, so should wives to their husbands, in everything” (Eph. 5:22–25, NJB.)

      Far from preaching love, Paul hated women, (that’s half the human race) hated gays, and hated anyone who didn’t believe his own peculiar brand of bullshit.

      RE “Paul’s letters were written to Churches (and single believers like Timothy) who were likely already aware of many of Yeshua’s “performances” and sayings.” No no no! The gospels hadn’t been written when Paul wrote. No one anywhere knew of Jesus’ miracles because the story hadn’t been created yet. In fact a good argument can be made that Paul’s Christ wasn’t even the historical Jesus.

      • Scott Morgan says:

        Thank you for a very thoughtful reply. I appreciate the detail and it was worth the wait.

        1) John DOES emphasize Jesus’s deity more than the synoptics. You’re right about that, though the synoptics do point towards his deity as the Christ less blatantly. Some of the similarities I see involving his personality include the nature of his miracles, his manner of discourse with his disciples, his knack for avoiding the traps of the Jewish intellectuals as well as his ability to silence them, and, overall, the way he differentiates the subgroups that he’s talking to; he takes into account the background knowledge and beliefs of his audience at all times.

        2) “Do not suppose I have come to bring peace but a sword . . .” During that time, chosing to follow Jesus could create serious tensions within homes and possibly disownment. Never the less, Jesus says “follow me”. Even in my life I’ve noticed that trying to follow Jesus (as I understand it) has created rifts with some friends–but more connectivity with others. So I think there is a certain paradox at play: He who brought a sword is also the “Prince of Peace” (if one’s willing to accept it).

        3) “If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother . . .” — Let me speak from my experience. When I saw the true nature of evil in me, I began to see it in others (including my family). I experienced a certain anger and sadness towards myself and even those I loved. In contrast, I saw in Jesus awesome love and to me there was no one else like him. Since, I’ve learned to forgive people who hurt me (but to be honest, I still have issues with forgiving myself for things).

        4)Luke 22:36 — To me, this is a strange verse and I don’t know what to make of it. I think the saying is limited only to the book of Luke. It struck me as strange when I encountered it (Luke was the last of the gospels I focused on) and it still does to this day. Something even stranger: when his apostles reported that they had two swords, Jesus says, “That is enough”. At any rate, Jesus later rebuked Peter for using the sword.

        5) On “tirades” and “arrogance”: If Jesus is (was) God, then he’s speaking the truth and that’s not arrogant. Doctor’s speak authoritatively, but that doesn’t make them arrogant because they speak from their knowledge, certifications, and positions of medical authority. As for tirades, if Jesus spoke these things out of hatred then his comments seem particularly nasty. But what if out of love he was warning of the dire consequences of rejecting him and God’s word?

        6) The entire Bible never speaks out against slavery (that I know of). Today, considering our nations history, that seems reprehensible. I don’t know why God allowed it. Maybe slavery was of a different nature in that place in time than what we’ve come to know. Regarding Paul’s encouraging slaves to work hard and sincerely to please their masters, I’m thinking that was in order to win their master’s over to Christ. In the case of Christian slaves and Christian masters, I think we have a different dynamic at work: love, teammanship, and fellow brothers/sisters with a future inheritence. Having said all of this, I have to admit that I don’t want to be a slave to anybody (I’ve found myself in adult-dependency relationships and that’s hard enough).

        7) On the role of women–the Bible says that when a man and woman marry, they become one. It further says that women should obey their husbands and that husbands should love their wives, care for their needs, and treat them delicately as the “weaker gender”. In my house, my wife and I don’t share the same spiritual understandings and I can’t hold her to this teaching; nor will I divorce her, stop loving her, or hold this against her. I don’t expect non-christians to follow “christian-code”. That said, lets use an analogy: the brain. The brain is one organ, but its composed of two hemispheres in which one is dominate over the other. Despite the fact that one takes the lead, loss of function to either hemisphere (or problems between the connective layer between the two regions–I think its called the “corpus collosum”, but I’m not sure) causes major catastrophy for the whole person. Think of the brain as a two-member team where both members need to be present, healthy, and talking to one another–with one side taking the lead and the other playing a supplementary role.

        8) The LGBT communities–its interesting that many christians who enjoy porn, have affairs, and engage in other sexual deviances have the nerve to act hostile towards this group. To me, they’re fellow humans no worse than me and many have shown me great kindness. That said, my God dissapproves of certain sexual practices. Secular minds and Christian minds simply aren’t going to look at this issue the same way. The best we can do is “agree to disagree” and Christians should respect these groups.

        9) Now, I want to tie 7 and 8 together from Paul’s point of view (since “Paul” is the subject). He speaks as a Jewish Chrisian, a believer in the Old and New Testaments. He loves God and relies on God’s word for guidance (unless he’s a Roman agent). Despite the utter disdain that many seculars (as well as some theists) have for his teachings, he believes he is looking out for the best interest of his church and he seeks the welllfare of unbelievers by leading them to Christ. He says things that are hard for people to accept. I’ve had to admit that many of my sexual behaviors were wrong despite how powerful the cravings were. I still battle with those cravings.

        10) Regarding your “RE”–the gospels might not have been written before Paul’s letters, but Jesus and the stories about him were likely VERBALLY circulated. Paul, and others, had possibly told many of these “stories” during the conversion process. Did Paul invent the Jesus that Christians came to know? You and I disagree as to the answer to this question, but the main point I was trying to make was that it wasn’t necessary for Paul to rehash Jesus’s miracles (or his sayings) in his letters to an already established Church familiar with the “Jesus legend”.

        In closing, you gave me a far more elaborate, detailed response than I expected and I appreciate that. Thank you for respecting me enough to go to that much trouble. Some secular people blow off Jesus altogether, but I enjoy hearing nonbelievers put forth an effort to understand the historical Jesus, or at least the historical roots of how “the Way” got started. I don’t think that you’re just being crafty–the Romans tried allowing the Jews to go on with many of their religious practices, but they continued to be a thorn in the Roman empire in an important trade route. The notion that some Roman intellectuals might devise some scheme for underminding the Jewish establishment is reasonable–but in the end, I don’t think that’s how it happened.

        Take care,

        Scott

  4. I admire your work , regards for all the interesting blog posts.

  5. Ken Johnson says:

    Hey Mark, Good article! You might find interesting the fairly recent book by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan: “The First Paul.”

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