Doctrine based on the witness of Jesus' words is the one hope for unity in the present chaotic division in the churches. (Minister, A. Buzzard, 1998)

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The Jesus' Words Only Principle Explained

Introduction

A. Not All Messages from God Are Equally Authoritative

Even a very astute and logical Christian thinker can denigrate the "sole teacher" status Jesus said He had. Such a good Christian and evangelical radio personality -- Greg K. -- recently wrote in an article entitled "Are the Red Letters More Important" in his monthly newsletter for June 2014:

Therefore, Jesus’ words have no more authority than Jude’s, and Paul’s words have no less authority than Christ’s.  In fact, since Jesus is God—the same God who inspired all of Scripture—in a very real sense, Titus’s words and Paul’s words are Jesus’ words.

Since the same doctrine supporting Jesus’ words endorses every other biblical writer, singling out Jesus as a special authority undermines the doctrine of inspiration for all of Scripture

In his monthly newsletter of June 23, 2014, this same well-known Bible commentator likewise writes: "The mistake [of Red Letter Christians] is thinking that red-letter verses (the words of Jesus) have more authority than the rest of the Bible."

So if this Christian thinker is correct, then the words "that are difficult to be understood" from Paul, as Second Peter 3:15 says about Paul's words, are of equal weight to those from "The Prophet" as Peter calls Jesus in Acts 3:22, quoting Deuteronomy 18:18-19.

But if that were true, then why did John the Baptist  -- the greatest prophet who ever lived prior to Jesus (Matthew 11:11) -- believe he "must decrease" so that unfettered acceptance of Jesus' message would "increase" (John 3:30-31)? 

In the Deuteronomy passage which Peter quotes in Acts 3:22 (more on those words later), God Yahweh tells Moses that "every word" of a special prophet called "the Prophet" will be from Yahweh, and God will hold every man "to account" who does not follow what "the Prophet says." (Deut. 18:18-19.)

God never says this about anyone else other than the Prophet. Not everything any other prophet ever spoke was always from Yahweh. Only the words a prophet quoted Yahweh as saying were from Yahweh. Casual talk and explanations recorded in the Bible even though uttered by a prophet are not words from Yahweh. 

Moses had no constant inspiration in everything he said or did. Sometimes his acts were sinful as when he struck a rock inconsistent with what God told him to do. God punished him by not letting him enter the promised land of Israel.

An example of the lack of constant inspiration is the one time Moses was confronted with a difficult legal case to decide, and he concluded he was unable on his own to resolve it. So he "went" to Yahweh with the issue.  (Numbers 27:3 et seq.) This is in accord with Deut. 1:17 "The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it" (Deuteronomy 1:17).

Jesus, however, would not have had the same difficulty or limitation, as we shall see.

There was something distinctly different, unique and superior about The Prophet to come where every word he spoke somehow was from God Yahweh Himself. We know now how this happened, for as Jesus says "the father dwells in me" -- John 14:10 -- an event never true of any other prophet who always, other than Moses, God communicated with by visions. In those cases, the Holy Spirit spoke to the prophet by visions. More proof on that below.

Thus, The Prophet has an even superior standing to Moses, as Moses heard intermittently from Yahweh. Even when Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18-19 announces the words from Yahweh about The Prophet, Moses introduced the quote by his own explanation of the words from Yahweh to follow. See Deut 18:15-16.

Moses necessarily implied his own explanation is NOT what Yahweh said, but Moses' own interpretation of what it meant. Other than that comment, Moses quotes Yahweh promising that a unique prophet is yet to come -- whom we now know as Jesus -- whose every word is God speaking through Him, and thus we are held to account to The Prophet above all prophets.

Thus below, I will establish that Greg --- the Bible thinker who says Jesus' words are not more important than any other passage in the Bible -- is not only an ill-informed opinion, but is soundly rejected by God in Numbers 12:1-14. God explains in that passage that not even all prophets speaking in Holy Scripture when quoting God are speaking with equal authority and clarity. It may be all equally inspired in a general sense when quoting God, but their words do not all have the same priority of emphasis and clarity as to Moses' revelation from God. Our God explains this in Numbers 12:1-14 and Deuteronomy 18:18-19, as more fully discussed below.

