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Boulanger, Critical Examination of Paul (1746, reprint 1823)

 

In 1746, Nicolas Antoine Boulanger (1722-1759) of France wrote an able criticism of Paul. It was republished in 1823 in English. Boulanger focused entirely upon Paul's validity, and found him wanting:

"We should never finish, were we to relate all the contradictions which are to be found in the writings attributed to St. Paul.... Generally speaking it is St. Paul ... that ought to be regarded as the true founder of Christian theology,... which from its foundation has been incessantly agitated by quarrels [and] divisions." (Boulanger and Peter Annet, Critical Examination of the Life of St. Paul (letter to Gilbert West, 1746).) For Hutchin's discussion of this book, see this link

Tenor of the Book

The opening letter to a defender of Paul gives us some tenor of the book - that the truth about Paul has been veiled from our eyes by long conditioning:

"Sir,

In our last conversation you appeared to me, very much smitten with St. Paul and his works; you recommended me to reperuse his writings; assuring me that I should there find arguments well calculated to shake incredulity and confirm a Christian in his faith.

Although the actions of this celebrated Apostle, related in the Acts, and his doctrine contained in his Epistles, were already perfectly known to me, yet to conform myself to your desires, and give you proofs of my docility, I have again read those works, and I can assure you that I have done it with the greatest attention. You will judge of that yourself, by the reflections I send you; they will at least prove to you that I have read with attention. A superficial glance is only likely to deceive us or leave us in error. The passions and the prejudices of men prevent them from examining with candour, and from their indolence they are often disgusted with the researches necessary for discovering truth ; that has also been with so much care veiled from their eyes: but it is in vain to cover it, its splendour will sooner or later shine forth; the works of enthusiasm or imposture, will always end by betraying themselves. As for the rest, read and judge. You will find, I think, at least, some reasons for abating a little from that high opinion, that prejudice gives us of the Apostle of the Gentiles....I am not ignorant that it is very difficult to undo at one blow the ideas to which the mind has been so long accustomed; but whatever may be your judgment it will not alter the sentiments of friendship and attachment which are due to the goodness of your heart." (Preface)

Paul's View Alters/Destroys Judaism And Not Merely Proclaims Fulfillment of Promises

Boulanger's text begins.

"[1] Many theologians would make us regard the miraculous conversion and apostleship of St. Paul as one of the strongest proofs of the truth of Christianity. But in viewing the thing closely it appears that this conversion, far from proving any thing in favour of this religion, invalidates the other proofs of it....St. Paul himself willing to make use of these oracles of the Jewish nation to prove the mission of Christ, is obliged to distort them, and to seek in them a mystical, allegorical, and figurative sense. On the other side, how can these prophecies made by Jews and addressed to Jews, serve as proofs of the doctrine of St. Paul, who had evidently formed the design of altering, or even of destroying, the Jewish religion, in order to raise a new system on its ruins? Such being the state of things, what real connection, or what relation, can there be between the religious system of the Jews, and that of St Paul? For this Apostle to have had the right of making use of the Jewish prophecies, it would have been necessary that he should have remained a Jew; his conversion to Christianity evidently deprived him of the privilege of serving himself, by having recourse to the prophecies belonging to a religion that he had just abandoned, and the ruin of which he meditated. True prophecies can only be found in a divine religion, and a religion truly divine, can neither be altered, reformed, nor destroyed: God himself, if he is immutable, could not change it." (Id., at 1-2.)

Paul's Incongruous Position on the Law

Boulanger continues and shows the incongruity of Paul's attacks on the Law and his validity:

"[2] In fact, might not the Jews have said to St. Paul, "Apostate that you are! you believe in Our prophecies, and you come to destroy the religion founded upon the same prophecies. If you believe in our oracles, you are forced to believe that the religion which you have quitted is a true religion and divinely inspired. If you say, that God has changed his mind, you are impious in pretending that God could change, and was not sufficiently wise, to give at once to his people a perfect worship, and one which had no need of being reformed. On the other side, do not the reiterated promises of the Most High, confirmed by paths to our fathers, assure us, that his alliance with us should endure eternally? You are then an impostor, and, according to our law, we ought to exterminate you; seeing that Moses, our divine legislator, orders us to put to death, whoever shall have the temerity to preach to us a new worship, even though he should confirm his mission by prodigies. The God that you preach is not the God of our fathers: ....; thus your new God and your dogmas are contrary to our law, and consequently we ought to hold them in abhorrence." In short these same Jews might have said to St. Paul: " You deceive yourself in saying, that you are the disciple of Jesus, your Jesus was a Jew, during the whole of his life he was circumcised, he conformed himself to all the legal ordinances; he often protested that he came to accomplish, and not to abolish the law; whilst you in contempt of the protestations of the Master, whose Apostle you say you are, take the liberty of changing this holy law, of decrying it, of dispensing with its most essential ordinances." Id., at 2.

Paul's Imbalances, Inconsistencies and False Reasonings

Boulanger makes another introductory criticism at page 5:

By what right can we then affirm to-day that the works of St. Paul, formerly rejected by so many Christian sects, are authentic, that is to say, truly belong to this Apostle? On the other hand, how can we attribute to divine inspiration writings filled with inconsistencies, contradictions, mistakes, and false reasonings, in a word, which bear every character of delirium, of ignorance, and of fraud?

Most Of The Original Church Rejected Paul

Boulanger points out that the first disciples were known as Nazarenes, and continued to keep the Law after Jesus ascended:

We know that the name of Nazarenes was the first which was given to the Christians. St. Epiphanius, from whom the preceding passage is taken, says, " that they were thus named because of Jesus of Nazareth," of whom they were the first disciples. The Jews called them Nazarenes from the Hebrew word Nozerim, which signifies one separated or excommunicated; again they designated them under the name of Mineans, that is to say, heretics. They were also by contempt called Ebionites, which signifies poor, mendicant, weak-minded. In fact, the Hebrew Ebion means poor, miserable, and we know, that the first followers of Christ, were every thing but opulent or intelligent men.

The first faithful, were Jews converted by Jesus himself, or by the most ancient Apostles, such as Peter, James, and John, who as well as their master, lived in Judaism. These Apostles, disciples, and new converts, differed from the Jews in nothing but the belief in Jesus Christ, whom they regarded as the Messiah predicted by the prophets; otherwise they believed themselves bound constantly to observe the Mosaic law, persuaded that their Messiah was come to accomplish and not to destroy this law. In consequence of this, they observed circumcision, the abstinence from certain meats, separation from the Gentiles, in a word, the Jewish rites and ordinances.

Thus the first Apostles, and their adherents, were only Jews, persuaded that the Messiah was already come, and was going soon to commence his reign, which made them hated and persecuted as schismatics or heretics by their fellow-citizens. St. Jerome informs us, "that even down to his time, the Jews used to anathematize the Christians, under the name of Nazarenes, three times a day in their synagogues." Id. at 5-6.

Yet, Boulanger points out that the Nazarenes had a highly negative view of Paul:

The Acts of the Apostles, adopted by the Ebionites or Nazarenes, relate amongst other things, that, "Paul was originally a Pagan; that he came to Jerusalem where he dwelt for some time; that being desirous of marrying the daughter of the High Priest he became a proselyte, and was circumcised; but not being able to obtain the woman he desired, he quarrelled with the Jews, began to write against the circumcision, against the observation of the Sabbath, and against legal ordinances." Id., at 5.

Boulanger points out the presumed validity of the Ebionites' opinions about Paul:

[6] All this evidently proves, that the Nazarenes, or Ebionites, were the first Christians, taught by the most considerable of the Apostles, and that the first Christians were only reformed Jews; this is clearly the only idea we can form of Christianity, such as it was taught by Jesus Christ himself.

How then comes it that since Jesus, Christianity has been so separated from Judaism? a slight attention will prove to us that this is owing to St. Paul. Repulsed by the Jews, or perhaps desirous of playing a more important part, we see him separate himself from his brethren of Jerusalem, and undertake the conversion of the Gentiles, for whom the Jews entertained no sentiment but horror. Encouraged by his first successes and wishing to extend them, he dispensed the Pagans from the painful ceremony of circumcision ; he declared that the law of Moses, was only a law of servitude, from which Jesus was come to free mankind; he pretended that all the old law was merely the emblem and figure of the new; he announced himself as the Apostle of the Gentiles, and leaving Peter and the other Nazarenes to preach the gospel of circumcision, he preached his own gospel, which he himself called the gospel of uncircumcision: in a word, he made a divorce with the Jewish laws, to which his apostolic brethren believed they ought to hold themselves attached, at least, in most respects.

