Paul the Apostle, Liar, and Hypocrite

Apostle-Paul-PreachesFor though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.

Acts 21:22-24

In one of the conversations I’ve had with Pastor Randy at my church, we discussed the activities of Paul as recorded by Luke in Acts 21. Included in some of the questions Pastor brought up was whether or not Paul was being disingenuous by offering to pay the vow price for four men at the Temple to avoid criticism from other Jews (see the quote from Acts 21 above) and that Paul had replaced this devotion for the Torah and for the Temple with faith in Jesus Christ. Interestingly enough, according to D. Thomas Lancaster in his commentary on Acts 21:15-22:30 (see First Fruits of Zion’s Torah Club Volume 6 Chronicles of the Apostles reading for Torah Portion Shemini [“Eighth”] for details), this is exactly what most Christian commentators believe.

Paul’s participation in the sacrificial services proved to the Jerusalem believers that he was not an apostate. Ironically, many Christian interpreters would consider participation in the Temple sacrifice as apostasy from Christ. They excuse Paul’s backsliding into Judaism on the basis that he was pressured into the ceremony by James and the elders. Moreover, Paul himself said, “I have become all things to all men so that I may by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

-Lancaster, pg 684

The quote above from 1 Corinthians 9 seems particularly damning, but I want to mention something else first. In order to believe the traditional Christian interpretation of Paul’s participation in the Temple sacrifice, we have to believe that Paul is a terrible liar and hypocrite and we have to believe that James and the Council of Apostles of Christ not only condoned his dishonesty, but actively encouraged him in it.

If these are the sorts of people responsible for writing much of our New Testament, what does that say about the foundations of the Christian faith? Did God really entrust the establishment and dissemination of the Gospel of Jesus to not only flawed human beings (and all the writers of the Bible were imperfect), but deliberately dishonest, hypocritical liars? Do the ends justify the means? Should we emulate the apostles by also lying in order to win a few souls for Christ?

Assuming he’s not also lying in the following quotes, Paul defends himself before his Jewish accusers and the Romans:

Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”

Acts 25:8

After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.

Acts 28:17

But then what are we to make of Paul’s own words to the church in Corinth in his first letter to them? What is Paul saying?

whispererAccording to Lancaster’s commentary (pp 684-6), Paul was saying that he was merely crafting his message for different audiences, not that he was changing his overall behavior, especially in relation to Torah observance. When Paul said “to the Jews I became as a Jew,” it could hardly mean he “became a Jew” since he was already Jewish by birth (although some modern Jews believe Paul was born a Gentile and converted to Judaism). Lancaster states that in Paul saying this, he “only means that, when among Jewish people, he employed that common ground to his advantage” since he “shared with them a common cultural and historical heritage.”

I don’t have a problem believing this. My wife sometimes tells me that Jews today have a particular way of thinking and conceptualizing their world and that communication between Jews takes on a different “flavor” than between a Jew and a Gentile. It is likely that Paul would have presented his language and message within a heavily Jewish ethnic, cultural, national, and religious framework when sharing the good news of Messiah to an exclusively Jewish audience.

But what about when Paul said, “To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law”? First of all, he already said he “became a Jew” so why add the redundancy (supposedly) of saying that he “became as one under the law?” Isn’t he saying the same thing twice and worse, isn’t he saying that he acted like someone under the law but actually wasn’t under the law? Isn’t that clearly being a hypocrite?

Lancaster answers those questions by saying that those “under the law” were not born-Jews but Gentile converts to Judaism or proselytes. That answers the question of why he wasn’t “under the law” if it means he’s not a convert to Judaism (a Gentile proselyte who chose place himself under Torah observance by converting). That seems a little weak, even to me, and I wish Lancaster had cited some sources to back up his claim. Apparently, this is his personal opinion but it does tend to solve why Paul engaged in “redundant language.”

On the other hand, he could have been referring to God-fearing Gentiles who were not proselytes (or who were considering conversion but had not yet made a commitment) but who voluntarily chose Torah observance. We see an example of such a person in Izates bar Monobaz who was a disciple of a Jewish merchant named Ananias and who, because of his royal position, was discouraged by Ananias from converting to Judaism. Izates vowed to observe all of the Torah mitzvot as the Jews do and later on, converted to Judaism, as did his mother Helena of Adiabene.

I also have to wonder about Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, who Peter encountered in Acts 10. In verses 3 and 30, Cornelius is seen or relates that he was praying at the ninth hour, or about 3 p.m. which is the set time for the mincha prayers in Judaism. Although the text doesn’t make it explicit, Peter and his Jewish companions stayed a number of days in the Roman’s household (see verse 48) and so they all must have eaten meals together. Unless you believe (and I don’t) that Peter’s vision (see verses 9-33) convinced him and his Jewish companions to permanently forego kosher foods, then, since there was a synagogue and thus a Jewish population in the largely Gentile community of Caesarea, it is likely that kosher food was available.

