Friday, December 2, 2011

The heresy of Paul in Acts and Romans 1-4

Jewish date:  6 Kislew 5772 (Parashath Wayyeṣe’).

Today’s holidays:  Nativity Fast (Christianity), Friday of the First Week of Advent (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Rodan (Church of the SubGenius).


I am still reading the New Testament in Koinē Greek, and I am not enjoying it one bit.
The Acts of the Apostles is nothing less than propaganda for Paul.  Once Paul has his famous vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus, he is depicted as perfect and his Jewish opponents as nothing less than hypocritical scum.  Paul engages in preaching and faith-healing like Jesus, only with less personality.  His opponents are depicted as trying to kill him, legally or extralegally on ill-defined charges of heresy.  If there is any historical basis for this, the writer certainly glossed over what anyone found wrong with Paul and probably fabricated any attempts on his life.  Whatever was wrong with Paul, heresy is not sufficient reason for assassination.

Why Jews would hate Paul is made extremely clear in The Epistle to the Romans, in which he explains his belief system, which is nothing less than heresy and worthy of excommunication.  Here are the notes I have written on the first four chapters, which are getting increasingly detailed:

Romans 1—Paul introduces his thesis that faith is all that really matters and cites Habakuk 2:4 to rationalize it, as if any of the prophets ever preached faith without works.  Paul claims that humanity is morally corrupt.

Romans 2—Paul cites Psalms 62:13 and Proverbs 24:12, confirming that YHWH treats humans according to their actions, illogically trying to introduce Jesus into the process.  Paul then accuses Jews of hypocrisy, creating a nonexistent quote by botching Isaiah 52:5 and Ezekiel 36:22—ignoring that the complaints brought in those days may no longer be relevant to those living in later times—and devalues physical circumcision in favor of “circumcision of the spirit”.  This is blatantly illogical.  Since YHWH in the Hebrew Bible puts heavy emphasis on obedience to the Torah, the “circumcision of the heart” mentioned in the Hebrew Bible is dedicating oneself to doing what YHWH commanded, including physical circumcision.

Romans 3—Paul assumes everyone is sinful and should be doomed.  That the Hebrew Bible preaches repentance and the willingness of YHWH to forgive the repentant is utterly ignored.  Psalms 51:6 is torn from context as if it were a pronouncement of doom rather than part of a prayer.  Paul also cites in quick succession, as if they were a continuous passage, a botched version of Ecclesiastes 7:20, a botched version of Psalms 14:1-3/Psalms 53:1-3, Psalms 5:10, Psalms 140:3, a botched version of Psalms 10:7, a botched version of Isaiah 59:7-8, and Psalms 36:2.  None of these passages makes any claim of universal unrighteousness, and many refer directly to the wicked.  (Do note that Psalms is poetry; it is great source material on feelings and prayers, but it is not really useful for statements of fact, as Paul is trying to use it.  Not to mention botching quotes and getting them out of context makes for invalid arguments.)  On this flimsy basis, Paul dishonestly and illogically claims that one cannot be righteous by keeping the Torah and proclaims that justification, for both Jews and non-Jews, is only through faith.

Romans 4—Paul tries to bolster his argument that salvation is only through faith by trying to work it into the case of ’Avraham.  Paul hinges this on Genesis 15:6, which he cannot even quote correctly, which says (in the original Hebrew), “And he [’Avram] believed in YHWH, and he thought it for him [as] righteousness.”  The word I have translated as “righteousness”, ṣedhaqhah, also can mean “justice”, and it is commonly used to denote something akin to charity, only with connotations that helping the needy is done not out of compassion, but because it is the right thing to do.  ’Avraham had had multiple prophetic encounters with YHWH.  Furthermore, YHWH had kept him alive on a journey across the Middle East, giving him some reason to believe that he was not hallucinating.  To believe in YHWH was the sensible thing for ’Avraham to do; it is a matter of intellectual honesty, not special piety.  The Hebrew is also  ambiguous as to who considered ’Avraham’s belief righteousness, ’Avraham or YHWH.  Nowhere does YHWH claim that ’Avraham is righteous merely due to belief.  In contradiction to Paul’s thesis, ’Avraham doubts that he will have children and later on that he will have an heir through Sarah, yet YHWH never holds his doubts against him.  Paul tries to bolster his faulty claim with Psalms 32:1-2, which deals with YHWH’s forgiveness, not belief, before returning to ’Avraham and spouting antinomianism, wrongly implying that all nations are descended from ’Avraham by misinterpreting Genesis 17:4 and Genesis 15:5, ignoring that ’Avraham was not so unwavering in his faith.  Paul still does nothing to explain the blatantly obvious problem that it makes no sense whatsoever for YHWH to give the Torah and demand adherence to it over and over again—a matter of action—if what He really is interested in is faith.

To sum up my reading of Romans so far:  Paul is grossly intellectually dishonest and engages in rhetorical fraud to try to prove his points.  Follow him and anyone like him at your own peril.

Peace and Shabbath shalom.