Paul declared that his gospel was independent from men, free of dependence on all authority figures, institutions, and laws that interfere with "the direct communion between the individual and his God." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 429)
Unfortunately this is not a true statement, for Paul's concept of, "...direct access of the individual to his God," was dependent on several strict regulations which he had instituted. One had to be a constituent of the Pauline Christian community. Without that membership you were excluded from this offer. One had to be part of the 'body of Christ', an invention of Paul's theology, which included a total acceptance of his gospel.
One had to conform to Paul's 'dress code', i.e., clothing, personal appearance, and proper posture and attire for prayer. If any of these standards were not met, Paul's solution was very simple. You could leave and be part of the heathen world where Satan ruled, bereft of salvation! In other words, excommunication.
"If any one is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God." (I Corinthians 11: 16; RSV)
Aside from the 'small print,' in Paul's 'free gift of salvation,' it was also his declaration of freedom from every earthly institution that God had declared for mankind. It was a repudiation of all that he had learned, "...at the feet of Gamaliel..." (Acts 22:3; RSV) and every teaching that Jesus had ever given us concerning the Law and its Source. It was Paul's statement of freedom from any obligation he might have toward the disciples, the Jerusalem Church, or any other human being.
It was Paul's assertion to the unenlightened that the totality of Jesus' purpose on this earth was to give up his life as a human sacrifice whose offering of blood expiated the sins of all men. And that in his death, he wiped away all that God had established from the Creation on. The Law of Moses was the cradle of sin and its issue was eternal punishment and damnation, for no one could keep the Law in its sum total.
Paul sermonized Jesus at every chance, but always as Christ crucified. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 429)
And to whom did he present this edifice of which he knew nothing else?
Some were Jews, but most were Gentiles who, he claimed, did not know the true God. Their religions consisted of holy days and seasons, which Paul considered slavery. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 429) In this, he damned tradition and gave these same people special days, and seasons, and doctrine that were his own.
In doing this, Paul denied the ancient practice of sacrifices. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 429)
In the place of their animal sacrifices, he gave them his one great, human sacrifice, Christ Jesus dead on a cross. And with it a proclamation that all were saved on the basis of faith alone, without works, without effort, without reason. It was the great 'free' gift of God to all men, and as a 'free gift of God' it required nothing but that one accept Paul's doctrines and regulations as gospel. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 429)
We have already listed the several 'stipulations' that were necessary for one to accept this 'free' gift of salvation. It is amazing that the inherent hypocrisy of this line of reasoning has lasted into the twenty-first century.
And with this break from all things religious, Paul asserts his independence from the Jerusalem Church and the Apostles. From the opening statement of this letter Paul lets us know that he had broken away from everything decent that had managed to restrain him up to this point. Evidently he was grown strong enough to sustain his own ministry, no longer dependent upon the good will or approval of Jesus' disciples.
In attempting to justify Paul's stand of independence, theologians make a statement that hits the nail they are attempting to avoid, right on the head. What they accuse the Judiazers of trying to discredit Paul with, turns out to be the truth. And if the truth were known, the Judaizers were none other than Jesus' disciples and the elders of the Jerusalem Church.
And for proof, at a later date, Paul is summoned to Jerusalem by the Disciples to answer these exact charges. The accusations have been delivered through those empowered by the elders of the Jerusalem Church. They, at least, have the decency to face the accused and give him the chance to deny the charges, or to make amends. As we have seen, this sort of decency was not part of Paul's character. The charges were that:
(1) He used the title of apostle, but was not one of the original apostles. (2) He had distorted the gospel which the elders of the mother Church, and the Disciples, were preaching. (3) That he preached the abandonment of the Law of Moses and in doing so, was contradicting the teachings of Jesus. (4) They intimated that his, faith without works, was his way of pleasing all men by promising them a cheap admission to God's kingdom. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 430)
And they were absolutely correct!
Paul was no longer attempting to preach a gospel of God, but a gospel that was in total opposition to anyone who had known and heard the living Jesus. And if these theologians presume that the Apostles thought that through Paul's destruction of the church, "...men would believe and be baptized but keep on sinning", (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 430) they were forecasting a future for mankind that has proven completely accurate.
As we begin the study of Paul's letter, it is good to note that he may have had no other alternative but to sever relations with the Apostles and the Jerusalem Church. He was the perfect example of one who burns his bridges behind him. He was totally opposed to Christ's Apostles and to any gospel they might preach; he was envious of them to the point of hatred and disdained any practice that they instituted within the church.