Just how many of the laws of Torah did Cornelius adhere to in his life as a God-fearer? We can’t possibly know, but it’s at least compelling to consider the idea that he may have kept a good many of them, as his position in the Roman military allowed.

under-law-torahI’m not saying any of my suggestions are fact, but it’s another way to look at Paul’s statement about “those under the law.”

Returning to Paul’s “those under the law” statement, Paul says he is not like them “under the law” but becomes like them. If Lancaster is right and they are converts, then of course, Paul doesn’t become a convert to Judaism and thus his statement is accurate. He can communicate to them in a way that they would understand in crafting his message specifically for converts (or Torah keeping God-fearers), though.

And what of “those outside the law” (1 Corinthians 9:21)? Lancaster defines them as Gentile God-fearers who do not live by the standards of Torah. If Paul becomes like them though, doesn’t that mean he puts away his Torah observance and eats ham sandwiches and shrimp scampi right alongside them at the lunch counter? Again, Lancaster refutes this and says that, “is not to say he ate forbidden foods or unclean meats, but wherever he had room to budge, he did so.” Lancaster goes on to say (pg 685):

Paul explained that he himself is not “outside of the law,” that is to say that he was not a Gentile God-fearer. Instead, he was under the “Torah of Messiah.” He remained legally Jewish in Messiah, but he bent where he could bend and flexed what he could flex in order to win those who were not Jewish.

Again, that seems a little thin, and again, Lancaster appears to be relying on his own interpretation and does not cite other authorities to back up his claim.

Traditional Christianity would probably jump all over these verses to illustrate that Paul was a behavioral chameleon and that Torah observance meant absolutely nothing to him unless he was talking to fellow Jews. Otherwise, he was under the “law of Christ,” which is to say “grace,” rather than the “Torah of Moses” or the traditional observances of the non-believing Jews.

Is there any other way to understand all this, particularly Paul’s behavior with Gentiles?

The only other way I can think of, and I’m no expert, is to say that Paul, like any good communicator, was able to craft the same message differently for different audiences. I’m a professional writer and that’s exactly what I do when constructing technical information about a software product for technical vs. lay audiences. The Gospels are largely thought to relate more or less the same information to different audiences, with Matthew written to Jews and Luke written to Greeks.

Even in ancient days, Jewish and Greek thought and conceptualization of ideas and actions was fundamentally different, and information about the same events and thoughts had to be constructed in different ways.

That’s how I would read Paul’s “chameleon” statements.

But that’s just me.

However, I also know this about Paul:

But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

1 Corinthians 9:15-16

I believe Paul. I believe he’d rather die than compromise his principles. I believe that he was devoted to the Messiah and to the truth of the Gospel. In fact, Paul ultimately did die for his faith, as did Peter, and the other apostles except arguably John. Like the other apostles, Jesus hand-picked Paul for his task and added to that, he did so as a supernatural event, well after Christ’s ascension to glory at the right hand of the Father. If God knows all things, it would be unlikely that such a man as Paul would have been selected if it was known that he was going to fail spectacularly as a liar and a hypocrite.

AbrahamYes, all men of God have failed. Abraham failed. Jacob failed. Moses failed. David failed. But not one of them failed in their mission for God. They failed in many human ways, but each successfully carried out the work that God gave them to do. Abraham failed when he lied about calling Sarah is sister (although arguably as his cousin, she could be called his “sister”), but he succeeded in having overwhelming faith in God and in the binding of Isaac. Jacob failed in his many acts of deceit, but he succeeded in fathering and raising the beginnings of the twelve tribes. Moses failed by desecrating God in front of the people when he struck the rock twice, which cost him his entry into Israel, but he succeeded in leading the Jewish nation in the wilderness for forty years as a shepherd leads and protects his flock. David failed with Bathsheba, but succeeded in conquering the Land and vanquishing Israel’s foes as her King.

Paul no doubt failed in many human ways too, but he succeeded in integrity, honesty, and courage, even in the face of death, many times defying opponents for the sake of his gospel and promoting Gentile inclusion in the Way of the Messiah.

