Paul as Pharisee

In Polhill’s second chapter there is an excellent overview of the Pharisees in the Second Temple Period.  I think that the Pharisees are generally mis-characterized in popular preaching and most people think of them as the “enemies of Jesus.”  While they were the chief persecutors of Jesus in the synoptic gospels, there were a number of Pharisees that were interested in Jesus in Luke and the gospel of John presents Nicodemus as a Pharisee who approached Jesus with respect.  For Pauline studies, the Pharisees are important because Paul claimed to be a Pharisee and it is possible to describe his theology in terms of Pharisaical Judaism.

Beliefs of the Pharisees were fairly conservative and very much in line with the whole of the Hebrew Bible.  The following items are the “usual description” Pharisee theology, and I would suggest, it is not that far away from Pauline Theology.

  • They struck a balance between freedom and human responsibility. God has ordained many of the events in life, but humans are completely responsible for their actions.
  • They placed supreme importance on the Law and their own interpretation of it.  In the New Testament Jesus is described as debating with the Pharisees fine points of Law, although always within the mainstream of Judaism.  The bulk of Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees is over interpretation of Law not the Law itself.
  • Unlike the Sadducees, they believed in resurrection and an afterlife. This is well known and appears to have been a point of contention between the two groups, as is seen in Acts 23:6-8.
  • The Pharisees had messianic hopes. They were looking for the coming of the Messiah and the resurrection of the dead.  This is the reason that they are among the first of the leaders of Israel to examine the teachings of John the Baptist and of Jesus.

Paul claims to be a Pharisee in Phil 3 and in Acts he claims the party when brought before the Sanhedrin.  Just how much influence did his training as a Pharisee have on his thinking? The usual age for beginning the study of Torah was between fourteen and sixteen,  about the time that a boy became a man.  (Josephus, Life, 9-12).  If Paul’s education followed this pattern, he would have moved from Tarsus to Jerusalem to study under Gamaliel (cf 22:3).  Clearly there are differences between what we might call “mainstream” Pharisees and Paul, but the core seems quite similar.

Can we describe Paul’s theology as “essentially Pharisaical” in outlook?  Is it possible to describe Paul (simply) as a Pharisee who came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah?  There were at least some Pharisees who became believers (Acts 15:1-2).  I do not think that we can say that Paul’s belief that Gentiles can be right with God is radical, since the Hebrew Bible makes that point frequently.  What is radical in Paul is his belief that he was called to be “the light to the Gentiles” and that this ministry was separate from that of the ministry of the Twelve. That the Gentiles can be right with God apart from the Law is certainly an non-Pharisee thought.

29 thoughts on “Paul as Pharisee

  1. The first time I ever heard that Pharisees were anything other than stubborn hypocrites was in your classes when you informed us that they were Hebrews of Hebrews and that they kept the Law faithfully. I also find that Polhill gives a much more generous view on the rule of the Pharisees than is given from the pulpit.

    “Most of them [Pharisees] were well aware of their own sinfulness and dependence on God. Most tended to view the law as an expression of God’s mercy, as a gift within his covenant relationship with his people” (Polhill 29)

    I think this goes directly in line with how Paul viewed, not only himself, but his fellow Jews. That being said, I also feel that this is the very reason why his conversion and consequent missionary outreach are so important. It is true that the Hebrew Bible points frequently to Gentile reconciliation, but what is radical is how God chose for this to be carried out.

    We have to remember that Paul was an avid persecutor of the early “church” (I use the term loosely to denote the gatherings of the Jewish people that believe in Jesus as Messiah). Though, as Polhill points out, his teacher Gamaliel advocated that this “break-off” group of Judaism be allowed to stay (Acts 5), Paul was zealous and saw the growing sect as a threat to Judaism (probably has heretical). It is also important to see that Paul was not just persuaded to a new way of thinking about the Law, allowing Gentiles to be saved apart from the law, because even the “early Church” did not make this distinction. When Paul first started his ministry, those in Jerusalem were against his preaching. Why? Precisely that he was ministering to the Gentiles that they could be saved apart from the Law, and that the Law is no longer valid to receive redemption.

    Again, Pharisees thought that Gentiles were to be reconciled to God, but only through the Law, which were given to them (no doubt part of Paul’s original Pharisaic theology). One could try to argue that these references to Gentile reconciliation in the Hebrew Bible meant Paul, but as Paul admits (being a trained Pharisee), what he was given was a mystery, not given to any of the prophets. Gentiles were to be brought to rights with God through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; that Christ died for all, and that simple faith in him (apart from the Law) was the only way to be truly reconciled.

    • The so-call bible was written by Yah. Nothing in the so-call bible is man’s own interpreration. Show men proof that so-call Paul wrote any part of the so-call bible. How who does not willinly speak the truth is a betrayer of the truth. He who does not speak the truth is a traitor of the truth. Can you handle the truth?

  2. I love it when everything works out. Here I am in Alexandria, VA (which even sounds Roman) getting ready to gather together with other patriots in recognition of the government overstepping it’s boundaries, only to come across another group of political “extremists” in my homework! According to Polhill, “Pharisees had pursued a policy of tolerance toward the government as long as it allowed them free pursuit of their religion (28).” This is in line with our agenda. We are concerned laymen who feel that our rights our being repressed. We feel that it is time for us to speak out as a community, demonstrating to each other that we are not a lone minority, but a powerful voice.

