Paul the False Apostle

Paul the False Apostle

The title of this article, it could be argued, is inflammatory. Kudos to you if it hasn’t yet turned you away. I think sometimes the truth just needs to be said directly, without any sugar coating. Sort of like pulling a bandaid from your young child’s booboo, or duct tape from the mouth of your abductee, (don’t be alarmed, I’ve only seen it in the movies), it’s better to just get it done than to prolong the pain.

Interestingly, the earliest Jewish followers of Yeshua (Jesus), known as Nazarenes or Ebionites, largely rejected Paul as a false teacher. Surprised? Most Christians are. Here are some reading materials that demonstrate this to be the case:

“They used only one of the Jewish–Christian gospels, revered James the brother of Jesus (James the Just), and rejected Paul the Apostle as an apostate from the Law.” (from a Wikipedia article on the Ebionites)

“The distinction these writers make (and remember, they universally despise these people and call them “Judaizers”), is that the Ebionites reject Paul and the doctrine of the Virgin Birth or “divinity” of Jesus, use only the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, and are thus more extreme in their Judaism.” (from an article by Dr. James Tabor on the Ebionites and Nazarenes)

Knowing this, let examine the New Testament to see why these early disciples of Yeshua would have rejected the false “apostle” Paul.

Requirements for the position of apostle

First of all, consider the “office” of apostle. It’s a generic word meaning emissary. However, it seems to be specially applied. Jesus chose 12 disciples. Judas betrayed Jesus and committed suicide, leaving 11. 12 is a significant number, representing the 12 tribes of Israel.

In the opening chapter of Acts, the disciples see fit to replace Judas. Why not just remain 11? Why is it necessary to replace Judas and get back to 12? What sort of requirement is there of a candidate?

Thus one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time the Lord Jesus associated with us, beginning from his baptism by John until the day he was taken up from us – one of these must become a witness of his resurrection together with us.” (Acts 1:21-22 NET)

You see here that the 11 remaining disciples agreed that a candidate to join them must have been a follower of Jesus who walked with him from his Baptism onward. They ended up choosing Matthias by casting lots. These 12 men became referred to as the apostles.

Clearly, Paul did not meet these requirements, having never walked with Jesus during his ministry! You might object and say that Paul did in fact meet Jesus in his vision on the way to Damascus, but oddly, all three of the accounts of this experience are in one book (Acts) and each version contradicts the others.

In the first recounting of Paul’s vision, (Acts 9:3-17), he alone fell to the ground; those with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one; Saul was without sight for three days; Ananias was a disciple who laid hands on Saul to restore his sight and fill him with the Holy Spirit.

In the second recounting, (Acts 22:6-21), Paul alone fell to the ground; Those with him saw the light but did not hear the voice; No mention of three days without sight or food; Ananias was “a devout man according to the Law and liked by the Jews.”

In the third recounting, (Acts 26:12-18), Everyone fell to the ground; the voice spoke in the Hebrew Language; no blindness, no Ananias, no baptism, no restoration of sight, no “filled by the Holy Spirit”!

Which one are we to believe?

A.T. Robertson, a renowned scholar of the Greek New Testament, in his Word Pictures of the New Testament, Acts 22:9, wrote “It is one of the evidences of the genuineness of this report of Paul’s speech that Luke did not try to smooth out apparent discrepancies in details between the words of Paul and his own record already in ch. 9.” If Luke was accurate in recording Paul’s recounting of his conversion with all of their contradictions, what do we make of the contradictions themselves?

Further, when you review all of Paul’s writings, does he ever relate any of Jesus’ teachings? No! You don’t find Paul ever writing to relay any teaching of Jesus. About the closest you come is Paul relaying details of the Last Supper. Beyond this, nothing is ever written by Paul to convey a teaching of Jesus to the people he was addressing, who happened to be gentiles who, like him, hadn’t ever met Jesus.

So exactly how many apostles were there?

Other than being significant throughout the scriptures, why 12? Why not 13 or 14? Are we sure it can only be 12?

The wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Rev 21:14 NET)

Sure enough, it seems like there is an understanding that there are only 12.

Was Paul really an apostle?

Did the apostles ever refer to Paul as an apostle, according to the record we have today? No! Who did? Paul himself, and also his traveling companion and historian Luke, who also called Barnabas an apostle. These would be apostles #13 and #14.

