The Problem of Paul

I’ve already written about the schizophrenic divide between Paul and Jesus on matters of the religion. Today, I’d like to make note of another reason why Paul might not have known what Jesus said on these matters. Namely, because he might have been long dead before Jesus was born. What am I talking about?

First, let’s review the way the story is told today. Jesus is born around CE 1ish, lives to about CE 33ish and is executed. Christianity starts growing, Paul (then Saul) starts persecuting Christians. Paul then has a vision on the road to Damascus somewhere between 33 and 37 CE, converts to Christianity, and begins preaching that. In Damascus, as a new Christian, his life is threatened and he has to escape the city by being lowered outside the wall in a basket.

Cute, isn’t it. But that definitely is not what happened. Let’s start at the beginning, where all the confusion happens.

2 Corinthians, Chapter 11:32-33. “In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.”

Now, Paul doesn’t talk about contemporary politics very often, or nearly ever, which has made guessing the age of his writings to be a difficult endeavor. But here is one time he does, and we know a lot from what he says. 1) He was in Damascus, 2) A king named Aretas was on the throne and controlled Damascus, and 3) Because of his Christian faith, he had to flee.

Now, at the time Paul’s letters were discovered and being added to the bible, it was already “known” that Jesus dies around AD 33, so obviously Paul would have had to convert and escape Damascus after that. The obvious King would seem to be Aretas IV, who was King of the Nabataeans from 9 BC to 40 AD. So many Christians plugged Paul’s road to Damascus conversion at around 37 CE.

But it’s more complicated than that. King Aretas IV had a beef with one Herod Antipas, and therefore didn’t have any control of the city from around CE 33 or 34. So between the time of Jesus supposed dying until Paul escaping Damascus could only be about a year at most. In one year, Paul would have had to not only recognize a growing Christian community, but spend enough of his life’s work persecuting these Christians enough to gain a regional reputation, before being converted en route to Damascus and subsequently escaping. This is an extremely difficult timeline to swallow. But despite this impossible timeline, many churches decided that Paul must have converted in CE 33. It’s literally the only year that fits any part of the story.

But it still doesn’t fit. It’s bad enough that Christianity had to grow into a movement, be persecuted, and convert an infamous persecutor, Paul also makes other odd remarks throughout his writings making it even more suspicious. In Colossians 1:3-9, Paul learns of a Christian church in Colossae and writes to them. But the tone is different in more recent translations. In the King James book, Paul’s friend Epaphras learns of this church and reports to Paul, whom Paul mentions as such- “As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ.” But the New International version, it changes to You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf. The more recent (modern) translation implies that Epaphras was instrumental in establishing the church there, while the original translation had Paul surprised there was a Christian community at that location and is reaching out to them, referencing their friend (or slave?) that had visited there recently. Those are two very different things, and something that may be a clue.

And why does Paul talk about the church at Corinth like it’s been around for a long time? Supposedly, according to Acts, Paul founded the church there. But he specifically said he didn’t baptize them. And they’ve been around so long that they are embroiled in schisms of church leadership. For that matter, why does he spend pages and pages talking about who they should and shouldn’t be fucking? Wouldn’t he have established those rules when he “founded” the church a mere few years earlier, if that’s indeed what he did? This letter does not sound like a letter to a group that he founded, but rather to a group that was long established by the time he started his own ministry.

So what the hell is going on?

Well, if you accept as fact that Jesus was a real person, actually lived, and actually started a religion, then these things don’t make much sense. But an increasing number of scholars are starting to re-think this, and it is mostly based on something that nobody has done in church history for the last 2000 years- draw conclusions from the evidence. You see, as I’ve already eluded to, prior church leaders took the story on faith and tried to make the history fit what they believed. But by following the evidence instead, the story is unraveling like the testimony of a bad witness.

We already know that the gospels are not four independent witness accounts. They are pure propaganda, with Mark being the original (or the oldest we have), and the rest are just copies of Mark with embellishments. The first four books of the new testament are actually Mark with added stuff, Mark, Mark with added stuff, and Mark with a lot of added stuff. They were created toward the end of the first century to retro-fit prophesy, in order to benefit the Romans. This seems odd if Jesus were a real person, but makes sense if they merely reused a savior god myth and added him as an actual person into the story. It also explains why the authors couldn’t even get his birthday year correct. When written, the story was already ancient history.

