"Jesus said 'A disciple is not above his teacher.' (Matt. 10:24.) Yet we make Paul, the disciple, greater than the teacher." (Bercot, Common Sense, 1992)

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Paul's Biography

Introduction

The Jewish Encyclopedia on "Paul of Tarsus" gives a fair and objective summary of Paul's personality and his impact upon history:

To judge from those Epistles that have all the traits of genuineness and give a true insight into his nature, Paul was of a fiery temper, impulsive and impassioned in the extreme, of ever-changing moods, now exulting in boundless joy and now sorely depressed and gloomy. Effusive and excessive alike in his love and in his hatred, in his blessing and in his cursing, he possessed a marvelous power over men; and he had unbounded confidence in himself. He speaks or writes as a man who is conscious of a great providential mission, as the servant and herald of a high and unique cause. The philosopher and the Jew will greatly differ from him with regard to every argument and view of his; but both will admit that he is a mighty battler for truth, and that his view of life, of man, and of God is a profoundly serious one. The entire conception of religion has certainly been deepened by him, because his mental grasp was wide and comprehensive, and his thinking bold, aggressive, searching, and at the same time systematic. Indeed, he molded the thought and the belief of all [modern] Christendom.

I added "modern" in the last sentence to clarify that Paul's impact is mostly on "modern" Christianity beginning in the 300s. As the Jewish scholar Milgram explains at this link, Paul did not have a significant impact upon early Christianity. In fact, Paul constantly complained of that fact. Also, after Apostle John was released from Patmos into Ephesus, he began appointing bishops in all the churches Paul once had influence, and John moved doctrine back to repentance, works and the Law. See Apostle John was Critical of Paul. Paul's influence was virtually absent from 64 AD to the 300s.

It was not until Constantine in the 300s wanted Sun-Day -- the day of the god of the Sun -- to be a rest day in place of the Sabbath (which came from the Jews) -- that Paul rose in estimation of the 'church.' Paul's anti-sabbath passages were now the basis to condemn all Sabbatarians as following Judaism, and they supposedly need to instead treat Sun-Day as the day of rest. See "Paul Abolished Sabbath." See also Constantine's Damage to Christianity for an indepth proof.

The Basic Facts About Paul

"Paul was born at Tarsus, the principal city of Cilicia...." (George Tomline, Elements of Christian Theology (1818) Vol. 1 at 345.)

"In the Acts of the Apostles he is called Saul till the ninth verse of the thirteenth chapter, and afterwards he is always called Paul. No satisfactory reason has been assigned for this change." (Id.)

"He was of the tribe of Benjamin, and of the sect of the Pharisees. Philipp. 3:5." (Id.)

"Paul is not mentioned in the Gospels; nor is it known whether he ever heard our Saviour preach, or saw him perform any miracle. His name first occurs in the account given in Acts' [account] of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, to which he is said to have consented:" Acts 8:1. (Id., at 346.)

Paul was tried around 58 AD before Caesar (Nero), but in this first encounter was released, but then returned to Rome and this time was martyred. Eusebius records in 325 AD these events.

First, as Eusebius explains, Paul was released as a result of his first trial at Rome before Caesar. We read in Eusebius, The Church History (transl. Paul L. Maier) (Kregel, 1999) 2:22 on page 80: 

Luke...who wrote the book of Acts, finished his story with the statement that Paul spent two whole years in Rome in free custody, preaching without hindrance. After defending himself, the apostle is said to have set out again on the ministry of preaching and, coming a second time to the same city, found fulfillment in martyrdom.

For many other proofs Paul was released by Nero from the charges raised in Acts 21, see the article Review of the movie "A Polite Bribe." We discuss proof from Clement near 70 AD that Paul was released, and went to Spain to do missionary work. Jerome in the late 300s says the same thing, and other sources agree.

It is unlikely Paul ever heard Jesus' voice during Christ's ministry because when the Jesus of the vision on the Road to Damascus is heard by Paul saying "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Paul responds: "Who are you Lord?" (Acts 9:8) - obviously not recognizing the voice. If this were truly Jesus, and Paul heard it earlier during Jesus' ministry, Paul should have recognized the voice. If it was not truly Jesus, and Paul knew he had heard Jesus' voice before, Paul was unable then to discern an imposter. Hence, any way you cut it, Paul's question implies Paul never heard Jesus' voice earlier.

 

Was Paul a tent-maker or the maker of theatrical scenery? Andrew Perriman points out that the usual meaning of the term skenopoios, translated in the English versions of the Acts of the Apostles as "tent-maker" (Acts 18:3) is a stagehand or maker of theatrical scenery. See the next section.

Paul's Real Job Was As A Stage-Hand?

As Perriman points out (see this link), in Anthony Thiselton's The Hermeneutics of Doctrine (2007), as part of a discussion on ‘Christian Doctrine as Dramatic Narrative,’ Thiselton notes the argument of L.L. Welborn that ‘tentmaker’ is an unlikely translation of skenopoios in Acts 18:3. (Id., at 70.) The BDAG Greek Lexicon points to the better attested use of the word is from the context of Old Comedy in which it denotes a ‘stagehand’ or ‘manufacturer of stage properties.’

The problem for the familiar 'tentmaker' rendering is that outside the New Testament, skenopoios is used only in the theatrical sense or figuratively to describe the construction of an impermanent dwelling. That could refer to a tent, but there is nothing in the context of Acts 18:3 to resolve the sense in favour of ‘tentmaker.’ BDAG concludes:

In the absence of any use of the term skenopoios, beyond the pass. in Pollux and the Herm. Wr., and the lack of specific qualifiers in the text of Acts 18:3, one is left with the strong probability that Luke’s public in urban areas, where theatrical productions were in abundance, would think of skenopoios in ref. to matters theatrical.

Welborn thinks that in Paul speaking of Christians as ‘fools’ or ‘clowns’ for the sake of Christ (1 Cor. 1:274:102 Cor. 11:16-17) or of himself and the apostles as having ’become a spectacle (teatron) to the world’ (1 Cor. 4:9), that Paul is drawing on first hand experience of the theatre. (See L.L. Welborn, Paul, The Fool for Christ (2005) at 90.)

