THE SECT OF JESUSBy Shlomoh Sherman
February 16, 2020 · Euclid, OH
Many Christians today are unaware of what the sect of YESHUA was all about and the New Testament tries very hard to cover it up but if you read the Gospels and Acts very carefully, and if you read the works of New Testament scholarship, much is revealed.
Firstly, who was YESHUA? We can only know about him from what we read about him in the Gospels. Any material about him that comes from outside the New Testament cannot be believed such as that he traveled to India and became a disciple of the Buddha, etc.
According to the Gospels, YESHUA was born and raised as a Galilean, experiencing the everyday life of Galilee. Galileans were the most passionate, ethnocentric, zealous Jews of the period in which YESHUA lived in Israel. As such, they were the most anti-Roman Jews of the day. Any mini revolt against the occupying Romans originated in Galilee and when the Great Revolt of 66CE broke out, it was led by the Zealots, the Galilean War Party sect.
According to the Gospels, YESHUA was the leader of a Jewish sect called Nazarenes. The name Nazarene means "guardian" or "watchmen" and the word "Nazarene" appears in Jeremiah 31:6 - "There will be a day when watchmen [NOTSRIM] cry out on the hills of Ephraim, ‘Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.´’
So the word is not a new one to Jews and although in modern Israeli Hebrew, NOTSRIM means Christian, it's original meaning is simply Guardian. But Guardian of what?
In modern Israel, there is a group of CHAREDIM konwn as NETUREI KARTA in Aramaic, Guardians of the City, which in Hebrew would be, NOTSREI HA-IR.
What were YESHUA and his followers guarding or watching out for? No one knows anymore, primarily because the early church leaders tried to hide the real meaning of the word and make it appear as a geographical designation, viz, a person from Nazareth, which is impossible. First of all, most of the disciples came from Capernaum [KFAR NACHUM], not Nazareth. Secondly, in Hebrew, a citizen of Nazareth is NATSARETI, not NOTSRI whih means Nazarene. YESHUA, in the role of sect leader and Jewish teacher, was played down by the early church in order to stress his role as Savior of mankind. As Savior of mankind, the New Testament has tried to separate him from his Jewishness and so far, it has done a pretty good job as Amy Jill Levine shows in her book, THE MISUNDERSTOOD JEW.
The New Testament is a series of documents written during the Roman occupation of Israel and it is therefore surprising that the Romans play a very minor role in the New Testament story of YESHUA. They hardly appear at all except in the background, and unlike the domination of Israel stories in the Hebrew Bible, their role as unwelcome occupiers is not condemned. When individual Romans appear in the story, they are positive exemplars such as Pontius Pilate or the soldier at the cross who recognizes YEHSUA as the son of God. There are no Roman villains in the tale even when Luke mentions "Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices." - Luke 13:1. If that doesn't tell you who the REAL Pilate was, nothing will. He's not a guy who just washes his hands of a bloddy affair and says, You do it. I'm just a Roman governor of a problematic province who has nothing to say about a man calling himself King of the Jews.
Protected by Sejanus, a favourite of the Roman emperor Tiberius, Pilate incurred the enmity of Jews in Roman-occupied Palestine by insulting their religious sensibilities, as when he hung worship images of the emperor throughout Jerusalem and had coins bearing pagan religious symbols minted. After Sejanus´s fall (31 CE), Pilate was exposed to sharper criticism from certain Jews, who may have capitalized on his vulnerability to obtain a legal death sentence on Jesus (John 19:12). The Samaritans reported Pilate to Vitellius, legate of Syria, after he attacked them on Mount Gerizim (36 CE). He was then ordered back to Rome to stand trial for cruelty and oppression, particularly on the charge that he had executed men without proper trial. According to Eusebius of Caesarea´s Ecclesiastical History, Pilate killed himself on orders from the emperor Caligula. Accoding to the famous Jewish historian, Josephus, Pilate was a headstrong strict authoritarian Roman leader who never knew how far he should go in a given case. He provoked both Jews and Samaritans to riot. - https://www.britannica.com/biography/Pontius-Pilate.
Yet according to Roman Catholicism, he is Saint Pontius while the people of YESHUA are the "perfidious Jews who refuse to recognize YESHUA as Messiah.
So if you are one who does not recognize YESHUA as divine, then who was he? The Gospels report, among other things, that he was the Galilean leader of a Galilean Jewish sect among whose members [disciples], were Zealots. John and James, the sons of ZEVADYA, are called "sons of wrath" and at one point, ask YESHUA to destroy certain towns who treat them with disrespect. The disciple Peter is called KEFA BARYONA, supposedly Peter son of Jonah. However rabbis of the time referred to the Zealots as BARYONIM [hoodlums]. "Zealots were SICARRI, 'daggermen' simultaneously, and they may be the BARYONIM of the Talmud" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Zealots - "However, there was a large group of people, called the Baryonim who thought they could fight against the mighty Roman army rather than surrender." - https://www.mywesternwall.net/2013/12/05/r-yochanan-ben-zakkai.html
At one point, Peter is described as a man who wants to physically attack the Jewish police who come to arrest YESHUA. There is even a disciple actually called Simon the Zealot. So were YESHUA and the Nazarenes actual Zealots? Probably not but S. G. F. Brandon, in his 1967 book, JESUS AND THE ZEALOTS, states that YESHUA was a revolutionary figure, INFLUENCED by the Zealots. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S._G._F._Brandon.
