The Apostle Paul: Christianity's Greatest Advocate or History's Most Successful Double Agent?
The Apostle Paul. Some view him as a hero of the faith. Others see him as the first attempt to undermine the teachings of Jesus. Which was he?
It's not a huge revelation that the teachings of Jesus and the Apostle Paul differ in many respects. The details of those differences have been spelled out in many contexts and I will not detail them here. Paul is seen as everything from Christianity's greatest advocate to the anti-Christ depending on who you ask.
Of course for many true believers, even asking such questions is a slippery slope. Question one piece of orthodoxy and you open it all up to questioning. For many, that's not a comfortable or desired place to go.
I've long considered this question of whether Paul truly expounded the teachings of Jesus. There are many ways to see Jesus' teachings. For some Jews and most Muslims, Jesus is a prophet who expounded on Old Testament teachings - expanding them and tweaking them. For most Christians, he is the savior of every human being. From this perspective, he is the unique and solitary route to eternal salvation.
I view Jesus as among a very select group of universal teachers who have come to humankind through time and sought to mend our ways and focus us on truths that transcend our earthly life. Like Buddha, Jesus taught a message of compassion, universal brotherhood, and personal discipline. Buddhists understand that Buddha was a teacher and an example to be modeled, whereas Christians view Jesus as the actual vehicle for transcendence.
When you look beyond canonical texts, to include the Nag Hammadi texts and other New Testament Apocrypha, that picture of the universal teacher teaching universal principles becomes more clear. To sum it up, Jesus was about Heaven and the Father not Jesus.
Paul, on the other hand, is the first missionary of the new "faith." He has a zealot's desire to bring the Good News to the Gentile world. It can be argued that he is following Jesus' Great Commission. However, it's clear that his teaching and his methodology ran him afoul of some of the other apostles - original disciples of Jesus - including significantly Peter and Jesus' brother James. To sum it up, Paul seems to have been about focusing on Jesus. While this seems very normal and natural to those steeped in a lifetime of belief, this is a pretty fundamental change in direction.
In fact, in the Book of Acts, Paul is called before a tribunal to answer the charge that he is changing the original teachings of Jesus - especially around the following The Jewish Law and the methodology of salvation. Paul steadfastly denies that he is doing so. The main point of contention seems to have been whether salvation could be obtained by "faith alone" or required faith + works (from a Jewish perspective, following The Law). This remains a major point of contention in modern Christianity, splitting Catholics and Orthodox sects from most Protestant sects.
The argument can be made - and is made later by Martin Luther and John Calvin - that no works of human beings can contribute to their salvation. They based this premise, not on the teachings of Jesus, but on the teachings of Paul. Since salvation is the centerpiece of Christian theology, this disagreement seems major.
In Acts, Paul says he in no way teaches faith to the exclusion of works. However, the debate rages on today about this teaching. Muslims scholars have long pointed to Paul as the corruptor of Jesus' message. However, it's surprising to find out how many modern Christian scholars agree even as other vigorously defend him.
There are many other minor ways Paul's teaching seems to modify the original message. He defends this by saying he's using expedient means to convert the pagans. The Council in Jerusalem granted him some leeway delineating the specific aspects of The Law that Gentile Christians were required to follow - but not the whole law.
Jesus seems to have taught a message of personal discipline, while the net effect of Paul's saved by faith approach seems to allow people not to better themselves yet still claim salvation.
These questions are long-debated and I will not solve them in this article. I want to get to my question. Clearly, Paul's teachings have sown dissent, muddled Jesus' message, and influenced modern Christianity at least as much as Jesus in many ways.
Who was Paul (Saul) and how did he go from Christian persecutor to Christian saint? He told a tale of conversion in a couple of different places in Acts - Chapters 9, 22, and 26. These differ in detail. That has caused long debate. Was his story true?
After Jesus appeared to him, he continued on to Damascus. The story goes that Jesus also appeared to a man named Ananias in Damascus and asked him to meet Saul and help him. None of Jesus disciples were witness to any of these events, though they seem to have accepted his story.
Using this story as his "in," the new Paul began preaching the gospel.
Saul/Paul's history before this event was violence against Christians. He was a Roman citizen, which some have claimed was why he was allowed to continue writing his epistles even from Roman jail. It's well-known the Romans feared the growing Christian religion and wanted to squelch it.
Given all of this, could infiltration have been the strategy? Could Saul/Paul have used a story he knew Jesus' disciples could not argue with as a means of infiltration? In our modern world, such a tactic is well-known among counterintelligence groups. He was a kind of self-proclaimed apostle. One cannot know the mind of Jesus, but he never mentioned - either during his ministry or at Pentecost - that he was planning on adding to the Apostles.
Along comes this guy with this story. He seems - despite debate - to have been teaching a different teaching from Jesus. One that focuses on Jesus' crucifixion and spilling of blood as a sacrifice. One that told people that faith not works is the primary method for salvation. It's odd that neither of these were included in Jesus' teaching.
His writing not only became important, but really came to dominate the New Testament. His teachings, in many ways, become Christianity. Could this all been a plan by the Romans or even the Jewish Temple Leaders to undermine the new religion?
We may never know, but it does raise an interesting question. Because if someone was going to undermine the emerging faith through infiltration, Paul's actions seem very much like a plan they might have followed. There's even a name for it - Pauline Christianity. He certainly created confusion...a key tool in disinformation.
This is a topic I'll be taking up in Book 2 of the Anunnaki Awakening series. What are your thoughts?
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