The conduct of Paul, must naturally have displeased his seniors in the Apostleship, but fear appears to have determined them to cede, at least for a time, to our missionary who had already made a considerable" party. Nevertheless the Acts of the Apostles and the writings of Paul, prove to us his quarrels with his brethren, who, according to appearances, never viewed with a friendly eye, his enterprizes and innovations. Moreover, Eusebius and St. Epiphanius inform us, that our Apostle was regarded as an apostate, an impostor, and an enemy by the Ebionites, that is to say, by the first faithful. But St. Paul's party having in the end prevailed, the Jewish law was entirely banished from Christianity, and the Ebionites, or Nazarenes, though of more ancient date and though formed by Christ and his first apostles were declared heretics." Id., at 6-7.

Paul's Doctrines Just Coincidentally Give Him More Power To Grow

Boulanger then makes a point that obviously impressed Kierkegaard -- that Paul's motivation for getting rid of the Law was to increase proselytes, and nothing more:

[13] lt proves to us that Paul and his associate Barnabas found it much easier to convert the Gentiles than the Jews, who showed themselves almost always rebels to their lessons. The docility of the first, and indocility of the latter may be traced to very natural causes; the idolators were destitute of instruction, their priests, content with exacting from them their offerings and sacrifices, never thought of instructing (Acts of Apostles, chap. 12)  them in their religion; thus our missionaries encountered few obstacles in persuading them of the truth of the novelties which they came to announce to them. It was not thus with the Jews, who had a law, to which they were very strongly attached, since they were convinced that it had been dictated by God himself. In consequence our preachers could not make themselves listened to, but, in proportion, as the doctrine they preached agreed with the notions with which the Jews were previously imbued. The Apostles were therefore compelled to reason with the Jews, acccording to their own system, to shew them that the Christ whom they announced was the Messiah which they expected from their own prophets; in a word, in preaching the Gospel to the Jews, the preachers were driven into embarrassing discussions, and perpetually exposed to cavils and contradictions which they had no fear of on the part of the Gentiles, who received without disputing the novelties which they broached to them, and which besides agreed well enough with the notions of the pagan mythology, as we have shewn in another work.

These reflections are sufficient to explain to us the reason of the great success that the Apostles had in preaching to the Gentiles, compared with their endeavours amongst the Jews; they likewise show us especially the true motives of Paul's conduct. In fact, repulsed by the cavils and opposition of the Jews, we see t;span class="gstxt_hlt">Paul and Barnabas turn themselves to the side of the Pagans, who listened to them with more attention and declared to the Jews, that God had forsaken them.

The Gentiles were apparently flattered by the preference; numbers of them adopted the religion announced to them, which did not hinder the Jews from exciting, against our missionaries, the zeal of the female devotees whose clamour obliged them to quit Antioch. Id. at 13-14.

Paul's Improper & Deceitful Behavior With the High Priest

Boulanger points out that the account in Acts of Paul's claim to not know he disrespected the High Priest evinces much disingenuousness. Also, Paul's retort was not in keeping with Jesus's command to turn the other cheek. Boulanger writes:

He first declared that in all he had done, he had followed strictly the dictates of his conscience. At these words the High Priest gave him a box on the ear, at which Paul being irritated, instead of turning the other cheek, according to the precept of Jesus, abused the High Priest, treated" him as a hypocrite, or whitened wall. But as he perceived that he had given offence by his insolence to a man respected by the Jews, he moderated himself, and alleged that he was ignorant that it was the High Priest whom he had thus addressed in such terms; an ignorance, however, which cannot fail to excite surprise, considering that he was a man, who must have been informed respecting the place where he was, and the quality of those before whom he was speaking. Id. at 23.

Boulanger Sees Preposterousness In Paul's Claim To Having Been Taken Up Into the Third Heaven

Boulanger finds ill motives in Paul's assertion that he was taken into the third heaven to hear things which Paul was then not permitted to speak:

St. Paul in speaking of himself says: "That he knew a man who was caught up into the third heaven, and that th'ere he heard unspeakable words, which it was not lawful for man to utter." [2 Cor. 12:2-4.] It appears in the first place that no one but a man of a very heated imagination could with sincerity pretend to have been caught up into the third Heaven; and no one but an impostor, could assert such a fact without being persuaded of it. In the second place we may ask of what use could it be to mankind that St. Paul should hear in the third heaven, unspeakable words, that is to say, such as it was unlawful for man to utter? What should we think of a man who should come and assure us, that he possessed a secret most important to our happiness, but yet one which he was not permitted to divulge? Thus the voyage of St. Paul is either a chimera engendered by a sickly brain, or a fable, contrived by a cheat, who sought to make himself respected by boasting of the peculiar favours of the almighty. This voyage then was perfectly useless, since it was not permitted him who made it to relate that which he learnt from it. In short there is malice in St. Paul thus irritating the curiosity of his hearers and refusing to satisfy it. Under whatever point of view then we behold this history or tale of Paul's ravishment into the third heaven, it can be of no utility to us, and reflects but little honour upon himself. Id., at 31

Boulanger Suggests Paul Had Economic Motive

Boulanger believes Paul's conversion most likely was due to a desire to have income without hard labor. While I disgree with this suggestion, as I trust the sincerity of Paul's experience, it should be considered. Boulanger writes:

[33] There is reason to believe that Paul being of a very unquiet genius, was tired of his trade: desirous of trying his fortune, and living without work, he became the spy of the priests and the informer against the Christians. Dissatisfied with the priests, who perhaps had not rewarded him to the extent of his expectations, he joined the new sect; which assisted by his talents promised good success, or even a probability that he might become the head; at least he might fairly calculate on an easy and honourable subsistence without being obliged to make tents. In fact he saw, that the apostles, who were vulgar men much inferior to himself, lived very well at the expence of the new converts, who eagerly brought their wealth and laid it at the apostles' feet, consequently Paul was sensible, how easy it was for him to live in the same way, and provide himself a very comfortable birth, in a sect, in which he felt himself capable of playing a very important part. His ambition must have been more gratified with occupying one of the first posts, even amongst beggars, than of cringing in an infamous and dishonourable capacity, under avaricious, haughty and disdainful priesls. Indeed Paul himself tells as that he had relations of considerable note among the apostles, who having embraced the 'faith before him, might have laboured with success for the conversion of a man so disposed. Id., at 33.

Boulanger Implies Paul Had Motive To Claim Miraculous Conversion

Boulanger astutely argues that the miracle of Paul's conversion could be more the product of design than truth. But I think this more correctly applies to the pseudo-Christ Paul encountered:

[33] His conversion, effected by a miracle, did honour to his mission, and showed the vulgar the protection of heaven, which changed the heart of the most bitter enemy of the Christians. As Paul was not ignorant that in this sect great value was set upon miracles, visions and revelations, he thought this was the most favourable door by which he could enter, and render himself acceptable to the Apostles; they received him with open arms well assured of the sincerity of [Paul.] Id., at 33.

Boulanger on Imperious Tone of Paul

Boulanger calls Paul a despot. He explains:

[34-35] It appears by the writings attributed to Paul himself that the empire which he exercised over the members whom he had added to his sect, was not one of mildness. In proof of this, may be cited the rnanner in which this spiritual despot speaks to the faithful of Corinth. "Moreover (says he) I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you, I came not as yet into Corinth." Again, " For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things." He threatens the Corinthians, and says to them, "If I come again I will not spare." Again he justifies the tone in which he talks, by saying, "Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction." It is probably by virtue of this right of chastising, here assumed by St. Paul, that the Pontiffs and Priests of the Christians have since arrogated to themselves an unlimited spiritual power over the thoughts of their subjects. Their empire extended itself by degrees over their persons; Christian priests, exceeding the Apostle to whom the Lord had given this power to edify, availed themselves of it to destroy those whom they found not sufficiently submissive to their decisions. If St Paul did not exercise over his sheep a power so extensive, it is doubtless because he had not, like our pastors, princes, magistrates and soldiers under his orders, capable of executing his holy will: with his imperious temper we may justly conclude that he would have conducted himself much in the same manner as some fathers of the church, the Pontiffs of Rome, or the Holy Inquisition. Id., at 34-35.

Paul Held On By Clergy Because Paul Created It

Boulanger makes an insightful analysis that clergy have a strong self-interest to promote Paul as inspired. He advocated a church hierarchy (unlike Jesus who condemned it). Boulanger writes at page 36: 

It is by no means surprising that the heads of the Christian church, have at all times held up St. Paul, as a man divinely inspired; have for a distinction entitled him, the Apostle, have inculcated for his writings the most profound veneration, and have caused them to be considered, as the oracles of the Holy Ghost. This Apostle was evidently the architect of the ehurch. We may consider him especially as the founder of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. It is to him that are owing the prerogatives, privileges, divine rights and pretences of the clergy. St. Paul established bishops, assigned them their rights, and in his writings laid the foundations of that spiritual power, which has since become so formidable to temporal authority. How could the inventor of so many useful things, fail to be regarded as the organ of the divinity.