We already know Paul never met Jesus. He specifically said so, and he also never talked to anyone that gave him information about Jesus. He wasn’t even slightly curious about what a real flesh and blood Jesus said or was like. This seems odd if he was talking to Jesus’ disciples, but then again we are assuming Jesus was real. If you hypothesize that there was a Jesus cult following a demigod, and the physical Jesus was retroactively written into the story over 50 years later (long after Paul and crew were deceased) then it makes sense.

When you remove the hard dates that we know are not real, then Paul’s timeline can be fit in a way that best explains his writing. He has to have enough time to know of Christianity, fight against it, get converted, and still escape Damascus while someone named Aretas was ruling the area. So when was Paul actually writing?

There are actually two options. One option holds that he was writing as early as CE 24. This gives him enough time to be in Damascus during the reign of Aretas IV.

But who is to say he wasn’t there during the reign of Aretas III? Sure, that would have Paul escaping Damascus before 62 BCE, but since we are tossing aside the artifical timeline anyway, let’s consider it. After all, early church historians like Epiphanius of Slamis pegged Jesus’ birth at about 100 BC, as does the Talmud. So why not?

Either way, Paul himself has managed to help us understand that the current history of Jesus was faked. Christianity existed as a rising savior cult in the region for a couple of hundred years, and Paul was one of the converts. He wrote extensively to propagate the cult. Decades, or maybe even a century later, the new propaganda story began to take shape that Jesus was an actual dude that was around Jerusalem in the early first century. So the writings of Paul were incorporated into the story, and a fake additional chapter (Acts) was created to make sense of Paul’s writing in light of the new story.

This explains how Paul managed to seemingly do so much in such a short time, because he didn’t actually have to. It explains why he is adamant that no human could possibly tell him about Jesus. It explains the only marker he gives us to date his exploits. It explains why he talks about churches (that he supposedly founded) as old, or surprised to learn of their existence.

Whether Jesus was “born” at the turn of the millennia or “born” in a Roman propaganda pamphlet 100 years later, it is likely that the earliest and greatest flag-bearer to this new religion was dead long before.

The Spartan Atheist

22 thoughts on “The Problem of Paul

  1. Nice write up but how about this? It’s all a bunch of bullshit from start to finish and not worth the brainpower necessary to refute it? Millions of people read and believe the Bible; Jesus and Paul not even aware that they taught diametric messages and that Paul made the whole thing up? These are the sheep that PT Barnum told us about; they’re there for the shearing! They also believe, at least by and large, that Trump was a good man selected by god to be president so why bother arguing with the exceedingly ignorant? It’s only when they try and encroach upon our civil liberties or cram their mythology bullshit into our political discourse that I start seriously calling their nonsense into question and pushing back hard!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thats why I blog. Religious zealots are trying every day to make our children dumber and our laws less fair.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I don’t think this kind of argumentation is intended to convince the profoundly brainwashed. That’s clearly impossible in almost all cases. But there are millions of others, probably the majority now, who fall toward the middle of the spectrum — not brainwashed fervent believers, but also not knowledgeable enough to realize that the Bible is all bullshit. People who were raised moderately religious and drifted further away without ever giving such questions much thought, certainly not to the point of self-identifying as atheists. People who believe religion is basically a good thing and that the Bible stories, other than the really outlandish stuff like the Ark, are real history — again, without having thought deeply about it. Most people don’t spend a lot of time intensively considering, much less researching, such matters. People like that are potentially reachable, and may not reject the facts out of hand the way a real fundamentalist would. It’s worth putting the discrepancies and contradictions in the Bible out there, for the sake of people like that.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. I was one of those people, so yes I agree!

        Liked by 3 people

  2. One who cannot able to appreciate intelligent design and omnipotent nature of God becomes an atheist. Yeah, we were intelligent to believe that life comes from life. Atheist’s people like you have shit like brains who cannot able to appreciate things beyond time, space and matter.

    In order to live a unrestrictive life like hog you criticize real religions. First of all try to follow ten commandments and speak about religion you sinful wretch.

