There are several interesting facts surrounding this case that should be noted and kept in mind. They are:
1. His apostleship was unrecognized by others.
Of the 22 times in the New Testament where Paul is referred to as an apostle, only twice is he referred to as an apostle by someone other than himself. These two instances came from the same person. Not from Yeshua or any of the original apostles, but from Paul's close traveling companion and personal press secretary Luke. Both accounts are found in Luke's record of the Acts of the Apostles, (chapter 14:4,14). Here Paul is referred to as an apostle along with Barnabas. By this time in the record, Luke would have been very familiar with Paul calling himself an apostle and was no doubt in agreement with Paul's assessment of himself. By these statistics alone, it is evident that Paul is by far his own biggest fan... and his side kick Luke was his number two fan. This leaves no one else anywhere in the Bible going on record as recognizing his apostleship!
2. His focus was uniquely self-ward.
No other epistle writer in the New Testament wrote like Paul. This would be true in several ways, but one facet is of particular interest when we are considering how Paul views himself. It is his usage of personal pronouns that is second to none. In fact, when it comes to how often he uses personal pronouns like, "I", "me", "my", or "mine", his overall average in the epistles that are generally unquestioned as his is almost three times that of his next closest rival in the practice. Many if not most scholars today believe for a number of reasons that Paul did not write the book of Hebrews. One obvious fact is that in the other epistles credited to him Paul doesn't hesitate to identify himself along with his supposed credentials. The author of Hebrews is strangely silent on these matters. To date, the best guess as to who the author of Hebrews is would be Apollos, and it's only a guess. But Paul certainly couldn't be in the running as the author of Hebrews when one also considers the statistics on the personal pronoun usage. The author of Hebrews uses approximately 1.3 personal pronouns per thousand words of text. Paul's average comes in at about 18.2 per thousand! That is a 1300% increase.
To help put this in perspective, in the first half of the first chapter of Romans, (16 verses worth), Paul uses twice as many personal pronouns than the author of Hebrews uses in his entire book. It's easy to see that Paul is at least as concerned about communicating what believes to be the truth about himself, along with what he considers to be the truth about God.
3. His claim of apostleship stands alone.
Other than the twelve apostles who spent three and a half years with Yeshua, no one other than Paul can be identified as having claimed for themselves the title of apostle of Yeshua. Barnabas was referred to as an apostle along with Paul by Luke in Acts 14:14, but there is no record of Barnabas claiming for himself the title.
Our view of early church is polarized.
When we take a general survey of the New Testament, we notice that Paul is the single greatest contributor to it. When we read the book of Acts, we can't help but get the impression that the great bulk of what God was doing in the early church was happening through Paul. But this tends to be very misleading because the book of Acts was written from only one man's point of view... Luke's. Luke traveled with Paul on his many missionary journeys and the bulk of the book of Acts is the account of those travels. But what was going on in Paul's life was by no means the only thing God was doing with the believers of that time period, nor was it the main event from God's point of view. What we have in Acts is only one man's point of view, and from Luke's perspective, Paul's story would no doubt have appeared to be front and center stage. This could likely be why Luke chose to follow Paul and record his story in the first place. Being a Gentile himself, and Paul the supposed apostle to the Gentiles, this no doubt seemed to be where the future was for Luke. When we consider Paul taught that there is no difference in God’s eyes between Jew and Gentile, but all believers in Yeshua now constitute "the true Israel of God", what Gentile who desired to get close to the God of Israel wouldn’t be absolutely thrilled with Paul? But don't misunderstand my position on the book of Acts. The book of Acts is very important in helping us understand at least a part of what was going on at that time. Without it we wouldn't have much of an idea. What was done and said as recorded by Luke is priceless, and we have no good reason to question what he saw and heard. Luke's own personal commentaries though, few as they are, may be legitimately called into question. But I see no reason to accuse Luke of malicious intent. But we can figure on some Paul-induced ignorance of the truth in Luke. The important thing to remember is that the book of Acts was written from a very singular point of view. It is by no means a record of the only thing God was doing at that time nor should it be assumed from the structure of the book that Paul's journeys where the most important thing God was doing at that time.
