"The presence of anti-Pauline texts in [Matthew's] Gospel, point inevitably towards the conclusion that the evangelist himself [sic: really Jesus] was anti-Pauline." D.C. Sim [2002:780]


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What Did Jesus Say? (2012) - 7 topics 

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Review of A Polite Bribe (2013)

Slander of James, the Bishop of Jerusalem

This 1 hour 23 minute documentary-style movie is excellent as cinema. The author / writer is never identified. The movie producer is Robert Orlando. We long ago reviewed his 2015 article in the Huffington Post on the same topic at this link. Nothing in that 2015 article could prepare one to think a movie like this had appeared directed with such serious accusations against James, while glorifying Paul.

Whoever wrote this movie provides us an unjustified slander of James, the first bishop of Jerusalem. Supposedly, James, the Bishop of Jerusalem — whom Paul calls an apostle (Gal. 1:18-19) “betrayed” Paul by letting a mob rush Paul which led to Paul being first guarded but then arrested by Roman officers at the Temple. The accusation by the mob was that Paul was responsible for his companion Trophimus’ breach of the Court of the Men at the Temple. These mob members blamed Paul for “bringing him [i.e., Trophimus] into the temple area” uncircumcised (Acts 21:29). Then the documentary clearly says an alleged knowing inaction by James and other Christian leaders at Jerusalem to stop the mob was a “betrayal” — by James in particular — that led supposedly to Paul’s death at Nero’s hands or in prison. Hence, James is portrayed as the primarily guilty party for Paul’s supposed execution or death arising from this appeal to Caesar by not protecting Paul from the mob at Jerusalem. This "betrayal" is multiple times depicted as the cause of Paul's supposed death. James is thus depicted as Paul’s de facto Judas.

This accusation against James is completely false and thus constitutes a slander of James. It accuses him essentially of intending to "stop" Paul by setting in motion events he foresaw would lead to Paul's supposed death, and then did nothing to protect Paul. Hence James is depicted as a murderer by proxy.

This movie’s conclusion about James is set up at various points but finally is clear in the last few minutes at the 1 hour 19 minute mark:

49:45 "what made it worse is no one came to his defense; he was betrayed by Christians and in those he had confided" (Narrator).

51:35 [Paul said he was betrayed by “super apostles”] "Why did he call them super apostles? This is the same language he used previously to refer to James, John and Peter." (Narrator)

1:11:00 "The people in Jerusalem left Paul on his own, and did not protect him" (Cassandra Moss, of Notre Dame.)

1:12:00 "We cannot be sure how involved James was in the plot at the temple." (Narrator).

1:19:12 "The reality is his end came as a simple act of betrayal, a lone visionary who had gone too far." (Narrator)

1:19:24 "What is undeniable is [Paul’s] conflict with James and the Jerusalem church led to his imprisonment and death." (Narrator)

There are numerous factual errors in this work, most importantly:

  • Error No. 1. It is false to say or infer that the action by the Jewish mob grabbing Paul — Trophimus’ companion — was supposedly not spontaneous but allegedly likely coordinated by James’ aids with his knowledge with the intent Paul be “stopped" in his Gentile mission. Based upon that false premise, the piece concludes James was responsible for Paul’s arrest and later supposed death by execution or imprisonment at Rome's hands in this legal matter.
  • Here are excerpts that try to make out this erroneous and false claim:

1:13:22-28: "It is not the case like people spontaneously jumping out of their chairs, and then decide to attack someone. There are always individuals coordinating those efforts. It is not just like a match to dry leaves. You can see these things coming. It is unlikely that [James] had no idea. He could have warned Paul, it seems. It seems unlikely that he couldn't have known." (Cassandra Moss of Notre Dame.)

1:13:52 “The Jerusalem church under James wanted Paul taken care of, so this experiment of a Gentile mission would be stopped." (Ludemann).

1:12:53-56. “A leader doesn't have to do things if you know others will do it. [James] doesn't have to get his hands dirty.” (Ludemann).

