Conflicting Biblical Verses
Among those beliefs crucial to Christianity, few are of greater
importance than that of the Resurrection. The apostle Paul went so far as to
allege the very foundation of Christianity rests upon its occurrence.
"But if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching amounts to nothing and your faith is futile...you are still in your sins. (I Corinthians 15:14,17)
Yet why should the Resurrection be of such significance?
Elijah raised a child from the dead (I Kings 17:17,21-22); Samuel said to Saul, "Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up" (I Samuel 28:7,11,15); Elisha raised the dead son of a Shunamite (II Kings 4:32,34-35); a dead man being lowered into a grave revived when he touched the bones of Elisha (II Kings 13:21); Moses and Elijah revived at the time of Jesus’ Transfiguration (Luke 9:28,30); Jairus’ daughter rose from the dead (Matthew 9:18,23-25); the widow at Nain’s son rose from the dead (Luke 7:11-15); Lazarus rose from the dead (John 11:43-44); and the saints arose at the time of Jesus’ death on the cross (Matthew 27:52-53).
People not only rose before Jesus, but after him as well. Peter raised Tabitha and Paul raised Eutychus.
The four canonical gospels, moreover, give us contradictory accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection:
Matthew 27:28 says they stripped him and put on a scarlet robe, while Mark 15:17 and John 19:2 say it was a purple robe. John 19:1-2,15 says the robe was put on Jesus during his trial. According to Matthew 27:26-28 and Mark 15:15-17, however, the robe was put on after Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified.
According to Matthew, Jesus was given wine mixed with gall, when they reached the site of crucifixion. Jesus refused the drink after tasting it.
According to Mark, however, Jesus was offered a drink of wine flavored with myrrh, which he refused to accept. (Mark 15:23) According to Luke and the Fourth Gospel, Jesus was given only vinegar to drink. (Luke 23:36; John 19:29-30)
Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24 and Luke 23:34 record Roman soldiers casting lots for Jesus’ garments, while John 19:23-24 says they cast lots only for his coat.
The accounts given in Matthew and Mark place Jesus’ crucifixion at the third hour. (Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:25) Luke, however, places Jesus’ crucifixion just before the sixth hour (Luke 23:44), while the Fourth Gospel places the crucifixion after the sixth hour. (John 19:14-16)
Luke 23:39-40 states that only one of the two criminals being crucified alongside Jesus reviled him, while Matthew 27:44 and Mark 15:32 say they both reviled him.
Matthew 27:55-56 names Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children as the women observing Jesus’ crucifixion. Mark 15:40 mentions Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the less and Joses and Salome, and John 19:25 mentions Jesus’ mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
The first three gospels (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40; Luke 23:49) all record the women observing Jesus’ crucifixion from afar, whereas the Fourth Gospel places them at the foot of the cross. (John 19:25)
After the close of the Sabbath came the night and the dawning of the first day of the new week (Sunday). Matthew 28:1 says Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to visit Jesus’ tomb. According to Mark 16:1, it was Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome, while Luke records Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women. John 20:1 says Mary Magdalene came alone. Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:2 say they visited the tomb during sunrise. Luke 24:1 mentions early dawn, while the Fourth Gospel says it was still dark (John 20:1).
Matthew 28:1-2 states that the tomb was closed upon their arrival. The other gospels, however, record the tomb as already opened. (Mark 16:3-4; Luke 24:2; John 20:1) Matthew 28:2 says the women encountered an angel at the tomb; according to Mark 16:5, it was a young man. The Gospel of Luke records two men (Luke 24:4), while the Fourth Gospel mentions two angels (John 20:11-12).
According to Matthew 28:2, these personalities were outside the tomb, but the other gospels say they were inside the tomb. (Mark 16:5; Luke 24:3--4; John 20:11-12) The Gospel of Luke says they were Standing (Luke 24:4), but the other three gospels say they were sitting. (Matthew 28:2; Mark 16:5; John 20:12) Matthew 28:9 says Mary Magdalene recognized the resurrected Jesus when he first appeared to her; John 20:14 says she did not recognize him.
According to Matthew, the women ran at once to inform the disciples. (Matthew 28:8) According to Mark, they told no one. (Mark 16:8) In the Gospel of Luke, they told everyone (Luke 24:8), while the Fourth Gospel differs completely from all the others.
