“Paul the Liar”

The Jewish-Christian sectarians, the Ebionites – inheritors of the original Judean-Jewish Jesus movement, were accustomed to calling Saul of Tarsus – “Saint Paul” – by the sobriquet, “the great Liar” – this because they saw him as a false prophet who – contrary to Jesus’ own policies – invalidated Judaism and condemned and rejected the Mosaic Law. This charge seems to be accurate, based on Paul’s own letters in the New Testament, and on Luke-Acts’ depiction of Jesus’ disciples’ reaction to Paul’s wayward teachings.  In his “seven authentic letters”, Paul repeatedly claims that Judaism no longer has any salvific power, and that, in virtue of Jesus’s atoning death and resurrection, those seeking salvation can now only find it “in Christ Jesus”, and not in defunct Judaism.

Scripture itself reveals that Paul was not well-received by the “Apostles”, i.e., “the Twelve” and the other Jewish disciples living in Judea.  In certain of his letters, Paul takes nearly every available opportunity to bad-mouth his Judean “brethren” to his Gentile congregations, but worst of all: after he promised to abide by James’ decree that Gentile converts should follow the Noachide Covenant, while Jewish converts would continue observing the Mosaic Law, (Acts 15:13-35)  Paul broke his promise, which action, if historical, essentially does makes him a liar.

In his letters Paul derides Judaism and the Jewish disciples, claiming to have received a superior revelation, different from, and more lofty and authentic, than theirs. Thus Paul, who never met Jesus, placed himself in a superior position to those who actually knew Jesus in his earthly life and who were best equipped to know what Jesus really taught and wished might happen with his renewed “synagogue”. Paul’s attitude toward the disciples’ privileged status of having known the historical Jesus was dismissive and worse, for he boasts, “From now on, we know no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth we know him no more” ( 2 Cor 5:16). Even though the Judean disciples obtained their personal experience of Jesus while he was “in the flesh”, this way of knowing is of no significance to Paul, who thinks that he now knows Christ in a purely revealed and spiritual manner. Perhaps this is the chief reason that Paul seldom references the historical Jesus in his letters. The relatively unfortunate disciples merely knew Jesus in the flesh; but Paul knows him in the spirit, in the soul – where, seemingly,  it really counts.

It seems that the Judean disciples in Jerusalem finally caught wind that the treacherous Paul was violating the terms of the Jerusalem conference, and was preaching to his congregations that Judaism was now worthless for salvation, and that the Law and circumcision were no longer valid, even for Jews and Jewish converts to the Jesus movement. When Paul came to Jerusalem (supposedly to deliver funds he had collected to present to the Jerusalem church – a gift the Judean disciples apparently rejected, since neither Luke nor Paul mention its receipt), the disciples pulled Paul’s feet to the fire, as well they should have:

Disciples to Paul: “You see how many thousands of Jews there are here who believe; and they are all zealous for the Law. But they are informed about you, that you teach Jews who are living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them that they ought not circumcise their children, or to follow the customs. What will it be, therefore?  All the people will have gathered together by now, because they have heard that you have arrived” (Acts 21:17-22).  The disiples want an answer, and they want it now. And they want Paul to state it before a large gathering that is waiting for his justification of his policies. Luke unburdens himself of resolving this dramatic confrontation: Paul doesn’t really answer the charges. Instead, he makes a symbolic gesture, supposedly at the disciples’ insistence, of undergoing a Nazirite vow for a pre-arranged period, to end with a sacrifice in the Temple. However, even this “dodgy” non-resolution is not permitted its completion, for Paul’s presence in the Temple with Gentile proselytes causes a riot among “the Jews”, who have him arrested, and the story proceeds from there, with the moment of Law-oriented crisis forgotten. Forgotten but not erased. It still stands in Luke’s Acts as a testimony to a very plausible rift between Jewish and Pauline forms of Jesus-kerygma.