In these passages, Paul is alluding to the "Guardian mime" and is using a "theatrical metaphor" throughout these paragraphs. Id. Paul understands himself to be a secondary actor for Christ -- a fool who mimics the actions of the archmime. Id. The mimic fool was a typical character in Greek theater -- copying the acts of another actor.

When Paul shortly thereafter portrays himself as acting with fear and trembling when speaking (1 Cor. 2:1-5), Welborn says this fits a common "theatrical metaphor." Here "Paul portrays himself as a well-known figure in the mime: the befuddled orator." Id., at 92. 

Author James McGrath (The Only True God) notes the implications of viewing Paul's advocation is the more common meaning of skenopoios as a stage-hand and asks:

If that were Paul's profession, how might we think differently about him? How might it change the way we think about his activity of proclamation of the Christian message? ("Paul's Theatrics" July 28, 2010.)

One person comments on Perriman's blog to discuss this question, and aptly notes why we do not wish to accept Paul was a stage-hand yet the tolerable benefits of doing so:

It’s hard to imagine Paul erecting stage scenery. But maybe that’s just another example of interpretive conditioning. In any case, if it helps to bring to life the various cultural frames of reference within which Paul’s mind worked, it can’t be a bad thing. I’m all in favour of deflating his theology to culturally and religiously and politically relevant proportions. (Link.)

Thus, Paul was most probably a theater stage-hand at Tarsus. Whether it is a bad or good thing should not matter: it only matters what is true. And truly, Paul probably was a theater stage-hand.

Paul's Conflicting Accounts of his Wilderness Experience with A Bright-Light Saying "I am Jesus"

Paul had various conflicting versions of his initial encounter with a bright light that said "I am Jesus."

Acts 9:3-7

3. As Saul was coming near the city of Damascus, suddenly a light from the sky flashed around him.
4. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?”
5. “Who are you, Lord?” he asked. “I am Jesus, whom you persecute”, the voice said.
6. “But get up and go into the city, where you will be told what you must do.”
7. The men who were traveling with Saul had stopped, not saying a word; they heard the voice but could not see anyone (NIV) "no man" (KJV) "no one" (YLT)


Paul tells it again but this time differently in Acts 22:6-9:

6.“As I was traveling and coming near Damascus, about midday a bright light from the sky flashed suddenly around me.
7. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?’
8. ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute,’ he said to me.
9. The men with me saw the light, but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.”

So we must ask: did the two men with Paul see the light or not? Did they hear the voice or not?

If we strain to treat Paul politely, one possibility is that Paul saw a light, and the men clearly saw that too, but did not see "anyone" in the sense of a man, as the KJV tries to suggest. It was just a blinding light. However, that's a thin reed and not plausible. Paul equated the light with Jesus, and thus if the men saw the light, they presumably saw "someone" - just not a distinguishable form of a man. Hence, a contradiction appears to be unavoidable in whether the two men saw the light or not.

Regardless, the second contradiction is almost impossible to reconcile: one version says the men heard (root acoustica) the voice, and the second version says the men did not hear (acoustica) the voice. The exact same root word in Greek makes these two versions impossible to reconcile unless you are precommitted that Paul or the men cannot tell Luke the story in conflicting ways.

Because the third version in Acts 26 says only Paul was blinded, it appears only Acts 9:7 is the true account: the two men with Paul did not see anyone. And hence that explains why they were not blinded.

Do Paul's Words Evince Instability?

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11: 16-18 that he talks like a fool and will boast of himself / his deeds even though the Lord would not have him talk like this: 

16. I repeat: no one should think that I am a fool. But if you do, at least accept me as a fool, just so I will have a little to boast of.
17. Of course what I am saying now is not what the Lord would have me say; in this matter of boasting I am really talking like a fool.
18. But since there are so many who boast for merely human reasons, I will do the same.

Paul clearly did not view himself here talking as Holy Scripture. Furthermore, Paul borders on a bit of the zany here. Paul blatantly tells a spiritual community that he will commit the sin of boasting ("not what the Lord would have me say") and instead will talk like a fool, and then boasts for "merely human reasons" of self-glory.

The Lord is clear in Jeremiah 9:24 about the error in Paul's ways where YHVH says, “If anyone wants to boast, he should boast that he knows and understands me.”

Paul clearly knew he was violating that principle, and went ahead anyway with boasting. Paul thereby put in a spiritual letter to a community a litany of boasts of his deeds. It is completely self-contradictory for Paul to do so, let alone a brazen sin shown as an example to a spiritual community. We would expect cult leaders to talk like this. This passage calls into question therefore Paul's mental stability.

Also, this passage reminds us of Jesus' comment in John 7:18:

[Jesus / Yashua said,] “A person who speaks on his own authority is trying to gain glory for himself.”

Was Paul's "Freedom in Christ" Licentious?

Paul had a view that nothing was unlawful for him to perform. Three times he says this: “All things are lawful unto me ... all things are lawful for me" (I Cor.6:12); and again, "All things are lawful for me" (I Cor,10:23).  Add to these the verse, "Happy is he that condemns not himself in that thing which he allows" (Rom,14:22).

Simultaneously, Paul viewed his sins as not done by himself but by the sin itself. In Romans 7:17, we read:

17. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Hence, in Paul's mind, Paul's boasting, cursing, etc. - any of his sin, was not Paul's fault -- "it is no more I that do it." Instead, Paul believed the responsible force is the "sin that dwells in me."

At the same time, Paul did not believe anything he did was actually sinful -- all things were lawful to him.

In What Sense Did Paul Perceive Himself An Apostle of Jesus Christ?

The word "apostle" in Greek means messenger. Paul and any Christian evangelist carries the message of Jesus, or at least so all sincere speakers do. Hence, every believer is a messenger / apostle in that loose sense of the term. But carrying the message does not make any of us one of the special 12 whose words of recollection from Jesus are deemed inspired, as Jesus promised the 12. (Matthias in Acts 1 was appointed by the 11, with the final choice left to Jesus to replace Judas with Matthias.) So did Paul believe he held an honor as apostle identical to what the 12 had? Or did Paul believe he was a messenger / apostle in the same sense that all of us are messengers of Christ?

In some passages, a good case can be made that Paul knew he was an apostle in a small 'a' sense. We learn from Nicholson, The Gospel According to the Hebrews (1879), that this follows from various statements of Paul:

In the N. T. there is no mention of an appearance to James except in 1 Cor. xv. 7, where, having already mentioned appearances to Kephas, to ' the Twelve,' and to 500 brethren, Paul says 'Then was he seen by James, then by all the Apostles.'