    Hopefully, we won’t end up as “Zealots”, causing a war and getting our butt’s kicked, but that we’ll get a level of understanding as we voice our opinions and concerns at our nation’s capital. I was instantly reminded of our similarities to the Pharisees by Gamaliel’s advise given to the Sanhedrin in Acts 5. Polhill says that, “Gamaliel was enunciating a principal attested in the later Mishnaic tradition: “Any assembling together that is for the sake of Heaven shall in the end be established, but any that is not for the sake of heaven shall not be established” (Aboth 4.11)” (Polhill 31). Lord willing (Hebrews 6.3), this gathering will be remembered as something done for the glory of God as we stand up for our God-given rights and the government’s position “under God”.

  3. PJ – Alexandria ought to sound Greek to you, since Alexandria, Egypt was named after Alexander the Great.

  4. When considering the passage of Philippians 3 in which Paul powerfully describes himself and all that he could boast of, yet he does not, one can observe the fact that being a Pharisee was of great importance. Paul mentions being a Pharisee with regard to the law depicts his reverence and zeal for the study, observance and complete obedience to the Torah. Polhill makes a great point of demonstrating that the popular trend has indeed ‘mis-characterized’ the Pharisees in the following manner: “Pharisees are seen as willful, prideful, and self-righteous. They are depicted as attempting to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps to gain God’s acceptance through their scrupulous observance of the law.” (29). It is all too common in man to take one’s passions and misdirect them. This can be observed in the response of the Pharisees to Jesus. They were caught up in themselves and missed the very thing they were working so hard at. “Whether through law or worship or whatever, religion often becomes a human endeavor to reach God.” (29). Yet there is much that can be said about the Pharisees and I deem that it would have been a great privilege to be counted in their number. Due to of Paul’s strong faith, observance, and devotion to the law as he lived the zealous life of a Pharisee the question of ‘his essential Pharisaic’ outlook is intricately related to the question of him being converted or commissioned. “Paul’s encounter with Christ led him to see all religion in a new light.” (29). His outlook changed dramatically, yet it is very apparent that he retained much of his roots and practices as a Pharisee throughout his ministry. Paul retained valuable practices from the Pharisees and stilled lived in a manner acceptable to the Pharisees, yet it is very clear in his ministry that he lived by grace, not by law.

  5. It is definitly uncommon to hear a sermon where the Pharisees are portrayed as good people rather than the executioners of Christ. But that does not change the fact that the four main points you gave us are all true. Those are things that we support and agree with today. Although we argue amongst eachother to fine-tune our theology on issues like predestination vs free will, I think it is fair to say that Paul does speak of both and that it would go hand in hand with what the Pharisees believed at the time. We know that Paul was trained as a Pharisee and that much of his theology has a core Pharisee theology beneath it. There are radical changes to points but the base of the structure is still there. I think this just re-emphasizes Pauls purpose. Paul’s ministry spends a lot of time correcting misconceptions. Things that are widely thought and preached but were still slightly off from the message Jesus came to tell us. Things like reconciling the Gentiles. Someone mentioned earlier that the Pharisees did agree that the Gentiles could be reconciled with God as present many times in the OT but the Pharisees still thought it was through the Law and Paul wanted to correct this view not only to reconcile the Gentiles, but the keep the legalistic practice of the Law out of the message of the Gospel.

  6. I always thought that being a Pharisee would not be a thing to boast about because of an image of as Polhill says “Prideful, and self righteous” (29). But after reading Pauls Epistles, his selflessness and love for the believers, this didnt seem to match up. Polhill then describes Pharisees as “well aware of their own sinfulness and dependance on God” (29) and the reason Paul puts so much stock in his heritage (Such as in Philippians 3) makes perfect sense. But, Paul is sent not as a messenger of the Law, but of Grace, so the Pharisee within had to be cast away from Paul in order for God to use him to spread Christ to the Gentiles. Polhill states, “Whether through law or worship or whatever, religion often becomes a human endeavor to reach God. For Paul, the only true encounter comes when God first reaches out to us.” (29). God chose to reach out to this Pharisee, this man of the Law, to minister to those who needed Grace, in order that Paul might be that invaluable ambassador to the rest of the world. Who better to convince the world they need grace than one who knows the Law and therefore the gravity of the Gentile’s sins, and therefore better equipped to explain the need of salvation?

  7. I found it exceedingly interesting to see the Pharisees placed in a different light in this chapter. Polhill makes it a point to show readers that most Pharisees do not fit the typical stereotype of what people think when they hear the term today. P. Long spoke of this in his post. It was also interesting to note that even the post conversion Paul would have still had much in common with most Pharisees in theology. In fact, pg. 29 shows how Christ, himself had much in common with Pharisees.
    What is more though is the distinction made of the two sects of Pharisee, with the second (more extreme) group being zealots. This is where Paul (then referred to as Saul) affiliated himself. It is due to this sect that Pharisees get their generally erroneous reputation from. For the most part Pharisees were not violently confrontational as the zealots were, this is shown by Gamaliel’s advice to the Sanhedrin when the apostles were preaching.
    What I really began to see and understand in this section is the minds behind the men who became pharisees and zealots. Nobody really started out to be “butchers” of Christians as many people see of pharisees and other sects of the time. They men were simply trying to do the best they could to obey the law and protect their “religion”. However, kingdoms have fallen and gods have been slain (most notably Christ) by people with the best intentions.

