Was Paul a Pharisee?

Paul claims to be a Pharisee in Philippians 3. In Acts 22:2-5 he claims before the Sanhedrin to have been “educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers” (Acts 22:3). The Pharisees are well known in scripture and history. While Pharisees are the chief persecutors of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels, especially in Matthew, some Pharisees appear to be interested in Jesus’s teaching (Luke 7:36-50), and the Gospel of John presents Nicodemus as a Pharisee who approached Jesus with respect both before and after the resurrection. Acts 15:5 indicates some Pharisees were associated with the Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem.

Was Paul a Pharisee?The Pharisees represent a fairly conservative form of Second Temple Judaism, although their concern for ritual purity put them at odds with Jesus on a number of occasions. Although Jesus questioned their interpretation and application of the Law and called them hypocrites, he did not object to some of their core beliefs nor indicate they were wrong on fundamental issues important to Second Temple Judaism. For example, the Pharisees believed God had chosen the people of Israel as his own but had been sent into exile due to their covenant unfaithfulness. They also looked forward to a coming messianic king who would rescue Israel from their oppressors and re-establish a Davidic kingdom. Jesus agrees with all of this (although he would claim to be the son of David, and the kingdom is being restored in his own mission).

Just how much influence did Paul’s education as a Pharisee have on his thinking?

  • First, they struck a balance between freedom and human responsibility.  They believed in Divine providence and the election of Israel, even the predestination of many vents of life, yet man has some freedom of choice that ensures his responsibility.
  • Second, Pharisees placed supreme importance on the Law and their own oral traditions and interpretations of the Law.
  • Third, unlike the Sadducees, they believed in resurrection and an afterlife. This appears to have been a point of contention between the two groups, as is seen in Acts 23:6-8.
  • Fourth, the Pharisees had messianic hopes; they were looking for the coming of the Messiah and the resurrection of the dead.  This is why they are among the first of the leaders of Israel to examine the teachings of John the Baptist and of Jesus.

At least for these points, Paul’s thinking is similar to his early training as a Pharisee. He also has a balance between determinism and human responsibility and has a strong belief in God’s election of Israel (Romans 9-11, for example). Paul has a view of resurrection consistent with the Pharisees, and he obviously believes in a messiah. The difference, of course, is the messiah is Jesus. As one of my students once said in this context, “That is a pretty big difference.” Although Paul is clear, Gentiles are not required to keep the Law. He does use the Hebrew Bible extensively and in ways that would resonate with the methods of the Pharisees.

There are other ways in which Paul is consistent with the Pharisees in his letters, such as marriage in 1 Corinthians 7. This might come as a surprise to Christian readers of Paul, who tend to read the letters as if Paul was a member of an American evangelical church (or, worse seminary faculty member!) How will this understanding of Paul’s Jewish background affect our reading of Paul’s letters?

Perhaps this leads to a more difficult question: how much of Paul’s thinking changed due to his Damascus Road experience?

38 thoughts on “Was Paul a Pharisee?

  1. Mr. Long, I really appreciate your thoughts regarding the apostle Paul. As a “Pauline dispensationalist” in regards to my overall understanding of the Scripture, there may be some things that we do not see eye to eye on, but the truth is that facts are facts. We all have the same facts to wade through and study ourselves.
    One most important thing that I remember regarding Paul’s ministry, is that the Lord spoke that “he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel…” (Acts 9:15), and all that which Paul was before this time, his purpose in life drastically changed that day.

    • This is true. But….People still confuse Jews and Judaism with Judean and Israelite. Judaism is the following of the Babylonian Talmud. Jesus calls these followers children of the devil! Serpents! Consigned to Hell! When the Messiah arrived i.e. Jesus Christ sent by the Father, they rejected Him. They arrested Him! They prosecuted Him and sought the death penalty.

      As such, whenever there is a separation from the norm. e.g. The Old Law, and behavior sours and becomes disjointed opponents will label the group negatively. For example calling a German a Kraut, An Italian a Whop, An Oriental a Chink!

      Well, this works also with Judeans who become seemingly sons of Satan; They’re called Jews!

      • I think I would try to temper the equation of Jews and the Devil, since Jesus was a Jew and all of his followers were Jewish and all the earliest Christians were Jewish, it is wrong to say “all Jews reject Jesus” – that is simply not true. The Jews in the first century were trying to follow God in the way God had revealed himself to them.

        This sort of anti-Semitic rhetoric would be quite at home in the 19th century, but reflects a fairly ignorant view of Judaism in the first century (and today!)

      • It’s important to know that there were at least two different factions of Pharisees in Jesus’ days. One being Pharisees of the school of Hillel (beit Hillel) and the other of the school of Shammai (beit Shammai) This explains why some Pharisees were agreeable with Jesus, and others were not. In fact, I believe there is plenty of evidence that Jesus himself was a beit Hillel Pharisee. Paul, on the other hand, was not a Pharisee at all.

  2. I think there need not be any question as to whether Paul was a Pharisee or not, but how flexible he was in what he studied. Paul is a very interesting character and there are things about we can know yet remain curious as to how or what His story was prior to the road to Damascus. What we know is from glimpses in Scripture where Paul either talks about himself or the few chapters in Acts and how he was persecuting Christians.