And Jesus also explained that the "apostle is not more important than his master." John 13:16. Thus, Jesus explained His words have a priority over any words from an apostle, particularly one whom Second Peter says speaks with "words difficult to be understand." Those words in Second Peter directly relate to God's rebuke of Miriam in Numbers 12:1-14. In that passage, Yahweh says all prophets (except The Prophet) are inferior to Moses because God speaks less clearly to general prophets -- via visions -- and thus in a way more difficult to be understood than God speaks to Moses or The Prophet to come. To repeat, the latter speaks verbatim God's words by some unexplained direct and obviously much clearer means.

 

An Error in Categories by Greg

Besides these principles of priority. we will prove below that Greg makes a categorical error in the above quote. He describes non-prophets as on par with Jesus. That certainly endangers taking Jesus' words as seriously as intended by God.

For example, Jude is no prophet; he was simply a bishop of Jerusalem. The third Bishop of Jerusalem, to be precise.

Paul is also not a prophet. The best that any one has claimed for Paul is that he is an apostle of Jesus. While there are not two witnesses to establish that as true, even so, Jesus said the apostles were only inspired to remember Jesus' words which he spoke to them. (John 14:26.) However, Paul in his epistles never quotes Jesus except two passages in Luke's Gospel -- the communion liturgy and the worker is worth his wage.

The only exception in Paul's epistles is 2 Corinthians 12:7,  but it is so problematical that even Paul aficionados reject these were possibly the words of our Lord Jesus. There Paul says the "Lord" (Jesus? Paul does not say) refused Paul's repeated prayers to be free from the "torment" of an "angel of Satan," the Lord supposedly telling Paul that "my grace is sufficient for you."  Because this apparently has our Lord Jesus refuse to lift a demonic influence over Paul,  Pauline teachers insists that there is something wrong in this text. It supposedly could not be as Paul intended it.  Regardless, this would be the only words of a "Lord" -- possibly Jesus -- quoted in Paul's epistles other than the two quotes of Jesus from Luke's Gospel.  This is hardly any track record to conclude that Paul was a prophet of Jesus's words. 

 

Hence Paul has no words in his epistles from Jesus which are unique and depend upon Paul's recollection that can be relied upon.  In fact, Paul only a few times says the "Lord" says something -- Paul not differentiating this as from Jesus or from an intended allusion by Paul to OT scripture: 1 Cor. 14:37; 1 Tim. 2:11; 1 Cor. 2:13; 1 Thess.4:1-2,8; 1 Thess. 2:13; Eph. 4:17. cf. 1 Cor. 7:25, 40.

Tiers of Authority

Instead, there are four tiers of inspired authority which God demands we follow differently based upon which has priority over the other. The primary passages establishing this are Numbers 12:1-14 and Deuteronomy 18:18-19.

Consequence of Breaching This Order of Priority

As we shall demonstrate below, when we defy this order of priority, God says we are disgraced in God's view. We have improperly inverted the order of authority within those given revelations from God. One is more clear than the other. For example in Numbers 12:1-14, God says Moses' words are more authoritative than words of a mere prophet because God speaks more clearly to Moses than He does to a mere prophet. God intends we understand the more clear authority trumps the authority of the less clear. 

How do we defy this order of priority? God says we do so when we treat someone of lesser authority (such as an ordinary prophet who has only a vision, or a prophet's messenger / apostle of God's word) as on par --- of equal WEIGHT --- with a higher authority such as Moses who spoke with God "mouth to mouth" or The Prophet to come who has the most intimate connection of all. God Yahweh explains these principles in Numbers 12:1-14 and Deuteronomy 18:17-18, as we will explore below.

B. The Four Tiers of Authority Versus A Disgraced God-Encounter

These four tiers of authority are: (1) The Prophet (Messiah); (2) next below Him is Moses; (3) next below Moses are all other prophets because they merely have visions in which God speaks to them; and (4) next below any of the above are prophets only secondarily -- as a "messenger" (apostle) of one who is in divine communication with God, e.g., carrying the message of another who is in divine contact with God -- such as either Aaron who was an apostle to Moses or one of the 12 apostles to The Prophet (Jesus).  

