PAUL’S “GREAT COMMISSION”
In part three of this series, we found that the so-called “Great Commission” of Matthew 28:16-20 was never actually proclaimed by Jesus. The evidence against Him doing so is just too overwhelming.
In Part IV, we will address Saul of Tarsus’ assertion that he also had been charged to preach “Jesus’ message” to the Jews. But more significantly, that Jesus ordained him to minister to the Gentiles as well. Something Jesus strictly prohibited His apostles from undertaking during His time on earth. Thus, Paul presents us with a serious incongruity that casts grave doubts regarding the truth of his claims.
Saul/Paul had been persecuting Jesus’ followers for years—to the point of having members of “the way” arrested and ultimately executed.
It was on the road to the city of Damascus when “Paul” is said to have encountered the risen Jesus and appointed by Him to minister to the Jews and Gentiles alike. But shocking the Jewish world—and Jesus’ original apostles—is what Paul ended up preaching. Not only were Gentile converts to Jesus’ Jewish-based faith no longer required to adhere to Jewish custom, observance, and ritual— but so too Jewish converts! At least to his mind. This, a complete anathema to the pre-crucifixion preaching of Jesus and the Twelve!
Remember, Jesus never rejected the Law outright. He only rejected certain Pharisaic interpretations of it.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul insists that “the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.“
Then why would Jesus teach the very opposite during his ministry? If the God Jesus had a mission to the Gentiles in mind all along—along with the notion of repudiating ancient Jewish law, ritual, and custom—why didn’t He institute such measures during HIS ministry while on earth?
Remember, Jesus preached an imminent coming of the Kingdom of God, as did John the Baptist. And, ironically, so too Paul. So wouldn’t Paul’s “new” Christianity, then, significantly reduce the number of potential Jewish converts to the faith due to what pious Jews would perceive as Paul’s out-and-out blasphemy? Wouldn’t taking such a tack be rather counterproductive?
Paul had his conversion encounter with the risen Jesus somewhere between 33 and 36 C.E.[12 Prior to then, the Twelve were preaching the teachings of Jesus just as He had carefully instructed them to. And all to secure as many Jewish converts as possible before the coming of God’s Kingdom. This preaching went on for years before the coming of Saul of Tarsus. Why, then, would the risen Jesus choose to waste precious time having Paul preach to a relatively small number of Gentiles, along with a “modified” version of His teachings to the Jews, when God’s Kingdom was to take effect at any moment? It just doesn’t make sense. It was the Jews alone that Jesus had been mandated to convert, not the Gentiles.
Was the God Jesus wrong, then, when He preached the immediate coming of God’s Kingdom while on earth, realized his “mistake,” and was now correcting it? Not according to Paul (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-17)
History has shown us that the God Jesus was wrong. But HE didn’t believe He was. And Gods don’t make mistakes, or so Christians are taught to believe.
“For no word from God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:37; NIV)
Bible scholars now accept that Paul’s preaching was confused and contradictory. On the one hand, Paul taught “All who rely on works of the Law are under a curse” (Galatians 3:11), but in Romans 7:12 he says “the Law is holy and the commandment is holy, just, and good.”
Jesus was circumcised eight days after his birth in accordance with Jewish Law (Luke 2:22). But Paul bitterly opposed circumcision. “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all”(Galatians 5:2). Did Jesus of Nazareth preach this? In no way.
What Paul effectively did was to unleash a “second” Christianity upon the world which was in direct conflict with Jesus’ “original” Christianity. And one which caused no little amount of hostility and resentment among Jesus’ original apostles—all with the firmly-held belief that the Kingdom of God was due at any moment.
There is simply no way of reconciling the preaching and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth and that of the self-proclaimed “apostle,” Paul. It makes absolutely no sense for Jesus to preach “ONLY unto the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel” with all its inherent “Judaism,” only to have a Johnny-Come-Lately come along and claim Jesus commanded him to preach a “new” version of His teachings. And all with no visitation by the risen Jesus to His original apostles to verify any of Paul’s claims.
So did the God Jesus really appear to Saul on the road to Damascus? Or did he lie and make up the episode from whole cloth?
Do the following two passages of Scripture incline you to believe Paul’s claims?
God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19)
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
Again, Jesus believed in an imminent coming of the Kingdom, and, hence, there’d be no time for a mission to the Gentiles and the elucidation of a completely different set of conversion requirements for the Gentiles and orthodox Jews. Jesus’ mandate was to convert as many Jews as possible, and as soon as possible.
Paul asserts that Jesus ordered him to, essentially, NEGATE the original preaching of his Lord Jesus. If so, why did Jesus even preach any of it to begin with?
The skeptic can rightfully wonder why Jesus never informed any of His original apostles of a future mission to the Gentiles? Why Jesus made no mention of Saul of Tarsus to the Eleven at any point? Nor see to it that Paul be made the 12th Apostle instead of Matthias? And why is it that Jesus never bothered to appear to both the Twelve and Paul while assembled together to confirm Paul’s apostleship in the presence of the Twelve and thus heal the great tension-filled, even hate-filled divide between the two camps?
The answer is simple. Paul made up his “conversion story” out of whole cloth. In other words, Paul lied his way to apostleship.
Some twenty years after the crucifixion Paul met with James (Jesus’ brother) and the twelve apostles and held their so-called “Council of Jerusalem.” In his letter to the Galatians Paul claims,
They recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. (Galatians 2:7-8)
This, some seventeen years after Paul’s conversion. And he’s gotten the green light by James and Jesus’ apostles to preach to the Gentiles only now? Paul then adds:
For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor; the very thing I had been eager to do all along (Galatians 2:8-10)
It’s amazing to see what hard cold cash can achieve in easing sharp divisions between rivals. Isn’t it?
Paul later adds,
We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[Christ and not by the works of the law because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16)
So if the Law was a needless burden to both Gentile and Jew alike, why is it that Peter was to preach adherence to the Law to the Jews and Paul non-adherence to the Law to the Gentiles? Why weren’t both men (and the rest of Jesus’ apostles) ordained to preach the same precise message to both camps?
Money is the most likely answer. James and the apostles were adamant in keeping with Jesus’ policy of adherence to the Law. But Paul was now bringing in much-needed revenue to the Jerusalem church. Such “generosity” would certainly help lead to a “let bygones be bygones” attitude on the part of the Jewish Christian church officials. Now wouldn’t it?
But then came the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in C.E. 70. Gentile Christianity was now free and unfettered to continue its onslaught over Jewish Christianity and win the day. All thanks to the outlandish claims made by a self-appointed “apostle” and charlatan named Saul of Tarsus.
 Acts 9:15
 James Tabor, Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (New York: Simon & Shuster, 2012), 1.
 Acts 9:1-8;
 Cf. Galatians 1:13; Acts 9:14, 21. It is widely accepted that the figure “Saul” witnessing the stoning execution of St. Stephen in Acts 7:58 was none other than Saul of Tarsus; later to be knon as the “apostle” Paul.
 Either Caiaphas or Ananus (Annas).
 Acts 9:1-2, 14; Acts 26:10-12.
 At least to his mind! Cf. Cite passages.
 Galatians 1:10-12.
 Cf. Matthew 3:1-2.
 Cite verses.
 This all depends on whether the date of the crucifxion was 30 or 33 C.E.
 Cf. also Acts 9:21.