    I love how you mentioned how the Pharisees were perhaps the chief persecutors of Jesus, yet even other Pharisees were attracted or left in wonder of who this man really was. Nicodemus was drawn to Him, and when Jesus spoke to him he was very attentive as well as confused at his teaching on being reborn.
    There are other incidents where other Pharisees sought Jesus and His teaching which illustrates a fallacy in the Pharisaical tradition and devotion. It is just another veil hindering one from the revelation of Jesus Christ.

    Knowing Pauls Jewish background doesn’t really affect me in a negative way. I read his letters and see God speaking through him. Whether it was his election emphasis in Romans 9-11, I don’t see Paul having a prejudice to his Jewish mindset. What’s interesting is that he used language well known to his audiences in order to communicate a Kingdom truth to His readers. Peter struggled with understanding Pauls letters and I think that says something of how 1) Paul was very close to God and 2) how it’s not so much a Jewish prejudice. I think Paul was humble and as a result, God gave him insights that are not that easy to understand. (2 Peter 3:16)

  3. I think much of Paul’s thinking changed, if not personally, then definitely on how he viewed others. We know throughout Scripture the Pharisees are known to be rigid and unwavering in their beliefs. However, Paul comments multiple times about freedoms and not judging others in his letters; Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8 & 10 just to name a few. Romans 14:10 lays it out nicely I believe. “You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” Also in Acts 15 when people began preaching that one must be circumcised to be saved, both Paul and Barnabas are pretty upset. Paul may have been taught as a Pharisee, and may have even kept some of the Law after the Damascus Road experience, but given his ministry focus to the gentiles, not to mention, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Cor 9:22b). His stance on how he views others is very non-pharisaical.

  4. In knowing Paul’s Jewish background, I feel that I still read his letters in the way the way God wants them to be read. I think Paul, even though having views like Pharisees, brought forth a mission that continued to impact the growing Church regardless of his background. This seems to be what is most important because Paul builds this basis through his letters and writings for the Church, and we still continue to look at things like the missionary strategies he used to reach Gentiles. So, I would say Paul’s Jewish background is not a negative thing at all, but rather it gives a unique perspective to who Paul is. It seems that Paul was willing to reach further into the world because that is where he felt the Holy Spirit leading him. He may have a thought process like the Pharisees because that is what he was taught, but ultimately we see that he brings teachings and understandings to churches.

  5. Roth Smith:

    I think it is important for us to understand Paul’s Jewish background so that we can more fully understand the context in which Paul is writing. Almost two millennia after the time of Paul’s writing are we, in the twenty-first century, reading what he wrote; our culture today is totally not the culture of Paul’s time. It is very easy for us to read our own culture back into Scripture; but doing so often gives us a tainted and somewhat inaccurate interpretation of Scripture. Thus, learning about who Paul was as a Jew and as a Pharisee will help us unlock his personal and cultural contexts in which he wrote his letters. Paul was a Jew who grew up in both the Jewish and Roman world. “Thus the evidence points to a Greek-medium Jewish education, in which the broad spectrum of Hellenism entered Paul’s mind only through the filter of his conservative Pharisaic environment” (TTP 26). Because Paul was a Pharisee, he seemed quite comfortable preaching and teaching in any environment. Even as soon as he was able to see again after his encounter with Jesus, he was preaching about the Son of God. “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” Acts 9:20

  6. While there are many similar key beliefs that the Pharisees shared with Christians, there were also some major differences that changed Paul’s thinking. One major way is obviously his accepting of Christ as Lord, but also the Holy Spirit. Paul writes a lot about the works of the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit, especially in Ephesians (1:14-15). To think that the Jews had a problem with accepting Christ as God, how much more then did Paul have to open up his mind to accept God as 3 persons but still one God? Especially when Paul talks about the Holy Spirit living inside of us and being a mark of salvation, I would think most Pharisees would see that as the ultimate blasphemy if every Tom, Dick, and Harry went around proclaiming they had God inside of them to secure their spot in heaven (although this is a rough representation of what The Holy Spirit really is). This belief alone affected a number of core Jewish beliefs; no longer did Paul have to live his life as a slave to the law, rather he lived according to the Spirit and was filled with the spirit, relying on His help for discernment in his life. By abandoning the law ( in the sense of no longer letting it rule his life), he abandoned the core of what it meant to be a faithful and dedicated Pharisee. Just from looking at some of the changes that took place in Paul after his conversion, it would be hard to say that not much of his thinking was affected.