It is obvious from the first line that his pretense toward apostleship had been challenged once again, and harshly so. In this event, he would have been able to do nothing but to turn his back on Jerusalem and present his own specious theology to the growing church. And to relieve himself of this persistent accusation, he took the only relief that man could not question rationally.
"Paul an apostle - not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father..." (Galatians 1:1; RSV)
Paul's commission came neither from a human source nor through man, but directly from and through God, and was therefore as valid as if he had been one of the twelve apostles." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 443)
Paul depends on this claim to validate his self-appointed title of apostle, emphasizes that it is now proclaimed by divine authority. His antagonists in Galatia denied the claim. Now his entire labor is set in vindicating his claim. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 974: 851a)
It was not so much his 'opponents in Galatia' but his absolute envy of the Twelve. To those whom we have already mentioned as part of Paul's entourage, we must add Sosthenes, Titus, Silvanus (Silas), and at one time, Barnabas and John Mark. Mark, whom this student believes saw what was going on, left Paul and returned to Jerusalem.. For the most part, these formed a solid group sworn to his service, much as any sect today who follow the charisma of special religious leader rather than their alleged god-head.
As if to substantiate the selfishness of his 'missionary' work, we may quote from Peake's Commentary.
"Paul, determined to justify his personal claim, now uses the basic message of the Gospel, to defend his own status as an apostle. He considered an assault upon one, as an assault on the other." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 974: 851a)
Paul has now changed boats again, for in insisting on his complete freedom from the authority of man, he has gone from tradition to personal experience. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 443)
It seems so difficult for those purporting to understand religious history to admit to the animosity which existed between Paul and the Apostles. But we must understand that the friction existed as a goad that inspired Paul to do his worst. The power through which he operated was most assuredly beyond the scope of human endeavor.
The reason for Paul's letter becomes apparent, his gospel is being distorted, actually being altered. It would seem that their 'desertion' from Paul's gospel was a turning toward another gospel, most likely the gospel of the mother church and the Apostles (possibly through their spokesmen). One must remember that both Mark and Barnabas, one of the finest teachers of the mother church, are back in Jerusalem working with the disciples.
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel." (Galatians 1:6; RSV)
Now I must disagree with other theologians and interpreter's (note that I have just used a Pauline 'turn' by using 'other', indicating that I am a theologian and an interpreter.) To evidence the authority of these self-acclaimed titles, I need now only state that I was appointed to them by God's call and grace, and though you may say that I am an interloper, you cannot dispute it logically. Indeed, I am neither.)
The Interpreter's Bible, chooses to indicate the possibility of Paul's claim. I choose to oppose that view, but give the text note here, in attempting to be honest in my appraisals. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 450)
This student believes that Paul is referring to himself. It is his usual method to take all disappointments and setbacks as a personal insult. But now in another verbal blunder, Paul exposes his true colors and his authoritarian claim that his gospel and his alone is "the" gospel.
"For I would have you know, brethren. that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel..." (Galatians 1:11; RSV)
Paul indicates that he is the deliverer of the gospel spoken of in Galatians 1:6.
"...not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:7-8; RSV)
Well, there is only one power in heaven and earth that would dare to curse God's angels. Paul has not only unmasked himself, but the power that lies behind his mission. In one breath of the pen, he has cursed the Apostles, the Lord God, God's angels, and God's ministers.
"As we have said before, so now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:9; RSV)
Paul believed, or at least intimated that Satan and his agents could appear as angels of light (II Cor. 11:14-15). The Interpreter's Bible, here notes that it was almost impossible to tell which side a minister supported, especially when he performed miracles (Acts 8:9-24; Acts 14:8-18). (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 451)
And who tells us of this deception? Not Paul's letters. There is not a single verse stated which does not come from Paul's own mouth. Are we totally blind? Paul is warning the congregation about Paul, for one of the specialties of confidence men is to tell their prey to beware of men who practice exactly what they themselves are practicing.
This student must consider that in speaking of an angel, Paul could not have been speaking about one of God's messengers, for the Evil One has not yet corrupted all of heaven itself. But Paul is not done, he has greater aspirations.
