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Again with the Paul vs. James assertion?

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  • Again with the Paul vs. James assertion?

    Again with the Paul vs. James assertion?

    CBDChabad posted a series of videos on YouTube by Rabbi Skobac relating to the historical and not-so-historical Yeshua. I agree with some of what Rabbi Skobac had to say, but sadly he advanced the old "Paul vs. James" school of thought that paints Paul as the author of antinomian Pauline Christianity.

    When I attempted to post a response regarding the proto-Gnostic "troublers" in Galatia, CBDChabad gave me the standard argument that Paul was antinomian and when I responded to that ... CBDChabad simply deleted all the posts. Why? Well, because the so-called "Jews-for-Jesus" and Christian missionaries have turned this man into a counter-missionary, who now refuses to place Paul back into his proper historical, linguistic and cultural context.

    Anyway, I thought I'd share one of CBDChabad's objections to Paul with you. He responded to my initial reply by telling me that in Gal. 2:21 Paul states that righteousness doesn't come by the Law. CBDChabad then rightly demonstrated from the Hebrew Scriptures that righteousness is in fact a result of one's Torah-observance.

    Yes, one can indeed become righteous by observing the Torah! So, is Paul wrong? NO! Why? Because Paul doesn't say that righteousness can't come by observing the Law. Let's remember that Paul wrote using the Greek he learned from the LXX, but he was thinking in the Hebrew language and was trying to convey proto-rabbinic concepts.

    "I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then the Anointed One is dead in vain" - Gal. 2:21.

    The Greek word that Paul uses in Gal. 2:21 is dikaiosune, which has unfortunately been translated into the English as "righteousness." The LXX uses dikaiosune to translate at least 10 different Hebrew words! So, in order to understand which Hebrew word Paul had in mind when he used dikaiosune in Gal. 2:21 we're going to have to look at the context of that passage.

    The context of Gal. 2:21 is personal sacrifice, specifically as manifested in Yeshua's martyrdom, which Paul claims to emulate (v.20).

    Paul also speaks of the grace of YHVH. So, rather than translating dikaiosune with the Hebrew word tzedeq (righteous) or tzedaqah (righteousness; charity), I submit that we should use the word chesed to translate dikaiosune in Gal. 2:21.

    Why? Well, the Hebrew word chesed (loving-kindness; benevolence; mercy; piety) is translated by dikaiosune in the LXX and it's certainly synonymous with tzedeq (righteous) and tzedaqah (righteousness; charity):

    "Mercy (chesed) and truth are met together; righteousness (tzedeq) and peace have kissed [each other]" - Psam 85:10.

    However, chesed (loving-kindness; benevolence; mercy; piety) by its very nature goes above and beyond one's Torah observance. The chesed that Paul speaks of is the kind of "Divine chesed" that YHVH bestows upon a Tzadiq (Rigtheous One).

    The Divine sort of chesed begins where the human kind of chesed ends. The Divine sort of chesed is the kind of chesed that enables one to go beyond the letter of Law in order to lay down one's life in the service of others. The Divine sort of chesed comes by the grace of YHVH (Exd. 33:19) and is linked to one's emunah (faithfulness), kavanah (intention) and devequt (clinging to YHVH), which leads one into a state of yichud (unity; oneness) with the Divine.

    Cf. Yeshua: One with the Father?
    Cf. The Chesed Personality
    Cf. YICHUD

    Paul is simply stating in Gal. 2:21.... If one can achieve the Divine sort of chesed by a mere mechanic observance of Torah, such as the unnecessary proto-Gnostic conversion rite of circumcision that the "troublers" in Galatia were demanding, then Yeshua's martyrdom was in vain.

    Why? Because being imbued from on high by the Divine sort of chesed is what makes a Tzadiq a Righteous One and a Chasid a Benevolent One who says, "What's mine is yours and what's yours is yours."