Reza Aslan, in his recent book, ZEALOT: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS OF NAZARETH, writes "Two thousand years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher walked across the Galilee, gathering followers to establish what he called the 'Kingdom of God.' The REVOLUTIONARY movement he launched was so threatening to the established order that he was executed as a state criminal."
Why would his movement be so threatening to the establisjed order if YESHUA had actually said to Peter, "Put up again thy sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." - Matthew 26:52? You tell me!
Furthermore, Galileans were known xenophobes, so much so that they were not friendly to the idea of Jews going out to convert gentiles to the faith.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make him twice as much a child of hell as you are." - Matthew 23:15 WOW!
And Matthew 10:5 tells us that "These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel."
A verse such as this is called a CONTRAPOSITION. It goes against the general argument put forth by the Gospels that YESHUA would ultimately consider gentiles more worthy than his fellow Jews. Matthew 20:16 - "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
And the tale in Matthew 15 is so completely contrapositional that one wonders what place does it serve in the story other than to show that YESHUA finally changed his Galilean attitude to nonJews.
"22 A certain Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, 'Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us. 24 He answered, I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. 25 The woman came and knelt before him. Lord, help me! she said. 26 He replied, It is not right to take the children´s bread and toss it to the dogs."
I don't know of any Jewish leader today who would speak to a person, Jew or nonJew, in that manner. Yet the Gospel editors let these stateents stand. Do statements which are contrapositional have more validity because they go against the genral message being put forth? You tell me!
A significant story occurs in all four Gospels, known as the Cleansing of the Temple. It tells of Jesus expelling the merchants and the money changers from the Temple.
Professor David Landry of the University of St. Thomas suggests that "the importance of the episode is signaled by the fact that within a week of this incident, Jesus is dead. Matthew, Mark, and Luke agree that this is the event that functioned as the 'trigger' for Jesus' death."[ "Landry, David. "God in the Details: The Cleansing of the Temple in Four Jesus Films", Journal of Religion and Film, Vol. 13, No. 2 October 2009, University of Nebraska at Omaha". Archived from the original on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2016.] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleansing_of_the_Temple
What are the salient points of this episode and what is its significance in the role of YESHUA as a Galilean rebel? The mojor points are as follows:
Each evangelist tells us that Jesus entered the Temple and upset the stalls of money changers and animal sellers and that he drove them out of the Temple precincts. Mark adds a detail to the effect that Jesus prevented the carrying of vessels through the Temple, almost as something divorced from the narrative and superfluous to the incident.
I'd like to make some coherrent sense out of this story that would fit into a historical context and add to the understanding of the events that occurred in Jerusalem that week according to the presentation in the Gospels.
YESHUA's first act in the Temple was to disrupt the financial transactions taking place in the Temple court. Pilgrims were coming to Jerusalem from all over the world, both from within the Roman Empire and from outside, and therefore there would be a need to convert the various world coinage into local Jerusalem currency in order to buy the necessary sacrificial animals for the Passover. Why this angered YESHUA is not certain but several possible reasons suggest themselves. Either he felt that the money changers were not giving a fair rate of exchange or that they, in conjunction with the animal sellers, were giving the pilgrims inferior quality animals, or perhaps YESHUA merely felt that the ATTITUDE of the merchants was too cavilier, and not at all corectly religious. John rightly states that YESHUA used the term "house of merchandise, (OIKON EMPORION), while the synoptic evangelists have altered this to "den of thieves", (OPILAION LESTON). It should be noted that the word for "thief", LESTAS, actually means "briggand" or "highwayman", and does not fit the situation accurately if by "thief" YESHUA means "cheat". Furthermore, YESHUA used some sort of weapon, a whip, to drive the merchants out. He also disallowed the carrying of "vessels" through the Temple.
It is odd that YESHUA is able to do all these things singlehandedly, without being stopped by either the Temple police or, the Roman soldiers stationed on the Antonia who must surely have noticed a riotous disruption breaking out. The obvious answer of course is that YESHUA was not alone in his actions. He was, in fact, aided by his disciples, and by a large crowd of people, probably both Jerusalemites and pilgrims, so much so that the authorities were initially unable to take counter-measure actions to quell the unexpected sudden outbreak. We can well understand that the "chief priests ... feared him." The people "were astonished at his doctrine" or "the people were very attentive to hear him". These are edited euphemisms, implying that the people were "with him" and took part in the mass action so that the Sadducean authorities were powerless to prevent YESHUA and the people from literally TAKING OVER THE TEMPLE!
We may interpret Jesus' disallowance of the carrying of "vessels" through the Temple as his upholding the Talmudic injunction that no one may use the Temple as a thoroughfare either as a shortcut for walking or carrying burdens from one part of Jerusalem to another. But if that is the meaning of the verse, it is completely out of context here. If the word "vessels" does not ultimately translate an original Hebrew KEYLIM, "vessels", but rather is short for KEYLIM SHEL MILCHAMAH, "vessels of war", i.e., "WEAPONS", then we may understand that what Jesus and his followers did effectively was to prevent the authorities from coming in with weapons to attack the crowd and put down the rebellion.