There is a fifth category of one who experiences a direct communication with God. However, God's purpose in this category is to disgrace that person and chastise them for disobeying the priority of authority outlined here, as God does with Miriam in Numbers 12. Because this kind of experience intends to disgrace the recipient, the actual sight of God's form or the vision lends no authority or credence in the recipient's words or teachings.

We shall see this happens to Miriam because she speaks up for her brother Aaron and herself as prophets too. "Has Yahweh only just spoken through Moses?" (Numbers 12:2, Friedman.) God then disgraces her for this audacity of claiming equal divine communication as Moses, despite she and Aaron did have some limited prophetic experiences.

C. Aaron & Miriam as Prophets, And Messengers of A Prophet (Moses)

To understand Numbers ch. 12, we need to know about the prior prophetic role of Aaron and Miriam. Each has a valid claim, but not as significant or substantial as Moses.

First, Aaron primarily acted as a messenger of God's word between God and his brother Moses. Thus, Aaron was called Moses' "prophet" in addressing the Pharoah. (Exodus 7:1 ("Aaron will be your prophet"). This event signified that whatever words Moses heard from the Lord Yahweh were then spoken through Aaron to Pharoah. 

Aaron also performed signs before the people. (Exodus 4:15-16.) God commanded Moses once to tell Aaron to stretch out his wooden rod in order to bring on the first of the three plagues. (Exodus 7:19, Yahweh told Moses "tell Aaron..."); 8:1, 12.)

With one exception that we know of, Aaron never received a direct prophecy that went only to Aaron. Instead, it is said fifteen times in the Pentateuch that "the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron" ("Aaron," Wikipedia) -- obviously in a messenger role first exemplified in Exodus 7:1. The exception is in Exodus 4:27 "Yahweh said to Aaron, 'Go to meet Moses in the wilderness.'" This was a rather insignificant prophecy directly with Aaron.

As a result, Aaron was an inferior "prophet" to Moses. This was understood in early Judaism although in the later post-exile period Rabbinical Judaism elevated Aaron's status to an equality with Moses. But in the Bible itself, we learn:

Thus Aaron, the first priest, ranks below Moses: he is his mouthpiece, and the executor of the will of God revealed through Moses, although it is pointed out[10] that it is said fifteen times in the Pentateuch that "the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron." ("Aaron," Wikipedia.)

Thus, in Aaron's primary role, it was inferior to Moses. God would directly speak a prophetic message to Moses which Aaron would likely hear second-hand from Moses. (Or perhaps sometimes heard simultaneously. We cannot rule out that possibility.) Then Aaron would repeat that message to another. In that Messenger role, Aaron was clearly inferior to his master (Moses). In Greek, the word "messenger" is "apostolos" - rendered Apostle in English. On this topic, Jesus explained that the "apostolos is not more important than the one who sent him." (John 13:16.) 

Otherwise, as noted above, the only direct prophetic communication to Aaron recorded is in Exodus 4:27. But it was quite inconsequential: "Yahweh told Aaron, 'Go to see Moses in the wilderness....'"

As to Miriam, we read in Exodus 15:20: "Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron's sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing."

Thus, both Aaron and Miriam had valid claims to be prophets of God. However, Aaron was more the messenger (apostle) of Moses -- repeating what Moses heard from Yahweh. It is unclear what prophetic messages Miriam received, but we know they took place. Thus, both Aaron and Miriam were within their right to both claim to be prophets of God.

D. Levels of Authority Based on Clarity And Directness of Communication

These four types of prophetic experiences are a tiered hierarchy where the words given by one are more important than the rest, the second than the third, etc.

As discussed below, in Numbers ch. 12 God explains the second and third tiers of authority in my list, indicating Moses is greater than ordinary prophets who God only speaks to in riddles (enigmas) or in visions or in dreams. However, with Moses, God spoke face-to-face ("mouth to mouth"), and explains He does not speak in riddles, speaks clearly to Moses, and Moses sees the form of Yahweh.