No doubt, God was doing other things at that same time. We don't have a detailed record of it, but we do have some clues. Without question, God was working through the original apostles, some things of which are touched on in the beginning of Acts. The apostle John was hard at work for his Lord, but we hear very little from him until we get toward the end of the New Testament. There we find three short epistles and the book of the Revelation of Yeshua that John was commanded to write while in exile on the island of Patmos.
Paul's claims of apostleship
Paul was not at all sheepish about calling himself an apostle. In fact, in nine out of thirteen of his books, he introduces himself as an apostle of Yeshua, and in every case he states in one way or another that his apostleship stands by divine sovereign decree.
Here is the question. Should we automatically believe the testimony of a person who makes grandiose claims about themselves when all we have for confirmation of their claim is little more than their word and maybe a statement or two from their best friend? If so, then we should likewise confirm those like Jim Jones and David Koresh. Unless there is obvious corroborative evidence to support such claims made today and in the past, all of them should be taken with a very large helping of salt. Unlike Paul, a true prophet or apostle does not have to go to such extraordinary lengths to convince the world they are who they say they are. Even Yeshua said that if he alone bore witness of himself, his witness was invalid. John 5:31 And of all the people who shouldn't need to have others testify on their behalf, Yeshua was that person. Yet he had Moses, the prophets, the Psalms, John the Baptist, the Fathers voice from heaven declaring to everyone "this is My beloved Son..." and hundreds of those who witnessed his resurrection just to name a few. Paul had none of these. Though in his conceit he considered himself to be God's gift to the Gentiles and tried to claim a prophecy for himself that was given exclusively to Isaiah in Isaiah 49:6.
"For so the Lord has commanded us: 'I have set you to be a light to the Gentiles that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth." Acts 13:47
Paul, the greatest apostle!
Paul's view of himself as an apostle didn't stop at just claiming to be an apostle. He did what he could to communicate to his followers that he was the biggest and the best. He even had the nerve to challenge the very apostles Yeshua had called and trained for over three years! Among the many self-admiring quotes are these.
"For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles". ...."As the truth of Christ is in me, no one shall stop me from this boasting in the regions of Achaia." 2Cor. 11:5,10 NKJV
Sometimes, almost as though he knew he should be ashamed of such claims, he would tie his claim to a statement of unworthiness. Apparently he thought the gullible would embrace him as the greatest of apostles because he was so humble.
"For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all...". 1Cor. 15:9,10 NKJV
To the Galatians, Paul makes no pretense about how he compares himself to Peter, James, and John:
"But from those who seemed to be something - whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man- for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, ...and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship..." Gal. 2:6,7,9 NKJV
A couple verses latter Paul takes a cheap shot at Peter. Without Peter around to defend himself, Paul brags to the Galatians how he put Peter in his place before the entire church of Antioch.
"But when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews played the hypocrite with him so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straight forward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, "if you being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?" Galatians 2:11-14 NKJV
Then Paul goes on to describe how hypocritical Peter was being for living a different gospel from the one that he (Paul) preached. It is interesting to note that earlier in the book (Galatians. 1:8,9) Paul commanded his followers to damn, (curse, or doom to destruction), anyone who preaches a different gospel than that which he had preached. According to him then, that would include damning Peter, if not James and John also! It is obvious to the reader of the first two chapters of Galatians, that Paul is demanding that the Galatian church follow no one but him, not even the original apostles back in Jerusalem.
As a side note it should also be noted that Paul himself was being the real hypocrite when he condemned Peter for accommodating Gentiles when he was around Gentiles and acting like a Jew around Jews because in another place Paul said:
"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without the law as without law... that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." 1Corintians 9:19-22 NKJV
A little later in the same letter Paul said:
"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." 1Corinthians 10:31-33 NKJV
So here we have Paul claiming to be greater than any other apostle. He insulted Peter, James, and John by saying they only "seemed" to be pillars of the church and they were nothing to him. He bragged about how he told off Peter, and he subtly curses the apostles by telling the Galatians to consider accursed anyone who differs with him. All this, while in fact, he was being the greatest hypocrite of all! If anyone else had even begun to do and say the things that Paul did we would have recognized their incredible conceit and rejected them a long time ago. Solomon said it well;
Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2
The book of Revelation
Back when I still thought Paul the greatest apostle, it always puzzled me why God didn't give him the book of Revelation or at least some prophetic book similar to it if indeed he was as great as he appeared to be.