Then, of course, YESHUA would not be the only one possessing a weapon (as we have seen, a whip). Most of the crowd was probably armed. If so, the insurrection, and YESHUA's action in the Temple as part of it, were not spontaneous but PLANNED as a pre-Passover "act of freedom" against the pro-Roman establishment. This is possibly the reason that YESHUA chose to come to Jerusalem this particiular week, looking forward to the insurrection as the spark leading to the unfolding of the Kingdom of G-d, and to his own messianic role as its leader and inaugurator. Moreover, there can be no doubt but that the entire insurrection was planned and led by the Zealots with whose aims YESHUA must have been in complete sympathy both as a Jew and as a fellow Gallilean, especially when we remember that several of his own disciples were Zealots. It is instructive in that context to once again remind ourselves that the Romans referred to the Zealots as "briggands" LESTES in the same manner in which todays freedom fighters are called "terrorists" by the governments in power. Indeed the merchants may have turned the Temple court into a merchandise emporium, but it was YESHUA and his Zealot followers, and the crowd taking part in the Temple take-over that turned it into a "den of briggands" or "lair of Zealots"!
Further, we are told that YESHUA was in the Temple "daily, teaching" (Mark 14:49). This indicates that he was able to keep hold of the Temple for at least several days while the insurrection was going on. Nowhere are we told that the daily sacrifices were halted during that time. As a matter of fact, they probably continued while YESHUA and the people held control of the Temple, and while the people centered around the man they believed might be the promised messiah, and heard his words of encouragement. Indeed, if the daily sacrifices did continue, and we have no reason to believe that they ceased, then we may assume that YESHUA also had the sympathy of the ordinary KOHANIM, priests who ministered daily. The New Testament narrates in at least one place that the nascient Nazarene movement attracted a large number of KOHANIM, priests (Acts 6:7). These KOHANIM by and large were drawn from the ranks of the common people. Many of them were Pharisees and resented the pro-Roman Sadducean usurpation of the High Priesthood.
With the crowd united and rallying around him, YESHUA hoped to make the holiest place in Judaism the focal point of the beginning of the New Age. He would purify the Place of the SHECHINAH, the Place of the Sanctuary of God. Once the purification of the Place was accomplished, he would go beyond what the Maccabees had done. He would raze this Temple of Herod to the ground, and in its place, miraculously build the Temple of Ezekiel, the True Final Temple which would never again be destroyed or profaned by gentiles.
For several days no police or Roman soldiers appeared. The Sadducees probably did not call upon them immediately for they had no wish to have the heathen enter the Temple grounds. The Romans themselves were engaged in quelling the insurrection throughout the City, and finally, after the major areas of disturbance were brought under control, and the Zealot leaders rounded up, the areas surrounding the Temple Mount were doubtless surrounded by the Romans. Word that the insurrection had been put down reached the defenders of the Temple, and they scattered.
After the crucifixion of Jesus, the Nazarenes regularly met in the Temple (Luke 21:37; Acts 3:8; and elsewhere), and the followers may have believed that YESHUA would immanently appear to them there.
We are also later informed that a wide-spread insurrection (Mark 15:7) had taken place in the City which the "Cleansing of the Temple" was probably a part of. "A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising."
The insurrection is cited with no context but the evangelist expects the reader to be familiar with it. Mark's Gospel was composed right after the end of the disasterous Jewish war against Rome in which the Temple was destroyed and Jerusalem was in ruins. One of the purposes for its composition is to let the Romans know that even though Christians worship the God of the Jews, they are not the lawless LESTES that the Jews are.
The name Barabbas sounds like a nickname, either "son of the father" or "son of the rabbi". Whoever he was, he is identified as a Zealot by the evangelist in that he committed murder [killed Romans] in the uprising.
Subsequent to this, we have the story of YESHUA and his disciples hiding out in Bethany [BET ANYA,meaning "house of affliction", a town near Jerusalem, at the foot of the Mount of Olives], where he was soon arrested and brought to trial.
Regardless of the charges brought against YESHUA by Jewish authorities reported by the evangelists, namely he said he would rebuild the Temple after its destruction, he claimed to be the son of God, he committed some kind of blasphemy, etc, the Gospels eventually report the ACTUAL reason for his execution, viz, HE CLAIMED TO BE A JEWISH KING WHO WOULD SUPPLANT CAESAR AND TO THAT EFFECT HE ACTED OUT BY SEIZING THE TEMPLE WITH HIS FOLLOWERS AS PART OF A GENRAL JEWISH INSURRECTION AGAINST ROMAN OCCPATION. As such, the Romans could only regard him as LESTAS, a rebel or freedom fighter.
In fact, Mark, the earliest of the canonical Gospels, reports that he was executed along with two other LESTES.