Boulanger then contrasts what Jesus taught with what Paul taught -- Jesus was against hierarchy, but Paul created it:

[36] Nevertheless, if we read the gospels with the slightest attention, we shall find that Jesus has no where spoken of this hierarchy or power, nor of the prerogatives of the clergy; on the contrary, we see him incessantly preaching to his apostles, equality, humility and poverty. But in that as in many other instances, our Apostle thought himself at liberty to correct the institutions of Christ, who on all occasions shewed himself unfavourable to priests. These changes effected by Paul are sufficient to make us acquainted with his secret policy. He endeavoured apparently to make himself the spiritual and temporal head of the churches, which he had by his labours, founded among the Gentiles, with whom, as we have shewn, he had more success than amongst the Jews. It was to gain them over that he became all things to all men, that be dispensed them, as we have said, from the most essential ordinances of the Mosaic law. In short he had the secret of insinuating himself, into the minds of idolators, whom he sometimes took by surprize accommodating himself to their capacities, and giving them as he [37himself has said, sometimes milk, and at others, solid food.

Paul's Humility: Not!

Boulanger then devotes a chapter to "Paul's Humility." Right away, we know Boulanger finds it lacking. So lacking, that even when Paul says how humble he is, even then it is to exalt himself as more humble than others. Boulanger writes at page 37: 

[37] With the ability and ambitious conduct which we have just remarked in St. Paul it is difficult to conceive that humility could have been his ruling passion. Perusing his writings, we shall without much difficulty discover that when he humbles himself it is generally with a view of exalting himself in the eyes of his adherents; he does not fail to boast of the penalties, sufferings, and labours that he has 'submitted to for love of them, it is upon this, that he founds his claims to their respect and gratitude. "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God:" further on he adds, " for I think that God hath set forth us, the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men."

Boulanger then aptly demonstrates that while Paul criticizes the Corinthians, he raises up himelf as much more worthy than themselves for what he is suffering:

St. Paul then reproaches the Corinthians, with their ease, their luxury, and their pretences, and compares their happy situation with his own. "We are, (says he to them,) fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ: we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place, and labour, working with our own hands." He then enumerates the evils he has suffered, and adds " I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons to warn you." Of what? He explains himself, and says, " For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." Our humble missionary sends them his lieutenant, Timothy, to bring them back to their duty, i. e. to the obedience they owed to their spiritual father, he threatens them himself, and mildly demands of them, "What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?"

Boulanger continues that Paul's words evince an effort to domineer and have exclusive control. To that end, he boasts of his superiority to all the twelve apostles:

[38] In all this remarkable tirade there are no traces of that profound humility, for which credit has been given to Paul: on the contrary, all discover a domineering spirit, and a desire of exclusive power over the faithful whom he had converted. It is generally the proudest men who complain the most bitterly of being despised and treated with contempt; and, amongst devotees, Pride knows how to cover appearances with the garb of humility. However, our Apostle does not give himself the trouble to mask his selflove: in fact, when he compares himself to the rest of the Apostles, he makes us understand, that though he terms himself the last, he has a right to be considered as the first. He says, " For I suppose 1 was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles." It seems that the Corinthians were shocked with the harshness of his tone; for he adds, " but though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge: but we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things." Then feeling that they might be disgusted with these imprudent self commendations, he says, " Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also."

Boulanger then discusses Paul's delivering over to Satan those with whom he disagreed. Boulanger says:

[39] In fact we find, that Paul's self love, did not suffer contradiction with too much patience. He delivers over to Satan those who refuse to obey him, he pretended that any other Gospel, than his own, was abominable. "I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel." He pretends and affirms that he alone taught the true doctrine, and that all others are impostors, false prophets, and disturbers; we are obliged to believe on his own word that he possesses infallibility. He goes so far as to say in the heat of his self-love "But though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you, than that ye have received, let him be accursed."* This language might well appear insolent, presumptuous, and even impious to those who have not faith, nevertheless it is that which is invariably held by the chiefs of every sect; we see them, upon their own authority, continually anathematizing, excommunicating, damning and delivering over to the devil, whoever has the temerity to understand the Gospel in any other way but their own. Every doctor like Paul, declares himself and even believes himself to be infallible; nothing in the world, (not even the angels of heaven) could make him renounce opinions which his self-love, his obstinacy, and his vanity, cause him to behold as the only true.

Boulanger hits on a key point. Even if an angel from heaven told Paul he was wrong, Paul would refuse to budge. But since the true Jesus said those angels are always obeying God, didn't Paul in effect impiously suggest he (Paul) would rebel against God's direct agents to hold onto his gospel. My my! 

[40] The history of Paul, however furnishes us with an embarrassing circumstance. Ardent in dispute and obstinately attached to his own ideas, we see this infallible Apostle boasted of having resisted Cephas, i. e. Peter, to his face, who nevertheless appears to have had titles to infallibility, still better established than those of our Apostle; in fact if Paul, in order to prove his own infallibility, supports it by his visions, inspirations, revelations, and miracles: St. Peter might in favour of his own, oppose to him a great number of visions, dreams, and prodigies equally authentic with those of his brother. If Paul founded the divinity of his mission, and the truth of his particular way of thinking on his own testimony, could not St. Peter cite, in support of his authority, the testimony of Jesus Christ, who had declared him the chief of the apostles, who had established him, as the first shepherd of his flock, and the rock on which, he would found his church? Is it not. upon this authentic evidence, that the Pope, who stiles himself the successor of Peter, founds his infallibility, acknowledged and maintained by the greater part of the Roman Catholic Clergy? There is then reason to be astonished that Paul, with titles not so well established, should have dared to resist Peter to his face, or that he should have boasted of such resistance; and it is not less surprising that the latter should have ceded to his junior in the apostleship, having such powerful arguments to support his claim to infallibility.

Paul Lies Before The Sanhedrin

Boulanger then discusses Luke's account in Acts where Paul lies before the Sanhedrin. Boulanger writes at page 43: 

[43] without faith it is difficult to consider our Apostle as an irreproachable character; though the historian, whoever he be, to whom we are indebted for the Acts of the Apostles, has designed to hold him up as a model of virtue, we find that by a singular oversight he did not seem aware, that he made him tell an untruth in public, and in the most solemn manner in presence of the Sanhedrim or great council of the Jews. In fact as we have already remarked, perceiving that his audience was composed of Sadducees and Pharisees, with the view of dividing them and gaining friends, Paul cried out that he was a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee, and that they sought to kill him, because of his hope in the resurrection.


In this assertion we may detect two deceptions. In the first place Paul was not a Pharisee, at the moment he spoke he was a Christian, ..., he preached Jesus Christ, he laboured effectually to make proselyes to his sect, he had disgusted the Jews in announcing to them a new law, contrary to that of Moses,....

[44] In a word he preached Christianity and not Judaism in the same moment that he declared himself a Pharisee. On this occasion his conduct was in fact that of an apostate, at least it cannot be denied, that he conducted himself as a coward, who did not care to acknowledge his real belief in the presence of the council, and who had recourse to an artifice to outwit his Judges. In fact the conduct of Paul on this occasion has no resemblance to that of a great number of martyrs, who freely acknowledge themselves Christians at the risk of their lives, and boldly confessed Jesus Christ, in the presence of their persecutors and executioners. The presence of the High Priest and council so much imposed on St. Paul, that he declared himself a Pharisee; fear troubled his memory to such a degree, that he forgot he had just acknowledged himself a Christian, and missionary of Jesus to the Gentiles in the presence of the people collected before the gate of the fortress, who indignant at his discourse, cried out, " away with such a fellow from the earth for it is not fit that he should live." Nothing then but theological subtilty, can clear Paul from deception, apostacy, and cowardice on this occasion.


In the second place it was not true, that it was because of the hope of another life, and of the resurrection of the dead, that Paul was persecuted by the Jews. It was for having preached a new doctrine, contrary to the law of Moses; this great legislator has in no part taught us what we ought to believe concerning the resurrection of the dead or of another life. The Jews without ceasing to be Jews, embraced respecting it whatever opinion they pleased, the Sadducees rejected it without however being on that account, excluded from the synagogue, and without ceasing to observe the Judaic law; the Pharisee admitted it without its appearing to cause a schism between them, arrd those who did not think as they did. It is true that Paul had preached the resurrection, but it was that of Jesus, on which he endeavoured to establish a new sect very different from the Jewish religion. Thus the words of St. Paul serve merely a subterfuge unworthy of a man, whom grace ought to have endued with sufficient courage to maintain before the council, at the peril of his liberty and his life, the same sentiments that he had taught the people and preached in all those places where he had planted the faith. It was then for having ... desired in favour of the Gentiles the abolition of the Jewish customs, that Paul was persecuted, the priests were doubtless irritated against a man who sought to abrogate a law and a priesthood which a divine revelation had so many times taught them was to endure eternally, ....

