For a full starting point – Starting Point

Paul is undoubtedly one of the most vital pieces to the Christian faith; his travels alone account for the widest spread of the Gospel within early Christianity. He is most important because his writings are the first piece of historical evidence that is encountered by scholars; these writings give us a glimpse into the original teachings of Christianity. Out of all the potential writings within the New Testament to point out, only the letters of Paul are referred to so directly within the Bible itself as a difficult passage to exegesis that readers must approach with diligent care — with fear and trembling even (2 Pet 3:14–18). In fact, difficulties in interpreting Paul’s thought and teaching arose even before the writing of 2 Peter. Paul himself had to correct the understanding of an early letter to the church in Corinth (1 Cor 5:9–13). Indeed, the history of the interpretation of Paul is a history of conflict. We see the rise of competitive doctrines, noted in 2 Peter 1:16, where this specific passage addresses the rival doctrine that Jesus was not a historical man, but a myth. Paul’s teachings are littered with ambiguous passages that pose a real problem to theology if taken objectively, and it is the teachings of Paul and their controversy that I want to go through, continually building off of this to the final conclusion: Paul teaches a non-earthly Jesus in his writings by which anyone has only ever known via revelation.

The Epistles of Paul

I’m not going to spend time going through the history of research that led us to the current consensus today, but the consensus currently holds 7 letters undisputed to be authentically written by Paul:

First Thessalonians (ca. 50 AD)
Galatians (ca. 53 AD)
First Corinthians (ca. 53–54 AD)
Philippians (ca. 55 AD)
Philemon (ca. 55 AD)
Second Corinthians (ca. 55–56 AD)
Romans (ca. 57 AD)

The letters thought to be pseudepigraphic by most scholar (roughly 80% last research article I saw):

First Timothy
Second Timothy
Titus
Ephesians

The letters on which scholars are about evenly divided (roughly 60%):

Colossians
Second Thessalonians

It is important to note that although the authorship is not disputed, dating is a whole other matter. The only real belief I hold worth noting is my stance on Galatians, which is North Galatians Theory – I find South Theory to have too much reliance on the “geographic” implausibility.  It is the 7 undisputed letters that I will turn my attention to, as disputed letters have no method to extract truths from – the substance is too muddied with forgery/interpolations.

Oddities of Paul

There are several topics that are worth covering when discussing the oddities of Paul; some of them are theological, while others are grammatical. One of the most important aspects when examining Paul’s writings is to not use the influence or knowledge from the four Gospels, as these are later dated and show very little correspondence to the style or content of message.  One of the most peculiar oddities I find that most Christians pay no part to is the fact that the word Disciple is not mentioned at all by Paul, nor did he seem to understand discipleship, but rather Apostleship.  Most individuals would not distinguish the difference here in semantic meaning; however, the differences do have important meanings to interpretation. Discipleship denotes being a student of a mentor or teacher, it denotes direct learning under someone – face to face in the Gospels, where it only appears; Apostleship denotes being an ambassador or messenger, it does not require learning under a mentor or teacher, but spreading what is “revealed” to you as Paul does throughout his ministry. Other oddities include a lack of true historicity of Jesus whenever He is mentioned; in fact, the passages are oddly ambiguous. What’s more is the perhaps the most odd thing is the fact of the major differences between the little information about Jesus in Paul, and the vast information – sometimes posing issues – we have in the Gospels in regards to the same man, except 30 years later.

What is the gospel of Paul?

As a stand-alone author, Paul is an apostle through his revelation of Christ outside Damascus. He then immediately goes to Arabia spreading these revelations of Christ that he has seen.  In Paul’s gospel, Jesus is a celestial entity that he only seems to know through revelation; out of the few instances that Paul actually describes the gospel he preaches he does not discuss a birth event, a ministry, or Jesus visiting any geographical location that would identify him to history.

Galatians 1:11-24

11 Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. 12 For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

13 For you heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it, 14 and progressed in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my race, since I was even more a zealot for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when [God], who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus.

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas and remained with him for fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles, only James the brother of the Lord. 20 (As to what I am writing to you, behold, before God, I am not lying.) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was unknown personally to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; 23 they only kept hearing that “the one who once was persecuting us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 So they glorified God because of me.

Note Paul confirms he is preaching by revelation alone, which he has to in order to validate apostleship; most Christians are also unaware of the discrepancy here and in Acts of the accounts of Paul’s missionary journeys, but that is a separate topic in itself for when discussing the historicity of Acts.