  7. “Was Paul a Pharisee?”
    Understanding Paul’s Jewish background does influence how we, as modern-day Christians, read Paul’s letters. Paul (Saul) was brought up in a Jewish household in Tarsus (TTP, 20). Paul was a follower of the Law and he became “both a Pharisee and a persecutor of Jesus-followers” (TTP, 20). Gamaliel was Paul’s tutor during his adult Pharisee education. Gamaliel was a Pharisee in the council, described as a “teacher of the law held in honor by all the people” (Acts 5:34). Paul described his upbringing and education under Gamaliel later on in the book of Acts (Acts 22:3). As Dr.Long mentioned, Paul used the “Hebrew Bible extensively and in ways which would resonate with the methods of the Pharisees”. Paul was zealous for the law and persecuted the Way to other’s death and imprisonment. It would be during this time that Paul gained his intimate knowledge of God’s word through the Pharisaic environment (TTP, 26). John Barclay suggests that Paul’s “Pharisaic education must have taken place in Jerusalem, in a school of Torah interpretation, probably in Paul’s case in the Greek language” (TTP, 26). Paul’s letters indicated that he was a “relatively well-educated and remarkably well traveled artisan-apostle, who was vulnerable to the vicissitudes of a mobile existence” (TTP, 27). It is important to understand Paul’s Jewish background and how it influenced his writing and knowledge both before and after his trip on the road to Damascus.

  8. Paul being a Pharisee really opens my eyes to a lot of new ideas. It makes me truly think about his ministry in a different light. In 1 Corinthians 9 it talks about becoming different things to reach others. “To those without the Law I became like one without the Law (though I am not outside the law of God but am under the law of Christ), to win those without the Law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some of them,” (1 Corinthians 9:21-22). When I think of Pharisees, I think about men that are stuck in their ways and they are not going to waiver. So, for Paul to talk about becoming different, to have an open mind, is almost shocking. I think we can see hints of his traditional ways, but he truly had a radical way of thinking for that time. It is great insight from our book when it states, “he became both a Pharisee and a persecutor of Jesus-followers,” (TTP 21). He had many different roles in society, even coming down to his home roots. “Paul was a citizen of both Rome and Tarsus,” (TTP 25). Having all these different roles in society, opened his eyes to different hurts going on in this world. He was able to reach what was considered the unreachable. This shows me that God can use you from all walks of life. Where you end up is not a mistake, it is how you use your circumstances that makes the difference.

  9. “Paul was a zealous follower of the Lord and of the law. Over time, he became both a Pharisee and a persecutor of Jesus-followers” (Longenecker, 21). In his being a Pharisee a lot of Paul’s thinking had to of changed in the result of his Damascus Road Experience. Paul started out persecuting those who believed Jesus was the Messiah and after his experience he was then one of those believers. That is a huge change in one’s life. As you and Eric state there are some Pharisees that respect Jesus and others like Paul, at the time before his experience, who reject him and do away with those who accept him. It is odd that there can be both types as one would think all Pharisee’s would have the same outlook on Jesus as the Messiah, but then again there are many different denominations of Christianity so it just all depends on how an individual is going to respond to what they are being taught. The same goes for Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road. He could have easily rejected the voice of Jesus and gone about his deed mentioned in Acts 9:2 “and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (ESV). He did not though even with his background in the ways of the Pharisees. I do not think that with this information of Paul being a Pharisee should change one’s outlook on him. If anything, it should strengthen one’s belief in God. God used a man, Paul, who was persecuting His loved people. If God can change someone’s total outlook of life and then use him for the glory of God, imagine what He can do with those of us who already believe Jesus is the Messiah and already love Him. Paul is a great example of completely trusting in Jesus no matter what our initial thoughts of Him are. One’s background should not change the mind of one who is reading about what that person did in the latter years of their life.

  10. I don’t doubt one bit that Paul was a pharisee, in both a literal way and a mindset. It’s ironic when we read about pharisees persecuting Jesus but also having ‘messianic hopes’ — and how Paul, as Saul, exhibited that. After the road to Damascus incident, Saul is basically obliterated (to my understanding) in his transformation to Paul. Jesus making himself clear to you as a Messiah is pretty life-changing, I guess.

    I think that, in Paul’s letters, he still maintains a very scholarly look at most issues concerning morality (or lackthereof) in certain societies, or how to deal with certain issues. However, there is that big difference in that he speaks with the sources of equality between Jews and Gentiles, and the over-arching message that the greatest commandment is to love your neighbor/one another. Yanno, something Jesus talked about, and underlined as being very important. We know for certain that Paul believes in an afterlife, as he addresses in his second letter to the Corinthians, which is something the Pharisees believed in — the big difference being, Jesus is the resurrected, in the case of believing in a resurrection. In the long run of things, Paul is in a post-pharisee state when he begins his ministry and writes his letters. His eyes have been opened to Christ, so his life as a pharisee is behind him, but his education that he received under that remains. A mindset develops overtime and over events, and I think Paul leaves his beliefs as a pharisee at the door when he begins his Christian ministry.

  11. This is exactly what im talking about:

    Although Paul is clear Gentiles are not required to keep the Law, he does use the Hebrew Bible extensively and in ways which would resonate with the methods of the Pharisees.”

    Paul does require gentiles to follow the law. Once you are in covenant you are no longer considered gentile. This has ALWAYS been a foundation in Judaism. Whenever you see a convert in the Torah (Abraham, Obidiah, Ruth, Rahab). When you have the laws of female captive women coming into covenant do you see any of these people remaining as gentiles or not keeping the law?

    The Issue is that Shammi school says no gentiles can come into covenant and be saved while Hillel does. This is why Paul can never be from Shammi.

    • Abraham was certainly a pagan who was “converted” to the worship of God, but you are not going to be able to prove from the Hebrew Bible he kept any (much later) Torah requirements. That is the point of Jubilees, a fictional retelling of Genesis to make Abraham into an ideal Jew.