Paul's Hypocrisy

Boulanger then discusses Paul's "Hypocrisy" revealed in Acts. Boulanger writes at pages 45-46: 

[45] We cannot avoid perceiving still more of the insincerity and profound hypocrisy of Paul's conduct at Jerusalem. After having preached in a great number of towns in Asia and Greece, a doctrine revolting to the feelings of the Jews, and which every where caused disturbances amongst them, ...; we see this great Apostle, by the advice of his brethren, submit himself, during seven days, to the Jewish ceremonies; purify himself with affectation. "Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with'them, entered into the temple, to signifythe accomplishing of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them" (Acts 21:6.) But the Jews of Asia, who knew the real sentiments of our missionary, from having heard him preach when amongst them, were not the dupes of his hypocrisy: they excited the people " crying out, men of Israel, help: this is the man that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the laws of this place; and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place." (Acts 21:8.) These were the true charges of the Jews against Paul, and without denying what we find in the Acts of the Apostles, we must acknowledge, that they were well founded.


What should we say in the present day of a bishop, who, whilst pretending to be a Christian, should go for a period of seven days into a synagogue in London or Amsterdam, to fulfil Jewish ceremonies in the sight of the public? We should not fail to regard him as an apostate, or a knave, who had sinister intentions at any rate, the most favourable

[46] construction, we would put upon his motives, would be to suppose him a fool. We are however to admire this conduct in Paul, he pretends to justify himself by the necessity of becoming all things to all men. It is thus we see that hypocrisy, falsehood,- and imposture, are legitimate means, by which to advance the cause of God and gain souls.


Nevertheless there is every reason to think that St. Paul in acting in such a singular manner, had his own interest and safety, more at heart than the cause of the divinity. His conduct has been faithfully copied by a great number of Christian missionaries, and especially by the Jesuits, whom their adversaries often reproach with having frequently assimilated the worship of Jesus with that of those idolatrous people, whom they were endeavouring to convert.

 

Either Paul or Luke Is Lying In This Example

Boulanger then discusses precisely a dilemma similar to the one I noted about Paul's testimony in front of Festus. Either Luke is falsely portraying Paul or Paul is lying. Boulanger reports a similar dilemma about statements which Paul makes in Galatians versus those in Luke's Acts.

This dilemma was later confessed in 1846 by scholar F.C. Bauer in Paul The Apostle of Jesus Christ (1875-76) Vol. 1 at 4. (See also Ludemann's recent discussion of this same contradiction in Paul (2002) at 26. See our webpage discussion of Ludemann's work.)  

Boulanger relays on page 46: 

[Page 46] CHAP. XVII.


St. Paul accused of Perjury, or the Author of the Acts of the Apostles,

convicted of Falsehood.


[46] Not contented with pursuing this oblique or hypocritical conduct, we again see, our great Apostle, evidently, wilfully guilty of perjury, or a false oath. To convince ourselves of this we have only to read the commencement of his Epistle to the Galatians; to prove to them, that the gospel which he announced to them was divinely inspired, he says: "But I certify to you brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me, is not. after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." [Gal. 1:12.] Further on he proves what he advances by saying, "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me but I went into Arabia, and returned again into Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles, saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. Now the things which I write unto you behold before God I lie not." [Gal. 1:15-18.]

But if Paul did not lie, in what he related to the Galatians, it is clear

[47] that the author of the Acts of the Apostles, whom the Christian church regards as an inspired writer equally with St. Paul, has lied. In fact in the ninth chapter of the Acts, it is said that Paul after his conversion, and after having-recovered his sight remained some days with the disciples who were at Damascus; which proves that he was instructed by men, or that he took counsel of flesh and blood. Believing himself sufficiently fortified in his theology, by Ananias or others, he began to preach Christ in the synagogue, at which conduct the Jews were so shocked that they sought to take away his life: but Saul escaped from their fury by means of a basket, and without mention made of his journey to Arabia, he directly returns to Jerusalem, where the disciples were in the first instance fearful of him, but Barnabas, encouraged them, and presented him to the apostles, at the same time relating to them his miraculous conversion, and his courageous preaching at Damascus. In consequence it is said that Paul was added to the number of the faithful. (Acts 9:19-27.)

Boulanger footnotes the "I lie not" passage from Galatians 1:18 with this comment: "This passage proves very forcibly that Paul preached a different gospel from that of the other apostles, i. e. from the Ebionites or Nazarenes."

Boulanger in this contrast between Galatians chapter one and Acts chapter nine has indeed highlighted an insoluble dilemma. Interestingly here, it is not merely a conflict in recollections which we can normally gloss over as due to hyperbole or slight exaggeration. Paul swears an oath that he is telling the truth in Galatians 1:18. (Remember Jesus said not to do this in ordinary speech, where your yes or no to a fact should be enough.) Thus, Paul makes this claim where absolute scrupulousness is promised by Paul, yet it makes Luke into a liar if Paul is honest. No doubt Boulanger has already explained Paul has no problem lying in the court of the Sanhedrin, so Boulanger must regard the fault is Paul's, not Luke's. 

Boulanger continues:

[47] It is easy to see, how little this recital of the inspired historian of the Acts, agrees with that of the inspired Apostle, who wrote to the Galatians, and confirmed his narration by an oath. Besides the journey of St. Paul to Arabia upon leaving Damascus, and which preceded his arrival at Jerusalem by three years, becomes very improbable, as well as his stay in this country. In fact the disciples at Jerusalem must have been in habits of correspondence with those of Damascus, consequently they would thus have heard of an event so interesting to their sect, as the conversion of St. Paul and the pains he took to propagate their doctrines; thus the presence of our Apostle would not have created any uneasiness, and there could have been no need of Barnabas becoming his surety. It appears then that the new convert upon leaving Damascus went directly to Jerusalem, that he had there an opportunity of conversing with the apostles, and that his theology was not intuitive.


But even supposing that the journey and sojourn of three years in Arabia, really took place, it would be no less certain that Paul took a false oath to the Galatians, or that the author of the Acts is deceived. In fact St Paul writes that at the end of three years he returned to Jerusalem to visit Peter, and that he remained fifteen days with him without seeing any other of the apostles. This is quite at variance with the author of the Acts, who informs us that Paul being come to Jerusalem, sought to join himself to the disciples, who were afraid of him, not knowing that he was disciple. Our Saint contradicts all this by a different tale which he confirms by an oath.

Boulanger has deftly presented the reasons why if what Paul said were true, then three years had passed before his arrival in Jerusalem. The apostles should not have been in fear, as Luke records, because by the end of three years, the apostles should have been already told what Barnabas was relaying which in Acts directly follows the events recorded in Acts 9:17 et seq. Boulanger is correct. One or the other is lying. One took an oath -- Paul, and one is assumed by many to be inspired -- Luke. Quite a dilemma.

Then Boulanger highlights next where Paul swears in court to Festus that directly after his conversion he went to Jerusalem (not Arabia) - at odds with the same Paul's words in Galatians chapter one. Boulanger relates:

[48] Moreover by this oath Paul himself contradicts the discourse which the author of the Acts, puts into his mouth in the presence of King Agrippa, of Queen Berenice, and the governor Festus. (Acts 26:29.)

In relating to them his conversion, he says to them, "Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision; but shewed first unto them at Damascus and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance."

Thus according to the author of the Acts, St. Paul himself acknowledges that he first preached at Damascus, then at Jerusalem before addressing himself to the Gentiles. If he had preached during a period of three years in Arabia, he would have spoken of the circumstance, of which no mention is made in all the Acts of the Apostles, whilst we find there the most minute details of the continual journeyings.

Boulanger next digresses into another contradiction -- this time within Luke's account of Paul's vision outside Damascus -- where in one the men do not hear the voice but in another they do. Boulanger presents this to prove that either Paul or Luke is the one to blame once more for a discrepancy that is plain as day:

[48] We shall just remark here a visible contradiction in the Acts of the Apostles. The author of this work in relating the miraculous conversion of St. Paul, says that those who accompanied him, were speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no man. (Acts 9:7.) However the same author, forgetting himself makes Paul say in his discourse to the Jews, "And they that were with me saw indeed the light and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me." (Acts 22:9.)

It belongs to the impartial reader to judge what degree of confidence is due to writers who are so often at variance.

In the first instance Paul solemnly attests by an oath, the truth of a fact, not only omitted [i.e., at 9:17-27], but even formally contradicted by St. Luke [i.e., Acts 26:29], his historian and disciple. In the second instance, the historian contradicts himself. This ought at least to shake the implicit faith, that so many persons put in works which possess neither the consistency nor harmony required in ordinary writers.

Thus, Boulanger proves either Paul or Luke is self-contradictory between Acts 9:7 and 22:9 -- whoever is the source of this inconsistency.

Incidentally, I do not think Luke forgot himself. He is an historian, and he relays what he is told. Yes, he could have smoothed out the conflict. But Luke did not hide many other negative facts about his Paul whom no doubt he tried to cast in a good light. This discrepancy is one that likely was Paul's fault as Luke's intention to cast Paul in a favorable although fair light is indisputable.