  8. I liked how Polhill described Paul and the Pharisees. We so often do get bombarded with how awful the Pharisees are and hypocritical they can get but we do forget that they were probably the closest thing to the conservative Christian. Sure they did adhere to the law way too strictly and formed traditional rules beyond the scope of the Bible, but they did believe the whole Old Testament and the resurrection of the dead unlike the Sadducees. I also like the way that he reminds us that it was the Pharisees and Gamaliel that spoke on the behalf of the apostles when they were being persecuted. This fact is often overlooked and we only like to emphasize the negative things about the Pharisees.

    As for Paul, he was a Jewish Pharisee that lived out his Jewish faith even when he was a Christian. He had the Nazerite vow and even went to sacrifice in the temple to complete the vow (Acts 21). Like Caleb said, he was a good Pharisee, and a darn good one too (Philippians 3). But again, it does not come down to what he does in his life or what he belongs to, but to the saving message of the cross. Throughout all his ministry he did not stray from the message of salvation by grace through faith. His lived like a Pharisee so that he could become all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9). He became a Jew when he was with Jews so that he could communicate the message of the cross.

    • >Like Caleb said, he was a good Pharisee, and a darn good one too

      Good point, although citing Caleb is a bit funny! I think that Paul was driven to be the best at whatever he did. I suppose he was an excellent tentmaker too.

  9. I really liked the clearing up in this chapter of our usual misunderstanding of the Pharisees. Talking about who they were in relation to society and in relation to Jesus. They can not be described as simply “the bad guys”. Polhill says about the stereotypes on them “Pharisees are seen as willful, prideful, and self-righteous. They are depicted as attempting to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps to gain God’s acceptence…” (Polhill 29).
    In contrast to this, Polhill says most of them were aware of their sinfulness and inability at saving themselves through mere observance of the law.
    Something Polhill said that really struck me was “It is not by accident that Jesus directed his energy to the Pharisees and not the Sadducess, with whom he had little in common” (29). I don’t think I had ever made note of the fact that Jesus although critiquing the Pharisees on several occasions, his interaction with the Sadducees, with whom he had less in common, was minimal.
    Polhill says the Pharisees emphasized the laws, which showed their distinctness as Jews, but this emphasis conflicted with Jesus’ which were things like mercy and justice, not such external matters (29). Jesus shared the Pharisees belief in the afterlife, their view of who God was and His justice, and the coming of a Messiah. He was critiquing this Jewish group from within Judaism, as he was a Jew himself. They of all people should have understood what he was saying and that is why he was so harsh with them.
    Seeing Paul, the Pharisee, through this description makes a lot more sense of who is was and who he became.

  10. I once asked a professor, “If Paul studied under Gamaliel, why did he persecute Jesus?” To which the professor said, “Do you always do what I tell you?” (yes this was a true conversation). My thought at that time, was that the teaching was done drastically different in those days, where a student stayed under one teacher, not several as today, so I seemed unconvinced by his answer so I am thankful for Pohill in showing the different distinctions among the Pharisees. However, I find it funny that when we think Pharisees we tend to overlook Act 5:17-42, where is the Sadducees that wanted to kill Peter and the apostles, and Gamaliel, a Pharisee strove to seek what God wanted.

  11. I think that Paul moved away from Gamaliel, or Hillel, toward a more radical position, perhaps that of Shammai, Hillel’s “rival” in the generation before Jesus. On most things they agree, but where they disagree, Shammai tends to be more “strict” in his interpretation of the Law.

    • Yay, I finally got the professor’s answer, sorry… It just never occered to me that there would be differing teachers within the sects. I just assumed that the the differences were among the different sects, such as Paul gravitated toward being a Sadducee or something similar. I myself forgot Paul’s own statement that he was a Pharisee.

  12. >such as Paul gravitated toward being a
    > Sadducee or something similar

    I do not think Paul was in much danger of becoming a Sadducee, of all things! What I am talking about are in-house discussions within the “party” of the Pharisees. In the end, Hillel and Shammai would join forces against the Sadducees in just about any discussion. I am not sure I could imagine anything within Paul’s theology that might hint he was drifting away from Pharisee theology (which was the point of the first essay – even when he came to believe Jesus as the Messiah, he was still more or less a Pharisee.

  13. In reading Polhill – and these posts – I am reminded of James (are we allowed to quote James in a Pauline blog?) 2:10:

    10For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

    Everyone else has more than adequately made the case that there are broad areas of similarity in outlook between the Pharisees and some of the early Christians. Would you concur that this is one of them? Paul, Gamaliel, Christ, James – all of them understood that to fail in part is to fail in all.

    That being the case, and the subject of these postings, is it possible that I’m the first one to point out that the individuals we’re examining really didn’t care about the broad areas of similarity, what they focused on were the few but crucial areas of difference, summed up in one word – Christ. Paul preached “Christ crucified, the stumbling-block of the Jews”…

    A lot of the conclusions we’re reaching feel like applying the lens of 20th and 21st century ecumenism to another age, whether those lens fit or not. Scan over Polhill and these postings, and just see how often we’re using words like “close”, and “in common”, even “good people”… I just don’t recall reading words of either Jesus or Paul that say, man – you Pharisees are just so close to right, and we have so much in common, you’re pretty cool guys – don’t you think we could get together? That’s “po-mo” talk…

  14. It’s doubtful that Paul was Jewish, let alone a Pharisee.

    The Ebionites openly stated that Paul grew up in a Pagan home and not a Jewish one.