  • Truth as to Error No. 1. The truth is that the accusation over Trophimus involved the most serious breach of Jewish law — an uncircumcised Gentile in the Court of the Men at the Temple. This is the kind of crime that would naturally involve spontaneous reaction from any and all Jews in defense of the Temple before ever coming to James’ attention. Trophimus walked right through a wall gate at the inner Temple where the sign in Greek, Latin and Hebrew said it was a death penalty for any Gentile to pass - a Roman Law which the Jews sought to fulfill their law from Ezekiel against uncircumcised gentiles inside the Temple. This violation by Trophimus was an act similar to the Temple's defilement which had previously required in 168 BC rededication of the Temple to purge the defilement before the Temple could be used again.1 If something like this happened at a Muslim shrine at Mecca, no one even as close as 50 feet away could stop a mob in time before police step in. The insinuations by ‘experts’ to the contrary in James’ situation were ludicrous and clearly defamatory.
  • Moreover, Luke says it was "Jews from Asia...[who] stirred up all the people and laid hands on him." (Acts 21:27.) Paul in fact likewise says in the first hearing before Festus that it was "Jews from Asia" who grabbed Paul before the Roman guards stepped in. (Acts 24:18.) This puts the blame for the mob action on non-Christians from Turkey (Asia Minor), not Christian Jews from Jerusalem. (In fact, these Jews were so distinct from James that Eusebius reports it was these same Jews - the ones who tried to kill Paul -- who next tried and succeeded in killing James, the brother of Jesus. See Eusebius, Eccl. History Ch. 23.)
  • Thus, there was no means that James could have exercised to prevent the mob action nor is there evidence James was using familiar proxies to violently pursue Paul. 
  • Error No. 2. It was completely erroneous to assume as fact in the quotes above that Paul in this legal matter was either killed by Rome, or let die in prison, and hence James was responsible for Paul’s death by deliberate betrayal, i.e., knowing inaction.
  • Truth that Dispells Error #2. Eusebius and Jerome both record that Paul was acquitted by Nero in this trial. Eusebius makes it emphatic that Paul was "absolved of all crime." (Eusebius, Eccl Hist. 325 AD (Ed. Cruse 1905) at page 62 / Bk II, Ch. XII.  For more background, see fn. 2 
  • The earliest source from pre-70AD -- then part of the Christian canon -- likewise also says Paul after defending himself in court, went to the extremity of the kingdom, i.e., Spain, before dying naturally of old age. And a later source agrees Paul was released, went to Spain and says Paul then next went to Jerusalem. Then in a report centuries later, it was claimed after the acquittal that Paul years later supposedly returned to Rome a second time, and offended Nero who suspected Paul of some personal offence who for that reason had Paul executed. Thus multiple sources disprove this movie's point that James' alleged inaction foreseeably led to either Paul's execution or death in prison awaiting trial on this charge raised in Acts 21. Let's now look at the references.
  • The first proof on this point comes from the earliest contemporaneous account of Paul’s last days. This was written by Clement, bishop of Rome, probably shortly before 70 AD, as he mentions that sacrifices were continuing at the Temple. (1 Clem. Cor. 17:20.) Clement says that after Paul defended himself before rulers, Paul reached the "extremity of the West" of the realm, i.e., Spain, and he then "departed at length out of the world." (1 Clem. Cor.  5:5-7.) This means that Paul was not sentenced to death by Nero but was released, went to Spain, and died naturally "at length."  Clement's letter from Rome was part of the earliest Christian accepted canon for centuries, and even is part of the Alexandrinus Bible, but then omitted from approximately 340AD forward. Thus Paul had to have been not only earlier released by Nero, but also Paul was doing missionary trips freely to Spain where he died a natural death. This is what the earliest Christians must have known as the facts because it was in fact in the canon reading materials.
  • Likewise, the Muratorian Canon scrap from the 2d or 4th century records a trip by Paul to Spain never mentioned in Acts; it says "Paul who from the city (of Rome) proceeded to Spain." Link. Instead, Luke records once Paul arrived at Rome to stand trial, he was allowed to live in a house for two years "at his own expense" thus far. (Acts 28:30-31.) This was a house arrest obviously to wait for the witnesses to arrive from Jerusalem. Paul was not going to be permitted to leave Rome until the charges were heard. Thus, a trip to Spain implies Paul was acquitted.
  • Interestingly, this trip to Spain which obviously was after the close of Acts and which only could follow an acquittal remains a strong tradition in Spain. See link.  It also is recorded in early non-canonical works including the Acts of Peter, and Acts of Xanthippe. See link.
  • Next is Eusebius in 325 AD, whom we already quoted saying Paul was "absolved of all crime" in the trial before Nero. (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. (ed. Cruse 1905) at 62.)
  • Further on, Chrysostum in 398 AD says Paul was set at liberty at Rome, then "went into Spain," (Homily 10), and then "came to Jerusalem, and made a visit to Jewish believers there, and then he came to Rome where he was put to death by Nero." (Nathaniel Lardner, Andrew Kippis, The Works of Nathaniel Lardner(1815) Vol. 2 at 607.)
  • Chrysostum explains the various options of stories of why Nero executed Paul on that return visit. None of them involve the charges raised in Acts 21. The first option is Nero did this because Paul converted a "favorite concubine." Then a different story was that Nero killed Paul because Paul "saluted a butler, or cup-bearer, and a concubine of Nero." And a third story was that Paul converted a "cup-bearer of Nero." Finally a fourth story was that Nero killed Paul because Paul found favor with "one of the friends of the emperor." Id., at 619. 
  • This much later execution by Nero, if true (which is questionable), thus had nothing to do with Paul's first trial at Rome, i.e., any guilt for Trophimus' violation of the temple. The most likely truth was Clement's earliest account that Paul left Rome, and went to Spain where he died a natural death.  Thus, that natural death or any other accounts of Paul's death had nothing to do with the sacrilege at Jerusalem which was the charge before Nero on the house arrest at Rome over Trophimus’ violation which this movie is addressing. There is thus no basis to believe Nero in this first trial ordered Paul executed. Or even if we trust obvious pious frauds centuries later that make Paul a martyr, they still all agree on the acquittal by Nero over the temple sacrilege charge whereupon Paul leaves for Spain.  They simply try to weave accounts how Paul was killed by Nero after a trip to Spain, but always assert different charges than sacrilege of the Jerusalem Temple.
  • The fact that the first trial at Rome over the Temple offence unquestionably ended in an acquittal makes the accusation against James as somehow responsible for Paul’s death by Rome's execution in this matter completely false and clear slander.
  • Theories that ignore mention of these acquittal proofs, and rely upon silly conflation to prove Paul died in the sacrilege charge case, are discussed in the NOTE at the end below. These theories conflate / link together Paul's stress of the fear of death awaiting a trial in Ephesus (not at Rome) as supposedly talking about the Nero trial over sacrilege, and then they believe one can supposedly predict or infer Paul knows he will die in that Nero trial. However, fear of death does not mean death happened in the trial to which Paul referred.