"It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: the KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two REBELS with him, one on his right and one on his left. - Mark 15:25-27 New International Version. KAI SYN AUTO STAUROUSIN DYO LESTAS HENA EK DEXION KAI HENA EX EUONYMON
After YESHUA's execution, his followers reported that he had risen from the dead, ascended to heaven, and would shortly return to initiate the Kingdom of Heaven.
Although originally a Galilean sect, post-Resurrection, the group relocated to Jerusalem where they made the Temple court their headquarters.
Paul, in his first letter to the church at Corinth, chapter 15, reports on the post-Resurrection appearences of YESHUA to Peter, the other 11 disciples, then to more then 500 Nazarene members, and then to James [YAKOB].
ALthough readers of his letter obviously know who James is, the supreme leader of the sect, we find ourselves suprised that this person is presented here suddenly with no introduction. According to the Gospels, Peter was supposed to be the leader, the rock upon which the community is founded. - Matthew 16:8 "I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."
So who was James [YAKOB}
In chapter 1 of his letter to the Galatians, Paul identifies him - 18. "Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19. I saw none of the other apostles only James, the Lord´s brother.
So then James, YESHUA's brother, not Peter, took over the leadership of the Nazarene sect. But there is no story about James until we encounter him in Acts of the Apostles.
Acts, chapter 1 mentions a James, son of Alphaeus but if James were the brother of YESHUA, his father would be Joseph so I doubt this is our James.
It is not until chapter 15 of Acts that a James is mentioned again and we are not told who he is. So why does Acts hide his identity when it clearly tells us about all the other important apostles?
"1. But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.'
13. When they finished speaking, James replied, .... 19 My judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God."
So here, for the first time, we are introduced to James, the brother of YESHUA, without any context. It's as though the Christian scripture wishes to downplay him and in the Catholic Church, he is called James the Less while James the son of ZEVADYA is called the James the Great. Imagine, the scripture treats YESHUA's brother as LESS than one of YESHUA's disciples even while James is the chosen leader of YESHUA's followers! He is actually called James the Just [YAKOB HA-TSADIK], so great is he esteemed among the population. I believe that the composer of Acts had no alternative to mentioning James at all since everyone knew that James was the most important person, next to YESHUA himself, in the Nazarene movement. But he has been downplayed because he opposed Paul, the creator of Christianity, and Christianity's most important person. I will discuss the antagonism between James and Paul below.
The next we hear of James is in Acts 21 where just as in chapter 15, James again is the person making decisions for how followers of YESHUA should comport themselves.
"When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: 'You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the TORAH. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the TORAH. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.' The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them." - Acts 21:17-26
James is the person in control here and his antagonist is Paul, the champion of gentile Christianity, a religion he created in opposition to the sect of Nazarenes, the members of which were the true, original followers of YESHUA. James, the leader, insists that any real follower of YESHUA has to follow the TORAH, that is, he has to be Jewish. Paul's demands are quite different. He said that just believing in Jesus as Christ is sufficient to be a Christian. But a Christian is not a Nazarene.
"The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." Acts 11:25
Why do they have to be called "Christians"? The group already has a name - Nazarenes. The designation marks the official break away of gentile followers from the Jewish sect and the creation of a new group.
Paul has been telling his converts that they are the true Jews but their Jewishness is not following the TORAH. In fact, he says that the TORAH has become null and void since the Crucifixion. Yet James, cynically, demands that Paul offer sacrifice at the Temple to show he, Paul, acknowledges that the TORAH is NOT voided since Temple sacrifice was the heart of Jewish worship at the time.
Paul has no choice but to obey or open himself to attack. He chooses hypocriscy to standing up for his faith.
So what happens at the Temple?
" When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, 'Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our TORAH and this place (the Temple)'.
The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the Temple, and immediately the gates were shut. While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, 'Get rid of him!'’ - Acts 21:27-35
It's not clear who the people are that have attacked Paul. Are they Nazarenes or are they just ordinary Jews or are they Zealots? It's simply apparent from these verses that Paul is a person who has become so hatefull to the Jews of Jerusalem that the whole city "is in an uproar" against him.
"The commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, 'Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn´t even been found guilty?' When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. 'What are you going to do?' he asked. 'This man is a Roman citizen.' The commander went to Paul and asked, 'Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?' 'Yes, I am,’'he answered. Then the commander said, 'I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.' 'But I was born a citizen,' Paul replied." - Acts 22:24-28
Paul realizes that his fellow Jews hate him, that is , if he were actually Jewish. He therefore appeals to the Romans who have saved him that he identifies with them as a fellow Roman.
"The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot. They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, 'We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you ... We are ready to kill him before he gets here.'’ - Acts 23:12-15
It's possible that the conspiritors who want to assassinate Paul may be Zealots but be that as it may, the idea that Paul has identified himself as a Roman more than a Jew must have only intensified the people's hatered towards him. The Roman soldiers learn of the plot against Paul and they spirit him out of the City and bring him to Caesaria, to the office of the Governor Felix.
Felx wants to kmow the exact reason that the people of Jerusalme feel that Paul is worthy of the death penalty The high priest Ananias and a delegation of Jerusalemites appear before the governor and tell him: "'We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the Temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.'’ - Acts 24:5-8
According to the text of Acts, Felix, correctly supposing that the issue is one involving the Jews' relgion, doesn't know what to do with Paul. He therefore keeps him under house arrest, waiting for Paul to bribe him. After two years, with no bribe offered, Paul is still under arrest when Felix is succeded as governor by Porcius Festus.