We know the 12 disciples were suspicious of him, with good reason obviously:

When he arrived in Jerusalem, he attempted to associate with the disciples, and they were all afraid of him, because they did not believe that he was a disciple. (Acts 9:26 NET)

Paul’s years in Ephesus (in Asia)

We know that Paul spent a significant time in Ephesus, the largest city in Asia. He first taught at the synagogue, but was rejected there, and then moved on to an academic setting for another two years. Everyone in Asia knew of him after his time in Ephesus:

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul went through the inland regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples there. (Acts 19:1)

So Paul entered the synagogue and spoke out fearlessly for three months, addressing and convincing them about the kingdom of God. But when some were stubborn and refused to believe, reviling the Way before the congregation, he left them and took the disciples with him, addressing them every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all who lived in the province of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord. (Acts 19:8-10)

Prophecy of Paul’s detention

Some time later, as he planned to go from Caesarea to Jerusalem, a prophet warned him he would be detained if he went:

While we remained there for a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. He came to us, took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it, and said, “The Holy Spirit says this: ‘This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will tie up the man whose belt this is, and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'” (Acts 21:10-11 NET)

Paul assures his people that he is prepared to go to Jerusalem and die for his faith

When we heard this, both we and the local people begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul replied, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be tied up, but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:12-13 NET)

At this point we are to believe that Paul is so zealous that he’s perfectly willing to be detained and even face capital punishment. Ask yourself why Paul would be in danger of capital punishment? For a capital offense, of course.

A quick look at the disciples’ similar detention for comparison

Let’s take a sidebar here and look at a different case of detention. Here’s the thing—charges could not be pressed or violators convicted unless the law (Torah) had clearly been broken. So let’s examine the detention of the apostles from Acts 5. The disciples had been preaching and healing the sick, and were detained and told to stop. An angel freed them from prison and told them to return to the temple and resume preaching, so they did and were re-detained and brought before the council. During the interrogation a strange things happens:

But a Pharisee whose name was Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was respected by all the people, stood up in the council and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. Then he said to the council, “Men of Israel, pay close attention to what you are about to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and nothing came of it. After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census, and incited people to follow him in revolt. He too was killed, and all who followed him were scattered. So in this case I say to you, stay away from these men and leave them alone, because if this plan or this undertaking originates with people, it will come to nothing, but if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them, or you may even be found fighting against God.” (Acts 5:34-39 NET)

The disciples were released. They were not breaking the law. There is no law against claiming to know who the messiah is, or healing, etc.

This is quite different than how things went down with Paul.

The apostles challenge Paul for teaching against Torah

Paul arrives in Jerusalem and meets with James and the elders, and an interesting exchange is recorded:

The next day Paul went in with us to see James, and all the elders were there. When Paul had greeted them, he began to explain in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all ardent observers of the law. They have been informed about you – that you teach all the Jews now living among the Gentiles to abandon Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What then should we do? They will no doubt hear that you have come. So do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself live in conformity with the law. (Acts 21:18-24)

So James and the Elders politely accept Paul’s report, but then they take him to task for teaching against the law. They point out all of the believers in Jerusalem who are zealous for the law, and contrast that with what they have heard about Paul teaching AGAINST it. They insist that he partake in a nazarite vow as a way to try to show that he is lawful.

Here we clearly see one instance (of many throughout the NT) showing the disciples to be Torah obedient Jews as they always were, even after Jesus’ death/resurrection.

Paul fails the task assigned to him by the apostles

So, how does the nazarite ceremony go? Very poorly—apparently Paul just can’t catch a break, for we read:

Then Paul took the men the next day, and after he had purified himself along with them, he went to the temple and gave notice of the completion of the days of purification, when the sacrifice would be offered for each of them. When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from the province of Asia who had seen him in the temple area stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this sanctuary! Furthermore he has brought Greeks into the inner courts of the temple and made this holy place ritually unclean!” (For they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him previously, and they assumed Paul had brought him into the inner temple courts.) The whole city was stirred up, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple courts, and immediately the doors were shut. (Acts 21:26-30 NET)

Incidentally, notice that this nazarite ceremony include a sacrifice, well after Jesus’ death and resurrection! This demonstrates two things:

1. Sacrifice was not ended with Jesus’ death. Were the apostles confused about the fact that Jesus’ sacrifice was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices?

2. The early followers of Jesus were still fully Jewish, still active within the temple system.

Notice who it is that see Paul and cry out? It’s the Asian Jews. As we saw before, Paul spent a long time in Asia, at Ephesus (largest city in Asia at the time), such that all of Asia knew him. Here the Asian Jews visiting Jerusalem see Paul and they cry out that this is the man teaching against the law, and on top of that he brought a gentile into the inner courts of the temple where it was not lawful for him to be.