What is particularly galling about such slander against James whether deliberate or by an excusable gap in research, is that James likely had engaged Luke’s aid to get Paul’s acquittal. It was in the entire Church’s interest that Paul get acquitted. This is because Nero at Rome would be exposed in Paul's trial to Christians for the first time. If we Christians are a sect within Judaism, we Christians are lawful to operate under Judaism’s approved legality in the Roman empire. If we are a new sect that is disruptive of a lawful sect’s temple, we are likely illegal, and at risk that all Christianity would be banned.3 Thus, the Jerusalem Church (James and company) as a whole had every interest to enlist Luke to inform Theophilus of facts that could explain Paul’s excuse was a factual alibi — Paul was in a ritual bath at the time of Trophimus’ defilement of the Temple (Acts 21:28-29; 24:18). Luke's account would thereby simultaneously dispel any suggestion that circumcision as required in Ezekiel 44:9 for a Gentile to enter the Temple proper had been done away with by Christianity. The Temple Sign which Trophimus crossed was Rome's written application of Ezekiel's prohibition. It was that mis-step by Trophimus that created the furor by the mob.

The slander here is further galling because James cooperated with the Gentile mission after the Holy Spirit in Acts 10 mandated expanding missions to include Gentiles. In Acts 15, James blocked an impediment to the Gentile mission which others sought to impose, which we will explain next.

But first and incidentally, this Gentile mission by the 12 began before Paul interacted with Christian leaders by Paul's own admission that he stayed away from them for three years after his Damascus Road experience. (Gal. 5.) Furthermore, the Gentile mission was so important that the Holy Spirit decided Peter (not anyone else including a post-Damascus-Road Paul) was the apostle to the Gentiles. (See Peter's speech in Acts 15.)

