It’s widely acknowledged that Jesus was a thoroughly practicing Jew throughout his life. Anglican Priest Bruce Chilton expressed that conclusion explicitly and concisely in his book “Rabbi Jesus”: “It became clear to me that everything Jesus did was as a Jew, for Jews, and about Jews.”
But what about Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles? It’s generally accepted that Paul was the true founder of a new religion called Christianity. Biblical scholar Gerd Ludemann, author of several books about Jesus and Paul including “Paul: Founder of Christianity,” affirms that “Without Paul there would be no church and no Christianity.” Ludemann adds, “He’s the most decisive person that shaped Christianity as it developed. Without Paul we would have had reformed Judaism … but no Christianity.”
Paul converted Jews and then Gentiles to Jewish Christianity, basing these conversions on his belief in the teachings, resurrection and divinity of Jesus. But powerful evidence within “Acts of the Apostles,” the book of the New Testament that chronicles Paul’s mission, reveals that Paul, like Jesus, remained a dedicated Jew until his execution. In fact, if Paul had simply stated that he was no longer a Jew but the leader of a new religion, he would not have been imprisoned or executed.
During Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, his appearance and teachings in the Temple in Jerusalem set off a disturbance in which some Jews rioted against him (Acts 21:26-28). He was then charged with blasphemy by the Sanhedrin and would have to stand trial before the Jewish authorities — and face a possible death sentence. The Sanhedrin was able to indict Paul and put him on trial by the special privilege that the Romans gave the Jews. Judaism was a protected religion under the Roman Empire in the time of Jesus and Paul. Jews had their own King (Herod the Great, Herod Antipas and Herod Agrippa). But more important, the Jewish leadership was invested with the right to rule over Jewish affairs. They could bring charges against Jews who violated Jewish laws or who were deemed blasphemous or heretical. That power is why the Sanhedrin was able to indict Jesus. It also explains why the Sanhedrin was able to authorize Paul’s persecutory frenzy to chain and drag back to Jerusalem Jewish followers of Jesus in synagogues as distant as Damascus (Acts 8:3; Acts 9: 1, 2). Although the Sanhedrin could bring charges against Jews and even set the punishment, only the Romans could execute (although that’s not entirely clear since some violators of Jewish law were stoned to death by Jews).
The special status of Jews was first stated in an edict by the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus in 1 B.C.E. and reaffirmed by Emperor Claudius Augustus in 41 C.E.:
Edict of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus on Jewish Rights, 1 BCE
Caesar Augustus, pontifex maximus, holding the tribunician power, proclaims: Since the nation of the Jews and Hyrcanus, their high priest, have been found grateful to the people of the Romans, not only in the present but also in the past, and particularly in the time of my father, Caesar, imperator, it seems good to me and to my advisory council, according to the oaths, by the will of the people of the Romans, that the Jews shall use their own customs in accordance with their ancestral law, just as they used to use them in the time of Hyrcanus, the high priest of their highest god; and that their sacred offerings shall be inviolable and shall be sent to Jerusalem and shall be paid to the financial officials of Jerusalem; and that they shall not give sureties for appearance in court on the Sabbath or on the day of preparation before it after the ninth hour. But if anyone is detected stealing their sacred books or their sacred monies, either from a synagogue or from a mens’ apartment, he shall be considered sacrilegious and his property shall be brought into the public treasury of the Romans.
Later, during the ministry of Paul, the Emperor Claudius reconfirmed the special status of Jews:
Edict of Roman Emperor Claudius Augustus on Jewish Rights, 41 CE
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, pontifex maximus, holding the tribunician power, proclaims: …Therefore it is right that also the Jews, who are in all the world under us, shall maintain their ancestral customs without hindrance and to them I now also command to use this my kindness rather reasonably and not to despise the religious rites of the other nations, but to observe their own laws.
The Romans were tolerant of all religions under their rule as long as adherents obeyed Roman law and paid taxes. While Jews could rule over Jewish matters, they had no jurisdiction over people of other religions. In principle, Roman paganism was an affront to Judaism. But they could do nothing about that other than negotiate with the Romans to mitigate pagan practices in the Temple area and in some public Roman ceremonies.
After his arrest, Paul faced charges of blasphemy: “And after five days Ananias, the high priest, descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the Governor against Paul” (Acts 24:1).
