Paul's Misquotes or Misuse of Scripture
God warns us that the world is deceptive and hence defiled because of those who not only violate the laws and ordinances of God, but those who "change" them. In Isaiah 24:5, we read in the King James and Jewish Publication Society version the same words:
24:5 The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, [and] broken the everlasting covenant. (Isaiah 24:5, JPS; KJV.)
The 1599 Geneva Study Bible more richly renders the first part as the "earth deceives, because of its inhabitants...." See Isaiah 24:5, GSV.) The Living Bible renders verse 5 with a more contemporary description: "The land is defiled by crime; the people have twisted the laws of God and broken his everlasting commands." (Isaiah 24:5 TLB.)
What is a Berean to do with Paul's quotations of Holy Scripture? We are to test whether his quotes are based upon "twisting the laws of God" - somehow "changing" them, or are they instead perfectly accurate quotations.
We are also to see if Paul's aim is to permit the "breaking" of God's "everlasting commands" with none of the eternal damning consequences God had previously made for their violation. For one can repeat a command, but if one says its violation has zero consequences for salvation when God always said otherwise, then we have another reason to find Paul is uninspired -- at least in that teaching.
Galatians 3:10 versus Deuteronomy 27:26
DEUTERONOMY 27:26 - Its True Reading
Cursed be he that confirmeth not the words of this law, to do them. And all the people shall say: 'Amen.' Deuteronomy 27:26 KJV,
except I deleted "all" after "not" because the KJV acknowledges that it adds "all" by italicizing it. Obviously, this KJV proposed addition was to align in part with Paul's misquote, as described below. The KJV editors in their introduction explain that any word they italicize means it is not present in Greek or Hebrew manuscript, but they believe it should be implied.
26 Arur be he that confirmeth not [words of this] Torah hazot by doing them. (Deut 27:26, Orthodox Jewish Bible.)
does not uphold the words of Torah by...ing. (Dead Sea Scrolls, 257 BC, translated by Abegg Flint)
This means in the original that if you do not confirm or uphold Torah that it be done, you are cursed. The emphasis is on everyone who does not confirm or uphold Torah as a code to obey is cursed rather than the curse applies to anyone guilty of any single disobedience.
However, Paul misquoted Deuteronomy 27:26, giving it a meaning that anyone who transgresses the Law -- even the smallest command -- is cursed.
In Galatians 3:10, Paul said this passage reads instead: "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." (Galatians 3:10 KJV). (This corruption began with the Septuagint mistranslation. See this link.)
Hence, Paul alters the passage by changing "confirm" or "uphold" - a term meaning affirmation or teaching, and replacing it with a word continueth which implies obedience. Then Paul adds the words all things to suggest the slightest disobedience will fall under a curse, rather than the failure to confirm or uphold Torah is cursed. Thus, just a few word changes, and an entirely different meaning was extracted by Paul.
But in truth, God in Deuteronomy 27:26 curses the one who does not confirm the Law is to be obeyed, whether they perfectly follow it or not.
Sadly Paul did not realize that God cursed Paul for he "confirmeth not the words of the law to do them," and thus Paul's misquote misled him to do precisely what God promises to curse. And with Paul, so too all the Paulinists who do not "confirmeth the words of this law to do them." As the blind leads the blind, they will all suffer the curse of Deut 27:26. And this is due to their leader -- Paul -- misquoting the very passage that curses them for their contrary teaching.
This is why Jesus taught those among Christians who teach us to follow the Law are "great" (Matt 5:17-19) rather than cursed, as Paul contrarily teaches. Rather, God curses the one who teaches you not to confirm the law or uphold it to do it. That is Paul's doctrine. How odd Paul cites passages that condemn his teaching, and yet Paul never checks a translation (the Greek Septuagint translation) against the Hebrew original to verify his understanding.
See also Ken Powers' article who does a detailed exposition on this major misquote in his work Questioning Paul, free online, in chapter one.
Galatians 3:12 versus Leviticus 18:5
Mr. Powers in Chapter One of Questioning Paul then identifies another misquote by Paul in Galatians 3:12 of Leviticus 18:5:
Examining the words (Paul) Sha’uwl wrote, we find him quoting (or more correctly, misquoting) the very Torah Christians are wont to deny and separate themselves from: "The Law exists not out of faith or belief (pistis – originally conveyed "trust and reliance" but migrated over time as a result of Paul / Sha’uwl’s epistles to mean "belief and faith"), but to the contrary, ‘The one who performs them lives by them.’" (Galatians 3:12) Recognizing that Paul didn’t express this thought very well, we must turn to the passage he referenced to ascertain the point he was trying to convey.
