Articles on Talmidaism Theology
Paul of Tarsus, “The Deceiver”
A provocative title; to the earliest Followers of the Way, Paul was not a saint, but ‘a Deceiver’. One of the major differences between Talmidaism and Christianity is that Talmidaism has never accepted the authority of the teachings of Paul of Tarsus. Ancient Followers of the Way saw that there was a big gulf between the Jewish teachings of Yeshua` of Nazareth, and the teachings of Paul. Even today, it happens that Talmidis will speak about an issue quoting the words of Yeshua`, and conservative Christians will counter quoting the words of Paul.
To Christians, Paul was the greatest apostle of their faith. However, to Followers of the Way, he – not Yeshua` – was the man who actually founded the theology and belief systems of what we know today as Christianity.
An outline of the Talmidi objections to Paul
The following is an excerpt from the Panarion, a work written by Epiphanius – an early Church Father who wrote much on the Christianity’s early history. The following excerpt speaks of the Ebionites, an early sect of Followers of the Way:
‘They [the Ebionites] declare that he was a Greek . .. He went up to Jerusalem, they say, and when he had spent some time there, he was seized with a passion to marry the daughter of the High Priest. For this reason he became a proselyte and was circumcised. Then, when he failed to get the girl, he flew into a rage and wrote against circumcision and against the Sabbath and the Torah’ (Epiphanius, Panarion, 30.16.6-9).
The following are the main objections to Paul:
- He deliberately misrepresented his background
- He was not originally a Jew, but a Gentile convert to Judaism
- He had no right to calll himself an apostle, since he never quotes the words of Yeshua`
- He made up the story about the Eucharist himself
- He seems to be unaware of simple Jewish concepts, relying heavily on pagan ones
The most ancient objection to Paul’s story of his background was that he was originally a Gentile convert. No native-born, non-Sadducean Jew would have gone into the service of the High Priest, since the ordinary people saw the aristocratic Sadducees as collaborators with the Romans. Paul’s theology seems so familiar with the concepts of pagan mystery religions that he betrays his Gentile past. His home town of Tarsus had a god called Baal Taraz, whose story tells of a dying and resurrected god-man whose blood cleanses his followers of their sins, and whose followers are asked to celebrate a meal whereby they symbolically drink his blood and eat his flesh.
Paul claims to have been a learned Pharisee. Pity he did not use that learning to explain Jewish concepts to his followers! He says that he took orders from the High Priest to go to Damascus to arrest Yeshua`’s followers there. In most cultures around the world, the position of a person who arrests others is normally a type of police officer or civil guard – it was no different in ancient Judea. It was the job of a Temple guard to arrest people on religious matters, since the Romans had sole authority to arrest people on civil matters. The truth was either Paul had no powers of arrest and therefore no mission to capture Yeshua`’s followers, or he did have powers of arrest and he was therefore a Temple guard. Either way he was lying; Pharisees would not have served as arresting officers for the High Priest.
Paul says that he learned ‘at the feet’ of the great Pharisaic teacher, Gamaliel, implying that he claimed Gamaliel taught him when Paul was but a boy. However, Gamaliel only taught adults, and Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem must have been recent to his persecution of Yeshua`’s followers – after 30 CE – or else he would have met Yeshua`.
In Gal 1:13 he says he persecuted the Church of Christ, but then just 9 verses later in Gal 1:22 he says:
‘I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.’
Isn’t a liar tripped up by his own lies? In 1Cor 9:20, he says something very revealing:
‘To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.’
One can understand becoming like a Gentile to win Gentiles if one were not originally Gentile, but why say he had to become as a Jew to win Jews, unless he was not originally Jewish? Is this metaphor a Freudian slip?
Paul’s supposed Pharisaic style
Christian writers dwell heavily on Paul’s supposed Pharisaic style. To someone who has not been brought up in a Jewish environment, Paul’s supposed use of rabbinic principles seems to be all above board. However, to someone who is familiar with Jewish culture and concepts, Paul displays only a passing acquaintance with Pharisaism, like someone trying to regurgitate stuff they ill-learned at school.
For example, Paul quotes the Book of Deuteronomy 21:23, to argue that God’s curse is on a hanged man. He quotes it in Galatians 3:13
“But by becoming a curse for us, Christ has redeemed us from the curse that the Law brings; for the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who is hanged on a tree is under God’s curse’.”
