Chapter Twenty

                 SAUL/PAUL THE APOSTLE  (II).

       Having seen a great light, and heard a heavenly voice, Acts reports,
Saul arose from the ground in a state of blindness. Those who were with him
had to lead him by the hand. So they brought him to Damascus. There, he was
visited by a Nazarene named Ananias, whom chapter 22 of Acts (in a speech
by Saul) describes as "a devout man according to the law, having a good
report of all the Jews which dwelt there."  This Ananias spent much time
with Saul, persuading him to become a Nazarene. After a while, "the
scales fell from Saul's eyes", and he was able to see the "truth" of the
"gospel" of Jesus. His blindness also left him. Having become a "convert"
to the Assembly of the Faithfull, Saul began to preach the faith of the
Nazarenes among the Jews of Damascus with the same zeal in which he had
preached hatred of them. He now became the recipient of the mistrust of the
Nazarenes and the antagonism of the Damascene authorities. Acts, chapter 9,
says that the Jews of Damascus were antipathetic to Saul and tried to have
him arrested. Yet Saul himself, in chapter 11 of his seceond epistle to the
Corinthians, says that Aretas, king of the Nabateans was the one who wanted
to have him arrested. Saul, finding his position untennable, left Damascus
and travelled to "Arabia" where he spent about three years meditating on,
and developing his own understanding of the Nazarene message. We remember
that he himself reported that he did not go to Jerusalem to confer with
Peter and James immediately upon his change of heart and subsequent
acceptance of Jesus as the messiah of Israel. He did not even meet them
until AFTER his self imposed exile of three years. By then, he was already
on the way to having internalized his own interpretation of the life and
death of Jesus, and of his own role of importance in the future destiny of
the movement, and of the teaching of his interpreatation of it.

       Acts' statement that the Jews of Damascus became Saul's enemies
because he became a Nazarene is completely unintelligible if Saul him-
self said that Ananias, his Nazarene tutor, was a Torah observant Jew
who was well respected by the Jewish community of Damascus. Luke, the
author of Acts, constantly displays his anti-Jewish bias in his de-
sciptions of the so-called Jewish persecutions of Saul. If indeed Saul
WAS persecuted by Jews at times, it was NOT due to his being a Naza-
rene but to his antagonistic theology and personality, and to his con-
stant self-identification with gentiles rather than with Jews.

       Saul himself reports that Aretas, not the Damascene Jewish com-
munity, tried to have him arrested. Damascus, at this time, was under the
control of the Nabateans, an Arabic people whose kingdom encompassed
present-day Jordan and part of present-day Syria. Undoubtedly Aretas had
received complaints about Saul as a disturber of the peace, a political
agitator, and a persecutor of the Nazarenes to whom he, Aretas, has
extended political asylum. Reports that Saul had himself become a Nazarene
meant nothing to Aretas since the Nazarenes themselves said that they did
not trust him. If the Jews of Damascus had resentment against Saul, an
additional reason may have been that they did not like Sadducean stooges
who betrayed other Jews, Nazarene or otherwise, to the Romans.

       As to Saul's journey to "Arabia", this does not mean the Arabian
penninsula now occupied by the Saudis, but rather the Trans-jordanian
dessert. There Saul remained for three years as stated, upon which time
he returned to Damascus to rejoin the Nazarene community. His decision
to return to Damascus meant that, as far as he was concerned, the poli-
tical atmosphere there had once again become safe for him.

       As it turned out, Saul was unable to remain in Damascus this
second time as well. He had succeeded in convincing the Nazarenes that
he was indeed loyal to their cause. However, he had once been a tool of
the Sadducean quislings, and had therefore aroused the ire of the
Zealots who now took a vow to kill him. When it became known that he
was a marked man, the Nazarenes helped him escape from the city. It was
then, and only then, that he decided to go up to Jerusalem and meet
with the apostles.