Finally, in Boulanger's points here, either Paul or Luke again is falsified in the direct contradiction between Paul in Galatians 1 versus Acts 9:17-27 and Acts 26:29. One or the other again must be found to be inaccurate. 

What is the solution offered against these contradictions? To ignore and whitewash the discrepancies. Boulanger alludes to it: "As to our doctors they tell us their ways of saving the honour of these two inspired ones; whom they have much interest in washing from so grave an accusation, and such a taint upon the Christian religion." Id., at 48.

Miracles Are What Dupes The Credulous

Jesus repeatedly told us to not follow the "signs and wonders" prophets. He feared they would dupe us. Boulanger says very much the same thing:

[49] like all those who have endeavoured to establish new sects, our preacher could not dispense with performing prodigies: this is the most certain method of exciting the admiration of the vulgar. Incapable of reasoning, of judging of the soundness of a doctrine, and frequently unable in the least to comprehend it, miracles always become the most powerful of arguments; they are indubitable proofs that he who works them is the favourite of the divinity, that consequently he cannot be in the wrong, nor capable of a wish to deceive.'

Doesn't Paul Perform A Counterproductive Miracle?

Boulanger than makes an astute observation about Paul's effort to persuade a Roman leader to accept Christ were self-defeating because done in meanness, not mildness, and causing blindness. Paul ends up doing something that would repulse the Roman leader at its unkind action. Boulanger writes:

[50] Our Apostle of the uncircurmcised, or of the district in which the Gentiles were converted, having quitted his brethren, commenced his course of miracles at Papbos. He was upon the point of converting Sergius, proconsul of the province, had not a cursed sorcerer of a Jew, named Barjesus, and surnamed Elymas, i. e. magician, endeavoured to prevent the magistrate from believing in Jesus Christ. Indignant at the obstacle that this man opposed to the divine will, instead of converting and convincing him, Paul abused him according to the present practice of theologians, and called him a child of the devil, and finished with striking him with blindness. If this conduct was conducive to the salvation of the proconsul, who according to the author of the Acts, having seen this miracle, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord, there are many who will not be so edified, at this prodigy, so contrary to Christian charity and mildness. In fact would it not have been more kind of St. Paul armed with divine powe'r, to have enlightened the eyes of the sorcerer's mind, (than to have struck those of his body with darkness? But we always see that the miracle that the apostles as well as their divine master had most difficulty in working was that of convincing those who were not disposed to believe every thing.)

The Python Priestess: Either A Demon Liked Paul or Paul Did a Put On. A Dilemma to Paul's Validity

Boulanger next discusses the events leading up to the exorcism of the Python priestess in Acts 16:17-18. I think Boulanger is being tongue-in-cheek on being dumbfounded why after two weeks of accepting this priestess' endorsement he finally exorcises the demon in her. For in words reminiscent of Christ that "Satan does not cast out Satan," for that represents a house divided, Boulanger notes this demon Python was the Devil who "laboured to destroy his own empire" by promoting Paul. Jesus' words come quickly to mind, and thus Boulanger no doubt means sarcasm as to one possible meaning of the event. He writes:

[52] The miracle wrought by our-saint at Philippi in Macedonia, did not meet with more success, he there cured a girl, who had a spirit of Python, and being by that means possessed of the power of divination, gained great profit to her masters. These, far from acknowledging and admiring the power of a man who reduced to silence Apollo, one of the most powerful gods of paganism, brought Paul and Silas before the magistrates, and excited the people against  them. [53] It is right to remark in this place, that Apollo (i. e. the Devil) who resided in this prophetess, laboured to destroy his own empire. In fact having perceived Paul and his comrade, the girl followed them, crying, these men are the servants of the Most High God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her, and he came out the same hour." (Acts16:17-18.)

To this, Boulanger then queries why her promoting him bothered Paul. Did he not feel he had triumphed over the devil thereby? A good question. 

[52] It is surprising that Paul was grieved at a declaration so favourable to his mission, and that he should impose silence on a demon, whose testimony was so honourable, and likely to draw adherents! but the conduct of saints is always inexplicable. In these unhappy times in which faith is so cold, no credit is given, either to those possessed, or to soothsayers; it is difficult to know what the nature of the spirit of Python, which inhabited the Macedonian girl could have been.

Boulanger no doubt has pressed those who trust Paul by this sarcasm. What other option do they have to save Paul's validity. So Boulanger offers an escape from the possibility that a demon liked Paul (which Luke on the surface presents). Boulanger presents that Paul was possibly involved in guile in this incident as the other alternative:

[52] If we might hazard a conjecture on the subject, it might be supposed that our Apostles, to give themselves some relief, gained her over, and employed her to play her part, by giving her to understand that it would be her interest to attach herself to the new sect, rather than work for masters, who, probably, paid her very poorly for her services from which they drew all the profit.

To support the notion Paul staged miracles to win converts, Boulanger notes that Paul claims to have done miracles before the Corinthians eyes that should have confirmed Paul's validity, but they still distrusted Paul spoke for Christ:

[53] There is reason to believe that Paul performed great miracles amongst the Corinthians, at least he says to them himself: "Truly the signs of an apostle, were wrought among you in all patience, in signs and wonders and in mighty deeds." (2 Cor. 12:12.) However we find that these miracles had not yet sufficiently convinced the Corinthians, since Paul says to them "Seek ye a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you ward is not weak, but is mighty in you." (2 Cor. 13:3.) 

Paul's Admittedly Unstable Mind & Spirit

Boulanger then makes us Christians face the reality of how conflicted and perplexed was the spirit of Paul, so that one may question his mental stability. Boulanger does an artful recap - hinting at this but not directly saying it: 

CHAP. XIX.
Analysis of the writings attributed to St. Paul.


[54] After having examined the character of St. Paul by his conduct, it will be proper to make some reflections on his writings; they will serve to place in a still clearer light,this celebrated man, to whom Christianity owes so many obligations. If we confine ourselves to those works attributed to him, the Apostle of the Gentiles must have been a very extraordinary compound 'of discordant qualities, which when united must have produced an inexplicable whole. He himself informs us, that he had within him two men, the new man, and the old man; the just man, and the sinner. He had two bodies, the one natural and the other spiritual; the body of sin and death, and the body of justification and life. He had within him, two laws, which regulated his actions, the law of sin, and the law of justice, the law of the flesh, and the law of the spirit. Never was poor mortal so perplexed and teazed, than was our Apostle according to his own account, by these two opposite laws, which he had within himself. The carnal man makes him say, (see Romans, chapter vii. verse 18, to the end of the chapter.)

 Boulanger then uses Paul's admitted double-character to suggest we should apply this to what we are reading -- to question which Paul -- the saint or the sinner -- who is speaking. Boulanger again very astutely brings this forth:

In other places the spiritual man, makes him hold another
language, he assures the Galatiaus, that he is one with Christ and crucified with him (see Galatians. chapter vii. verse 19 and 20.) In another place he says to the Romans. "For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." It is clear that this duplicity of nature and law in St. Paul as acknowledged by himself is calculated to throw us into much embarrassment. In fact how can we distinguish in his conduct or discourse, that which springs from the old, from that which arises from the new man, or the spirit of life and the grace of Christ? Is it very easy at this time, to determine which governed St. Paul in those moments in which he spoke, acted, or wrote? Perhaps those maxims and dogmas most admired by Christians have been the suggestions of the flesh, the fruits of the old man, and that this old man often influenced his conduct, which, as we have shewn was not at all times free from reproach. In short the acknowledgments are of a nature well calculated to plunge the most firm Christians into uncertainties from which, without supernatural assistance,they will have great difficulty in extricating themselves. These confessions may further serve to shew us the inconsistencies, contradictions, absurdities, the sophistry and superficial reasoning, and disjointed ideas, which we meet with at every page of the writings attributed to St. Paul. It is to be presumed, that it is the Holy Ghost, or Christ, who speaks when he appears reasonable, it would be blasphemous to say or think, that they could talk nonsense: in this case we shall say, that it is St. Paul or the flesh, who speaks, when we find him using bad arguments, extravagancies,and unintelligible nonsense. We cannot imagine that the spirit of 'God would have made him utter contradictions, or inspired him with a language incomprehensible to those whom he designed to enlighten and instruct by the mouth of this Apostle. In fact, St. Peter himself complains of the obscurities of Paul's epistle?, in which, says he, "are some things hard to be understood." (2 Peter 3:16.)