Pharisees would not have interpreted this as a curse on the hanged man; after all, many innocent Pharisees had been crucified under Herod the Great. Rather, their interpretation was that, if a man was left on a gibbet overnight, leaving him there would bring a curse on the land (borne out by what follows in Deuteronomy). If Paul’s own unique, un-Pharisaic interpretation of the curse were correct, it would imply that God is both stupid and unjust to curse an innocent victim of crucifixion.
He even misquotes the Torah, because it actually says:
‘[The body] is not to remain [on the gibbet] overnight. It must be buried the same day, because a dead body hanging on a gibbet brings God’s curse. Bury the body, so that you will not defile the land that YHVH your God is giving you.’
Most Christian translations of Deuteronomy cover up this error by replacing the correct passage with Paul’s mistranslation.
In 1Cor 14:34-35, Paul writes:
“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to enquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
Where does Paul get this from? It is found nowhere in Torah; it is not even found anywhere in the Oral Law. If Paul is writing to resolve problems in Gentile churches, he is obviously making it up as he goes along.
And no Pharisee would ever have taught that those who keep the Torah are under a curse! In Gal 3:10 Paul claims:
‘All who rely on observing the Torah are under a curse, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law’.
No Pharisee would have interpreted Deut 27:26 in this way. The verse actually says that those who do not uphold the teaching against making idols and worshipping them, or to honour one’s father and mother, or not to misdirect blind people, or to observe the rights of strangers, widows and orphans, or against sexual immorality – these people who fail to uphold these teachings – these people are under a curse. He even misquotes the verse which actually says:
‘Accursed is the one does not uphold the words of this teaching, to carry them out’
Paul’s lack of understanding of fundamental Jewish concepts
If Paul had been a Pharisee, he would have understood some basic concepts fundamental to Jewish thought, but he doesn’t.
Paul doesn’t seem to understand what salvation is. To Jews, it is God saving (or rescuing) people from real problems in this world; to Paul it is about sin and the next world.
He doesn’t seem to understand what the Covenant is about (preserving Israel as a people forever and giving them the land of Canaan forever). If he did, he would not have developed a complicated theology about the supposed necessity of grafting Gentiles into the Covenant. After all, what part of such a Covenant would Gentiles need to be part of
He doesn’t understand the nature of sin; if he had, he would have understood that there is no separation between God and man, and that sin only affects human beings, diminishing the wholeness of their being.
He also doesn’t seem to understand atonement, that blood is not required for the atonement of sin; if he had, he would not have developed the complicated theology of Christ’s atoning death. The necessity of blood for atonement is however, a big part of pagan religion.
He doesn’t seem to understand that the Passover lamb was not a sacrifice for sin, but a sacrifice against death by plague and disease; if he had known this, he wouldn’t have claimed that Christ was the paschal lamb who died for our sins.
He doesn’t understand that the Jewish idea of a messiah was not of a perfect being; while Jews looked forward to the coming of a Messiah, we did not think that he would be a perfect being beyond criticism; on the contrary, Deuteronomy 17:20 says that an anointed king was not beyond reprimand if he failed in his duties, “that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren”.
And he doesn’t understand how a Jewish community is run; if he did, he would have advised his followers to set up ‘Councils of Three’, enabling minor religious matters to be dealt with, instead of judging everything himself.
Very few Christians know what an apostle means in Jewish culture. To most people it is just ‘a follower of Jesus’. However, the equivalent Hebrew word sheliach – meaning one sent – is applied to any messenger or emissary of a Jewish teacher; Yeshua` was not the only religious teacher to have apostles.
The quintessential quality of an apostle was that he had to repeat his master’s teachings verbatim, having walked and talked with his master in the flesh and heard his teachings firsthand.
When does Paul quote Yeshua`’s actual words? NEVER! How can he then possibly describe himself as an apostle? Perhaps he relied heavily on his non-Jewish followers not knowing what an apostle was? Perhaps he didn’t know the meaning of the word himself! Whatever the truth of the matter, Paul may be the messenger of a pagan god-man, but he is not the emissary (apostle) of a Jewish teacher.