If Paul was a liar and a hypocrite, then he only claimed to be serving Jesus. He couldn’t have been a real apostle and disciple. No one behaves so badly and yet serves a God of truth and justice.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Matthew 7:21-23

If Paul is the man who most Christian commentators (and most Jewish ones as well) believe him to be, then he was a “worker of lawlessness” literally, and a liar, and a hypocrite. If he was all of those things, then his epistles are a sham and we cannot trust them or their writer. If we can’t trust Paul, then most of the New Testament is unreliable. If that’s true, we Christians are in a horrible bind and we have to believe the modern Jews in saying that Paul took the basic teachings of Jesus and perverted them into an anti-Judaic religion, preaching hate of Jews, of the Temple, of the Torah, and of Israel.

That’s not the Paul I know. I’m sorry if you believe otherwise.

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33 thoughts on “Paul the Apostle, Liar, and Hypocrite”

  1. Your honesty is very refreshing James. I understand your misgivings about d.t’s statements. Ultimately we are forced to rely on Paul’s statements of loyalty to Torah, anything less is as you said a damning blemish on his character and brings all his motives into question.

  2. Good morning, Sean. Thanks for commenting.

    If I’ve sounded like I’m being critical of D.T., that wasn’t my intention. In a lot of ways, these blog posts represent the stream of my thinking as I’m considering a topic. That’s all I’m doing here. Turning all this over in my head to see what happens next.

    Ultimately, I can’t conclude that Paul was lying or being two-faced about his life and spreading the Gospel to the Jews and Gentiles in the diaspora. But like I said, if he’s telling the truth, then not only was he an observant Jew all his life, but he supported other Jews in observing Torah and honoring Yeshua as Messiah. Acts 21:25 shows us what he taught the non-Jewish disciples in Messiah, and I suppose (and I think Lancaster said this, too) that’s where the confusion was introduced…the differences between how Paul was teaching covenant responsibility to Jewish disciples and Gentile disciples.

  3. Paul was confronted with three (3) distinct groups of his time. Pharisee’s (hardliners promoting salvation through the Law), Messianic Jews (converted yet remaining borderline) and Gentiles (0f non-Jewish/Hebrew descent converted to Christianity). We must remember that Paul never had the full approval of any one of these distinct groups of people. Previously Paul was a Pharisee – thus his conversion to Christianity was unsettling to the Pharisee and he was mostly mistrusted. The same held true with the Messianic Jew (converted to Christendom) and the Gentile who witnessed first hand, or new of him through reputation, Pauls’ assault and attitude towards Christians.

    A good example of Paul having to walk a fine line between the three (3) distinct groups of the time would be found in diet: For instance, when Paul would dine with the Pharisee(s) he would not eat what under the Law was forbidden and thus would eat what was acceptable: There are many examples. Some are of the following. “And the fat of an animal that dies naturally, and the fat of what is torn by wild beasts, may be used in any other way; but you shall by no means eat it.” ( Leviticus 7:24) and also see: Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud—that you may eat. (Leviticus 11:2-4).

    The same might well apply to the Messianic Jew who, though in part may have converted entirely to Christendom, retained some degree of his/her belief under the Law. As with Christians (Gentiles)of whom he might well have dined with. For Christ had said ” It’s not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Matthew 15:10-12.

    I believe in order for Paul to be effective in promotion of Christ, salvation through Christ and belief in Christ he walked a very, very tight rope. In reality, we might well surmise, that were we to enter the home of a Muslim or a Hindu we would respect their dietary practices. By no means would we demand “pork chops” from the table of a Muslim now a “juicy steak” from the table of a Hindu worshipper. Especially were we trying to tell them about Christ and His salvation. Does that make us a hypocrite through eating what they serve at their table? of course not!

    May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless and keep you. And, may His face shine upon you and yours.

  4. No worries about appearing critical. Constructive criticism in the context of an honest discussion to find the truth is a welcome relief from the norm

  5. James,

    Excellent post!

    I have to shake my head at the common concept that 1) Paul “converted” to a Gentile form of religion–how would God choosing Jews and cultivating them make any sense then, and all Paul says in Romans about the benefit of being Jewish? And then why didn’t Jesus have even one Gentile disciple? And why did Paul, at the end of his life, continue to say he was a Pharisee, as in the present tense? Acts 23:6, unless of course he was “lying” again.

    Since it was only Jews who understood the concept of Messiah it was only Jews “looking” and waiting for him, it makes absolutely no sence that a Jew would then have to “convert” out of Judaism to believe in and follow the Jewish Messiah (especially since there was no one other than a Jewish Messiah)

    2) Christianity loves to use Paul’s rebuke of Peter distancing himself from Gentiles as proof of Peter’s hypocrisy, yet paint Paul as guilty of much worse, yet no one ever considers what a “big fat liar” he is.

