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Posts Tagged ‘Pythagoras and Tales

“L’Avorton de Dieu; une vie de Saint Paul” by Alain Decaux (Written inApril 23, 2008)

“A life of St. Paul, the runt of God” is an engaging book that describes in minute details the multiple apostolic trips of St. Paul, his message, his organizational skills and how his theology differed from the traditional Christian community established in Jerusalem that we are going to label the Christian-Jews in the review.  We can comprehend Paul’s epistles in their context and targeted purposes and we can enjoy an Antiquity tourist travel in the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Jewish Paul was born about the year 8 AC in Tarsus, in current coastal Turkey by Syria, from several generations of Jews living there and was a Roman citizen and inherited from his father. Paul is shown a cultivated Diaspora Jew and was imbibed with Hellenistic civilization as opposed to a Sabra Jew who speaks Hebrew and his culture was centered on the Hebraic Bibles.

Tarsus was founded by the Hittites around 1,400 BC and it was a large city of over 100,000 inhabitants by the sea-shore during Paul’s period. Paul was a tent maker by profession because Jews were supposed to learn a manual skill according to the Torah.

Paul’s dad sent him to Jerusalem when he was about 15 years old to get religious educated at the hand of the Pharisee rabbi mentor Gamaliel.

Paul joined a land caravan traveling by the maritime route through Lebanon.  He lingered many years in his education and extended his learning of the strict Jewish laws for another eight years; a long time for the period.  Thus, Paul was in Jerusalem during Jesus preaching and death, but Paul never mentioned these facts; possibly his mentor was not interested in Jesus’ news and Paul was left in the dark of current events.

The Pharisees were a Jewish sect with the most stringent numbers of laws, over 650 laws, to govern their daily life, a fact that Jesus condemned as laying too many burdens on anyone to be capable of obeying and following laws.  The main differences between the Pharisee and the Sadducee Jewish sects were that the latter didn’t believe in the resurrection, angels or spirit.

Paul was small in stature, skinny, bow-legged, and balding.  He could read Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Paul was plagued with arthritis, and pains were his lot for the remaining of his life.

He watched the Jews lapidate (kill to death by throwing stones at a person) St. Etienne in Jerusalem, the first Christian martyr.  The convert Etienne was a Hellenistic Jew from the Diaspora (he spoke Greek and knew its philosophy) in opposition to Jews from Judea who spoke Aramaic and could read Hebrew.

Etienne was bold enough to proclaim Jesus the son of God in the Temple at the moment Peter broke the secrecy and mystery of the Christians in Jerusalem by performing a “miracle”, ordering an invalid to walk.  After the lapidation of Etienne Paul lead the persecution of the Christians in Judea for many months and rounded many of them and sent them to prisons.

Paul even decided to drive his persecution of the Christians to Damascus when he was stricken blind by the apparition of Jesus to him.  Jesus appears to Ananias and orders him to visit Paul and give his sight back, which he did and then baptized Paul.

Paul then vanished for three years in Petra, the Nabataean Capital.  Nietzsche said: “The one who carries an important message needs to be silent for a long time; anyone who is destined to produce lightning has to become cloud”.

Paul worked in his profession and then fled to Damascus.  The Nabataean king pursued Paul to Damascus and Paul was aided to quit Damascus by being dangled in a basket from the fortified walls.

Paul walked to Jerusalem.  Joseph Barnabas from Cyprus introduced Paul to Peter.  Paul met Peter almost exclusively for 15 days and barely communicated with any one else of the apostles because they could not trust him for his earlier persecutions.

Peter, Jack (the brother of Jesus who was not a disciple at the time of Jesus teachings but to whom it is said that Jesus appeared exclusively to him after his resurrection), and John the well-loved by Jesus were the three columns of the Christian community in Jerusalem.  Jack was the de facto leader for the community and he was a strict Jew.  I assume that Peter filled in Paul on Jesus preaching period but Paul never accounted of their conversations.