Detailed Analysis of Paul's Doublemindness

Boulanger proves the above position by showing Paul attacks the apostles as temporizers and then advocates the very same principle:

[55] The distinction which we have just made will enable us to judge of the works of St. Paul, and explain the obscurities which we find in them, as well as the continual variations, which we must remark in his principles. He tells the Galatians that he was angry with Peter, and withstood him to his face, and that he was offended, with the other apostles, because they temporized and used dissimulation, sometimes advocating the usages of the Jews, and at others the customs of the Gentiles. (Gal. 2:11 et seq.) Elsewhere he says (here see 1 Corinthians, chap. ix. ver. 19 to 22) [he temporizes when around those who are not under the Law.] According to these passages, is it right to temporize, or not? It remains for our doctors to decide which of these two principles has been divinely inspired to St. Paul, and in which of them we ought to imitate this great Saint. Our doctors however are not much in the habit of temporizing with their enemies unless they find themselves, too weak to cope with them.

Boulanger was truly inciteful. He next finds another inconsistency which many others have cited, and in a few short words exposes Paul's clear double-dealing - saying one thing but doing another, then saying the opposite thing as well:

[56] Our Apostle declares, formally to the Galatians that circumcision, is useless and will avail them nothing [Gal. 5:6], he says the same thing to the Corinthians. [1 Cor. 7:19.Yet we find him circumcising his dear Timothy [Acts 16:3], and he tells the Romans that circumcision is useful to those who fulfil the law. [Romans 2:25, "Circumcision is useful to them who fulfill the Law."]

Boulanger then levels his assessment of the impression Paul exhibits of a disordered mind:

[56] We should never finish, were we to relate all the contradictions which are to be found in the writings attributed to St. Paul. It is clear that if he be really the author of them, he exhibits himself to us, as a fanatical writer, whose disordered head prevents him from seeing that he is eternally contradicting himself. He says that black is white. He follows only the impulses of a heated imagination; he establishes principles to destroy them immediately; in a word from his want of logic, and the little connexion of his ideas without a most lively faith we should suspect, that he was in a continual state of delirium.

Boulanger then shows how Paul advanced the doctrine of predestination. Paul realizes there is a charge then that God is the author of evil. To this, Paul's response is not logical, but rhetorical: how dare you speak ill of the one who created you? But that is precisely what Paul does: speaks ill of the one who created him. Here is Boulanger's inciteful analysis on this point:

Perpetually involved in figures, allusions and allegories, it is nearly impossible to guess what are his real sentiments. According to his doctrine he appears to establish in the strongest manner the dreadful doctrine of absolute predestination and reprobation. According to him God grants grace to whom he pleases, and whom he pleases he hardens. If we demand how this doctrine can be reconciled with the goodness and justice of God; or how a God who operates in man the will and the deed, can be offended with the wills and actions of men? He extricates himself by asking if the vessel shall say to him who made it, why hast thou fashioned me thus? Thus St. Paul, and after him all Christian doctors, explain the conduct of a God, whom they pretend to love, at the same time that they hold him up as a tyrant, who is not accountable for his most unjust caprices, and [the] despot-like is restrained by no rule!

Boulanger then makes a short observation on Paul's division of body, soul and spirit as evincing Platonic, not Biblical, thought. But then he comments in another inciteful remark: theologians who wish you to buy their doctrines wrap it enigmas, and when you ask hard questions, they insist you must have "faith," but do not provide answers that are truly answers. Here is Boulanger's remarkable analysis:

[57] St. Paul being divinely inspired should have taught us something of the nature of the soul, an object which so embarrasses all philosophers who not being illumined from above, have formed ideas upon this subject, so much at variance with those of our Christian doctors. But far from throwing any light upon this important matter, our Apostle, who appears strongly tinctured with the platonic philosophy so universally taught in his time, distinguishes the body, soul and spirit, and thus obscures the thing still more. But it is the essense of theology to confound every thing, and the interest of theologians to plunge mankind into a labyrinth, from which nothing but faith can extricate them.

Boulanger's Crushing Blow on Paul

Boulanger then puts it all together, and shows that Paul must deride reason and logic so that when the unreasonable things Paul teaches would offend, both theologically and morally, we would just bow to him because illogic and unreasonable beliefs are the sign of faith. Boulanger puts it much better:

[57] Generally speaking it is St. Paul, or the author of the Epistles, (wherever he be) that are attributed to him, that ought to be regarded as the true founder of Christian theology. The mysterious obscurity of his works, the tone of fanaticism which reigns in them, and the unintelligible oracles with which they are filled, render them well suited to impose on the vulgar, who respect things only in proportion as they are impossible to be comprehended. Devout enthusism and pious melancholy there finds a continual feast for its sickly brain. Oracles and enigmas are taken for divine mysteries, which without a strong dose of faith we should conclude were the production of delirium or the inventions of imposture, which seeks to put reason to flight. Reason had no means of examining ideas which are totally unreasonable; thus they persuaded men that it was necessary to renounce reason in order to become a good Christian. In consequence of this principle, so humiliating to mankind and derogatory to the character of a God, the author of reason, it was no longer permitted to examine anything; man was commanded blindly to subscribe to the most incomprehensible reveries, and it was considered meritorious to renounce common sense and adopt fables and opinions revolting to every thinking being. Thus delirium was changed into wisdom, deception into truth, and frequently crime became virtue. They closed the mouths of reasoners by citing the language of Paul, who had said "that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." According to the same Apostle God himself had predicted by the mouth of a prophet, the revolution that Christianity was to produce in the minds of mankind. "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world, &c. (1 Cor. 1:19.) And he concludes by saying, " But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness."

However violent Paul's enthusiasm may have been, he well knew how odd the doctrine he preached, must appear to reasonable beings. He must have been aware, that it overturned all received ideas; that it would not bear the test of examination: that it was a difficult enterprise to persuade sensible beings that a God could die, that this God had arisen again, that an immutable God had changed and annulled the eternal alliance he had made with the Jews, and which been so repeatedly confirmed with oaths, &c. Thus our Apostle in order to pass such improbable opinions, believed it requisite, to substitute folly in the place of reason, and to fortify his disciples against the weapons of logic. For the evidence which results from the testimony of the senses he substituted faith, which according to him is the evidence of things not seen, and evidence which can only be founded on the most stupid credulity.

Thus this prudent orator took care to guard against the philosophy of common sense, and against all science, seeing clearly that they opposed, invincible obstacles to the religion that he sought to establish, and of which he pretended to be the soul and chief. Hence we find he attached the greatest merit to faith, that is to say, to a blind submission to his authority; and such an unbounded confidence in himself (1 Corinth 1:19) as prevented any doubt of those things, the truth of which he attested. As science was injurious to the establishmentof his empire he decried it. "Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth." By charity, we may here understand that affection to a spiritual director which closing the eyes against those defects, which in common with other men he may possess, convinces us that he is always right, that he is incapable of the wish to deceive, and in short, that he ought to be believed in preference to the evidence of our senses. 

It is thus that this great Apostle laboured incessantly to establish his own authority on the ruins of wisdom, reason, and science. However we may reply to his doctrine, so useful to those whose interest it is to maintain absurd opinions and incredible fables, that God who, is, according to them, the author of reason could not have destroyed his own work. We shall demand of St. Paul and of those who like him preach up implicit faith, if folly is more able than wisdom to attain to the knowledge of God? We shall ask of them, if God has given wisdom to men on condition of their never using it, and if it is not by the aid of human wisdom, that man gains some idea of the divine wisdom? We shall ask if God can, without absolutely changing the nature of things, make wisdom folly, and folly wisdom? In short we shall ask them, if in order to become a Christian it is necessary to renounce common sense, or how far our folly must prevail to have a religion?

Boulanger then comments that the answer anyone critical of Paul's doctrine gets is that you must simply believe what you are told. That the theologian knows what is right better than you do:

[59] To all these questions theologians, faithfully treading in the steps of St. Paul, will reply, that we must believe, and that as soon as they speak, we must submit to their authority. "' Faith" says Paul "comes by hearing," whence it results that have faith, we must sacrifice our reason, to the wills of our spiritual pastors. Charity ought to convince us, that these infallible guides, can neither deceive nor desire to lead us into error.

Boulanger then makes an apt point that we are told to keep these apostolic men as infallible when they could not even agree among themselves, citing Peter and Paul's disagreement:

According to this firm persuasion we shall never be embarrassed, unless, by chance, those pastors should happen to disagree in their opinions. This however often occurs in the church, and has done from the commencement. In fact we have seen St. Paul himself resist St. Peter to his face and differ from him in opinion. Their quarrels like many others had fatal results, and produced a true schism between the partizans of Peter, and those of Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles.

Obviously, if there is documentary proof of a disagreement among Apostles, it follows that either (b) both lack constant inspiration; or (b) Peter lacked inspiration and Paul did have it, but then the "apostolic" title is not the source of immediate inspiration; or (c) Paul lacked inspiration, but Peter had it, but then again the title "apostle" does not create immediate inspiration. What we have here are only 3 possibilities, and each proves being an apostle does not make one necessarily inspired. Boulanger has cited a true point.