Leviticus 18:5 imparts the following Divine instruction: "Observe (closely and carefully examine) My prescriptions and My stipulations. Whoever prepares and accomplishes one’s life mission with them, that person is restored to life and lives (is renewed, nurtured, spared, and kept alive) in them. I am Yahweh."
It appears that Paul has once again abbreviated a passage which is inconsistent with his own message, perhaps hoping that the use of a common word, this time "perform," in conjunction with "the law" would be sufficient to convince his audience that God supports his position.
But in the quoted verse, God did not say that the "law is very different than faith," or that "through faith a person has life," or anything remotely like that. He said that a careful and close examination of His prescriptions prepares a person for their life’s mission, while at the same time, restoring their life. This is once again, the antithesis of the Pauline Christian position.
Galatians 3:13 versus Deuteronomy 21:23
The Jewish Publication Society translates Deuteronomy 21:22-23 as follows:
22 And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree; 23 his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him the same day; for he that is hanged is a reproach unto G-d; that thou defile not thy land which HaShem thy G-d giveth thee for an inheritance.
First, notice that Paul in Galatians 3:13 translates what is a "reproach" in the original text, and changes it to be "cursed."
Second, be aware that for Jesus to atone for sin, Jesus has to be a blameless sheep without blemish. Jesus cannot be actually accursed by God. He did not "commit...a sin worthy of death." Hence, if Deuteronomy 21:22-23 as it correctly reads is applied to Jesus' wrongful execution, then Jesus can atone for sin. This means God does not "curse" Jesus under Deut 21:2-23 as Jesus did not "commit...a sin worthy of death." Jesus can still be our Savior. He is not cursed to hell for our sin in God's eyes, as the word "cursed" would signify.
Does Paul lay a trap for the unwary by saying Jesus is viewed by God as one cursed by God, and that is how sin is lifted from our shoulders -- rather than by the rule of Atonement?
Paul has said Jesus became a CURSE for US as Jesus was cursed instead of us. However, when Atonement covers us, it is by the INNOCENCE of the blood poured out by the living being that serves as a COVERING of innocence, like the blood of the lambs on the doorposts protected the Israelites in Egypt, and the angel of death did not touch any of their homes. Atonement is not by treating Jesus as "accursed" by God by virtue of Deut 21:22-23, as Paul quotes, which reproach (or "curse" as Paul translates) never is spoken anywhere in Scripture as the covering of 'innocence' necessary to atone. Quite the opposite is the case.
However, if Paul is correct that Deut 21:22-23 is talking about Jesus, then that would render Jesus a sinner who could not atone. Those hung for crimes by their acts could never atone for anything. Only innocent lambs, bulls, etc., can do so. If Jesus is cursed for being hung on a tree, as Paul construes Deuteronomy 3:13, despite this verse saying it only applies to those who actually "committed a sin worthy of death," then our salvation solely depends upon whether God will accept Paul's erroneous view that one worthy of a crime of death and who is not an innocent 'Lamb" and then comes under Deut 21:22-23 can become a curse to God, and this is what "atones" -- appeases God.
Clearly, Paul's idea in Galatians 3:13 runs contrary to our Savior who said at the last supper that his blood is poured out as as "remission" for sin of the whole world. It was not his being hung on a tree that saves souls, by Jesus supposedly being a curse for the curse we deserve. There is no such legal principle in the Law.
Thus, an innocent man paying for a wrong he did not do is what atoned, not Jesus being seen as a CURSE in God's eyes under Deut 21:22-23-- which, if Paul were correct, would leave Jesus as one eternally damned in hell.
Mr. Powers in Questioning Paul points out Paul's translation of Deuteronomy 21:23 to speak of a "curse" rather than "reproach" was harmful, and leads to the untenable result that a cursed man in God's eyes could atone for sin. Powers says:
Moving on to the next verse as it is presented in the King James and New Living Translation, we find: KJV: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:" (Gal 3:13) If the King James has accurately reflected Paul’s thought, then, according to Paul, the Torah is a curse. For this interpretation of Paul’s statement to be correct, rather than fulfilling the Torah, Yahshua ransomed us from its clutches. It also means that Yahshua, rather than being the perfect Lamb of God, judged from the perspective of the Torah, embodied all the negativity a "curse" implies.
Absolving Paul of the untenable position he has been placed in by the King James Version, the New Living Translation twists the text to convey a different perspective: "But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’" (Gal 3:13)
To the New Living Translation’s shame, there is no reference to a "cross" ... in this passage. To Paul / Sha’uwl’s shame, the Torah verse should not have been abridged nor misquoted out of context. While the Deuteronomy prediction is profoundly accurate, and stunningly prophetic, its merit was mitigated by the way Paul truncated it.