Of all the claims that Paul has made, including that of being an apostle, the greatest comes with the revelation that he is now, as has been mentioned previously, Nazarite! God's prophets were, Nazarite, Melchizedeck was Nazarite, John the Baptizer and Jesus were Nazarite, called and consecrated by God before their birth, while still within their mother's wombs. All were invested with the full power of the Holy Spirit before their births.
"But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace..." (Galatians 1:15; RSV)
So Paul grows even in his own mind, or is his mastery of words generalizing another of God's most high commissions? At that, even Webster's differs with Paul's hypocrisy.
"A Jew of biblical times consecrated to God by a vow to avoid drinking wine, cutting the hair, and being defiled by the presence of a corpse." (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary: A Merriam Webster; G. & C. Merriam Company)
Contradictions appear between the nature of Paul's calling and his imposed regulations for the church. It is Paul who forbids men to wear their hair long, breaking the first rule of the Nazarite oath. It is Paul who degrades and humiliates women, and it is Paul who defies the Lord's dietary Laws, eating that which is defiled by its offering as a sacrifice to alien gods (a corpse in itself).
It is Paul who openly states that one must be guided by 'pleasing' all men at all times rather than obeying God's commandments.
At this particular point the work in progress would be wasted in quoting further from the Interpreter's Bible, for their only concern is to justify Paul's claims and to persuade us to accept his authority. However, in fairness, I am footnoting the required pages for reading. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 460-461)
To this student, at this point in time, their assumptions are totally invalid. The Apostles did not recognize Paul's claim to apostleship as is evidenced by the continuing opposition from them on this point. His theology and his letters do not indicate that he had sufficient knowledge of Jesus' teachings and ministry or he would not have preached a gospel so contrary to them and that of the Twelve..
The persecution that he involved himself in had nothing to do with Jesus, his beliefs, or his indictment as a seditionist, but was rather an assault against Stephen and the Hellenists. He could have been no more successful in proving Jesus guilty of a religious crime than were the High Priest and the Pharisees.
He had no concept of Jesus' life or ministry, and fifteen days was hardly enough time for Paul to absorb what it had taken the Apostles more than three years to assimilate. Not to speak of Jesus' entire ministry, or even just the parables, and he could not have learned about the crucifixion or the trial from the Twelve since they were not there.
Beyond that, the trial and the crucifixion as described by the Gospels do not verify tradition or Paul's concept of those events. Having claimed that Luke is in error in every count where Paul denies what 'the beloved' Luke has written, are we now to discredit the Synoptic Gospels because they do not agree with Paul's accounts?
Paul details the first seventeen years from his conversion, and by his own admission, still has not begun a ministry. We are talking about seventeen to twenty years, possibly closer to twenty, before Paul begins his mission.
"And I was still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea; they had only heard it said, "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." (Galatians 1:22-23; RSV)
It was not until Barnabas took Paul to Jerusalem and persuaded him to begin a ministry, that Paul begins his journey through biblical history. ("It was Barnabas who at the critical moment had expressed faith in Paul and got him started in his lifework as an ambassador of Christ." The Interpreter's Bible; Vol. 10: Page 468)
Now, with an organization strong enough to defy the mother church, Paul relieves himself of the Apostles. He takes over congregations that others had once started, along with those he claims as original to himself. He departs on a theological rampage of his own creation which eventually overwhelms and relegates the Jerusalem church to certain destruction and which ultimately influences the Synoptic Gospels. (See footnote 1 Corinthians "This do in remembrance of me.")
Paul claims that his visit to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus was a matter of 'revelation', but in fact, it was by order of the Apostles. (Galatians 2:2; RSV)
"I laid before them (but privately before those who were of repute) the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles... But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek." (Galatians 2:2-3; RSV)
See also: The King James Version, text on these verses. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 470-471)
Paul makes short work of an issue that was not decided quite so easily. This has created difficulty for theologians because of Paul's wording. Even Luke contradicts this statement.
"Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek." (Acts 16:3; RSV)
Once again, brother Luke contradicts Paul, and once again certain theologians state that Luke must be ignored in view of Paul's writing. Is Luke then to be denied his proper place in the Church's, New Testament? (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 472)
However, Peake's Commentary on the Bible, considers this apparent contradiction between Acts and Galatians as, "...one of the most complicated problems in New Testament criticism." and, "...one to which there is no generally accepted solution." (Peake's Commentary of the Bible; Page 974: 852a)
The solution is simple, Paul lied!