Paul freely admits that he didn’t learn ANY of his message from any human being. In Gal 1:11-12 he says:
‘I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preach is no human message. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, it came to me by a revelation from Jesus Christ.’
And in Gal 1:15-16 he adds:
‘when God . . . was pleased to reveal his Son in me . . . . I did not consult any man’
To those who stress that Christians should have their revelations and prophecies confirmed by the ‘body of Believers’, that’s not what their so-called apostle Paul did! He didn’t go to James and the real apostles; he disappeared off into Arabia.
The prophet Jeremiah (14:14) has words on those who are deluded by their own visions:
‘Then YHVH said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds..
and again in Jer 23:26-27
‘How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name”.
Paul isn’t even interested in learning about what Yeshua` said and did, not even from his closest followers who knew him. In 2Cor 5:16 he says:
‘Even if you were once familiar with Christ while he was alive, that is not how we know him any longer’.
Now we come to the most un-Jewish part of the whole Christian religion. Despite all the Jewish symbolism that Christian writers drag up to convince their readers otherwise, it is in fact a very pagan concept of atonement.
In 1Cor 11:23-25, Paul writes:
‘For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood; whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me.’
What Paul is presenting his god-man Jesus as, is as a competitor to the gods of pagan Mystery Religions, such as Mithras, Bacchus, Dionysos etc, who required of their followers to participate in ritual meals, where they symbolically ate the body and drank the blood of their god.
There is an inscription beneath the Vatican that states,
“He who will not eat of my body, nor drink of my blood, so that he may be one with me and I with him, shall not be saved.”
These were not words spoken by Paul’s Christ, but words inscribed on the remains of the pagan temple that the Vatican was built upon – one dedicated to the pagan god Mithras.
There is no parallel to this in the Israelite religion – that of eating a god’s body and drinking its blood – and no vain excuse or empty argument will make it otherwise.
The last word on the Eucharist is that Paul made the whole thing up, because he says, ‘Ireceived from the Lord what I also passed onto you’; he didn’t receive this from any human being, he received it in a supposed vision. What proof is there that he didn’t imagine this vision, or simply make it up?
A psychological evaluation of Paul would probably show him up as a disturbed individual with a violent temper, insistent that he is right, and vehemently intolerant with those who disagree with him.
The Jewish Encyclopedia says of his personality:
“To judge from those Epistles that have all the traits of genuineness and give a true insight into his nature, Paul was of a fiery temper, impulsive and impassioned in the extreme, of ever-changing moods, now exulting in boundless joy and now sorely depressed and gloomy.”
“There is throughout Paul’s writings an irrational or pathological element which could not but repel the disciples of the Rabbis. Possibly his pessimistic mood was the result of his physical condition; for he suffered from an illness which affected both body and mind. He speaks of it as “a thorn in the flesh,” and as a heavy stroke by “a messenger of Satan” (II Cor. 12:7), which often caused him to realize his utter helplessness, and made him an object of pity and horror (Gal. 4:13). It was, as Krenkel (in his “Beiträge zur Aufhellung der Geschichte und Briefe des Apostels Paulus,” 1890, pp. 47-125) has convincingly shown, epilepsy, called by the Greeks “the holy disease,” which frequently put him into a state of ecstasy, a frame of mind that may have greatly impressed some of his Gentile hearers, but could not but frighten away and estrange from him the Jew, whose God is above all the God of reason.”
He apparently could not stop himself from doing sinful things, and built up a theology to excuse himself, assuming every human being was like him. In Rom 7:18-21 he says:
‘I know that nothing good lives in me, that is my sinful nature. I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.’
He couldn’t stop sinning so it must have been someone else’s fault – Adam’s; his unstable nature meant he couldn’t keep Torah, so Torah itself had to be a curse; and his invention of a Christ-god was a way of excusing his sin without him having to lift a finger.
Throughout his letters, his reasoning is scattered, and his logic strewn with holes. He converted once to Sadducean Judaism for personal gain, and when that didn’t work out he invented Christianity for personal gain. He couldn’t make it as a Jew, so he made up a religion where he was the boss.
In 1Cor 5:3, Paul puts himself up as a judge of his followers, like some modern cultleader:
‘Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment . . . , just as if I were present.’
In 1Tim 2:12 he says,
‘I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.’