Boulanger next points out that the church has been subject to schisms and disagreements -- none more so than over Paul's difficult to understant words. Paul is the source of most division over doctrine:

The latter has acknowledged himself, that there must be heresies in a church, perpetually guided by the most high. [1 Cor. 11:19.] This prophecy has been verified in the Christian religion, which from its foundation has been incessantly agitated by quarrels, divisions, animosities, troubles, and paroxysms of fury that would induce a belief, that the gospel was given to nations only to excite in them, fermentations unknown to Paganism, and show them to what a degree of madness credulity could lead.

The writings of Paul especially have furnished in all ages ample matter, for disputes to the Christian doctors. The obscure dogmas they contain, have of necessity been diversely understood by profound dreamers, who have passed their time in meditation. Each pretended to have discovered the true sense of this infallible and divinely inspired doctor. Each found in his writings a confirmation of his own sentiments. Works filled with contradiction continually gave rise to parties the most opposite to each other, and virulently bent upon mutual destruction. The authority of St. Paul was opposed to himself, and in the impossibility of deciding upon questions totally out of the power of reason to discuss, recourse was had to violence, and the strongest always made the weak feel, that they alone comprehended the true sense of the great Apostle. They disputed continually on predestination, on grace, and on the liberty of man; they understood neither themselves nor St. Paul. The most headstrong, the most wicked, and the most powerful, enforced their opinions as the only ones which the Holy Ghost had dictated.

Here, sadly what Boulanger said is true. Christianity due to Paul's writings has been beset by divisions over grace v. works, law and faith. Jesus' words are not the source of conflict in that regard, as His stamp was firmly in favor of the necessity of works and the necessity to obey the Law. (Matt 5:17-19.) Based upon Paul, Jesus' principles were simply dismissed to another dispensation. Hence, the divide comes solely from trust in Paul's words. No one fights and kills over anything Jesus ever said. But hundreds of thousands have been killed over Paul's words.

Finally, in the chapter we have been summarizing, Boulanger takes up 2 Peter 3:16 -- the same context that calls Paul "scripture" (which simply means "writing," not Holy Writ) -- and says Paul is "difficult to understand." Calvin realized how damning that point is, if the words of the inspired Peter are trusted, to give Paul any validity. Boulanger makes the same point in his concluding remark to this particular chapter:

[60] To conclude, the incredulous, are not those, who alone find the writings of Paul obscure and unintelligible, as we have seen in the the case of St. Peter already quoted. If this prince of the Apostles [i.e., Peter] found difficulties in the works of St. Paul, what shall we think of the presumption of modern commentators when they pretend to explain to us, the enigmatical and confused passages that we meet with in the epistles of this doctor of the Gentiles.

Boulanger Addresses The Deification of the Holy Spirit

Boulanger digresses here into that the Holy Spirit in the Original Testament was called the Spirit of the Lord. It came upon men to inspire their words as prophets. But it never was considered a separate person or being from the Lord. Boulanger then criticizes when the church decided (381 AD) to make this Spirit not an emanation from God, but a God distinct from the father and the son.

[63] However useful this deification was to the church, it was attended with some difficulties. In fact how could they reconcile this new God, this Mercury, this messenger of the father and son, with the unity of God? To cut short all dispute upon so important a matter, the heads of the church decided that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the father and son, and yet made but one God with them. They closed the mouths of those who cried out against this unintelligible oracle, by saying it was a mystery, that man was made to adore and believe, without being able to comprehend; they added that the church was infallible had thus decided, that being inspired by the Holy Ghost (i. e. by a God) it was impossible to avoid believing that she had the right to decide, that the Holy Ghost was a God.

In this, Boulanger shows the fallacy of how the Holy Ghost was made a God. 'He is a distinct God because the Holy Ghost inspired us to say He is distinct yet one with two others as God.' 

Boulanger Able Depiction of False Prophets

Boulanger then provides an apt description of the false prophets before Christ, reminding us what a scourge and problem they represented -- recorded both in the Bible and in history: 

[64] The trade of prophesying, appears to have been very lucrative and respectable amongst the Jews, a people degraded by superstition, and whose priests always took care to keep them in a state of profound ignorance [Hos. 4:6, "my people perish for lack of knowledge" of the Law] and credulity, well-suited for the ends of those who sought to direct them after their own fancies. Whoever desired to gain the attention of the Jews, announced himself as inspired, threatened or promised them in the name of the Lord, prophesied to them of evils calculated to intimidate, or of happy events which seduced them into belief. To draw the attention of the public, and frequeutly to produce revolutions in the state, it was enough for a prophet to say gravely, that the Lord had spoken to him; and assure them that heaven had intrusted him with its designs in a vision; thus the brains of the Jews were put into a fermentation. The Apostles desirous of establishing reform, or exciting a revolution, in men's minds, felt the necessity of conforming to the prevailing taste of the nation. In consequence they erected themselves into prophets, gave themselves out for inspired, spoke in an obscure manner, uttered oracles, predicted the end of the world, they preached a messiah, they announced a kingdom in which their followers would enjoy a happiness, which their subjugated country had long since been deprived of. In short to prove the truth of their predictions, and the legitimacy of their mission, they performed miraclesi.e., a works calculated to astonish the credulous...

Boulanger then brings this charge upon Paul ... that he took advantage of the credulity of his audience to give himself more authority than was justified. Boulanger indulges a little more skepticism than I would use, but it is still important to let him be heard:

[65] Thus, as we have already observed, circumstances were favourable for the mission of our Apostle amongst the Gentiles; they were more disposed to listen than the Jews, and to regard him who performed such wonders before them, as an extraordinary man favoured by heaven. In fact, St. Paul gave himself out for such. And how can we doubt the veracity of a man who performs miracles? It was then necessary to give him credit; and without having seen these miracles we believe the same thing, and especially his divine inspiration, upon the authority of the writings, attributed to him, and upon the word of him who has transmitted to us an account of his actions in the Acts of the Apostles, works which the church enjoins us to regard as divinely inspired. It would be, I think, useless to make any long reflections on the validity of the titles of the church, and the right, that the writings which she has adopted have to the claim of divine inspiration. It is enough to remark, that if we admit those titles and rights, we have no reason to refuse also to admit those of any man, or body of men, which shall give themselves out as divinely inspired. If, on the word of Paul, we believe that he was inspired, why shall we not have the same deference for the word of [any others who pretend they were sent by the most high?] If it be permitted to one man, or body of men, to invest themselves with titles, and at the same time forbid the titles to be investigated, we shall be obliged to admit all the reveries, extravagancies, and fables that we see spread over the various countries of the earth. Priests every where show us books, which they say were inspired by the divinity, and weak and silly people adore and and follow without examination books thus announced. All religions in the world are founded upon sacred books which contain the divine will, and whose truth is proved by miracles.

Boulanger correctly believes that miracles alone does not prove inspiration, just as the signs and wonders of the Pharoah's magicians that matched every miracle of Moses except the last one prove nothing about divine inspiration.

 Boulanger then comments on the belief of many that exaggerated speech, and extravagant and obscure talking leads many to think someone is inspired. Then he takes aim at Paul with a poignant quote that bears quoting at length:

[67] But the question at issue is, whether visions, dreams, extravagancies, &c. are signs of divine inspiration. It is true that from the contents of the books, which Christians regard' as dictated by the Holy Ghost, and examining the nonsense and contradictions found in the writings of St Paul, we should be tempted to believe so. If the absence of reason, probability, logic, and harmony, is the distinguishing mark of divine inspiration, we cannot deny that St. Paul has proved himself, by his writings, to have been divinely inspired.
However at this rate nothing can be more easy than to pass for inspired. If madness be a sufficient qualification to cause a man to be regarded as one filled with the Holy Ghost, there are many men who have just pretensions to this faculty. If we doubt it they have only to reply gravely that God hath confounded the wisdom of the wise; that our rebellious reason ought to be submissive, that the human mind "becomes perverted by reasoning. Such is however the language continually repeated by the supporters of St. Paul and Christianity. According to them, wisdom is folly, reason an uncertain guide, common sense useless, and contradictions are impenetrable mysteries, which we must adore in silence; and when our mind loses itself in the abyss of folly and imposture, they cry out with their great Apostle: ." Oh! the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his ways, and his judgments past finding out!" A lucky quibble of which our theologians avail themselves with success, in order to escape from the embarrassment into which they are thrown by any reasoning on the ways of providence.

Next Boulanger embarks on saying those who blaspheme God can only succeed to mislead us by wrapping their words in claims of inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and by attacking reason, cause us to let down our guard to what we normally would recognized as "impious propositions" (blasphemies). He continues:

[67] It is thus that those who pretend to inspiration have the boldness to outrage the Divinity, and make the Holy Ghost the accomplice of their blasphemies. When they find it impossible to escape from the labyrinth into which impostures and ill-contrived fables have led them, they make God responsible for their extravagancies; they pretend that their own follies are  the effects of divine wisdom, they term their [68] own perplexities mysteries; and assent that the author of reason is at the same time, the enemy of reason.