      Other than the kinsmen redeemer law, there is no internal evidence Ruth converted, perhaps she and Rahab fell under the sojourner laws (but I am perfectly OK with those two becoming law-keeping Jews, no argument there).

      “Paul does require gentiles to follow the law.”

      Galatians 3:1–6 (ESV) O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

      Galatians 5:2–4 (ESV) Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

      Perhaps you left the NOT out of your sentence?

      • Have you studied near eastern covenants? Yes he converted, his name changed and he is refereed to as a Hebrew. Dont try to christianize the Torah. lets keep the book based in the near east.

        So yes hes following the law. I thought you knew “mainstream Judaism” because that is an aspect that is taught to kids in shul. The law was only codified at Sinai because the world was in chaos and he chose Israel to start the redemption.

        Clearly the law was in effect because he TOLD NOAH to get a pair of all animals CLEAN AND UNCLEAN. Show me anywhere in the text before Sinai what clean and unclean is.It doesnt say he taught him, so this is already common knowledge regarding the people of Abraham.

        Why dont you actually read the Torah in Hebrew or get a concordance? Yes all converts in the Torah have to live by the law. Theres even laws for captors and servants coming into covenant that they had to observe the law.

        Youre still not answering the fact that Paul gave converts coming into the faith purity and kosher laws to adhere to. Which is the law because you cannot go into the synagogue or the temple (death) defiled.

        I do not acknowledge ESV only the original languages and concordance. I will see if I can copy and paste without word press messing the texts up.

  12. Acts 15:29 states food scarified to idols, abstain from blood, strangled animals and abstain from sexual immorality are clearly from Torah.

    1.This is clearly Kosher (Kashrut) dietary guidelines from Exodus 22:30 regarding trief meats and the concept of tamei and tahor as well. After his ruling he tells them to go back into the synagogue. If Paul is telling them not to keep the law he is essentially creating a secondary class within the synagogue and actually damning people and himself. Paul is setting up a system for gentiles to come into the faith,to move from tamei to tahor and eventually convert and worship in the temple. Paul never preached against the law only against corrupt oral law and he never told gentiles to not obey the law. Infact he never called them gentile once they came into covenant. Even in my yeshivas ive attend both Messianic and Orthodox consider gentile converts as native born.

    A.When you eat Halal meat, that is foot sacrificed to idols. Allah is not YHVH

    B. When you eat at the Chinese buffet and they have their kitchen gods with insence, golden cat, buddha etc. Those are idols, and all of the food is under the authority of those idols.Some are even prayed to for people to come in to bring them money for their businesses.

    C. Are you saying its ok for gentiles to be gentiles but no follow the law eventhough Jesus himself did and said it wont pass away until heaven and earth do. Is it ok to eat Halal meat and meat scarified to idols in these markets and restaurants?

    D. I see Yeshua, Paul and Peter following Torah. I dont see anyone else or their disciples doing the opposite

    Word: pniktoj

    Pronounce: pnik-tos’

    Strongs Number: G4156

    Orig: from 4155; throttled, i.e. (neuter concretely) an animal choked to death (not bled):–strangled. G4155

    Use: TDNT-6:455,895 Adjective

    Heb Strong:

    1) suffocate, strangled
    1a) what is strangled, i.e. an animal deprived of life without the shedding of blood
    1b) of cooking: our “smothered” as a culinary term

    Word: eidwloquton

    Pronounce: i-do-loth’-oo-ton

    Strongs Number: G1494

    Orig: neuter of a compound of 1497 and a presumed derivative of 2380; an image-sacrifice, i.e. part of an idolatrous offering:–(meat, thing that is) offered (in sacrifice, sacrificed) to (unto) idols. G1497

    Use: TDNT-2:378,202 Adjective

    Heb Strong:

    1) sacrificed to idols, the flesh left over from the heathen sacrifices
    1a) it was either eaten at the feasts or sold (by the poor and the miserly) in the market

  13. Definition:

    Non-kosher food, food not in accord with Jewish dietary laws, is called treif.

    Treif derived the Hebrew word teref which means TORN, and originally referred to non-kosher meat only. In Exodus 22:30 it is written “Do not eat meat from an animal torn in the field.” Thus Jews were forbidden to eat meat from an animal that was torn or mortally wounded.

    Over time the meaning of the term treif expanded from one category of non-kosher meat to anything non-kosher.

    More Kosher Vocabulary Words: Glossary of Kosher Terms
    Common Misspellings: trayf, traif, trafe

  14. General question:

    Have you studied Miqsat Ma’ase HaTorah (4QMMT)?
    Works of the law, custom of Moses and the Law of Moses are three different things.