He made up this law himself – he says, ‘I do not permit’, not ‘Torah does not permit’, or God does not permit’.
In 1Cor 14:37-38, Paul says:
“If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.”
In other words, Paul is employing the tactics of emotional blackmail to force people to say that he is right: ‘If you are a prophet, then you will know that what I teach is right. If not, then I will ignore you.’
In Gal 1:9 he says,
‘If anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one you were first given is to be under God’s curse’.
In other words, if for example a Jewish follower of Yeshua` says something different to Paul, they are cursed by God. This is also nothing less than emotional blackmail!
In the previous verse he says,
‘But even if . . . an angel from heaven preaches to you a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let God’s curse be on him.’
This is new! In the Israelite tradition, angels have no free will, and can only speak what God gives them to speak. Paul is saying if God delivers a message through an angel that is different from his, then God is cursed by Himself! What logic!
The influence of Pagan religions on Paul’s thought
Some people defend Paul by saying that he had to change Yeshua`’s message so that Gentiles could understand him – that he had to put things into Gentile terms. If that is the case, then Paul facilitated the invention of a pagan religion with only a passing semblance of Jewishness. If he was such a learned Pharisee, he should have been able to put across Jewish ideas in a Jewish way that would have maintained the Jewishness of Yeshua`’s teaching – it’s not a difficult thing to do.
Instead Paul drew upon Gnostic ideas and incorporated them into his teaching. For example, that this world is in darkness, and that we will only be saved by accepting the coming of a saviour from the world of light; that our bodies, being products of this world, are sinful and inherently wicked – this is where he got his ideas on original sin from.
Paul drew upon Gnostic Nazorayism (a mixture of Gnosticism and John the Baptist’s teaching), with regard to the belief that immersion (baptism) was necessary for salvation.
Paul drew upon the pagan mystery religions, which worshipped dying and resurrected gods, whose blood would cleanse their followers of their sins; that their deaths would atone for their followers; that the suffering of their gods brought salvation.
Christ is the centre of Paul’s universe, and the nature and biography of that Christ is identical to that of pagan gods. Paul’s Christ is nothing more than a pagan Baal.
We are faced with the problem of how Paul, supposedly a trained and convinced Pharisee, was able to make such an extraordinary transition to ideas so far removed from Pharisaism, and even Judaism itself. Paul is entirely familiar and comfortable with pagan thought; he makes no errors when conveying pagan concepts; he moves within pagan imagery with ease and expresses them perfectly. However, when speaking on Jewish ideas, he makes mistake after mistake – misquoting scripture, misunderstanding Jewish concepts, and instead of resorting to Israelite ways of organising a community and resolving problems, makes things up as he goes along.
See also: Christ – the god of a Pagan Mystery Religion?http://www.talmidi.co.il/htm/articles/articles55.htm
There is a vast difference between Paul’s pagan ideas on God and ‘Jesus Christ’, and what Yeshua` of Nazareth and his Jewish followers taught.
As Jews, ancient Followers of the Way held that salvation was open to all; like pagans, Paul taught that salvation was only open to believers in Christ.
As Jews, ancient Followers of the Way held that God loved everyone, both the just and the unjust; like pagans, Paul taught that the unjust would suffer eternal punishment without belief in Christ.
As Jews, ancient Followers of the Way held that how you lived your life was the most important thing in this world – how you loved your neighbour as yourself; like pagans, Paul taught that good works were useless without faith in Christ.
As Jews, ancient Followers of the Way held that God was one, and had begotten no son; like pagans, Paul taught that Christ was God’s only-begotten son.
Paul founded Christianity, and founded it as a Pagan Mystery Religion replete with pagan ideals and pagan concepts, with only a thin veneer of Judaism.
The matter of Paul is too vast to cover in one article. If you want to go deeper, visit this excellent site created by Pastor Craig Lyons:
Pastor Lyons doesn’t describe himself as a Follower of the Way – he still calls himself a Christian, but that’s what he is, a Talmidi Godfearer.
’The Spuriousness of So-called Pauline Epistles Exemplified by the Epistle to the Galatians’
Online book: ‘Yeshua` & Judaism vs Paul & Christianity’
Pagan origins of the Christ-myth: How much did Christianity inherit from the Pagans?