"The more likely explanation is that the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem could not care less what it was that Paul believed in his heart. What they wanted with this public demonstration was an act of repudiation of his teaching. They wanted to make clear, that in the presence of the disciples of Jesus, Paul did not have the backbone to stand for his own principles. This was not to be a demonstration of loyalty, it was to stand as a public renunciation of Pauline Christianity."
No, it was a demonstration of loyality to the Torah. To accuse Paul of lacking a spine against the apostles backtracks against the fact that Paul did confront Peter for his mishandling of the Gospel. Now that is one with a backbone, confronting an apostle when he made a mistake. Paul was not one who tolerated compromise at all. To accuse the Jewish Christians of wanting to make it clear that Paul had no spine when speaking with the apostles, is simply a false statement by Blumenthal.
"Whether you believe that this activity on the part of Paul was to serve as a demonstration of loyalty, or you feel as I do, that this was a forced retraction, there are several questions that the author of Acts leaves unanswered. Of all the activities proscribed by the law of Moses, why did James choose a Temple rite for this public presentation? If the only purpose of this demonstration was to reassure the Jewish Christians that Paul was loyal to the law, a public act of observance of any point in the law would have served. Furthermore, we must ask ourselves, why was this particular Temple rite chosen by James? Why did it have to be a Nazirite offering? Why would a simple burnt offering not have served the same purpose? It is clear that nothing less than a Nazirite offering on the part of Paul would satisfy the Jerusalem Christians. Why not?
The answer is staring us in the face. A Nazirite offering includes a sacrifice that is offered for the explicit purpose of the expiation of sin (Numbers 6:14). Paul’s central teaching is that the only valid method of expiating sin is through the blood of Jesus. The Jewish Christians did not accept this teaching. They believed that the Law of Moses provided for the expiation of sin through various methods including the offering of animals in the Temple for this purpose. When Paul would participate in this rite, he would be publicly repudiating his own teaching on the matter."
This is already answered in my article on Acts 21: http://answering-judaism.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/response-to-yisroel-blumenthal-on-acts.html
Then of course Blumenthal is once again not satisfied with some responses Christians have given, although when this and the other articles had been posted for the first time, he hasn't read them yet. Anyway onto his points.
"Some Christians have argued that these offerings on the part of the Jewish Christians would not serve as a repudiation of Pauline Christianity. These offerings were understood to be pointing back to the sacrifice of Jesus. This explanation fails for several reasons. First, the offerings were to be processed by the non-Christian Temple establishment. The priests who processed the offerings would have understood them as Moses explains: that these offerings themselves atoned for sin. The concept that the sacrifices no longer atoned stands as a polar opposite of the soul and spirit of the Temple establishment. The idea of handing offerings to these people as an expression of loyalty to Christian doctrine is flatly ridiculous."
The Levites if they were unbelievers wouldn't even care about what Paul taught. The argument offered by Christians here still stands, Why? Because Paul knew what he was teaching was not repudiated by James. IT IS IRRELEVANT what the unbelievers attitude to the teaching of the atonement was.
"The second reason that this Christian explanation does not work is because this act was meant as a public demonstration. Paul was not given an opportunity to explain his actions. He was simply to go into the Temple and participate in this offering for the expiation of sin. James trusted that the onlookers would fully understand the message that is inherent in these actions. How would the Jerusalem crowds have understood this message? There is no question that these people would have read the message of Paul’s actions as an affirmation of the efficacy of the Temple sacrifices. No one ever taught these people a different understanding of the sacrifices. The entire concept of “sacrifices pointing back to Jesus” was invented recently under polemical pressure. This concept is not mentioned anywhere in the Christian scriptures or in the writings of any Christian theologian until recently. We can be sure that this concept was not popular currency in the Jerusalem Church of James."
Invented by who? and when? By Paul? Jesus himself said he came to give his life as a ransom for many, which is found in Mark 10:45 and Matthew 20:28. Jesus DID teach his death was a vicarious atonement, which he taught to the apostles, Paul has it revealed to him AND GOES TO CHECK WITH THE APOSTLES THEMSELVES. Furthermore, Let's turn Blumenthal's arguments against him.
He believes in the concept of the Oral Torah, yet this concept is not mentioned anywhere in the TANAKH, let alone the NT writings. Blumenthal may reject what I have to say regarding Paul's teaching going back to Jesus, but by his own criteria. Let's have a conspiracy hypothesis of my own.