    It’s also clear that the New Testament totally misrepresents the Pharisees and some scholars do indeed suggest that Jesus himself was one, as his views on many topics echo those of the Pharisees:

    The Pharisees – The Bad Guys Of The Bible:

  15. Hi Tabitha, you are going to have a hard time selling anyone on the statement “it is doubtful Paul was Jewish.” Citing the Ebionites is almost impossible, and it is not at all clear that the NT misrepresents the Pharisees. Popular preaching does, but the NT may very well be accurate, although the only real point of comparison is Josephus.

    If you want the writings of a Pharisee, you are stuck with Paul, like it or not.

    [sing it to the tune of “Rapture” by Blondie]

    I’m Boss Paul, the Pharisee
    My hypocrisy’s plain for the world to see
    I travel the land and travel the sea
    to make a convert who is just like ME

    “All have sinned” – we know that’s true
    but it never means ME – it only means YOU
    My sins are all theoretical
    “I’m the worst of sinners”- but don’t ask where

    To be more like Jesus is what some strive
    except for me – I’ve already arrived
    I’m the perfect model since the road to Damascus
    What were Paul’s sins? Don’t ask us!

    I justify everything I do
    If I testify about myself it MUST be true
    I’m the only man in all history
    whose testimony doesn’t need two or three

    If I did something it MUST be right
    Don’t use the Scripture to shed any light
    Don’t do as I say, do as I do
    and then you can be a Pharisee too.

  17. Which is the most important?
    Jesus was asked twice, by two different men, the same basic question about which is the most important or greatest commandment in the Law. Here is how Jesus answered that question:

    “One of the teachers of the law… asked him [Jesus],
    ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

    “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than THESE.” [Mark 12:28-31, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18]

    …an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”

    Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.” [Matthew 22:36-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18]

    But in contrast with Jesus, Paul the Pharisee didn’t know the greatest, most important, first commandment according to Jesus. Paul made up his own rule. Paul wrote:
    “The entire law is summed up in a SINGLE command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Galatians 5:14, Leviticus 19:18]

    And again, Paul wrote:
    “He who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not covet, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this ONE RULE: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [Romans 13:8-10, Leviticus 19:18]

    Jesus said it’s TWO commandments, with the greatest, most important, first command to
    .1) first, love God with everything you’ve got, and
    .2) second, love people.
    Paul said no, it ONE commandment- to love people.

    This is very similar to The Beatles- “All you need is love. Love is all you need. Love, Love, Love.” (In other words, the second commandment, the love of man, without the love of God. Love as me, myself and I define love to be, and continuously redefined by sinful men.)

    In essence, it is also the same principle as what Eve did in the Garden of Eden, forgetting about the Tree of Life, which is the first tree in the middle of the Garden, and instead referring to the second tree as “the tree that is in the middle of the garden.” [Genesis 3:3 & 2:9 2:17, 3:24]

    Kind of like the Pharisees with Jesus, who were pushing the false idea that we can consider ONE commandment in the Law, alone in isolation, to be “the greatest commandment in the Law.”

    Or like today, false teachers in the Chrislam – Purpose Driven – Seeker Sensitive – Emergent – Liberal – Ecumenical – New Age – world church movement pushing the false idea that the ONE RULE is “Loving God and Neighbor together.”

    The Lord God Jesus the Jewish Messiah, Son of Yahweh the Most High God of Israel, said:
    “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.”
    Not one. TWO.

    Sometimes, Paul was wrong. Jesus is always right. I’m following Jesus.

    Here are answers to 2 common objections:
    .a) What about the so-called “Golden Rule”?
    Jesus spoke the 3 chapters of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, including 7:12. Jesus didn’t make PART of this one verse out of context into “The Golden Rule” or “one rule.” Jesus did not use the term “Golden Rule,” it’s simply a tradition of men. The sentence begins with “So” in the NIV and Amplified Bibles, and “Therefore’ in the NASB and King James Bibles, which ties 7:12 to the previous sentences. So 7:12 cannot stand alone as One Commandment.

    .b) What about the so-called “Great Commission”?
    Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, including “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus never used the term “Great Commission,” it’s simply a tradition of men. Yes I agree it’s a commandment given by Jesus, it’s not optional, and it applies to us today. We need to carry this out, with our own God-given abilities and talents, using the skills, and circumstances we have. But we don’t need to put words in the mouth of Jesus, we can let Jesus speak for himself, and we can listen to Him – and obey Him.

    Evangelism is part of the Second Commandment given by Jesus, to Love people. Evangelism is not the most important commandment, and it isn’t the entire Second Commandment. So if our priorities are “The Great Commission and the Great Commandment,” we have our priorities upside down and confused, and we are not listening to the voice of Jesus. Never mind what Paul said. Let’s listen to the voice of Jesus first, and get our priorities straight.

    The people who will protest most loudly against this truth are the modern “Pauls:” traveling evangelists, speakers, writers, abusive absentee mega-church pastors, Crusaders, and self-appointed “apostles” like Paul, who find it “profitable” to “be like Paul” rather than follow Jesus the Jewish Messiah.

  18. The Evangelical “Mexican Hat Dance”

    Sin is always specific, not general.
    The “Hat” is, “What were Paul’s sins?”

    The music starts, with a cheery blast of trumpets in a melody that is familiar to most North Americans- the “Mexican Hat Dance.” (The national dance of Mexico, taught in Mexican public schools since 1921, and officially named “El Jarabe Tapatio.”)

