Most Christians have great respect for the Apostle Paul. And for this reason, I quote many of his teachings in my books. But I also feel a responsibility toward sharing what biblical scholars and historians know about Paul.
Students of the Bible have long known that many of Paul’s writings contradict the teachings of Jesus. For example, in John 10:27 Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Yet in I Thessalonians 1:6-7, II Thessalonians 3:9 and II Timothy 1:13, Paul stated that he was the example Christians should be following.
And this wasn’t the only time Paul disagreed with Jesus: The apostle also appointed preachers to rule over and teach God’s people – even though Jesus explicitly forbid people from exercising authority over His Church. And there are several other areas of Christian doctrine where Paul disagreed with Jesus.
1 — Relevant Biblical History
Biblical scholars consider the Codex Sinaiticus the oldest surviving text of the Bible. This collection of documents was discovered around 1850 CE at the Saint Catherine monastery, located at the base of Mount Sinai in Egypt. It contains the entire set of books that make up our modern Old and New Testaments (although approximately half of the Old Testament writings were incomplete). The exact origins of this Bible are unknown. But scholars have suggested that it was written in Rome or Egypt. And it’s generally accepted that it was created between 325-360 CE.
The Codex Sinaiticus also contains the earliest copies of letters from the apostle Paul – the same thirteen letters we find in our modern bibles. Most of these documents were addressed to a specific church or Christian located in a remote area of the Roman Empire. And Paul asked the recipients to copy some of these letters and send them on to other churches.
But none of Paul’s original letters, or a copy of them, or even a historical mention of them has ever been discovered.
2 — How Did We Get Paul’s Writings?
So if none of Paul’s letters have been found, then how did the Codec Sinaiticus come to contain his writings? It turns out that around 120 CE, a Gnostic Christian named Marcion claimed to possess all of Paul’s writings.
Let’s deviate for a moment to discuss Gnostic Christianity. Gnostics like Marcion believed there are two gods: a “good” god who is trying to save people and bring them to his world (heaven), and a “bad” god who created our earth and all the evil within it. Obviously, Gnostics had little in common with the Christianity brought by Jesus Christ. But during the early years of Christianity, the religion spread rapidly, and it presented a major competition to the early Catholic Church.
Marcion’s family became quite wealthy from building ocean vessels. And Marcion used his wealth to spread his Gnostic beliefs. History records how Marcion traveled to Rome during the early 2nd Century, where he gave what he claimed to be all of Paul’s writings to the Catholic Church, along with a very large donation of money.
No one knows precisely why Marcion did this, since his beliefs were most definitely not Catholic. Some biblical scholars have proposed that Marcion was trying to corrupt Catholicism with what he considered to be false Christian doctrine. But the Catholics didn’t see things that way. They were literally ecstatic about receiving Paul’s writings – and they immediately added them to their Bible.
Why were the Catholics so interested in Paul? Perhaps because his letters contained a doctrine of “pastoral authority,” which is the concept that God places certain people in authority over the Christian Church. So thanks to Marcion, the Catholics now had what they labeled as “Scripture” to back up the authority of their pope, cardinals, bishops and priests.
Of course, Jesus clearly prohibited the doctrine of pastoral authority. But this didn’t seem to bother the Catholics.
3 — The Emergence of Paul
Until Marcion traveled to Rome and gave Paul’s letters to the Catholics, the apostle was completely unknown to Christianity. And beyond the writings Marcion gave to the Catholics, not a single copy of Paul’s letters has ever been discovered.
But this sparsity of Paul’s writings seems unreasonable. Paul wrote multiple letters to nine churches and three individuals located in multiple geographical areas. And as was already mentioned, Paul asked some these churches to copy his writings and send them along to churches in still other areas. Yet all of these letters have simply vanished.
Then there’s the issue of distances. Marcion lived in Sinope, Turkey – which is over 1,400 miles from Jerusalem. While Paul’s journeys to Gentile churches never came closer than 400 miles from Sinope. So how did a non-Christian ship builder, living such great distances from the places Paul lived, visited and wrote to (in the days of foot and horse travel), come to have the only surviving copies of Paul’s writings? No one has provided a reasonable answer to this question.
Some biblical scholars have argued that since Acts and II Peter reference Paul, the authors of these books must have had copies of Paul’s writings. But even if this were true, we would still have to ask how Paul’s writings managed to reach a ship builder who lived 1,400 miles from Jerusalem.
And we also should acknowledge how most biblical scholars consider Acts and II Peter to be fraudulent writings produced by the Catholic Church – writings that may have been created to lend credibility to a fictitious Paul. While the rest of the Bible – along with world history – is completely silent about the existence of a thirteenth apostle.
We might also want to remember how Jesus appointed one apostle to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. And the Lord never gave any indication that He would appoint another apostle for the Gentiles. While the gospels of Jesus never even mention Paul’s name.
4 — Questions About Paul
If you go to the Internet and search for the words “doctrines Jesus verses Paul,” you will find numerous web sites that list over twenty contradictions between the teachings of Paul and those of Jesus. The chief of these is the definition of the gospel: Jesus taught the gospel of the Kingdom of God; while Paul taught an entirely different gospel about grace – something Jesus never mentioned. In fact, within the four gospels, Jesus never even spoke the word “grace.”
Then we have the previously mentioned problems with the origins of Paul’s letters. The archaeological record is quite clear: not a single copy of Paul’s writings has been discovered or even mentioned in historical writings. Instead, all of his letters were supplied by Marcion: a man who preached a non-Christian religion and lived at least 400 miles from the paths traveled by Paul.
These problems, along with the ones listed below, have caused several prominent biblical scholars to conclude that Paul did not even exist – while other scholars have concluded the 13th apostle was solely the invention of Marcion.
Here are some of the issues that have led biblical scholars to these conclusions:
There is no mention of Paul in any apostolic writing that biblical scholars consider authentic;
None of Paul’s original writings – or even copies of them – have ever been discovered;
Paul’s writings indicate that he was arrested and imprisoned in Rome. But Roman records do not corroborate this event;
Paul’s doctrines and teachings are radically differently from those of Jesus, and often contradict what the Lord taught;
The early Christian author Tertullian wrote how he believed Paul was “The second apostle of Marcion and the apostle of the heretics.”
5 — Conclusion
The primary objective of my books is to share teachings of Jesus that are not commonly heard in churches. And when the teachings of Paul agree with Jesus, I often include what Paul wrote.
But there is a great deal of evidence suggesting that Paul never even existed. And I do not believe the writings attributed to Paul can save us. Christians must remember that salvation is solely the product of a personal spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ – a relationship where one learns and carefully follows all of His teachings.
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D. A. Taylor
D. A. Taylor
Copyright 2016 by D. A. Taylor
Prepared on 06/06/21 at 06:25:39 PM
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