Paul: A Pharisee, and proud of it!
Acts 24:14-16; Acts 23:6
There is a very pernicious idea out there that Paul the Apostle, converted to Christianity. This is fallacious and dangerous when believed. The very idea that there was a separate religion called Christianity at the time of Jesus and Paul is a myth.
There are many places in the New Testament where this myth can be shown to be false, but I picked Acts 23 and 24 to make a few specific points.
We see that Paul is on trial for something in Acts. In order to find out what the ruckus was about, however, you have to go back to chapter 21. Here we find that some of the Jewish people in Ephesus really didn’t like Paul upsetting their system. They were obviously precariously comfortable in this environment where there were few Jews. Paul comes along, and in their eyes, corrupts good Jewish people into doing bad things. They go to the civil authorities who tell them that their religious law has nothing to do with the civil law and to settle it themselves. This angered these people, and we shall see later, the outburst they caused in Acts 21, seemed to start a firestorm of gossip that followed Paul around like ants at a picnic.
What Paul was telling them was not that Gentile believers didn’t have to obey Torah; what he was telling them was they didn’t have to become Jewish BEFORE they became believers. Once they were believers, however, everything that God says people are to do, becomes relevant. It doesn’t go away. Nowhere does Paul say that these people are free from the “Law” in the sense that a lot of Christians see it.
To make his point, Paul gets very specific in Acts 23-24 about how he sees his own role as a Jewish, yes Jewish, emissary to Gentiles. He doesn’t say that he has converted to a new religion. What a surprise; he upholds Torah. Furthermore, he does not say that people should set it aside, and in fact, assures the Jewish Leadership that he has broken no rules.
Paul is saying that he is a Pharisee and proud of it. What he does repudiate, however, is the man-made rules that are particular to a certain sect of Pharisee. Which Pharisaical sect was Paul associated with? Do you know? How familiar are you with the differences in the Second Temple Rabbinic period? If you don’t know, then you are missing a big part of the political intrigue and the problems that Paul faced. In fact, if you don’t know, you may just be missing the whole point of his message. Here are a few sites that might give you a clue…
James Hamilton: http://shekinahlifecenter.com/SC_Chasidim_Prushim_Chaverim.html
Skip Moen: http://www.skipmoen.com
My new e-book: http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=3317070