    3) that it is always assumed that to eat with a Gentile God Fearer means they partook in meat, especially non-kosher meat. Daniel in exile didn’t, as a kosher family we don’t eat non-kosher meat– and it really isn’t hard to avoid. Before I was kosher I routinely passed on shrip, any and all fish, and as a kid I went through a vegetarian phase and passed on the meat at our table.

    Oh well, thanks again.

  6. It saddens me to realize people continue to think Paul CONVERTED to Christianity….that any reason whatsoever existed that made such a choice necessary. Does one really believe that Jews who are in the Messianic Jewish Movement (in our time period) are no longer Jews ?
    Our vision is somewhat clouded when it comes to reading scripture and no matter how many hours a day we spend in studying, if we do not know the history, the languages, the politics and circumstances under which those verses were written, conclusions can be and are reached which in the end continue to provide reason to persecute God’s Covenantal people. On the face of what you wrote today Paul sounds pretty much like a hypocrite….interesting thought!

  7. For the record, I don’t think Paul was disingenuous, a liar, or a hypocrite. But it is easy to get the wrong idea if we take Paul out of context or apply a specific theological point of view to his words before looking at the actual meaning of his words within the context of the whole Bible and his life.

    Greetings, altruistico and welcome. I don’t think Paul saw himself “converting to Christianity” as a result of his Acts 9 encounter with the Jewish Messiah. I believe he met the risen Lord and realized that he was opposing the very God he sought to serve. There were various branches of Judaism in Paul’s day such as the Pharisees, the Essense, and so forth, and James, Peter, and the rest of the apostles and the Jewish disiciples all made up one such branch originally called “the Way.” It was to that branch of Judaism with which Paul came to identify as he became a disciple and apostle of the Master. The labels didn’t get “muddy” until after the admission of large number of non-Jewish people.

    I’ll admit that Paul’s close association with the Gentiles probably made him hard to understand by his fellow Jews and contributed to false rumors about him, but Paul’s character doesn’t seem to lend itself to compromise. When he criticized Peter for acting one way among Gentiles, but pulling away from the goyim when important men from James appeared, he certainly wasn’t compromising and he wasn’t allowing Peter (a senior apostle who had personally walked with Jesus) to compromise either. Suggesting the Paul laid his observance aside in order to minister to the Gentiles (which he denies in Acts 21 and 22) would certainly have made him a hypocrite.

    Any God-fearing Gentiles who he associated with would have already known about Jewish dietary restrictions and would likely have made accomodations for Paul, since God-fearers spent time associating with Jews in the synagogue. I don’t think he would have done a “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” dance when he was with a Gentile group. Even the pagan Gentiles in the diaspora would have had some knowledge that Jews behave and even eat differently than they do since Judaism was an officially recognized religion in the Roman empire.

    To reverse your “Muslim or Hindu” example, if non-Jews chose to host Paul, as I mentioned, they would have been aware that he was a Jew and of that that meant and as good hosts, they would have gone out of their way (in my opinion) not to offend him by offering non-kosher foods. If nothing else, Paul would have eaten only vegetables in their presence. I agree, Paul might have been put in a bind sometimes, as we see his hestitation to stay in Lydia’s home in Acts 16:15, though he and his party were finally persuaded to stay.

    Unless given compelling evidence to the contrary, I have to let my original opinion as expressed in my blog post stand and say that Paul remained a Pharisee by training and education and a Jew observant of the Torah mitzvot regardless of his context. One of the reasons he and his traveling companions sought out the local synagogue upon arriving at a new destination was to connect to the Jewish community and to locate appropriate food and lodgings for Jews.

  8. “In order to believe the traditional Christian interpretation of Paul’s participation in the Temple sacrifice, we have to believe that Paul is a terrible liar and hypocrite and we have to believe that James and the Council of Apostles of Christ not only condoned his dishonesty, but actively encouraged him in it… If these are the sorts of people responsible for writing much of our New Testament, what does that say about the foundations of the Christian faith? Did God really entrust the establishment and dissemination of the Gospel of Jesus to not only flawed human beings (and all the writers of the Bible were imperfect), but deliberately dishonest, hypocritical liars?”

    If we become acquainted with the obvious, well-documented body of anti-Jewish hatred captured in many of the writings of the Church Fathers, we have similar concerns. Did God really entrust authority to men who could write with such intense hatred of others, particularly of His chosen people? And yet, there it is. The first bricks in the road that led to Auschwitz. Since my study of the Holocaust began, my coming to knowledge of the history of Christian anti-Semitism has caused me to critically question the very dubious connection that Christian tradition positions between its earliest Gentile leadership and the Jewish apostles; the very point at which the “break” between Judaism and Christianity occurred. The point of the “breaking” of any “connection” seems to lie in Paul’s and James’ love of and loyalty to the Jewish people and the Church Fathers condemnation of them and everything Jewish. What Christian tradition has to say about what the Jewish apostles wrote must be held under serious scrutiny from my point of view and not be accepted “carte blanche” as seems to often be the case… despite defense of a “sola scriptura” point of view.