       Upon his arrival in Jerusalem, Saul received a rather cold welcome
from the apostles. They still remembered his former persecution of
Nazarenes, and still distrusted him even after the three years he had spent
as a member of their sect. In effect, they initially refused to see him or
to have anything to do with him. However, soon afterward, he succeeded in
making friends with one Barnabas, a Levite of Cyprus, of whom Luke says "he
was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith; and (through him)
much people was added unto the lord" (11:24). Acts says that Barnabas was
able to secure an audience for Saul with the apostles, vouching for his
reliability and zealousness for the movement. We are told that he met "the
apostles" but we recall that Saul, in his own letter to the Galatians,
claims that he only met with James and Peter, and spent 15 days with them.
At this time, he was probably able to learn more details about the earthly
life of Jesus, to which he later on was able to give his own
interpretation, for we must remember that he himself said, in that same
epistle to the Galatians, that the traditions ("gospel") that he recieved
were not of man but directly from heaven. At a later point, we shall have
occaision to examine one such tradition, namely, the sharing of the bread
and wine at the Last Supper, or as it is known in Christianity, the

       During his two week stay in Jerusalem, he again displayed his
uncanny knack for making himself personna non grata. He disputed with the
"Grecians" about some religio-political matter (Luke covers up the gist of
the conversations). He managed to raise the ire of some of the
Greek-speaking Jews in the Holy City, and they attempted to kill him. Once
again, he had to be saved by his fellow Nazarenes who spirited him away to
Caesaria, and from there put him on a ship bound for his native city of
Tarsus where he was to remain for a decade. His activities in Tarsus during
those ten years are unrecorded but it is safe to speculate that he spent
them as an active Nazarene, preaching the good news of the man he believed
to be the resurrected messiah, as well as continuing to develop his own
unique understanding of the significance of the life, death, and
resurrection of Jesus. His meeting with Peter and James had enabled him to
expand his knowledge of details about Jesus which previously he had only
had a general idea.

       As far as the apostles of Jerusalem were concerned, Saul's de-
parture from the Holy Land was merely part of the general exodus of the
Greek-speaking Nazarenes, an exodus which caused the authorities to leave
the "Palestinian" body of believers in peace. As a matter of fact, Luke
immediately follows his description of Saul's departure with the following

     "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and
      Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the L--d,
      and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied."
                          Acts 9:31

       That is to say, once the Assembly of the Faithfull were disen-
cumbered of the Hellenic activist messianists, they were allowed to
continue their proselytizing activities throughout the Land, and were
somewhat sucessfull in adding to their numbers.

       By the mention of "Samaria" in verse 31, the author of Acts merely
wished to say that ALL the Land of Israel became open to the Nazarene

       With the arrival of this new freedom from government harrassment,
the apostle Peter went travelling through the cities of the Mediteranean
coast, on a personal "crusade" of proselytization. It was in the city of
Caesarea that Peter came into contact with the Roman centurion Cornelius.

    "There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion
    of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that
    feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people,
    and prayed to God alway."
                             Acts 10:1-2

       Here we are reminded of the centurion at Capernaum (see part 8) who
approached Jesus to have his child healed. We recall a similarity of
description: "for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue"
(Luke 7:4-5). Like the centurion at Capernaum, Cornelius is not just any
ordinary gentile, but a "G-d Fearer", one sympathetic to Jews and Judaism,
yet who had not converted to Judaism. Cornelius is "a devout man" and he
gives "much alms to the people".

       Just as in the case of the Capernaum centurion, Cornelius sends men
before him to ask Peter to come to him. Just as in Capernaum, the Jews in
Caesarea have to vouch for Cornelius' special friendliness to Israel.

    "Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from
     Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the
     cause wherefore ye are come? And they said, Cornelius the
     centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report
     among all the nation of the Jews ... "
                             Acts 10:21-22

       Peter is informed by the centurion that he, Cornelius, has had a
vision from G-d who commanded him to seek Peter out and hear learning from
him. Apparently this Roman was so pro-Jewish that he too waited for the
coming of the Kingdom of G-d. He had heard that the Nazarenes were
preaching that the messiah was to come immanently and he came to inquire
about Jesus.

    "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that
     God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth
     him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."
                             Acts 10:34-35

       Peter was obviously so impressed by this Roman's sincerity, that in
spite of Jesus' teaching that the disciples were NOT to go to the gentiles,
(Mark 7:26-30; Matthew 10:5-6; Matthew 15:21-28), he decided to speak to
Cornelius of the Nazarene hope. Since the Italian Band, o of whihch
Cornelius was the centurion, was not dispatched to Judea until around 43 CE
or 44 CE, this incident had to have taken place after that time. Thus,
about a decade and as half after the death of Jesus, a Nazarene felt safe
discussing a man who had been EXECUTED AS A REBEL AGAINST ROME TO A ROMAN

       Peter was, of course, aware that the Pharisees had taught Jews to
draw people near to the Torah (Mishnah Pirke Avot 1:12). Peter was aware
that Jesus intended his mission to be for Israel only, so he took a bold
step. He was the first of the Nazarenes to actualy do such a thing. He had
Cornelius baptized! (Acts 10:47).One has to understand the amazing
implications of this. Having this gentile baptized implied that Peter had
Cornelius immerse himself in a MIKVEH, the ritualarium of conversion, and
although Luke does not specify, also probably had the centurion
circumsised. Thus Peter established that the Nazarenes could proselytize
gentiles just as the Pharisees were doing. Thus, on that day, Cornelius
became the first person to be converted to Judaism and Nazarenism on the
very same day.