But first things first: here is how the Greek text of Paul's / Sha’uwl’s letter reads: "The Messiyah...redeemed us from the curse of the Torah, coming to exist as a curse for our sake, because it is written: ‘Accursed is everyone who is hanging upon wood.’" (Galatians 3:13)
Thus, we should reject Paul's view that Deuteronomy says any person hung on the tree is cursed by God, whether sinner or not. Instead, our salvation depends upon accepting the Jewish Publication Society's translation -- that such a person is subject solely to being "disparaged, degraded," maligned, and scorned. But cursed? God forbid or we are all lost, including our savior must be bound in hell forever, if Paul is correct.
Romans 3:10-12 versus Psalm 14:1-3 and 53:1-3
As a preface here, it might be useful first to quote Moses talking of Noah:
9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, and perfect in his generations: Noah walked with God. (Gen. 6:9 ASV.)
However, Paul says that nobody is righteous in Romans 3:10-12 to show the futility of trying to be justified by obedience in God's eyes. However, Deut 6:25 teaches obedience is how justification continues after repentance from sin. Paul claims instead no one is righteous, and insists this is a universal truth based upon Holy Scripture:
10. As the scriptures say: “There is no one who is righteous, 11. No one who is wise or who worships God. 12. All have turned away from God; they have all gone wrong; No one does what is right, not even one. Romans 3:10-12.
Paul was quoting from Psalm 14:1-3 and Psalm 53:1-3 which are basically identical passages. However, let’s see what these passages say in full context. Do they contradict the Law, as Paul would have us believe if we cited Paul in parallel to these passages? No, in context, these passages are exclusively dealing with the righteous in contrast with a very real group called the foolish who deny God's existence aka the unrighteous.
Psalm 14:1-3 says:
Fools say to themselves, “There is no God!”
They are all corrupt, and they have done terrible things;
There is no one who does what is right.
The LORD looks down from heaven at mankind to see if there are any
who are wise, any who worship him.
But they have all gone wrong; they are all equally bad.
Not one of them does what is right, not a single one.
When read in full context, it looks as though Paul has twisted the Psalms to imply that everyone is like that; not just the fools. If I keep reading, what does Psalm 14:4 say?
“Don’t they know?” asks the LORD [Yahweh]. “Are all these evildoers
ignorant? They live by robbing my people and they never pray to me.”
From this, we can deduce that the LORD’s faithful people are not included in the unrighteous group that Paul describes as true of everyone. Paul twists the meaning of “no one” as written in the Psalms to include more people than just the ‘evildoers’ and ‘fools’ which are solely in view. In the Psalm, the LORD’s people are righteous because they do keep his Law which contradicts the very point that Paul was trying to make from verses 1-3. Hence, Paul misquoted this Scripture. In fact, Paul applied it to say the opposite of what it was saying in full context.
Even a Reformed pastor in NYC, Steve Schlissel says that if we take Paul literally and none are righteous, this would be contrary to God's word in many other places. See our excerpt under "Study Notes" for his article submitted to the 2002 Auburn Pastor's Conference that proves Paul misread / misapplied these Psalm passages.
Numbers 25:9 versus 1 Cor. 10:8
In Numbers 25:9 we read: “And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand."
Paul in 1 Cor. 10:8 apparently misreads the number: “Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day twenty three thousand."
Paul understated the number by one thousand.
Isaiah 64:4 versus 1 Cor. 2:9: A Perversion Acknowledged By Calvin
Isaiah 64:4 is one of the sweetest verses in the Bible.
Isaiah 64:4 - For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him. NASB
As all commentators aware of the Greek text agree, Paul misquotes this in 1 Cor. 2:9. However, today Paul's words are typically fixed to read like Isaiah 64:4 and you, the reader, would never know there is a problem. Here, for example is the NASB version making it look like Paul is perfectly aligned with Isaiah 64:4:
1 Cor. 2:9 but just as it is written,
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
(This is not even close to what Paul says, as we shall see.)
So the Pulpit Commentary says:
Verse 9. - But as it is written. The whole sentence in the Greek is unfinished. The thought seems to be, "But God has revealed to us things which eye hath not seen, etc., though the princes of this world were ignorant of them."
Implicitly, the "etc" is inserted to suggest what Paul meant to do is allude to only a portion, full well knowing the reader would supply the missing text. Umm. Again, this is not what Paul is saying. We shall not see it until we get to Alford's translation below as corrected by Jamieson-Faucett.