Why should I accept this idea of an oral Torah going back to Moses which was convieniently written down AFTER the time of Jesus? I could easily say that the Rabbis invented this concept, thus is a later invention under polemical pressure. Blumenthal can say otherwise and give an explaination but then I can try to refute his point.
"Finally, this explanation (the sacrifices pointed back to Jesus) fails to explain why the members of the JerusalemChurch saw in this act of Paul a declaration of loyalty to the principles they held so dear. Why would this act stand as a symbol of their zeal for the Law?
Let us summarize what we have learned. Paul claimed that no living person taught him anything. He claimed that the teachings that Jesus imparted during his lifetime were meant for the Jews, while the teachings that Paul learned in his visions were meant for the gentiles. Paul accuses the Jewish followers of Jesus for failing to respect this division and attempting to influence the gentiles. Paul tells us that there were people who were very influential in the Church who preached a different gospel than his own. Despite the fact that Paul’s disciples redacted the synoptic gospels, it is still difficult to find a clear Pauline statement attributed to Jesus in these books. The book of Acts makes clear that the JerusalemChurch never acknowledged Paul’s claim to prophecy. The book of Acts also makes clear that there were deep differences between Paul and the members of the JerusalemChurch. (There is more to discuss here, such as the tone and the emphasis of the book of James, the fact that the Jewish disciples of Jesus were shocked by his death, and the fact that the Church of James was allowed to flourish in Pharisaic Jerusalem, but the discussion has already become too lengthy.)".
These bottom points have been addressed in previous articles:
Also, Paul's act would show that the rumours about him telling the Jews to abandon the Torah was a rumour. Simple as that.
"We have an abundance of evidence that Paul, and not Jesus, was the inventor of Christianity. How does Brown deal with this accusation? In the thirteen pages that Brown devoted to this subject, there are only a few sentences that deal with the issues we raised here. On page 201 Brown tells us that Paul was “recognized as a key player by the other key leaders in Acts 15″. Brown does not explain how the description of the author of Acts contradicts Paul’s own version of the event. Brown also does not tell us that the episode as described in Acts makes clear that the leaders of the JerusalemChurch did NOT accept Paul’s claim to prophecy."
I have already showed in the previous articles that the point about Paul's prophecy was NOT an important point at the council and that the apostles accepted him in Acts 14, in the very book that Blumenthal quotes to demonstrate his point. The articles above also cover the "contradictions" between Paul and Luke's accounts.
"Brown tells us that Paul “dispelled any doubts about his teachings and personal practices in Acts 21″ (page 201). This is quite a bizarre statement. The story in Acts 21 reveals the deep friction that existed between all of the Jewish believers and Paul. The JerusalemChurch saw the core of their differences in the Temple offerings. And Brown is satisfied with the pat assurance that Paul “dispelled any doubts”?! Why was there this deep distrust between Paul and the JerusalemChurch? Why were the members of the JerusalemChurch busy with Temple offerings after the crucifixion of Jesus? Why could Paul not reassure the Jewish believers with a simple speech? Why did James and Peter not reassure their own followers? Why did Paul have to do it? Why were the members of the JerusalemChurch so zealous for the Law of Moses? Brown does not seem to have answers for these questions."
Don't actions speak louder than words? What's amazing is that Jews often emphasise the deeds of a man. Surely that principle of Paul's ACTIONS would speak louder than his words? There is a certain hypocrisy in this section of the article by Blumenthal.
"Brown tells us that Paul “passed on what he received”. Brown does not make clear to his readership that when Paul says the word “received” he does not mean that he received the teaching from the Jewish disciples of Jesus, but rather, that he personally received these teachings in visions from the dead Jesus."
This point about the "dead" Jesus giving Revelation to Paul has already been covered. Also, Keith Thompson on his article regarding the apostleship of Paul says the following:
"Disinterested Comment about James
We can know Paul was a reliable true Apostle because of his disinterested comment about the Apostle James in Galatians 1:19:
“18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother.” (Galatians 1:18-19)
Notice the disinterested off the cuff remark from Paul about James. The point is if Paul was a false Apostle inventing stories we would not expect him to just mention James in passing without making a point. The fact that Paul merely mentions James in this off the cuff way persuades historians that Paul is trustworthy showing that he wasn’t out to merely prove he was an Apostle with fanciful detailed stories, but that he was actually recalling real events about his association with the early church and Apostles.