What specific impediment did James block in Acts 15? At the time, some claimed Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved. Acts 15:1-2. Luke depicts James as head of the conference in Acts 15 with the twelve present, and they gathered to address that issue. James' decision impliedly rejected that circumcision of a Gentile was necessary for “salvation” -- the issue posed in Acts 15:1-2 for the Jerusalem conference. James instead says four laws are necessary for Gentiles (not mentioning circumcision), and the rest of the Law applicable to the Gentiles would be learned as they hear the Bible read at weekly Sabbath readings. (Acts 15:21.) This meant the Ezekiel requirement of circumcision to pass through the middle wall of the Temple remained obligatory on Gentiles and would be taught. But circumcision was not a condition to be a Christian. This also meant James read literally the Law that only requires circumcision on "sons of Israel" (Lev 12:1-3) absent a desire of a Gentile to enter the Temple. Thus, Luke’s purpose in Acts is to let Rome know we Christians have no doctrine that excuses compliance that Gentiles must be circumcised if they wish to enter the Temple Court of Men. We simply do not insist Gentiles must be circumcised for “salvation.” Luke presents Christianity in Acts as simply a sect within Judaism -- that was Luke's primary aim, not necessarily to extoll Paul. See footnote 3.

Hence, this movie can be appreciated as art -- thanks to Mr. Orlando, but for accuracy in its primary conclusion, not so much.

Incidentally, the point of the movie was to prove that Paul made a collection from the Gentile churches  to bring to Jerusalem, and then claims the Jerusalem church made it appear they refused direct receipt but otherwise intentionally redirected it in a money-laundering scheme to hide their eventual receipt. The proof offered in the movie that it was refused directly is nebulous, suggesting it is hinted at in Acts 21 when James tells Paul to do a Nazirite vow. In that process, offerings could be made, and the movie hints this is the 'proof' that the collection was delivered to the church in that indirect manner. This is what the movie depicts as money-laundering, i.e., the money got into third-party hands first but ended up somehow in the hands of the Jerusalem church in the end.

This was hardly satisfactory proof of any such transmission. From Acts alone we would think no such collection was ever even offered, for Luke would evidently directly mention it among other pro-Paul details.

Regardless, there is one proof that the movie could have offered, but did not note, that the Jerusalem church would refuse any collection from Paul of Gentile monies, and thus not accept any money-laundering scheme either. This proof would suggest that had Paul brought an offering to the Jerusalem church (as distinct from putting the money in the poor-box at the Temple), Paul's offer would indeed have been refused emphatically. For in 3 John 7, Apostle John says missionaries abroad were approved for refusing to take Gentile money, evidently because that could compromise the message and violate Jesus' instruction to not take money from those you preach to or teach in Matt 10:7-8. Apostle John says: 

Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. (3 John 7.) 

Obviously, John as a "pillar of the church," as Paul said, was commending the missionaries for refusing any Gentile money to avoid compromise -- being effectively bribed to please the donor class. This means if Paul came with an offering of Gentile money to be given directly to the Jerusalem church, the church would naturally and appropriately refuse it. The money had to be instead given to the poor directly, with no possible gain to the church itself.


Right Only About Paul's Bribe


The only main point the movie does get right is Paul's plan of collecting money for Jerusalem in 1 Corinthians was planned in such a manner -- including a letter from Paul -- that Paul wanted credit. Thus, in this way, the offering -- sincerely given by the Corinthians -- would serve as a bribe by Paul to obtain influence over the Jerusalem church. See our article Did Paul Attempt to Bribe the Jerusalem church?  The movie just tries to put a good spin on it, calling it a Polite Bribe. But in God's eyes and in the Jerusalem church's eye, Apostle John told us it was a corrupt act.





1. Antiochus Epiphanes (168 B.C.), who was king at Antioch, forbade the keeping of the laws of Moses. He defiled the temple in Jerusalem by sacrificing swine to idols and commanded the books of the law to be burned.

2. Eusebius, The Church History (transl. Paul L. Maier) (Kregel, 1999) 2:22 on page 80. This dates to early 300s. Under the heading Paul Acquitted, we read: "After defending himself [successfully], the apostle is said to have set out again on the ministry of preaching and, coming a second time to the same city, found fulfilment in martyrdom."