There can be no doubt that this James was not the son of Zebedee (whom Paul never mentions and who had been dead many years) but ' James ' (Gal. ii. 9, 13) bishop of Jerusalem, called also 'James the Lord's brother' (Gal. i. 19). The words 'then by all the Apostles ' do not imply that this James was one of the Twelve, but only that he was an Apostle (as he is also styled in Gal. i. 19) —a much wider title, given in the N. T. to Paul, Barnabas, and apparently (Rom. xvi. 7) to Andronicus and Junias: see Bishop Lightfoot's excursus ' The name and office of an Apostle' (Ep. to the Galatians, 92). (Nicholson: 63.)

Thus, Paul had a conception that the label 'apostle' could extend to James and others than the twelve. Hence, in Paul claiming to be an apostle, with his broader definition, it is not unlikely that he took the title in the small 'a' sense. Paul thought himself as a messenger of Jesus, just like any evangelist might be called. If a correct reading, Paul did not understand he was one of the special 12. Regardless, Paul did not understand he spoke with constant inspiration either, as he often explained. See this link.

Paul Complained Of His Lack of Official Recognition As an Apostle

Also, in other contexts, it was clear Paul knew he had no letters of recommendation from the Jerusalem church that 'sealed' him as apostle. Thus, Paul claimed that the existence of the Corinthian church was itself the 'seal' he needed (1 Cor. 9:1-2 "I am not an apostle to others...you are the seal of my apostleship"). He thanked them for accepting him without "letters of recommendation." 2 Cor. 3:1 ("do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you?"; 2 Cor. 10:9-18, viz. 18 "the one who commends himself is not commended, but the one the Lord commends.")

Eisenman cogently explains these passages reveal Paul alluded that he did not have "official 'written letters of Apostolic appointment from James...." (R. Eisenman, The New Testament Code (2006) at 570). See detailed summary of Eisenman's well-demonstrated discussion we present at this link. Thus, if Paul thought himself a true apostle in the capital A sense, Paul knew he did not have this recognition from the 12. All that they ever called Paul was a "brother" in Acts 15 and 2 Peter 3.

Paul Read Bible As Saying That Paul Was The 'Light to the Gentiles'

Paul in Acts 13:47 applied Isaiah 49:6 to himself as the light to the Gentiles. First, Paul says to a group of Jews: "Since you reject it [i.e., Paul's gospel] and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles." Paul next explains he did this in obedience to God's command:

For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

“‘I have made you[a] a light for the Gentiles, 
that you[b] may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ (NIV)

The NIV footnoted a and b to reveal something that indeed is embarassing:

  1. Acts 13:47 The Greek is singular.
  2. Acts 13:47 The Greek is singular.

This tells you about Paul's self-perception -- the "you" was singular and thus a reference to himself. Paul's words border on the sacrilegious if they do not in fact cross the line. But the passage in Isaiah which Paul quotes identifies who is the Light to the Gentiles -- the Servant (which is the Messiah):

he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."

Paul applied a verse that applies to Jesus to himself, arrogating the position of Jesus! And Paul changed it to be a past tense situation "I have made you" rather than the original 'I will also make you...." Indicating, Paul pointed at himself as the fulfillment of this passage!

Incidentally, God in Isaiah 42:6 also identified that He would make the Messiah the "light of the Gentiles." It reads:

I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; (NIV)

Mishaya aptly asks whether Paul was "usurping this Messianic title" in Acts 13:47. See YouTube at 2:31. It appears indubitably so. 

Paul: A Pharisee Who Post-Conversion Admits He Performed Torah for Appearance Sake

Paul says he was born a member of the Tribe of Benjamin. This would make him or his grandparents Jewish. Paul also said he was a Pharisee. (Phil. 3:4-6.)

Did Paul Abandon his Pharasaical ways as a Christian?

Jesus condemned the Pharisees for doing religious observance for appearances, i.e., to be seen by men. (Matt. 15.) Jesus condemned the Pharisees for teaching the less weighty matters of the Law like tithing, but leaving untaught and undone the weightier matters of the Law. (Matt. 23:23.) The Pharisees wrongly replaced the written Law given Moses with oral commands, e.g., a Korban payment excused support for one's parents. (Matt. 15:6.)

So did Paul abandon Pharisaical hypocrisy and Law-negation after conversion?

In Paul's outward actions, Paul clearly observed the Law given to Moses by God. In Luke's depiction of Paul, Paul is a Torah-keeping (Acts 28:17), synagogue attending (Acts 13, 14, etc.), vow taking (Acts 18:18 and 21:24), festival observing (Acts 20:6,16), and sacrifice offering (Acts 21:26) Jew.

However, at the very same time, Paul's words make it clear that this was deliberately done from pretense to gain converts, i.e., a deliberate mask to gain converts by deflecting criticism that he believed the Law given Moses had been done away with. See 1 Cor.9:20-21; see discussion in Jesus Words Only at 66 et seq. Paul was, as he said himself, all things to all men so more would come to Christ.

Thus, Paul's religious observances were admittedly done for appearance sake. Paul shamelessly says this in his writings. This is why Paul could say circumcision was unnecessary but then arrange for Timothy to be circumcised. (Acts 16:3.)

One of the most obvious problems for Paul, but rarely pointed out, is that the Apostolic Gospel of Matthew shows the Lord Jesus condemned the behaviors and beliefs of a Pharisee which in every respect matches the post-conversion Paul although Matthew never used Paul's name.

Paul's Pungent Talk About Jews & Institutions God Said Were Holy & Right for Jews

Paul in Philippians 3:2 calls "dogs" those who want some to be circumcised as an obedience unto salvation. Most say Paul meant to imply Jews were "dogs" for trying to convince Christians to be circumcised. All Paul had to say is this exaggerated Leviticus 12:1-3 which spoke the command solely to "Sons of Israel." James simply denied that duty extended to Gentiles. Nothing insulting had to be mentioned.

However, Paul's insult has led scholars to say Paul's remarks justifies a Christian to think of Judaism to be condemned as a religion. However, this is a far cry from what Jesus ever said. He regarded Judaism as based correctly upon the Father-Yahweh and the Law, and Jews represented the "lost sheep."