In Matthew, the resurrected Jesus meets the women on their way to tell the disciples the good news. He tells them to proceed to Galilee, where the disciples meet him upon a mountain. (Matthew 28:9,16) In Mark, they presumably remained in Jerusalem. In the Gospel of Luke, the resurrected Jesus tells his disciples to remain in Jerusalem until "clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49)
In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, "I am going to ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." He meets with his disciples in Jerusalem, tells them to "receive the Holy Spirit," and empowers them to forgive sins. (John 20:17, 21-23) Jesus later appears before other disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, calling them back to spiritual life. (John 21) According to Luke 24:50, the resurrected Jesus ascended to heaven at Bethany. Mark, however, places the assumption in a room, presumably in Jerusalem.
In his monumental book, The Story of Christian Origins, Dr. Martin A. Larson writes, "The Assumption itself is dismissed with half a dozen words. Such cursory treatment and fantastic contradictions prove that the whole story was a garbled invention."
The only threads of consistency running through all four canonical gospels are Jesus’ own words foretelling his death and resurrection, and the empty tomb where his body was lain to rest.
"...and going inside they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus…Then they recalled his sayings and, returning from the tomb, they told everything... they and the rest of the women told these things to the apostles.
"But these reports seemed nonsense to them; they did not believe the women. Peter got up, though, and ran to the tomb and, stooping down, saw the linen clothes lying by themselves; then he went away wondering what had happened."
There are several verses in the New Testament stating that Mary was a virgin at the time of Jesus’ birth and that Joseph did not have contact with her until afterwards. (Matthew 1:18,20,24-25; Luke 1:34 35).
However, other verses say Jesus was Joseph’s son. (Matthew 13:55; Luke 2:27,33,41,43, 3:23, 4:22; John 1.45, 6:42) Even Mary said Joseph was Jesus’ father (Luke 2:48).
It’s hard to imagine Paul, who emphasized the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection ignoring an equally miraculous birth. Paul makes no mention of a divine conception and birth, but does say Jesus had a natural birth according to the flesh (Romans 1:3, 9:5).
According to the genealogies in Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38, Jesus was a descendant of David through his father, Joseph. This was required of one claiming messiahship. (Jeremiah 23:5; II Samuel 7:12-13; Psalms 89:3-4, 132:11) But Joseph couldn’t be the father of Jesus and Jesus couldn’t be of David’s seed (Acts 13:22-23; II Timothy 2:8; Revelations 22:16) "according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3, 9:5) if he was miraculously conceived and born of a virgin.
The genealogies are themselves contradictory. According to Matthew 1:16, Joseph was the son of Jacob. According to Luke 3:23, Joseph was the son of Heli. There are 28 generations between David and Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, but 42 generations in Luke.
According to Matthew, Joseph was a permanent resident of Bethlehem, and Jesus was born and remained in a house there, where the wise men came to see him. According to Luke, Joseph was a resident of Nazareth (a city which did not exist during Jesus’ lifetime). In response to a decree by Augustus that "all the world should be taxed"-- a decree unknown in Roman history -- Joseph went to Bethlehem to register. Jesus was born in a stable, where shepherds came to pay him homage.
Matthew further states that Jesus was born before the death of Herod, which occurred in 4 BC. Luke contradicts him by stating he was born during the registration under Cyrenius in 7 AD. Moreover, the gospels depict both John the Baptist and Jesus as contemporaries of Herod during their adult lives.
Matthew 2:14-15 says Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus to escape Herod’s persecution. Upon Herod’s death, Joseph returned to the Galilean region, settling in Nazareth, so that an Old Testament prophecy which no one can find (Matthew 2:23) might be fulfilled.
According to the 2nd chapter of Luke, Joseph and Mary had no knowledge of the destiny of Jesus. When the shepherds tell them of their vision, "they wondered...But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:18-19) Similarly, when Simeon calls Jesus "a light for revelation to the gentiles and a glory to Your people, Israel," Jesus’ mother and father "were wondering about the things spoken..." (Luke 2:32-33)
And at the age of 12, when Jesus is admonished for causing his parents worry, he responds, "Did you not know that I ought to be in my Father’s house?" His parents don’t understand, but "his mother treasured all these matters in her heart." (Luke 2:49,51)
Had Mary truly received angelic tidings and a miraculous conception, as described in the 1st chapter of Luke, neither she nor Joseph would have had cause to wonder.
If Joseph was the natural father of Jesus, then Jesus was born illegitimately, as a bastard. Joseph and Mary were engaged, but not married. (Luke 2:5) From the apocryphal Acts of Pilate 2:4-5 we learn that in early Christianity, the theological debate was not whether Jesus was fathered by Joseph or the Holy Spirit, but whether he was born in wedlock or of fornication.
However, even if Joseph were Jesus’ natural father, and Jesus were of the seed of David, he still would have had no claim to the throne of David. According to Jeremiah 22:28-30, there could be no king in Israel who was a descendant of King Jeconiah. Matthew 1:12 states that Joseph was from the line of Jeconiah. If Jesus had been fathered by Joseph, he could not inherit the throne of David.