  9. Hey James,
    One of the best discussions of Paul’s phrase “under the law” that I’ve found is in J.K. McKee’s book “The New Testament Validates Torah.” John spends a good 40-50 pages explicating all of the relevant passages, looking at the Greek and some source language issues that crop up. Very insightful. Highly recommended. But a little too involved to neatly summarize. :o\

  10. Greetings, Rob. I must admit, McKee’s book isn’t currently on my rather vast list of books I want to read. I imagine at some point if the author or publisher wanted to send me a review copy, I’d be glad to read the work and give my honest opinion here on my blog, but otherwise, the world of knowledge is expansive and I’ve only scratched the surface. So many books…so little time.

    Thanks for the suggestion.

  11. “Since my study of the Holocaust began, my coming to knowledge of the history of Christian anti-Semitism has caused me to critically question the very dubious connection that Christian tradition positions between its earliest Gentile leadership and the Jewish apostles;”

    Dan, you’re a very perceptive man! Some of the earliest “Church Fathers” claimed (or had others make the claim on their behalf) that they were personal disciples of the apostles (John, Paul, Peter, etc). Yet these “students of the apostles” oftentimes displayed in their writings the sort of anti-Judaism and general animosity toward Jews that makes one wonder who really taught them to think this way. So, while the “sola scriptura” way to understand G-d may indeed be lacking, especially in understanding of the Jewish scriptures, treating ALL tradition, especially any tradition that sought to cut Israel out of the loop, as equal and beneficial, is not the way out of the problem.

  12. ‘Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the Elohim of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Torah and written in the Neviim, having a hope in Elohim, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both Elohim and man.’
    – Mishlei (Acts) 24:13-16

  13. “In one of the conversations I’ve had with Pastor Randy at my church, we discussed the activities of Paul as recorded by Luke in Acts 21. Included in some of the questions Pastor brought up was whether or not Paul was being disingenuous by offering to pay the vow price for four men at the Temple to avoid criticism from other Jews (see the quote from Acts 21 above) and that Paul had replaced this devotion for the Torah and for the Temple with faith in Jesus Christ.”

    Hi James. When i first read your blog I intended to post a comment right away. But, as is the case many times with me, I got sidetracked. Sorry for the tardy comment but I wanted to post it anyway.

    It sounds like Pastor Randy may think the evidence that Paul remained Torah observant is pretty sketchy and that he had other motives for doing what he did in Acts 21. I know you are going through Daniel Lancaster’s book on Galatians, but it seems to me that you guys may be trying to construct the house (understanding some of Paul’s difficult writings) without first building the foundation. There is much more evidence about how Paul lived his life in relation to Torah than what Pastor Randy, and many like him in the Christian community, seem to think.

    I probably had that reaction since we are taking another small group through FFOZ’s HaYesod (The Foundation) program and when you wrote your blog we had just gone through the lesson on Paul’s identity. I think you told me in a previous online conversation that you had seen this program some time in the past when it first came out. But if you haven’t gone though the current program I think you (and Pastor Randy) may be missing out on a very valuable resource in your journey of understanding Paul as well as the Jewish roots of our faith. The thing I like so much about the program is that it starts on a very fundamental level in the first few lessons and then builds layer upon layer of understanding that makes it easier for us to understand the more difficult studies at the end of the course. I love watching people who seem to be confused and overwhelmed at the beginning, later start having the lights come on as they catch the revelation that the early lessons have been pointing to. Here is a sort of brief (well, maybe not so brief) overview of the study on Paul.

    In HaYesod lesson six (Our Identity – His Apostle) the teachers basically put Paul on trial all over again in the various venues at the end of the book of Acts and then ask the students to decide which verdict we would arrive at based on Paul’s own testimony. Would we agree with Paul that he lived in obedience to Torah and Jewish tradition, or would we agree with his accusors who contend he taught against Moses and the Torah?

    In Acts 21-22 Paul is on trial in front of his accusors from the Temple. The accusation is:
    “they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.” Acts 21:21 (ESV). James suggests the solution would be to take the other four believers who are completing their vows and offer sacrifices in the Temple. The result would be: “Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. ” Acts 21:24 (ESV).