Paul could only be charged if he were a Jew. After being detained for two years he was brought before the new Roman governor Porcius Festus. The Sanhedrin repeated the charge of blasphemy: “Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him [Festus] against Paul, and besought him” (Acts 25:2). Fearing a trial before the Sanhedrin, Paul invoked his right as a Roman citizen to be tried in Rome. Festus granted Paul his choice: “Hast thou appealed unto CÃ¦sar? Unto CÃ¦sar shalt thou go” (Acts 25:12).
At no time during Paul’s lengthy ordeal did he repudiate Judaism or declare that he represented a new religion. Had he done so, he would have been immediately released — especially since he was a privileged Roman citizen. The Sanhedrin wouldn’t have had any authority over Paul.
After a long treacherous trip that included a shipwreck that almost killed him, Paul arrived in Rome and was put under house arrest. He promptly invited the Jewish leadership of Rome to his residence to explain why he was imprisoned:
“Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto CÃ¦sar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.” (Acts 28: 17-20)
Still, Paul said nothing about a new religion. On the contrary, he presented himself to the Roman Jewish community as a loyal Jew who was being persecuted for his revisionist views. Since the Romans had no quarrel with him, as a Roman citizen, and with the Sanhedrin a continent away, there would be no viable case against Paul — if he had denounced his affiliation to Judaism and declared a new religion. At this point in his life, facing trial and execution for blasphemy against Judaism, didn’t Paul have every reason to sever his tie to Judaism? The Sanhedrin, representing traditional Judaism, sent a clear message by their action against Paul: “We will not accept your beliefs and teachings about Jesus.” Despite this definitive rejection, Paul didn’t choose the obvious way out of the clutches of the Sanhedrin: declaration of a new religion. This strategy never even showed up for discussion. Paul chose to go to his death as a Jew. Why?
Paul’s vision was to make his brand of Judaism — with the recognition of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah — a world religion easily accessible to everyone. He never surrendered that passion. But after his death the accelerating conversion of Gentiles to a movement that began as Jewish Christianity became increasingly distanced from Judaism — and a new religion was launched.
Nevertheless, an understanding of the deep connection to Judaism held by the founders of Christianity should highlight the common ground of Judaism and Christianity and pave the way to reconciliation between the two faiths.
JERUSALEM—As an uneasy truce between Israel and Hezbollah continues, millions of average men and women in the Holy Land are turning to the one simple comfort that has always seen them through the darkest days of their troubled history: the steadfast guidance of their religious faith.
Arabs and Israelis alike are embracing their faith as a way to make sense of the violence from which there seems to be no escape.
“I take solace in knowing that my faith is a sanctuary, an escape from the bloodshed and turmoil,” said Haifa resident Yigal Taheri, who last week lost his wife and newborn daughter when a Fajr-3 long-range rocket launched by Lebanese militants struck the synagogue where his family was attending services. “YHWH, Elohim, whatever you wish to not call Him—His love comforts all those who are willing to open their hearts to Him. Praise be to G–d.”
“Religion is the one thing that has never let us down,” Taheri added over the low rumble of AK-47 fire emanating from the nearby home of a radical Israeli rabbi.
Taheri is not alone. In a time of seemingly unending conflict between Israelis and Arabs, a growing number of Middle Easterners are fervently embracing the unshakeable wisdom of Judaism and Islam.
“The Israelis have fired missile upon missile on my neighborhood, but it has only made my trust in Allah that much stronger,” Abdel-Malik said. “I cringe to think where the people of the Middle East would be right now if it weren’t for our steadfast belief in one true, merciful, and loving Supreme Being.”
Palestinian widow and mother of three Dareen Idriss agreed, citing the healing power of prayer as a way to cope with the relentless slaughter she and her family witness every day. “When the children cannot stop crying because of the bombs, we all gather our families in the rubble of the mosque to pray for justice,” Idriss said. “During this calm meditation, we also pray for the annihilation of the Hebrew race.”
An unidentified Palestinian man seeks a renewed resolve through prayer.
West Bank settler Ari Chayat, whose neighborhood has also been ravaged by violence, echoed this profound reliance on faith. “The world is so brutal and unfair,” Chayat said. “Many days, my uncompromising belief in a vengeful creator is all that gets me out of bed in the morning.”
“If it wasn’t for my faith that the God of Abraham has given these lands to Jews and Jews alone by divine decree, I probably wouldn’t even be here today,” Chayat added.
Lebanese militant Jawad Hamid, who recently lost his best friend to an Israeli helicopter attack while the two men were on their way to pick up a Katyusha rocket, said his faith in Allah was the only way he could cope with the tragedy.
