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Was Paul A Dupe, A Deceiver or Tampered With?

Hi Doug,

I pray your efforts will be blessed as you strive to glorify YHWH through Yahshua.

I may have asked this before, but please indulge me again...Do you think Paul flipped later in his ministry, or was he calculating his moves from the beginning, or do you think it's possible that through the years his writings were manipulated to introduce the false gospel you are illuminating?


Bless YHWH!

My Response July 30, 2015


I suspect Paul genuinely believed he met Yahshua / Jesus on the road to Damascus. Hence, I don’t believe he calculated his moves from the beginning. Paul was a dupe. The Jesus whom Paul met fits Jesus’ warning that after His Ascension someone would come in His name – claiming to be “Jesus” (Yahshua) – in the wilderness. Paul accepted a person who said "I am Jesus" in the wildnerness outside Damascus as the real deal. So it began genuine, which means Paul was a genuine dupe.

As to whether Paul’s writings were manipulated,  I do find that it is possible (but not likely) that Paul’s writings were altered later to embody the doctrine we hear today.  For the Paul of Acts is so at variance with the Paul of his epistles that Paul would have to be an amazing chameleon to fool Luke, and espouse views in front of Luke which are diametrically opposed to Paul's views in Paul's epistles. Here is what Paul appears to be in Luke’s Acts as seen by Luke:

1. Paul told a court inActs 26:20 (ASV) that he "declared [his gospel] both to them of Damascus first and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judaea, and also to the Gentiles, that  they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance."

2. Paul inActs 17:30says: "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now  he commands all people everywhere to repent." Paul was referring to idolatry in the prior verse -- not the lack of faith.

3. Paul in Acts endorses all the Law: "However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets...." (Acts24:14NIV.)

Paul's epistles, of course, are famous for the opposite position -- an anti-Law and anti-works (of repentance) Gospel.

To believe Paul carried this off, and truly wrote the epistles too, means Paul would have to be extremely successful at profound guile with Luke to keep him from learning Paul's true beliefs.  Could this be truly possible? Could that be the true explanation of the major discrepancy? Or is tampering the better explanation? 

At this time, it is not likely that tampering is the correct explanation. For there is no clearly probable evidence of tampering that I have found.  

Tampering here could come from two different motives. One kind would be to make Paul look bad or the other would be to use Paul's authority to pass on doctrines that Christians would try to justify. For Paul's writings appear to endorse evil and immoral principles, including lying to promote the gospel. These would either be self-inflicted wounds by Paul -- making his words his own worst enemy -- or be the product of someone's tampering with Paul's writings to make him look bad. See Blasphemy and PaulGuile and PaulImmoral Teachings in Paul.

But there is no evidence of tampering to make Paul look bad other than the discrepancy between the Paul of Acts and the Paul of Paul's Epistles. Some like John Knox even wrote that Luke in Acts was trying to embarass Paul in light of the many contradictions between Paul's behavior and words in Acts, and Paul's words in his Epistles. On the scope of that, see my article Luke is a Non-Pauline Gospel. But the weight of evidence is Luke had never read any of Paul's Epistles when Luke wrote Acts around 58-62 AD. Id.

So we can only turn to the question whether an enemy of Paul got hold of his epistles, and altered them to have discrepancies with Luke and on their face be repusively evil and immoral with several blasphemies thrown in as well. 

Can any such notion of tampering with Paul's Epistles be sustained? Not really.

The oldest virtually complete version of Paul's writings is P46. It is dated to about 200 AD. It comes to us today virtually unchanged since 200 AD. We have no evidence of highly materially different earlier versions.

It is possible that by 200 someone had a bright idea to combat Marcion (began 140 AD) by tampering with Paul. They theoretically were altering the manuscripts to make them highly embarassing for Paul, adding immoral and evil principles such as Paul's view lying for the gospel is ok (Romans 3:7; etc.) This would then in theory destroy Marcionism that relied exclusively upon Paul.

However, this makes no sense, as Marcion beginning in 140 AD used a virtually similar version to P46. Hence, it is almost impossible to believe anti-Paul tampering to undermine Marcion is the explanation.