There are some interesting facts about the book of Revelation and some things said by Yeshua himself that would answer the question as to why Paul was not given the "Revelation". There is a good reason why Yeshua did not give such an obviously high endorsement of Paul to the world, but would much rather have himself identified with the beloved apostle John. Actually, there are two reasons for this. First, as mentioned, Paul wasn't even close to being everything he had made himself out to be. And second, Yeshua had prophesied that John's testimony would remain till he returned. (More on this in the chapter, Yeshua’s prophecy concerning Peter) With an endorsement like this, it only stands to reason that John would be given the testimony of the Revelation to record.
The first thing we notice about the book of the Revelation of Yeshua is that it has been given to the beloved apostle John about whom Yeshua had said his testimony would remain till he returned. The second thing that we are forced to deal with is that the Revelation was most likely given to John during the Neronian persecution around 65 A.D. This was about the same time we hear the last from Paul who was in prison in Rome writing his second epistle to Timothy.
Many Scholars (but by no means all of them) believe that the Revelation was written later during the Domitian persecution of A.D.81-96. This theory has its origin in the testimony of the historian Irenaeus who wrote around the year 180 A.D. some 100 years or more after the writing of Revelation. He held Paul in the highest esteem and tried to emulate him. He also was instrumental in pulling together the many splintering factions of Christianity at that time. There is no more reason to reach for a later date than A.D. 65 for Revelation than his say so. It is my belief that he knew well the devastating impact on Paul’s credibility that an early date for Revelation would bring. Wanting union and not division, he settled on the later date in an attempt to give Paul some breathing room. This only helps Paul a little. Even in the unlikely event the Revelation was written later, it continues to reflect badly on Paul as you will see. The other early historians who also render the later date, Victorinus (c. 270), Eusebius (c.328), and Jerome (c. 370) were simply following Irenaeus’ lead.
There is evidence that can be deduced from the book of Revelation itself for accepting an earlier date for it's writing. First, in chapter 11 there is a reference made to the temple. It is obviously an earthly temple. That temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. It is hard to imagine that John would have been told to measure the temple of God after it had been leveled.
Also, when one adds up the numerical value of the consonantal letters in the name "N’ron Kahsar", which is the way all Greek speaking people pronounced the name Caesar Nero, the sum totals 666. See appendix. The churches of Asia would no doubt have thought Nero was the beast prophesied of in Revelation even though he was only a type, a sort of preview of things to come in the distant future.
There is also the consideration of the age of John. Being a contemporary of Yeshua, it is safe to assume that he would have been close to the same age as Yeshua. If John had been as much as 10 years younger than Yeshua, he would have been only 20 when Yeshua called him to follow him. It would seem doubtful that Yeshua would have called someone so young, but for the sake of a conservative estimate, if John was only 20 when he was called by Yeshua, he would have been in his late fifties at the youngest in the year 65. If he had been the same age as Yeshua, he would have been in his late sixties. By first century standards, a person in age from late 50s to late 60s was considered a significantly old person. If the book of Revelation was written in the year 95, at the youngest, John would have been in his late 80s. This was virtually unheard of in the first century. If he had been the same age as Yeshua or older, (not at all out of the question), he would have been in his late 90s to over 100 years old. This is highly improbable. As long as one isn’t trying to salvage Paul’s reputation, the earlier date of 65 A.D for the writing of the Revelation, during the Neronian persecution, fits all the data best.
The one fact that immediately jumps from the pages of Revelation is that in spite of Paul's supposed popularity, not one word is given from Yeshua in recognition of him or his work among the Gentiles. Of the seven churches to whom the book is originally addressed, as far as we know, only one of them is a church that had any direct dealings with Paul. That church is the church of Ephesus the first on the list of the seven. John records:
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, "I an the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last," and, "What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea." Revelation 1:10,11 NKJV
Yeshua goes on to tell John what to say to each church. The general pattern of the things he said to each church went like this. First he would tell them what they were doing right and commend them for it. Next he would point out to them where they going wrong and reprimand them for it. Then he would exhort them to repent and change what they were doing wrong, or they would suffer the consequences. Then he would give them a promise of reward if they did repent and overcome their problems. Then, (and this is important), toward the end of each and every address to a church, he would speak to the whole world and say that what was true and good for this and all seven churches was good for anybody who cared to listen.
