Friday, October 5, 2012

Did the Apostle Paul introduce Paganism to Christianity?

There is some people going around claiming that the Apostle Paul not only changed the Gospel message but he also introduced Paganism to and mixed it with Christianity, thereby changing Christianity forever.  The evidence of this claim many of them point to the worship of Jesus as God and blame the Apostle Paul for bringing the idol worship of Jesus into Christianity.  It appears that what they are saying is that the Apostle Paul had people exchange their idols for another: Jesus.  Today we will address that issue by highlighting the following points:

1)Paul's education
2)Paul's view of Jesus vs. the view of the Apostles
3)Paganism in the times of the Apostles
4) Paul's Gospel presentation to Pagans

I. Paul's education:

Paul's education began very young, being a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, he was educated at the feet of Gamiel who was at the time the most respected theologian in Israel.  He was raised in the the town of Tarsus of what is now know as the country of Turkey and was born with the name of Saul, named after one of the great Kings of Israel who was also a Benjaminite. Some time later he became know as Saul the persecutor of the Way.  He had no equal to him in Judaism being a member of one of the strictest sects: the Pharisees. He had an acute sense of Law and Punishment as demonstrated in his zeal to persecute the Church of Jesus, the Christ.  He, by his own testimony was a Pharisee of Pharisees, and kept the Law to the letter.  He initially felt uniquely qualified to root out these believers of "The Way"out of Judaism,  and pursued his purpose with vigor and determination.  Until that day when he met Jesus on the way to Damascus, to continue his persecution of the Believers of Jesus.

It is clear that up to the time of his own conversion to Christ, Paul (aka Saul) believed that the Jews that converted to "The Way", as it was called, believed in some sort of idol worship of a dead man of whom those who had converted to "the Way" proclaimed that he was still alive and has ascended to God in Heaven.  After his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, everything changed. He discovered that Jesus was not a idol, but the Lord God. (Acts 9:1-20)

II.Paul's view of Jesus vs. the view of the Apostles

Paul's view of Jesus is distinctively similar, but not exactly the same as the original Apostles. The reason for the difference is that the original Apostles had an opportunity to walk with and learn of  Jesus for at least 3 years. Paul only had just met Jesus on the road to Damascus and it took him some time before he began to preach the Gospel. The original Apostles were still figuring out what shape and form the church will take.  They initially only preached the Gospel to unconverted Jews, that is until the Apostle Peter was given an inspirational instruction by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles as well.

Peter's view of Jesus was shared by all of the original Apostles and is as follows:

1) That Jesus is Lord [God] and Messiah [Christ] -Acts 2:36
2) That Jesus is God's appointed servant which was slain- Acts 3:22+23
3) That Jesus is God's resurrected Son- Acts 3:26
4) That Jesus is God's chosen Savior [Christ, Messiah]of Mankind- Acts 4:12

Paul's view of Jesus was shared by all of the Disciples in Antioch and Damascus  and is as follows:

1) That Jesus is the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God- Acts 9:20, 13:33
2) That Jesus is the promised Messiah [Christ]- Acts 13:33
3) That Jesus is the slain Messiah [Christ]-Acts 13:27-29
4) That Jesus is the resurrected Messiah [Christ]- Acts 13:30+31

As you can see that both views are very similar.  The difference is the audience that each man preached to.  Peter preached to unconverted Jews, while Paul preached to the unconverted Jews and Pagans.  They however shared these views about Jesus.

1) That Jesus was Divine

      a)Peter states that Jesus' status is elevated to that of "Lord" in Acts 2:36. The Greek word    
         that is translated to this English word "Lord", I have discovered that it also means  
        "Supreme over all" and "God". Peter therefore testifies therefore that God elevated Jesus 
         to divine status equal to His own divine status.

     b)Paul states that Jesus' status is elevated to that of being "the Son of God" by reason of 
        Jesus' relationship to God the Creator. God is the Father of Jesus, naturally born to Him and 
        thereby Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. God the creator made Jesus divine, through 
        the process of natural child birth, He made Jesus God and man -Acts 9:20, 13:33

2) That Jesus was the Messiah or the Christ

     a)Peter states that Jesus was Christ. Christ is the English translation of the Greek word which 
        is also a translation of the Hebrew word that is again translated into the English word 
       Messiah. In other words, Christ and Messiah are terms that refer to the same thing. They are  
        exchangeable in English. It is notable that Peter only uses the word "Christ" when speaking 
        in reference to Jesus when he needs to communicate to an audience that knows Greek and or 
        Hebrew.- Acts 2:36, 4:12

    b)Paul also states that Jesus was Christ [Messiah] that was prophesied about by the Holy 
       Prophets in his Gospel message.-Acts 13:23