Matthew 1:22-23 attempts to show Jesus’ miraculous conception and birth as the fulfillment of prophecy given in Isaiah 7:14: "...Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Translators continue to debate the use of the word "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14, which came from the Hebrew word "almah."
Hebraic scholars say "almah" means a "young woman" and not a virgin. As proof of this, they cite Genesis 24:43 and Exodus 2:8, where "almah" refers to a young woman, not a virgin. The Hebrew word for "virgin" is "besulah," especially in classical biblical usage. A completely different word.
Moreover, the prophecy given in Isaiah 7:14 has nothing to do with Jesus. It is directed at King Ahaz, and speaks of the birth of King Hezekiah, rather than the Messiah. Isaiah 8:4 says when the child is yet an infant, the riches of Damascus and Samaria will be carried away by the king of Assyria.
These events actually happened in 742 and 721 BC The child was to be called Immanuel, and Jesus is never referred to as "Immanuel" throughout the New Testament. On the other hand, the gospels specifically state he would be called "Jesus." (Matthew 1:25; Luke 1:31)
The doctrine of a virgin birth -- God mating with a human woman to produce a god-child -- is also foreign to Judaism (and Islam). These beliefs were widespread, however, in the pagan world in which Christianity developed.
The epic Hindu poem Mahabharata describes the gods mating with earthly women and producing noble and heroic children. Bacchus, the son of Jupiter in Greek mythology, was begotten by intercourse with Semele. Having been torn in pieces and having died, Bacchus rose again, and ascended to heaven. Aesculapius was a healer and the raiser of the dead. Perseus was born of a virgin.
In Persia, both Zoroaster and his mother Dukdaub were said to have been born supernaturally, and the three expected Messiahs of Zoroastrianism were expected to come into the world through virgin births.
Plato was the reputed son of Apollo, the sun god. The gospel tales of Jesus bear a strange resemblance to those of Dionysus, Hercules, Theseus, and countless other pagan demigods.
Miraculous births themselves are not alien to Judaism or Christianity.
Adam was never born to begin with; he came into the world as a full-grown adult. (Genesis 1:27)
Isaac was born to an aged woman, Sarah, who no longer menstruated. (Genesis 18:10-11)
Samuel was born to a woman, Hannah, whose womb had been closed by the Lord. (I Samuel 1:5, 2:21)
John the Baptist was born of Zechariah and Elizabeth, who was barren, at a time when Elizabeth could no longer bear children. (Luke 1:5-17)
The virgin birth of Jesus, however, creates numerous theological and scriptural difficulties.
Jesus has been called the "son of God." God adopted Israel as His son; Israel is called the son of God in the Bible. (Exodus 4:22-23, Hosea 11:1) With the establishment of monarchy, the king was also identified as a son of God. His coronation was the occasion on which he became the adopted son of God. (Psalm 2:7, II Samuel 7:14)
In the Book of Job (1:6, 2:1, 38:7), the angels are called sons of God. In the Epistle to the Hebrews 1:5, 5:5, God proclaims, "Thou art My beloved son, this day I have begotten thee." Hebrews 2:10-13, John 1:12 and Romans 8:16-19 all describe God bringing many sons to glory.
These texts were all written with the understanding that each of us is a child of God. The doctrine of Jesus having any actual literal sonship to God, that there can actually be two Gods -- a Father God and a Son God -- violates the fundamental Jewish concept of God's unity and universality. In the Jewish (and later Islamic) tradition, God is a singular and omnipresent Being who has no equal.
Jesus himself was no myth, but a genuine historical personality, like Pythagoras, the Buddha or Mahavira, around whom contradictory legends have arisen (the resurrection, genealogies, the virgin birth, etc.). Secular historian Dr. Martin A. Larson, an atheist, debunks the argument that Jesus was a "myth." He writes:
"...Bruno Bauer, around 1840 became the first to maintain the non-historicity of Jesus... In time he declared that Jesus himself was only a myth. When his opponents marshaled evidence to the contrary, he was eventually forced into the position that the Christian religion originated during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, 175 AD; that all of its primary documents were forged by a group of unknown conspirators; that Peter, Paul, Clement, Ignatius, Papias, Justin Martyr, Marcion, etc. were invented by them; that all documents attributed to these writers were likewise forgeries concocted late in the second century; that all references to Christianity in Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny, and all mention of early Christian authors in Tertullian, Clemens Alexandrnus, Irenaeus, etc. were interpolations.