In reference to Brothers of the Lord (or the Lord’s Brother)there are only two instances in Paul’s writings where anyone could claim the possibility of sibling for Jesus – odd if he was taking the time to write about an Earthly Jesus that had family to talk about.  We know that Christians are all brothers and sisters of the lord (Rom 1:4), and that Jesus was the “first born among many brethren” (Rom 8.29).  In fact, it is customary even in the OT for the children of God to call each other brothers. Lot is called Abraham’s brother in Gen 14:14 even though he is the son of Haran; Jacob is called “Brother” of his uncle Laban (Gen 29:15) – so we do see this occurring previously. Paul uses “brothers of the lord” in two references. 1 Cor 9:3 & Gal 1:19. Also, for the writer to not know to distinguish brother in the flesh from a potential Christian would be unusual.  It is logically valid to go with previous usage of the phrase in such cases. Paul’s use of “before God, I do not lie” shows us just how genuine and assertive he was trying to proclaim his message that he did not confer with anyone & the gospel was not his gospel, but from revelation.

This passage indicates the first important revelation of Christ that Paul had was the death/resurrection of Christ & that it was done according to the scriptures – although Paul never specifically defines the scriptures he is referring to – not a birth event nor does he reference a womanly birth event in other passages even when he does discuss Jesus being “made in human likeness” & “taking the form of a slave” as we see in Phil 2.6-11.  Paul clearly places no emphasis of the birth event of Christ, to Paul, it seems that the death/resurrection is the only important message in accordance with scriptures. Christian pesher has always been a means of theological creation so we will examine OT passages that could possibly provide a source of ideology. Again Paul is receiving it via revelation rather than human testimony.
Philippians 2:5-11

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God,did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,  he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In this passage we see Paul attest to the divine manufacturing of Jesus, with no mention of a birth event.  The Greek use for “born” is Genomenos (To happen, to become, arise) which Paul always uses in reference to a manufacturing & specifically uses that Greek when discussing the nature of Christ’s incarnation.

Romans 15

For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

This is just to show that revelation wasn’t the only inspiration Paul had, as he apparently did use pesher in his teachings.

1 Corinthians 11:23-25

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[b] you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 

Even the Eucharist could be a revelation, as that is Paul’s main source of information; nor does Paul actually identify disciples, a location, or anything that can establish authentic historicity. What’s more interesting here is the parallel to the Inanna cult that predates most religious ideologies in general (1700BCE easy)  who is depicted as a daughter of god that descends into hell is killed then strung up on a wall for punishment (same concept as a crucifixion) & is given food & drink to be revived & then ascends to heaven. Most translations read “betrayed”, but the word paradidomi means “hand over, to deliver” so to imply a Judas narrative as most Christians do presupposes information that is not written at this point & is not necessary to explain the passage in context.

Paul uses “delivered up” in the following:

Rom 4:24-25 ‘God delivered him up’
Rom 8:32 ‘he delivered himself’
Gal 2:20 ‘ gave himself’
1st Cor 5:5 ‘delivered up’

What Paul DOES say about the incarnation of Christ

Apart from the fact that Paul never mentions a ministry, miracles, or disciples, Paul never names a parent Jesus nor a home town. Rom 1:3 says Jesus was made from the “seed of David” according to the flesh in contradistinction to Jesus being “declared the Son of God in power, according to the spirit”, in the one case referencing his incarnation (Phil 2:5), in the other his resurrection (Phil 2:9).  Phil 2:6-11 portrays the act as a divine construction; no mention on childhood, birth, or parents. Paul uses the word Genomenos (from ginomai), meaning “to happen, become” – Paul never uses that word when discussing human birth despite using it multiple other times typically to mean “becoming” – Paul’s preferred word for being born is gennao. Another notable reason to assert the reference means to become is found in 1 Cor 15:45 where Paul says Adam “was made”, using ginomai, when in reference to our heavenly bodies that have been made by God. This is also seen in the most ambiguous passage in Gal 4:4 & 4:23 in Paul’s rhetorical argument for heirship/law/enslavement.

Using scripture to see that there are cosmic copies of everything, that Jewish legend does tell of sperm of David being used, and the sperm of Abraham parallel; it becomes a far more probable interpretation with the evidence of Paul that Jesus was manufactured rather than born; this would explain why Mark does not know of a birth either, and is attested to external writings that do not depict Jesus being born on earth. Also, that there are later interpolations that do add such events, such as in the Ascension of Isaiah’s redaction, again points to the fact that after a change of theology documents needed to reflect this.