However, based upon Paul, we read in J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians: A Revised Test with Introduction, Notes and Dissertations (J. B. Lightfoot's Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul (12th ed.; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1995), at page 53 that Phillipians 3:2 is as "a stern denunciation of Judaism," and at page 43, he says Paul means that "much more serious" than "social dissensions actually prevalent among the Philippians" is "the infection of Judaism."

Hence, Paul condemned a faith God blessed among all faiths on earth, at a time the 12 apostles obviously treated Christianity durings Acts 1-21 as simply a sect within Judaism. Paul was clearly a subversive element in Christianity to divorce it from its mother faith.


In the same verse, Paul also says beware the "mutilation." Philippians 3:2

Often this is mistranslated as 'beware the mutilitators." However, the Harpers Bible Commentary in note p admits the Greek is literally "mutiliation." See Wayne A. Meeks and et al, eds., The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard  Version, with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books (1st ed.; New York: HarperCollins, 1993) at 2207. See also Mark Nanos, Paul's Reversal of Jews Calling Gentiles Dogs (2007) at 2.

Calling "circumcision" a "mutilation" is clearly a derogatory term about something God at least blessed for Jews to perform. A mutilitation connotes something wrongful.

Paul's use of the term "mutilation" was a negative allusion to the evil-working false prophets (1 Kings 18:1-19) who enticed King Ahab to worship Baal and who "mutilitated" their flesh (1 Kings 18:28) -- evidently in a pagan way -- to evoke God's favor. Their confidence in the flesh did not work. Paul was thus equating evidently circumcision with the same kind of pagan mutilation in 1 Kings.

Thus, Paul's doctrine led him to extreme hostility to institutions God established, crossing the line into calling the sign for Jews of circumcision a "mutilitation" and depicting Judaism's adherents as "dogs" seeking to convert Gentiles. All Paul had to say about circumcision was that the Law did not require it for Gentiles in Leviticus 12:3. However, it would be wrong to castigate this holy activity as "mutilitation" because it was simultaneously blessed by God for Jewish Christians, as James explained to Paul in Acts 21, and necessary for a Gentile to observe Passover or enter the Temple.

Paul obviously was not in sync with the Bishop of Jerusalem, James, nor with God in how to explain why circumcision was not necessary for Gentiles -- Leviticus 12:3 applies to the "sons of Israel," and not Gentiles, but at the same time was necessary for Jewish Christian believers or any Gentile who sought to worship at the Temple, according to Prophet Ezekiel.

Madness? Hate-Filled Mind?

Some others note this can be viewed as a mad hatred of others. Is there an unbalanced savagery latent in his tongue? Paul writes: "I wish they would cut themselves off who are unsettling you." (Gal. 5:12.) Professor Eisenman describes Paul’s words at numerous points in Galatians as that which “an objective observer might be forgiven for thinking this man is not only unbalanced but actually mad.” (Eisenman, The New Testament Code (2006) at 580.)

Paul & Link to Pyrrhus, An Important Historical Figure

In Acts 20:4-6: "[Paul] was accompanied by Sopater, son of Pyrrhus of Beroea…these went ahead and were waiting for us at Troaswhere we stayed for seven days." Pyrrhus was an important figure in Macedonia who took power by slight of hand. Some believe this link to Paul is significant. For such a view, see this link.


Time-Line Problems Between Galatians 1:16-17 & Acts 9:26-30

Most authorities say Paul's words in Galatians signify he did not visit the apostles at Jerusalem until Paul was a Christian for 3 years - and then only Peter. See Galatians 1:16-17. The reason Paul did not do so is given in Acts 22:17-21 because Paul -- soon after his Damascus experience -- claims in a trance Jesus told him to "get out of Jerusalem" because the disciples will not believe Paul truly converted to Jesus.

Paul in Galatians 1:16-18 says:

 I did not immediately consult with anyone;[b] 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. (Gal. 1:16-18 ESV.)

This coincides with Paul's testimony in Court in Acts 22:17-21:

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you.20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by andapproving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” (Acts 22:17-21 ESV)

Was Paul's court testimony truthful?

Luke himself exposes the problem. Luke in Acts 9 says that soon after the Damascus experience recorded in Acts 9:1-7 that Barnabas in Acts 9:26-30 took Paul to Jerusalem to see the apostles, leading the reader to imply it actually happened:

26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.[c] But they were seeking to kill him.30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. (Acts 9:26-30 ESV.)

Thus, Paul says in his Galatians epistle that immediately after his Damascus experience he did not go to Jerusalem to see the apostles, and swore in court in Acts 22:17-21 that the reason was Jesus in a trance told him to leave Jerusalem without seeing the apostles because they would not believe Paul's story.

But Luke records in Acts 9 that Barnabas had immediately after the Damascus experience taken Paul to see the apostles and "brought him to the apostles and declared to them" Paul's story.

The only reconciliation is that Barnabas brought Paul to the apostles but they must have refused to visit with Paul. Then Paul was debating in his mind whether to wait around and try again to see the apostles, and the Jesus of Paul's vision must have appeared in a trance to tell Paul to leave Jerusalem without actually seeing the apostles.

This may neatly explain the passages, but the problem remains because (a) Luke is clearly implying in Acts 9 that Paul was presented to the apostles, which would make Paul a liar in Galatians 1:16-17 and a perjurer in Acts 22:17-21, and (b) Paul too makes it appear in Acts 22:17-21 that he was never in the presence of the apostles at all in Jerusalem.

Time-line Issue About the 14 Years Delay

Paul in Galatians also says he returned to Jerusalem 14 years later -- either from the 3 year point mentioned in Gal. 1:16-17 or from the point of conversion -- to hold the meeting recorded in Acts 15. Thus, Acts 15 represents either 14 or 17 years from Paul's Damascus experience.