As Friedman explains in Commentary on the Torah (Harper 2001) at pages 467-468 -- a great Jewish resource for Christians:

In a vision, in a dream. All prophetic experiences in the Tanak [the Law, Prophets & Writings of the Hebrew Bible] are understood to be all through visions and dreams  -- except Moses'. The fifteen books of the Hebrew Bible that are named for prophets either identify the prophet's experiences as visions or else leave the form of the experiences undescribed (Ezek 12:27, 40:2; Hos. 12:11; Hab. 2:2; Mic. 3:6). Many begin by identifying the book's contents as the prophet's vision: "The vision of Isaiah" (Isa 1:1; cf. 2 Chr. 32:32); "The vision of Obadaiah" (Oba 1); "The book of the vision of Nahum" (Nah 1:1); "The words of Amos...which he envisioned" (Amos 1:1); "The word of YHWH that came to Micah...which he envisioned" (Mic 1:1); "The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet envisioned." (Hab 1:1).

Hence, Moses' priority exists from the CLARITY of expression God uses with Moses, unlike the way God speaks less clearly and more enigmatically to the ordinary prophet.

Then the priority of The Prophet over Moses is explained in Deuteronomy 18. There God Yahweh explains there is The Prophet who is to come. He is even greater than Moses because "every word" The Prophet speaks is from God. This is a higher connection than even Moses had whereby Moses intermittently heard messages directly from the Lord. Not everything Moses said reflected God's word unlike The Prophet to come whose every word would be from God.

E. Why Jesus Has The Most Direct Connection

How did this constant direct inspiration operate with Jesus?

Jesus explained how it worked: the "Father dwells in me" (John 14:10). Every word or act Jesus did was because He saw and heard first the Father doing it. (John 5:19).

In conformance with the priority of Jesus over the classic prophet, we learn John the Baptist -- the "greatest prophet"  -- stops his ministry once he sees Jesus is on the scene. "I must decrease so he may increase." (John 3:30-31.) John, the greatest prophet, knew Jesus had the priority over a mere prophet, even the "greatest prophet." For God spoke from heaven at John's baptism to Jesus: "this day I have begotten thee." (See link.) John realized the Logos had become flesh. 

In addition, Jesus in the NT says He is the "sole teacher" (Matt. 23:6-11, NASB) and "sole pastor"  (John 10:16.) and otherwise, there is no hierarchy to exist in the church among equal brethren. (Matt. 20:25-26.) This preserved His role as the superior within the church -- even greater than "apostles" (messengers) -- because all members were equal.

So the Jesus' Words Only principle teaches the New Testament is solely subject to one voice, one set of commands -- those of Jesus. Yet, when Jesus reaffirms the Law given Moses continues (Matt 5:17-19), that means those commands continue based upon the authority of Jesus despite a "New Testament." The new does not remove or replace the old. They are revitilized and re-interpreted with the greatest clarity by Jesus.

Nevertheless, Jesus has superiority over all the predecessors due to the intimate connection which even Moses did not have: the abiding presence of the Father within Himself. (John 14:10.) Jesus would then be a recipient of even a more clear communication from the Father than even Moses received.

With that introduction in mind, let's begin our study.

Numbers 12: God Reproves Miriam and Aaron On Tiers of Prophetic Authority

Miriam and Aaron were upset that Moses took a Cushite wife. They claimed they too spoke for God, or that God had communicated with them. So therefore Moses should not be the sole point of authority among the Israelites. To this, God reproved them. Here is the entire series of related verses:

Ch. 12  1. Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.

(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

4 At once the Lord [Yawheh] said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. 5 Then the Lord [Yahweh] came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6 he said, “Listen to my words:

“When there is a prophet among you,
    I, the Lord [Yahweh], reveal myself to them in visions,
    I speak to them in dreams.
But this is not true of my servant Moses;
    he is faithful in all my house.
With him I speak face to face,
    clearly and not in riddles;
    he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
    to speak against my servant Moses?”

The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.

10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous[a]—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”

13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!

14 The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back. (Numbers 12:1-14 NIV.)

God essentially equates Miriam's act of rebellion as justifying God disgracing her by leprosy -- the equivalent of "spitting" in her face. 

What was Miriam's contention against Moses about?

Miriam was claiming with Aaron that since God used Aaron and her as prophets, they had an equal authority as prophets from God.