You the reader are thus not being told what the words of Paul actually say. Thus you never realize how the words in the translated Bible greatly differ from the true text of Paul's original letter. Their excuse? Paul's letter is supposedly "unfinished." We supposedly can surmise his intended thought, and use that to render the passage - so it seems is the consensus solution.
The Pulpit Commentary continues yet still not telling us what Paul says in Greek although it reveals that Hegessipus in 150 AD was so upset he repudiated Paul's words as "utterly" belying the true Scriptures:
Eye hath not seen, etc. The Revised Version is here more literal and accurate. The quotation as it stands is not found in the Old Testament. It most resembles Isaiah 64:4...St. Chrysostom regards the words as part of a lost prophecy....In a curious fragment of Hegesippus (circ. A.D. 150) preserved in Photius (Cod. 232.), that old writer indignantly repudiates this passage, saying that it is futile and "utterly belies the Holy Scriptures and the Lord, who says, 'Blessed are your eyes which see, and your ears which hear.'"
Gill's famous Exposition does disclose some of it, and you will see the variance:
"all prophesied not, but of the days of the Messiah; but as to the world to come, eye hath not seen, O God, besides thee.''
It is a material variance from the true words of the Bible which Paul is claiming to quote.
Jamieson-Faucett explains more clearly the literal text of Paul:
Alford translates, "The things which eye saw not … the things which God prepared … to us God revealed through His Spirit." Thus, however, the "but" of 1Co 2:10 is ignored. Rather construe, as Estius, "('We speak,' supplied from 1Co 2:8), things which eye saw not (heretofore), … things which God prepared … But God revealed them to us," &c.
In other words, Jamieson corrects Alford, and renders it to include a "but" -- "the things which eye saw not, the things which God prepared, but to us God revealed through His Spirit...."
Jamieson then corrects Paul again, saying Isaiah 64:4 says "Prepared (literally, 'will do') for him that waiteth for Him"; here [Paul says], "for them that love Him."
Calvin's comment is blunt on the violent differences in his Commentary although he too does not tell you what they are:
9.As it is written, “What eye hath not seen.” All are agreed that this passage is taken from Isaiah 64:4, and as the meaning is at first view plain and easy, interpreters do not give themselves much trouble in expounding it. On looking, however, more narrowly into it, two very great difficulties present themselves. The first is, that the words that are here quoted by Paul do not correspond with the words of the Prophet. The second is, that it seems as though Paul had perverted the Prophet’s declaration to a purpose quite foreign to his design.
So how does Calvin resolve the contradiction? He says because no one higher than Paul exists to tell us the true verse's words and meaning (that is, Paul is supposedly higher than Isaiah -- Yikes!), the contradiction disappears. Calvin writes how we can embellish Paul's words to suit what we think is Paul's intent:
Literally, however, the Prophet’s meaning is: “From the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor have they perceived with the ears, hath not seen a god, (or O God,) besides thee, will do (or will prepare) for him that waiteth for him.” If we understand (God) to be in the accusative, the relative who must be supplied. This exposition, too, appears, at first view, to suit better with the Prophet’s context in respect of the verb that follows being used in the third person; (118) but it is farther removed from Paul’s meaning, on which we ought to place more dependence than on any other consideration. For where shall we find a surer or more faithful interpreter than the Spirit of God of this authoritative declaration, which He himself dictated to Isaiah — in the exposition which He has furnished by the mouth of Paul.
You can see there is never any Berean testing of Paul. Instead, Paul must win no matter how many prophets he contradicts, laws he abrogates, or insults on God (blasphemies really) he inflicts, Paul is supposedly always right. Absent that cure, Calvin does admit Paul contradicts Isaiah, and no amount of effort at reinterpretation (which he reviewed first whether it was possible) could solve the dilemma. Hence, the only solution left was that Paul supposedly trumps Isaiah!
Isaiah 28:16 - Paul Misquotes To Prove Faith Alone
See our article on this published separately.
Romans 9:925-26 versus Hosea 1:10 and 2:23
Paul argues these passages are prophecies of Hosea 1:10 and 2:23 that mean to include Gentiles in the New Covenant when clearly they are not such prophecies. (There are such prophecies elsewhere but these two passages in Hosea are not among them.)
These passages in Hosea are talking about disobedient Israelites. The Gentiles are included in the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31, and two passages in Isaiah. So why would Paul choose the wrong passages to prove the point? Peter Enns writes an Open Letter to Apostle Paul from a Concerned Reader, dated April 1, 2015, with tongue firmly planted in his cheek:
First of all, thank you for writing so much of the New Testament.