The Jerusalem disciples, Jews all, still followed the Law, just as Jesus had – i.e., the basic Mosaic rubrics, with certain “tweaks” made by Jesus relative to his new message of the Reign of God being present in the here-and-now.  Paul heretically denied, rejected, and excoriated the Law, thus going against the Jewish Jesus and his Jewish disciples – as well as violating the agreement he made at the first Jerusalem conference. The Apostles caught him at it, and they informed him of all the “thousands” of Jewish converts who were “zealous for the Law”. This confrontation, somewhat amazingly preserved in canonical scripture, indicates that the original Jesus-followers regarded Paul as a liar and promise-breaker, and it also shows that these adherents to the historical Jesus still practiced the Mosaic Law (with, presumably Jesus-directed modifications) and circumcision, and that they were naturally infuriated with the promise-breaking, Judaism-depotentiating Paul.

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10 thoughts on ““Paul the Liar”

  1. rennyo01 Post author

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, Paul seems to have been “sincere”, but mistaken in many of his views…

  2. Anonymous

    Thanks & you’re welcome. There is a big difference between a liar and a sincere man mistaken in certain views. If we are to dismiss the totality of a person’s writings based on one broken promise, then we can disregard St Peter, the rock, seeing as how he denied, not once but three times, any knowledge of Christ in the flesh. I agree with you in that I believe Paul was sincere. It speaks to the sincerity of Paul that he was prepared to confront and challenge views he knew would set him at odds with others. Paul could have remained silent about his personal knowledge of Christ. But he chose, ultimately like St Peter before him, to be true to the Christ he believed had been revealed to him. ..not for personal glory or self-preservation but for Christ’s sake. What great truth revealed does not encounter opposition? None. The fact that Paul’s teachings were not immediately welcomed does not lessen value (your article kind of suggests this). And yes,you are right, he may have been mistaken in his beliefs. He may even have been delusional. He may have suffered an acute psychological event having been party to the martyrdom of Stephen. Jesus may have been delusional too. A mad man. But liars? No. On reflection I don’t believe so. So, I think you are wrong to call Paul a liar. He was human like every one else in the gospels and he was struggling to be true to Jesus, not self – as were all the other disciples. And if it was all the result of a group of delusional men a couple of thousand years ago.. well what a great delusion. It is a delusion that makes far more sense than all the lies ‘reality’ presents.

  3. rennyo01 Post author

    Thanks for your comments, but plainly – if we take Acts PLUS Paul’s letters seriously, Paul was indeed a liar. Per Acts, Paul agreed with the Jerusalem Council that he should proselytize the Gentiles, and he also agreed that – while Jewish Jesus movement sectarians would keep Law, Kosher and Circumcision – his Gentile converts would only practice the Noahide Laws. But then in his letters he absolutely invalidates Judaism and its Law as being defunct, false, and a hindrance to salvation – a salvation no longer coming from the Law, but rather from Jesus’ atoning death on the cross. Acts affirms that the Jewish/Jerusalem/Judean disciples had caught wind of Paul’s lies about Judaism/the Covenant/the Law, and that they pulled his feet to the fire, telling him of “the thousands” of Jewish disciples for whom there was no “new covenant in My blood” – but only the original Covenant. Inasmuch as Paul misrepresented James’ and the Jerusalem disciples’ teaching (the teaching of those who actually knew the historical Jesus) to his Gentile congregations, he was both lying and breaking the trust of the original disciples and the code of the Jerusalem council.

  4. Anonymous

    Thank you for your reply. You say he betrayed the trust of the disciples. How so? By teaching that salvation was open to all men, Jew and Gentile alike, not just for the elect few or those who were circumcised? The Jewish Christians had already begun to take the ceremonial and ritual commandments less seriously than the ethical commandments and this was in accordance with Jesus’ attitude to the sabbath because in Jesus’ ministry he attached special importance to works of love. Paul taught that through Jesus all men can come to God. Membership of an elect group of people isn’t decisive to salvation but rather faith. How does this betray the Jesus orthe God the disciples dedicated their lives to?