  15. One of the “proofs” of Paul’s background as a Pharisee can be found in first and second Thessalonians. Paul teaches on the afterlife and the second coming in these two epistles to address some of the issues the church was facing (Longenecker). This speaks to Paul’s background in his education and beliefs. Another select group of Jews at the time was the Sadducees, which was an elite religious group that did not believe in a form of the afterlife. Paul shows knowledge and understanding of Christ and Jewish scriptures in his writings, such as the letters to the Thessalonians, which give value to Paul’s claims of being an educated Pharisee. The information and understanding Paul received in his rigorous education did not necessarily change after his Damascus road incident. Rather, much of the change that occurred in Paul’s life was through his interpretation, perception and his heart. Prior to the events in Acts 9, Paul studied the Jewish texts, kept the law and was destroying those he believed were proclaiming heresy (Acts 26:4-11). The change that occurred on the road to Damascus is that God revealed himself to Paul, showing Paul that Jesus was the Messiah as he claimed. Paul before this point did not believe Jesus to be the Messiah, he believed Jesus was a heretic, lunatic, impostor, or a mixture of those three. Paul came to realize through this experience that he was not killing the followers of a heretic, but rather the followers of the true God. Paul did not change his previous beliefs, he still continued to follow the law, uphold the same texts and continued work in the name of God. However, what did change is the perceptions Paul had about the early followers of Christ, Christ himself, and Judaism and how it was fulfilled.

    • Its difficult to determine where Paul stands ether as a Pharisee or a Christian but you make a good argument. Even though Paul was brought up as a Pharisee, there are relations among the beliefs of the Pharisees that are tide to Christianity. Which can create some confusion on whether Paul was aligned with the views of Christianity or the Pharisees. However, because Paul was nurtured and educated as a Pharisee, it would be right to assume that his beliefs correlated with those of the Pharisees. After his experience in Damascus, he continued to have some of the same beliefs but also discontinued some of the laws he was raised on. For example, circumcision was rooted deep into the history of the Jews and was a necessary part of life in order to be saved. Although in Galatians 5:6, Paul revokes the need to be circumcised and recognizes that faith in Jesus is more vital than being circumcised. Another small detail that dismantles claims of Paul being a Pharisee is 1 Thessalonian. The letter of 1 Thessalonians describes the moment where Paul was driven out the city by Jews for speaking about Jesus (Longnecker, 60). An assumption can be made that not even the Jews in Thessalonians categorized Paul as a Pharisee since they kicked him out the city. So there lies some evidence that Paul was not recognized as Pharisee.

  16. It is evident that Paul the Apostle carried the way of thinking from being the training of a Pharisee, Gamaliel, into his ministry. Despite the Pharisees twisted relationship with the law and how following it will save you, they did believe that there was a Messiah coming to save, just not Jesus. As you said, that is a massive difference and a very distinct change in Paul’s way of thinking after his spiritual encounter on the road to Damascus. That moment was the turning point of believing in some Messiah to believing in Jesus Christ and believing that He is the only way to salvation!
    Going into a little rabbit trail, I have a Catholic friend and she believes that Jesus Christ is not the only way to salvation. She believes that if you are a good person here on Earth, then there is no reason you should go to hell. She believes that if you are a decent enough person on Earth then you will go to purgatory and earn your way to Heaven.
    This concept of “earning your way” very much reminds me of the Pharisees and Pauls original way of thinking. It clearly says in the Scriptures that Jesus Christ is the only way to Salvation (Acts 4:12). This change in Paul’s thinking changed the world because he ministered to so many people about Jesus being the only way. This is just one of many ways that Paul carried over a form of thinking as a Pharisee and transformed it with the truth of Jesus Christ into his ministry (John 14:6).

  17. In all honesty not very much of Paul’s thinking changed. The only thing in my opinion that changed is how he no longer desired to persecute Christians. Instead his new calling given onto him was to spread the gospel to God’s kingdom. In one of the other post we where prompted to think some of the key factors that influenced Paul’s teachings and his life. From the reading we come to understand that Paul was surrounded by influences like, Jews/ Pharisees, Hellenistic culture, Christ himself, and even his birth place. I believe that all that of this was preparing him for his calling to spread the gospel. From Corinthians Paul became a friend to all very much so like Jesus. He met people where they were at in order to get his message of the gospel across. For example, Paul, became a Jew to the Jews (1 Corinthians 9:20) and it must have been extremely helpful to already have a Jewish background. That means he was able to understand their reasoning behind what they thought and also teach them in a way for them to comprehend. From Genesis 50:20 we know that God will work things out for the greater good of his kingdom. So, God used Paul’s experiences (as He does for many people of the Bible) to further his calling as an Apostle and also extend his reach to certain people/audiences he shared the message of the Lord with.

  18. Knowing the background of both his upbringing and his education, it is easier to understand where Paul is coming from when digging deeper into his letters with this in mind. In Acts 26, we see Paul exclaiming that the Jewish people have known him since his childhood, and that they can witness to say he has lived a very strict Pharisee lifestyle (Acts 26:4-5). Jews, specifically Diaspora Jews, “valued the ancestral customs and convictions of his people” (Longenecker, p. 26). Knowing Paul was taught strict obedience to the Law helps us understand why it led him to disbelieving in Jesus Christ as a Savior. He was not going to be quick to believe in someone who did not quite match what they believed the Savior would look like. Paul was also excessively devoted to religion, which led him to persecuting Jesus-followers because he truly believed this church was like rapidly growing cancer (Longenecker, p. 29). He was not able to get out of his religious mindset.