"Then Paul made his defense (to Festus): 'I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.' Festus ... said to Paul, 'Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?' Paul answered: 'I am now standing before Caesar´s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!' After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: 'You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!' Acts 25:8-12
Festus asked Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to stand trial before a Jewish court but Paul chooses to go to Rome to be tried by Caesar. In Jewish society, such a Jew (if Paul really was Jewish) is called a MOSER, a term meaning a "turncoat", one who chooses a trial before a gentile court rather than a Jewish one. He is sent to Rome and is put under house arrest waiting to be heard by Caesar. Acts ends telling the reader that Paul waited in Rome 2 years to be heard without letting the reader know what transpired.
But consider this.
Paul had many things to be displeased about with the Christians at Corinth, among them that they were suing each other in Roman courts of law when they should have been settling disputes among themselves.
"Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?" -1 Corinthians 6:1-6
It's doubtful that many Christians have resolved or continue to resolve matters of law within their own church communities. No, they do what Paul himself did when he hypocritically took his own criminal case to Caesar rather than have it settled by a Jewish court. Contrast this with Paul's decision to go to a Roman court. [Acts 25]
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul turns his attention to his fight with the Nazarenes. Many Christians feel embarrassed over the fact that Paul had severe differences of opinion with YESHUA's original Jewish followers because that fact interrupts the continuity which Christians want people to assume happened in the development of their religion supposedly out of a Jewish sect. But as we will see here, this heated monologue on Paul's part shows that indeed what he organized WAS a religion separated from any version of Judaism.
The most ironic thing about this entire episode of Paul's near brush with death and his subsequent imprisonment was that once he was removed from the Land of Israel, neither Jews nor Nazarenes bothered about him any longer. The accusers of Jerusalem did not follow up their persecution of him. They sent no delegation to Rome to appeal to Caesar about Paul. Therefore he merely sat in his jail-house for two years waiting for Caesar to become aware of him. But as Caesar was not pressed about his case by anyone, Caesar simply attended to more immediate cases, thereby effectively ignoring Paul.
Acts lets us know that Paul, at the end of his life, completely disassociated himself from the Jewish People and they from him. It should be pointed out that although James made Paul go to the Temple to offer sacrifice, neither he nor any other Nazarene arose to Paul's defense or to help him in any way. It sounds to me suspiciously like a setup, that is, James sent him to the Temple to his death.
Paul does not give us a firsthand account in any of his letters as to why he chose to go to the very City where he would put himself in jeopardy. Since he himself said that the outward [Jewish] expression of the TORAH was now void, why would he even want to go there for the holiday of SHAVUOT?
"And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me" - Acts 20:22,23
Here Paul says that the spirit of God is compelling him to go to Jerusalem even though he anticipates that no good can come of it. Either this was his real feeling or it is just a tale made up by the author of Acts who knew the facts of Paul's end. We can't ever know.
"After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem."
This is an example of how muddled Acts is. Although Paul reports that the Spirit moved him to go to Jerusalem, Acts now tells us that the Spirit spoke through his followers telling him NOT to go there. It appears that the Spirit was as confused as Paul was. The intent however of these verses is to show that Paul and his followers were not a welcome group to Nazarenes and other Jews and that Paul was probably putting his life at risk by traveling there. But again, the author of Acts knows the outcome of the story.
This story is the culmination of the ongoing adveristy between James and Paul which we can now look at.
As he is preparing his jounery to Jerusalem, he tells the elders of his Ephesian church: "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." Acts 20: 29-31
Who can these so-called wolves be who will distort the truth, even from their own number?
"Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
2 Corinthians 2:5,6
-Paul does not refrain, all through his writings, testifying that he has received a heavenly truth that no one else has received. This much protesting must have been prompted by other men going through the diaspora and preaching about YESHUA. Paul's constant negative references to the "letter of the Law [TORAH] makes it appear that his competitors were Jewish.
"Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Xristos according to the flesh, yet now we know him in this way no longer."
2 Corinthians 5:16
-Here we have a very crucial verse which seals a definite distinction between the real Jewish followers of YESHUA and the religion that Paul is preaching.
Paul's antagonists are talking about a HUMAN, "flesh and blood", Jewish messiah who will free Israel, and ultimately the world, from political oppression.
Paul tells his gentile followers that even if there had been a Jewish man whose followers claim to be the Jewish messiah of a Jewish People, and even had Paul known or known of such a man, he knows that Jewish individual no more. From now on, he no longer acknowledges the YESHUA who walked and taught in Israel. He only knows Iesous Xristos, who died for man's sins and who spoke to him from the sky. It's obvious here that Paul has cut himself off theologically from ALL Jews, including those in Jerusalem of YESHUA's sect.
"But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Xristos. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds."