However, CW in his work Questioning Paul believes a greater period exists if we provide an estimate for some intervening points in Paul's timeline. So it is instead closer to 19 years:

[T]he timeline he provided in Galatians, delineating the number of years which transpired between his conversion and the Yaruwshalaym Summit is too great. According to Paul’s testimony in Acts nine, he spent a considerable period of time in Damascus amazing the locals while confusing the Jews after his conversion. (Acts 9:22-23) Let’s assume this took the better part of a year. Then he claims to have gone off to Arabia for three years before returning to Damascus (Galatians 1:17-18) only to be lowered down the wall in a basket. (Acts 9:24-25 and 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 where he claimed to be fleeing a government official under the Arabian King Aretas who died in 40 CE.) He then went to Yaruwshalaym to meet with Shim’own and Ya’aqob. (Galatians 1:18-19) His travelogue continues through Syria and Cilicia, a journey which collectively could have transpired over the course of a year. (Galatians 1:21) Although in Acts nine, Sha’uwl tells us that he went to Caesarea, bypassing Syria, and then to Tarsus. (Acts 9:30) But then Paul tells us that he was summoned to the Yaruwshalaym Ekklesia "after the passage of another fourteen years." (Galatians 2:1) That’s a total of nineteen years.

The problem with this is that the meeting in Acts 15 is strongly believed to be 50 AD. So if you subtract 19 years, you are at year 31 AD. The crucifixion is 3 year later. But even if you used the 17 year hypothesis, Paul's Damascus encounter would be 33 AD -- a year before the crucifixion. Only if we calculate as short as possible -- just 14 years does Paul have a sequence that can fit the crucifixion. Again, this is if one assumes the Acts 15 meeting were in 50 AD.

This implies only that Paul perhaps overstated the 14 year period. This issue in my view is inconsequential in weighing Paul's validity, as there is not enough evidence to prove a problem.

Was Paul a Roman Spy? Col. Sheldon's Analysis

At the outset, I wish to emphasize I do not believe Paul was a spy for Rome when he professed to be an apostle. However, a biographical synopsis would be incomplete without mentioning this possibility. This is because a very scholarly and respectable case for this notion was made by Col Rose Marie Sheldon, "Operation Messiah: St. Paul, Roman Intelligence and the Birth of Christianity" (2008). Later that book was turned into an article in a respectable biblical journal: "Operation Messiah:  The Political Life of St. Paul,"  Biblical Archaeology Society of Northern Virginia, November 7, 2010.

Col. Sheldon's credentials -- articles on espionage in the ancient world -- are formidable. See http://www.vmi.edu/fswebs.aspx?tid=26499&id=4294967738

The idea for Col. Sheldon's book began with  who on a blog explains how he raised the idea with Col. Sheldon and how she gradually came to agree. Here is Vokuillen's explanation at this blog:

I did not base my thesis on Robert Eisenman's work. He has said that Paul, being a sincere apostle, worked with the Romans to secure his position.

My - our - thesis is that Saul of Tarsus never converted and became an agent-provocateur, handled and protected by the Romans. In other words: we think he probably remained an agent all along. This is a very different interpretation of Saul's life and work that to our knowledge has not been considered before - except by some of Paul's contemporaries, who tried to kill him various times.

I have described the way I came to my conclusions in my MA Thesis, which was published as Alias Paulus in the Netherlands in 2002.

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The original meaning of the word ha-satan was "spy for God". For a spy it is good to be underestimated. A good spy likes it when his enemies think he has been defeated. It makes his job, which depends on secrecy, a lot easier.

I finally decided that, from a writer's perspective, it was not very good form to use the devil as a character, so I decided to take him out. What I had left was a Roman infiltrating the group of Jesus and manipulating the course of events, either in real time or afterwards, i.e. on paper.

The government manipulating the writing of history. It wouldn't be the first time, nor the last, and it always works on paper.

Why would the Romans do that?

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St. Paul, the persecutor who had started preaching turning the other cheek to persecutors, submission to the authorities, and paying one's taxes to the Roman government as the will of God.

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During the writing of the thesis, I approached Col. Rose Mary Sheldon of the Virginia Military Institute. On the internet I read that she was an expert on espionage in ancient times.

I told her I was a student in Holland, who was writing a paper on a provocateur in ancient Rome. Not knowing any more than that, she sent me a few articles related to the subject. I used them for my paper and then sent her the final draft, asking for her opinion.

After several months, I had not heard back from her. I sent her an E-mail in which I repeated the question what she thought of the theory. She replied, "You have very liberal professors. I envy you."

I sent her another E-mail, asking her what she thought of the theory itself. She replied, "I think it is likely."

She asked to keep her updated.

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Until now scholars have stopped at the possibility that St. Paul, an otherwise sincere apostle, worked with the Romans to further his cause.

To my knowledge, no scholar has raised the possibility that Saul never quit being an agent. And as Operation Messiah shows, there are many strong clues to support this possibility, which is highly likely from both a psychological and strategic point of view.

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2008
From 2005 to 2007 Col. Sheldon and I combined our everyday work with writing the book.

We each wrote several chapters. I was responsible for the majority of the chapters on the alleged conversion, the travels and Paul's stay in Rome, including the clues that I had found during the writing of my thesis and the article and adding some new ones.

Finally the book Operation Messiah was published in July, 2008.

Paul Eclipsed by Apostle John At Ephesus

Apostle John outlived Paul. He moved into Ephesus where Paul once preached for three months, converting many. However, Luke tells us in Acts 19 the Ephesus synagogue which once accepted him now expelled him. Paul was already on the decline there, as Paul himself admitted. Then, thirty years later, Apostle John left Patmos and came to live in Ephesus, and brought those communities to follow the doctrines of Jesus. Paul was entirely eclipsed at Ephesus by Apostle John. Evangelical scholar F.F. Bruce explains how this disappearance of Pauline influence came about within orthodox circles at Ephesus, as David E. Blair summarizes Bruce's points:

The consideration of the Johannine community is perhaps the most conservative of these studies. Yet much evidence is weighed back and forth. Bruce locates the community at Ephesus. References to heretical thought in the Gospel of John are reflective of a Roman Asia location. Also, the early Church traditions of the John at Ephesus are strong and extend through Papias, Polycarp, and beyond. While aware of the adventurous work of J. Louis Martyn and Robert E. Brown in "The Community of the Beloved Disciple," Bruce leaves the question of the number of significant persons within the community open and sees a strong possibility of the apostle John at Ephesus and/or Patmos. The Pauline foundation in Roman Asia is seen to be eclipsed, and the ongoing Church there becomes a reflection of Johannine thought. (Review of F.F. Bruce, Peter, Stephen, James and John: Studies in Early Non-Pauline Christianity (Eerdman's 1980)

Paul's Legacy As Would Be Perceived by Late 200s

As Renan has stated, Paul gained a credibility among orthodoxy in the 300s at Rome that did not at all exist prior to that period. Renan begins by telling us Paul had no following among the orthodox Christian groups after his death until the 300s:

After his disappearance from the scene of apostolic struggles we shall find him soon forgotten. His death was probably regarded by his enemies as the death of an agitator. The second century scarcely speaks of him, and apparently endeavors to systematically blot out his memory. His epistles are then slightly read, and only regarded as authority by rather a slim group.* His partisans themselves greatly weaken his pretensions." He leaves no celebrated disciples. Titus, Timothy, and so many others, who, as it were, constituted his court, disappear without renown. (Renan, St. Paul (1875) at 327 (excerpted at our link.)