But God explains in Numbers 12 that Aaron or Miriam -- although prophets -- they still rank below Moses. God reproves Miriam for attacking the priority of Moses over them.  The difference God said between the way He speaks to a mere prophet (like them) versus the way He speaks to Moses is:

  • God speaks clearly and without riddles ("enigmas") to Moses.
  • God does not speak clearly or without riddles to ordinary prophets.

Proof of the latter is that John the Baptist, the greatest prophet, was never told by God Yahweh that Jesus was Messiah. (Matt 11:2.) John met Jesus at the baptism, saw the sign from heaven, and heard the voice of Yahweh, but even then nothing was said that Jesus was Messiah. The voice said "this is my beloved son," etc. So John was in the dark -- no doubt hearing riddles and unclear messages. Yet, Jesus calls John the "greatest prophet." Obviously, that did not put John on a higher plane than Moses or Jesus. Those two were on a higher plane.  John never prophetically knew Jesus was Messiah, and thus had to ask Jesus through his disciples visiting Jesus to inquire. (Matt. 11:2.)

And Jesus was on the highest plane of all, as Deuteronomy 18 will demonstrate.

Deuteronomy 18: The Prophet Is Someone Where Communication is Unique

When people saw Jesus feed the 5000, they thought this meant Jesus was "the Prophet." John 6:14-15. After the Ascension, Peter in Acts 3:22-23 and Stephen in Acts 7:37 says Jesus is indeed "The Prophet" spoken about in Deuteronomy 18. There Moses first tells Israelites about "The Prophet." After his preface, Moses then quotes God Yahweh directly on what He said about "The Prophet" in the following passage:

15 The Lord [Yahweh] your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord [Yahweh] your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord [Yahweh] our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

17 The Lord [Yahweh] said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. (Deut. 18:18-19 NIV.)

Note at Jesus' transfiguration, a voice of the same Yahweh speaks from heaven and says of Jesus "listen to Him." (Mark 9:7; Matt 17:5, transfiguration.) 

These words -- "listen to Him" -- repeat what Moses said about The Prophet in Deuteronomy 18. 

Note too that Moses is not shy to tell you this Prophet is above himself in intimacy to Yahweh. The Prophet will be a fellow-Israelite. But then something different is true. God is no longer speaking face-to-face to this one like Yahweh does with Moses, or by visions with ordinary prophets: 

and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. (Deut 18:18-19 NIV.)

Moses explains why God is working this way through this One to come:

16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” (Deut 18:16.)

Hence, God was going to work directly through a MAN like Moses who would not freighten people, as when God was talking from within a fire. This Man would be just as if God was speaking to them with "the voice of the Lord," but now instead of a fire with a scary voice, it would be a voice coming from a "fellow Israelite," a Man who would not freighten them. For previously, the people were so alarmed hearing God's voice, they begged Moses as follows: "Then they said to Moses, Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die." (Exodus 20:19 NASB.) 

It is clearly implied in Deuteronomy 18:16 that this One is not an ordinary prophet who has a vision, or even hears "mouth to mouth" like Moses did. Instead, this prophet was different. God says "I will put my words in his mouth." Because this obviously produces a greater clarity and directness than even Moses enjoyed, God says "I myself will call to account  anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name."  The words of that prophet will judge every man.

God never implies in this context that any ordinary prophet will have this role, because again in Numbers 12 God already told us that an ordinary prophet does not hear as clearly or as directly as did Moses. But here, "the" prophet depicted in Deuteronomy 18 enjoys a special status of somehow being the "voice of the Lord" talking as directly through himself as God spoke from the fire on Mount Sinai.

Jesus explained how this worked.

First, John 1:1,14 tells us the "Logos [was] made flesh." But Jesus tells us in John 14:24 that the "Logos you hear is not mine, but the Father's who sent me." In the same context, Jesus tells us in John 14:10, the "Father ...dwells in me." 

Jesus said that He was simply doing (and saying) what He saw (and heard) the Father doing (and saying):

"Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." (John 5:19 NIV.)

As Jesus elsewhere said: "For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken." (John 12:49 NIV.)