When we add the gospels to Paul’s story we see a totally different version of Christ – assuming the gospels are read as a literal history – although the oldest believed gospel, Mark, still doesn’t include a birth narrative which I find odd. At any rate, the gospels simply do not parallel with Paul, although that is not to say they contradict; except Acts, which does contradict & create a problem with Galatians, but that is a whole different matter for a different time.  Sadly, we have no authentic manuscripts dating back to this time in history so we can’t know exactly what theological disputes or ideologies were in circulation, but we do have glimpses into things starting at the beginning of the 2nd century with the Apostolic fathers, and their struggles with rival sects.  We also do get to see some of the developments and disputes within what we have of the Biblical text, but often these are just reprimands from Paul to the churches on specific teachings in clarification rather than in regards to an actual rival church; however, we are privileged enough to find


In Galatians 3:26-4:29 every Christian comes from “the sperm of Abraham” by spiritual adoption; Jesus could have been understood to come from “the sperm of david” in a similar way; Paul even uses the same phrase in his discussion of allegorical heritage when using kata sarka, “according to the flesh”, Gal 4:23,29 that he uses in Romans 1:3

  • Verenna Born Under The Law pp 152-155
  • Doherty, Jesus: Neither God nor Man pp 167-72

It is worth noting that this also took place in Jewish legend; the demoness Igrath was believed to collect Semen from sleeping men, and once did so from David himself, using sperm to beget rival kings:

  • GW Dennis, Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism p 126

2nd Samuel 7:12-14 shows this link as well – with pesher it is easy to conceive where these ideologies could have derived from.

“I will raise up your sperm after you, which shall come from your belly, and will establish his kingdom. He will build for me a house in my name, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will by my son.”

Paul’s Descriptions of Jesus

Paul’s does provide us with descriptions of the Jesus he has been revealed, and the roles/functions/identities that he assumes as well. This is interesting, as after we examine the following descriptions we will examine possible sources.

Firstborn son of God (Romans 8:29)
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.[1]
Celestial Image of God (2nd Corinthians 4:4)
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of GodFor what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants[b] for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

God’s agent of creation ( 1st Corinthians 8:6)[2]
yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

[1] This is a morphic passage. Jesus is morphing into another entity, the popular thought pre-existing as seen prior in Philo’s work as the son who “imitates the father through his archetypal patterns”
This first born among many brethren is also important to denote the fact that this represents another testament to the fact every one of us are sons of god and Christ is the first born, meaning we are brothers of the lord; a popular phrase used by Paul to denote fellow Christians. Not once does he ever distinguish a family type brother; there is no according to the flesh or sense that the author feels there should be a discernment.

[2] The use of through denotes agency; likewise from requires a preceding departure. Thus Jesus is god’s agent of creation. It is also important to note that angels are often agents of God throughout the OT.

Philo of Alexandria (20AD)

James C. VanderKam writes: “Although many of Philo’s writings have survived, little is konwn about his life. We do not even know when he was born or when he died. The few facts about his life come from occasional hints in his own books and a small number of external references (e.g., Josephus mentions him). His brother Alexander held the position of alabarch, apparently a high office that involved supervising the collection of revenues, and was so wealthy that King Agrippa I often borrowed money from him. A clear implication is that Philo belonged to an extremely prominent family in the large Jewish community at Alexandria. Philo’s nephew Tiberius Julius Alexander, Alexander’s son, abandoned his ancestral religion, became the Roman procurator in Judea in 46-48 CE, and played an important role for the Romans in their suppression of the Jewish revolt of 66-70 CE—another indication of the status enjoyed by the people in Philo’s family. Josephus considered him prominent in every way and skilled in philosophy.” (An Introduction to Early Judaism, p. 138) If anyone had influence over a sect at the time it would have been Philo. Alexandria is the largest source of knowledge in antiquity until being sacked and destroyed.

Philo references Jesus as an angelic figure (Using Zachariah 3&6) & shares common descriptions of this angelic figure with Paul’s descriptions of Jesus throughout the NT. Philo provides a great understanding of teachings existent within the Jewish circles just as Christianity is coming into the scene.

(62) I have also heard of one of the companions of Moses having uttered such a speech as this: “Behold, a man whose name is the East!”{18}{#zec 6:12.}[1] A very novel appellation indeed, if you consider it as spoken of a man who is compounded of body and soul; but if you look upon it as applied to that incorporeal being who in no respect differs from the divine image, you will then agree that the name of the east has been given to him with great felicity. (63) For the Father of the universe has caused him to spring up as the eldest son, whom, in another passage, he calls the firstborn; and he who is thus born, imitating the ways of his father, has formed such and such species, looking to his archetypal patterns.