The leaders sent Paul packing outside of Judea and back to Tarsus because there was much resentment for his previous persecutions.  Paul went about his profession as tent maker for three years in his hometown.

The large Christian community in Antioch of Syria, not to confuse with Antioch of Pisidia in the Anatolian region, was divided on the premise of whether the non-Jewish new converts should learn the Jewish laws and abide by them like being circumcised and eating “halal” meat or sharing meals together like was the custom among the early Christian communities.  Barnabas was dispatched to investigate.

Antioch was a large metropolis where the Christian convert were first labeled Christians instead of Nazarenes. Barnabas needed urgent help in this large metropolis.  Barnabas then decided to join Paul in Tarsus and bring him to Antioch.  That was the impetus that set Paul on his apostolic adventure and became a wide traveler.

Paul lives with Barnabas in Antioch for one year; they are both celibate.  Paul teaches more than baptizes new converts.  He talks with Romans as well as in Synagogues and he says: “My Master Jesus Christ declared to me that his grace is enough for me; thus, I lay my pride in my weaknesses, because my master’s strength offers all its measure in my weaknesses. The insults, persecutions, and anguish I offer to Christ“.

While the vast majority of the first generation of Christians believed that their purpose was to convert Jews, Paul ambition was to focus on converting the non-Jews.  In his second trip to Jerusalem Paul extracted an agreement from the three leaders (namely, Jack, Peter and John) that Paul will convert the pagans with the Jewish Laws relaxed while Peter would focus on the Jews and demands stricter prescriptions.  Thus, Paul set the problem of circumcision as a non-issue for the new converts and he started his new brand of theology without an agreement with the mother community in Jerusalem.

The five deacons of Antioch community permit Paul and Barnabas to resume their mission elsewhere.  Barnabas led Paul to his native land of Cyprus. The Roman Proconsul of Cyprus, Sergius Paulus, invited the trio Paul, Barnabas and the young Mark, the future writer of the first New Testament, to his palace.  The Proconsul became a believer and Saul changed his own name to Paulus.

Paul, Barnabas and Mark sailed from Paphos in the year 45 before the period of maritime restrictions to sailing during part of autumn and winter. From now on it seems that Barnabas has considered Paul as the head of the mission. They headed toward Attaleia, currently known as Antalya, with the purpose of visiting central Anatolia where the proconsul Sergius had farm lands.  The emperor August was worshiped as God in these regions as were the following emperors.

Mark quits the team of missionary at the city of Perge when he learned of the planned long, dangerous and gruesome trip ahead of him in the Taurus Mountains.  They reach Lake Egridir and then cross the high mountain of Sultan Dag toward Antioch of Pisidia that emperor August enlarged and modernized in the middle of no where.

The Diaspora Jews enjoyed special favors and rights from Emperor August and they were clever in frequently claiming their granted rights and appealing to the locale Roman authorities for redress and they were more educated than the autochthonous and spoke Greek or Latin.  There came a period where many local Greeks were seduced to learn more about the Jewish religion and their unique God and they attended the Synagogues and were labeled the “fearing-God” or “proselyte adorators”.

Paul is asked to speak during the sabath and he dragged on the history of the Jews, their prophets, and their fathers. Then Paul proclaims that there are limits to Moses laws because the messiah Jesus, son of God, was indeed sent and the Jews did not recognize Him and he was resurrected.  Jesus announced the pardon of the sins for all who believed in Christ, the Jews and the “fearing-God”.

The Jews started to perturb the atmosphere because they could not permit Paul to equal the pagans with the “chosen people” simply for believing in Christ.  Paul and Barnabas were forced by the local Roman authority to leave the city.

Instead of taking the Via Sebaste to Cappadocia, Paul and Barnabas walk to Konya (Claudiconium) and Paul preach and convert many pagans and then they had to flee in time before being lapidated.  They reach Lystre (present Hatursaray), a day walk, a small village that Cicero disparaged the inhabitants as ignorant and little evolved.  In fact they cannot communicate with Paul because no one speaks Greek or Latin. Paul performs a miracle and an invalid walks; the people admit naturally that God is incarnated in a human.