“Every time I want to give up hope, I just open the Quran to my favorite passage, Surah 2:194: ‘Whoever acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him,'” Hamid said. “Whenever I read those words, I am immediately filled with inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose.”
Even political leaders have tapped into the public’s reliance on religion and used it as a way to encourage them to never give up.
“In this time of strife, the only way to endure the unending suffering is through an unwavering, uncompromising faith in one’s religious beliefs,” Israeli hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah went so far as to quote from the Quran in a speech delivered to followers the same afternoon.
“It’s always frightening to be reminded of your own mortality, as we all were this past Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday,” Hezbollah commander Mahdi al-Zaidi said. “But rather than react irrationally, I looked deep within my faith, consulted the Quran, and by the mercy of Allah, I gained the resolve to oversee a massive airstrike against the enemy.”
“We will get through this, so long as we have God on our side,” he added.
“It is said that men may not be the dreams of the Gods, but rather that the Gods are the dreams of men.”
– Carl Sagan
What follows illustrates the above extremely well
“Satan is a tool of God’s love in the sense that he forces us to see God’s loving patience.”
[Pat Robertson, Answers to 200 of Life’s most Probing Questions, Bantom Books, 1984]
“If you go all the way back to the days just following creation, men lived nine hundred years or more.”
[Pat Robertson, Answers to 200 of Life’s most Probing Questions, Bantom Books, 1984]
“There will never be world peace until God’s house and God’s people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world. How can there be peace when drunkards, drug dealers, communists, atheists, New Age worshipers of Satan, secular humanists, oppressive dictators, greedy moneychangers, revolutionary assassins, adulterers, and homosexuals are on top?”
[Pat Robertson, The New World Order, p. 227, Word Publishing, 1991]
“Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
“Many of those people involved with Adolph Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals–the two things seem to go together.”
[Pat Robertson, “The 700 Club,” 1/21/93, ADL report on Religious Right, page 131]
“The Constitution of the United States, for instance, is a marvelous document for self-government by the Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheistic people they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society. And that’s what’s been happening.”
[Pat Robertson, The 700 Club television program, December 30, 1981]
“God is going to judge the entertainment industry.”
[Rev. Pat Robertson, Re: the fire that devastated Universal Studios. Note: the good Rev. was strangely silent
when fire destroyed his radio station, WNTR]
“AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh’s chariotters”.
“The idea that religion and politics don’t mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country.”
Sermon, July 4, 1976
“The ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for this.”
[Rev. Jerry Falwell, on attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, to which Rev. Pat Robertson again agreed, quoted from AANEWS #958 by American Atheists (September 14, 2001)]
“The ACLU is to Christians what the American Nazi party is to Jews.”
“No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God.”
[George H.W. Bush, President of the United States in response to a reporters question]
“It is a just retribution for improper sexual misconduct”
[Mother Teresa, on AIDS]
“Evolution is a bankrupt speculative philosophy, not a scientific fact. Only a spiritually bankrupt society could ever believe it. … Only atheists could accept this Satanic theory.”
[Rev. Jimmy Swaggart]
“To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin.”
[Cardinal Bellarmine, 1615, during the trial of Galileo]
“I can’t understand how all this can have happened, it’s enough to make one lose one’s faith in God!”
[Eva Braun during the last days with Hitler]
“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord..”
[Hitler (Mein Kampf, Chapter 2)] link, link
I talk to my only friend Jesus our “LORD”! I know “JESUS” understands my terrible desires and ect. I have tords little boys! And the main reason I murdered them little “BOYS”, is because our society is so “AGAINST” the fact of “CHILDREN-DOING-SEX” together or with anybody! I believe children should be “ABLE” to do sex! And I can “ARGUE” that all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court! “SEX” is a great “GIFT” that Jesus gave us all!!!!
[Freddy Goode, serial killer, in a letter to one of his lawyers- misspellings, his]
“My children, Michael and Alex, are with our Heavenly Father now, and I know that they will never be hurt again. As a mom, that means more than words could ever say. . . My children deserve to have the best, and now they will. . . I have put my total faith in God, and he will take care of me.”
[Susan Smith, who drowned her two children, in her confession letter, Nov. 1994]
What would happen if we get down on our knees and pray to God in this way:
Dear God, almighty, all-powerful, all-loving creator of the universe, we pray to you to cure every case of cancer on this planet tonight. We pray in faith, knowing you will bless us as you describe in Matthew 7:7, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matthew 18:19 and James 5:15-16. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
So what would happen. The answer is simple absolutely nothing.
Which begs the question where is god? Figure that out for yourself.