Thank you for also teaching inerrancy, not only of the Bible you have (the Old Testament) but of your own letters and those other parts of the New Testament that hadn’t even been written yet!
The actual reason for my letter is to ask you to clear up some confusion for me. I’m reading through Romans, and I see that you quote the Old Testament on pretty much every page.
[Which, by the way, is another thing I appreciate that about your work: you show that the entire Bible is exactly on the same page, that the Old Testament writers were already writing about the coming of Jesus. And you quote chapter and verse to prove it.]
But, getting to my question–and if this is a minor point or I’m missing something, please feel free to ignore–I’m having some trouble with a few places where you quote the Old Testament.
Now, I know you believe, as we all do, that the Bible, being God’s word, is perfectly consistent all the way through, meaning it doesn’t mean one thing in the Old Testament and another thing when you quote it. You respect the Bible and the intention of the original author more than anyone, and you’d never mistreat the Bible like that.
But I’m reading along, a little more than halfway through (we call it Romans 9:25-26), where you are making your point about how God has called a people not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.
Then you quote from Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 to show that this whole business of including the Gentiles was on God’s mind all along.
Those who are not my people I will call “my people,” and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved.”
And in the very place where it was said to them, “you are not my people,” there they shall be called children of the living God.
It looks like you’re saying “those who are not my people…not beloved” are the Gentiles who are now included because of Jesus. I’m happy for Gentile inclusion, being one myself, but I went back and read Hosea and I’m confused.
It seems pretty clear to me that the original meaning and intention of Hosea is that God is restoring disobedient Israel after a period of rejection and punishment. I’m not seeing anything there at all about Gentiles, and so I’m not sure why you would say “here are two verses about Gentile inclusion.”
I have some Christian friends who think that, because you’re Jewish, you might actually be engaging in a little creative Jewish midrash here, but I’ve told them that you would never play fast and loose with scripture! You understand that the very doctrine of inerrancy that you teach–maybe even the gospel that you preach–hangs in the balance.
I think you see my confusion, though.
So I’m asking you to help me defend you better. Perhaps point me to other places in your letters where you don’t do this sort of thing, which would really help in balance things out.
Or maybe slowly and clearly explain how your use of Hosea’s words is aligned with what God actually intended, and why it’s OK for God to intend something Hosea doesn’t when it’s not OK for us to do that.
I have to say, too, this lingering uneasy feeling has been growing since I began Romans. Please help me see better what I know you’re actually doing.
Your Fellow Soldier
I would make one comment on this humorous article: how ironic that the self-professed apostle to the Gentiles did not even cite the correct passages (from Jeremiah and Isaiah) on the inclusion of the Gentiles in the New Covenant. Could it be Paul was not familiar with the prophecies of the New Covenant? Could that explain many of his peculiar ideas of what the New Covenant represented? (Doug)
Remember Satan Can Quote Scripture -- He Twists It To Ungodly Ends
Satan accurately quoted Scripture, and took it so literally that it would permit sin. Jesus rebuffed this.
When Satan tempted Jesus, he quoted Scripture. Satan said to Jesus “If you are the Son of God,” he said “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command His angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” [Psalm 91:11-12] [Matthew 4:5-6]
Influence of Paul's Misquotes
The Westminster Larger Catechism reads, “No man is able, either of himself, or
by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but does
daily break them in thought, word, and deed” (Q. 149).
This is known as the Total Depravity Doctrine. A reformed Senior Pastor of Messiah's Covenant Community Church in Brooklyn, Steve Schlissel aptly criticized Paul's doctrine of Total Depravity in Covenant Thinking at the 2002 Auburn Pastor's Conference. (Also at this link from his church's website.) He writes:
At Question 25 [of the Westminster Larger Catechism] it reads, “The
sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of that righteousness whe rein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually…” How do the Westminster divines support these statements? Romans 3:10-19 allegedly proved these propositions. We start with these propositions and then go to our versified Bible and find the verses that we think prove our propositions. We pay little attention either to context, argument, or (maybe) contrary texts. We have our verses to prove what we want to believe.
Then Schlissel continues:
The Westminster Confession at chapter 6, section 2, reads, “By this sin they fell from their original righteousness in communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.” The proof is Romans 3. Now, Romans 3 does not appear directly from heaven without mediation; rather, it appears as part of an argument that the Holy Spirit by Paul is making to a church in a particular historical circumstance. It appears in a section in which Paul is proving that the whole world is made up of sinners. Does that mean that each and every individual is what the confessions here say they are? Let’s examine this issue a bit.