2 Corinthians 11:12-15
Paul now begins an attack which he will continue till the day he dies. This is the message to the Corinthians, namely, others are trying to preach about one whom he considers the Deity's proxy but he doesn't want Christians to consider their "boasting" that they know the real truth about Xristos as of any importance. Not only are these false apostles deceivers, they are AGENTS OF SATAN. We can well imagine how threatened Paul felt, knowing that Nazarenes are encroaching on his mission to gentiles.
"Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Xristos? -I speak as if insane- I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the ocean. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?"
2 Corinthians 11:22-29
-At last he names the adversaries. Hebrews! But, he cautions the Corinthians, don't let their pedigree fool you for I have the same pedigree and more; I have suffered more for my faith then they, with all kinds of tribulations that they have never known, and it's no wonder that I have become overly emotional [insane]. And even more, all you gentiles, for "I feel your pain."
It's little wonder that, over the course of his life ministry, he implanted in the consciousness of his converts, not only a feeling of superiority over Jews but a great antipathy which in time would lead to a faith imbued with dangerous antisemitism. Some Jews may have given Paul an idea for his religion based upon an historical person's life and death but that person's death, not his actual, historical life, became the chief ingredient of a faith which Jews never gave to him nor accepted from him.
"Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody."
2 Corinthians 12:11
-The Greek UPERLIAN, here translated "most eminent" is a sarcastic put-down of the Jerusalem Nazarenes, led by YESHUA's brother James [YAKOV]. The word has been variously translated as "super", "so-called super", maybe even in today's vernacular, "wannabe-special". These are either Peter and/or others sent to make Nazarenes out of the Corinthian Christians. Paul tells his followers that even though he appears to be a no-body, he is in no way inferior to James and Peter. In fact, since HIS call was directly from Iesous and not from any other apostle, he is superior to them.
The website at http://www.biblegateway.com has this to say regarding the verse:
"The mention of UPERLIAN, "super-apostles", is intriguing. The phrase appears nowhere else in the New Testament. To whom is Paul referring? Some think that it can scarcely be other than the Jerusalem apostles, whose authority the Corinthians invoked. Would this then be Paul's own sarcastic description of their exalted view of the apostles? Or is he merely quoting the [Corinthians'] estimate of the Twelve [disciples of YESHUA]?
I can go through all of Paul's letters to show how he addresses his various churches but for the purposes of this essay, I will just address one more epistle, to the Galatians, because his church in Galatia experienced the same dissention as that of Corinth. His converts were visited by Nazarenes whom he said "taught another Jesus" different from his Iesous Xristos. We see in this letter how much his antagonism toward Jews in general, and Nazarenes in particular, increased to the point of Paul cursing them out.
"Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Iesous Xristos and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)..."
It's amazing how Paul goes on and on about his special pedigree, having been contacted directly by Iesous and given his mission, as opposed to the Nazarenes who "only" knew the flesh and blood man, YESHUA. Apparently he needs to impress people with his resume over and over.
"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you by the grace of Xristos, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Xristos. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!"
-Paul's ego knows no bounds. The Galatians are deserting, not so much Xristos but Paul himself! Those teaching the alternate gospel are disturbing them? It seems that Paul is only one disturbed so that he curses the "disturbers".
"But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His son in me so that I might preach him among the gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia ... "
It's important to remember that FROM THE VERY START, Paul had no contact with YESHUA's disciples and his faith was and is his SOLE creation, and NOT an outgrowth of Nazarenism or any other type of Judaism.
In the next sentence, he reminds us that "after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter and stayed with him for fifteen days. But I didn't see any other apostles except YAKOV, the brother of Iesous."
It took him three years to even think about going to Israel to meet a few of YESHUA's disciples, in fact, the so-called UPERLIAN, the "wannabe" apostles.
"It was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Xristos Iesous, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. But from those who were of HIGH REPUTATION (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) - well, those who were OF REPUTATION contributed nothing to me. But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were REPUTED to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the gentiles and they to the circumcised. They only asked us to remember the poor - the very thing I also was eager to do." - Galatians 2:2-10
-This is Paul's first hand report of a meeting that he had with James, Peter, and John, the leaders of the Nazarene sect in Jerusalem. The incident is reported also in the book of Acts with less confrontational tone because the author of Acts wishes to harmonize history by playing down any conflicts between Paul and the Nazarenes.
These sentences are dripping with barely concealed sarcasm and ill-will if not outright anger.
"in private to those who were OF REPUTATION [LOKOUSIN]" means the so-called reputed ones. They may be of high reputation but their position as leaders of the sect of YESHUA means nothing to Paul. He has no respect for them anyway. They may have required something of him but he would not yield to them to show them that he was subjected to their will. God may have given them jurisdiction over Jewish converts to their sect but not over him. Not only did he show them that they held no authority over him but they contributed nothing to him or his ministry. On the contrary, they shook hands with him in a gesture of "right on". They are only "REPUTED PILLARS" of their faith, not REAL ones. As we have seen, the actual event was somehow different.
"We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the TORAH but through faith in Xristos Iesous, even we have believed in Xristos Iesous so that we may be justified by faith in Xristos and not by the works of the TORAH; since by the works of the TORAH no flesh will be justified. But if, while seeking to be justified in Xristos, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Xristos then a minister of sin? May it never be! For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the TORAH I died to the TORAH, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Xristos; and it is no longer I who live, but Xristos lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the TORAH, then Xristos died needlessly."