"The historicity of Paul, of course, if accepted, establishes that of Peter and Jesus also; for Paul teems with historical detail and refers often to them; and in Galatians 1:18 he states categorically that he dwelt fifteen days with Peter in Jerusalem. Certainly, no Christian would have invented the bitter feud between Peter and Paul. Bauer might almost as logically have denied the historicity of the Roman Empire."
Jesus told his disciples to ALWAYS "pray without ceasing" (Luke 21:36), and Paul repeated these words to the gentiles (I Thessalonians 5:17). However, this is the only point on which Jesus and Paul agree. Paul taught a completely different theology from that of Jesus and the original apostles.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray for the coming of God's kingdom (Matthew 6:9-10), the kingdom of peace, in which the entire world is restored to a vegetarian paradise (Genesis 1:29; Isaiah 11:6-9). Recalling Psalm 37:11, he blessed the meek, saying they would inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5) The kingdom of God belongs to the gentle and kind (Matthew 5:7-9) Christians are to "Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful." (Luke 6:36) Those who take up the sword must perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:52)
The scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus claimed, "have neglected the weightier matters of the Law; justice and mercy and faith." (Matthew 23:14,16-23; Luke 11:42, 20:45-47)
This is painfully obvious when contrasting Paul's pronouncements on the Law with those of Jesus.
The most-repeated argument against biblical vegetarianism I've gotten from Christians is that they claim they are no longer under Mosaic Law, because the apostle Paul referred to his background as a former Pharisee and his previous adherence to Mosaic Law (with its dietary laws, commandments calling for the humane treatment of animals, etc.) as "so much garbage." (Philippians 3:4-8)
Nothing in the synoptic gospels suggests a break with Judaism. Jesus was called "Rabbi," meaning "Master" or "Teacher," 42 times in the gospels. Jesus' ministry was rabbinic. Jesus related scripture and God's laws to everyday life, teaching by personal example. Jesus engaged in healing and acts of mercy. Jesus told stories or parables -- a rabbinic method of teaching.
Jesus went to the synagogue (Matthew 12:9), taught in the synagogues (Matthew 4:23, 13:54; Mark 1:39), expressed concern for Jairus, "one of the rulers of the synagogue" (Mark 5:36) and it "was his custom" to go to the synagogue (Luke 4:16).
Jesus called himself "Son of Man." The prophet Ezekiel was addressed by God as "Son of Man." (Ezekiel 2:1) In Hebrew, "son of man" ("ben adam") was a synonym for "man." Psalm 8:4 uses it in plural. Simon (Peter) referred to Jesus as "a man certified by God." (Acts 2:22)
Both John the Baptist and Jesus were considered prophets by the people. (Matthew 11:9, 21:11, 21:26, 21:46; Mark 6:15, 11:32; Luke 7:16, 7:26, 9:19, 24:19; John 4:19, 6:14, 7:40, 9:17)
Jesus placed himself in the tradition of the prophets before him. (Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24, 13:33; John 4:44)
Jesus frequently compared his ministry to the ministries of Noah, Lot and Jonah. (Matthew 10:15, 11:24, 12:39-40, 16:4, 24:37-39; Luke 10:12, 11:29,32, 17:26-29,32)
Jesus began his ministry by teaching the multitudes not to "give what is sacred to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine." (Matthew 7:6) Dogs, like swine, were considered foul and unclean by the Hebrew people. (Deuteronomy 23:18; I Samuel 24:14; II Kings 8:13; Psalm 22:16,20; Matthew 7:6; Luke 16:21; Revelations 22:15) These words were used by the children of Israel to describe the neighboring heathen populations.
When sending his disciples out to preach, Jesus instructed them not to go to the gentiles, but to "go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 10:5-6) When a Canaanite woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter, he replied, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel...It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." (Matthew 15:22-28)
Jesus regarded the gentiles as "dogs." His gospel was intended for the Jewish people. Even the apostle Paul admitted that the gospel was first intended for the Jews, and that the Jews have every advantage over the gentiles in this regard (Romans 1:16, 3:1-2).
When a scribe asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the Torah, Jesus began with "Hear O Israel, the Lord, thy God, is One Lord." This is the Shema, which is still heard in every synagogue service to this day.
"And you shall love the Lord with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength...And you shall love your neighbor as yourself," Jesus concluded.
When the scribe agreed that God is one and that to love Him completely and also love one's neighbor as oneself is "more important than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices," Jesus replied, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:29-34; Luke 10:25-28)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus himself said:
"Do not suppose I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill...till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle pass from the Law till all is fulfilled. Whoever, therefore, breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven...unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20)
Jesus also upheld the Torah in Luke 16:17: "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest portion of the Law to become invalid."