Another translation is:

"Paul after pleading his case is said to have been sent again on the ministry of preaching, and after a second visit to the city to have finished his life with martyrdom." The word "visit" signifies that this second time Paul was no longer a  prisoner.

Jerome concurs -- See this link which includes: "It ought to be said that at the first defence, the power of Nero having not yet been confirmed, nor his wickedness broken forth to such a degree as the histories relate concerning him, Paul was dismissed by Nero, that the gospel of Christ might be preached also in the West.St. Jerome: De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men), Chap. 5..

3. John W. Mauck, Esq., Paul on Trial: The Book of Acts as a Defense of Christianity (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001) at 4 (“Luke-Acts was written as a legal defense of Paul as he awaited trial before Nero and was intended to bring the gospel to Theophilus even as he gathered facts concerning the charges against Paul.”) See, C.A. Heumann, “Dissertatio de Theophilo cui Lucas Historiam Sacram Inscripsit,” Bibliotheca historico-philologico-theologica, classis IV (Bremen, 1720) at 483-505 (arguing that Luke wrote to the Roman magistrate Theophilus to defend against false accusations against Christianity). See also Joshua Yoder, Representatives of Roman Rule: Roman Provincial Governors in Luke-Acts (Walter de Gruyter, 2014) at 6 (Heumann is the traditional view that “Theophilus was a pagan magistrate to whom Luke addressed his book as an apologia....”)


  • What evidence can there be that this first trial instead ended in death?  It appears that some scholars do not recognise the proper dating of the pastoral epistles.  They link pastorals to the time at Rome when Paul was waiting for trial with Nero. They rely on passages where Paul is describing himself as being on trial, fearing death, and all those in Asia [western Turkey] abandoned him,  giving an impression that Paul is actually writing from prison.  Link. Paul describes his enemy as the lion – a term usually associated with Jews, but some theorize he meant Nero was a lion.  But that is completely unfounded. Thus, without any basis, some have stated this is Paul describing what actually happened in Rome in the first trial. Rather than living two years at his own expense in a home, as Luke asserts, Paul is supposedly really in prison.  They think Luke is in error.  Then the same commentators are still believing Paul was killed in the first trial, but they haven't correlated this belief against any of the accounts  of Paul's end which always is after a release and after he's gone to Spain.
  • The truth is the scholars have overlooked that Paul is saying all those in Asia abandoned him, and now he is threatened by an enemy whom he calls the lion.  We know from Revelation chapter 2 that obviously Paul was put on trial by the church at Ephesus, the capital city of Asia, a province in western Turkey.  Luke in Acts 19 recounts about a synagogue at Ephesus that was for three months listening to Paul and many were coming over to him.  Then, for a reason Luke does not explain, this synagogue expels Paul.  That's where Revelation chapter two fills in the gap.  Jesus commends the church in Ephesus for having put on trial someone who said he was an apostle but is not, but was found to be a liar.  The same church was commended for having rejected the false prophet who told them it was permissible to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Paul does so twice in first Corinthians 8 and 10, explaining an idol is nothing, and what we eat or do not eat does not commend us to God.  
  • Hence, from Paul's own words, we know the location of this "trial" is Asia, because he's upset that all those in Asia have abandoned him.  If Paul was standing trial in Rome, why would it matter that one small province of Asia in the Empire has abandoned him? Also, Paul says his enemy is the lion, which has to mean Jews --  where the tribe of Judah is depicted by an emblem of a lion.  This fits the Acts 19 synagogue at Ephesus that expels him. Thus Paul's words do not fit any trial at Rome arising out of the events in Acts 21. Instead, those words perfectly fit the Acts 19 expulsion at Ephesus and Revelation chapter 2 that depicts a church trial of someone who claims to be an apostle of Jesus Christ and was not, and who also said it was okay to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Furthermore, Paul's fear of death in the epistle talking about being on trial, abandoned by all those brothers of Asia, does not prove Paul actually died as a result of that trial.
  • Orlando wrote in 2014 a book of the same title as the movie. I have not read it, but the first reviewer’s thorough review of the book omits mention of any theory of James' colluding with the crowd to grab Paul, nor implies any longer that Paul died at Nero's hands from the ensuing legal matter. See link. Perhaps it plays a small role in the book. However, another book reviewer does make mention that the collusion theory leading to Paul’s death appears at the end of the book:

Orlando closes the book with some startling claims, at least from my quasi-conservative, process theology driven perspective. For example, he claims that Paul’s conflict with James and the Jewish Christians led, ultimately, to his imprisonment and death. (Bradford McCall, Regent University).