The reason was simple. The Roman state urgently sought to stop Sabbath-resting practices. It wanted one single day for rest, and it was to be Sun-Day -- the day of worship of the Sun, the god Sol Invictus. Thus, Paul's anti-Law position was used by Roman Catholicism in the 300s at the behest of the state to extirpate Sabbath rest on Saturday and try a syncretic solution of making Christian practices coincide with pagan ones. Hence, the Christian Sabbath changed from Saturday to Sunday to placate Roman Emperors. See our page "Sabbath Command."

Renan records what happened in the 300s to Paul's legacy as a consequence -- but it is limited to Rome and nothing happens to change his reputation in the East (i.e., the Middle East):

In the third, fourth, and fifth centuries, Paul will increase wonderfully. He will become the teacher par excellence, — the founder of Christian theology. The true president of those " great Greek Councils, which make Jesus the keystone of a system of metaphysics, is the apostle Paul. But in the middle ages, especially in the Occident, his fortune will undergo a strange eclipse. Paul will say scarcely nothing to the heart of the barbarians. Outside of Rome, he will possess no legendId.

Had that fortuitous desire of Roman Caesar's to encourage worship of Sol Invictus on Sunday not intervened from the early 300s, where would Paul have been in church history?

We find the answer in Tertullian, a leading orthodox figure in the early church, who said in 207 AD in Against Marcion 3.5 that"Paul is the apostle of the heretics." He clearly spoke disparagingly of him. Specifically, Tertullian in Adversus Marcion at 3:5 (Caput V) said Paul is the "apostle of the heretics." In Latin, he called Paul "haereticorum apostolus." One commentator says this meant "the writings of Paul --- the haereticorum apostolos of Tertullian ---  were regarded suspiciously at Rome." (Hans Lietzmann, The Lord's Supper (Brill: 1979) at 282.)

Tertullian spoke with justification. Among the early gnostic heretics, their writings refer to Paul as "the great (or greatest) apostle" and "Paul who has become like Christ." (A. H. B. Logan, A. J. M. Wedderburn, New Testament and Gnosis (2004) at 13.) Tertullian was correct: Paul was the "apostle of the heretics.

Those who today admire Gnostic views of that era through the 200s cite Paul as the most important influence on the growth of Gnosticism. There are "difficult to understand" statements in Paul that modern Gnostics legitimately claim support Gnosticism, i.e., private revelations from God no longer conforming to the Biblical standard of a prophet confirmed by predictions that come true and are tested against Torah but which we will follow from another's mere assurance. This is laid out by a pro-Gnostic in quite convincing fashion from Paul's own words in an article entitled "The Gnostic Theology of Paul as Taught in His Authentic Epistles." This article defends Paul as a Gnostic who taught Jesus pre-existed His birth and only "appeared to be a man," quoting 2 passages where Paul says this.

While the modern Gnostics proudly hold up Paul for teaching this, this Gnostic-like teaching that Jesus only appeared human was, according to John, the Apostle, the message of the Anti-Christ, i.e., that Jesus had not come in HUMAN FLESH, but only appeared to be a man. (2 John 1:7.) Hence, no one in the early church in the orthodox church promoted Paul's writings to be taken as 100% authoritative.

Rather, no one in the church in the first 300 years endorsed faith alone except the heretic/gnostic Marcion in 144 AD. No one in the early church endorsed predestination; instead, all condemned it as a blasphemy because it would attribute evil to God. And the list goes on. Even on the Law's abrogation, the early church did not agree, and maintained the law applied to Gentiles except circumcision (which in Lev. 12 only applies to sons of Israel), and thus the 10 Commandments were valid for Gentiles to follow (including the 4th--the Sabbath command.) See our article "View of Law in early Church."

Thus, had Rome not needed the anti-Law views of Paul to extinguish the costly practice of two rests per week -- a Saturday and Sunday rest -- Paul likely would have faded from memory, and never been considered an inspired source of revelation. The modern view that Paul founded Christianity, and without him it would have been extinguished in Palestine, is a fiction. The history of the evangelism of the 12 proves they went to the far reaches of Spain, Italy, India, Iran, the Baltic Sea, Turkey, etc. See our page "Paul or James' Church: Who Was The Greater Evangelist?" Paul became a forgotten footnote until Rome needed his epistles to quash Sabbath observance.

Paul's History Contained in "Simon Magus" Critiques

Many scholars concur that "Simon Magus" in the Ebionite influenced works such as the Clementine Homilies (often disparagingly referred to as the Pseudo-Clementine Homolies) represent Paul. The Berlin Pastor, Hermman Detering (born 1953), believes these works are actually historical accounts of the life of Paul. And thus, it demonstrates Peter went to Rome not to work with Paul so much as to confront him. As the Wikipedia article on "Hermann Detering" explains:

Many scholars, since Ferdinand Christian Baur in the 19th Century, have concluded that the attacks on "Simon Magus" in the 4th Century Pseudo-Clementines may be attacks on Paul. Detering takes the attacks of the Pseudo-Clementines as literal and historical, and suggests that the attacks of the Pseudo-Clementines are correct in making "Simon Magus" a proxy for Paul of Tarsus,[3] with Paul originally having been detested by the church, and the name changed when Paul was rehabilitated by virtue of forged Epistles correcting the genuine ones.[4]

Detering's argument expands beyound the Pseudo-Clementines to include other apocrypha, arguing that Simon Magus is sometimes described in apocryphal legends in terms that would fit Paul, though most significantly in Clementine Recognitions and Homilies. Detering contends that the common source of these documents may be as early as the 1st century, and must have consisted in a polemic against Paul, emanating from the Jewish side of Christianity. Paul being thus identified with Simon, Detering argues that Simon's visit to Rome (in the Pseudo-Clementines) had no other basis than Paul's presence there, and, further, that the tradition of Peter's residence in Rome rests on the assumed necessity of his resisting the arch-enemy of Judaism there as elsewhere. Thus, according to Detering, the idea of Peter at Rome really originated with the Ebionites, but it was afterwards taken up by the Catholic Church, and then Paul was associated with Peter in opposition to Simon, who had originally been himself.

