Who Was Paul of Tarsus?

For my next trick, I would like to respond to the questions about Paul as well.  For example, the following presents the question “Was Paul a follower of Jesus?”

We read in the Bible that when Paul received his sight “straight away he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the son of god” and I ask: where did Paul learn what he was preaching about? Having been an avowed enemy of the Church what did he know about the teachings of Christ?

A quick answer will come from Christian theologians and they will tell me that Paul was inspired; for did Jesus not appear to Ananias in a vision and tell him that Paul is “a chosen vessel unto me”, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and Kings and the children of Israel!

(Acts 9:15)

This would be a valid answer if Paul was preaching the Gospel of Jesus, but Paul came with a different Gospel from that which the disciples preached and which Jesus preached. Paul is boastful of the fact that his Gospel is a different Gospel which, he claims, was revealed to him by Jesus.

“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-12)

But the question remains, if his Gospel was revealed to him by Jesus why then is it completely different from what Jesus taught? Jesus said he had not come to destroy the law and he says:

“Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven: But whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:19)

And Paul says:

“Before the faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith, but after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Galatians 3:23-25)

According to Paul the Law was meant to guide man towards faith in Jesus. In other words the Law was meant to remain only for a certain period of time. But Jesus says:

“For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one title shall not be taken away from the law, till the law is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18)

Who, then, does Paul follow? Jesus!? Why then differ from his teachings?

This is a very typical misunderstanding of Paul’s words.  Paul never once abolishes the law of God.  Instead, he points to Jesus as the fulfillment of the law.  Christ rightly said what He said in Matthew 5:17-18 because He did NOT come to abolish the law.  The law is still in effect for everyone.  The difference, which is what Paul was trying to stress in his teachings, is that those who have accepted Christ and His sacrifice for their sins have been covered in His righteousness.  Contrary to popular belief, there is no contradiction or incongruousness between Paul and our Lord.  Paul is merely reiterating the forgiveness of sins and pointing out the difference between the reliance on the law (which never could save anyway) and the reliance on Christ (who fulfilled the law).

Another issue:

You say Paul’s Gospel is the Gospel of Jesus!? He himself confirms that his Gospel is different from the Gospel preached by the disciple of Jesus. You see, after the departure of Jesus from this world his disciples continued to preach, as ordered by their master. At that time Paul started preaching and spreading his new religion and the people were confused because both groups claimed to be preaching the Gospel of Jesus.

Paul warns the Corinthians:

“For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye received another Spirit which we have not received or another gospel which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (2 Corinthians 11:4)
To the Galatians he says:

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the Grace of Christ (meaning himself) unto another gospel, which is not another Gospel, but there are some (the disciples) that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel; of Christ. But though we, or an angel from Heaven preach any other gospel unto you let him be accused as we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accused.” (Galatians 1:6-9)

It is clear from the above quotations that Paul’s Gospel is a different Gospel; that he is all out to win followers for himself and his new religion. The disciples of Jesus; Peter, Barnabas and the others; fall under the group preaching “another Gospel”. How can Paul be preaching the Gospel of Jesus? Wherever he goes he makes a point of warning the people to follow him and his teachings and he in his own words says that his Gospel is not the Gospel preached by others (the others being the disciples).

As for the verse from 2 Corinthians, Paul was confronting a group of teachers who had been spreading false doctrine, not the doctrines of Christ.  If you read the entire second letter to the Corinthians, it would be fairly apparent who he was addressing.  In reference to the letter to the Galatians, Paul is not setting himself against other preachers and teachers that are in line with doctrine, but rather, he is addressing a sect of Judaizers who were trying to force circumcision on Gentiles.  It is important to note that when discussing the law, certain items such as circumcision were not included in the concept of salvation, but was instead part of the land grant suzerainty treaty created by the covenant at Mt. Sinai.  As such, Paul is rightly deducing that it is not necessary for Gentiles to be circumcised.  If you would actually read the entire epistle and pick up a decent commentary and pray for wisdom in reading, you would actually deduce the truth behind Galatians.  This is not a letter protecting Paul’s Gospel.  It is a letter proclaiming the freedom of Christians who were not previously Jewish.  It is rightly understood as a “Christian Magna Carta.”

While I have not answered everything that was put forth in the post by thepapalseat, I hope that what I have said is enough to spur further thought about Christianity and the claims of the Bible.


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