Paul deceived rather than let anyone think that he had been forced to yield to the authority of the Apostles or the elders of the Jerusalem Church. Paul's method of operation was one of deception, which he practiced whenever it was convenient to do so. He lied to King Agrippa, and he lied to the Apostles, as we shall shortly see.
So who are we to believe? If he had to have Timothy obey the law, why not Titus? There is an unresolved disparity here, and there are many in Paul's work. During this same time period, Luke gives us another contradiction to deal with. Paul said that he went up to Jerusalem because of a 'revelation.' There he discussed his gospel with them and received their approval.
"As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem." (Acts 16:4: RSV)
Luke indicates that Paul was instructed as to what message he should take to the churches. This indicates that he was summoned to Jerusalem, not by 'revelation' but by his superiors. Paul takes instant objection to this.
"And from those who were reputed to be something (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) - those, I say, who were of repute added nothing to me..." (Galatians 2:6; RSV)
"...those who were reputed to be something (RSV) "who were of repute..."refers to the Disciples. Their authority came from having been chosen by Jesus, and having been with the Master during his ministry. Most prominent were James the Lord's brother, Peter (Cephas), and John son of Zebedee. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 473)
Paul has little regard for the Apostles, but makes it clear that, "...(for he who worked through Peter for the mission to the circumcised worked through me also for the Gentiles), and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship..." (Galatians 2:8-9; RSV)
After the sarcastic remarks just made, in writing, concerning his contempt for the Apostles, Paul could not have taken his own words here seriously. And if any one else takes this to mean that the Twelve recognized Paul's right to claim apostleship, they are sadly mistaken. Paul never stood face to face with the Twelve and claimed apostleship, of that you may be assured.
If Paul, or any one else, takes it to mean that the Twelve approved of Paul's preaching a salvation through faith without works, they do not appreciate Jesus' message, and they are witless concerning the letter of James refuting Paul's gospel. If any one takes it to mean that the Twelve approved of Paul's total abandonment of God's law, they are hypocrites.
How far does the, 'right hand of fellowship', go with Paul? In absolute arrogance, he speaks openly of insulting Peter in public, humiliating Jesus' disciple without mercy. He, in fact, takes great pride in having publicly abused him, and on what basis?
"But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party." (Galatians 2:11-12l; RSV)
"But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the gentiles to live like Jews?" (Galatians 2:14; RSV)
What was it that Paul said?
"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..." "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." "Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please all men in everything I do..."
Was it not Paul who said that, 'I am a Jew to Jews, a Gentile to Gentiles, and a Greek to Greeks...' When with those outside the law, he eats and does what they practice, and to those within the law, he eats and does what they practice. Paul's offers as his excuse that he wanted to offend, 'no man'.
When Peter acts the same way, with the same intent, doing exactly what Paul recommended for his congregations, he uses it as an excuse to debase the Apostle in public and to applaud himself. What he does is to prove himself the great hypocrite, 'the one from whose mouth come lies" (The Dead Sea Scrolls; The Nag Hamadi Library: The Damascus Document), contradicting his own words and actions.
Peter, a good man, acted in a conservative manner. If Peter was being insincere only Peter and God will ever know. "Paul could not prove his charge..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 481)
Whether Paul was right or not, his action was crude and absolutely an affront to the teachings of Jesus. This is the man who writes to us about love absolute, who is not civil in his manner, who is without compassion for others, let alone love.
We must also note that the question of circumcision had not been settled, as Paul would have us think from his words earlier in this letter. This must be kept in mind, later it is convenient for Paul to reverse this opinion.
But suddenly, with no explanation offered from theologians or interpreter's, Paul suddenly loses all contact with the subject of his story, Peter, and goes off on an extended dissertation concerning the uselessness of works under the law. (Galatians 2:15; RSV)
"His report of his words to Peter merges into an exposition of the Gospel, and by the end of the chapter he has lost sight of Peter and Antioch." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 975: 852j)
His 'raving and ranting' to dispel any validity to the law leaves us with much to consider about his mental state, and no explanation is forthcoming from his modern day 'disciples.' The very Gentiles he was 'protecting' against Peter, one line before, now become, "...gentile sinners." (Galatians 2:15; RSV)
The response to this heresy is James' letter, a retaliation against Paul and his irreverent treatment of God's Law. Jesus spoke constantly of fulfilling the Law, honoring the Law, and doing the greater part of the Law, even extending to the Law the fact that it prophesied about him.