The second possibility is that Marcion created the earliest version of Paul's epistles. Marcion emerged in 144 AD. He created a canon of 10 epistles for Paul (not the final 13) with minor differences from the same today. In these ten, Paul espoused faith-alone and the abrogation of the Law. In fact, these were Marcion's two key doctrines he derived from Paul's writings. See our article Marcionism


But did Marcion have time to sneak in a tampered version of Paul's epistles? Eight of Paul's epistles appear in about 200 A.D. in papyrus 46 in its own volume. The epistles include Romans (except most of the first five chapters), 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philemon, Colossians and 1 Thessalonians. They were collected in one volume with no other present books of the new Testament except the Epistle to the Hebrews. This later epistle was included evidently because it was thought Paul wrote it.

Because these earliest works after Marcion are similar to those ten earlier epistles of Marcion, it appears reasonable to infer that the Pauline epistles in the NT are accurate depictions of how they read originally unless they vary from both the Marcionite version of 144 AD and Papyrus 46 of about 200 AD.

Between these two sources - Marcion and Papyrus 46, the most authentic must be the earliest - the ones preserved by Marcion. As Martin Larson writes:

“Marcion [c. 100 – c. 165 C.E.] accepted only ten Pauline epistles and that his version did not contain many of the passages found in our canonical. There can be no reasonable doubt that this was the actual corpus of Pauline literature as it existed late in the first century.” 

See, Martin A. Larson, The Story of Christian Origins or The Sources and Establishment of Western Religion (Village Press, 1977) at 529).

Furthermore, the tampering theory only has the evidence the Paul of Acts is so different than the Paul of the Epistles. The better explanation of that conflict is simple: Luke had never seen any of the epistles of Paul, which with small exception were written after Acts, and Paul used guile on Luke to evade revealing Paul's true doctrines.

For Paul boasted of exactly the kind of guile necessary to explain how Luke only saw a law-endorsing and works-worthy-of-repentance-Gospel version of Paul. Such a boast can explain the necessary behavior Paul would have to pull off -- act one way in front of Luke but write epistles behind Luke's back that speak very differently. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians that he did use such behavior with the Corinthians:

But be it so, I did not myself burden you; but, being  crafty, I  caught you with guile. (2 Cor.12:16, ASV.)

Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 9 and 10, Paul says he plays the chameleon as an evangelical tactic:

"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and  to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;  to those who are without the law as without law...  that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." 1Corinthians 9:19-22

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." 1Corinthians 10:31-33

Hence, I believe the better explanation at present of the discrepancy betwen the Paul depicted in Acts and the one present in Paul's epistles is due to Paul behaving as a tactician of self-admitted deception -- here misleading Luke as to Paul's true opinions and values to Paul's advantage. Paul thereby duped Luke.

Even so, one must acknowledge that to believe this, one must also believe that Luke would have been extremely gullible to never see through Paul's actor's mask. We would have to believe Luke trusted Paul despite rumors and tell-tale signs that Luke even mentions, e.g., see Acts 21:20-22 where James raises the question of rumors of "apostasy" that Paul was departing from the Law of Moses.

So naturally we would ask: didn't Luke instead investigate the rumor mentioned in Acts 21 that Paul taught the Law given Moses no longer even applied to Jews? If so, did Luke truly find no proof of what we now see riddles all of the principal Pauline letters, i.e., an anti-Law theory repeated numerous times and in numerous ways? That Paul taught faith alone without repentance from sin, like Abraham whom Paul says was "justified while ungodly" by faith alone (Romans 4:3-5)? Or were these ideas added later, and that is why Luke did not find any of these theories in Paul's extant writings of that era that contradicts Paul's views expressed in quotes #1, #2, and #3 above from Acts?

It is inviting to think tampering is the best explanation. Yet, there is no other serious evidence other than this discrepancy itself that Paul's writings were written by another. 

This leaves us at present with only two likely conclusions that explains all these facts: (a) Paul was a consummate guileful deceiver (as he himself twice boasts) to present himself to Luke as endorsing the Law and repentance as works-worthy-of-repentance as the quotes from Acts above prove -- quotes #1, #2 and #3 from Acts above; and (b) Luke was willing to give Paul the benefit of the doubt, and did no investigation on the rumors discussed in Acts 21 that would conflict with quotes #1, #2 and #3 above.