Conclusion

Hence, Jesus was unique. He had a communication with the Father that even Moses knew ahead of time was uniquely different from the way God spoke with Moses. So even though God told Moses, Miriam and Aaron that Moses had a clear and more meaningful contact with Yahweh-God, Moses revealed an even more direct use of The Prophet in the future. This servant would operate like the burning bush served in Moses' encounter. However, instead of the voice coming out of the bush -- scaring people -- it would come out of a Man -- a "fellow Israelite" -- and thus be more familiar and less freightening.

At the same time, God reproved Aaron and Miriam for thinking merely because Aaron spoke God's words which God gave Moses to Pharoah, and on other occassions both Aaron and Miriam spoke as true prophets, that this made Aaron and Miriam equal to Moses. Instead, Aaron remained a mere "messenger prophet" -- having no significant direct revelation akin to Moses' connection to Yahweh. Aaron's messages were derivative of Moses, and hence Aaron could not speak with the same authority which Moses had. And when Miriam and Aaron spoke as prophets, it was merely as temporary visions of God which God says is not the same as He speaks with Moses which is "mouth to mouth," where Moses can see God's "form" and most importantly, God speaks "clearly" and not by "enigmas."

What does God-Yahweh say He regards one who is a Messenger (Apostle) claiming authority equal to one like Moses, let alone one superior to Moses? as equal to or superior to The Prophet Jesus? God said it deserved His doing what is equivalent to spitting in your face to show how disgraced you are before Him. 

Remember Miriam was struck with a skin disease as punishment, and then God explained what she had done:

13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!

14 The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back. (Numbers 12:13-15 NIV.)

Thus, even though Miriam's encounter with God appears that now she even saw God's form standing in front of the tent, and shared this amazing experience with Moses and Aaron, it certainly was not intended to create any kind of trust in Miriam or Aaron thereafter. We were to view them now with distrust for such disgrace.

Hence, not every communication with God and even seeing His form is the same or signifies someone is thereafter a prophet. Miriam and Aaron only served as "witnesses" of this appearance of God and His words as Moses recorded them in Numbers 12. God was not making Miriam or Aaron ongoing prophets after this shameful act, and never spoke through them again.

Paul had a similar experience to the reproof of Miriam and Aaron. Paul has only one encounter with what he once calls a "vision" of light that says "I am Jesus." (Other times Paul says he saw in the light a physical appearance of the resurrected Jesus, making himself an equal witness to the 12 of the resurrection.)

The words of this "Jesus" are all negative toward Paul. Like Miriam's affliction with leprosy, Paul is afflicted with blindness.

Later, Paul is told that another --  one Ananias (about whom nothing is known) -- that Paul would be a "martus" -- a witness -- to the Gentiles. Not an apostle, not a prophet, but just a witness of this appearance of Jesus to himself to the Gentiles. So nothing greater was invested in Paul than was Miriam invested with when she saw God outside the tent of meeting in Numbers 12 to repove her with leprosy. Paul's reproof was blindness.

While I believe there is reason to disbelieve this is the true Jesus in Acts 9 afflicting Paul (see link), let's assume it is so. Here is Acts 9 depiction of this event similar to Miriam's experience, where an angry reproof is given to Paul by one who says "I am Jesus" -- The Prophet - similar to what God said to Miriam outside the tent of meeting in Numbers 12:

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,

And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. (KJV)

The words this Jesus speaks directly heard by Paul -- and not through others -- are entirely negative. All words spoken by this Jesus in this account are highlighted in red and bold. You can see they are the same kind of reproof Miriam received. An affliction of blindness happens as well, similar to what Miriam suffered. This experience does not make Paul a prophet or an apostle. Later Ananias tells Paul that the Holy One told him that Paul should "bear" Jesus name to the Gentiles. The role for Paul depicted in other versions of this account is he would be a "witness" -- Paul would be a witness of this Jesus's reproof for trying to kill Christians. This is not making Paul a "messenger" of any messages of Jesus privately communicated to Paul. Paul was just a witness.

Thus, Paul is not even at the level of Aaron -- who typically was a messenger of God's word given first to Moses. Paul was outside the four tiers of authority -- and rather was a witness to the wrath and negativity of Jesus for persecuting His people. Paul was to share this negative experience to the Gentiles, just like Miriam could witness to the world what negative experience comes from God when you claim to be on par with Moses but you are just a mere prophet, as she was.