In the delivery of this flaming oratory, Peter is forgotten, lost in the confusion of Paul's mind. Thankfully what we have in the end, is Jesus' promise that all men shall be judged for the things they have done. (Revelation 22:12)
But what Paul started goes on even today. For those in Rome who demanded proof of ones faith by action, while murdering hundreds of thousands for the lack of that proof, now wish to conciliate with other faiths in the discourse that Faith without works is sufficient for salvation, or shall we call it, 'redemption'.
"We ourselves, who are Jews by birth, and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified." (Galatians 2:15-16; RSV)
"I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose." (Galatians 2:21; RSV)
Paul uses Jesus on the cross constantly, offering nothing else to the congregations of the church than Jesus' death and his own interpretation as to the meaning of that death. As we have seen how he inaugurated his own definitions to a 'communion supper', and how he influenced the wording of the gospels, we have also been witness to Paul forming the basis of Christianity's means of salvation.
But then, Paul blunders again and opens up a, Pandora's Box, filled with contention and debate. In this student's eyes, and the eyes of professional theologians, his own words destroy his argument.
"Thus Abraham "believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham." (Galatians 3:6-7; RSV)
Paul uses the example of Abraham as one justified by faith alone, but Paul's argument is flawed. He never gives thought to the fact that Abraham's act of obeying God and offering up his son as a sacrifice was a work of faith without which his faith alone would have been empty. But this student's contention is not enough to disprove the words of Paul. God speaks with power and proves Himself!
"Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for NOW I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." (Genesis 2:10-12; RSV)
Paul goes on even with, The Holy Scriptures, speaking against him and his reasoning falls apart. A logical human being would soon realize that he has tripped himself up, but the power that has corrupted God's word through Paul continues to curse the very Law that God has ordained for man.
"For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them." (Galatians 3:10; RSV)
Those who follow Paul and his reasoning are like the blind following a blind leader. They have no choice but to try to validate his thinking because the entire realm of the church is built upon Paul and his theology, Paul and his contentious character, Paul and his contradictions. For in doing that which God asked of him, Abraham was not attempting to follow any of the Law. It was not a matter of the Law, but of obedience.
In this manner, theologians produce an argument built on Genesis 15:6. ("And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be." And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness." RSV)
Unfortunately, this comes years after Abraham has been found righteous in God's eyes, years after his act of faith. Still, the attempt goes on, and goes so far as to question Paul's originality.
The curse Paul is speaks about is Deut. 27-30... But the context to which Paul applies it, does not exist in this time frame. Paul has used God's word again to his own advantage, and in fact, conceives of an image which comes from Greek and Persian mythology. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 505)
The Interpreter's Bible, is correct when they state that, "Great care is needed to understand Paul here." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 505)
It has to be plain as the nose on your face. Who ordained the Law, the Law itself? No, God commanded the Law through his mighty prophet, Moses. But Paul, 'instructed by the mind of Christ,' knows better than God. The Christ who never defied the Law, who never spoke against the Law, who never prohibited one iota of the Law, instructed Paul to smite the Law of God?
It is the same today when millions of so-called Christians defy God's dietary Laws. Why? "It wasn't meant for us, but for the Jews... It was proper for those who lived centuries ago, but we know better now." And the most heinous of all heresies, "Jesus proclaimed a new law!" That Power, spawned in Paul, now comes down to us full force.
If God made these things Law, why are they not Law now? If God did not change the Law, even if we know better today, why do we not obey it simply because it is God's will? Because we have been taught, and hold as tradition, the right to disobedience. On the basis of a false teacher we have forsaken what God built up, not to condemn or confound us, but to protect us.
Be reasonable in your assessment, for not every man comes into contact with every facet of the Law. How ridiculous to even imagine that every person must perfect every facet of the Law, for we come into contact with such a small part of it in our lifetimes, that we would have to go 'looking for trouble' to find it. And in truth, only those who break the Law need fear it!
But matters of obeying God, the Dietary Laws, the Laws of fair conduct in business, the basic concepts of civilization that it outlines for us, the prayer and meditation that it guides us to, are major points in our life that we are responsible to follow. And as Jesus taught us, the most important part of the Law is God's love for us. We return love by obeying our Master, and sharing that life with others. It is not that the Law is above all things, God alone is. And for that reason, His ordinances for us should be obeyed.