-Paul has created a group which he calls "Israel", a new Israel in which gentiles are "Jews by nature" even though they don't act Jewishly. If any of his Galatian followers DO want to act as Jews by following the TORAH, then for them Xristos died for nothing. Throughout his letters, Paul uses the expression of justification [justified by faith and not by the works of TORAH].
This is just another example of Paul's ignorance of the Jewish religion. And unfortunately Christians have inherited this ignorance. No one ever said that MITSVOT justify anyone. That's not what the TORAH is about. Nowhere in the TORAH is it said that obeying the commandments, we are justified before God. There are several reasons why we do MITSVOT. Justification is not one of them even though most Christians think we do them to "get into heaven." That's not it. First of all, no one is guaranteed a place in heaven. Judaism's idea of eternal life is the life after the Resurrection of the Dead, spoken about in Daniel, not that our souls go up to the sky. Jews do MITSVOT because of an agreement or contract with God to follow His commandments so that we remain alive as a distinct religio-ethnic group, and to honor God's Name. We have seen the connection between our religion and our survival as Jews throughout history, and we see it today. Any Jewish home devoid of the basic icons of Judaism is in danger of assimilation to the gentile world. The Passover SEDER, the observance of ROSH HASHANNAH and YOM KIPPUR, and CHANUKAH, and PURIM, and the confraternity and embrace by the religious community who are happy when we do even one MITSVAH, keep us Jewish. Paul had it all wrong. His understanding was that the TORAH is one responsibility made up of 613 parts and so, to disregard any MITSVAH means to disregard the whole TORAH. But Jews do not see the TORAH as one responsibility comprised of different parts. They see it as 613 separate responsibilities, each one important in and of itself.
Paul wished to wipe out the differences between Jews and nonJews. If the Jewish religion [TORAH] is nullified, so is the Jewish People, and that was Christianity's original and ultimate goal.
Paul actually states his objective. If there is neither Jew nor gentile in the church of Xristos, if the line is erased so that Jewishness disappears, then that leaves the only conclusion; that this faith is for nonJews, and so long as Jews refuse to abandon their Jewishness by abandoning their religion [TORAH], they are outside God's protection, and are not the "real" Israel of God.
Pheme Perkins, in his book, READING THE NEW TESTAMENT, Paulist Press, points out that in Paul's statement that there is neither male nor female in Xristos, he may have been thinking of the MIDRASH based on Genesis 1:26,27 that Adam was originally created as a hermaphrodite, both male and female, and was divided into two genders after the disobedience regarding the forbidden fruit. If that is so, then it is also interesting that at Adam's creation, there were no distinctions between Jew and gentile. Until the covenant with Abraham, all people were gentile. But during Adam's lifetime, there was also no division between slave and free. No one was a slave. Paul may have meant for his followers to to beieve that Xristos, by his death, had restored humanity to that Adamic undivded state. Judaism, on the other hand, holds that God wishes diversity among mankind, and honors distictions based on gender, ethnos, and social status.
"Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Xristos will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole TORAH. You have been SEVERED FROM XRISTOS, you who are seeking to be justified by TORAH; you have fallen from grace. .... For in Xristos Iesous neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves."
Paul's clever use of the phrase "SEVERED FROM XRISTOS" to imply that circumcision automatically removes a man from his Christian faith is dramatic to say the least. He had a way with words, unfortunately mostly evil words.
Paul's anger knows no bounds. The Greek word APOKOPSONTAI, here translated as "mutilate themselves" has been variously rendered by other translations as "get themselves emasculated", cut off themselves", "and castrates themselves". It's important to remember that when the Middle Eastern world turned Hellenic, circumcision became a way for gentiles to now insult and ridicule Jews. In fact, many Jews of the time who wanted to hide their ethnic identity had an operation to "restore the foreskin". Paul could not have chosen a better metaphor to incite people who already had ambivalent feelings for Jews to badmouth the Nazarenes for whom, by now, he felt no empathy or sympathy. He saw them as competitors and enemies, and he passed this feeling of competition and enmity on to the Christian world.
Michael Goulder, a British Biblical scholar who spent his academic life at the University of Birmingham where he retired as Professor of Biblical Studies in 1994, has this to say in an essay he wrote on the Epistles, regarding Paul in Galatians: In the epistle, Pauls shows himself to be nothing but "aggressive, defensive, abusive, sarcastic, and self justifying."
-Michael Goulder, The Pauline Epistles in The Literary Guide To The Bible ed Robert Alter & Frank Kermode, 1987.
Raymond Stamm, professor of New Testament Language, Literature, and Theology at Gettysburg Seminary from 1926 to 1956, wrote in The Epistle To The Galatians - An Introduction and Exegesis in Volume 10 of the INTERPRETER'S BIBLE, that Paul's writing style is rambling. He starts to say that James, Peter and John found nothing wrong with his concept of Iesous, and recognized the equality of his apostleship, in order to impress his Galatian converts but after saying this, he abruptly breaks off and says that God plays no favorites, then returns to the details of the agreement he reached with the Nazarene leaders, namely, he will preach to the gentiles and they will preach to the Jews.