3) That Jesus, the Christ [Messiah] was slain

    a)Peter states that Jesus, the chosen Messiah [Christ] was slain -Acts 3:22+23

    b)Paul also states that Jesus, the Messiah was slain-Acts 13:27-29

4) That God raised Jesus, the Christ [Messiah] from the dead

    a)Peter states that Jesus, God's son and appointed Messiah was resurrected from the dead by 
      God the Creator.- Acts 3:32

    b)Paul also states that Jesus was raised up from the dead by God the Creator- Acts 13:30+31

As we can see, Peter and Paul used the same views in their Gospel presentations: 1)The Divinity of Jesus, 2)The Messiah ship of Jesus, 3) The death of Jesus, the Messiah and 4) The Resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah. Seeing that they used the same views of Jesus in their Gospel presentations this proves that the worship of Jesus as God was not a Pagan  idea introduced by Paul to the Church, but rather a fulfillment of the prophetic scriptures of the  Bible. It was a popular teaching among the Jews that a Messiah King will come and restore the glorious kingdom of Israel.  They got that teaching from the prophecies of the Bible. Since those prophecies come from strictly Jewish sources and Judaism is strictly a monotheistic faith, then the idea that a child can be the son of God foretold in those scriptures is not a Pagan concept but Monotheistic one. This also proves that Paul did not introduce those ideas into Christianity, for those prophecies that Jesus fulfilled existed before the birth of  Paul and Peter.

III.Paganism in the times of the Apostles

Paganism is a general term , it blinds us to understand  what was really going on in Israel in the days of Jesus and His Apostles.  Also because of Hollywood  many people believe that the only Paganism was the ones the Romans brought with them to the Bible lands.  The truth be told there were several different brands of Pagan beliefs being practiced in the Holy Land.  The reason for this is that in order for Rome to keep the peace among their conquered lands, they had to allow the worship of what they viewed as primitive Gods, the God of Israel were considered be a primitive God int the view of Pagan Rome because they conquered them and took their lands.  The Romans believed in a Living God on earth embodied in a Man: Caesar. However, Caesar was not the only God to be believed upon, the Romans also had a Pantheon of Gods that ruled over various things upon the earth and the king of them all was Zeus. Another reason for the many forms of Pagan worship in Israel is that Israel was a port country and world trade passed through it.  Many merchants brought their Gods and goods with them to Israel and imported them throughout the world. So the Pagan Roman Empire looked at Christianity as another pagan faith because the believers of "the Way" worshiped a man named Jesus as God, just as they worshiped Caesar as a God.  The only problem with the Romans faith in their Caesar, their Caesars kept dying off while the Christians proclaim their God to be still alive after suffering a brutal death on a cross.  Proving to many that Jesus was God and causing many of the citizenry of Pagan Rome to convert to a new faith called by many as Christianity. 

The point is It was and still is very clear in Old testament law that God prohibits idol worship.  So if worshiping Jesus was not idol worship what was it? The Apostles proclaimed that in Jesus, God had come in the flesh to redeem all of Mankind in the fulfillment of the Jewish prophecies.  To them Jesus was God, not a partner to God, Jesus was God manifested in the flesh. An expression of God's love for them and the whole world.  To the original Apostles and Paul they were not participating in idol worship at all. They were worshiping and preaching about the God of the Bible and His Son. Some Jews and Pagans believed the message and some did not. Just like today, some believe the Gospel and some do not.

IV. Paul's Gospel presentation to Pagans

When Paul preached the Gospel to the Pagans, he preached it from the perspective of being a second hand witness. The difference between that being a first hand witness and a second hand witness is the quality and the credibility of sources.  Now this is important to understand, the second hand witness presentation of Paul the Apostle rests upon the quality and authenticity of his sources. If there is a degree of a lesser quality and credibility of the sources the Apostle Paul used in his Gospel presentation to the Pagans, then Paul's Gospel presentation is of lesser credibility than that of the original Apostle and we can accept that Paul mixed Pagan ideas with Christian ones and introduced a Pagan type worship of Jesus into Christianity in order to win converts and take the church away from the original Apostles of Christ.  However the opposite is also true, if the quality and credibility of the sources the Apostle Paul uses in his Gospel presentation to the Pagans we must accept that Paul did not mix Pagan ideas with Christian ones and did not introduce a Pagan type of worship of Jesus into Christianity in order to win souls and take the church away from the original Apostles of Christ.  There is no middle ground, it is either one or the other. So what were the Apostle Paul's sources for his Gospel presentations? They were the same Apostles of Christ and the disciples who heard Jesus speak, seen Jesus suffer and die on the cross and seen him be raised from the dead. 