What we see here is that Paul is detained for violating the law. This is the clear reason for his detention. However when he ends up in front of the council, he sees an opportunity and is deceitful about why he was detained:

Paul uses deceit to escape to Roman protection

Then when Paul noticed that part of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, he shouted out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead!” When he said this, an argument began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.) There was a great commotion, and some experts in the law from the party of the Pharisees stood up and protested strongly, “We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” When the argument became so great the commanding officer feared that they would tear Paul to pieces, he ordered the detachment to go down, take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks.

This is actually the passage that troubled me for a long time before I even started questioning Paul. It always seemed obvious to me that he was being deceitful here and manipulating the council to escape to Roman protection. He brings up a point of contention between the predominant sects, causing the Pharisees to favor him because he shares an important viewpoint, and everything descends into chaos and Paul is removed. From this point until the last we hear of him, he is under Roman incarceration, and as far as we know he was never released.

However, we can find additional corroborating evidence from his epistles:

Paul admits that nobody came to his defense, and all of Asia abandoned him

At my first defense no one appeared in my support; instead they all deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. (2Ti 4:16 NET)

Interesting! The apostles did not come to his defense. Why not? Because they were lawful, and Paul was not. He was indefensible.

You know that everyone in the province of Asia deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. (2Ti 1:15 NET)

Everyone in Asia deserted him! Again, why? Because he was teaching against the law. He was rejected first in the synagogue, then he spent two years teaching in an academic environment, but then when the Asian Jews saw him in Jerusalem, where Torah was the law of the land and he was under its jurisdiction, they were quick to point him out as the one teaching everyone against the law.

Could the Asian Jews have been falsely accusing Paul of teaching against the law? Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Why assume the Asian Jews would accuse someone of breaking the law, while at the same time breaking the law themselves by bearing false witness?

2. Why wouldn’t Paul have declared his innocence of these false charges from the very beginning? If you were falsely accused of something, wouldn’t you lead with that? At no time does Paul, when initially detained, ever contend that the charges against him are false!

3. Since the apostles specifically asked Paul to sponsor the sacrifices, why would they not come to his defense if the charges against him were false, seeing as they had put him up to it? Bearing false witness is unlawful, and the apostles absolutely would have defended Paul against such, especially since they had some degree of culpability in this incident.

Does Revelation 2:1-2 refer to Paul and Barnabus?

And finally, we find in the letter to Ephesus in Revelation:

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus, write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who has a firm grasp on the seven stars in his right hand – the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands: ‘I know your works as well as your labor and steadfast endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have even put to the test those who refer to themselves as apostles (but are not), and have discovered that they are false. (Rev 2:1-2 NET)

Interesting! Who do we know spent a lot of time at Ephesus and referred to himself as an apostle? Who do we know was rejected by Asia? Is there anyone else who fits the bill?

Did John possibly write against Paul elsewhere?

And the world is passing away with all its desires, but the person who DOES THE WILL OF GOD remains forever. Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. We know from this that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us, because if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But they went out from us to demonstrate that all of them do not belong to us. (Emphasis mine.) (1Jo 2:17-19 NET)

As you can see, it is quite easy to see that Paul was a false teacher. You just have to set aside your bias and prejudice and read with open eyes.

So why is it that over half of the New Testament’s content is authored by Paul? Certainly his writings were not unanimously accepted. Wikipedia’s article on the Development of the New Testament canon attests to this in the section labeled Early proto-Orthodox definition attempts:

In the late 4th century Epiphanius of Salamis (died 402) Panarion 29 says the Nazarenes had rejected the Pauline epistles and Irenaeus Against Heresies 26.2 says the Ebionites rejected him. Acts 21:21 records a rumor that Paul aimed to subvert the Old Testament (against this rumor see Romans 3:8, 3:31). 2 Peter 3:16 says his letters have been abused by heretics who twist them around “as they do with the other scriptures.” In the 2nd and 3rd centuries Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History 6.38 says the Elchasai “made use of texts from every part of the Old Testament and the Gospels; it rejects the Apostle (Paul) entirely“; 4.29.5 says Tatian the Assyrian rejected Paul’s Letters and Acts of the Apostles; 6.25 says Origen accepted 22 canonical books of the Hebrews plus Maccabees plus the four Gospels but Paul “did not so much as write to all the churches that he taught; and even to those to which he wrote he sent but a few lines.”

By the late fourth century when the canon was decided, the Roman church was completely at odds with the teachings of Jesus. How could they NOT include Paul’s writings, which were the only thing that seemingly justified their lawless practices?

What you find when studying the development of the church is that those people who were disciples of Jesus, Jews in Israel, continued as a sect of Judaism for hundreds of years. They rejected Paul, who went on to found the gentile religion called Christianity. Jesus himself never set out to begin a new religion. We have Paul, in opposition to the disciples of Jesus, to thank for this.

Leave a Reply

WordPress spam blocked by CleanTalk.