The question remains: If God makes no difference between the two missions and if the Jerusalem Apostles are only "so-called super-apostles", then why bother to impress the Galatians with their endorsement of him? Besides, what ultimately took place was their criticism and abandonment of him. Joseph Klausner, an eminent Jewish NT scholar, points out that Paul spent his whole missionary career fighting against the idea of his inferiority as an apostle.
Consider Galatians 5:6, where he claims that faith works through love. But then consider how, in his writings referring to Jews and Jewish Nazarenes, how much love and charity are missing. Not only does he show himself a hypocrtite but a nasty and petulant one.
Rita Dove, in her essay on the Epsitle To The Ephesians, in INCARNATION [cited above] says:
"What I distrusted [about Paul] was the contradiction between his life and his words ... I also distrusted the name change from the Jew Saul to the astringent New Age Paul. Paul - a name without history ... He was a traveling salesman, his epistles little more than SHTIK ... But the God I knew, He was nothing like this Paul with his blind stare, his frozen face burning in his eyes ... Did he remember Saul at all - or had he, as Paul, burned away his past self so completely?"
Ms Dove has hit on the crux of the issue. "Paul, a name without history." The name change is the ultimate symbol of a person thowing away his personal history, in this case, Paul threw away his Jewishness and from then on, completely identified with his gentile followers. That is why he uses the expression "we" when telling them that "we are no longer under the TORAH." This is ludicrous. When were gentiles EVER bound by the TORAH?
On the issue of circumcision, it seems that in every era, gentiles home in on the issue of the day which makes Jews feel angry. Paul simply did what gentiles in the Greek world did to insult Jews; they badmouthed circumcision. Today when gentiles want to insult Jews, they badmouth the State of Israel.
We know from Paul's writings sent to the churches at Corinth and Galatia that Nazarenes followed on Paul's heels, so to speak, to make Jews out of his Christians. Did they show up in places other than in Corinth and Galatia? There is no direct written evidence of it but later on in his life, when Paul was Imprisoned in Rome, he wrote to his disciple Timothy that:
"You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me." - 2 Timothy 1:15
"For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain .... For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth."
So now it's for sordid gain, to make money, that Judaizers are plaguing his churches. It's always some ulterior motive for him, otherwise why would anyone want to pervert "the truth"?
Paul's theology had deviated so far from what the Nazarenes taught that they not only considered him a heretic but a madman. To any rational gentile who read these lines, the question opened up would have been: Is Iesous God or not? What does it mean to be in the "form of God" [EIKON THEON] but not God because not equal to God? In humility, Xristos Iesous gives up being God's equal even though it would not be wrong to do so ["not robbery"]. But had he chosen to be God's equal, then there would be two Gods. Yet Paul said there was only One, the Father of Xristos. On his death, Paul left Christianity as a religion asking questions in many respects, as it remains today. Christians still have many questions to ask if they are critical thinkers.
It's obvious to me that given the fact that Paul constantly criticises James and the Jerusalem Church, the Judaizers, that in Acts 20, when he talks about wolves who distort the truth of his gospel, even from their own number, he is referring to them.
Josephus [the Jewish historian of the day] tells us that the people of Jerusalem loved James, and that they gave him the appellation, James the Just (YAKOV HA-TSADIK), not only because he was scrupulous in his observance of the TORAH but because he had a genuine love for the Jewish people and manifested it in his life. Further, we are informed that not only the downtrodden classes and the Zealots felt close to him but that he was admired very much by the Pharisees.
In early church legend James had the reputation of being deeply pro-Zealot.
According to the Church father Hegesippus and quoted by the third century historian of the Roman Catholic Church, Eusebius, James was asked by "certain Jewish heretics": 'Tell us, what is the door of YESHUA'? James replied that YESHUA was the messiah. Again they asked him to explain the expression, "the door of YESHUA". James, seeing their mocking attitude, replied to them, "Why do you ask me regarding the Son of Man who will shortly return to judge the living and the dead?" I mention this story more for what James did not say than for what he did say. All that James says is that his brother is the messiah and will return to finish the messianic work. He does NOT say that YESHUA is some sort of world savior or dying and rising god whose death atones for the sins of people. And since he was the brother of YESHUA, he should have known best. The "heretics" are not named and it is anyone's guess who is meant.
Lastly, there is more extra-biblical documentation about James, the brother of YESHUA than about any other TN personality. The more we knw about James and what he taught, the better we can understand who YESHUA was and what he tried to accomplish. Amy Jill Levine wrote a book abut him called THE MISUNDERSTOOD JEW, misunderstood both by Jew and by Christians who barely acknowledge his Jewishness because many are embarrased by it.
As far as I am concerned, from all that I have read about him from the works of New Testament scholars, both Jewish and Gentile, I see YESHUA as a Gallilean militant acopalyptic rabbi, sympathetic to the Zealots, who may have believed he was the messiah or whom his followers believed he was, and that he taught the imminent coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and the rise of Israel as the representative of that Kingdom.
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