Paul’s Gospel in the 1 Corinthians 15 Apostles Creed is the original Gospel
We can know Paul was a genuine Apostle preaching the original Gospel because his 1 Corinthians 15 Creed, which he received very early from the Apostles (Peter and James), is dated very closely to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion by scholarship which shows that Paul’s message was not some later innovation. The creed states:
“3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
Here Paul reminds the Corinthian church that this Gospel message or creed which he previously preached to them orally was first given to him. It is important to note that Paul mentions that he received this creed before giving it to them. The 1st century evidence demonstrates that Paul received this creed from Peter and James around A.D. 35 in Jerusalem. This demonstrates that Paul’s Gospel (Jesus’ sacrifice for sins, the resurrection and appearances) was not some later corruption but that it goes right back to the beginning – coming from the original Apostles who walked with Jesus. I will demonstrate this by constructing a timeline based on the early data."
I highly recommend this article to you guys, as well as the documentary that Keith has put together, considering the length of legwork he has done with respect to the issue of Paul:
"Brown tells us that “with the exception of some heretical groups (like the Ebionites), Paul’s teachings were received by the second generation of believers, including men who were disciples of the original apostles (such as Polycarp).” I find this sentence quite astounding. Brown tells us nothing about the deep opposition to Paul from within the Church in his own lifetime. This opposition came straight from Jerusalem, the place where Jesus lived and taught. Instead Brown is satisfied to pass on to his readers a piece of Christian mythology. None of the original Hebrew and Aramaic writings of the Jewish disciples of Jesus and their subsequent followings survived the blind fury of the Pauline Church. All of the writings we have from the early Christians were either written or redacted by the gentile followers of Paul. The writings of the early Church fathers tell us precious little about the life and teachings of the Jewish disciples of Jesus. There is one association that Brown and other fundamentalist Christians seize upon. Polycarp! It is claimed that Polycarp was a disciple of John. Polycarp died approximately in the year 160 C.E. If he ever saw John, it could only have been at a time that he was a small boy and John was an old man. Polycarp does not quote John. He does not tell us anything about the life and teachings of John. The entire claim of Polycarp’s discipleship of John, is at best, an exaggeration of a brief sighting in his youth."
Paul had opposition in his day, he mentions this in his letters, again, They were FALSE CHRISTIANS who attacked Paul, NOT the apostles. In this article: http://www.tektonics.org/ntdocdef/johndef.html, Tetonics.org has suggested the following and the quotes I have highlighted in italics are the key points:
"Against the identification of this person with the apostle John, Kümmel objects:
It is unclear that Polycarp is referring to the apostle John. Some have suggested that there is a confusion between the apostle John and a later disciple named John in Polycarp's statement [Stree.4G, 434]. However, Robinson [Robin.PJ, 102-3; see also Gund.Mk, 1027ff] makes the following points:
- The issue is that a "John" is mentioned twice in a statement by Eusebius, referring back to Papias, once in a list of "elders"/"Lord's disciples" (along with Matthew, Peter, Thomas, etc) and immediately thereafter, once paired with an "Aristion" and named as "John the Elder" who are "disciples of the Lord." But Robinson notes that it is Eusebius who "introdudes the distinction" between apostles and elders; Papias calls all of the people elders.
- Eusebius had a specific interest in finding two Johns in the list: He desired to attribute Revelation to another person besides the apsotle, following Dionysius of Alexanrdia.
- The order of words in the listing with Aristion is not "John the elder" but "the elder John" which can be understood to mean "the aforementioned John" in the previous list.
- The purpose of the listing of John twice is that Papias is distinguishing between a list of those he conferred with long ago, and those who were still alive. Only John among the apostles was still in this class at the time of Papias.
Polycarp makes no appeal in his epistles to a relationship with an apostle. This is an argument from silence, and assumes that we have all of Polycarp's extant material and that there was a need for such an appeal, a most gratuitous assumption especially from a high-context document and society in which such background facts if true would be taken for granted. Blomberg [Blom.Jn, 24] notes that Polycarp's epistle is exhortational in nature and thus has no place for direct appeal to John's Gospel or John himself."
This covers that section regarding Polycarp.
"If you are a Christian, I beg of you, please absorb what you have just read. The accusation that Paul invented Christianity has deep foundations in the Christian scriptures and in the history of the early Church. Dr. Brown, who is a very capable person (and I do not mean this sarcastically), could not provide a defense against this accusation aside from four hollow sentences. So what is the basis of your faith?"
Yet the quotations provided by Blumenthal were grossly taken out of context. This Pauline Conspiracy has been shredded for a long time. Any accusation that Jesus and Paul taught 2 different things, is simply an unwillingness to read the context.
I hope these articles regarding the Pauline conspiracy have helped and I hope you may find them useful.