    In Acts 23 Paul is on trial in front of the Sanhedrin. The accusation is, as it was in the Temple, that he is anti-Jewish, anti-Torah, and anti-Temple. “And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” Acts 23:1 (ESV). This seeming innocent statement meant far more to those he was speaking to than it probably does to us. He is using language that indicates he has been scrupulous in his observance to Torah and has a “good conscience” before God. He goes on to say “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” When he says “I am a Pharisee” (present tense) he is saying his level of observance is similar to other Pharisees of his day.

    In Acts 24 the High Priest and some elders make their case in the court of Felix. They say “For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.” Acts 24:5-8 (ESV). ” Paul replied: “Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. Acts 24:10-16 (ESV)

    In Acts 25 in the court of Festus there were many false allegations made against Paul: “When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove.” Acts 25:7 (ESV) “Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” Acts 25:8 (ESV). In other words he says he has commited no offense agains the Torah, the Temple, or Rome.

    In Acts 26 Paul is given another hearing on the same charges in the court of Agrippa. Paul says: “My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Acts 26:4-7 (ESV). He says his fellow Jews know how he has lived his life and again says he has lived as a Pharisee. He goes on to say “To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass:” Acts 26:22 (ESV), Notice that he says he teaches nothing but the prophets and the Torah.

    In Acts 28 in front of the Roman Jewish community Paul says: “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.” Acts 28:17 (ESV). Notice he goes well beyond saying he is Torah obervant when he says he has done nothing against the people or the “customs of our fathers” which I believe meant he lived his life according to the oral Torah as well as the written Torah. Then later on “When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Acts 28:23 (ESV). At the end of his life Paul was teaching from the Law and the Prophets and spent the last two years “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” Acts 28:31 (ESV).

    So, after hearing Pauls defense in all these locations, what would be our verdict. Do we believe him or do we side with his accusors?

    James, I think you (and hopefully Pastor Randy) will agree that the evidence for Paul’s Torah observance to the end of his life is extensive and overwhelming. I also agree with you that Paul was not being duplicitous when he went to the Temple in Acts 21 to worship and offer sacrifices. Instead I believe he was only being consistant with the way he had always lived his life.

    I hope at some point you and Pastor Randy will decide to go through the HaYesod program. It may be that he would even decide to present this program at the church. It is an excellent tool to open up understanding. By the way, I have been told that FFOZ is going to announce sometime this month that the program will be made available as a product to purchase and use as you see fit instead of having to organize a group first and sign up the individual people as it has been in the past.

    I apologize for this comment being probably as long as your blog. However I hope you can sense how important it is to understand Paul. The way he lived his life must always be kept in mind when reading his letters. If we don’t do this and read his writings in context we tend to impose our viewpoint upon his letters which unfortunately is the predominant interpretation. We risk getting most everything about his writings completely wrong.

    James, my wife and I are making plans along with a local pastor and his wife to attend the FFOZ Shavuot conference in Hudson, WI next month, God willing. I hope we will have the privelege of seeing you there. Blessings and shalom, Mel

  14. I really need to be fair to Pastor Randy. He is highly educated and was actually an instructor at Master’s College in Southern California, so it’s not like he doesn’t have a solid Biblical foundation. That said, he doesn’t readily accept how Messianic Judaism reconstructs that foundation toward the continued Torah observance of the early Jewish believers.

    Thanks for presenting so much information, but I’m not the one you have to convince, Mel. 😉

    James, my wife and I are making plans along with a local pastor and his wife to attend the FFOZ Shavuot conference in Hudson, WI next month, God willing. I hope we will have the privelege of seeing you there. Blessings and shalom, Mel

    That’s wonderful, Mel. I look forward to seeing you again and to meeting your lovely wife as well as the Pastor and his wife.

    Blessings.

    1. James, I didn’t mean to imply that Pastor Randy was not educated or that I could teach him or convince him of anything in regards to his faith. I just have become convinced that HaYesod is one of the most effective tools to give people a new (at least to them), exciting perspective to look at our Messiah and our faith in Him. It seems like I am always trying to communicate to people who are a lot smarter and more educated than me. I guess that’s why I find so much value in this program. I don’t have to do the teaching. The teachers at FFOZ do a great job communicating step by step and it is so much fun watching the Spirit of God reveal these truths to people.

      Since we have now done several of these classes I have watched people from various backgrounds come with various preconceived ideas and see them have various responses to the ideas. Probably most come with a healthy dose of skepticism and some with an unhealthy fear. Some are receptive, but many are resistant. Some even respond with anger that the things they have been taught are being challenged. But the joy is watching God use all these attitudes and responses and in His own unique way reveal what the Spirit is doing in the world today. Some don’t do much with what they are exposed to, but for others it is a life-changing experience and a few become supporters and participants in encouraging this change in perspective. I love it, when at the end of the session all some people can say is “wow”. Or “I’ve never understood that before”.