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches". NKJV
The reason that this is important is because there has been some false teaching going around. It holds that along with the obvious fact these letters were written to specific churches in Asia, they were also a parallel prophecy of the churches that would come along in time. The last church then (Laodicea) was supposedly a foreshadowing of the Christian church in general at the end of the age just before Yeshua returned. This has had the effect that we have concerned ourselves with only what was supposedly addressed to us. Today, one can hear all kinds of preaching about the lukewarm church of Laodicea, but one hears very little about what was said to the other six churches. We have been left blinded to six sevenths of the truth available. There is no truth to the parallel theory because the Holy Spirit explicitly repeated seven times that what was good for each and every one of the seven churches was also good for any individual who cared to listen. And much was addressed to those churches by Yeshua that flies directly in the face of Pauline doctrine. More on this later.
Now look at what was said to the only church of the seven that we know Paul had any dealings with, Ephesus. Among the things that Yeshua commended the Ephesian church for doing right, is this quote:
"I know your works, your labor, and your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars." Rev. 2:2 NKJV
Yes. I believe Yeshua here is referring to Paul and his companions Timothy, and possibly Barnabas, and that his claims of apostleship and his doctrine are false! Consider the facts.
1. Paul's ideas on the sovereignty of God and his subsequent doctrine are groundless and severely flawed. (See previous chapter)
2. We have record of Paul claiming to be an apostle to the Ephesians.
"Paul, an apostle of Yeshua by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus," Ephesians 1:1 NKJV
3. We have no record of anyone else claiming to be an apostle to anyone anywhere, not even to the Ephesians.
4. Ephesus is the only church of the seven listed in Revelation, that we have record of Paul claiming to be an apostle to.
5. Paul and his doctrine had troubles being accepted in Ephesus.
"And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them..." Acts 19:8,9 NKJV
Remember that this is recorded from Luke’s point of view and that he believed Paul's doctrine was 'the Way'. Notice that those who rejected Paul are men of the synagogue and not atheists or pagans. If these men had stood up in front of the synagogue and said, "Paul's doctrine is flawed. He is a false apostle, and a liar"; Luke would no doubt have seen this as "speaking evil of the Way".
If these five reasons are not enough to seriously call into question Paul's status as an apostle there is one more. It is a most interesting quote from Paul's own pen that finally seals the fate of his supposed apostleship. It comes from his second letter to Timothy, which was also written during the same Neronian persecution in which John was given the Revelation. This letter is believed by many scholars to contain the last recorded words of Paul. Here he makes a short statement of lament that seems to have gone unnoticed. The implications of which are astounding if one is able to hear everything that is being said. Paul says to Timothy:
"This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me." 2Timothy 1:15
Asia! All of them! Rejecting Paul! And when he says, "This you know", it sounds like this must have been relatively common knowledge at that time. Asia! The very place that Yeshua told John to write, where his seven churches were! And they were alive, and obviously had been established for some time. Again, notice that Paul did not say that Asia had rejected Yeshua. Obviously they hadn't rejected Yeshua if there were thriving churches there that Yeshua wanted to address through John. Instead Paul said that all Asia had rejected him personally!
Let me reiterate this picture again and try to grasp the profound significance of it. Here we have in the book of Revelation the words of Yeshua commending the Ephesian church for rejecting someone who claimed to be his apostle. While Paul, the only person anywhere (other than the twelve original apostles) at that time to have gone on record claiming to be an apostle, we know has made this very claim to this same Ephesian church. At the same time, Paul laments himself of the fact that he has been rejected by them! How could it NOT be Paul and his associates that Yeshua had commended the Ephesian church for rejecting? It really couldn't' be more simple. Here, one more time, is the equation in its simplest form.
Paul to the Ephesians: "I am an apostle of Yeshua"
The Ephesians to Paul: "No you're not."
Yeshua to the Ephesians: "Well done!"
This by itself, should be more than enough reason to raise serious question about Paul. Then, when we add to this the rest of the evidence against him and his doctrine, (more to come) we have more than enough reason to do as the Ephesian church and convict Paul of the crime of false impersonation of an apostle!
If Yeshua’s evaluation of Paul was that Paul was a false apostle and a liar, consider the following.
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches".