|Rembrandt Self Portrait as Paul
Dec 26 and Jan 2 2020
Here are the links to my lecture on You Tube
We are usually caught up, as Jews, in polemics with Christian missionaries, on proving that Jesus is not the Messiah .
That , however, is based on the misunderstanding, from our side, of what Christianity is. That Christianity is the product of a very different Jew.
For my outline, I have taken excerpts from the Jewish Encyclopedia,c 1906 (still the finest survey of Jewish knowledge for everything up to 1900. Available on line at JewishEncyclopedia.com).
These notes are from the perspective of Kaufmann Kohler, a leading Reform Rabbi, who was positing the strength of Judaism in the face of the dominant Christian civilization. Hence, he is very critical towards Paul and , like the 18th-19th century Maskil (Enlightened) hostile to mysticism. He displays an extensive knowledge of Christian sources as well as of academic scholarship of his day. However, material on early Judaism from the Cairo Genizah was just then being uncovered. there was as yet no Dead Sea Scroll discovery, nor , for early Christianity, the documents at Nag Chamadi ( Egypt).
I start with some quotes from Paul:
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.” – Romans 12:9-13
“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. …. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Corinthians 13
“13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith. 15 In that case, we are also exposed as false witnesses about God. For we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead, but He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised.…” Corinthians 15
From Kaufman Kohler, with my interpolations boldfaced and in .
On Saul of Tarsus(the Apostle Paul)
The actual founder of the Christian Church as opposed to Judaism; born before 10 C.E.; died after 63. The records containing the views and opinions of the opponents of Paul and Paulinism are no longer in existence; and the history of the early Church has been colored by the writers of the second century, who were anxious to suppress or smooth over the controversies of the preceding period, as is shown in the Acts of the Apostles and also by the fact that the Epistles ascribed to Paul, as has been proved by modern critics, are partly spurious (Galatians, Ephesians, I and II Timothy, Titus, and others) and partly interpolated.
Saul (whose Roman cognomen was Paul; see Acts xiii. 9) was born of Jewish parents in the first decade of the common era at Tarsus in Cilicia.
[On the claim that he was the student of Rabban Gamliel]
Nor is there any indication in Paul's writings or arguments that he had received the rabbinical training ascribed to him by Christian writers, ancient and modern; least of all could he have acted or written as he did, had he been, as is alleged (Acts xxii. 3), the disciple of Gamaliel I, the mild Hillelite. His quotations from Scripture, which are all taken, directly or from memory, from the Greek version, betray no familiarity with the original Hebrew text.
Entirely a Hellenist in thought and sentiment. As such he was imbued with the notion that "the whole creation groaneth" for liberation from "the prison-house the body," from this earthly existence, which, because of its pollution by sin and death, is intrinsically evil .
His whole state of mind shows the influence of the theosophic or Gnostic lore of Alexandria
[ Gnosticism-a category of religious thought of the period. It had many variations, including Jewish ones. In its Jewish manifestation- antagonistic to the Torah and the God of the Torah. Cain and the serpant are the heroes, the God of creation is but 2nd class, at best,(demiurge) below the true God, whose realm is perfection. Again, much of what we know is what was written by their Christian opponents, or indirect references in Rabbinic sources. We do understand that one of the greatest Rabbis of the time of Rabbi Akiba, Elisha ben Abuya, Acher, about 50 years after Paul, had abandoned Judaism and seemed to have adopted that position].
The conception of a new faith, half pagan and half Jewish, such as Paul preached, and susceptibility to its influences, was altogether foreign to the nature of Jewish life and thought. For Judaism, religion is the hallowing of this life by the fulfilment of its manifold duties. . . Paul shrank from life as the domain of Satan and all his hosts of evil; he longed for redemption by the deadening of all desires for life, and strove for another world which he saw in his ecstatic visions.
Whatever the physiological or psychological analysis of Paul's temperament may be, his conception of life was not Jewish. Nor can his unparalleled animosity and hostility to Judaism as voiced in the Epistles be accounted for except upon the assumption that, while born a Jew, he was never in sympathy or in touch with the doctrines of the rabbinical schools.
[It is a subject of current debate whether he actually turned his back on Jewish peoplehood, or thought of two strands, equivalent, of Jew and Gentile, one under Halakha, and one under faith]
Paul was of a fiery temper, impulsive and impassioned . . .. Effusive and excessive alike in his love and in his hatred, in his blessing and in his cursing, he possessed a marvelous power over men; and he had unbounded confidence in himself….. The philosopher and the Jew will greatly differ from him with regard to every argument and view of his; but both will admit that he is a mighty battler for truth, and that his view of life, of man, and of God is a profoundly serious one. The entire conception of religion has certainly been deepened by him, because his mental grasp was wide and comprehensive, and his thinking bold, aggressive, searching, and at the same time systematic. Indeed, he molded the thought and the belief of all Christendom.
Jewish Proselytism and Paul.
Why did Paul find it necessary to create a new system of faith for the admission of the Gentiles, in view of the fact that the Synagogue had well-nigh two centuries before opened its door to them and, with the help of the Hellenistic literature, had made a successful propaganda, as even the Gospels testify?
[ One of the known complaints in the New Testament, in Jesus own words: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.( Matthew 23:15.) The fact that Paul could find an audience is simply because there were so many gentiles who had adopted Jewish practices, if not Jewish religion, and in particular, gentile women drawn to the protection given women in Jewish society]
The answer is supplied by the fact that Jewish proselytism had the Jewish nation as its basis, as the names "ger" and "ger toshab" for "proselyte" indicate. The proselyte on whom the Abrahamic rite was not performed remained an outsider. It was, therefore, highly important for Paul that those who became converted to the Church should rank equally with its other members and that every mark of distinction between Jew and Gentile should be wiped out in the new state of existence in which the Christians lived in anticipation. The …view of the Synagogue was the political and social one; that of the Church, the eschatological one.[ End of days] …Paul fashioned a Christ of his own, a church of his own, and a system of belief of his own; and because there were many mythological and Gnostic elements in his theology which appealed more to the non-Jew than to the Jew, he won the heathen world to his belief.
Paul's Christ.. . . peculiar vision of Christ, to which he constantly refers as his only claim and title to apostleship (I Cor. ix. 1, xv. 8; II Cor. xii. 1-7; Phil. iii. 9; Gal. i. 1, 12, 16, on which see below). The other apostles saw Jesus in the flesh; Paul saw him when, in a state of entrancement, he was carried into paradise to the third heaven, where he heard "unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (II Cor. xii. 2-4). …To him the Messiah was the son of God in a metaphysical sense, "the image of God" (II Cor. iv. 4; Col. i. 15), "the heavenly Adam" (I Cor. xv. 49; similar to the Philonic or cabalistic Adam Ḳadmon), . .. The object of the Church is to obtain for its members the spirit, the glory, and the life of Christ, its "head," and to liberate them from the servitude of and allegiance to the flesh and the powers of earth
[ Paul’s vision: Corinthians: 12 I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know that this man (whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows) 4 was caught up into paradise[b] and heard things too sacred to be put into words,[c] things that a person[d] is not permitted to speak. 5 On behalf of such an individual I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except about my weaknesses .
Compare the Talmudic version of trip to heaven: Chagigah 14b
§ The Sages taught: Four entered the orchard [pardes], and they are as follows: Ben Azzai; and ben Zoma; Aḥer, and Rabbi Akiva. . . . Ben Azzai glimpsed and died. . . .Ben Zoma glimpsed and was harmed. . . . Aher chopped down the shoots . Rabbi Akiva came out safely. "
"What was it ( about Acher)? He saw Mitatron, who was granted permission to sit and write the merits of Israel. ….( Seeing that someone other than God was seated above) he said: Perhaps, Heaven forbid, there are two authorities ( another source of power in addition to God). They removed Mitatron and smote him with sixty rods [pulsei] of fire ( to demonstrate that he was merely another angel." ( 15a)
Metatron is the name accorded to Enoch, who never dies, and becomes, in some Jewish groups, a mediator between the world and God. For example, the Book of Enoch- some two to three centuries before- describes Enoch as an intermediary figure between God and humanity. The text had been preserved by Ethiopian Copts in Gheez language, but now fragments of the older Aramaic text have been discovered among the Dead Sea scrolls.
Rabbinic sources later play down role of Enoch by portraying him as an unstable personality who dies before his time It is another example of the intentional renunciation of this concept held by Paul and others of the period that there must be an intermediary entity between God and the world].
The Crucified Messiah.
How then can this world of perdition and evil, of sin and death, be overcome, and the true life be attained instead? …. There can be no sin or sensual passion in a world in which the spirit rules. Nor is there need of any law in a realm where men live as angels … To bring back the state of paradise and to undo the sin of Adam, the work of the serpent, which brought death into the world—this seems to have been the dream of Paul.)…. These are the elements of Paul's theology—a system of belief which endeavored to unite all men, but at the expense of sound reason and common sense.
There is possibly a historical kernel to the story related in the Acts (vii. 58-ix. 1-31, xxii. 3-21, xxvi. 10-19), while on the road to Damascus, commissioned with the task of exterminating the Christian movement antagonistic to the Temple and the Law (ib. vi. 13), Paul had a vision in which Jesus appeared to him, saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?". . . Evidently Paul entertained long before his vision those notions of the Son of God which he afterward expressed; but the identification of his Gnostic Christ with the crucified Jesus of the church he had formerly antagonized was possibly the result of a mental paroxysm experienced in the form of visions.
His Missionary Travels.
His field of work was chiefly, if not exclusively, among the Gentiles; he looked for a virgin soil wherein to sow the seeds of the gospel; and he succeeded in establishing throughout Greece, Macedonia, and Asia Minor churches in which there were "neither Jews nor Gentiles," but Christians who addressed each other as "brethren" or "saints." …It was to Rome that his efforts gravitated but Rome's imperial city, whose administrative system he had learned to admire, attracted and fascinated his mind by its world-wide horizon and power. Consciously or unconsciously, he worked for a church with its world-center in Rome instead of in Jerusalem. …he laid the foundation of the world-dominion of pagan Christianity.
Influence of the Greek Mysteries.
Paul, the Hellenist, however, knowingly or unknowingly, seems to have taken the heathen cult associations as his pattern... . . To him baptism is no longer a symbolic rite suggestive of purification or regeneration, as in Jewish and Judæo-Christian circles but a mystic rite by which the person that enters the water and emerges again undergoes an actual transformation, dying with Christ to the world of flesh and sin, and rising with him to the world of the spirit, the new life of the resurrection (Rom. vi. 1-10).
. . . the bread and the wine of the communion meal, the so-called "Lord's Supper," rendered the means of a mystic union with Christ, "a participation in his blood and body," exactly as was the Mithraic meal, a real participation in the blood and body of Mithra (see Cumont, l.c.).
[ Cult of Mithra, Mithrasim, a Roman adaptation of the Zoroastrian god, Mitra, very popular among the Roman legionnaires and a front-runner for state religion under Constantine!]
…his Church has by no means the moral perfection of the human race for its aim and end, as has Judaism. Salvation alone, that is, redemption from a world of perdition and sin, the attainment of a life of incorruption, is the object; yet this is the privilege only of those chosen and predestined "to be conformed to the image of His [God's] son" (Rom. viii. 28-30…. It is not righteousness, nor even faith—in the Jewish sense of perfect trust in the all-loving and all-forgiving God and Father—which leads to salvation, but faith in the atoning power of Christ's death, which in some mystic or judicial manner justifies the undeserving (Rom. iii. 22, iv., v.)
The Mystery of the Cross.
The crucifixion of Jesus as the son of God assumes for him at the very beginning the character of a mystery revealed to him, "a stumbling-block to the Jews and folly to the Greeks" (I Cor. i. 23-ii. 2, ii. 7-10). It is to him a cosmic act by which God becomes reconciled to Himself. God sent "his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh" in order to have His wrath appeased by his death. "He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up," so that by his blood all men might be saved (Rom. v. 8; viii. 3, 32 )
[For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”John 3:16 (The last Gospel-written after destruction of Temple. This was posted all over New York Subway walls when I was a student]
Some early Christians denied that Jesus ever died, a position that the Quran adopted. Islam accepts Jesus as a major prophet]
Paul's Opposition to the Law.
According to his arguments (Rom. iii. 20, iv. 15, vii-viii.), it is the Law that begets sin and works wrath, because without the Law there is no transgression. …He has no faith in the moral power of man: "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing" (ib. vii. 18). ,…For Paul, to be a member of the Church meant to be above the Law, and to serve in the newness of the spirit under a higher law (ib. vii. 4-6, 25
As he stated in I Cor. ix. 20-22: "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ), that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."
The original attitude of Paul to the Law was accordingly not that of opposition as represented in Romans and especially in Galatians, but that of a claimed transcendency.
To be with Christ, "in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead," is to become so "complete" as to be above the rule of heavenly bodies, above the "tradition of men," above statutes regarding circumcision, meat and drink, holy days, new moon, and Sabbath, all of which are but "a shadow of the things to come"; it is to be dead to the world and all things of the earth, to mortify the members of the flesh, to "put off the old man" with his deeds and passions, and put on the new man who is ever renewed for the highest knowledge of God (gnosis), so that there is "neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all" (Col. ii. 9-iii. 11; comp. I Cor. v. 7: "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump").
[ Contrast similar Jewish source- Tana d bei Eliyahu, 10th cent, Ch 9
On Deborah, being a woman and a judge
מעיד אני עלי את השמים ואת הארץ בין ישראל בין עכו"ם בין איש בין אשה בין עבד ובין שפחה הכל לפי המעשה שהוא עושה כך רוח הקודש שורה עליו
Whether Jew or idolator, male or female, or slave or bond woman, all is in accordance with the deed he does, thus the holy spirit rests on him( or her).]
Antinomianism and Jew-Hatred.
… In order to accomplish his purpose, he argues that just as little as the heathen escapes the wrath of God, owing to the horrible sins he is urged to commit by his clinging to his idols, so little can the Jew escape by his Law, because "the law worketh sin and wrath" (Rom. iv. 15). Instead, indeed, of removing the germ of death brought into the world by Adam, the Law was given only to increase sin and to make all the greater the need of divine mercy which was to come through Christ, the new Adam (ib. v. 15-20)…., he argues that the saving grace of God lies in faith (that is, blind belief) and not in the works of the Law. And so he declares faith in Jesus' atoning death to be the means of justification and salvation, and not the Law, which demands servitude, whereas the spirit of Christ makes men children of God (Rom. iv.-viii.).
[ Justin Martyr, early Church father, took the argument against Jewish law one step further: For we too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined you — namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your hearts. Ch 18 ( Contra Trypho)]
Paul and Paulinism.
How far, after a careful analysis discriminating between what is genuine in Paul's writings and what is spurious and interpolated, he may yet be regarded as "the great religious genius" or the "great organizer" of the Christian Church, can not be a matter for discussion here. Still the credit belongs to him of having brought the teachings of the monotheistic truth and the ethics of Judaism, however mixed up with heathen Gnosticism and asceticism, home to the pagan world in a form which appealed most forcibly to an age eager for a God in human shape and for some means of atonement in the midst of a general consciousness of sin and moral corruption. …Paul with his austerity made Jewish holiness his watch word; and he aimed after all, like any other Jew, at the establishment of the kingdom of God, to whom also his Christ subordinated himself, delivering up the kingdom to the Father when his task of redemption was complete, in order that God might be all in all (I Cor. xv. 28). He was an instrument in the hand of Divine Providence to win the heathen nations for Israel's God of righteousness.
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In the aftermath of Paul’s efforts, the Jewish-Christian movement (such as Ebionites, Evionim, the Poor) disappeared in the following years, as did the Dead Sea groups, the Essenes, and the gentile Christian movement dominated. Later , the Church leaders returned to some form of a religion of “deeds” in the following centuries, under the leadership of the Catholic Church. Martin Luther established his Protestant movement on Paul, with the emphasis on faith, not works. “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.”
This, in turn, triggered the breakdown of the power of the Church”, leading the way to the wave of religious, then secular ,revolutions that followed. Unfortunately for us. He also penned Von den Juden und ihren Lügen (On the Jews and Their Lies) which he wrote when Jews failed to follow him.
In retrospect, we know that there were many variations on Judaism in the time before and after the fall of the second Temple, yet all had one common theme. Saduccees, the group of the High Priests, who rejected the Oral Torah, the Essenes, who rejected the authority of the High Priest; the Pharisees, who laid claim to the Oral tradition, the mystical Rabbis, like Rabbi Akiva, the philosophers, like Philo, for whom all was metaphor and even the early Jesus movement shared one common theme. What kept them all in the Jewish fold was the insistence on the observance of mitzvot, as central to the essence of being a Jew; a Jew followed God’s commands.
It is Paul who breaks this one essence of Judaism, at first for the gentiles only. For a Jew, the question is “ What does God ask of me.” For the Christian, the question is” How do I find salvation.” I borrow from Kennedy: Ask not what your God can do for you; ask what you can do for your God.”.
While Paul never disavowed the Jewish people, or their significance, he set in motion the ideological opposition to Judaism, intellectual anti-Judaism ( as opposed to anti-Semitism). This remained a dominant view in Christian intellectual circles, Protestant and Catholic, till the 20th century.
The digression to Marx:
It would take another Jew to take the split between the two religions to its modern, secular form. Karl Marx, a descendant of great Rabbis, had been baptized as a child, as his father, Herschel had discovered that is career would be better served if he were a member of the Protestant Church.
Just as Marx stood Hegel on his head, by focusing the dialectic on the material, not the ideal, so to, he turned Christian anti-Judaic theology into a secular anti-Jewish ideology. It would be the fodder for both Communist and Nazi attacks on Judaism and Jews.
This is excerpted from Marx “ Zur Judenfrage” ( On the Jewish Problem, 1843) , regarding the political emancipation of the Jews. Marx is developing his concepts of communism, which are reflected in the essay and would appear a few years later in the “ Communist Manifesto.”
What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.
Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time.
An organization of society which would abolish the preconditions for huckstering, and therefore the possibility of huckstering, would make the Jew impossible. His religious consciousness would be dissipated like a thin haze in the real, vital air of society. On the other hand, if the Jew recognizes that this practical nature of his is futile and works to abolish it, he extricates himself from his previous development and works for human emancipation as such and turns against the supreme practical expression of human self-estrangement.
We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time, an element which through historical development – to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed – has been brought to its present high level, at which it must necessarily begin to disintegrate.
In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.. . . The Jew has already emancipated himself in a Jewish way.
“The Jew, who in Vienna, for example, is only tolerated, determines the fate of the whole Empire by his financial power. The Jew, who may have no rights in the smallest German state, decides the fate of Europe. While corporations and guilds refuse to admit Jews, or have not yet adopted a favorable attitude towards them, the audacity of industry mocks at the obstinacy of the material institutions.” (Bruno Bauer, The Jewish Question, p. 114)
This is no isolated fact. The Jew has emancipated himself in a Jewish manner, not only because he has acquired financial power, but also because, through him and also apart from him, money has become a world power and the practical Jewish spirit has become the practical spirit of the Christian nations. The Jews have emancipated themselves insofar as the Christians have become Jews.
Judaism continues to exist not in spite of history, but owing to history.
The Jew is perpetually created by civil society from its own entrails.
What, in itself, was the basis of the Jewish religion? Practical need, egoism.
The monotheism of the Jew, therefore, is in reality the polytheism of the many needs, a polytheism which makes even the lavatory an object of divine law. Practical need, egoism, is the principle of civil society, and as such appears in pure form as soon as civil society has fully given birth to the political state. The god of practical need and self-interest is money.
. . . Contempt for theory, art, history, and for man as an end in himself, which is contained in an abstract form in the Jewish religion, is the real, conscious standpoint, the virtue of the man of money. The species-relation itself, the relation between man and woman, etc., becomes an object of trade! The woman is bought and sold.
The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general.
The groundless law of the Jew is only a religious caricature of groundless morality and right in general, of the purely formal rites with which the world of self-interest surrounds itself.
Here, too, man’s supreme relation is the legal one, his relation to laws that are valid for him not because they are laws of his own will and nature, but because they are the dominant laws and because departure from them is avenged.
Jewish Jesuitism, the same practical Jesuitism which Bauer discovers in the Talmud, is the relation of the world of self-interest to the laws governing that world, the chief art of which consists in the cunning circumvention of these laws.
Indeed, the movement of this world within its framework of laws is bound to be a continual suspension of law.
Judaism could not develop further as a religion, could not develop further theoretically, because the world outlook of practical need is essentially limited and is completed in a few strokes.
By its very nature, the religion of practical need could find its consummation not in theory, but only in practice, precisely because its truth is practice.
Once society has succeeded in abolishing the empirical essence of Judaism – huckstering and its preconditions – the Jew will have become impossible, because his consciousness no longer has an object, because the subjective basis of Judaism, practical need, has been humanized, and because the conflict between man’s individual-sensuous existence and his species-existence has been abolished.
The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.
The bloodiest century in human history followed.