  5. rennyo01 Post author

    I already explicitly explained how Paul betrayed the disciples’ trust and broke the Jerusalem council agreement by telling his Gentile converts that Torah was invalid and even a hindrance to salvation which now was only attainable “in Christ” via Paul’s theory of Jesus’ “atoning” death. It wasn’t a matter of the disciples taking the Law itself less seriously. Acts specifically states that they told Paul they knew he was telling non-Judean Jews that Torah and Judaism were no longer valid for salvation. They further told him to “behold”…the “thousands” of Jewish disciples who were “zealous for the Law” – which means that, per the Jerusalem council agreement, the Law was still in force for Jews and Jewish converts to the Jesus sect. This in turn means that the only people we can trust – those who knew the historical Jesus – were still keeping Law, Kosher, and Circumcision… and that they had not traded in their Judaism for Paul’s imaginary “new covenant in Jesus’ blood”. Paul preached an entirely foreign salvation scheme, completely contradictory to the real deal taught by Jesus and practiced by his original Jewish disciples. In that consists Paul’s betrayal and Paul’s lying.

  6. Anonymous

    I still don’t see how you can call Paul a liar? Liar is a big allegation. It suggests evil -the father of all lies being the devil. So as a christian to hear reference to the first christian theologian as a ‘liar’..well it’s a big allegation. To call Paul a liar suggests to me that you disapprove of his christology. But I fail to see your basis for that either. I don’t see how what Paul taught constitutes in any way shape or form a betrayal of Jesus’ message. The key thing, I would think when deliberating as to whether the man is a liar or not, in my opinion, is not what the disciples or Paul ‘thought’ Jesus intended but rather what Jesus actually was about. To that end Pope Benedict XVI writes :” “The Torah of the Messiah” is totally new and different, but it is precisely by being such that it fulfils the “Torah of Moses””. The Messiah was expected to bring a renewed Torah . This is what Christ did. Physical descent from Abraham is not what matters anymore. Salvation was not particular to just one elect group. Jesus himself said that he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it..he also said ..”Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. The big question is wrt Paul, did Jesus intend this greater righteousness to mean that his followers merely become more strict and rigorous in obeying the Law (circumcision, how to keep the Sabbath, commandments concerning food, prescriptions relating to purity etc)? Or was it something else? Jesus’ own words and actions point clearly to there being much more to it than a prophetic reminder to maintain and observe certain practices. Matthew5:21 “It was said to them of old..but I say to you…”, “but I say to you”, “I”..a big statement. Another question worth asking in deliberating on what Jesus was actually about is why did so many scholarly Jews reject Jesus? Because of Paul’s teaching about Christ? No. Because of what Jesus ‘himself’ had to say about himself and how he positioned himself…the ‘centrality of Jesus’ ‘I’ in his message. Take Jesus’ words tot he rich young man “If you would be perfect, go, sell all you have and come, follow ‘Me'”. Follow ‘Me’. Pope Benedict writes “Perfection, the state of being holy as God is holy (Lev19:2, 11:44) , as demanded by the Torah, now consists in following Jesus. So Jesus himself is declaring that through him is the path to perfection……
    Paul’s chirstocentricity, Paul’s chirstology “from God through Jesus Christ, through Jesus Christ to God’ does not betray Jesus or Jesus’ teaching and so nor could Paul and nor did he ultimately betray Jesus’ disciples.

  7. rennyo01 Post author

    Friend, this is the final time I am going to address this issue. This is the second or third time you have asked the same question.
    This is my second or third time answering it.
    My answers have really been only one answer, as follows, for the last time:

    The plain words of Acts and the plain words of Paul’s letters prove that Paul broke the Jerusalem pact and strongly attempted to invalidate Judaism. The disciples caught him at it and presented to him the fact that thousands of Jewish disciples remained zealous for the Law, Circumcision, and Kosher. Period. Full stop. Paul was a traitor to the historical Jesus’ message (while promoting his alien Christ and the attendent alien “revelation” not shared with the real disciples), and a betrayer of James and the other Judean disciples. End of story. You have never once refuted this biblical fact. Instead of addressing it, you just keep repeating your question. Like I said: End of story. Thanks for your interest and for stopping by here.

  8. Anonymous

    I don’t believe you have answered my questions unfortunately. But no worries.. If you feel like you’re going round in circles.. well you probably are & that’s always a waste of time. All the same thank you for the courtesy of trying. And best of luck with your blog.

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