Paul now makes the leap from the ludicrous to the unimaginable. Abraham's seed, (the plural being 'seed') suddenly becomes 'singular' in the mind of Paul. Abraham's offspring (the plural being 'offspring') suddenly becomes singular in Paul's vocabulary.
"It does not say, "And to offspring," referring to many; but referring to one, "And your offspring," which is Christ." (Galatians 3:16; RSV)
Another innovation of Paul's now claims that the very one he stated was with God in forming the creation has suddenly become the offspring of Abraham. But the greatest contradiction is yet to come. As Paul moves on through his chastisement of the law, he makes an awe-inspiring statement.
"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus..." (Galatians 3:28; RSV)
Is Paul now making women the equal of men? Are women free to express themselves now? May they speak in the church? Are the rules of silence and bond servitude forgotten in this baptism? I think not!
Theologians immediately try to justify Paul's original claim that a wife was the property of her husband, and her status ranked with slaves and children. They agree that Paul was not promoting a social revolution. The slave still had to obey his master, and "male" and "female" remained in their normal situations. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 519)
The hypocrisy reaches down to this very age, where Baptist conventions follow the decree of a man now dead for two thousand years. Women are subject to their husbands. The proper term is 'subjugated' by their husbands, and this sect is not alone in its cruel and illicit treatment of women.
Paul never mentions Jesus' historical life, Paul never mentions Jesus' 'equal treatment' of women. Paul never mentions Jesus' healing power extended to women, Paul never mentions Jesus' compassion and understanding extended to women. Paul never mentions the women who were alone with Jesus at his trial and crucifixion, Paul never mentions the women who were the first to see the 'risen Christ'. Paul never mentions Jesus' mother in a historical sense, or by name, for he is a hater of women.
Trouble in Galatia, and Paul tries to soothe them, the honey is thick on his tongue.
"Brethren, I beseech you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong; you know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first; and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus." (Galatians 4:12-14; RSV)
Obviously, Paul's blindness had not been healed as he and Luke claimed. He continues to mention his eyes all the way through his missionary journeys. He must write in large letters ("See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand." Galatians 6:11; Revised Standard Version), he speaks of his eyes being a painful experience, and here...
"If possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me." (Galatians 4:15; RSV)
Not only does the Interpreter's Bible, agree, but they comment on his ailment as being, "...a repulsive physical weakness. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 429)
But to go on with Paul's dissertation, he then makes reference to Abraham's sons. Ishmael, his first born, and Isaac. But here, Paul falls into error again. Hagar was not a slave, she was known as the 'woman of Egypt', a concubine, or, second wife of Abraham's. Where the word "slave" is used in the Septuagint the word in the Hebrew is "handmaiden", and as Abraham's concubine, Hagar may well have been subordinate to, Sarah.
"But his family life was marred by favoritism and friction of polygamy and concubinage, which were to poison the future with feuds between Israel and his neighbors." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 539)
This statement is meant for nothing other than to instruct us as to Abraham's marital situation, and implies nothing about Paul or his condition. Abraham had many wives, but for now, two things must be considered, just for common knowledge. If Hagar had been a slave of Sarah, the giving of that slave to her husband would have been, under Jewish Law, the same as giving herself to her husband. Even Jesus taught that in a matter of servitude, the slave was the same as his master.
Ishmael, his first born, would still have been heir to all that was Abraham's, including God's promise.
Second, Sarah was not deemed righteous by her faith, for she had no faith in God's promise, and for that reason, Isaac's name means, 'one who laughs,' for Sarah laughed at the promise of God believing it to be impossible. ("So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?" The Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the lord?" Genesis 18:12-15 RSV)
And with Hagar a legitimate wife of Abraham, though not the principle wife, Ishmael was first born and heir to all that Abraham had, including God's promise.
So why is Isaac prominent? Because the Holy Bible is written by Jews and not by Moslems, and if we think that Isaac is prominent, we need read Genesis again.
"As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation." (Genesis 17:20; RSV)
"And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman (hand maiden) also, because he is your offspring." (Genesis 21:13; RSV)
"And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation." (Genesis 21:17-18; RSV)
So Paul is in error once again! By the way, Ishmael was either twelve or thirteen years old when Isaac was born, and though the story sees Ishmael sent off to the desert, the victim of an inner-family conspiracy, the two are strangely together again in the life of Abraham. They are also together at his death, where both are said to have attended to his burial.