Hence, Peter and Paul were not allies at Rome because the Clementines depict a confrontation between Simon Magus (a cipher for Paul) and Peter. And Detering defends that the Clementines are historical not fictional accounts. When Paul was rehabilitated later, the same stories were edited to change "Paul" to "Simon Magus." This makes sense if you read the Clementines for the individual "Simon Magus" is so like Paul it is otherwise uncanny.

Paul's Physical Attack on James, Brother of Jesus / Bishop of Jerusalem.

The Ebionites recorded in the 200s that Paul was involved in instigating a physical assault on James, the Bishop of Jerusalem, for teaching baptism now represents the atonement of Jesus, and no sacrifices are needed at the Temple. Paul chased James up to the Temple pinnacle, and then ran up there, and threw him down. James crumpled on the ground, and Paul left James for dead.

However, there is another account by a Christian historian, Bishop Dorotheus who in the 300s wrote that this similar Temple fall led to James' death. We finally found Dorotheus' claim but it is unreliable because it assumes this James is the same as the apostle James son of Alphaeus... a fiction Jerome created to explain how Jesus’ brother James was the son of another father so as to avoid violating the late Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Due to this flaw in Dorotheus, and the poor reliability of Dorotheus generally according to scholars, we must rely upon the Ebionite account which is paralled by Eusebius' version as the true account of the Temple fall. See our article Did Paul Only Physically Attack James or Murder Him?

The reason this is material is that James was murdered in 62 AD -- over 20 years since Paul's Damascus experience. To believe those who claim Dorotheus' supports that Paul after he became a Christian murdered James requires proof from Dorotheus that still cannot be found. Id. 

 

Death of Paul

In the 4th Century, it was claimed that in the 1st Century Paul died alongside Apostle Peter at Rome. Of course, this was the belated claim of the Roman church who benefited from this account.

However, there is good reason to believe Paul died in Spain. Paul mentions in his epistle to the Romans of his intention to go to Spain. The last contemporaneous account of Paul’s last days from about 70 AD is that Nero released him and he departed for Spain. (1 Clem. 5:5-7.)

Then we learn in Spanish history the following:

"The Christian church in Terragona in northeastern Spain firmly credits its foundation to Paul, in partnership with a follower named Thecla, in AD 60, when Paul was under house arrest at Rome. Perhaps the Spanish date is wrong." (Stephen Dando-Collins, Mark Anthony's Heroes: How The Third Gallica Legion Saved an Apostle and made an Emperor (Wilely 2011) at this google books page link.

Dando-Collins tries to suggest by this that he knows that Paul was still under house arrest in 60 AD. But indeed, this story about Spain implies Paul's release. Indeed, if Paul were ever tried and executed, someone somewhere in theory would have told that story long before Eusebius' very late and brief statement that Paul was executed at Rome at the time of Peter's execution at Rome.

Chrysostum tells a cohesive story in 398 AD but is belatedly adding details that are somewhat contradictory to place Paul's death advantageously at Rome years after Paul went to Spain post-release, and then went to Jerusalem before seeing Rome again. Chrysostum says Paul was set at liberty at Rome, then "went into Spain," and then "came to Jerusalem, and made a visit to Jewish believers there, and then he came to Rome where he was put to death by Nero." (Nathaniel Lardner, Andrew Kippis, The Works of Nathaniel Lardner (1815) Vol. 2 at 607.) Chrysostum later explains that Nero did this because Paul converted a "favorite concubine," and then a different story was that Nero killed Paul because Paul "saluted a butler, or cup-bearer, and a concubine of Nero." And a thrid story was that Paul converted a "cup-bearer of Nero." Finally a fourth story was that Nero killed Paul because Paul found favor with "one of the friends of the emperor." Id., at 619.

Paul's Writings Often Apart from New Testament

In the Fourth Century forward, 34% of the time, the Gospels were typically kept apart from Paul's and the general letters of Jude, James, etc. David Trobisch is a specialist on this issue, counting carefully all the manuscripts, and what order in which Paul's letters were combined. But there was no other NT work except sometimes Acts that was attached, and of course Hebrews, as some thought Paul wrote Hebrews.  See David Trobisch, Paul's Letter Collection: Tracing the Origins (2001), which he has made available free online in PDF.  Trobisch attributes this to a theory of "literary units," that it was more feasible to keep the NT in parts. See pages 9 -11, and chart on page 12.

However, Trobisch then drops a bombshell of sorts. He mentions: "In most cases [i.e., 34% of the time] the letters of Paul were bound together with Acts and the general letters [of Jude, James, Peter, etc.] And very often [i.e., 27.34% of the time] they were written in a separate copy containing no other New Testament  writings as table 2 illustrates." (Page 11.) 

So when you look at the chart on page 12 of Trobisch's work, Paul's writings 27% of the time were all by themselves in the early manuscripts. This undermines the notion that Paul was considered part of the New Testament. And when he was added, Paul was not attached to the Gospels, implying not a literary division, but a division based upon authority. For the Original Testament - the Law, Prophets and Writings were kept on three scrolls deliberately to identify a higher authority of one over the other. Certainly the fact the Gospels were 27% of the time apart from Paul meant more than a "literary" division. It necessarily implied that Paul was not on the same level as our Lord. The fact that all the letters, including Paul, in over 64% of the earlies manuscripts were not joined to the Gospels implied as to all such letters that they had an inferior quality to the words of Jesus. 

Trobisch mentions some important facts about reconstruction. He says 85% of all Christian manuscripts date from the 11th Century or later. (Page 4.)

Timeline of Paul's Life

The Blue Letter Bible has a time-line chart of Paul's life. Interestingly, nothing is known about Paul from 70 AD onward. See this Timeline chart.