      When a pastor get ahold of this, many times it is a game-changer for the community they are a part of or at least for their congregation. Pastor David, who is the one that will be coming with us next month, was one of those who was initially resistant. But when he saw the truth of what was being taught he embraced it. Needless to say, I am very excited to see what God is going to do in our area through him. I am hopeful and expectant that a similar thing will happen through Pastor Randy in your area. Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing you again as well as hearing what will be taught at this year’s conference. I have wanted for some time to hear a Messianic perspective on the gifts of the Spirit. Blessings and shalom brother.

  15. No worries, Mel.

    I have a feeling that Pastor Randy would be as unconvinced by the HaYesod program as he has been so far by Lancaster’s Galatians book. Like most intelligent people, he questions everything and in his case, it’s against his understanding of the Bible.

    I just started reading Introduction to Messianic Judaism by Rudolph and Willitts, and it may be more up Pastor Randy’s alley, since each chapter has more of an academic presentation. Lancaster, for all his theological expertise, tends to write for the “common man” and Pastor probably needs to ramp it up a notch and read what multiple scholars have to say on the topic.

  16. If that’s the case you might have the right book. I bought it at a Tentbuilders seminar in Kansas City earlier this year. I’m reading the final chapters now. With almost every chapter by a different writer it gives a number of interesting snapshots of MJ, some better than others, or should I say some more interesting to me. But it might be what grabs Pastor Randy’s interest.

  17. It’s really not that complicated. Let go of your traditions, and cling to the Lord you claim to serve.
    “If we can’t trust Paul, then most of the New Testament is unreliable.”
    Ok… that is an issue because…?
    You still have the Old Testament.
    You still have Jesus- the one you claim to serve.
    You still have Revelation, John, Jude, etc

    What you don’t have is a bunch of nice cutesy sayings, truth mixed with lies, confusion, and division. Once again….that is a problem because…..?

    Let go of your traditions and cling to the one you claim to believe in.

  18. Greetings, JD. It sounds like you’re saying that it’s OK if part of the Biblical canon contains false information. Either the Bible is entirely the Word of God or it isn’t. It’s my opinion that it is all the Word of God, including the writings of Paul. The problem is how Christian tradition has been used to interpret those writings over the centuries.

    It sounds simple to say “let go of your traditions,” but everyone has traditions and biases. I know some people want to believe that all they have to do is read the Bible and they can understand all of its complexities, but the Bible is not a simple book, and what it has to say operates on many levels.

    You may think you have “the truth” completely figured out. Indeed, there is a central truth in the Bible that provides for the redemption of all humankind, but there is also the mind and heart of God. We know Him by continually studying and learning, but we will never reach the full depths and heights of an infinite God. There will always be more in the Bible to challenge us to become better people, to develop more spiritually, and to draw ever nearer to our God.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  19. What’s your point, JD? Do you think it appropriate to throw Rav Shaul under the proverbial bus, just because non-Jews have been unable to understand correctly what he wrote from within his own Pharisaic midrashic perspective? Kefa didn’t think so, though he cautioned others about Rav Shaul’s difficult-to-understand writings that ignorant folks were wont to distort. The really appropriate response is to enter into his Jewish mindset, determine what he was really intending, and re-translate accordingly. It’s truly astounding what a difference that makes.

  20. I agree with JD. It is Christ whom we should be focusing on and following, and Christ Alone! Otherwise what makes us any different than all these false cults, heaping on the doctrines and teachings of MEN along with the Truth of Christ? That is actually a curse according to the Word of God, adding man’s words to God’s! And it is what every false *religion continues to do, such as- Joseph smith & mormonism, Charles taze russell & the Jehovah’s witnesses, Ellen g. White & 7th day adventism, Mary baker eddy & Christian science, mohammed & islam!… And the list goes on.

    People keep elevating the words and books of a person, to that of the Holy Word of God! It is a curse, have they not read their bible?? They choose to instead read & rely upon the words of men…. and defend these false prophets More than Almighty God Himself! Although, The I AM needs No help defending Himself. 🙂

    Also, I should mention how the Catholic Church says the words of the pope (antichrist man) are divine! AND the Harlot church claims this “vicar of christ” has the authority to change God’s laws!!! See Daniel 7:25! The “father of lies” is after all the devil, he just loves to twist the scriptures and speak against God’s truth… It’s just like the serpent in the garden who spoke contrary to the Word of God, & deceived mankind depriving them of that perfect relationship with God and life in HIM. he has continued to speak falsehoods & deceit since!