"Isaac and Ishmael his sons, buried him in the cave of Machpelah..." (Genesis 25:9; RSV)
There is more to this story than meets the eye.
But what does the scripture say? "Cast out the slave and her son; for the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman." (Galatians 4:30; RSV)
Paul also freely embellished on God's word here, without authority, for the Bible does not say this! And the words are not God's but Sarah's. Paul is in error.
"So she said to Abraham, "Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman (handmaiden) shall not be heir with my son Isaac." (Genesis 21:10; RSV)
The blunder here is that Sarah knows that Ishmael is heir to Abraham, he is Abraham's seed begotten from a second, or, lesser wife. Ishmael is Abraham's progeny and for that reason Sarah wants him put away. Like a good 'murder' mystery, with the apparent heir out of the way, the secondary heir will inherit.
Sarah speaks these words, and she exhibits her fury against Hagar and Ishmael." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 543)
Paul uses indefensible examples that are filled with error and freely retranslated scripture, traits that are prevalent in Christian ministry today.
As if to continue to abandon the law and Judaism, Paul attacks an old, festering sore, circumcision. He not only attacks it, but condemns those who become subject to it.
"I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ..." (Galatians 5:3-4; RSV)
Christ, who himself, was circumcised!
"And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called, Jesus..." (Luke 2:21; RSV)
In addition to this, and much to Paul's detriment, Mary and Joseph obeyed the, "... Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord... and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." (Luke 2:22-24; RSV)
Paul is off on his own agenda, in his ignorance using the very epitome of that which he his arguing against. As always, Paul demands that no other opinion, no other gospel, be accepted but his own.
"I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine..." (Galatians 5:10; RSV)
Is Luke wrong again? Is Paul to be taken as gospel because he contradicts Luke by asserting his own word? And in the love that he preaches for others to follow, he concludes this section with his usual practiced charm.
"I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves." (Galatians 5:12; RSV)
And then has the audacity to say, "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14; RSV)
In this period of Jewish history, your 'neighbor' was your fellow Jew. If Paul was taking this statement beyond Jesus' understanding of it, it was a poor showing of love to want others, no matter how offensive, to mutilate themselves. (The strict translation of 'mutilate' is to, 'castrate.) If he was only including other Christians (believers), then Jesus' words speak against him.
"For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" (Matthew 5:46-47; RSV)
As if further proof were needed to underline the contradictions that abound in Paul's character, we need only look to this same letter to find them.
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness." (Galatians 6:1; RSV)
WHAT? I beg your pardon? His solemn wish is for those who 'unsettle' his congregation to mutilate themselves. Also bring to memory, Philippi and Corinth."
"When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (I Corinthians 5:1-5; RSV)
And now we have, "...restore him in a spirit of gentleness..."? Paul contradicts himself, and so we go on with our investigation.
"Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus." (Galatians 6:17; RSV)
Was Paul speaking of stigmata? Or is this another dramatic exposition by the practiced confidence man? No explanation is forthcoming, but there is no evidence whatsoever that Paul had a factual knowledge of the crucifixion. If so, he would have known that there were no marks except the spear wound in Jesus' side. The gospel according to John wasn't even a dream in the author's head, and it was one hundred and thirty years away in the future.
From those who still attempt to glorify Paul's' character, we have the following.
Everything goes by the boards when Paul's sworn, 21st century disciples try to validate his credentials. Those who remain unnamed who "...stir up difficulties for him..." are the Disciples and the elders of the Jerusalem Church. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 591-592)
From the history of the man, it is obvious that Paul created animosity and discord everywhere he went. It is far more likely that he created his own problems by preaching a gospel that was completely alien to the Twelve and the Jerusalem Church. He preached a gospel that condemned, and that was foreign even to Judaism. Worse, it was totally out of place with anything that Jesus ever taught.
To conclude the criticism of this letter, nothing better could be added other than Jesus' own words of caution.
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 6:15; RSV)
The harvest of Paul's theology resulted in the persecution and deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent victims. It perpetuated a history of dishonesty, apostasy, greed, avarice and murder.
It caused the 'faithful' to follow a path of deception that has led to a world drowning in wanton activities and a church without God's Spirit and power. And now the religion he so deeply influenced is fading in the light of the truth.
It is time for us to examine a direct response to Paul's 'faith without acts' theology from one who had authority.