Schlissel then says while he does not believe we merit heaven by our own righteousness, it is not proper to use this verse to deny some behave righteously:
What I am saying is that the way we use the Bible is illegal. We try to make
it say things that fit what we believe must be the case in order for our system to hold
together, but we don’t allow the Bible to speak its own mind. We can see this problem manifested in the sermons that come from Romans 3. Your sweet, Christian grandmother becomes subject to theological abuse as she is told that her throat is an open grave and her tongue practices deceit and the poison of vipers is on her lips. Though she may sing psalms from the time she wakes up until she goes to sleep and devotes hours to prayer for her grandchildren, we are told that she is an evil, wicked witch who is entirely corrupt and no good. This sort of browbeating goes on Sunday after Sunday. Is that really Paul’s point?
I would say using Paul to contradict the inspired Bible is unlawful Biblically. However, Schlissel is arguing we cannot take Paul so literally when the context from which Paul is quoting contradicts the literal meaning of Paul's words. So the solution offered by Schlissel is very much that Paul contradicts the original text, and thus we cannot take Paul's meaning literally. However, I would go further and say that invalidates taking anything Paul says literally, i.e., Paul is not a valid inspired source of information. Here is what Steven Schlissel says:
What does Paul intend to say in the book of Romans? “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Where did he find that idea? He is quoting the Bible, isn’t he? Yes, Psalm 14; however, the very psalm in which these sweeping assertions are made we find a remarkable contrary proposition. The psalmist says that all have turned aside and together have become corrupt, there is no one who does good, not even one. “Will evildoers never learn? Those who devour my people as men eat bread and who not call upon the Lord? There they are, overwhelmed with dread; for God is present in the company of the righteous.” What? Where did “the righteous” come from? The psalmist just finished saying that there is none righteous, no not one, and the next thing we know there is a whole company of them. How could the writer have missed seeing them before?
Indeed, Schlissel is correct that Psalm 14 says contrary to Paul's conclusion that some are indeed righteous -- a whole bunch are righteous!
Schlissel says that of course Paul did not want to contradict Scripture, and thus concludes:
Is this Paul’s summary judgment upon every human being on the planet? Hardly, at least not here, for further in Psalm 5 the psalmist draws a contrast between those who are wicked and those who take refuge in the Lord.
What I find astonishing is Schlissel makes a case that read one way Paul must have known what he was doing. Thus, either Paul is lying, deliberately contradicting scripture, or clearly Paul meant something other than a literal meaning. Listen:
Does anybody think that Paul was so stupid that he didn’t know this whole psalm
that he was quoting?
In other words, Paul knew what he was saying, and he knew the literal words were untrue. Thus, Paul must have had a non-literal meaning. Ok, pastor Schlissel, if you say so!
Sometimes I feel like I am Winston Smith in the book 1984. I am like Winston -- being told that I must say to the man who is holding up 4 fingers that he is really holding up 5 fingers. (On this passage in 1984, see this link.) Only brainwashing makes the leap. Schlissel effectively turns to in the end relying upon the Pauline mantra of how wise and learned was Paul.
Schlissel says in effect 'don't we all know Paul is smart, and would not deliberately contradict scripture. Thus, we must not take Paul literally, word for word.' Ummm. Can we apply this then to all other statements by Paul? If so, no one should rely upon anything Paul has to say! We should also suppose a non-literal meaning when Paul speaks, i.e., we cannot take any of Paul's statements as 100% literal truth.
Schlissel then shows us another misquote and contradiction of Scripture by Paul in the same passage, again to urge us not to take Paul's words so literally:
Paul’s concluding citation at Romans 3:18 uses the words of Psalm 36:1, as he describes the evil men of whom he speaks: “There is no fear of God before their eyes”; yet, verse 10 of the same psalm includes a plea to God: “O continue thy loving kindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.” If verse 1 described a universal condition, where did the “upright” of verse 10 come from?
Schlissel's solution is to pull a rabbit out of the hat, as I call it. Just say something sensible that Paul did not say, and say that "solves" it. So Schlissel says Paul really means by saying 'all have sinned' that even Jews have sinned. The Jews are supposedly not righteous by being Jews. Was that really Paul's only meaning?
I guess if you say so pastor Schlissel, then it must be so. (These 'pastors' get used to people taking their words as gospel. So I think they don't realize we can think independently and reject nonsense. They treat us as petted children who if you hold up 4 fingers and say it is 5, we must believe.) He writes the following:
What is the key? The key is that the law was given to the Jews, and when God was speaking to the people here mentioned as being wicked, He was speaking to wicked Jewish people. If there can be wicked Jewish people, no one can be made right with God simply by being Jewish. That is the point Paul intended to prove, and it’s the point he has proved. If a person thinks that merely by possessing the Bible he is right with God, then he is mistaken. Look at what it says. It talks about the way Jews behave toward other Jews. Among Jews there are wicked ones and righteous ones, covenant-keeping Jews and covenant-breaking Jews. The mere fact that a man is Jewish does not vindicate him, does not allow him to pass from death to life, and does not guarantee him to inherit anything if he has broken covenant.