    A couple in rather elaborate traditional costumes begins the dance. The man throws his huge sombrero hat on the floor, and the couple dances around it, but never steps on the hat. (The “Hat” is, “what were Paul’s sins?”) Here are the basic steps- (there may be one or two other basic steps, but they are very similar to these.)

    What were Paul’s sins?

    STEP 1) Paul said; “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.” [1 Timothy 1:13]
    (Response- Those were Saul’s sins, before Jesus called him. What were Paul’s sins as a Christian? )

    STEP 2) Paul said; “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst.” [1 Timothy 1:15]
    (Response- Sin is alwasy specific. What were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian? )

    STEP 3) Paul said; “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23]
    (Response- Again the same question; What were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian? )

    STEP 4) Paul said; “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” [Philippians 3:12-13]
    (Response- They say third time’s a charm. Same question; What were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian? )

    STEP 5) Paul said; “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing.” [Romans 7:15-19]
    (Response- One more time! This is getting boring. Same question; Specifically, what were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian based on specific verses of the Bible? )

    STEP 6) LOOP- REPEAT steps 1 through 5, until your dance partner gives up, the audience gets bored, or the music stops. The rule is- never step on the “Hat,” just keep dancing around it.

  19. Parable of the 12 heavenly chalkboards

    What is a common analogy for a permanent decision?
    “Written in stone.”
    What could be more permanent than that?
    How about written in stone in heaven (in other words, for eternity.)
    And what kind of a stone is the most solid, permanent, and unchangeable?
    Perhaps a foundation stone?

    The Book of Revelation written by the Apostle John, chapter 21 verse 14 says… “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostle of the Lamb.”
    Nothing about a “13th Apostle” or an “Apostle of the Gentiles”…. Hmmmm…..

    Parable of the 12 heavenly chalkboards

    Imagine “Wackyjesus” in “Wackyheaven”, built on the foundations of 12 chalkboards:

    “Matthias, you should have developed your skills in writing and public speaking. Your name never appears in the Bible after your appointment as the 12th Apostle in Acts 1. [erase erase erase]

    Actually, the same is true for you Thaddaeus, after you were appointed. You should have hired a PR firm to promote your name and make if famous. [erase erase erase]

    Of course, you both are specifically mentioned in Acts 6:2. “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together.” And this is before Saul/Paul is even mentioned. But let us not confuse the issue with facts. Paul did a much better job of marketing himself, and he wrote about himself hundreds of times. Share of voice equals share of mind. And most Evangelical pastors who read the Bible spend most of their time listening to the voice of Paul, so they become “like Paul.” But I digress…

    James, we had a good run. I didn’t think King Herod would knock you off so quickly. [erase erase erase]

    Oh well. Wow, they’re dropping like flies. Now I’ve got 3 slots open. I’d better buy a case of chalk and some more erasers. I’ll have to change the names on these 12 chalkboards hundreds of times in the next couple of millennia.

    I guess I had better plan ahead, and save a slot for the last Pope, Francis. And the head Mormon Apostle. And I need to save a throne for my mom, or she’ll be mad. And one for Muhammad too. Who needs truth in relationship, when I can quickly get market share, and totally dominate the market, through mergers and acquisitions?

    And one throne for that other guy named Peter. When he was younger, he used to have the great theological insight about territorial spirits and wrestling with dark angels. What was his last name? Begins with a consonant. Sounds almost like he was in the personal transportation industry back in “sword and sandal epic” days… “Peter Charioteer?” Maybe not. This isn’t the “fullest” description of him, but it’s full enough. Anyway, I should save a throne for him too.”

    So what is the application of this parable?
    Beware of the NAR whale – it’s really a killer whale with a man-made horn strapped on top. The only place in the New Testament that mentions anything like “Seven Mountains” is Revelation 17, “seven hills on which the woman sits.” (The Great Prostitute, that is.) Rome is the city that sits on seven hills, the perfect place for Peter the Roman, the New World Pope for the New World Order, to replace the original Apostle Peter in the apostate church of the Antichrist.

  20. 1973 – Inside the mind of a “Jesus Person”

    Wow, that “Love Song” concert was groovy, man. They are Right On! The Holy Trinity isn’t “Jesus, Paul, and Chuck”. Besides Jesus, all the characters in the Bible had frailties- like Jonah and Paul. God told them to go one way, and they disobeyed God and did the opposite- but God still worked through them eventually, after they repented. It’s encouraging that God can use imperfect messengers like them, because it proves He can also use an imperfect man like me to advance His kingdom, when I humble myself, repent, and obey His commands. Cool !

    But what do I do with this truth? I don’t know of a single church that simply teaches the Bible simply and preaches the whole counsel of God, including Paul’s sins and mistakes. They all teach “we should be like Paul” and “we should listen to Paul” without examining Paul’s life and Paul’s teachings in the light of the teachings of Jesus in Scripture. They all make Paul and his teachings the one absolute standard of right and wrong, rather than God’s commandments and the testimony of Jesus. They make Paul the center, not Jesus. I want to bring my hippie friends to church- but how to I explain to them that it’s taboo to mention Paul’s sins and doctrinal errors in church?

    How can I make them understand that they should deal with “Paul Worship” the same way that I deal with smoking weed? When I’m at the beach with the hip crowd, I won’t take a stand in public. I won’t say “I’m high on Jesus, and so using a mind-altering drug for recreational purposes is wrong, because Jesus is better.” I don’t want to be rejected by my peers. So I’ll smoke with them, but I won’t let the weed alter my own mind, because “I didn’t inhale!” In order to be accepted in the Establishment church fellowship, you have to smoke the weed of “Paul Worship”- just be true to yourself and “don’t inhale.”