(145) but they who have real knowledge, are properly addressed as the sons of the one God, as Moses also entitles them, where he says, “Ye are the sons of the Lord God.”{41}{#de 14:1.} And again, “God who begot Thee;”{42}{#de 32:18.} and in another place, “Is not he thy father?” Accordingly, it is natural for those who have this disposition of soul to look upon nothing as beautiful except what is good, which is the citadel erected by those who are experienced in this kind of warfare as a defence against the end of pleasure, and as a means of defeating and destroying it. (146) And even if there be not as yet anyone who is worthy to be called a son of God, nevertheless let him labour earnestly to be adorned according to his first-born word, the eldest of his angels, as the great archangel of many names; for he is called, the authority, and the name of God, and the Word, and man according to God’s image, and he who sees Israel. (147) For which reason I was induced a little while ago to praise the principles of those who said, “We are all one man’s Sons.”{43}{#Gen 42:11.} [2]

– Philo, “On the Confusion of Tongues,” (62-63,145-147)

(1.214) The sacred scripture has appointed that the great High Priest, when he was about to perform the ministrations appointed by the law, should be besprinkled with water and ashes in the first place, that he might come to a remembrance of himself. For the wise Abraham also, when he went forth to converse with God, pronounced himself to be dust and ashes. In the second place, it enjoins him to put on a tunic reaching down to his feet, and the variously embroidered thing which was called his breastplate, an image and representation of the light-giving stars which appear in heaven. (1.215) For there are, as it seems, two temples belonging to God; one being this world, in which the high priest is the divine word, his own firstborn son. The other is the rational soul, the priest of which is the real true man, the copy of whom, perceptible to the senses, is he who performs his paternal vows and sacrifices, to whom it is enjoined to put on the aforesaid tunic, the representation of the universal heaven, in order that the world may join with the man in offering sacrifice, and that the man may likewise co-operate with the universe. 
– Philo, “On Dreams,” 1.214-15

How did a transcendent God communicate with the world? According to Philo, “Logos” – Greek for “word” or “reason”– equated to divine reason. The Logos or Word emanated from the ineffable God and communicated with his creations. Thus it was the Logos that spoke to Moses from the burning bush, and it was the Logos that infused the righteous High Priest. When one experienced religious ecstasy it was because the Logos had entered one’s own soul.

Philo defined the curious nature of God’s intermediary thus:

“And the Father who created the universe has given to his archangelic and most ancient Word a pre-eminent gift, to stand on the confines of both, and separated that which had been created from the Creator.And this same Word is continually a suppliant to the immortal God on behalf of the mortal race, which is exposed to affliction and misery; and is also the ambassador, sent by the Ruler of all, to the subject race.

And the Word rejoices in the gift, and, exulting in it, announces it and boasts of it, saying, ‘And I stood in the midst, between the Lord and You; neither being uncreated as God, nor yet created as you, but being in the midst between these two extremities … For I will proclaim peaceful intelligence to the creation from him who has determined to destroy wars, namely God, who is ever the guardian of peace.’ “– Philo, Who is the Heir of Divine Things? 42.205-6.

[1] The fact that a reference to Moses & a Zechariah 6 scripture that he interprets & describes as the description that Paul gives of us of Jesus as we will see.
“caused him to spring up”
he who is thus born – how was he born?
“Imitating the ways of his father, has formed such and such species, looking into archetypal patterns.” – This shows the angelomorphic belief as shown in the Asc Is.

[2] Apart from the obvious importance of the references bolded or underlined, the reference to Gen 42:11 is even more allegorical as it is the story of Joseph not being recognized by his brothers when he came before them; the ascension references this similar thought. Even more striking is the fact the Joseph could be seen allegorical in the fact that he was the Beloved son of Jacob who was handed over as a slave & then rises to power from his servitude.

Conclusion

Given the last pieces presented; I think that is a good stopping point for now. There are obvious parallels between Paul & Philo, and the most interesting aspect is that Philo would have predated Paul with his teachings and ideologies. It seems highly probable to me, seeing that Philo was an important Jewish figure, had influence over someone like Paul who was at some point zealous for Jewish faith. Who better to idolize than one of the most influential Jews of the Roman empire at the time?   It is not just the parallels of Philo, but without Philo the lack of corroboration between the Gospels and Paul is strikingly problematic in the chain of sequence.  Paul simply does not give us enough details to ascertain for a fact that he knew of an earthly Jesus, as he only interacts with a celestial deity that is known only by revelation or scripture.  It is from this starting point that we will move forward and into deeper issues in regards to Early Christianity.

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