    "Just as in the heavenly realms 'the right arm of Divine Chesed' causes recipients of the Chesed to lose their independent identity in the identity of the Bestower of lovingkindness, so too does it affect mortals upon whom it is bestowed, making them likewise humble and self-effacing." - Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), founder of Chabad, Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 2.
    Last edited by smadewell; 06-27-2007, 02:32 AM. Reason: adding links
    "What is mine is yours and what is yours is yours."

  • #2
    Originally posted by smadewell View Post
    Paul is simply stating in Gal. 2:21.... If one can achieve the Divine sort of chesed by a mere mechanic observance of Torah, such as the unnecessary proto-Gnostic conversion rite of circumcision that the "troublers" in Galatia were demanding, then Yeshua's martyrdom was in vain.
    In his book, "Paul & the Gnostics," Walter Schmithals writes, "Circumcision underwent a Gnostic reinterpretation..... The foreskin symbolized the body of flesh (sarx) and thus the - really performed - act of circumcision portrayed the liberation of the pneuma-self from the prison of this body."*

    Gospel of Philip, Saying 123, "When Abraham rejoiced that he would see that which he was to see, he cut off the flesh of his foreskin, whereby he shows us that it is necessary to destroy the flesh of the members of the world."

    Paul was a proto-rabbinic sage. For Paul, the "pneuma" (spirit) and the "sarx" (flesh) meant the Good Impulse and the Evil Impulse - the two components of the "psyche" (nefesh = soul). For Paul, what truly mattered was that one becomes a "new creature" (Gal. 6:15) via the activation of the Good Impulse, which couldn't be accomplished by the removal of one's foreskin. (If that were the case, then how could females hope to become "new creatures"...?)

    However, for those influenced by a Platonic framework, like the proto-Gnostic "troublers" in Galatia, the Greek words "pneuma" and "sarx" took on a meaning distinct from Paul's proto-rabbinic orientation. This is why ascetic proto-Gnostics could glory in their pneumatic attainments, while exhorting others to cast off the sinful flesh. Pop-culture reference? How 'bout Marshall Applewhite?

    Schmithals writes, "For Gnosticism ... circumcision is an unnecessary action with only symbolic significance, which one could, for tactical external reasons, just as well maintain as abandon. That the cutsom of circumcision among Jewish Christian Gnostics in the Syrian-Palestinian territory was common and was still practiced in Galatia is just as likely as the fact that it was given up as the progress of the Gnostic mission advanced toward the West. Thus the church's heresy fighters cannot in fact report of any of the later Gnostics that they practiced circumcision."*

    Here are some other points Schmithals* makes:

    1. Jewish Christian Gnostics, whose home in any case was not Judea, naturally had no connection at all with the "apostolic counicl" [Acts 15] and its agreements.

    2. The church fathers unanimously know to report that precisely in the early, the New Testament, the Pauline era, and precisely in Gentile territory, especially in Asia Minor, [Jewish Christian Gnostics] had preached circumcision.

    3. It is most obvious to select the Jewish Christian Gnostic named, Cerinthus, particularly as described by Epiphanius, for comparison with the Galatian adversaries of Paul. In all the accounts of the church fathers we can detect how dangerous Cerinthus must have been to the beginning Gentile Christianity. His appearance in Asisa Minor is historically incontestable. Asia is said to have been his homeland. Epiphanius even reports that his school flourished in Galatia. In any case, he belongs to the early period, to the beginnings of Christian Gnosticism, and without question connects typical Gnosticism with a confession of Christ and with Jewish practices such as that of circumcision.

    4. One need not immediately assume that they were Cerinthians who appeared in Galatia, but in no case can on at once attribute the false teachers, because of their circumcision, to the judaizing party. This heretical feature fits at least just as well ... at any rate in that time and place, with Jewish Christian Gnosticis, who are conducting a mission in Paul's tracks.

    * - Walter Schmithals, "Paul & the Gnostics," pp. 13-59.
    "What is mine is yours and what is yours is yours."