    Like

    1. chris schilling May 2, 2021 — 9:30 pm

      @Scubdude
      A few tips:
      1) Learn English
      2) Take your meds
      3) Give up religion — it’s making you incoherent
      4) Respond to the actual topic of the post

      Cheers.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. I always assumed (like many scholars did) that Jesus was some real person whose exploits became more exaggerated over time. The thing is though, it’s really difficult (if not almost impossible) to determine what this “real” Jesus did and said.
    Of interest to note, the Pauline Epistles were written several decades before the Gospels (of which the earliest known fragments weren’t found until over 100 years after the supposed events). This interested me as of course the events relating to Paul are meant to be much later than what happens in the Gospels. Paul also seems to have a view that Jesus is more of a divine figure as opposed to a human. Some scholars therefore think that Jesus was completely made up as a God first and then given human qualities later in the Gospels.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep, our understanding of how things were put together, as related by the church itself, is obviously in error. What exactly happened? We may never know. But the existing version is just propaganda. Any actual fact is a happy coincidence.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It would be interesting to know the true events but I don’t think we will get that luxury now.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Paul was appealing to the Gentiles, who believed in a multitude of gods. For them to accept Jesus as some sort of special guy, he had to “deify” him and give him all the characteristics of the gods they knew and recognized. And of course, he threw in a few other traits to help things along.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I guess that partly explains some of the differences in how Jesus was depicted in the Gospels to how Paul depicts him.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. @chris- It is quite obvious that you are proving your madness by not understanding what I had written. Read my comments again and try to understand the essence with your defective brains.

    1. Give up your atheistic mentality and try to understand what science says.
    2. Develop patience to hear and clarify about others view point.
    3. Don’t blindly declare that Bible is full of contradictions and discrepancy. Consider the possibilities that Original version of Bible is always subject to loss of information due to the inevitable power of time.
    4. Don’t interpret or see the Bible from your view point.
    5. This Bible is not meant for those who are atheists or non believers of higher power.
    6. You are qualified to touch the Bible only when you follow regulative principles of ten commandments.

    Cheers.

    Like

    1. Scubdude, the problem is you just spout crap. This article was about the specific bible problem of Paul and Jesus saying two different things, and the problem of piecing together a timeline of when Paul was writing. All the other shit you say is not on topic. Stay on topic.

      The bible is at the very best, a stupid story that has been edited, changed, edited again, copied, copied poorly, edited some more, and changed a few more times. You admit as much in your point #3

      And since we agree on your own point #3, then it is clearly possible that the entire message has been changed.

      Paul helps us realize this is so.

      I touch the bible all the time. I read it, I use it to hold pizza in the microwave, I use it to prop doors open, I have used it to secure pipes as I solder them, I’ve used pages to start fires, and I’ve used them to hold glued paper together so it doesn’t curl. Its a useful book for those purposes. But as history? Lol! Worthless.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. chris schilling May 3, 2021 — 8:13 am

        @Scubdude’s “Original version of Bible” made me chuckle.

        Where is it located, I wonder?(maybe in that vast matte-painted warehouse where they crated the Ark of the Covenant at the end of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’).

        Liked by 3 people

      2. LOL! I stopped allowing his comments, because he went off on a tangent of stupidity.

        It cracks me up what these folks will admit, but then turn around and claim that what they admitted is some evil message sent from the devil.

        If we don’t have the original texts, and we know they HAVE been changed, and we don’t know WHAT has been changed, then we really don’t know anything at all about the originals. This is a pretty logical conclusion, but Calcutta Bob here is fighting that in his very, very small brain.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. One sometimes wonders who these people worship … the bible or their “savior.”

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I think the problem is, they don’t differentiate. The bible is their god is their bible. Many are unwilling to admit that their god could still be real even if the bible is a mess. He’s not, but that is at least a logical position.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Dear thespartanatheist and Scubdude,

      There has been a great deal of exchanges going on here. Scubdude, I hope that you can amply appreciate thespartanatheist’s highly commendable efforts in providing well-informed and edifying explanations to you. As a team comprising “a happy atheist couple”, thespartanatheist ought to be congratulated for creating and maintaining their blog to get past the religion debacle, to advance a decent, sobering and critical understanding of a belief system such as Christianity, and whatever else that tickles their intellectual fancy. I shall extend, bolster and/or complement some of your positions and explanations with respect to your conversations here.

      Regardless of whether there is right or wrong in matters of belief, how one should adjudicate them, and whether one comes to realize that many people, rightly or wrongly, often believe that they have the truth, let us beware of rampant moral relativism.

      I can demonstrate with the story of three blind persons probing the elephant: one probing the leg insists that the elephant is like a pole; the other probing the tail insists that the elephant is like a string; and the one probing the ear insists that the elephant is like a fan. Only the person who has probed the most or who is sighted can be regarded as the most informed, enlightened and correct about the elephant, which symbolises the reality or truth. And only this person is in the (best) position to judge, discern, decide, choose and understand.