Consider the fact that Paul's Gospel presentation was not questioned by the Apostles of Christ when He and Barnabas made their missionary report to them. (Acts 15) After the fact that Peter presented the argument to not burden the Gentile believers in Christ with the keeping of the Law of Moses, which no one Jew of them could keep. The salvation of God was presented to the Jews not on the basis of keeping the Law of Moses' administration, but rather it was offered to them on the basis of faith on the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah [Christ]. It appeared to them that God made the same offer to the Gentiles [many who were also Pagans], who would choose to believe in Jesus, the Christ.  Thereby they renounced the pagan Gods that they worshiped and began to worship the one God of creation through Jesus, the Christ. They decided that to make those new Pagan converts observe the law that no one could keep except for Jesus was not just or fair or right. This was also the offer of salvation in Paul's presentation of the Gospel to the Gentiles [Pagans] and Jews outside of Israel. So we see here that the quality and credibility of Paul's presentation of the Gospel is equal of that of  original Apostles for they both testified from the same sources. Even though Paul is preaching from the perspective of a second hand witness, his Gospel presentation is equal to Peter's Gospel presentation.

The only difference between the Gospel presentations of the original Apostles and Paul is that the original Apostles presentation were geared toward the Jewish audience until they were directed by God through the testimony of the Apostle Peter to make a presentation to the Gentiles [Pagans]. Therefore Paul's Gospel presentations took on the added elements of preaching against idolatry and Paganism, elements that original Apostles never had the opportunity to develop in their early  Gospel presentations. The Apostle Peter's missionary work among the Gentile church did not start until the Apostle Paul met his end. Peter's work was more about the encouragement of the believers that Paul and Barnabas was used of God to reach with the Gospel presentation. It was not about discrediting the Apostle Paul's Gospel presentation to the the Pagans. This act of Peter to support what the Apostle Paul established also does not indicate a mixing of paganism and Christianity by Paul, for Peter did not come behind Paul to change what he had  preached to them for them to believe for their salvation. Peter rather came behind Paul to confirm what the Apostle taught in those fledgling churches. When Peter preached his Gospel message to the [Pagans] the Gentiles, he emphasized the knowledge of the ministry of God through Christ to the Jews and accused the Jews of slaying Christ. Paul when he preached the Gospel  message to the [Pagans] Gentiles used the knowledge of his audience conscience of righteousness, their spiritual awareness and revelation of the mystery of the Gospel when preaching his Gospel outside of Israel.

We know as defenders of the Christian Faith that many people believe that paganism or pagan ideas got infused into modern Christianity. The verifiable evidence we provide here points other wise.  The question is  what are you going to do with the evidence?  It your choice to believe it or not believe it.  It is my greatest desire that you believe the Gospel as was preached by the original Apostles and the Apostle Paul that is summed up in the following verses:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.-John 3:16

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.-John 1:12+13

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.-John 3:17+18

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.-John 3:36

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.-John 5:24

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.-John 5:25

While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.-Hebrews 3:15

For he [is] our God; and we [are] the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, [and] as [in] the day of temptation in the wilderness:-Psalms 95:7+8

Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.-Hebrews 4:7

(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now [is] the accepted time; behold, now [is] the day of salvation.)-2 Corinthians 6:2

But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down [from above]:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, [even] in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.-Romans 10:6-10

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.- John 3:3

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.-John 3:5-7

How does one get saved, or born again? One becomes born again or saved when he or she sincerely confesses his or her faith in Christ.  How does someone do this? All you have to do is recite the following prayer with all your heart.

Dear Heavenly Father, 
I, in Jesus' name,  come to you now as an repentant sinner. I confess all my sinfulness to You and ask You to forgive me, for Jesus' sake.  I believe that Jesus, Your only begotten Son, died for my all my sins and washed them away with His blood. I believe that You raised Jesus from the dead according to Your word, the Bible. I now invite Your Holy Spirit into my heart and make me Your child. I promise that I will strive to live Holy everyday with Your help and I thank you Lord for saving me.

If you have recited the prayer above.  Welcome to the Family of God! Your next step is finding a church that teaches the word of God and preaches the Gospel message.  Until you do, you can continue to follow the teachings I share here. 

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