[68 continued] Men however are not shocked by these impious propositions. Accustomed to regard St. Paul as inspired, it never occurs to them that so great a Saint may blaspheme. But what authority have Christians for their high opinion of St. Paul? It is the Acts of the Apostles, that is to say upon the suspected testimony of a partizan of Paul's sect, who has compiled a history of his hero, filled with contradictions, but embellished with prodigies and fable, which however serve to establish his romance. But what proofs have we of these miracles themselves? We have no other evidence than the word of the Romancer himself confirmed by the authority of the church, i. e. of a body of men interested in establishing the fable.

Next Boulanger deals with the fact that Luke and Paul contradict over many details. He does not recount them, but they are well known. Here is how Boulanger discusses next those facts:

[68] It is true that we have in addition the testimony of St. Paul himself, to whom are attributed the epistles in which are found a great number of details of his life. But does this Apostle agree with his historian [i.e., Luke in Acts] in his own narrative? No, doubtless, they vary materially in many circumstances, and frequently contradict each other in the most positive manner. Who then shall we find to reconcile them, and show us what we ought to think of a history so differently related? The church. But what is the church? A body composed of the spiritual guides of the Christians. Have these guides been witnesses of the actions and miracles so differently related by Paul and his historian? No; they know nothing of them but by a tradition, contested even in the times of the first Christians, but since confirmed by a revelation of the Holy Ghost, who never, according to them, ceases to enlighten his church. How are we to know if the church is continually inspired? She herself says so, and there is, she says, the greatest danger in doubting this. It would be to resist the Holy Ghost who is identified with the church, and who makes common cause with her; a crime which will never be forgiven either in this world or in the next. Of all sins the most unpardonable is to resist the clergy.

Chapter 24: General Reflections on on the Foundations of the Christian Faith

Next, Boulanger shows the indolence by which  we have gullibly accepted Paul's supposed inspiration:

[68] These then are the only foundations of faith! Christians are obliged to believe that St. Paul was neither an enthusiast [69] nor a cheat, because the church has decided that he was divinely inspired: the church has decided this important point of belief, according to the Acts of the Apostles and epistles, which, as we have shown, were both rejected by many sects of the primitive Christians, and which, as we have proved in the course of this work, are filled with contradictions and absurdities


Nevertheless no Christian now dares to doubt of the authenticity of these books. These works are regarded as sacred by the universal church, by Christians of all sects, who with the exception notwithstanding of some considerable and important variations, read them in the same manner and entertain for them the same veneration. What can we oppose to this unanimity? The example of Mahomet. This prophet who is at this day equally revered by all sects of Mussulmen, was at first regarded as an impostor at Mecca, whence be was compelled to fly. His Koran now become the rule and code of a clergy, supported by princes and powerful nations, was at first considered as a tissue of fables compiled by imposture. This unanimity of the Mahometans, in acknowledging the sanctity of Mahomet, and the divinity of the Koran proves no more in their favour, than the agreement of all sects of Christians in admitting the Saintship of Paul, and the inspiration of his writings, proves in favour of the Apostle and his wonderful epistles.


It is the property of habit to change the appearance of things, men by degrees become familiar with that which at first disgusted them; time is able to confound truth and falsehood; clearly proved deceptions, finish by becoming undoubted facts to the ignorant, the idle, and those either too much occupied, or involved in dissipation to examine, and these are the majority of mankind. The most palpable imposture when it has existed a length of time, acquires a solidity which nothing can shake: that which has been believed by many for ages appears to have a real foundation, and to have at least a claim to probability. When once time has obliterated the traces of imposture, they are difficult to detect, and most men find it easier to stick to received opinions than to undergo the painful task of examining what they ought to think.


Such are the true causes of the indolence that men generally show, as often as they are called upon to give a reason for their religious notions, they are contented to follow the current. Besides when prejudice is supported by force, and becomes necessary to the interests of a powerful body, it is [70] dangerous to combat it, and few men have the courage to oppose deceptions, approved by the world, aud authorised the governing powers.

On the other hand error, when habitual, passes for truth, and is equally agreable. We hold fast to our vices and prejudices, the virtues and opinions which are opposed to them, appear ridiculous or disagreeable. It is this natural disposition of the human species, which, by little and little, imbues nations with the most extravagant opinions, absurd fables, and ill-digested systems.


No artifice was ever better imagined, nor trick was ever more calculated to deceive the vulgar than that of divine inspiration. Upon this is founded all the religions in the world; it is to this marvellous invention that the priests of the whole earth are indebted for their authority, their riches, and their existence. When a man tells us, that he is divinely inspired, it is difficult for most men to ascertain whether he lie, or speak the truth. God never contradicts those who make him speak, on the contrary those impostors who deceive in his name generally perform miracles and prodigies, and these miracles and prodigies, are to the short sighted multitude undoubted signs of divine favor.


Shall we then judge those who are inspired by their conduct? They generally take care to impose on us by their disinterestedness, patience, and mildness of behaviour, and it can hardly be supposed that such moderate men could have formed the design of deceiving or gaining power. It is only when they have gently insinuated themselves into men's minds, that we find ambition, avarice, and passions of the missionary develop themselves: it is after having won over the multitude, that their empire discovers itself, and they exact with pride, the tribute and respect due to the organs of heaven, and the messengers of the most high.


These are the means by which Christianity has been established, the manoeuvres have been practised by our great Apostle, and all those who have assisted in disseminating his doctrine. His own experience often made Paul sensible, that his pride and fiery disposition, were frequently obstacles to his mission; thus we see him sometimes do a violence to his character, take the air of mildness and humility, so much better suited, to insinuate into men's good opinions than arrogance and pride. He only assumes the tone of the master, when he knows his ground; then he threatens, thunders, and displays his authority. Does a dispute arise between himself and an associate? He resists him to his face; [71] be makes the church feel how necessary he is to the cause; and avails himself of it, to exhibit his authority.


His example has been at all times faithfully followed by the heads of the Christian religion. Humble, mild, patient, tolerant, and disinterested-whenever they have been weak, they become haughty, quarrelsome, intolerant, avaricious, and rebellious subjects to princes whenever they were certain of their empire over the people. It was then that they prescribed laws, crushed their enemies, plundered the people, and caused kings to tremble at tbe name of the God whose interpreters they declared themselves to be.


The heads of the Christian religion have at all times made those opinions, most comfortable to their own interest pass for divine oracles. The Holy Ghost has had no other function, than to serve for a cloak to their intrigues, passions, and pretensions. The works of our Apostle furnished quarrelsome priests with arguments for injuring each other; his disjointed reveries, obscure mysteries, and his ambiguous oracles, were an arsenal whence the most opposite parties procured arms to combat incessantly. In short the writings inspired by a God who was desirous of instructing mankind, have only served to plunge nations in darkness. Guides enlightened by the Holy Ghost saw no clearer than the ignorant, into mysteries, they continually presented to them by an unintelligible system. These great doctors were agreed upou nothing, each one sought to gain adherents whom he excited against the enemies of his own opinions, which he regarded as those only approved by heaven. Thence arose animosities, hatred, persecutions, and wars, which have a thousand times spread trouble and desolation among Christians, blind enough to follow men who pretended to be led by the Holy Ghost, while it was evident, that the only spirit which inspired them, was that of pride, ambition, obstinacy, vengeance, avarice, and rebellion.

 Boulanger finally reaches his conclusion, and here we will let him speak:

Let us then be careful, oh! my friends, of allowing ourselves to be guided by inspired persons. Deceivers, or enthusiasts, they will only lead us into errors destructive of our peace. Let us consult reason, so decried by men, whose interest it is to extinguish a light which is able to show us the plots of their dark policy, this reason will inform us that contradictory works do not merit our belief; that a turbulent, [72] ambitious and enthusiastic Apostle, may have been a very useful Saint to the church, and a very bad citizen. This reason will convince us, that a God filled with wisdom could never inspire men with systems, in which folly is the most prominent feature; that a God who is the author of reason could never have called for its immolation, before the shrine of fable, and pretended mystery incapable of producing any thing but evil and dissension upon the earth. Let us be just, benevolent, peaceable, let us leave to St. Paul, and to those who take him for a model, their lofty ambition, their turbulent fanaticism, their obstinate vanity, their persecuting spirit, and above all things their bitter zeal, which they term an interest for the salvation of souls. Let us show to all men not an evangelic charity which is converted into fury and hatred, but a real charity which inspires us with love, peace, indulgence, and humanity. May this charity so much boasted of, and so little practised, by St. Paul and his successors, be the rule of our conduct, and the standard of our judgments on men and their opinions. Examine all things, and hold fast that which is good. Let us not be blinded by the prejudices, of infancy, of habit, or of authority. Let us not be imposed upon by the pompous names of Paul, of Cephas, or of Apollos; but let us seek the truth and follow reason, which can never lead astray, nor render us troublesome members of society.

FINIS.

D