What is the most amazing part of this reformed pastor's message is that he then proves the literal words of Paul, and how the WLC has read them to be true, is Biblically false! Bravo! In this next passage, pastor Schlissel writes -- yet never once thinking twice about Paul's validity -- the following:
The fact is (and I have verses to prove this!) that there are plenty of righteous men and women in the Bible. Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? If God rescued Lot who was a righteous man distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men… Yes, Lot, a righteous man living among these wicked people, day after day tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard. (I want to hear a preacher from the Netherlands Reformed Church tell me that Lot was a righteous man.)
Pastor Schlissel continues with specific examples:
“Dear children do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is
righteous…” (1 John 3:7). There is none righteous, no, not one? The Bible says that there are thousands of them, hundreds of thousands of them, millions of them throughout history. “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous” (1 John 3:12).
Pastor Schlissel finds a contradiction in Paul's writings which actually proves something seriously wrong about Paul. Here is what Schlissel quotes as more proof there are righteous people:
“You are witnesses and so is God,” Paul writes, “of how holy, righteous, and
blameless we were among you who believe.”
Well, if you put Paul's words side-by-side, one must conclude Paul's behavior was "righteous" but none of his audience can make the claim they are righteous, for Paul says "no, not one is righteous." Hence, Paul alone apparently can do righteous deeds. The rest of us, except Paul, all must be slouches continually.
Schlissel then continues with more evidence that Paul contradicts scripture if you read Paul "literally" -- you read it as it reads!
James tells us, “In the same way was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” Matthew tells us of Jesus’ words:
“And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” The Hebrew Bible, which was not organized as ours, began with Genesis and ended with 2 Chronicles. By starting with the first martyr (Abel) and closing with the last martyr (Zechariah), Jesus was making the same statement as our way of saying “from Genesis to Revelation” (and it just so happens that it is A to Z) From Abel to Zechariah, there were many righteous people.
Schlissel keeps battering the divines of Westminster who took Paul's words literally as defying all the Bible other than Paul:
“And you will again see the distinction,” Malachi tells us, “between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” “Because you disheartened the righteous with your lies,” Ezekiel tells the false prophets, “when I have brought them no grief, and because you encouraged the wicked not to turn from their evil ways and save their lives…” Isaiah says, “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.”
Schlissel then gets a bit blunt that the Westminster Catechism is in breach of the Bible -- yet still never faulting Paul who is indeed the one whose words are at issue:
People in the church today say that there is none righteous, but God says there are many righteous people. “The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him” (Prov. 20:7). “Let the righteous rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him!” (ps. 64:10). “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon” (Ps. 92:12). “The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil. Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart.” (Ps. 125:3-4). There is none good, no, not one; yet, we saw in that same psalm that there are people who do good. “Those who turn to crooked ways the Lord will banish with the evildoers. Peace be upon Israel” (Ps. 125:5).
Schlissel is saying when we in the "church today" say that there is none righteous, we contradict God. But replace the words "church today" with Paul, and what do you get as the conclusion? Paul contradicts God Almighty!
Schlissel then uses artful irony to prove another memorable example of God affirming that he would spare a city as long as there was some righteous present -- an agreement that makes no sense if there is none righteous. Schlissel says:
“Abraham approached God and said, Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in this city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in the city? Far be it from You to do such a thing.” Did God reply, “There is none righteous, no, not one”? No, that is not what He said. God was prevailed upon by Abraham when Abraham prayed, “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Schlissel is just getting warmed up, and pulls out even more proofs. I lived under a Reformed church for over a decade. I can tell you that Schlissel knows that proof must be the most conclusive type to ever get a Reformed Christian to question the Westminster. It is almost like an inspired writing among the Reformed (Calvinist) churches. So here is more proof:
Not everyone responds to God’s revelation in the same way. Not everyone responds by saying no to God. There are many who by grace say yes to Him, and these are the righteous. “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” When Abraham was ninety- nine years old God appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty. Walk before me and be blameless.” “To the faithful God shows himself faithful; to the blameless he shows himself blameless; to the pure he shows himself pure; but to the crooked he shows himself shrewd.” “You save the humble but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.” “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil. Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job. There is no one on earth like him. He is blameless and upright. A man who fears God and shuns evil.’”