  • In a third review of the movie by Dr. David May, he sees problems with the argument in the movie about James and the collusion with the mobs similar to my points: 


Also the suggestion that James and the Jerusalem community had a hand in the death of Paul to get him off of the scene because of Paul’s work with the Gentile believers seems to build a large argument upon a great deal of silence in Acts.  One of the possible scenarios put forward by the film is that Paul was “setup” to go to the Temple (Acts 21:23-26) and was ambushed by Jews in the Temple and almost killed in a riot.  Why set Paul up?  The Judean community of believers sacrificed Paul because of his work with Gentiles and their inclusion into the community of faith.  The collection was not the bridge to unity but instead, at least in the film interpretation, was the catalyst for Paul’s betrayal. It certainly portrays the Jerusalem church as xenophobic, which Acts does not do: “When we [Paul and coworkers] arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly” (Acts 21:17).  And when Paul explained the Spirit’s movement among Gentiles and how Gentiles were entering the faith, “they praised God” (Acts 21:20).   The suggestion of collusion and of hanging Paul out to dry almost makes the Jerusalem believers as conspiring as those forty plus Judeans who pledged to kill Paul (Acts 23:12-15).

Another fourth reviewer of the movie saw other efforts to portray James as evil, in agreeing to a bribe, of which I insist there is zero proof of any offering of money from the Gentiles to the Jerusalem church by Paul. (This does not stop the speculation that James asked Paul to take a vow, with several others, and pay their costs for the vow, as a means of accepting the monies - money laundering in a sense). Then James supposedly after agreeing to the bribe (no proof again) and laundering it, still betrays Paul by use of proxies. Here is his synopsis: 

I simply cannot find any virtuous character in all this drama (or, at any rate, I find them as vicious as any regular human being). These are no saints. Paul is the briber, who thinks that money can indeed buy leadership. James is the person bribed, who is willing to modify his message as long as he is provided with money in order to keep an archaic religious vow (I do not buy the argument that, if you are the President of a College, you may put a rock with a benefactor’s name no matter his business practices; if that were the case, it would be O.K. for the Vatican to accept Michael Corleone’s donations). Worse still, after assuring Paul they have a deal, now James deliberately breaks it by sending delegates to counter Paul’s influence. Peter and Barnabas seem to be people who keep their word, but then, when authority comes, they succumb to it and abandon their convictions (they become ‘little Eichmanns’ who just can’t handle peer pressure, and deliver their consciences to their boss’ commands).

Maybe it was not as sinister as it seems, perhaps the deal was just a necessary compromise at the time. But, it seems to me that, no matter how polite and understandable it may have been, a bribe is a bribe. 

This reviewer then continues, and gets into the supposed betrayal by James:

Paul finally arrived in Jerusalem. The fact that the book of Acts makes no mention of the collection makes one think that it was rejected by James. Or, at any rate, James performed what Orlando (quoting scholar Robert Jewett) describes as a “primitive money-laundering scheme”: he urged Paul to use the money to finance the vows of other Nazarites. In that manner, the money would be impure, as it came from Gentiles and was a sort of bribe, but it could be cleansed by using it as finance for a Nazarite vow.

           But, in Orlando’s estimation (and other scholars), we must not rule out it was all a trap. James knew Jews had no sympathies for Paul, so he tricked him into going to the Temple, so that a riot would erupt and Paul would be killed. James, who had great influence in the Temple, arranged everything so that the doors of the Temple would be closed, and Paul would be left alone when all hell would break loose. The plan worked: some Jews from Asia identified Paul, accused him of bringing Gentiles into the Temple, and the riot erupted. Paul was not killed (he was rescued by Roman guards), but at least, he was cleared out of the way for James, so the plan did work.

           ... I would venture to say that, all along, James considered Paul a nuisance, and he was determined to get him out of the way.