    Maybe I could speak in code, like they did in the New Testament church with the fish symbol. I could just say “Jesus is our model.” But never discuss the Scriptures that show why Paul is NOT our model. Then the Paulist Establishment church won’t persecute me, but the other Jesus People will know that I’m still keeping the faith and “not inhaling.”

    What I really need is a short catchy slogan to let my fellow hippies know what is expected of them in the Establishment Church now in 1973, regarding the issue of Paul the Pharisee’s sins. Lets see……. “If you don’t ask about Paul’s sins, I won’t tell about them”…. hmmm. Kind of long and wordy. I need to refine that. Maybe there is someone I could bounce this off, to get some ideas. I know! My buddy has a new friend from a Baptist background that seems really smart and good with words. I don’t think he’s involved in church much, but I could talk with that guy. Clinton. What was his first name? One syllable, beginning with a consonant…. George Clinton?… maybe not. Anyway, I’ll talk with Clinton and see if he has an idea for a short catchy slogan- maybe boiled down to four words or so…

    It’s not easy for me now in 1973, as a young man just trying to start out in ministry. We’re in a recession, the economy is terrible, jobs are scarce, immorality is rampant, and in many ways the country is falling apart. For years now America has been stuck in a seemingly endless, unwinnable guerilla war in an Asian nation that borders China. The Middle East is very unstable. Based on what’s happening in Israel, it looks like Jesus could be returning soon.

    I don’t have any position or influence in the Christian world. I know from the Scriptures that “Paul Worship” is wrong, but the entire Church Establishment says it’s right. Who am I to challenge hundreds years of false man-made tradition, like Jesus, Martin Luther, Columbus, Copernicus and Galileo? I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me (and my family).

    I really will “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, and wave his banner high”- just not right now in 1973. Later, when I’m at the height of my career, and I’m financially secure and I don’t have to worry about finding a job or keeping my job, and I have some real influence- maybe 40 years from now, when I’m, like, in my sixties, say in around 2013- that’s when I’ll really be able to stand up for Jesus. Things will be different then. I’ll do it then.

  21. What were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian? Here are 5 to get the discussion started:

    .1) Paul’s boastful conflicting false testimonies, exaggerating and making things up about his conversion experience in Acts 22 & 26, compared to what actually happened (recorded by Luke in Acts 9).

    .2) Paul lying to the Ephesian elders saying he was “compelled by the Spirit” going to Jerusalem, when in truth he was clearly disobeying God. [Acts 19:21 – 22:21]
    3) Paul exaggerating his ministry in Ephesus claiming it was “3 years night and day with tears” when really it was 3 months in the synagogue and 2 years daily in a lecture hall.
    [Acts 20:31 vs Acts 19:8-10]

    .4) Paul abandoning the Church in Corinth after a year and a half for no obvious reason, and going off on another long trip, mostly on his own, without appointing anyone else in Corinth as overseer, or giving anyone else any specific authority in the Church in Corinth.
    [Acts 18}

    .5) Paul acting as an abusive absentee overseer / pastor to the Church in Corinth years after he abandoned them, and clinging to all power and claim to control of money and all aspects of the church ministry, while he was hundreds of miles away teaching full-time in his own school in Ephesus. [1 & 2 Corinthians.}

    Paul is the “model pastor” for many modern “Pauls” like;

    a) Bob Coy, who still owns all the assets and controls all the money at his cult known as Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, in spite of his recent resignation as “Senior Pastor” there due to adultery with multiple woman and other major sins that he still has never specifically admitted to personally.

    Greg Laurie, the Boss of a wide-ranging personal cult empire that generally goes by the name of “Harvest.” Greg lives in Newport Beach, commutes by helicopter, and exploits the very large church he founded in Riverside from a distance, while he does his own thing in Orange County and travels around wherever he feels like, building a personal business empire with himself as the center, not Jesus.

  22. According to Jesus, which Commandment is the Most Important?

    This is a question of fact about the content of the text in the 66 Books of our Bible. It is comparing the words of Jesus with the words of Paul (and other men) regarding which one is the Most Important Commandment and which one is the Second commandment, which together fulfill the Law and the Prophets. (Not The Law the Prophets & the Writings, not “All Scripture,” not “The whole Bible”)

    It isn’t a question of men’s opinions about “what Paul really meant” or “what Paul must have known” or “what Paul was actually referring to here” or “what Paul was clearly implying” or “what we must conclude that Paul was assuming”, etc. etc.

    These lines of reasoning all go back to the false idea that “Paul must have been right and Paul couldn’t possibly be wrong, so whatever Paul was thinking at the time must have been correct, and we just have to figure out what Paul’s intended meaning was and what Paul was really thinking when he wrote these words.” That would mean that your opinion about the unknowable unwritten “mind of Paul” becomes the “Word of God.” No. Wrong.

    Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. The words spoken by Jesus, recorded in our Bible by Matthew Mark Luke & John, should be above all other words. This has literally been the Orthodox position for almost 2000 years. Paul is inferior, Jesus is superior. The words of Jesus are superior to the words of everyone else in the Bible and to everyone else in the world. Jesus is in agreement with the Law and the Prophets and came “to fulfill them.” [Matthew 5:17-20]

    What Jesus clearly and specifically said is also superior and more important than your opinions about what you think Jesus meant or implied, but didn’t say elsewhere. For example, when Jesus was speaking about “a new command I give you,” Jesus didn’t say THE new commandment, or the FIRST commandment, or the MOST IMPORTANT commandment, or the ONE commandment, or the GREATEST commandment, or ONE RULE.

