Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Who Was Saul of Tarsus?

Nadene Goldfoot

There was a Jewish man by the name of Saul of Tarsus who was born in a Hellenistic city in Turkey, which is Asia Minor,  Cilicia, Tarsus.   He was brought up in Jerusalem, however,  and died in 65 CE.  He had adopted the name of Paul after his conversion to Christianity.   Now some may know who I am writing about.

He had some familiarity with Greek philosophy as shown in his writings and with the mystery cults which  were popular at the beginning of the Christian era.  He is said to have studied in Jerusalem under Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder.  However, his writings show little comprehension of Pharisaic Judaism so if this was true, he certainly was not in agreement with Gamaliel's teachings.

Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder was the grandson of Hillel.. Hillel was called Hillel the Elder who lived in the 1st century BCE.   Rabbi Gamaliel  was an early 1st century rabbi and President of the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem.  He corresponded with Jewish communities in Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora and framed several regulations directed at social improvements, including the betterment of women's legal positions.  He is mentioned in the New Testament as a teacher of Paul in (Acts 22:3.)

As Christianity was in its infancy, Saul  was a zealot in persecuting the members of this new Christian sect.  Rabbi Gamaliel was a most tolerant man, so Saul's behavior conflicts with what he had been taught.  I see that he did have a conscience, and that he was bothered by it after having been so nasty in his persecutions of these new Christians, especially after what he had been taught by Rabbi Gamaliel.  It wasn't what Judaism was teaching.  He had a huge guilt complex about it, and in order to feel better about himself, felt he had to join the people he had persecuted.  He even had an experience of seeing Jesus at noontime who asked him why he had been persecuting him.

That, according the the New Testament, was Saul having a vision.  Saul converted to be a Christian and changed his name to Paul.  He contributed a lot, his thinking,  to the "development of a distinctive Christian theology.  He became the "apostle to the Gentile."  In this position, he brought into the church thousands of new converts who didn't adopt Jewish loyalty or Jewish observance, as converts of the other disciples had done.

His thoughts centered around the doctrine of Original Sin which is not in Judaism.  All men, he held, were contaminated by the guilt of Adam and can be freed from it only by faith in the atonement consummated by the death of Jesus.
He went on to teach that the Torah is not a means of achieving righteousness which is what Jewish teachers were teaching and continue to do so today.

He taught that the Torah was a Divine measuring rod which revealed to man his hopeless situation since no one can properly obey it.   (We Jews have no such feelings about this at all.  We try to live up to what we can.  There is no Jewish policeman pointing a gun to our heads.  We are not threatened by anything other than our own goals in life including how much we can follow of the Torah.  We love and respect the Torah.  Such an attitude is unknown to me.)  

His belief was that with the atonement made by Jesus, the Law (Torah) has been abrogated (to abolish by authoritative action).  So in his thinking, Jesus has replaced the Torah.

 Paul also taught that those who believe IN JESUS are "the true Israel" and that Divine election of "Israel after the flesh" was invalidated when the Jews rejected Jesus.  This was introducing concern about afterlife, something also not Jewish.  We Jews figure that if we tried to be good while we were alive, whatever G-d has planned for us will be.  We're not about to be rotten all our lives and squirm out of our dues coming by saying we believe that Jesus is an intermediary and will be the ticket to the garden of Eden.  It's up to our own merits, not someone else's.   We have to take responsibility for our actions.  I guess this is where we lose a lot of people.

Supposedly Paul  retained an emotional attachment to the Jewish people.  I don't know what the Jewish culture was like in those days.  I don't think they had invented bagels and lox yet, nor had they developed a good sense of humor, though they certainly needed one to withstand all the pressures both from the Romans and new age Christians with all this departing from Judaism by converting to Christianity.  It's hard to leave one's culture that you have grown up in.