So what is a reformed person's reaction when they realize Paul's literal words are false? Schlissel -- who is saying that reading them literally is false (not Paul) -- has this message that dictate we follow the inspired Scripture rather than the literal meaning of Paul's words:
These verses are an embarrassment to those who would universalize the statements in Romans 3 and make them doctrines with an independent, theoretical existence in the heavens, but when these persons come down to earth they cannot apply such doctrines. When we come down to earth in real history we find, in fact, both the righteous and the wicked, believers and unbelievers, living together.
After that respite, Schlissel goes back to citing verses to prove the righteous exist and doing righteousness are both spoken about everywhere in inspired Scripture:
Solomon said, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father, David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart.” “Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully,” Hezekiah said, “and with whole-hearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” Have we taught our people that they can pray this way if they keep covenant with God? We have cut the legs off our own churches by berating our people and making the attainment and walking in righteousness a theoretical impossibility, whereas in the Scripture it is an everyday reality. “Even if these three men—Noah, Daniel and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign LORD” (Ezek. 14:14). That seems to presuppose that these three men had righteousness. “Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to Jehovah all his life.” Asa wasn’t perfect, but he was perfected. Zecharias and Elizabeth were not perfect, but they were perfected as blameless in obeying the law. “Consider the blameless, O God. Observe the upright. There is a future for the man of peace. They are upright in the sight of God. Observing the Lord’s commands and regulations blamelessly.”
Obviously, Schlissel has no confidence that a reformed believer can dislodge a key plank of Reformed doctrine without such overwhelming proof of the falsity of the literal meaning of Paul's words.
Here is where it gets interesting. Now he claims that to say none are righteous is essentially blasphemous. (Oh Paul! How do people see this but not blame you? The Blind shall lead the Blind!) For those who have eyes to see, here is pastor Steve Schlissel's great message -- albeit he does not know how great it truly is for those who see the problem:
Paul does not argue or maintain that every single person on the planet is equally wicked. There are converts. To suggest otherwise is to say that God’s Word has failed. To say that there are none righteous is to say that everyone is alike and there is no covenant, no antithesis, no efficacy in God’s grace. Such a view is nearly blasphemous, for the whole work of God in this world is the bringing of a righteous people unto Himself and setting them off from the world of the wicked to be His and to act like it. He has done this throughout history. At the time of Noah it was slim pickings, but there was one righteous. In Sodom and Gomorrah there was one righteous, and Lot was saved out of it. At most times there have been more than one.
I have to say 'How does pastor Schlissel know that Paul is not being literal, and cannot mean everyone on earth is equally wicked?' How then does Schlissel know that Paul is not responsible for the blasphemy that Schlissel recognizes? Out of charity toward Paul, I will try to find loopholes too, but after a while, we must give up on Paul's messages. He clearly leads us down a dark and ugly path with fine-sounding pseudo-religious arguments.
Schlissel exhorts a new day should dawn where we can approve of our righteous friends, and exhort a righteous life is attainable, and teach this as a goal that is possible. He says:
The effect of this particular twisting of the Scripture has been to distort the truth and to put a blemish upon the consciousness of the people of God. We need to get back to that place where we can speak to the covenant people of God and address them as the righteous of the Lord. They have a place in this world where they are to shine like stars in the night, as they hold forth the word of light. The gathered worshipers on a Sunday, the Lord’s Day, are to be built up in what God has made them and called them to be; they are not to be berated, belittled, stained, doubted, and accused.
Schlissel then gets fired up for a blistering conclusion:
If we don’t agree that we have to go back to our congregations and build them up, then we might as well cash it in now and forget reformation. If we cannot speak to the people of God like God speaks to the people of God,... then we have no right to be ministers of God. If we cannot speak to the congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ as those in whom He lives and dwells and has being in this world as a living testimony, then woe be to us. If all we can do is berate, belittle, and harangue, then we are working at cross purposes with the living God and woe be to us.
I can only say Amen! Anyone who continues to preach Paul's words and their literal meaning truly has no right to be ministers of God. Of course, Schlissel did not mean to imply that. However, treating Paul as inspired is truly the cause of the error in the Westminster Catechism. One day we as Christians must eradicate all these wrong ideas, and return to our Savior's message on the topic.
Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats that those who call him Lord and feed and clothe the brethren are the righteous and go to heaven, but those who call him Lord but do not feed and clothe the brethen go to eternal torment where their worm dies not. See Jesus' Words on Salvation, ch. 11. Shouldn't Jesus be the one Schlissel first examined? Alas Jesus is always told to sit in the back of the bus.