Nor do these words refer merely to the Ten Commandments. Jesus meant the entire Torah: 613 commandments. When a man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus replied, "You know the commandments." He then quoted not just the Ten Commandments, but a commandment from Leviticus 19:13 as well: "Do not defraud." (Mark 10:17-22)
Jesus' disciples were once accused by the scribes and Pharisees of violating rabbinical tradition (Matthew 15:1-2; Mark 7:5), but not biblical law. At no place in the entire New Testament does Jesus ever proclaim Torah or the Law of Moses to be abolished; this was the theology of Paul, a former Pharisee who never knew Jesus, but who used to persecute Jesus' followers. Paul openly identified himself not as a Jew but as a Roman (Acts 22:25-26) and an apostate from Judaism (Philippians 3:4-8)
Sometimes Christians cite Matthew 7:12, where Jesus says "Do unto others..." and this "covers" the Law and the prophets.
But Jesus was merely repeating in the positive what Rabbi Hillel taught earlier.
Hillel was asked, "What is Judaism?"
He replied: "What is hateful to you, do not do unto others. That is Judaism. All the rest is commentary."
No one took Hillel's words to mean the Law had been abolished -- why should we assume this of Jesus?
If Jesus *really* came to abolish the Law and the prophets, Simon (Peter) would not have resisted a divine command to kill and eat both "clean" and "unclean" animals (Acts 10), nor would there have been a debate in the early church as to what extent the gentiles were to observe Mosaic Law (Acts 15).
When Paul visited the church at Jerusalem, James and the elders told him all its members were "zealous for the Law," and that they were worried because they heard rumors that Paul was preaching against Mosaic Law (Acts 21).
None of these events would have happened had Jesus really come to abolish the Law and the prophets!
Jesus not only repeatedly upheld Mosaic Law, he justified his healing on the Sabbath by referring to commandments calling for the humane treatment of animals!
While teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, Jesus healed a woman who had been ill for eighteen years. He justified his healing work on the Sabbath by referring to biblical passages calling for the humane treatment of animals as well as their rest on the Sabbath. "So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham...be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" Jesus asked. (Luke 13:10-16)
On another occasion, Jesus again referred to Torah teaching on "tsa'ar ba'alei chayim" or compassion for animals to justify healing on the Sabbath. "Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?" (Luke 14:1-5)
Jesus compared saving sinners who had gone astray from God's kingdom to rescuing lost sheep. He recalled a Jewish legend about Moses' compassion as a shepherd for his flock:
"For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? Who among you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
"And when he has found it," Jesus continued, "he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home,he calls together his friends and neighbors saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'
"I say to you, likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance...there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Matthew 18:11-13; Luke 15:3-7,10)
Paul, on the other hand, said if anyone has confidence in Mosaic Law, "I am ahead of him" (Philippians 3:4-8).
Would that mean Paul places himself ahead of Jesus, who said he did not come to abolish the Law and the prophets?
Would that mean Paul places himself ahead of Jesus, who said whoever sets aside even the least of the laws demands shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-19)?
Would that mean Paul places himself ahead of Jesus, who taught that following the commandments of God is the only way to eternal life (Mark 10:17-22)?
Would that mean Paul places himself ahead of Jesus, who said that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest portion of the Law to become invalid (Luke 16:17)?
Paul may have regarded his previous adherence to Mosaic Law as "so much garbage," but it should be obvious by now that JESUS DIDN'T THINK THE LAW WAS "GARBAGE"!
If Christians revere Paul's words over those of Jesus, then "Christianity" really is "Paulianity". Bertrand Russell referred to Paul as the "inventor" of Christianity.
Jesus repeatedly spoke of God's tender care for the nonhuman creation (Matthew 6:26-30, 10:29-31; Luke 12:6-7, 24-28). Paul, on the other hand, in I Corinthians 9:9-10, asked scornfully, "Does God take care for oxen?" when referring to one of the commandments in Mosaic Law calling for the humane treatment of animals.
In The Story of Christian Origins, secular scholar Dr. Martin A. Larson notes that Paul declares that his followers may even eat food offered to pagan idols (contradicting the risen Jesus in Revelation 2:14,20).
Dr. Larson notes that whereas Jesus honored women and found in them his most
devoted followers, Paul never tires of proclaiming their inferiority.
"Let the women keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak. Instead, they must, as the Law says, be in subordination. If they wish to learn something, let them inquire of their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church... let a woman learn quietly with complete submission. I do not allow a woman to teach, neither to domineer over a man; instead she is to keep still. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, since she was deceived, experienced the transgression. She will, however, be kept safe through the child-bearing, if with self-control she continues in faith and love and consecration." (I Corinthians 14:34-35; I Timothy 2:11-15)
The Quakers were one of the earliest denominations to condemn (human) slavery. Paul’s epistle to Philemon concerns a runaway slave returned to his master.
"Paul’s outright endorsement of slavery should be an undying embarrassment to Christianity as long as they hold the entire New Testament to be the word of God," says Quaker physician Dr. Charles P. Vaclavik in his 1986 book, The Vegetarianism of Jesus Christ: The Pacifism, Communalism and Vegetarianism of Primitive Christianity. "Without a doubt, the American slaveholders quoted Paul again and again to substantiate their right to hold slaves.
"The moralist movement to abolish slavery had to go to non-biblical sources to demonstrate the immoral nature of slavery. The abolitionists could not turn to Christian sources to condemn slavery, for Christianity had become the bastion of the evil practice through its endorsement by the Apostle Paul. Only the Old Testament gave the abolitionist any biblical support in his effort to free the slaves. ‘You shall not surrender to his master a slave who has taken refuge with you.’ (Deuteronomy 23:15) What a pittance of material opposing slavery from a book supposedly representing the word of God."
Christians believe in Paul, not Jesus. Bertrand Russell called Paul the "inventor" of Christianity.
Paul, who once persecuted the brethren, considered himself a Roman (Acts 22:25-26) and an apostate from Judaism (Philippians 3:4-8). Jesus, on the other hand, insisted that even seemingly insignificant demands from the Law of Moses could not be set aside. (Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 16:17)
It is hard to tell at times if Paul rejected the entire Law or the excesses
of the Pharisees in regards to its observance, since he quoted the Law as
spiritual authority (e.g., I Corinthians 14:21,34). On at least one
occasion, he acknowledged the Law to be spiritual, but admitted his own
inability to observe it. (Romans 7:12,14-25)
On another occasion, Paul stated that laws are laid down for the lawless: morality is meant for those who would otherwise lack morals. (I Timothy 1:8-11) Many of Paul’s statements are not against the Law itself, but against the hypocrisy with which it was being enforced or observed (Galatians 2:1-14), and the fact that the gentiles were not obliged to follow all of Mosaic Law. (Acts 15)
According to writer Holger Kersten:
"What we refer to as Christianity today is largely an artificial doctrine of rules and precepts, created by Paul and more worthy of the designation ‘Paulinism.’
"The church historian Wilhelm Nestle expressed the issue in the following manner, ‘Christianity is the religion founded by Paul; it replaced Christ’s gospel with a gospel about Christ.’
"Paulinism in this sense means a misinterpretation and indeed counterfeiting of Christ’s actual teachings, as arranged and initiated by Paul.
"It has long been a truism for modern theologians as well as researchers on ecclesiastical history that the Christianity of the organized Church, with its central tenet of salvation through the death and suffering of Jesus, has been based on a misinterpretation. ‘All the good in Christianity can be traced to Jesus, all the bad to Paul,’ wrote the theologian Overbeck.
"By building on the belief of salvation through the expiatory death of God’s first-born in a bloody sacrifice, Paul regressed to the primitive Semitic religions of earlier times, in which parents were commanded to give up their first-born in a bloody sacrifice.
"Paul also prepared the path for the later ecclesiastical teachings on original sin and the trinity. As long ago as the 18th century, the English philosopher Lord Bolingbroke (1678-1751) could make out two completely different religions in the New Testament, that of Jesus and that of Paul. Kant, Lessing, Fichte and Schelling also sharply distinguish the teachings of Jesus from those of the ‘disciples.’ A great number of reputable modern theologians support and defend these observations."
The Reverend J. Todd Ferrier, founder of the Order of the Cross, an informal religious order believing in reincarnation and abstaining from meat and wine, wrote in 1903:
"But Paul, great and noble man as he was, never was one of the recognized heads at Jerusalem. He had been a Pharisee of the Pharisees...He strove to be all things to all men that he might gain some. And we admire him for his strenuous endeavors to win the world for Christ. But no one could be all things to all men without running the great risks of most disastrous results...
"But here as a further thought in connection with the teaching of the great Apostle an important question is forced upon our attention, which one of these days must receive the due consideration from biblical scholars that it deserves. It is this:
"How is it that the gospel of Paul is more to many people than the gospel of those privileged souls who sat at the feet of Jesus and heard His secrets in the Upper Room?"
Christian theologian Dr. Upton Clary Ewing writes:
“With all due respect for the integrity of Paul, he was not one of the Twelve Apostles… Paul never knew Jesus in life. He never walked and prayed with Him as He went from place to place, teaching the word of God.”
In one of the finest books on early Christianity, Those Incredible Christians, Dr. Hugh Schonfield reports:
“For the Apostolic Church much that Paul taught was grievous error not at all in accord with the mind and message of the Messiah. The original Apostles could urge that the truth was known by them. But Paul had never companied with Jesus or heard what he said…”
In the excellent book Christ or Paul?, the Reverend V.A. Holmes-Gore wrote:
“Let the reader contrast the true Christian standard with that of Paul and he will see the terrible betrayal of all that the Master taught…For the surest way to betray a great Teacher is to misrepresent his message…That is what Paul and his followers did, and because the Church has followed Paul in his error it has failed lamentably to redeem the world…The teachings given by the blessed Master Christ, which the disciples John and Peter and James, the brother of the Master, tried in vain to defend and preserve intact, were as utterly opposed to the Pauline Gospel as the light is opposed to the darkness.”
The great theologian Soren Kirkegaard, writing in the Journals, echoes the above sentiment:
“In the teachings of Christ, religion is completely present tense: Jesus is the prototype and our task is to imitate him, become a disciple. But then through Paul came a basic alteration. Paul draws attention away from imitating Christ and fixes attention on the death of Christ, The Atoner. What Martin Luther, in his reformation, failed to realize is that even before Catholicism, Christianity had become degenerate at the hands of Paul. Paul made Christianity the religion of Paul, not of Christ. Paul threw the Christianity of Christ away, completely, turning it upside down, making it just the opposite of the original proclamation of Christ.”
The brilliant theologian Ernest Renan, in his book Saint Paul, wrote:
“True Christianity, which will last forever, comes from the gospel words of Christ, not from the epistles of Paul. The writings of Paul have been a danger and a hidden rock, the causes of the principal defects of Christian theology.”
The great American philosopher Will Durant, in his Caesar and Christ, wrote:
"Paul created a theology of which none but the vaguest warrants can be found in the words of Christ…Through these interpretations Paul could neglect the actual life and sayings of Jesus, which he had not directly known…Paul replaced conduct with creed as the test of virtue. It was a tragic change.”
Robert Frost, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1924, 1931, 1937 and 1943, in his “A Masque of Mercy,” wrote:
“Paul, he’s in the Bible too. He is the fellow who theologized Christ almost out of Christianity. Look out for him.”
James Baldwin, the most noted black American author of the 20th century, in his book The Fire Next Time, declared:
“The real architect of the Christian church was not the disreputable, sun-baked Hebrew (Jesus Christ) who gave it its name but rather the mercilessly fanatical and self-righteous Paul.”
Martin Buber, the most respected Jewish philosopher of the 20th century, wrote in Two Types of Faith:
“The Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount is completely opposed to Paul.”
The famous mystic, poet and author, Kahil Gibran, declared in Jesus the Son of Man:
”This Paul is indeed a strange man. His soul is not the soul of a free man. He speaks not of Jesus nor does he repeat His words. He would strike with his own hammer upon the anvil in the Name of One whom he does not know.”
When you read the epistles of Paul, all you get are Paul’s own ideas; he never quotes the sayings of Jesus, he never reports on the life of Jesus. That point is also made by the famous theologian Helmut Koester, in his The Theological Aspects of Primitive Christian Heresy:
“Paul himself stands in the twilight zone of heresy. In reading Paul, one immediately encounters a major difficulty. Whatever Jesus had preached did not become the content of the missionary proclamation of Paul…Sayings of Jesus do not play a role in Paul’s understanding of the event of salvation…Paul did not care at all what Jesus had said… Had Paul been completely successful, very little of the sayings of Jesus would have survived.”
Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, wrote in a letter to William Short:
“Paul was the first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.”
The renowned English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, in his Not Paul But Jesus, declared:
“It rests with every professor of the religion of Jesus to settle within himself to which of the two religions, that of Jesus or that of Paul, he will adhere.”
The eminent theologian Ferdinand Christian Baur, in his Church History of the First Three Centuries, wrote:
“What kind of authority can there be for an ‘apostle’ who, unlike the other apostles, had never been prepared for the apostolic office in Jesus’ own school but had only later dared to claim the apostolic office on the basis on his own authority? The only question comes to be how the apostle Paul appears in his epistles to be so indifferent to the historical facts of the life of Jesus…He bears himself but little like a disciple who has received the doctrines and the principles which he preaches from the Master whose name he bears.”
In an essay entitled “Discussion on Fellowship,” Mahatma Gandhi wrote:
“I draw a great distinction between the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus and the Letters of Paul. Paul’s Letters are a graft on Christ’s teachings, Paul’s own gloss apart from Christ’s own experience.”