He was hoping that in the future Jews would accept the Gospel and be reinstated as G-d's chosen.  I can't agree with his thinking.  G-d's chosen with all the others who had climbed on board to accept Jesus as their G-d?  For who were people praying to now, G-d if they were Jewish or Jesus?  This was the start of the day and age of Jesus, not G-d.  G-d just took a back seat with the new Christians. So did the Jews in the eyes of the new Christians.

There is no clear reference to Paul in Talmudic literature, but many rabbinic utterances must be understood as answers to the Pauline doctrine.  In other words, I suppose rabbis were trying to reply in defense to this new Pauline doctrine of Paul's, this new belief.   

 "Pauline Christianity is a term applied to what some perceive as the religious teaching unique to Paul’s writings and distinct from the gospel of Jesus. That is, Jesus taught one thing, and Paul taught something completely different. Those who believe in a separate Pauline Christianity believe that the Christianity of today has little to do with Jesus’ teachings; rather, it is the product of Paul’s corruption of those teachings."

Again, "Pauline Christianity is the Christianity associated with the beliefs and doctrines espoused by Paul the Apostle through his writings. Most of Christianity relies heavily on these teachings and considers them to be amplifications and explanations of the teachings of Jesus. Others perceive in Paul's writings teachings that are different from the original teachings of Jesus documented in the canonical gospels, early Acts and the rest of the New Testament, such as the Epistle of James."

One sees what can happen?    This is why we Jews have been so careful in our religion.  We have one man, Moses,  who was able to be inspired by G-d to give us a set of directions to be the best one can possibly expect to be, to grow in develop our minds to understand our place in this world and what is expected of us and what we should expect of ourselves.  We were presented 10 Laws which have been hard enough to follow for many, plus 613 others, the number of bones in our body.  

Out of this, there has been so much to discuss, to debate, and to understand out of our own Jewish writings. It's kept us very busy.   Only at the end of time can we look back and say, all right.  How many crazy things has your group done and haven't done?  What shall we be judged for doing or not doing?  Have we all taken different roads to arrive at the same place?  If so, what was the fight all about?  

Jews were expected to be the light that leads the way. that's what is expected of us and what we expect from ourselves.   As each people understand, so they have found their own ways.  I think we started with the examples of what is right and what is wrong and it's up to each to comprehend.  You can lead a horse to water but you can't force him to drink.  We've had that happen to us so often in our history.  

Mankind has gone from screaming for the visitors to come out of the house of Lot for the mob to do to them as they wished, a grisly sight happening 4,000 years ago,   to other grisly sights today of beheadings, slaughter, and continued warring. I can only think of cannibals who wished to eat strangers, feeling they were fair game.  It was like, " oh, we won't eat you because we've accepted you, but not your friends.  Give them to us now!" 

 We have made very small steps for mankind as it is.  Long ago, Abraham bargained with G-d not to destroy the world if he found 10 good people.  I hope that effort still works, only the ratio of people on earth then with 10 won't work today.  We'll have to find many more good people to save the world from destruction.  

Today's slaughter of 4 rabbis in a synagogue in Western Jerusalem while saying their morning prayers is an example of primitive religious zealotry, a terrorist act,  trying to get to their goal of driving out all Jews from Israel and taking over the land.  It's a religious war turning into the 3rd Intifada.  They used hatchets, knives and such and tried to behead them.  6 men also there are in the hospital with wounds.  Being the rabbis were savaged and bludgeoned, I wonder if they didn't step forward in the act of protecting the others.  When the surviving 6  can speak, we'll hear what had happened.  I add this because religion is supposed to uplift man from his animalistic ways.  Instead, we fight about who is right. 

 It's how you get there, not that you arrive,  that is the important part of life.  That's what we all will be judged by, by righteousness or deceitfulness.

Resource: The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Read more:http://www.gotquestions.org/Pauline-Christianity.html#ixzz3JSdGla4s
update: from Simcha Jacobovici:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/simcha-jacobovici/jesus-marriage-to-mary-th_b_6225826.html  on Pauline Christianity.

No comments:

Post a Comment