On top of this, even Second Peter -- often cited to equate Paul to 'scripture (although a misreading of what this means, see our link), says Paul is "difficult to understand." (2 Peter 3:15-17.)  When true, this implies Paul is subject to the higher priority of those to whom God spoke more "clearly" and not in "enigmas" (riddles) (Numbers 12:8). Paul is thus a lesser authority (even if intermittently inspired) than Moses or Jesus. What does this imply? The Bethel Church of God in 2012 said it right:

Based on the above texts, as well as others, there is only one way to understand Paul’s Epistles. They must be interpreted by the clear texts in the Bible, texts that are not difficult to understand. ("Understanding Paul," Bethel Church of God (2012).)

Because Paul's epistles never quote Jesus other than the liturgy and maybe the worker-is-worthy-of-his his wage (both of which are in Luke), and once dubiously Paul's Lord refused to release Paul from a torment by an "Angel of Satan" (2 Cor. 12:7), any reliance on every word of Paul as inspired is a disgraceful act, God says. Why?

Because when you treat Paul's every word as on par with Jesus, as well as able to subvert and revoke Moses' words, you are subject to disgrace for three misdeeds: 

  • first, by putting Paul equal in authority to The Prophet; 
  • second, by putting Paul's words above Moses words which Aaron and Miriam did not even dare to do -- who were reproved sorely for pleading for an equality between Miriam's and Aaron's roles and Moses' role; and
  • finally, by treating Paul as if Paul were The Prophet whose every word was inspired -- which is only true of The Prophet, and not even true of Moses who only had intermittent communication with God!

Paulinists thus will suffer, absent repentance, God's disgrace upon them, equivalent to God spitting in their face on Judgment Day.

So why would we want to ever take the chance of treating someone like Paul as an inspired authority in every word written even when 99% of the time Paul never claims to be quoting God or Jesus? The only two times Paul quotes Jesus is [1] his quote in 1 Cor. 11:24 from Luke's liturgy of the communion in Luke 22:19 and [2] apparently in 1Tim 5:18 about the worker is worthy of his wage. Paul each time does not even imply this involved any inspiration by himself -- Paul. Otherwise,  we are left with the highly problematic quote by Paul of a "Lord"  refusing to release Paul from the torment by an angel of Satan in Paul's flesh. (2Cor. 12:7.)

 

Then there are only five examples where Paul is quoting the Lord God (not Jesus specifically), and we can infer Paul was quoting what he accepted as oral Torah or it was a loose quotation of the Law or Prophets. See 1 Cor. 14:37; 1 Tim. 2:11; 1 Cor. 2:13; 1 Thess.4:1-2,8; 1 Thess. 2:13; Eph. 4:17. See also our article "Paul Admits He Often Is Speaking Without Inspiration."

What we have done incorrectly is quote Paul as inspired in every word just like we can quote Jesus as inspired in every word. The only reason that is true of Jesus is because Deuteronomy 18 said this would be true alone of The Prophet(Deut 18:18-19 NIV.)  No such honor or elevation belongs to Paul's mere letters. To give them such importance will cause what? God's disgrace upon you, especially as you have let yourself be drawn away from the words and teachings of Jesus - our sole teacher.

End.

 D.  v.


Study Notes

Not all inspiration is of the same authority. This explains why Jews always taught that Torah had higher authority than the prophets.  The Law or Pentateuch - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy & Numbers -- given by God to Moses - always had an authority above any of the Prophets in the Prophets section. (See "Writings in the Original Testament.") 


A father spitting in a child's face was the most extreme form of displeasure and disgrace to exhibit in the Middle East of that era. God was saying that is what Miriam deserved.


The verb for spit is repeated twice here in Numbers 12, to suggest repeated spitting. This means it was not some accidental act of a father. Rather, it was the punishment from a father upon a child.


Aaron was silent, incidentally, as Miriam spoke up on his behalf for an equality with Moses. He was not punished, showing a lesser anger at him for colluding quietly than against Miriam who was the instigator. Friedman suggests it was because Aaron was the high priest, and he had to make personal atonement rather than be disgraced due to his office.


 Email Comments

I read this entire article- it’s absolutely great!   (Matt P, graduate Dallas Theological Seminary, July 29, 2013).