Carl Jung wrote in his essay “A Psychological Approach to Dogma”:
“Saul’s fanatical resistance to Christianity…was never entirely overcome. It is frankly disappointing to see how Paul hardly ever allows the real Jesus of Nazareth to get a word in.”
George Bernard Shaw, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925, wrote:
“There is not one word of Pauline Christianity in the characteristic utterances of Jesus…There has really never been a more monstrous imposition perpetrated than the imposition of Paul’s soul upon the soul of Jesus…It is now easy to understand how the Christianity of Jesus…was suppressed by the police and the Church, while Paulinism overran the whole western civilized world, which was at the time the Roman Empire, and was adopted by it as its official faith.”
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, winner of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize, wrote in his Quest for the Historical Jesus and his Mysticism of Paul:
“Paul…did not desire to know Christ…Paul shows us with what complete indifference the earthly life of Jesus was regarded…What is the significance for our faith and for our religious life, the fact that the Gospel of Paul is different from the Gospel of Jesus?…The attitude which Paul himself takes up towards the Gospel of Jesus is that he does not repeat it in the words of Jesus, and does not appeal to its authority…The fateful thing is that the Greek, the Catholic, and the Protestant theologies all contain the Gospel of Paul in a form which does not continue the Gospel of Jesus, but displaces it.”
William Wrede, in his excellent book Paul, informs us:
“The obvious contradictions in the three accounts (given by Paul in regard to his conversion) are enough to arouse distrust…The moral majesty of Jesus, his purity and piety, his ministry among his people, his manner as a prophet, the whole concrete ethical-religious content of his earthly life, signifies for Paul’s Christology nothing whatever…The name ‘disciple of Jesus’ has little applicability to Paul…Jesus or Paul: this alternative characterizes, at least in part, the religious and theological warfare of the present day.”
Rudolf Bultman, one of the most respected theologians of the 20th century, wrote in his Significance of the Historical Jesus for the Theology of Paul:
“It is most obvious that Paul does not appeal to the words of the Lord in support of his… views. When the essential Pauline conceptions are considered, it is clear that Paul is not dependent on Jesus. Jesus’ teaching is—to all intents and purposes—irrelevant for Paul.”
Walter Bauer, another eminent theologian, wrote in his Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity:
“If one may be allowed to speak rather pointedly, the Apostle Paul was the only Arch-Heretic known to the apostolic age.”
Another Nobel Prize winner, Ernest Hemingway, said: "That Saint Paul…He’s the one who makes all the trouble!
From history, we learn that the earliest Christians were vegetarians as well as pacifists.
For example, Clemens Prudentius, the first Christian hymn writer, in one of his hymns, exhorts his fellow Christians not to pollute their hands and hearts by the slaughter of innocent cows and sheep, and points to the variety of nourishing and pleasant foods obtainable without blood-shedding.
History shows that Christianity, like Buddhism, began as a pacifist religion, and was pacifist until the time of Constantine, when it became a state religion.
In her 1991 essay, "The Bible and Peace and War," Ursula King asks:
"...how are we to explain that Jesus, the founder of Christianity, is often called ‘the Prince of Peace’ and yet Western civilization so deeply shaped by the Christian story which is clearly pacifist in origin and essence, has become so militaristic from an early stage in its history?"
King quotes Christian pacifist John Ferguson from War and Peace in the World’s Religions, "The historic association of the Christian faith with nations of commercial enterprise, imperialistic expansion and technological advancement has meant that Christian peoples, although their faith is one of the most pacifistic in its origins, have a record of military activity second to none."
According to King, "In the early Church, pacifism was the dominant position up to the reign of Constantine, when Christianity became a state religion. Until then no Christian author approved of Christian participation in battle, whereas in AD 314 the Council of Arles decreed that Christians who gave up their arms in time of peace should be excommunicated."
In Theology and Social Structure, Robin Gill has written:
"The situation of the pre-Constantine church appears all the more remarkable when it is realized that no major Christian church or denomination has been consistently pacifist since Constantine.
"Indeed, Christian pacifism has been largely confined to a small group of sects, such as the Quakers, Anabaptists, Mennonites, Brethren and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Further, pacifists within the churches, as distinct from sects, have in times of war been barely tolerated by their fellow Christians."
I'm not necessarily saying we should lay down our arms (the Bhagavad-gita, after all, was spoken on a battlefield!), but that it's not hard to imagine Christianity similarly beginning as a vegetarian religion, and gradually being corrupted over the centuries...the corruption beginning, perhaps, with the apostle Paul?