    Due to the strict upbringing and religious side of Paul, he went through a complete transformation as a result of his Damascus Road experience. As important as the Law was, it was blocking Paul from truly encountering Jesus Christ and understanding the reality of price he paid for him. Once Paul encountered Christ, he understood and believed that He was alive, and that it is not just a religion, but it is something tangible, real, and most of all, personal. He no longer had to live a life of dead works and jumping through hoops, but instead he got to receive a Savior that changed his entire life forever. His life in Christ, now being filled with the Holy Spirit, strengthened him and launched him into his purpose and impact on the world around him (Acts 9:17-19). If Paul had never experienced Jesus on the Damascus Road, I cannot even begin to imagine what the world would look like today without his influence.

  19. As I started reading through the book “Thinking Through Paul,” it did not take long for me to find the answer to this blog post as Longenecker says, “Over time, he became both a Pharisee and a persecutor of Jesus-followers” (Longenecker, p.21). Paul who grew up Jewish in the town of Tarsus with his parents. There was soon a change that were to come that would change Paul’s views on Jesus Christ. On Paul’s way to Damascus, he had an experience that had changed his life forever. After this encounter, I believe that Paul’s thinking had changed on the ways that he would view others. If we look at some of his letters there are many times when he says that we may not judge others for differences. The Holy spirit was leading him in the direction of church and brining a mission to the Gentiles in God’s word. This happened to be one of the biggest impacts on Paul’s life as he was falling far from God until he had this encounter on the road to Damascus.

  20. Paul on several occasions claims that he was Pharisee, being “educated at the feet of Gamaliel” as seen in Acts 22:5. This would align with Paul’s early persecution of the Jesus movement as he considered himself full of zeal for Jewish traditions. Many might assume that the entirety of the Pharisaic sect of Judaism found little interest within the early Jesus movement beyond the desire for its destruction. However, this does not seem to always be the case, as Long notes, some Pharisees found Jesus’s teachings interesting. One common example is Nicodemus, who interacted with Jesus and the movement in respectful gestures before and after Christ’s resurrection. Furthermore, Acts 15, which deals with disagreements of gentile circumcision in the early Jerusalem church, indicates that some Pharisees who accepted the Messianic implications of Jesus were present.
    Yet, does Paul’s claim of his status as a Pharisee align or find congruity within his theology and teachings throughout his epistles? One might expect an overlap between his previous theological positions and his newly found faith in the risen Lord. As Long notes, many of the second temple Judaism beliefs held by the Pharisees do find a comparison in Paul’s works. For example, the Pharisees maintained a balance between determinism and human freedom, along with the election of Israel and the resurrection of the dead and afterlife, which separated them from the Sadducees. Comparatively, Paul maintains an even view of determinism and free will, while also displaying support for the election of Israel through passages such as Romans 9-11. Furthermore, the Pharisees maintained hopes of a coming Messiah, while they consequently disagreeing with Paul over the Messianic nature of Christ, Paul still finds similarities with the Messianic hopes of the Pharisees. Overall, Paul’s theology maintains many similarities with the Pharisees, while also finding majority discrepancies when considering the role of Jesus and his Messianic professions. However, regardless of these differences, one can acknowledge and find validity in Paul’s claims of Pharisaic roots in his previous life before his encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus.

  21. Paul grew up with his family in Tarsus near the diaspora Jews that lived under strict views and they lived under the convictions and customs of there ancestors Paul knew who Jesus was or he had an idea of what/ who Jesus is based off of what his parents taught him. Traveling to Damascus Paul had revelations as to who Jesus really is. Paul has many similarities dealing with the messianic findings of the Pharisees, that you an find in Acts Paul dealt with his Pharisaic background before he had an encounter on the way to Damascus. Paul was definitely influenced and lived the life style of a Pharisee but soon realized that Jesus is not dead and very much a live.

  22. Was Paul a Pharisee? Well, the short answer is yes, Paul was a Pharisee. In Longenecker’s book, he tells us plainly that Paul became a Pharisee (Longenecker, pp. 21). Also, in Acts 23:6 says that Paul was a Pharisee, coming from Pharisees. This could interpret that Paul was born and raised a Pharisee coming from Pharisee parents. Yet again, in Acts 26:5 Paul says that he lived as a Pharisee. Lastly, in Philippians 3:5 Paul writes that he is a Pharisee, as to the law. We also read in Longenecker and Acts 22:3 that Gamaliel was responsible for Paul’s education and upbringing (Longenecker, pp. 25-26). Earlier, in Acts 5:34, we learn that Gamaliel is a teacher of the law, a rabbi, and a Pharisee. It would make much sense if the person in charge of Paul’s education, who was a Pharisee, taught him in the ways of the Pharisees. We see similarities in beliefs between Pharisees and Saul in Acts 8. Saul was going from house to house, pulling out men and women from their homes, and bringing them to prison because of their “false” belief in Jesus the Messiah. The Pharisees believed that a Messiah would be coming, but they did not believe that Messiah to be Jesus. Saul stuck heavily to the Law, another thing that the Pharisees did, and anyone who did not abide by the Law was grounds for Saul to persecute. Based on the above Scripture, text, and reading of the blog post, I believe that Paul was indeed a Pharisee. His beliefs and actions align with those of Pharisees, Scripture, from what I gather, does not refute that belief, and the Longenecker text states it that way too. Obviously, a lot of what Saul believed changed when he was converted into Paul, but to the point of was Saul/Paul a Pharisee? Yes.