       When word of the conversion of Cornelius, at the hands of Peter,
reached the Nazarenes at Jerusalem there was some consternation among them.
It was not so much that Peter had preached to a gentile that bothered them
(since after all, he was a G-d fearer friendly to Jews) as much as the fact
that he had entered the man's house and eaten there BEFORE the conversion
took place. Peter must have defended himself by saying something to the
effect that he felt Heaven had given him the authority to enter the
centurion's home to effect the conversion, and that he had not eaten any
forbidden foods there. Luke has interjected a story here in which Peter
sees a vision from heaven in which a voice tells him not to call unclean
that which G-d has cleansed. The story is symbolized by a vision of a sheet
descending from heaven containing all the animals of the world. The later
Christian overlay has interpreted this story as the symbol of the abolition
of the dietary laws but the original tradition presumably used the animals
as symbols of the 70 nations of the world, an imagery which we have seen
already in the Book of Daniel. One fact that mitigates against this vision
symbolizing the end of KASHRUT laws is that James, and the other Nazarene
brethren continued to keep those laws.

       Acts informs us that even the Hellenic Nazarenes scattered abroad in
the Nazarene communities in Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Syrian Antioch would
only preach to the Jews living there, not to Gentiles. However the story of
Peter's conversion of Cornelius must have soon reached Antioch, which had a
very large Nazarene community, because certain Cypriot and Cyrenean
Nazarenes began to preach to non-Jews, and this despite the fact that
Peter, having been sufficiently chastized by his Jerusalem brethren, had
decided to back off from prosely- tizing non-Jews and from eating with
them. (Saul was to later criticize him for this in one of his epistles -
Galatians 2:12-13). We remember that Barnabas, the friend of Saul, was a
Cypriot, and he was possibly one of those that began to preach to Gentiles,
and although he also required circumcision and conversion of them,
nevertheless, James and the other Jerusalem brethren were not happy about
this. They probably were still concerned about Jesus' own reluctance to
have his disciples speak to non-Jews (Matthew 19:5-6).

       On the other hand, there is something else to be considered; namely,
whether or not the incident of the centurion of the Roman Band is
historically valid or not. It is essential to remember that Acts of the
Apostles is the only fully developed document that the world posseses,
purporting to detail the development of Christianity from the time of the
resurrection of Jesus to the time of the arrest of Saul and of his
detention at Rome. What Acts REALLY is, is Luke's literary attempt to gloss
over and harmonize the differences and ANTAGONISMS between the original
Nazarenism of the Jerusalem Church, presided over by Peter, James, and
John, and the later Christianity of Saul. It is also clear that Saul/Paul
is the HERO of Acts which was written long after the Jerusalem Church
disappeared (Luke wrote near the end of the first century CE). In order to
justify Saul/Paul as the bearer of the "Orthodox" tradition about Jesus, it
behooved Luke to "Christianize" the original disciples, making it appear
that they always supported Saul in his Christological view of Jesus. This
harmonizing methodology was picked up by later New Testament writers as
well. However, as shall be seen, Paul's own letters to his various churches
show the true state of affairs that existed between him, and Peter and
James, - a state of extreme tension and antagonism, that remain unresolved
till the day he died. Luke may have well been interested in presenting the
"harmony" between Saul and Jesus' disciples first by showing that those
original disciples were themselves PARADIGMS of outreach to the gentiles,
and so he may have woven a story about the "Rock of the Church", - Peter,
venturing out to declare the gentiles "kosher" for conversion to the
"faith" of Jesus. Luke had to have been aware of the displeasure of the
Jerusalem community and its leaders at the prospect of converting the
uncircumcized, and he alludes to it but makes it seem to have been a mild
displeasure that was quickly overcome by agreements between Saul and Jesus'
own brother, James. (This is actually uncomplementary to James since it
makes him appear to have accepted Paul's idea of gathering gentiles in
for the reason of AMBITION; that is, what originally started out as
messianic leader and his group devoted to bringing about the Jewish Kingdom
of G-d on earth, was now blossoming into a great international messianic
movement which might be bearing within it the seeds of the overthrow of
Rome, a possible divinely directed prelude to the return of Jesus; and the
Jerusalem Church would be at the head and heart of this universal movement;
truly as Jesus had said, they would share with him in the judgment of the
nations.) So Luke may have used the story of the conversion of Cornelius in
the same way that he used the story of Philip's conversion of the
Samaritans, to prepare the way for his hero, Paul, to address the gentiles
about his own view of Jesus (By the way, there has never been any proof
that any sort of a Samaritan church ever existed.) Interestingly enough,
the anonymous author of the First Epistle of Peter also pushes the figure
of the chief apostle Peter into a Pauline mold. Can we indeed ever imagine
that the man who followed Jesus and first proclaimed him messiah might ever
ad- monish his converts to do homage to the Roman Emperor??? (I Peter 2:13-
17). But Paul who himself was a Roman citizen had no difficulty in
expressing these very sentiments of loyalty and acquiescence to Rome and
its king. One more piece of evidence relevent to the "harmony" be- tween
Peter and Paul can be found in the Second Epistle of Peter whose author
remains unknown.