      There are evolutionary bases in people’s sense of morality and in their behaviours as well as in their religiosity. You will find a great deal of new understandings in multidisciplinary fields such as sociobiology, evolutionary psychology and behavioural sciences, epigenetics, brain and cognitive sciences, gene-culture coevolution, and many more. . . . .

      There has been no shortage of scientists who are or were religious. Moreover, regardless of the degree to which some scientists are religious or atheistic, it is very unfortunate that too often even those who claim to believe in and adopt the scientific method still cherrypick the data and refuse to examine contrary evidences. They fail to understand and address many valid points, perspectives, domains and dimensions, and hence it is impossible for them to evaluate and change their standpoints, approaches and behaviours. You might have heard of this quote:

      For those who do believe, no proof is necessary.
      For those who don’t, no proof is possible.

      Perhaps some of us could take comfort in the fact that in recent years, the Catholic Church has had to accept evolution, though on a theistic basis.

      For one of the most recent takes on atheism, visit http://www.thesixwaysofatheism.com.

      As for the pitfalls and fallacies of the design argument, visit the following:http://www.iep.utm.edu/design/http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/intelligent-design-trial.html

      It will be nearly or altogether impossible to claim or prove that (the theory of) evolution is wrong or invalid, for it has been estimated that if evolution (both macro and micro) were wrong then more than 99% of all scientific disciplines would be wrong too due to the high degree of cross-collaborations and confluences of data. That is not (just) my claim; and it is from some scientists who have made the interconnections and stocktaking of disciplines and knowledges. When creationists try to debunk certain parts and/or the whole of the findings of evolutionists or evolutionary scientists, they have cited certain problems with some scientific claims and/or techniques which rely on or are founded on mathematics, measurements, instruments, various disciplines and so on in very interconnected ways, and have been reliably used for a long time. For example, many instruments rely on the veracity and reliability of quantum mechanics, electronics and electrical engineering, which in turn rely on other disciplines such as physics, mechanical engineering, optics and so on . . . . It is a very highly interconnected web.

      By “cross-collaborations” (whether by design or by accident, whether independently or co-dependently, and whether concurrently or not), I meant the cumulative results, benefits and synergies from the convergence of evidence from diverse disciplines and researchers who may or may not be collaborating and/or aware of each other’s findings and activities in the first place; and I also meant that research(ers) on/in evolution and evolutionary sciences have relied and benefited, both directly and indirectly, fertilizations, findings, paradigms and techniques from diverse disciplines. Let me quote Michael Shermer from his essay entitled “A skeptic’s journey for truth in science” as further examples:

      To be fair, not all claims are subject to laboratory experiments and statistical tests. Many historical and inferential sciences require nuanced analyses of data and a convergence of evidence from multiple lines of inquiry that point to an unmistakable conclusion. Just as detectives employ the convergence of evidence technique to deduce who most likely committed a crime, scientists employ the method to determine the likeliest explanation for a particular phenomenon. Cosmologists reconstruct the history of the universe by integrating data from cosmology, astronomy, astrophysics, spectroscopy, general relativity and quantum mechanics. Geologists reconstruct the history of Earth through a convergence of evidence from geology, geophysics and geochemistry. Archaeologists piece together the history of a civilization from pollen grains, kitchen middens, potshards, tools, works of art, written sources and other site-specific artifacts. Climate scientists prove anthropogenic global warming from the environmental sciences, planetary geology, geophysics, glaciology, meteorology, chemistry, biology, ecology, among other disciplines. Evolutionary biologists uncover the history of life on Earth from geology, paleontology, botany, zoology, biogeography, comparative anatomy and physiology, genetics, and so on.

      For the same reasons, my own blog is also highly multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary.

      Like

  5. Hey guys, you failed to note a important point. in those days they write letters and books in palm leaves right?. Those original’s are in the form of palm leaves and palm leaves gets destroyed easily if it is not preserved properly.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Americanatheist May 3, 2021 — 8:46 pm

    Hey guys, in those days books are in the form of palm leaves. Such palm leaves Manu scripts should be properly maintained and preserved using some herbs. If it is not properly preserved then such palm leaves will be destroyed.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Tarzi-dubedum May 4, 2021 — 11:08 pm

    Lol, Spartan did a spider man
    gallop and fell right in to a pig shit ditch.

    Like

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