    Just look at all the “religions” and denominations today… They are following false prophets, when we’re to follow only the Messiah and the Holy Spirit! (which the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit was manifested in Christ.) ONLY HE is our teacher!!1 John 2:27 & John 14:26 and Only Yahushua the Messiah is my pastor (Shepherd). 🙂 Why do people focus on religion and tradition so much and look for answers there, instead of listening to our Lord’s Words?? Christ never came to set up a religion! & he was very much against traditions of men… Rather He said to Follow Him. ❤ And to Follow God's commandments! He taught to follow HIM out of love, and to Love The Lord thy God with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy mind, and love thy neighbor as thyself!- "Do this and you shall live". Men keep perverting, adding and taking away from this true preaching! It's just as Christ said- the Pharisees neither enter heaven, nor suffer those that follow Them to enter. It's like where the blind is leading the blind, and both fall into the ditch! Christ made it soo clear if people would only read His Words… We should Follow CHRIST ALONE! He is the one and only Messiah! & He is Lord! 🙂

  21. @Elizabeth — My, my! “CHRIST ALONE”, you say? Since he didn’t write down any of his own teachings, which of his followers do you trust? Are the words of the man Matthew reliable? How about Mark, Luke, or John? Peter? Jude? The unnamed writer of the Hebrews letter? “James”, who was Rav Yeshua’s brother and the leader of the Jerusalem Apostolic Council? If you can accept these folks, why would you balk at Paul? By the bye, how do you feel about the veracity of the Jews who contributed to the Torah and the Prophets? Moses? Isaiah? Jeremiah? Daniel? (I’ll skip the others — you get the point by this time, I hope.) Moses commanded the Jews of Israel to: “Listen! … HaShem is our G-d, and only HaShem!” This is the One Whom Jews are to follow. Rav Yeshua is reported in Mt.5:18 to have observed that the Torah and Prophets would remain valid as long as the current heavens and earth continue to exist. He is reported in Mt.23:3 to have commanded his own disciples to obey the teaching authority of the Pharisees (though not to emulate their mistakes). If you wish to follow “him alone”, then you will find yourself actually following a host of others as well.

  22. @Elizabeth: Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    I’ll have to answer you the same way I did J.D. (which was the better part of a year ago). 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all scripture is God-breathed which I understand to mean that the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God. We don’t get to pick and choose.

    I don’t recall mentioning other Church denominations, the Catholics, or anyone else, so I don’t know how they are particularly relevant. The main point of my writing this blog post is to answer the issues certain folks have about Paul, as if Paul were a “special case” as a Biblical author.

  23. Paul is an evil liar. He even admits to it on several occasions. He is the wide path so easy provided by “Christianity”. He badmouths the true apostles and even Moses. All abandoned him (2 Timothy 1:15) and his false doctrine in the end and Yahshua even congratulates those who didn’t fall for it in Rev 2:2. And then there’s the Damascus road story which changes every time he tells it. When given the choice between that sleaze bag Paul’s false doctrine and what Yahshua was trying to teach us (same thing Yahweh was through Moses) I will turn my back to Paul/Saul, the great 13th false apostle that so many of you are all too eager to follow.

    1. Zaphod, I went ahead and approved your comment, even though it’s more than obvious you have an ax to grind. I’m not, however, going to engage you in some sort of debate. It would be pointless, so if there’s why you came here, I’m going to disappoint you. Cheers.

      1. @James — I do wonder, at times, how folks like Zaphod find essays like this one, merely to insert a contrary opinion a couple of years after they were originally posted. He doesn’t seem to have assimilated the original essay, nor the subsequent discussion of it, even if he *were* actually interested in joining into the discussion belatedly.

  24. @James – Also very late to this party, but I found your blog post very thoughtful and interesting, and wanted to make a comment of my own. By way of preface I am not a follower of Paul or the doctrines he espoused, so for me there is nothing to reconcile between him and anyone else. I was drawn to follow Jesus by the words recorded and attributed to Jesus during His mortal ministry, and nobody else’s. For me it is Jesus, and not any scripture, that is the Word of God, as he was the only prophet who the Father spoke through as a direct mouthpiece.

    You wrote: “I’ll have to answer you the same way I did J.D. (which was the better part of a year ago). 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all scripture is God-breathed which I understand to mean that the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God. We don’t get to pick and choose.”

    Note that by citing 2 Timothy you are, perhaps unwittingly, employing circular logic which argues from your own premise, given that you are quoting the very man whose status is on trial as if his words are, de facto, authoritative. It’s like stating that we know that Paul is an apostle simply because Paul himself asserted it many times.

    If Paul was who he claimed to be, then his words can be relied upon as true and authoritative. If he is not who he claimed to be, then what he wrote to Timothy would not be authoritative.

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