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by Sherry Shriner

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Paul, a Liar?!

If Yeshua  had in fact been referring to Paul as a false apostle and liar in the book of Revelation, how is it he was a liar? Obviously, the claim of apostleship itself might be considered a lie. But in my thinking, the label of "liar" implies a person who uses conscious intent to deceive. When Paul called himself an apostle, I believe he really thought he was one. Therefore I would have a hard time actually labeling him as a liar on those grounds alone. I would call him conceited and self deceived. Interestingly enough, just by the way Yeshua states it, he appears to make the same distinction.

"And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars." Revelation 2:2 NKJV

Notice that the idea of apostle is completely negated first and then the idea of liar appears to be in addition to the fact. So if Paul was the one Yeshua was referring to, I would expect him to be guilty of using conscious intent to deceive. Here again I would draw a distinction and not include the many errors he had in his doctrines because I’m sure he thought he was right. What I am looking for are outright bold-faced lies.

If Paul’s letters are the inspired and infallible word of almighty God, breathed through Paul by the Holy Spirit as Christian doctrine asserts, would it have been possible for Paul to have told an outright lie in them?  I think not.  So if he did, what would that by itself directly imply concerning the notion that his words are God’s words?  Consider the following.

Paul and the Jerusalem Council

In the book of Acts, Luke records two separate trips Paul made to Jerusalem to discuss doctrinal matters with the head Messianic leaders Peter and James. The first incident is recorded in Acts 15. Here, as the story goes, there had been a disagreement as to whether the Gentiles believers needed to be circumcised.  So Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem to find an answer to the question. When they came to Jerusalem the elders received them, and Paul told them of his doings among the Gentiles. At this point a group of believing Pharisees stated that it was necessary for the Gentiles to be circumcised and require them to keep the Law. This must have been the hot topic of the day because it was just what Paul and Barnabas had been sent there to discuss.  And it says there was "much dispute" among those who were at the conference. Then Peter speaks and makes reference to an event where he had been sent to the Gentile Cornelius, and he goes on to say these words.

"So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers or we were able to bear?"     Acts 15:8-10   NKJV

Here Peter is referring to the Gentiles and appears to be calling the Law an unbearable burden. Before going on to the subject of Paul, a couple of things need to be addressed in this quote because there are those in the Jewish community who can’t believe Peter or James would ever call the Law a burden. Some would rather charge Luke with dishonest reporting. As mentioned before, I see no reason to accuse Luke of malice. The book of Acts was not written to the world at large, but to Theophilus, a personal friend of Luke’s. It is hard to imagine why Luke would lie to him.  I believe Luke accurately recorded what he saw and heard.  The people he quotes may have been in doctrinal error, and his own commentaries may have been made in Paul-induced ignorance, but I personally have a hard time with the notion that Luke was part of a grand conspiracy to destroy the Law.  I see Luke as a very typical everyday person, a Gentile with honorable intentions.  He also records events which end up convicting Paul as well as support him!  When he is discredited as a reporter, nothing he says is reliable anymore.

The key to understanding Peter’s quote which appeared to call the Law an unbearable burden is to remember who started the argument and who he is addressing...  the Pharisees. (see previous three verses. Acts 15:5-7)   Even Yeshua called their idea of the Law a burden. He said:

"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do. But do not do according to their works; for they say and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."  Matt 23:2-4   NKJV

I believe these words were echoing in Peter’s ears when he heard the Pharisees demand that the Gentiles keep the Law.  He knew what their idea of the Law was with all its oral traditions… a burden!  Yeshua had said:

"My yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Matt.11:30   NKJV

The apostle John also said:

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." 1John 5:3 NKJV

The true unadulterated Law of Moses is not unbearable. But Peter and James did not want the Pharisees dictating to the Gentiles their idea of the Law with all its oral traditions of additions and amendments. This is what Peter was referring to when he called the Law an unbearable yoke.

As the story continues, Paul and Barnabas tell of "the many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles". Then James begins to speak, and after a short speech says:

"Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath."               Acts 15:19-21   NKJV

Here James is obviously endorsing dietary and sexual purity laws along with Moses in general.  It is reasonable to assume that James intended for the four laws he outlined to be stop gap measures, to keep the new believers from doing damage to themselves before they could receive the rest of the Law through the reading of Moses in the synagogues every Sabbath. The continued hallowing of the Sabbath is evident in that James uses the present tense word "being", and the attendance of the new Gentile believers to the synagogues on the Sabbath is quite obviously implied. The idea of troubling the Gentiles is his way of saying the Pharisaic laws were too much of a burden. The issue of circumcision is left up in the air. Again, it appears that James intended the new believers to be convicted when they heard Moses read in the synagogues and as a result, follow through with the rest of the Law including circumcision. This was his way of trying to keep as many of the factions together without unduly insulting the believing Pharisees, and allowing for the Gentiles to receive a more unadulterated version of the Law.

The Messianic leaders then decided to write a letter to the Gentile believers. This was to be the official position on the issue, and it was given to Paul, Barnabas, and other leading men of the congregation who went with them to confirm its authenticity and see that it was delivered properly.

The part that needs to be born out is the list of four immediate requirements concerning dietary and sexual purity laws. They are listed a second time in the official letter itself:

"…For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."   Acts 15:28,29     NKJV

Twice, these four requirements are listed in Acts 15.   Later in the book, Paul returns again to Jerusalem, only this time he was in trouble for what he had been teaching.  More will be mentioned about this episode later.  At the end of a lecture to Paul, James makes this statement:

"But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality."   Acts 21:25     NKJV

There they are again. The same four requirements listed a third time.

The Lie

In Galatians 2, Paul makes mention of the same trip to Jerusalem as mentioned above. It is obvious from the subject matter alone--and most scholars agree--that it is a reference to the same Jerusalem council meeting.

First, it is imperative that we understand the subject matter of the book of Galatians.

Christianity fondly refers to Galatians as "the Magna Carta of spiritual emancipation". One reference says, "…it remains as the abiding monument of the liberation of Christianity from the trammels of legalism." It is evident to the reader of Galatians that Paul’s position against the Law is quite hostile. His intention is to convince the Galatian believers not to give the time of day to the "Judaizers" like Peter who were teaching the Law of Moses including circumcision. In fact, he twice commands the Galatians to curse anyone who teaches anything other than his doctrine. Gal. 1:8,9

Among his many anti-Torah/Law arguments are these quotes:

"…for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified." 2:16 *

"But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident…"3:11*

* Deuteronomy 6:25 rebuffs these statements when Moses says: "Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us."

"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law…" 3:13    

  The law is not a curse, nor does it of itself bring one. Breaking the law brings a curse. Therefore it is man and not the Law that is the problem.

"Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace. 5:2-4 

Here he even drops his own name before telling the Galatians a  severe doctrinal lie.

"For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’". 5:14 **

** This is only the second greatest commandment. Matt. 22:36-40 says; "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Yeshua said to him, "’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and the great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." 1 John 5:3 describes how we are to fulfill the first and greatest commandment to love God with all our heart: "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome."

Paul even goes so far as to wish that those who preach circumcision would take the knife and cut their own penises off! (Galatians 5:11,12)  He refers to circumcision as "the mutilation" in Philippians 3:2. His attitude toward the Law and those who teach it is obviously quite hostile.

Keeping Paul's anti-Law rhetoric in mind, now take a look at Paul’s recollection to the Galatian church of his meeting with the Jerusalem council.

"Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles… But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter… and when James, Cephas*, and John who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I was also eager to do."               Galatians 2:1,2,6-7,9-10   NKJV      *Peter

This is Paul’s version of what happened. When he said that the church in Jerusalem desired "only" that he remember the poor, how could this be anything but an outright lie? Remember that Paul is attempting to persuade the Galatians not to be circumcised or follow the Law of Moses. This is the foundational theme of the entire book. Paul was trying to convince the Galatians that he had Jerusalem’s full support in spite of the fact that he didn't think he needed it. But he could not afford to tell the truth that the official edict from Jerusalem included four requirements from the Law of Moses, three of which were dietary. So he told them a lie when he said, "They desired only that we remember the poor". The official letter read that the Gentiles were to "keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality." and nowhere in the letter is there any mention of the poor!  The Greek word that Paul used and is translated "only" literally means "with nothing else".

It should also be pointed out that in the book of Galatians, Paul begins telling of his contacts with the Jerusalem Messianic leaders in Galatians 1:18. He had just finished telling the Galatians that his doctrine was given to him by divine revelation alone. It didn't even come from the original apostles who had spent three and a half years with Yeshua.  When Paul tells of his meeting with the Jerusalem leaders, his attitude was that the original apostles were of no significance to him, but if it mattered to the Galatians, he indicated that he still had Peter, James, and John’s full support.

After beginning to mention his contacts with Peter, James and John in Galatians 1:18  he says these words: 

"Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not  lie." Galatians 1:20  NKJV

Paul actually had the gall to preface a lie with an oath of honesty!  One has to ask the question why he felt compelled in the first place to assure the Galatians he was not lying. Yeshua had a few words to say concerning this type of oath:

"Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all, neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne’ nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ be ‘No’. For whatever is more  than these is from the evil one."   Matthew  5:33-37   NKJV

Paul’s own words convict him again.  He was a liar, along with being a false apostle just as Yeshua had commended the Ephesian church for exposing. He was a liar because he lied to the Galatians regardless of whether or not the Ephesian church was aware of this particular lie.  But it is not at all unlikely that the Ephesian church was very familiar with both Paul’s letter to the Galatians and the official letter from the Jerusalem council. They are geographically quite close to each other. Also, the Jerusalem council letter would have been circulated to all the Gentile churches, and there is strong evidence to suggest that Paul’s letters were being copied and circulated among the churches as well . Peter makes this apparent in 2 Peter 3:15,16 when he speaks of Paul and the content of "all his epistles". Peter could not say this without being familiar with most if not all of them!  One can also see from the passage that he assumes his readers are aware of them as well. 2 Peter 3:15,16  is the passage in which Peter appears to call Paul's letters Scripture and is dealt with in the chapter titled Yeshua’s Prophecy Concerning Peter .

The fact that Paul lied to the Galatians is by itself enough to establish him as a liar, but once a person crosses that bridge he will likely continue the practice. His lie to the Galatians is by no means his only one. 

Paul's lie before the Sanhedrin

When Paul was arrested in the temple during his last visit to Jerusalem he had to be rescued by the Romans. On the following day the Roman commander allowed Paul to be taken before Ananias the high priest and the Sanhedrin to defend himself against the charges he was up on. During this trial of sorts, Paul makes an interesting claim.

 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!" And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided.    Acts 23:6,7 NKJV  

This was a divide-and-conquer ploy in which there was not one shred of truth. For Paul to say he was being judged on the issue of the resurrection of the dead was an outright lie. The truth concerning why he was arrested is recorded a little earlier in Acts.

...the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place..."  Acts 21:27,28 NKJV

The truth is that Paul was being judged on the matter of bringing to nothing the importance of Israel, the Law of Moses, and the temple. Again, for Paul to claim he was being judged on his view of the resurrection for the purpose of dividing his accusers against each other was a lie. 

Paul's lie to King Agrippa

A little later, Paul also lied to King Agrippa in the recounting of his conversion experience on the road to Damascus!

The story of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus is recorded three separate times in the book of Acts. The first is in chapter 9:3-19 as documented by the author of the book, Luke. The highlights are;

And as he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Yeshua, whom you are persecuting, It is hard for you to kick against the goads." So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" And the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

The second account is in chapter 22:6-15 and here, Luke records Paul's personal account of his experience as given before the angry Jews in Jerusalem. The points of interest here are;

"Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' So I answered, 'Who are You, Lord?' And he said to me, 'I am Yeshua of Nazareth, Whom you are persecuting.' ...So I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.'  

There is no real problem or conflict in these first two accounts. Even with the slight variations, the main points remain basically the same. The fact is, they are quite consistent and corroborate each other.    

The third record of Paul's conversion experience is again given by Paul himself in his own defense before King Agrippa in chapter 26:12-19. Now here he says these words;

"While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are  you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' So I said, 'Who are You , Lord?' And he said, 'I am Yeshua, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes and to turn them from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.' Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision..."  

Hey, wait just a minute Paul! According to what you and Luke previously testified, when you asked Yeshua what you were to do, he told you to do absolutely nothing other than to go to Damascus, and there you would be told "all things" you were to do! Now you want us to believe Yeshua told you all of this on the spot? 

This is not just a simple case of information having been left out of the first two accounts making it a weak argument from absence. Some arguments from absence are excellent arguments. If one can establish that something should appear, then one can make a good argument from absence if it does not appear. The theory of evolution and the total lack of intermediate species (missing links) in the fossil record is a good example of a good argument from absence. In Paul's case, if in fact Yeshua had actually come out and said anything like, "Here is the reason why I have appeared to you...",  what Yeshua said immediately following this would without question be the focal point and highlight of any-and-every recollection of the encounter!  Is that not a perfectly logical and reasonable expectation? But nothing of the sort is found in the first two accounts. And what's more, when Paul asked, Yeshua clearly told him that he was to go to Damascus where he would be told "all things" he was to do.   

It should be apparent that Paul wanted to paint a picture for King Agrippa of what he believed to be his unavoidable destiny. So he then went on to embellish his account of his vision with a lie. The part of his story above in bold print is a total fabrication... sounding far more like something Paul would say than something Yeshua would say anyway. The main purpose for Yeshua confronting Paul is obvious and found in his first words: "Why are you persecuting me?" Yeshua's purpose was to stop the persecution! The fact that Paul didn't reject Yeshua but submitted to him with the words, "What would You have me do?" is a secondary outgrowth of the event. Had Paul stubbornly tried to continue on his way to Damascus to arrest the Messianic believers, I thoroughly believe it would have been the end of him on the spot. The scene is very reminiscent of Balaam being stopped by the Angel of Lord because he intended to curse Israel. See Numbers 22:22-34     

Also, from Paul's fabricated story, it appears that he designed it to subtly impress upon King Agrippa's mind the picture that it was his destiny to be delivered from the Jews as was already the case thanks the Gentiles. So next, it would be King Agrippa himself who should deliver him from the Gentiles as well. But it was one big fat lie! From that time on, Paul never was delivered from the Gentiles.  

A little later in the story, Festus and Agrippa mock Paul (Acts 26:24,28) and come to the conclusion that Paul was little more than a harmless crackpot. This is when Paul opts for making an appeal to Caesar for justice in the matter. Christianity has generally thought of Paul's appeal to Caesar as a brilliant tactical move. But one quote is conveniently overlooked. It is recorded that King Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar." Acts 26:32

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