Journeys Outside Mention in NT

George Reber in The Christ of Paul (1876) in chapter 8 records, although disputing the validity of what he records:

Speaking of Paul, Clement is made to say, "He preached both in the East and in the West—taught the whole world righteousness, and reached the farthest extremity of the West, and suffered martyrdom, by the command of the Governors." This passage has long been a stumbling-block among learned critics. It is the only authority on which is founded the story, that after Paul was discharged from prison in A. D. 63, he went into Spain, Gaul, and Britain. Caius, the Presbyter, in the beginning of the third century, says: "Writings not included in the canon of Scripture expressly mention the journey from Rome into Spain." Hippolytus, in the same century, says that Paul went as far as Illyricum, preaching the gospel. Athanasius, in the fourth century, says that St. Paul did not hesitate to go to Rome and Spain. Jerome, in the same century, says that "St. Paul, after his release from his trial before Nero, preached the Gospels in the Western parts." (Quoted from Chevallier's Apostolical Epistles, note, p. 487.)

Psycopathic Tendencies In Paul & Paul's Teachings?

Various works suggest Paul had mental imbalances, such as Hugh Schonfeld's work Proclaiming the Messiah (1997). Schonfeld professed belief that Jesus is Israel's Messiah, but otherwise rejected the modern Pauline "Christian" system.

The question arises whether this mental imbalance is because Paul or his teachings have psysopathic tendencies. If you listen to the summary of what is a psychopath, and how they expose themselves by discrepancies of a well-adjusted mind, there are some uncanny similarities with Paul.

In an article by the Weekly Standard (UK) from September 2013, it reports on the nature of a psychopath:

The psychopath is someone who has no concern or empathy for others, no awareness of right and wrong, and who takes extreme pleasure in having power over others. The psychopath has no moral conscience and therefore does not experience guilt or remorse.

Most psychopaths are highly skilled at fooling those around them that they are normal by imitating the emotions that are expected of them in different circumstances. They are consummate at charming people and convincing them they are in the right. It is only when they reveal a discrepancy in their emotional response that they let slip that something may be wrong with them.

Read more: http://www.theweek.co.uk/crime/amanda-knox/55260/amanda-knox-new-dna-sample-knife-bolsters-her-defence#ixzz2lUUOfxU0

Now Paul may not fit this in some respects at first blush. Paul did have concern for others, and did have an awareness of right and wrong, and had a moral conscience, or so it seemed. At least he preached morality to lead us into the belief in Christ to be saved from our sins. However, it may be that Paul's moral sense was solely for that purpose: to lead us to a conversion. And thus we must ask what did Paul intend to create as the "soul" of the person who became a Pauline Christian? Or what did the person Paul thought was "Jesus" on the road to Damasus intend to create as the 'soul' of the Pauline Christian?

For if you follow the logic of Paul's arguments, he seemed to be saying we believers (transformed by his doctrine) should have no guilt or remorse over sin because we aleady are forgiven in Christ. Many famous commentators interpret Paul as saying this ongoing forgiveness after rebirth exists without asking for forgiveness. Max Lucado thus teaches in The Grip of Grace that Paul means the problem is the guilt you feel over sin, and we need to erase this guilt by recognition Christ paid for that sin, rather than by repenting from sin. Likewise, this view is shared by the famous Stanley, and many other leading voices. (The young Luther taught this first in his Babylonian Captivity, actually teaching it was sinful to do good works to please God if you thought disobedience could cost you your salvaiton. The mature Luther severly changed his views on this.)

Hence, if  one seemingly has a moral conscience, but teaches that guilt and remorse for sin ends once you are transformed into a Christian, then it may be your professed morality is only used to initially guilt someone into becoming a Christian. Then after a tactical use of morality, you begin transforming your pupil into a psychopathic one -- one without true guilt or remorse. And hence you, the teacher of such doctrine, don't really have the morality you use to create a conversion. This is reflected in your lesson to your pupil who "believes" that such a moral compass no longer applies once you are a believer. It is perhaps good and wise to continue to be moral, but it is not a necessity, and has no significant costs if not followed. At least this is how many construct Paul's meaning.

Second, the character of a psychopath is to enjoy power over others. Paul's imperious statements - cursing even angels of heaven if they do not follow "my gospel" (Galatians) -- shows a severe case of this characteristic of a psychopath.

Third, Paul admits he tries to fool people that he had conventional values of Jews when around Jews, and the same when around Gentiles. But Paul's own morality was reflected in that admission, as well as his express dictum: you do only that which is expedient to do. This led Paul into the charming ability (still seen today) that he is indeed right. Of course, someone who is all things to all men is by definition charming, and deliberately so. This again is an example of a psychopath.

Finally,  just like any psychopath, Paul also trips himself up. There are indeed discrepancies between Paul's teachings and what people of any normal morality would accept. For example, Paul teaches that government rulers are to be obeyed because they are agents of God, and if you violate their commands, you violate God's will. See Romans 13:1 et seq. Now no person of normal morality believes everything a ruler says is from God, like a prophet, and must be obeyed. But read Romans 13. Paul thus lets slip a discrepancy between what almost every sound-minded person thinks about rulers and what Paul thinks. But someone serving the ultimate pyschopath -- Satan -- will believe what Paul says. For Jesus says these rulers are under the power of Satan, and hence are certainly not agents of God when they command us. But one of pyschopathic tendencies, or taught by a true psychopath (Satan) will have a discrepancy that commands you to obey someone as speaking for God whom Jesus said are under the power of Satan.  

Even if one believes Paul himself was not a psychopath, Paul's teachings have a tendency to be read to create pyschopaths out of Christians who follow Paul's words to the extremes that Lucado and many others teach as proper: Christians should supposedly have no guilt over sin which we commit; pastors should supposedly use the Original Testament solely to guilt others at conversion, but its morality thereafter is allegedly of no concern to follow or repent over. In fact, thereafter, the pastor must supposedly teach the inapplicability of the Original Testament from Genesis to Zechariah. Uggh!

Further Study

A biography of Paul from a site that is critical of Paul is from Truthseekers at this link.

See Wikipedia's bio on "Paul the Apostle."

See Academic Kids Bio of Paul (excellent biography) -- see our mirror hosting of the same.

See Character Traits of Paul (pro-Paul) from the Christian Courier 2015.

You Tube Videos on Paul

Paul the Movie (entire)