    The false teaching about “one rule” is the false teaching of the Pharisees of Paul’s day, and Paul the Pharisee was pushing this false teaching. This contradicts the clear specific teaching of Jesus about the first and greatest commandment and the second. Jesus warned us about the Pharisees in Matthew chapters 15 & 16, and quoted the Prophet Isaiah regarding them:
    “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”
    [Isaiah 29:13]

  23. “What is an Apostle?”
    Here is the answer based on the original sources:
    The words and actions of Jesus and the Original Apostles in the text of the New Testament.

    .1) Gospel of Mark – time lag between being appointed and being sent
    “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him…” [Mark 3:13-14]

    Three chapters later,
    “Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.” [Mark 6:6-7]

    .2) Gospel of Luke – time lag between being appointed and being sent
    “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon…..” [Luke 6:12-14]

    Again three chapters later,
    “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” [Luke 9:1-2]

    .3) Gospel of Matthew – which is organized by theme, not necessarily in chronological order.
    “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon…” [Matthew 10:1]

    Without any clear time reference, continuing on the theme of the Apostles, Matthew does record “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions…” [Matthew 10:5] Matthew never said that the Apostles were “sent out” immediately after being appointed. If we didn’t also have the clear records in Mark and Luke, it would be a fairly logical assumption that Jesus sent them out right away, but it would still be just an assumption. In this case, that assumption would clearly be wrong. The Twelve Apostles were absolutely NOT sent out right away after being appointed Apostles, according to Mark chapters 3 through 6, and Luke chapters 6 through 9.

    So being an Apostle of Jesus involves being sent by Jesus, yes. But that isn’t the only meaning, or even the first and primary meaning. The first thing was “that they might be with Him” personally, together, for His entire earthly ministry, from the time of John the Baptist until Jesus rose to heaven. Jesus poured his life into the 12 Apostles for 3 ½ years very personally training them to be the leaders of the church, and Jesus chose Peter as first among equals.

    The NIV translation inserts the heading “Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas” for the passage Luke wrote in Acts 1:12-26]. The NIV headings were not part of the original text, and sometimes they can be misleading, but in this case I believe the heading is right on.

    Jesus and the Original Apostles knew what an Apostle is better than anyone else in the world. Why is this a strange idea? Why do so many people frequently attack and tear down and dismiss the Original Apostles, particularly Peter, as if they were all incompetent, stupid, and wrong in so many ways, and they didn’t even know what an “Apostle” was? The answer to that question is, they have been listening to the voice of Paul, rather than the voices of Jesus and the Original Apostles.

    As we consider the question “what is an Apostle”, we should carefully listen to the words of the leader that Jesus personally appointed as first among the Apostles, and trained personally for 3 ½ years, Peter.

    “It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” [Acts 1:21-22]

    Neither Paul, nor James, nor Luke were with Jesus and the Apostles the whole time, so they were not qualified to be a “witness with the Apostles of Jesus’ resurrection”, which is what it means to be an Apostle. Matthias was qualified, appointed, and later recognized as part of The Twelve. No one except Judas ever lost his apostleship.

    Responding to a question from Peter,
    “Jesus said to them:
    …you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” [Matthew 19:28]

    We cannot prove that Judas was present at that time, and we cannot prove that Matthias was absent at that time when Jesus spoke those words. Even if Judas was physically present, as we all realize now, he was not a true follower of Jesus. And even if Matthias was physically absent at that particular occasion, Jesus is still establishing the basic qualification for having one of the twelve thrones as being “you who have followed me,” not someone who will follow Jesus in the future, like Paul, James, Luke or anyone else in the world.

    At the Last Supper, Jesus said to His Apostles:
    “You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred on one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” [Luke 22:28-30]

    Was Judas present when Jesus spoke those words? Even if someone wants to be argumentative and say we can’t prove that Judas wasn’t there at the time, we certainly can’t prove that Judas WAS there. Judas obviously didn’t stand by Jesus in his trial, as the whole world knows. But that was the requirement Jesus gave to “sit on thrones:” “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” “You”, speaking to His 11 Apostles who had been walking with Him faithfully for 3 ½ years. Not others in the future who will follow the risen Jesus Christ. Notice that at the Last Supper, when Judas lost his throne and Matthias was definitely absent, Jesus chose to speak of “thrones” rather than “twelve thrones” as he had previously.

    The Apostle John recorded about the New Jerusalem,
    “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” [Revelation 21:14]

    The Apostles are 12 faithful eyewitnesses who walked with Jesus during His entire earthly ministry, and Matthias is the 12th. That’s the short version of my definition of “what is an Apostle.”

  24. Many self-professed “Bible-believing Evangelicals” won’t listen to the words of Jesus, because they are brainwashed through reciting their “mantra” – “all scripture is God-breathed.”

    This “Evangelical Mantra” has been accepted by the collective subconscious mind of “The Evangelical Church” without thought, question, reflection, or even 2 witnesses from the Scripture itself. It’s based on a misinterpretation, out of context, of one verse in one letter written by one man, Paul the Pharisee, who was unfamiliar with the personal ministry and teaching of Jesus.