Eunice and her mother Lois are baptized; the Timothy the son of Eunice asks Paul to take him in his trips but he was still very young and will join Paul in his next trip to the region and stay his staunchest companion through thick and thin.  The Jews in Konya hear that successes of Paul and storm Lystre and easily communicate their anger to the inhabitants.

Paul is lapidated and left for dead.  Barnabas hides Paul at one of the converts’ house for a few days and then borrows a chariot to evacuate Paul to Derbe (currently Kerti Huyuk) where they stay six months until Paul recovers from his wounds.

It was winter and the sea is blocked to navigation and the crossing of the Taurus is not practicable.  Paul and Barnabas retraced their previous route and installed leaders (deacons) to each community that they had founded.  The first trip must have lasted at least two years before they sailed to Antioch of Syria.  The two well-defined separation between Christian-Jews and Christian-pagan is growing firmer and Paul to declare: “Freedom from sins comes from Jesus. The reign of God is not a matter of food and beverage; it is justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit“.

Representatives from the two camps converge to Jerusalem to take council. Paul and Barnabas take Tite with them and the community of Antioch pays the expenses for the trip; Tite would become one of Paul’s scribes and he was a pagan and uncircumcised.  Thus, the second apostolic trip of Paul began.

They traveled by land through Lebanon and Samaria.  We might date the first official council of the Church taking place in Jerusalem where critical issues were discussed.  Paul was so frustrated that he labeled the Christian-Pharisees “the intruder fake-brothers“.

Finally, Paul was given the authority not to burden the pagan converts with the Jewish laws.  The two delegates Silas and Judas accompany Paul and Barnabas to Antioch with the mission of delivering a letter from Jack stating that the Holy Spirit has decided not to burden the converts but with the inevitable exigencies of abstaining from eating the meat of the pagan or drinking the blood of sacrifices that have been immolated by suffocation. Paul later wrote that he never conceded to the Christian-Jews and not even temporarily.

Suddenly, the community of Antioch learns the prompt arrival of Peter.  In the beginning, Peter behaves correctly and partakes on the same table with the Christian-pagan.  The Jack sends messengers to Peter stating that it is not because a few pagans have acknowledged Yahweh and his Messiah that they should be considered intrinsic to the “chosen people”.

Consequently, Peter stopped sharing his meal with the Christian-pagan and communion tables were separated.

A rift between Peter and Paul aggravates the untenable situation. Barnabas sided with peter and would not join Paul on his apostolic trip. Paul wrote that he said to Peter in front of all converts: “We are just Jew by birth. If you act as a pagan how you could force the pagans to behave as Jews?  If we accede to justice simply by following the Law then it is for naught that Christ died”

Paul takes Silas on this second apostolic trip.  Marc accompanies Barnabas to Cyprus. Paul walks to Tarsus after 13 years of absence and confirms the communities that he founded on route.  Paul walks to the Galatea region during winter and crosses high mountains and then passes by Derbe where he got horribly sick but the community cared for him in his disgusting sickness.

In Lystre Paul insists to circumcise Timothy, of a Jewish mother and a Greek father, before taking him on his voyage! Most probably, Paul decided that his apostolic message would be less criticized by the Christian-Jews if all his companions are circumcised.

It is during that period that Paul instructs his disciples such as Tite and later Timothy on the responsibility of the episcopal and the deacons to obey the instructions of the Ancients in Jerusalem and how to behave in purity, not to indulge in drinking wine and be an example to adopt; he urges them for a husband to have only one wife and the children to be believers. Prayer could be done in any place by raising the hands toward the sky without anger or disputation.  Women should wear decently and put on modest adornment.  A wife should not be permitted to instruct in the faith or dominate her man and keep silent because she is from Man’s rib. A wife would be saved by her maternity, love, modesty and her sanctity.

All these restrictions and attitudes toward women are extracted from the book of the Genesee. The priorities in this new hierarchical institution were to convert and then to strengthen the convictions of the new Christians.

After visiting the previous communities the Holy Ghost instructs Paul to tour the Bithynia region, of present Ankara and Midas Sehri, with destination Troas on the sea-shore because a Macedonian appeared to Paul in dream and “implored him to visit Macedonia and come to their rescue”  Macedonia has not yet been visited by Christian missionaries. Luca is now a direct witness because he accompanies Paul to Macedonia.  Luca is a physician and a talented writer in classical Greek; he was sort of special correspondent to Paul of present day journalism.

From Troas Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luca sail towards Samothrace in the year 49.  The team walks the Via Egnatia toward Philippe, Thessalonica, Edessa, and Apollonia on the shore.  At Philippe they baptize Lydia who invite the four missionaries to stay at her home and Paul meets Syntyche and Evodie.  Paul was successful beyond hope in Philippe and founded a devoted community.  A slave girl was a seer and every time she saw Paul and Silas she would exclaim: “These two are the servants of God the Highest up”.  Exasperated, Paul ordered Satan to leave the body of the slave girl and she lost her power to the chagrin of her rich owner who made money out of his slave capacities.

The rich owner excited the Roman authority to arrest Paul.  Paul and Silas were flogged and put in prison.  Being flogged is a painful and many times a deadly punishment because the Roman special whip tears the flesh and the pain shoots out from the neck, descends to the toes, irradiate to the hand fingers and then pass by the heart as if stabbed by a knife; blood is vomited from the lungs.  Though Paul and Silas were Romans and should not be flogged they could not prove it because they had no acquaintances to support their claims in these new counties.

During the night in prison the area suffers an earthquake and the prison walls collapse. The jailer is convinced that his two prisoners have fled and is ready to commit suicide when Paul reassures him.  The jailer is baptized and he takes the prisoners to his home to be cleaned and fed and then returned to jail.  The authorities ordered the two prisoners free but Paul refuses and asks for the presence of the authority and formal apologies which are granted and Paul is asked to leave the city promptly.

The community offers Paul financial support to continue his mission south to Thessalonica, 150 kilometers away.  Luca does not accompany Paul, Silas and Timothy.  They pass Amphipolis then Apollonia then a swamp region infested of malaria.  Thessalonica was named in honor of the sister of Alexander and founded in 315 BC.  The Diaspora Jews living in Rome would flock to this city after Emperor Claude chased them out of Rome and became after 1492 the center for the Jews when Catholic Spain expelled them from Andalusia.

Paul pays a visit to his cousin Jason who provides Paul a job as tent maker.  Aristarchus and Secundus are baptized.  Paul is chased out of the city and leave during the night for Berea, 75 kilometers down south, with his two companions.  The gigantic palace of the kings of Macedonia is not far from Brea and where the tomb of Philip II is. Paul enjoyed a large success but again the Jews of Thessalonica are marching to Berea to get hold of Paul.

Paul flees without Silas and Timothy but several new converts accompany him to the port and sail with him to Athens.  The Athenians listen intently until Paul mentions the resurrection of Jesus and he is mocked and laughed at. Paul is furious and humiliated and will never return to Athens.

In Cenchrees, the port of Corinth, Paul finds a job as tent maker with a Jewish couple named Aquilae and Priscilla.  This couple will become his most steadfast allies. Corinth is famous for the thousands of expensive “virgins” consecrated to satisfy the pleasures of the pilgrims and the sailors. Paul attended the Olympic Games in the year 51. Timothy and Silas joined Paul after a long while and Paul starts dictating epistles to the Thessalonica and Philippes communities.

Paul realized that the majority of the Jews will refuse his message and thus he tore open his clothes and furiously proclaimed that from now on he will mostly address his message to the pagans.  This decision never meant that Paul relinquished his Jewish roots and that the Jews are the chosen people of his “own flesh” but it was more practical to focus on other religions, especially the “fearing-God” people who are waiting for fresh “Good News”.

Paul was beaten by the Jews in front of the proconsul Gallion who released Paul from the accusations heaped on him because the Jewish diversities in opinions were out of his jurisdictions.  Paul totally clipped his head before leaving Corinth in the spring of 52 by sea to Ephesus (Afasos).  Timothy, Aquilas and Pricilla accompany Paul.  Paul stopped over in Ephesus, time enough to present Aquilas and Pricilla to the community.

Ephesus was one of the main capitals in the Roman Empire and where Homer, Heraclitus, Pythagoras and Tales founded their sciences.  Another stop over in Cyprus and then landing in Caesarea and Paul walks to Jerusalem but we have no documents on what was the purpose and what happened.  Paul is back to Antioch where he started his apostolic life.

Paul does not stay long in Antioch because he got news from Aquilas and Pricilla in Ephesus that they have a real problem with a certain Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria,  who is a powerful orator and gives sermons in the synagogue on account that he knows Jesus who appeared to him. Apollos had been baptizing in the name of John the Baptist but never mentioned the Holy Spirit.

Paul is on his third apostolic trip and he is 45 years of age.  He will walk 1,100 kilometers with Timothy in a hot summer through mountains and valleys.  The two missionaries will visit the communities already created in Iconium, Lystre, and Antioch of Pisidia and then found new communities in Magnesia and Tralles.  They reach Ephesus (225,000 people) at the end of summer 52 and Paul would work as tent maker with Aquilas.  The day will come when Luca would be buried a martyr in Ephesus near the upper agora (the central meeting quarter of a city).

Paul chose Ephesus as the epicenter for his apostolic preaching because it was situated about equal distances (from 350 to 500 km) from the Galatea region, Thessalonica, Corinth, Philipes and Antioch of Pisidie.  From the jail in Ephesus Paul sent messengers and epistles to all his new communities in Galatia, Macedonia, and Corinth.   Ephesus was a rich city and held the seventh wonder of the world the Artemisia (Artemision), four times vaster than the Parthenon with 190 meters in length and 55 meters in width.

Paul stayed three years in Ephesus, performed many miracles and gained many converts and recognition; he teaches at the school of Tyrannos.  He sends disciples to evangelize in the neighboring cities of Colosses, Laodicee and Hierapolis.  He dispatches Timothy and Eraste to Macedonia.  The famous Apollos join Paul in Ephesus. It is mentioned that 50,000 manuscripts on exorcism have been burned when people started to perform healings in the name of Jesus.

The league of goldsmiths was losing money because Paul and his disciples were exhorting people to desist buying pagan artifacts. Paul is then was thrown in jail with a few of the leading disciples for over a year.  Meanwhile, the messengers of Jack are sent in large numbers to every community founded by Paul to rectify the orthodox doctrine rooted in Judaism.

The Christian-Jews are successful beyond imagination: Paul thus sent the most violent of his epistles to the Galatea communities.  The epistle starts: “Paul, apostle, not on behalf of men, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father.  The Gospel that I announced to you was not taught to me by a man, but it was transmitted to me by Jesus Christ when he revealed it on my way to Damascus. Is it because of The Law that you converted or because of your faith in the resurrection of Christ?  You who were guided by the Spirit how could you the flesh lead you to perfection? Christ had paid dearly to free us from the malediction of The Law”

St. Paul was not that interested in the details of Jesus’ teachings or his life history; Paul’s epistles never mentioned the name of Jesus alone but attached to Christ such as Jesus Christ or simply Christ (the one who was anointed); Paul got the important message that Christ, the Son of God, has come down among us to absolve us of our sins and that Christ was resurrected on the third day.

If Paul was not sent by Christ to spread the “Good News” among all the people then Christianity would have rationally been transformed to another Jewish sect and a minority sect at best.

Paul still believed that Abraham and all the fathers of the Jews were specifically chosen by God to convert all nations.  Many Christian sects have tried to connect Christianity as another branch to the Jewish root.


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