     "And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even
     as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto
     him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in
     them of these things; in which are some things hard to be under-
     stood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do
     also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction."
                             II Peter 3:15-16

       Peter is made to explain that Paul has written things that are "hard
to be understood", nevertheles, they are "scripture"!!!!!!!!!!! If Peter
then has been made to CANONIZE Paul by one New Testament writer, why would
Luke then not do something far less radical; merely use Peter to be a
FORE-RUNNER of Paul as John was made to be a fore-runner of Jesus?

       Barnabas, at this time, was in Jerusalem, and the apostles decided
to send him throughout Syria, as far as Antioch, to oversee the reception
of G-d fearing gentiles into the covenant of Abraham and the Assembly of
the Faithfull. But Barnabas decided to exceed his authority and did a most
fatefull thing. Leaving Antioch, he set forth to Tarsus to seek out his
oild friend Saul, and bring him back with him to Antioch to help him in the
Nazarene work going on there. It is highly probabal that these two men had
been in ocrrespondence over the decade that Saul spent in his native city.
Apparently, on their first meeting, Barnabas had been most impressed with
Saul's zeal. Barnabas no doubt liked Saul PERSONALLY aside from any regard
for his religiosity. But more - Saul was not a man to sit around for ten
years engaged in nothing more than speculation. He must have also been very
successful in bringing many people to the Nazarene faith in Tarsus, and the
news of his success must have reached Barnabas, who felt Saul would be of
great assistance to the Nazarene work in the diaspora at large. Saul was
happy to be contacted again by his Nazarene friend, whom he chose to
believe was an emissary from the Jerusalem apostles, sent to bring him abck
into active work. He gladly returned to Barnabas. For a year these two
Nazarene friends worked together, preaching and adding new converts, Jews
and gentiles, to the Nazarene community in Antioch, which was quickly
becoming a major diaspora Nazarene center.

       Barnabas and Saul were both Greek-speaking Jews who addressed
themsleves to other Greek speakers. They therefore, as the other Greek-
speaking apostles, had to present their message in the language and the
style that their audience would understand. Because the Hebrew word,
MESHIACH, literally means "anointed", these apostles translated it for the
Greek speakers whom they addressed, as CHRISTOS, the Greek word for
"anointed". The early originally non-Jewish converts knew precisely what
the term implied because they had been G-d fearers, people who had
congregated at synagogues, and had learned about the Jewish faith and
expectations of a messiah. However, those gentiles which were not
conversant either with Judaism or messianism, thought that it was quite
comical that these Nazarenes hailed a resurrected leader known as the "Oily
one", and they ridiculed the believers by calling them CHRISTIANOUS,"Oily
People" (Acts 11:26). This name was soon picked up by the Greek speaking
Nazarenes just as many names of derision and derroga- tion are picked up by
those who are the objects of the derrogation, and used with a sense of
pride. Since the name Nazarene had little meaning for Greek-speakers, the
name Christian began to spread among them as the preferred synonymic choice
of self-identification.

       At this time, the Roman world was hit by a severe economic depres
sion which caused the community at Antioch to be concerned about the
welfare of the community at Jerusalem. They therefore collected alms among
themselves to be sent to the brethren in the Holy City, choosing to send
the collection by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

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