  23. I think this is a very interesting topic because it really depends on the time and the place; for when Paul was in his earlier stages he started out hunting and persecuting Jesus followers however, some life altering events happened to Paul that ultimately changed him resulting in him becoming a different version of a Pharisee. I say a different version of Pharisee because I personally think that Paul was better than a “Pharisee” because he changed in regard to how he no longer persecuted Jesus followers and how he stopped seeing the church as a rapidly growing cancer of which needed to be removed from his Jewish beliefs and traditions. The fact that Paul could change his mind and was willing to completely switch sides is why I think he is so different from the rest. After his encounter with Christ on the Road to Damascus he no longer was labelled as just a Pharisee rather he was now an evangelical apostle that would risk his life to make sure that the Gospel reached as many people no matter the culture or belief. Personally, to answer the question as to how much of Paul’s thinking has changed as a result of his Road to Damascus experience I would say a lot; for he now proclaims the faith that he once sought to obliterate and destroy, and according to (TTP 32) Paul “speaks on his former life practicing Judaism and of his devaluation of the same in light of his driving desire to know Christ. I think this is enough proof that shows that Paul’s thinking has drastically changed from womb to tomb, and for the better.

  24. Paul proudly claimed to be a Pharisee, and in Acts 22:2-5, he even mentions his education under the respected Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). The Pharisees, known for their passionate adherence to Jewish tradition, are both allies and rivals of Jesus throughout the Gospels. While some Pharisees clash with Jesus, others seem intrigued by his teachings (Luke 7:36-50). Nicodemus, a Pharisee, even seeks Jesus’s wisdom both before and after the resurrection (John 3, 19:39).

    But what exactly did Pharisees believe? Well, they held tight to their version of Second Temple Judaism, rooted in the importance of the Law, resurrection, and messianic hopes. They were like the keepers of tradition, seeking to balance divine providence with human responsibility. Imagine having a strong faith while still acknowledging the choices we make in life. It’s like maintaining a beautiful harmony between freedom and accountability.

    Paul’s Pharisaic upbringing has left intriguing footprints in his thinking. Freedom and Responsibility: Pharisees believed in both God’s control and human choices. Paul follows suit, finding a balance between predestination and free will. (Romans 9-11) Embracing the Law: Pharisees held the Law close to their hearts, and Paul’s writings often reflect this deep connection. He doesn’t dismiss the Law entirely but views it through the lens of Christ. Resurrection and Afterlife: Just like Pharisees, Paul believes in resurrection and life after death. This shared belief lays the foundation for his view of the resurrection of Jesus and the hope it brings. Messianic Hopes: Pharisees awaited the Messiah. His Pharisaic background mixes with his new faith in Christ. Paul’s discussions on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, for instance, align with his Pharisaic roots.

  25. Some Pharisees were interested in Jesus’ teachings, even though they are the group that persecuted him it would be stereotyping to say that all were against him. Even in the strongest of beliefs there are still people who have their differences. Paul was influenced by the beliefs that the Pharisees held but that was his cultural background. An amazing part of who Jesus is is that he is forgiving and during his time on earth he loved all, even those with different beliefs. Jesus was known to be around those who had different beliefs, including the Pharisees, and this is what made him different. If the audience is unaware of Paul’s background while reading his works it can be challenging to understand where he is coming from. Paul was a prosecutor of Chrisitans and his original beliefs and cultural understanding went against what the gospel was all about. During Paul’s Damascus road experience he was changed from what he thought was right to the truth. Paul encountered God in a way that most people don’t. He heard the voice of God and was led in a way that only faith could have brought him out. His experience was life altering and it changed his whole perspective.

  26. Understanding Paul’s roots in philosophy and the course of his theological development depends critically on his claim to Pharisaic ancestry and his education under Gamaliel. The Pharisees’ historical and literary representations serve as a key backdrop for Paul’s philosophical outlook. As the blog post states, The Pharisees were complex characters in Second Temple Judaism. While some Pharisees were portrayed in the Synoptic Gospels as Jesus’ foes, others, like Nicodemus in the Gospel of John, showed genuine interest in his teachings. Paul’s views were definitely greatly influenced by his Pharisaic upbringing. He held a deep reverence for the Law and its interpretations. On the other hand, The Damascus Road meeting with the risen Christ, which changed Paul, was a turning point in Paul’s intellectual development. Although his fundamental ideas were in line with Pharisaic customs, he underwent a major change when he came to see Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. This insight fundamentally altered his perception of the messianic mission and marked a divergence from conventional Pharisaic expectations. Although identified as a Pharisee, Paul went through changes after the encounter with Christ on Damascus Road that challenged some of those Pharisaic principles. How much of Paul’s thinking that actually changed due to the Damascus Road incident is something that will continue to provoke conversation and reflection.