    But, “Once an idea has been accepted by your subconscious, it remains there and it governs your behavior until it is replaced or changed.” [ as a pastor named Bishop Dale C. Bronner observed in one of his sermons]

    (Definition from the American Heritage Dictionary.) Mantra (noun) (Hinduism.) A sacred formula believed to embody the divinity invoked and to possess magical power, used in prayer and incantation.

    When cult members repeat their mantra, it makes them deaf to the voice of God, unable to hear God. Instead, it puts their focus on their one “special man” above all others – his personality, words and teachings, character, life example, feelings, experience, intentions, mind, will, emotions, etc. Their cult leader is their hero – he is always right, could never be wrong about anything specific, and he must be obeyed in all things and never questioned. He will give himself a special title, write at least one special book, and claim special authority, with no need for a second witness to back him up.
    Here are 3 examples.

    .1) Fuhrer. The title of Adolf Hitler as the leader of the German Nazis, author of “Mein Kamph”. Mantra: “Heil Hitler.”

    .2) The self-appointed Prophet Muhammad, author of The Koran. Mantra: …..”and Muhammad is his prophet.”

    .3) Paul the Pharisee, the self-appointed Apostle to the Gentiles, whose 13 letters comprise one third of what, today, we call the “New Testament.” (The first, original “New Testament” was composed by the second century heretic Marcion, and he coined the term “New Testament.” His new “book” contained nothing except 10 of Paul’s letters and an abbreviated Gospel of Luke. There were no other “New Testament” books, and the Hebrew Scriptures were the “Old Testament” which was irrelevant, according to the heretic Marcion.) Mantra: “All Scripture is God-breathed….”

    I got my Masters Degree at Dallas Theological Seminary. I was attracted to the school because they put Paul’s mantra of “All Scripture is God-breathed” above everything else, and I wanted to heed Paul’s command and “Preach the Word” like Paul….

    This mantra is a misinterpretation out of context of 2 Timothy 3:16. It ignores the previous verse, 2 Timothy 3:15, which clearly indicates that Paul was NOT referring to his own letters when he wrote the words “All Scripture.”

    Paul was probably making reference to some of the Hebrew Scriptures, quite likely including the Law and the Prophets. We cannot be completely certain exactly which “Scriptures” Paul meant in “All Scripture”, and what Paul meant by “God-breathed.” Why can’t we be certain?

    Because we must establish a matter by the testimony of two or three witnesses, especially something as important as “What is the Word of God.” No one else in the pages of the Bible besides Paul ever said anything like “All Scripture is God-breathed”. And Paul only said it here, one time, in the middle of a personal letter.

    The Apostle Peter made reference to “Prophecy of Scripture,” not “All Scripture,” and no it’s not the same thing at all. Jesus never said anything like that. And no one, not even Paul, ever said that all Scripture was equal.

    I remember the general approach to the Bible at Dallas being that “every word in the 66 Books is the Word of God”….. and we should interpret it based on “the intended meaning of the author in the historical grammatical context.”

    That is the basic idea of the heavy-duty seminary language we were being trained in. It sounds so right, so intelligent, so professional, so “godly”….. but it is fundamentally flawed.

    When we look at Paul’s teachings and testimony about himself, (in his letters that make up 1/3 of the New Testament,) we should NOT immediately ask ourselves; “what did Paul say, what did Paul mean, and how does this apply to my life?” The fundamental question is NOT “what was in the mind of Paul?”

    Before any of that, the FIRST question to ask is; “does Paul agree with Jesus, who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets?”

    Paul contradicted himself, and his teachings and testimony about himself don’t harmonize with the teachings of Jesus (or with Luke’s record of his life.) Let’s not waste our time with endless debates about “what Paul really meant” with his wacky teachings about “baptizing the dead” or “there is neither male nor female.” Paul was wrong. Jesus reminds us from The Law “at the beginning, the Creator made them male and female.” [Matthew 19:4, Genesis 1:27]

  25. Poem – What is love?

    Two men came to Jesus
    With different motivations.
    They asked Him the same question
    Relevant to all the nations:

    Which is the Most Important?
    The answer was the same.
    Jesus did not manipulate
    He was not there to play a game.

    “Love the Lord your God” said Jesus
    as He quoted from The Law –
    to fulfill and not abolish
    was His purpose, full of awe.

    Jesus did not make all Scripture
    Into one new great commandment.
    He summarized The Law and Prophets
    “First and Greatest” and “The Second.”

    The Love of God is higher
    Than the love of any man.
    Receive from God, give back to God-
    Then to others, that’s His plan.

    The Love of God involves much more
    Than simply “love your fellow man.”
    Worship, trust, and pray to God,
    and obey Him – that’s His plan

    To worship and pray to neighbors,
    Whoever they may be,
    Or trust and obey our enemies
    Would be idolatry.

    The love of God is first and greatest,
    And the love of man is second.
    “All we need is love” are words
    of a dead Beetle on the pavement.

    “The entire law is summed up in a single command”
    are not the words of Jesus our Salvation.
    It’s false teaching of Paul the Pharisee
    “an accuser of our brethren.”

    “Love” without God is Satan’s word through Paul
    in his chapter to the Corinthians.
    “I will show you the most excellent way”
    is the road to eternal perdition.

    Where is God in Paul’s chapter on love?
    Nowhere in view of the eye.
    Paul sings about himself like a Mexican Mariachi
    “I, I, I, I.”

    Jesus is The Most Excellent Way
    Not the words of a Pharisee.
    The words of Jesus are very clear.
    Jesus said, “You must follow ME.”

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