  27. When thinking back to Paul’s life from what we read from the Bible it seems that a lot might have changed about his thinking. But then I feel depends on when and where in Paul’s life we are talking about. During the beginning of his Christian walk, not much changed but later more things have changed. The biggest one like many of my fellow commenters have said that Jesus is truly the Messiah just like He claimed to be and him preaching about Jesus. The others are smaller and harder to miss, his deciding to go to the Gentiles and his not making the new believers follow the Jewish law. In short I think that it depends on how you look at what we are given.

  28. As you made clear in other blog posts, modern Christianity and Paul’s “conversion to Christianity” are two exceptionally misunderstood concepts. Modern Christianity wants a Paul that can identify with them. They want to impose this belief because it makes Paul easier to understand and relate to. This however is not correct. Paul certainly was a Christ follower, and he understood that Jesus was the Messiah. That is what makes him different than his Jewish heritage. His Pharisaical tradition believed in a Messiah, only now Paul knows who that Messiah is; Jesus Christ. However there are many instances where Paul mentions his Jewish background. Paul boasts that he is a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5), and that by nature has no identification as a modern evangelical Christian. I laugh at this misunderstanding because it is just sadly true to character for illiterate scholars to try to fit their ideas into Scripture rather than take time to understand the historical context. Paul was indeed a Pharisee, that had a miraculous encounter with Jesus Christ, and because of this encounter, realized that his entire life was turned upside down. Instead of zealously persecuting followers of Christ, he was to preach Christ crucified and risen again! His second letter to the Corinthians shows us that he received direct revelations from God (2 Cor. 12:7). Ephesians tells us that this was a mystery given to him to proclaim to the rest of the world (Eph. 3:6). Jews and Gentiles are equal. Not once does Paul discredit his Jewish heritage. Instead, he speaks of his past as a way to give him credible rhetoric (Gal. 1:13). I imagine Paul felt the need to speak on his past because he was just persecuting the same faith that he is now preaching. People would need a reason to believe him. He understood this mission, and with much passion and a new direction in life, he preached Christ as the Messiah to everyone he could as was his calling after Damascus.

  29. It’s fascinating to think about how Paul’s Pharisaic upbringing might have shaped his perspective as he became one of the most significant figures in early Christianity. As someone who’s still learning about all of these topics, I appreciate the way you explained the connections and highlighted the differences, such as the centrality of Jesus as the Messiah. The idea that Paul kept some of his Pharisaic thinking even as he was embracing Christianity was interesting to me. It makes me wonder how his background might have influenced his approach to the various issues in his letters, like marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, like you mentioned. It’s a reminder that Paul’s letters were written in a specific historical and cultural context, and understanding the context can help us better interpret his teachings, which can be hard if you don’t understand the historical and cultural context. The question at the end about how much of Paul’s thinking changed as a result of his Damascus Road experience, I am curious to explore that further and see if there are specific passages in his letters where I see any changes in his theological perspective. Overall this blog post really helped me understand a little more about what I just previously read in Thinking Through Paul by Longnecker. It will be interesting to keep working through this book and learning more about Paul and his experiences.

  30. In the book titled, Thinking Through Paul: A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology, it reads, “Over time, he(Paul) became both a Pharisee and a persecutor of Jesus-followers”. It then discusses how after meeting the risen Christ, Paul began to see things differently. Paul realized that Jesus was the Lord and began to announce that Jesus died and was resurrected.

    The blog post discusses how some Pharisees seemed to be interested in Jesus’ teachings and how some were involved with the Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem. I think that Paul was interested in Jesus’ teachings and when they met on Paul’s road to Damascus, Jesus showed him that He is the Lord because of His resurrection and how Jesus defied death to rise once again. Paul was forever changed by seeing Jesus and gathering further understanding of what Paul really believed in. This meeting between Paul and Jesus laid down the framework for the rest of Paul’s life. In Acts 22:3, Paul declares to the people that yes he is a Jew and he feels the same way about God as all the other people did. After this, he explains what happened on the road to Damascus and that Jesus told him to enter Damascus and he will know what to do. Paul changed his ways because he encountered Jesus that day and Jesus showed him the light and Paul trusted him.

  31. Attempting to answer how much of Paul’s training of being a Pharisee affected Paul’s ministry and letters or how much was changed after Damascus, it can be found by briefly looking at the book of Acts and the Pauline letters. First, looking at what Jesus had to say about Pharisees can be found in Matthew 23:23 where Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!”. He condemns them for missing the point of the Law. We see Saul majorly missing the point of the Law and Scriptures when he persecutes and murders Christians, who are reflecting the fulfillment of the Law (Acts 8:1). However, after Paul’s conversion, Paul emulates humility rather than blinded pride when he says that out of all the sinners, he was the worst, seeing the plank in his own eye (1 Timothy 1:15-16, Matthew 7:3-5). The second way in which Paul showed Pharisee tendency and yet changed, would be his views of the Messiah. Although Pharisees looked forward to the coming of the messiah, they were so blind when He did arrive. When Paul was full of zeal during his time of persecution, he did not accept the claims of Jesus being the Messiah. We see this in Acts 7:54-60 during the stoning of Stephen. Yet, once Jesus transformed his life, Paul’s scales literally fell from his eyes but also fell from his spiritual eyes (Acts 9:18, Acts 17:3). Therefore, being a Pharisee definitely influenced Paul’s views but also was transformed once he met Jesus on the road.

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